From: firstname.lastname@example.org (David Hagar)
Subject: Trip Report Seneca Rocks June 18-19
Date: 6 Jul 1994 14:46:05 -0400
Organization: Carderock Division, NSWC, Bethesda, MD
This report is, to the best of my knowledge, a sometimes warped interpretation of the weekend's events. Sorry this is so long. I didn't have enough time to edit it down to a reasonable length.
I was born a poor black child on farm in Monroe, Virginia....oh wait... wrong story.
As usual, the half hour I allotted to pack my car turned into an hour and a half. On my way out, I stopped at a friend's in Winchester. He said he had box of gear he didn't use anymore. I wasn't real hopeful since several years had passed since he had climbed. As expected, I found lots of thick-walled symmetric hexes (about 20 pounds each) and other junk. As I dug through the box, however, I thought I caught a glimmer of...no, it couldn't be... I threw a few more humongo-hexes out of the way and....YES, the Holy Grail of Booty - nearly a complete set of Tricams!!!! Well, maybe it wasn't the Holy Grail of Booty, but since Tricams are what I needed for my rack, the timing was perfect! After watching the cops follow O.J. around Los Angeles for a while, I headed out to the cabin, arriving about 1-1:30 a.m. (I've got to start getting more sleep!). The next morning, I pulled my newly acquired booty out of the car and showed Dave Mackintosh. Dave immediately started "oohing and ahing" and fondling the tricams..."Oh man, look at the size of those things! Schweeet!" Desiree, Dave Mackintosh's wife, thought we were out there looking at a Playboy magazine. By the look on Mack's face, the Tricams were having the same effect. I wrestled the Tricams away from Mack and headed to Seneca.
I found Mark Kochte, Michelle, Merle, and Mike at the Way-2-Slow 4-U Restaurant. To pass the time waiting for breakfast, we watched Seneca rocks erode and timed each other to see whose hair grew the fastest. Dave Mack, Desiree, and daughter Sullivan showed up to help us maintain the vigil over the coming feed. Sullivan wasn't interested in hair growth rate so she passed the time playing with her naval. Mack said "Look at that big fat white whale belly." Two local, well-fed patrons flashed Mack a mean look and then realized he was talking to his daughter. Mackintosh chose to spend the day with his loving wife and daughter. Well, "chose" is maybe the wrong word. What do you call it when you do something because you want to have some chance of getting laid in the next 6 months?
I paired up with Merle and Chris "there is no way in hell I am going to get stuck in the dark on this God forsaken rock again" Anderson. We headed out around 9:00 to do "Ecstasy Jr." Merle led, I seconded, and Chris checked the batteries in his flashlights. We used Merle's 2-way headsets so we could play S.W.A.T. "Mission Impossible" would have been a more appropriate game as Merle became hopelessly entangled in his slings, headset, backpack, etc. Merle had already climbed onto the ledge above us, so we could not help... only stare in disbelief. The more he tried to untangle the mess, the worse it got. He began to resemble a man with a dozen spiders crawling on his back. Merle's mess reminded me of Rubik's cube and other puzzles. In honor of Merle, gear entanglements will now be referred to as a "Reinhart-Rubik's Rack." Merle finally gave up and continued climbing. Everyone survived the first pitch. Merle began the second pitch and was soon out of sight. The headsets made communication easy. They are voice activated, however, so the first fraction of a syllable does not transmit when you begin to speak. As Merle's efforts on the second pitch increased, his breathing began to activate the headset. The voice activation cut off made him sound like Darth Vader. The increased rate of his breathing as he approached and cleared the overhang reminded me of "The little engine that could" Merle announced over the headset "I cleared the overhang". "We know," Chris and I laughed, since we could tell exactly where he was from the sound of his breathing. I went next, trying to breathe as quietly as possible, lest Merle think I was actually making an effort to clear the overhang. Chris followed, pausing below the overhang out of our sight. Merle speculated that Chris had decided to explore the little cave instead of finishing the pitch. Moments later, Chris climbed over the overhang and, after shedding his backpack, "spelunked" THROUGH the pseudo-tunnel at the top of the climb instead of over it. Chris did very well on the climb, considering how little he has been climbing recently and that he was carrying about 3 gallons of water in his backpack (one of which was mine...oops! How did that get there?). The rock was cool and shady at the top with a nice breeze also. However, stepping through the gap in the rocks to luncheon ledge was like stepping into an oven.
