(a trip report with minimal - almost no! - epics; and yes, it has a good bit of climbing in it! :)
While somewhat entertaining, it was also unnerving. And Indy, having not really been on the Sharp End since last year (the two 5.6s he led earlier this year didn't count as he's led/climbed them a number of times in the past, and one was really short), got a little unnerved at the daunting corner and crack system above him. But he geared up, roped in, and started climbing...
"Chicken and biscuits...chicken and biscuits...". Indy finally was able to block out the sound of his climbing neighbor (what actually happened was said climber-dude finally came down to go take a bong break before coming back a short while later to tackle the route again - but Indy didn't know that, being too focused on the crack and corner around him). Finally Indy made it up to the roof capping the corner. Batgirl suggested that he might want to do the high traverse and the low one was a bit more difficult. Indy was all up for making things not-difficult - but managed to confuse the lower traverse as being the higher traverse and went that way anyhow! It turned out to be not too bad; Indy was more nervous from just being on the sharp end again than anything else; the holds were all there. Indy finally traversed around the corner to the outside and anchored into the rap station and belay there. Then he belayed Batgirl up.
"Chicken and biscuits....chicken and biscuits...we're eating chicken and biscuits now!" Indy looked over and noticed that the climbing neighbor guy had returned and was halfway up the unprotected face. "Chicken and biscuits, bullshit this is a 'R', this is more an 'X' rating! Chicken and biscuits, we're eating chicken and biscuits...".
nomenclature: a 'G' rating means the gear placements are Good, 'PG' means it is pretty good, with some run-out sections; 'R' means Runout areas, long stretches between good pro, and a fall would be fairly substantial or serious; 'X' means you might as well solo the route 'cause there ain't no pro! Also, the '*' after the route difficulty rating indicates high-quality route; the more *'s, the higher the quality; in the Gunks 3 *'s is the best
The climber dude finally got to the blocky overhangs and roofs above him, and got a LOT happier when he could put more pro in. At this point he was more than halfway up from his last piece to the ground; a fall would have been Really Bad. But he made it. And continued on to the next section which had no gear placements readily available. Batgirl made it up to the belay where Indy was. She then took the gear remaining, reracked, and got set for the next pitch. She had some moments to commit to the opening moves, and informed Indy she would be going very slowly and stitching the route up. She then zoomed up the rock, placing a moderate amount of pro. In short order she was done, while another party was coming up the first pitch of Horseman. Indy then followed her up the beautiful face serrated with numerous horizontal ledges and cracks. From there they rapped down and moved further down the Trapps for their next destination: Dennis (5.5*, G, 2 pitches, 5.5 and 5.4 respectively).
They got there and found a party on the second pitch, so took a break to have lunch. Then Indy geared up and fired the first pitch, which starts out with a menacing bulge of an overhang, protectible by a #1 or #2 Cam. After the overhang there is a stretch of slabby face work, a ledge or three, then a steep section split with cracks to the finish. Very nice little route! Batgirl came up next, and made it clear that she really didn't like face or slab climbs. Her voice cracked as she tried to yell up to Indy this information. She then took pitch #2 and flashing up through the overhanging notch to the leaning crack, up to a steepish face, and then around a corner left then up right to the finish. Did it in fine style.
After this the plan was to take on Jackie (5.5**, G, 2 pitches, 5.5 and 5.3 respectively, but they were only going to do the first pitch, as the second pitch was mostly a scramble), so they rapped down and moved over to wait for that climb to clear off (there was a party ahead of them). Finally the second moved up (but was unable to retrieve a piece of gear so left it behind; Indy planned to make a stab at it, but Batgirl fyi'd him that was the crux of the route, so Indy figured if it didn't come out right away, he'd just clip it as fixed gear and move on - no sense farting around trying to remove gear when you're on the sharp end, yah?). The opening moves were sparse for pro, but not bad. Then Indy got to the couple of trees on the first section of the route and anchored off to wait while another party was rappelling down the route. They turned out to be remote friends of Batgirl (friends of a mutual friend who have met before type thingy). Small world this is. They made attempts at removing the gear, but couldn't do it. So came down and Indy went up. He quickly decided removing this on lead wasn't happening, clipped it, and moved up through the crux to the next roof/overhang section, made his way through that to the steep face and notched serious overhang capping the final moves to the route. Fortunately this was protected with a couple of solid pins, one of which Indy clipped. He worked his feet up a bit, got his hands on flat holds above (dearly wishing for that good cling grip hold to wrap his fingers around!), and surmounted the notched overhang (not with the greatest of ease, but made it).
