Jump to content

[TR] Shangri-La, X38 - Various 6/17/2011


Recommended Posts

Trip: Shangri-La, X38 - Various


Date: 6/17/2011


Trip Report:

I blame Alex. He put the drill in my hands, loaned me my first bit and bolts, and sparked the route development flame.


In 2006, together with Weekendclimbers, we discovered the Shakespeare wall and set about establishing routes on it. In the process, I learned the fine art of killing small plants while dangling on the end of a rope. This experience inspired the area’s first route name (Macbeth) and the area name theme. The result was four fun 5.9/5.10 route. If you grow tired of the X38 Deception crowds wander up and try them.


The following spring, the three of us were climbing at X38 Far Side crags on a blustery day. Actually, the rope was blowing up above our heads, we couldn’t communicate, and our hands grew numb. We rapped off and abandoned the idea of climbing that day. Instead of heading straight for beer, we decided to explore the giant, rambling, shattered, mossy buttress opposite Interstate Park. After crossing the talus, scrambling along a ledge, and squeezing behind a bush, we emerged atop the buttress. We peered down the East face of the formation and were awestruck by what we saw: steep, clean, unexplored cliffs. The rock looked better than most of X38, some two pitch lines looked possible, and there were opportunities for trad routes. Other than a few rusty pitons left decades earlier and a single bolt at the top of the cliff, we found no evidence of previous explorers. A new adventure and obsession was started.


After the first few routes, Alex switched his energies to kids and sailing. Weekend bailed when he got injured. So I cobbled together partners where I could or went out solo to scratch the insatiable itch. Here are a few routes, photos, and stories:


Guillotine was an obvious and arresting line up a giant corner. Its namesake flake is 4-6 inches thick, 40 square feet, partially detached, and has a sharp upper edge. You’d definitely get the chop if it peeled off and landed on you. We worried about its stability, but it doesn’t budge or ring when hammered and rough calculations suggest it weighs about three tons. Everyone who leads this climb places cams behind the flake, underclings it, and then liebacks its sharp upper edge. No leader has fallen there. Yet. In writing this, I’m inspired to place a cam behind the Guillotine and bounce test it – will report back if anything moves.


First ascent. Not wanting to bolt a line that might be protected with cams and nuts, I decided to try to lead the route on gear. I expected it would be run out but was pleasantly surprised to find plenty of solid gear. The twinkle toes traverse and unprotected slab moves at the top added an exclamation point to an already great day. We pulled the rope and Michael Decker led it right after me.


The FA of Guillotine in 07.



Ian commits to the Guillotine in June, 2011. Note that Ian has clipped the first two bolts of Free Radical, the 11a arête right of Guillotine. Purists can place solid trad gear in that section and safely skip those bolts.






History Book is a trad route up a crack in a left-leaning dihedral. The route gets its name from an ancient piton near the lower crux that only a fool would trust. The top of History Book had two teetering death blocks and no sign of human passage, suggesting the route had never been climbed to its logical conclusion atop the cliff. The route is now clean. Experienced trad leaders will find an abundance of gear options, but less experienced, cam-plugging gym monkeys might not agree. Several people have likened this route to Roger’s Corner at Index.


First ascent. History Book looked relatively moderate and protectable with trad gear, so I trundled the offending blocks and decided to try it ground-up, onsight. I started up with large pruning shears tucked into the back of my harness, paused on lead to lop off a small bush that blocked the lower crux, and continued to the top without incident. Michael followed cleanly and then led a wandering trad pitch to the left that remains unrepeated.


Todd contemplates the moves above the roof.



Crouching Tiger was named for the original solution to the first roof. Better beta has since emerged, but you may find yourself crouching on slopers higher up anyway.


First ascent. I led this without incident on a perfect summer day in 2008. Michael pulled the rope and led it right after me. I was hoping this might be my first 5.11 FA, but we agreed it didn't make the grade. With high texture slopers, directional holds, and well-spaced bolts, it definitely makes you think.


Mike (not Decker) scans the slopers on Crouching Tiger.



Hidden Dragon is long and devious, with four different cruxes on fabulous stone. Fortunately, there are good rests between the cruxes. One key hold is nearly invisible and another is impossible to see from below. These inspired the route name, though images of flying through the forest in epic battle seemed to fit as well. If you are less than 5’9” and/or don’t find the hidden holds, Hidden Dragon may feel more like 11+ than mid-11. Many people have now climbed this route, but no one has on-sighted it yet. Maybe this Saturday...


First ascent. I back-clipped the first bolt, corrected it, fired the opening crux, and then blew the cryptic dropknee/breadloaf pinch on the second crux and fell. Thanks for the catch, Blake! I rested, swapped the drop knee for a toe hook, and sent the route next go. 2009.


Brandon working out the first of the four riddles on Hidden Dragon.



Skullduggery takes the most moderate line on a continuously overhanging wall. I rapped in from the top and knew right away that this project could take my climbing to the next level. At first I couldn't do a single move. I relentlessly worked out a sequence that fit my height, abilities, and style, set a boulder problem in the gym to train certain movement, drew an incredibly detailed topo that depicted every hold and twist and foot placement, and did movement-specific strength training and visualization. Part of my sequence involves a full body bridge into a hand/foot match on an overhanging wall. The route name means an act of trickery or deception and harks back to jargon friends and I used during mischievous and carefree camp counselor days many moons ago.


First ascent. One cool morning last summer I went out with Jens for my first redpoint attempt. After warming up on Crouching Tiger and Free Radical, I hopped on Skullduggery. Fortunately, that morning I was in the zone – that rare space where everything flows and mind and body perform seamlessly as one. It was almost as if I was a detached observer watching a carefully choreographed gymnastics routine unfold. I sent the route first go. Oddly, it was both anti-climactic and deeply satisfying. No one has yet repeated the route, but I think it will happen this Saturday...


Mike on Skullduggery.



Side view of the Skullduggery wall.


Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Replies 3
  • Created
  • Last Reply

Top Posters In This Topic

Top Posters In This Topic

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Create New...