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[TR] Whitney Portal Wall- New variation to the Bec


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Climb: Whitney Portal Wall-New variation to the Beckey-Callis Route


Date of Climb: 7/30/2005


Trip Report:

My friend S. has been working on a new 4 or 5 pitch variation start to the Beckey-Callis route on the Whitney Portal Wall, originally graded at IV 5.10 A2. The route follows an orginal aid route before busting out into new territory to meet the BC. S. had already lead and rebolted the first three pitchs, and now wanted to attempt the fourth pitch and perhaps finish the route.


We had an easy start at 8am from Bishop, grabbing coffee and lunch food on the way. Hiking up from the truck, I felt like an old photo of Royal and Frost, with a small pack, full rack, and two ropes slung bandolier style over each shoulder, while S. carried up food, water, and the aid gear in a pack. We finally got on the route around 11am, with S. leading the first pitch, which goes free with one balancey move of 5.10-. He promised me the second pitch, which was "solid 5.9 with a single 10a move."


F#@&ing sandbagger. If this was 5.9. it was the hardest 5.9 slab I've ever had. Multiple tenous moves up a slab and water trough, stemming and crimping between bolts spaced a healthy distance apart. At the crux I got to have a cardiac arrest when the crimp I was bearing down on took that moment to divorce itself from the cliff. The bolts were an equal mix of newer 3/8 from S.'s last rebolting day to older SMC's that still looked solid. When I finally reached the 3-bolt anchor, S. called up to me.


"What do you think you're doing?"

"I finished the bloody pitch. I'm building an anchor."

"That's not the finish. That's the old anchor from the old aid line, and I haven't gotten around to removing two of the bolts. The free pitch end's up there at the corner of the roof."


I can look up and see the next anchor, another 20 meters ahead. In between me and there lies a healthy stretch of, sigh, more slab and then an off-width trough.


"You gotta be kidding me."




So I clipped one of the bolts and kept going. The real excitement came when I had to do a delicate mantel 10+ feet above my last bolt. Entering the off-width was a relief, even if it hurt. At least now I could chicken wing my left arm and cam my left foot while stemming with my right hand and foot. Three bolts and a few jams through a roof lead me to the end of pitch 2; 50 meters of the scariest climbing I've done in a while, mostly because of the asphalt factor in shorts and t-shirt. Remember kids, friends don't let friends climb slabs. Feeling a little silly for all the time I spent leading the pitch, I had a moment of dumbfounded pride when S. followed up and said "Hmmm, that was a little bit harder than I remember."


At least the next pitch was his lead, and it was on new terrain. Someone had aided this line before - old 1/4 bolts were evident along a seam. S. went left followed a wide crack with plenty of face holds to the top of a pillar, which he quickly brought me up to. Then it was out onto a face. The first bolt S. found was an old 1/4 with a homemade hanger that was hanging out and bent down. So S. clipped into it and hung gingerly, and slowly dragged up the drill, hammer, and 3/8 bolt. But we had forgotten the cat's paw, so instead of pulling the old bolt and re-using the hole, we had to settle for a new bolt alongside the old one and a promise to comeback and clean up the old rust.

Another 12+ feet and we repeated the process with a second bolt. Another ten feet past that and S. found out that the crack he was counting on remained a a seam, and wasn't taking pro. Slinging a wrist-thick bush, S. decided to go for it, hoping to find easier climbing from the bush to the roof we could see hanging above us.


But it wasn't to be. After several attempts, S. backed off, saying the climbing was too difficult for his tastes and he wasn't ready to add a bolt to the route. So we called it a day and rapped back down. By 4pm we were having burgers and sharing stories with Doug Thompson at the Whitney Portal store.


I particularly liked Saturday because I've never gottent to work on a route like this. My lead was easily one of the most exciting slabs I've ever had to climb, and it was a great experience overall. This wall is huge and has a lot of undocumented climbing on it. The only reference is Alan Bartlett's 1988 guide, no longer in print, though Mick Ryan/Rockfax is supposed to be producing a small guide to the Whitney Portal area soon.


Gear Notes:

Pretty standard trad rack to 3.5"

Single 60 meter rope is adequate right now, but don't count on it. Bring a tag line if you're going to rap the route.


Should have pants for the rough granite.


Approach Notes:

Approach the Whitney Portal Wall from the first switchback of the Whitney Trail. 15 minutes.

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