In 2009 Alan Carne went for a ground up onsight of the infamous Bachar-Yerian 5.11 R/X on the Medlicott Dome in Tuolumne. Bold doesn’t quite describe the achievement of even trying this. Alan fell just below the second bolt on the second pitch. He just missed his belayer and slammed into the wall below after travelling 15-20m busting up two of his ribs.
A few weeks ago I met up with Alan and Robbie Phillips with whom I have climbed big mentally testing routes in the Alps. We have all come together with the main aim of climbing free routes on El Capitan in Yosemite but since the weather was still hot we decided to get our fitness in the high country above. Alan, who is in his mid 50s, has climbed test piece routes all around the world for over 40 years. It was obvious the Bachar-Yerian was a route that pulled at his psyche and a journey that had to be completed. For a safer approach since the onsight had been blown he fixed ropes down the route and practiced it on micro-traxion.
Robbie was focused on a route to the right of the Bachar-Yerian, which he had heard about since he had started climbing. Peace 5.13d. Ron Kauk, a famous local, made waves when he sunk a line of bolts into the seemingly blank face at a time when bold climbing was cool. What eventuated was a 50m pitch on tiny feldspar knobs, which stick out of the granite, creating one of the hardest free climbs in the area.
|Typical knob on the route Peace 5.13d.|
After missing out on the Cobra Crack this year in which I had invested so much of my psych I struggled to find my own drive. It was great to be able to go along with Alan and Robbie and support them with their goals. I tried Peace and did all the moves first go but it was obvious Robbie, who is a vertical face, crimping machine, would do it fast and I would take a fair bit longer. So I jumped on the Bachar-Yerian and did it without too much trouble on micro-traxion without the main mental difficulties of being on lead. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to lead it or not and that’s probably not the best mindset for a committing route.
Alan eventually decided to go for it. I was nervous belaying. Robbie jumared above for the first few pitches and got the camera out. The first three pitches of the Bachar-Yerian are very run out but Alan cruised them utilizing the spaced bolts and a few larger feldspar knobs he slung with cordlette. The fourth pitch was like an epic of its own. Alan hadn’t rehearsed it and I get the feeling many people rappel down after the third pitch as it was very dirty. It is given 5.8 but felt 5.10. A full 70m of dirty route finding in no-fall slab territory. I couldn’t even hear Alan so when the rope ran out I just started climbing. We thought it was the most serious pitch on the route but maybe we went the wrong way. Alan was exhausted on the summit, mentally more than physically. We decided to walk down the back rather than getting onto the ropes again.
|Alan focusing on his feet while another party watches on. Bachar-Yerian 5.11 R/X.|
|Typical knob tie-off for when the bolts are too far apart.|
|We left it a little late and Alan was climbing in the sun for the third and fourth pitches.|
|Me on belay glad I was just following.|
A few days later a cold spell hit. Snow was forecast but we didn’t believe it. Peace was on the cards for the day and it was my turn to jumar above and take photos. Robbies one request to me was to try and recreate the famous Ron Kauk photo down the black streak. It had rained and all of the chalk had disappeared. This was a problem as on the face covered in knobs it is hard to remember which ones are good and which are bad. Robbie had a quick go up to the crux and found the cold conditions helped a lot but route finding was an issue again on the clean face. Warmed up with chalk up to the crux again Robbie lowered down to the start, pulled the rope and crushed the difficulties with ease. Another 30m of knobs lay ahead to the anchor with a notoriously easy to fall off section towards the end. I frantically jumared ahead of Robbie as he climbed, getting photos and ticking the best knobs, so he would remember where to go. Then the skies opened up. For the last 15m snow fell melting as it hit the wall making all the knobs wet. Robbie obviously over gripping to not blow the ascent fought through to the anchor and achieved one of his dream routes.
|Robbie crushing the start of Peace 5.13d.|
|The famous shot recreated.|
|Robbie was kind of stoked to have sent.|
Another crack climbing aficionado, JP Ouellet, commented on a facebook post of mine and recommended an old school hard crack to me. Love Supreme ~5.13b is a short, steep, technical, and powerful crack on a boulder half way up a hillside. I was psyched immediately and dragged Robbie and Alan around to try and find it. Two afternoons of bush bashing and we still hadn’t found it. We had thought it was further up the hill than it actually was. Eventually on the third afternoon when we realized it actually wasn’t too far up the hill we stumbled upon it. I tried for the onsight but got shut down after only a few moves. Second go I fell off near the top out. I tried some more but had de-powered and would have to come back. Luckily the next day on it I did it first shot.
|On the send of Love Supreme 5.13b.|
It’s kind of cool to have, between the three of us, done a bold, face, and crack test piece up in Tuolumne and along with some sport climbing at the nearby Tioga pass should hold us in good stead for the Valley over the coming weeks.
|Tioga Pass sport climbing is awesome. Lizard King 5.13a.|
|Rest afternoon waiting for Alan above Tioga cliffs.|