Next Batgirl came up, but before she could remove the stuck gear from the previous party, another party next to them on Classic (5.7**, PG) rapped down and pounded it out in short order. Batgirl then zipped up to the top of Jackie to finish this climb. At this point it was getting late, and the hunger pangs were just starting. But Batgirl wanted to do Bunny (5.4*, G) at the upper end of the Uberfall area before they left, so they rapped down, re-racked, and moved to get in line. And in line they were: there was a party already doing Bunny, and another couple of guys waiting their turn. Indy and Batgirl got in line. But after an hour of waiting it was decided this wasn't going to happen for them today, and so off into town to check into Rock And Snow and find food they went. They played in R'n'S for a bit, got expensive food at Bacchus around the corner, then made their way back to camp. The stars were shining brightly, even through the partly hazed over clouds in places. The day had been warm, sunny, beautiful; the night before fairly warm. Tonite was chillier. They eventually retired for the evening. No Ark was found that day.
As it was Batgirl's turn to lead, she racked up and took the first pitch of Andrew. And made it real clear that she was unhappy with the route; it was, in her words, 'heinous!'. Indy came behind and found a couple sections rather touchy for a 5.4, but otherwise it was just an okay pitch (he'd been on it once before last year, but couldn't remember how nice the pitch was or not). Indy took then pitch 2, reracked, and moved up. Up through some broken and sometimes loose flakes, he then traversed over to the left-facing corner, and promptly got kinda off-route. Above him were kinda tough looking moves for a 5.4 (or 5.5, or 5.6, or...), below him ledges and flakes sticking out to batter him bloody should he fall, a pin at his feet clipped, and a piece of gear below that somewhere; Indy got kinda wigged. "Chicken and biscuits," was what he wanted to say. What came out instead was unhappy whimpering. But finally he made some semi-dicey committing moves and got to some BOMBER cracks and flakes! SLAM! went in some pro. CLIP went the gear to the rope. Indy was way happier now. He moved up the right-leaning shallow open-book groove, following the cracks/flakes to a roof above. From there he had to traverse out to underneath another roof, then around a corner, and up to the top. Indy clipped a few pins, placed a good bit more gear, and fired the last section of this pitch. Really sweet (except for that damned left-facing blocky corner below). Batgirl followed next, had no problems with the blocky left-facing corner (of course!), and danced up the rest of the route, pronouncing this pitch as being the Sweet Pitch and the first pitch as being the Heinous Pitch.
Instead of trying to rap off here (they had only one rope today, and last year Indy had a small epic trying to rap from here - he DIDN'T want to repeat this!) they headed north looking for the High Exposure buttress and the 3-single rope rap stations nearby there that would get them easily to the ground (up behind the Trapps are some really nice meadows and open areas in the woods, but no Ark was present; Indy grew convinced it's probably not here, but out West somewhere). A short while later they encountered two of Batgirl's friends who were just finishing up High E, so they combined forces to rap down in 2 raps instead of 3 (combining 2 ropes for the final rap to the ground). This worked perfectly fine until Indy tossed his rope over for the final rap - and halfway down the rock it got seriously wrapped up around a tree branch! <sigh> Indy got the honor of going first and attempted to clear the snarl from the tree. It was looking bleak for a long time (Indy got to practice using his auto-block knot that he learned in a Self-Rescue course he recently took) but finally the rope came free (Indy could not reach the tree branch, which was a good 15' away from the rock face, so he had to use the Force instead; he definitely needs more practice with this for other things in life). Down Indy went, followed by the rest of the contingent.
At this point a decision had to be made as to what to do next. It was barely midday, so Indy and Batgirl had hours ahead of them. Her friends opted to go tackle Limeline and headed south along the cliff base. Batgirl decided to accompany Indy on a mini-adventure: A Long Walk For Man, A Short Climb For Mankind (5.4, G), the very last route in the Trapps (there is more rock further down, more routes that can be done, but past this area the rock is closed for revegetation and things). You'll note that there is no '*' of any sort associated with this route. But Batgirl was game to try and find this thing, anyhow. Happily Indy strode off, followed quickly by Batgirl (who was wondering what she might be getting herself in for - but what's life without a little adventure, eh?)