Chris left us to go caving and Merle and I decided to see if Mark Kochte, Michelle, George, et al, were still toproping on the North Peak/East Face. Mark K had top ropes set up on Streptococcus, Herpes, and Heffalump Trap. We decided to try Streptococcus. The crux is a sequence of moves through a diagonal crack. There are no good rest spots on this climb so you can waste a lot of energy just contemplating strategy. I figured out the first move, but my arms gave out before I could try the second. After trying and falling/resting 2 or 3 times, I made it through the tough section and finished the climb - a successful hangdog effort. Merle tried next. He had the same problem I did... figuring out the sequence of moves before his arms gave out. He came off at the same place I did, but persevered and made it also. Next was George's turn. I was amazed at how long he was able to hang on while contemplating the moves. George made it a little further than Merle and I did but his arms gave out as well. He opted against a hangdog effort, preferring to save this great climb for another day. (I think that's what happened...correct me if I'm wrong). Mark K then tried and succeeded without falling, although I had to deduct 2/10 of a point for grunting. Michelle also tried streptococcus. With just a "little" encouragement from the gang below, she made excellent progress. I think we'll have a rematch against streptococcus, next time without the hangdogging.
Would spreading Neosporin on my shoes help defeat this bacteria?
We packed up and hiked down the tourist trail. After gulping down some Gatorade, we headed to the swimming hole. I introduced the gang to Vortex, a nerf-football like object with a tail that allows even the most pumped climber to throw spirals every time. My first throw skipped across the water and nailed George right in the solar plexus (sorry George, I was aiming for Mark). We then spent the next half hour or so trying to kill each other with it. The locals seem mildly curious/entertained: ("Wutda hail is dat thang?...Looks lak a footbawl but t'aint" ... "dat Mark boy shor has uh perty mouf!")
Chris' chile was excellent. It became apparent quickly that there was not enough to go around, especially with "Jethro" bowls being consumed by some. At first we set aside one container for Chris (after all, he did make the chile), but as time passed and Chris still had not arrived, we rationalized that Chris probably had some chile hidden away for himself somewhere. Yeah, that's the ticket. What DID you eat for dinner, Chris?
KOchte, CHApman, HAgar, MAckintosh were the climbers for this expedition (the
KOCHAHAMA expedition of '94). The others remained at base camp as ground
support. We parked in the lot just past the bridge to avoid the chance of
being locked in the main parking lot. We hiked up the trail to luncheon ledge
where we changed into our climbing shoes and stashed our boots. We hiked
around to Broadway ledge. Looking off to the right into the abyss of darkness
was wild. Mark led the way on the final scramble/climb to the gunsight and
belayed the rest of us up. We felt it was best to be more cautious than usual.
We used one rope for this short pitch, with the second and third climbers tying
into the middle. I finally got to use that butterfly knot I've been
practicing! At the gunsight, we organized our strategy. Mark K would lead, I
would second followed by Mackintosh and George. Mark began climbing and soon
yelled back something about finding a stopper and clipping in. He yelled back
that the second stopper was not his. He finished the pitch without incident
and belayed me up. When I got to the second piece of pro, there were two
stoppers, one to which Mark had clipped; the other had no wire. I thought the
wireless stopper was the one he had found and that the other was his. I spent
the next 3 or 4 hours hanging on precariously and trying desperately to get
Mark's pro out. It was a #9 stopper. It would come loose, move an inch and
then jam in tight again. Mark yelled down a couple of times "The second
piece IS NOT MINE" and the others too: "I think that's the piece that
Mark found." But it was too late. I was on a mission. I was obsessed.
Finally, I managed to wiggle it out. Yeah! I was finally able to proceed.
Mark yelled down that I should not try to remove the piton into which he had
clipped (smartass). I finished the pitch and proceeded to give Mark back his
pro. When I handed him the #9 stopper, he said "This isn't mine! That's
the piece I found and clipped into!"
Hagar: "I thought the other piece was the one you found"
Kochte: "The other piece had no wire. How could I have clipped
I was embarrassed and crouched silently on the belay ledge as I pondered the potential repercussions of my error. Have I jeopardized the mission? Would we have to bivouac at the summit? Would Mark always have to carry tags in the future to identify the pieces I am suppose to leave in place? But then I looked up, caught Mark's eyes, and we simultaneously realized "BOOTY!!!!!" All was right in the world again. We alternated climbers such that there were never more than two climbers on the rather small belay ledge. I belayed Mark to the summit; I then belayed Dave Mackintosh up to the ledge; Mark belayed me to the summit; Mackintosh belayed George to the belay ledge. Mark then belayed Dave and George to the summit. We paid a little closer attention as George climbed since we could not see him and there was no one behind him to monitor his progress. A few moments passed. Someone asked "You think he's doing okay?" A few moments later Mackintosh said matter-of-factly "Well, none of his lights are working" "None of his lights are working!!!"
George's big light had disintegrated - he packed it away in pieces. His head lamp had a contact problem. George finished the pitch in the light of the half moon. Along the way, he ran across a mouse who had been free soloing "Gunsight to South Peak Direct". The mouse looked at George as if to say "You know, I climb at night so I don't have wait in line behind you monkey boys, now you're taking over the night climbing too." We should probably start checking our ropes for teeth marks. We summitted around midnight: Mark arrived at about 11:30...George the anchor man at 12:15.
We paused at the summit to read some of the log entries. Lots of mushy crap about newlyweds starting their life together at Seneca, lovers becoming one with nature, and other garbage. After hurling what was left of Chris's chile off the East side, I read further and found better stuff. Most memorable log entry, posted by four cavers, went something like:
"Cavers can go up - Can climbers GO DOWN?"
We then traded flashlight signals with our base camp as well as some persistent flashers at Princess Snowbird Campground. The flash from Chris' makeshift parabolic reflector (solar blanket) was impressive. We also saw a ranger patrolling the parking lots below. It was then that We first considered regulations regarding night climbing. I set the timer on my camera and "ran" to get a group shot of the whole team. For a fraction of a second I considered that the picture might turn out showing only my legs as I toppled over the edge - but I managed to maintain my composure. We had toyed with idea of throwing a light off the side but decided that if panic ensued in the base camp, we would not be able to tell them it was just a bad joke.
Mark belayed us down the West side toward the Westpole rappel station. We rapped off with all of our flashlights on. I looked up to watch George glide slowly and silently down the rope, with the flashlights on the back of his harness casting shadowy light on the gray rock. The image reminded me of being underwater and looking up at a diver descending into the depths from the surface. We all rapped down safely (I tied a knot in the end of the rope and clipped in a biner for added safety).
After gathering our gear (sans Mark's climbing shoes, we found out later), we began the hike down. Along the way we discussed if there were regulations prohibiting night climbing. We decided on a stealth exit by hiking out Roy Gap road with our lights off. Of course, with Mark's rack clanging away, we could be pinpointed from miles away - he was ordered to rig for silent running. We walked in the moonlight, following the somewhat brighter image of the gravel road. We discussed strategy if we got caught and had to explain what we were doing.
EXPLANATION 1: We were training for emergencies. you know, in case we got stuck on a rock at night sometime, we wanted experience dealing with it. I call this "epic training."
EXPLANATION 2: We went to rescue George, who had been missing for a couple of weeks, having last been seen in the gunsight. At the time, everyone thought he had just gone home, but after discussing his whereabouts with other climbers on Saturday evening, we suddenly realized he was still on the rocks somewhere! We threw together some gear and hiked/climbed up to the gunsight to begin our search. We soon found George, down in a hole formed by the remains of the Gendarme. He was still alive, but weak. Apparently he had gotten stuck in the hole trying to retrieve a dropped twinkie. At the time, George weighed about 235 pounds, but after two weeks in the hole, he had lost about a hundred pounds! After feeding him a couple of Power Bars, he was able to walk under his own power. We figured any Ranger would take one look at George and believe our story.