After a short while the two came to an S-curve in the trail road, and a faint path that led into the woods, a path that seemed to vanish about 20-30 feet from the road. The two opted to continue down the carriage trail road, see if this would pan out. It didn't; it kept getting further and further from the rocks. So they turned around. Indy managed to identify some areas of the rock bands high above them to the south through breaks in the trees, but what they were looking for was to the north. So Batgirl decided to sit, relax, and have lunch. "Indy, you go find if the path goes or not, I'm eating," she indicated. Indy nodded happily. Never one to necessarily trod the beaten path...
A few minutes later Indy came across the base of the cliff; the way wasn't necessarily hard, but not altogether obvious, either. Instinct for the Rock guided him. When he arrived at the cliff base, he discovered a party of 4 climbers already there! He asked if they knew anything about the route he was looking for. "Oh, yeah," one guy replied, "It's WAY down thataway [pointing to the north] 'bout two or three thousand yards; it's really far away." Indy did some quick mental math and decided there was an exaggeration going on here; the next band of cliffs to the north was less than 2000 yards away to start with, so maaaybe the guy meant 'feet' instead of 'yards'. Whichever, Indy cached his rope and went back for Batgirl.
Once they worked their way through the woods and breakdown piles of talus, the dynamic duo of adventurers worked their way along the base of the cliff, heading north. Where they encountered the party Indy met earlier, then another party of climbers, then*another party of climbers! Good lord, they were mor than a mile from the Uberfall, far from the maddening crowds, expecting isolation and solitude - and it's almost as crowded as the Uberfall area! (well, relatively speaking, anyway). They got new directions (of sorts) to the route they were looking for and headed away...and a few minutes later Indy looked up to this huge, beeauuutiful left-facing corner/overhang system. This had to be it. It called to him. Indy and Batgirl checked their guidebooks.
'Start: At a huge broken left-facing corner that arches left near it's top...'
Yep! This was it. Indy geared, Batgirl got the belay ready, and away Indy went.
To say the climb was pleasant would not be truthful. Not many people brave the walk and search to seek out this route. The ledges are dirty, coated with layers of dirt and dust. It is sheltered from rain by the huge overhanging corner above, which prevents the ledges from being cleaned periodically. Spiderwebs were scattered here and there. Mosquitos were out, doing their best to suck on Indy and Batgirl (Indy opted for the chemical anti-bug stuff; Batgirl opted for her hand to destroy the vermin). To say the climb was fantastic, barring the dirt-covered handholds, would be spot on. This was a *classic* route. Beautiful moves. Great pro. Never outrageous, but exciting (though Indy prolly should have gone AROUND the two trees halfway up, rather then BETWEEN them!) And at the top....a rap station! A couple of the webbing anchors looked and had that 'aged' feel, but someone had recently been by and put in some perlon to reinforce the rap station. Indy was happy, one for finding an easy rap station, and two for not having to leave anything behind (duh, he hadn't thought about bringing extra spare gear for doing this!). Indy would easily give this route 2 or 3 *'s, despite the dirt-covered ledges.
Batgirl proceeded up the route and in short order made her way to Indy (and made a few comments about his going BETWEEN the trees!). Afterwards they rapped back to the ground again. Batgirl agreed, this was a great climb. But it is unlikely that anyone is going to brave coming all the way down here to do it any time in the near future with Indy. There are other climbs closer to the southern end of the Trapps to do yet (but Indy decided if anyone else wants to come down and do this route again, he's game :).
On the way back out Indy took the opportunity to identify several other routes in the area that he had been toying with trying. One of them, The Lone Ranger (5.3, G), didn't look that enticing. Maybe Indy mis-identified it.
They made their way back and opted to get on Bunny as their last climb of the day. There was a party on it when they got there, so they waited. Finally, 20 minutes later, the other party rapped off, and Batgirl geared up to do the lead. Indy set the belay. Before Batgirl went up Indy noted that his guidebook said, "If you can get off the ground, you've got it made!' Great! An easy 4; something to round the day off with (esp after the not-so-great first pitch of Andrew).
She proceeded up the technically difficult stemming corner (remember, this is a 5.4* route with plenty of gear placements), then started grunting up the crack system to the first overhang, 1/3 of the way up. She started to do the traverse, then paused, turned to Indy and said, "Boy, I have decided, you need more practice at being a rope-gun. I'm downclimbing now. You will finish this route."
"Yes ma'am," replied Indy. Anything Batgirl wants...
Once on the ground Indy and Batgirl switched racks and belay stances, and Indy proceeded up. And found that while the start was technically challenging for a 5.4, the next section up to the first overhang never let up! This was a freaking stiff 5.4 (unless there was something terribly obvious that Indy was missing, but he doesn't think so). He got to the roof, and toyed with pulling it directly. The starting moves looked reasonable, but then it quickly got harder and he wasn't sure he could reach the next holds (and there weren't any ledges for the feet on this roof). So he traversed over, went up, found a beefy pin, clipped it, didn't like the way the 'biner sat on the rock, and moved on, placing a piece or two as he went, clipping another piton or two as he went. Finally he got to the second overhang. Up to this point the difficulty of the route had NOT let up! Either Indy was STILL missing something, or this was a sandbag route. Hard for a 4. Indy wasn't overly-ecstatic with his pro, either; it was kinda far apart (they called this a 'G'? earlier on the route to the left of Bunny someone was doing the lead; after 40' he had only clipped 2 pitons, had ZERO gear in, and was unhappily muttering about that route being labelled as 'PG'; guess the Gunks protection ratings are...a little stiff). Finally, after passing the second roof on its left side (great holds!), the ground got a LOT easier; Indy sprinted for the belay/rap station above.
Batgirl came up next, expressing considerable dissatisfaction for the lower 2/3s of the route. For some reason she had it fixed in her mind it was 5.3, not 5.4 (not that that makes a lot of difference; then again, last year Indy got on a 5.10 up in Squamish, thought it was 5.9, and flailed with the mightiest of them - but that was on top-rope, not lead, fortunately). Nevertheless, it was a kinda heinous route; stiff for a 4. Sandbaggy. But that's Indy's impression. Other people seem to love the route (or hate it; surveys Indy and Batgirl took later seemed to have the route as either a love-it/hate-it climb; Batgirl definitely hated it).
After that they made their way back into town, stopping at Rock And Snow again. Indy took advantage of the bathroom to do a real quick wash up while Batgirl tried on new climbing shoes (didn't buy any, just tried some of the new models out). Then they met with Batgirl's friends and friends-of-friends, and headed off to eat pasta at the Main Course, about a mile or so up the road out of town.
"Table for 6 please?" However, they found the small restaurant crowded, and they had to wait. 20 minutes they were told. This turned into an epic on the patience scale, as they ended up waiting nearly an hour for a table (there was some birthday party going on for a kid who brought his classmates along, and they had taken over 1/3 of the restaurant, and wouldn't leave for the LONGEST time! Indy tried using the Force to make them move; didn't work. Others in the party were beginning to entertain the ideas of perhaps cooking the kids...). Finally they got to seat down and eat. And while the food was good, it wasn't good enough for the wait they had to endure. Unfortunate that.
During dinner the 6 discovered they were all camped in Camp Slime. Woo!! Unfortunately only Indy and Batgirl were in Camp Slime; the others were down in the Multi-Abuse (Multi-use) Area, and were calling that Camp Slime. So meeting for dessert after dinner became out of the question. The 4 friends of Batgirl headed to their campsites, while Indy and Batgirl made their way back to theirs. Everyone decided the next day was going to be a Near Trapps day. Indy had lined up 3 routes for he and Batgirl to tackle: Gelsa (5.4**, PG), Disneyland (5.6-***, PG), and Layback (5.5**, PG). 7 pitches of climbing total (3, 2, and 2 respectively). They all figured they'd see each other in the Near Trapps the next day (unless some other friends of Batgirl's came up, in which case the 4-some was going to hook up with them and investigate Lost City, another place Indy had attempted to locate a couple years before but was unsuccessful; it is easily visible from the Trapps bridge to the West, but it is truly lost as no one seems to know how to get to it; Indy and party at that time tried and failed, eating up an entire day). The stars were bright that night, no clouds. The evening was warmer, as had the day been. Indy stayed up a while to look at the stars, caught sight of a meteor, then finally retired for the evening. It had been a Good Day, despite Bunny and pitch 1 of Andrew. However, no clues to the whereabouts of the Ark.