After crossing the low bridge, we saw headlights approaching from the rear. Someone (George?) headed for the bushes and the rest of us followed; except for Dave Mackintosh who loped along behind trying to figure out what the hell we were doing. We hunkered down behind a tree and waited. As the truck approached, the head lights shown directly on us. I realized that my white tee shirt was practically glowing. The truck slowed and stopped about fifty feet from our position. There was silence. What were they going to do? Were they looking for trouble, or worse, a date? We crouched there waiting.... Suddenly there was a searing pain in my left calf. I tumbled into a ditch. George, Mark, and Dave M. dove for cover as well. We had to think fast - the shotgunner was approaching. I made a bola out of my #5, #6, and #7 tricams and tossed it to Dave M. He twirled the makeshift weapon over his head and released it. The bola wrapped around the guys neck and shattered the few front teeth the guy had left. He ran back to the truck and drove off.... We collected our gear, made it back to the car, and drove back to camp with the lights out, hoping we weren't followed. We walked into camp around 2:30 a.m. where we received a hero's welcome... "zzzzzz"
The next day I awoke early for some unknown reason. I organize my gear for the day's climbing and waited for the others to rise.
We ate at the Not-Quite-As-Slow-4-U-Today-As-We-Were-Yesterday Restaurant and so, naturally, got off to a late start. Some of the CCCers head for home. Dave Mackintosh and I started off with our usual aspirations of doing several climbs but realized soon that we would just have time for one. We decided to do "Pleasant Overhangs." For once, we had little trouble finding the start of the climb, but we would make up for it by meandering on the first pitch. Before we could start, Mackintosh had to purge his processed chile. I think the odor and methane must have clouded our judgement because neither of us could figure out exactly where the first pitch went. Mackintosh led and was pretty creative in choosing a line. After a bit of wandering and an intermediate belay, we ended up at the belay station at the beginning of the traverse out under the overhang. We found out later that Mackintosh had followed the route of the original first pitch climbed in the '60s. I led the traverse pitch under the overhang. The handholds are pretty good, the foot placements are sometimes marginal. The wall cuts in just below the foot placements, so the exposure is incredible! I worked out to the end of the main overhang. There was a storm blowing our way. Mackintosh suggested that we would stay pretty dry below the overhang. That would have been great until we decided to try to get out of there. Anyway, before pulling the overhang, I placed a piece of pro with what I thought was a long enough sling. However, rope drag quickly became a problem. The combination of turning 90 degrees upward after the traverse combined with pulling the overhang made rope drag nearly impossible to eliminate. I guess that is why there is the belay just past the overhang (duh). There was nothing to indicate this belay station except an old ragged sling. The guide book mentions a small ledge but there was nothing like that at this sling. I, in my infinite wisdom, decided that the belay station must be a little further up so I continued. Meanwhile, rope drag was increasing at an exponential rate. I wasted a lot of time trying to reduce rope drag by creative placement of pro, and the approaching storm was still approaching. Not wanting to down climb the overhang to fix the initial problem, I plowed onward and upward. The rope drag got so bad that I thought Mackintosh must have gotten tired of waiting, untied from the belay station, jumped off the ledge, and was hanging below letting me pull him up with me. Fortunately, this section was only about 5.5 so I was able to bulldoze my way up to what I soon realized was the third belay station, not the second. I then took off my always soaked shirt and relaxed for a minute before belaying Dave up. Dave led the last pitch/scramble to the summit. Thankfully, the storm never developed. We took the Westpole rap down, using only one rope. We decided that using one rope and the intermediate rap station was quicker and easier than using two ropes. At each station, we would run one end of the rope through the rap ring before pulling the rope down from above. This way, when the other end of the rope dropped from above, we were ready for the next rappel. No frozen double fisherman's to try to untie with tired fingers! It was also great only hauling one rope around all day!! We headed down the trail to the parking lot. I did my usual kamikaze downhill jog while Mackintosh practice "dirt glissading."
The remaining CCCers converged at the swimming hole for a quick dip. Most everyone then headed for home. George, Merle, Ed Smith and I decided to grab a pizza before hitting the road.
...and so concluded CCC-94 (the first CCC-94 that is. I hear rumors that there may be more CCCs later this year!).
Off rap.... Hagar the Horrible