They found Layback open, but people on Disneyland. Indy wasn't quite ready to tackle the unprotectable chimney at the start of Layback ("homey don't do off-widths," ya know, and don't like chimneys much, either), so they made their way down to Gelsa (5.4**, PG, 3 pitches). It was open. Totally. No one was around. This was too cool (plus it was just after 8am, they were getting a much earlier start than the past couple of days). Indy discussed with Batgirl the three pitches of climbing before them. They would not be rapping back down; instead they would walk off the back, through camp, and around to the base again. He was going to take pitches 1 and 2, giving her pitch 3 if she was feeling up for it (pitch 3, btw, is The Sweet Pitch (tm), and Indy'd do it in a flat minute, but after the two un-fun pitches Batgirl suffered with the day before, he wanted her to get on something fun before they left).
Gelsa is a climb that really deserves 4 *'s, as opposed to the 2 it's given in the guidebooks (this on a scale of 0-3). The first pitch is okay, not bad, comes in at 5.3, protectable, but awkward in a few places. Pitch 2 is the 5.4 'PG' pitch, moving one off the belay ledge to a traverse around a nose (easily protectable), up a corner/crack system (easily protectable) until it gets Real Hard, at which point one steps right onto the face, and balances up the unprotected slab section (1-1/2 to 2 body lengths) to the belay station. Indy forgot about the slab section, but was real glad he got pitch 2 so Batgirl didn't have to deal with it on lead; she made her desires for slabs known earlier on Dennis). Pitch 3 then works its way up a right-facing corner and face to a roof cap, after which one traverses right and then up around the roof on it's right side, going up the right-facing corner and face above (and totally out of sight of the belay). Once up top communications would be problemmatic, as the belayer is under a substantial roof, effectively blocking a lot of sound from the climber above. With Batgirl's voice cracking whenever she tried to yell loudly, this was going to be interesting. Pitch 3 is also rated 5.4, but this may be for one move: getting up past the roof on the right. Otherwise it's Indy's opinion this is mainly 5.2/5.3 stuff.
So Indy made his way up pitch 1, brought Batgirl up, then worked through pitch 2, and brought Batgirl up. Then it was her turn. She took a few moments to compose and become one with the rock. Unfortunately, 'being one with the rock' wasn't happening, so she just started climbing. She worked her way up the first corner, over the traverse, and then around the roof. She stopped for a few moments as she moved up, then disappeared from Indy's view. Indy was able to mark her progress only by the rope moving upwards from the belay. He waited. Other climbers appeared on other climbs, and at the start of Gelsa below. The rope moved up, stopped, moved up again, stopped, moved up. Birds were crying out all through the valley below Indy, and he was concerned he would not hear Batgirl from their mellifluous trills and whistlings.
And this was the case. After a while the rope had not moved. Indy was wondering if Batgirl had gotten stuck on a move somewhere, or if she were at the belay. He listened, but heard nothing. Suddenly the rope started moving - fast. Not fast enough to be a falling body, no, but faster than someone climbing. She was pulling up the rope; the only explanation. Indy called out to check, and heard her faint verification from far above. So he let her have the rope; she was set and ready to belay him up. Just below Indy another party was doing the second pitch, so Indy made he way up the rock. Pleasant climbing gave way to fun climbing and soon he was at the belay, atop the cliff. Once he was set and off belay, Batgirl gave out a "YA-HOO!!!". The best pitch she's done in a long, long time, if ever. Never had she been so scared yet in control. Looking down between her legs while she was climbing she saw nothing but air - no rock, no nothing! Just air. And ground, far below. And the route was great, the holds fantastic - she had a good time. Indy was way happy. Still no Ark in sight, nor any clues to one, but that's okay. He's heading West later this summer anyhow.
The two sat there and drank in the morning sun; it was barely 10:30am. They could go down and tackle another climb, or they could end the day on a high note and work their way back to Baltimore/DC. They both wanted showers, but the day was young. They both had things to do back home, but there were climbs waiting for them. So they compromised, decided to see if they could find Batgirl's friends (who were looking to do Disneyland and Gelsa), and then head home. They de-racked at the car, searched for her friends (didn't find them), then packed up camp and headed home, checking out a different path back to the highway. Made the trip slightly longer, but it was a pleasant run.
And a few hours later, late in the afternoon, they arrived B'more. Batgirl and Indy repacked her stuff in her car, and homeward she went. Indy unpacked, went grocery shopping, logged in to find 250+ msgs waiting for him, deleted half of them, veged for a bit, then crashed out asleep. The long, fun weekend had finally come to an end.