Indiana Mark and the Gunkification of The Short Italian

Indy (of course)
Bri, The Short Italian (see also the title)
Cat (meow!)
Rafi (aka 'The Gourmet Chef' and 'National Geographic Photo-dude')
Lady (Rafi's 4-legged Companion)
Also starring:
Guest starring:
Mosca Man

Indy and Bri had been trying to get on and complete Gelsa (5.4*) a couple of times over the past two months. The first time was early August, and they did pitch 1, but due to some problems, had to rappel from the tree there. They were going to try again at the end of the Adirondacks trip, but time was against them; they did not have enough daylight to tackle all three pitches of the climb, so defaulted to doing a short couple pitches in the Trapps. Now, two weekends later, Indy was going to take Bri and several other adventurers up to the Gunks for some fun on the vertical beach. Top priority for the weekend: climb Gelsa with Bri.

In the days preceeding the expedition's trip, the Weather God sent Hurricane Floyd, one of the nastier ones to come through the area recently, roaring up the East Coast, causing massive flooding all around. The heavy rains saturated the ground, and high winds ripped trees (roots and all) out, taking down powerlines, crashing through houses, crushing (parked) cars. All this happened in the Baltimore area, where Floyd had not hit with its full fury. Some other parts of the East Coast were spared even that, but still other areas (such as central areas of New Jersey) were hit harder. All that Indy suffered was about 12 hours of power outage (which, for him, was pleasant, for while he can turn out the lights in his apartment any time he wants to, having the neighborhood turn off all their lights plus streetlights at a drop of a hat is a bit more problemmatic). Nevertheless, in the dark Indy packed his gear and prepped for the weekend. Others (who had power) did the same (save for Mosca, who wasn't even sure he was going to join in on the adventuring fun, having been with Indy enough times in the past to know Indy's rep with the Weather God; aside that, Mosca himself was out of power at his place).

Once the storm blew through thursday afternoon/evening, the skies cleared overnight, and the next day brought bluer skies to the Baltimore region than Indy could remember having seen in a long, long time. After a day of fighting with the cosmos, and wrestling a cantankerous telescope around in space, Indy and crew were ready to blast for the North, following on the heels of Floyd (now 'tropical storm Floyd'). Mosca had been arm-twisted into going along, fooled that the rains had passed and it would be an unusually sunny and dry weekend with Indy.

On the road, Mosca caravaned with Indy and Bri. The original plan was to meet Cat (meow!) and the Puerto Rican Photodude at the campground (they were to arrive an hour or two after Indy & crew), and Indy was to set up a tent for them to crawl into upon their arrival. But just before Indy left he received a transmission from the Cat that they were going to wimp out and got a room at Motel 87, near the highway at the New Paltz exit. So Indy only had one tent to worry about (Mosca drove his tent up with him; one of the perks of owning a van).

The drive up was mostly uneventful...until they got off of I-84 (Indy prefers to go through Pennsylvania; may take a little longer, but it's prettier, and more importantly - no tolls!). On a few miles up Rt 208 they were stopped by police outside the town of Walden.

"You from Walden?", asked the first of three officers attending the roadblock.

"No sir," was Indy's reply.

"Just passing through?"


"Good. Don't stop in town. Just keep going."

"Ur...okay," said Indy, and he motored forward. His and Bri's curiousity piqued, Indy stopped by the next two officers in line.

"What's going on?" he asked.

"Curfew. Town's closed. Don't stop. Curfew. Move along." was all the answer Indy was able to get out of them. So he moved along.

The cops spoke briefly with Mosca Man, too.

"You with that fella in front of you?"

"No sir!"

"Okay, good. Move along."

Along the way they saw that Walden was....well, indeed closed. What was normally a bustling little town on friday night was....closed. Nothing open. No one walking the streets. Silent. A few cars travelling through. Passing a side road Indy saw a thick, thick tree that had toppled into a house across the street, effectively blocking the road to any traffic other than pedestrian (if you wanted to walk under the 2-foot trunk diameter tree leaning now on a partially collapsed house!) and causing considerable consternation to the building it was now partially embedded in.

The rest of the drive north was mostly uneventful, save for seeing downed trees along the side of the road here and there, and catching glimpses of the rather swollen Wallkill River now and again. The clouds they spied low on the north east horizon were the trailing end of Floyd.

Upon their arrival at the Gunks, Indy and Bri found Camp Slime (main camping area at the Gunks) almost totally full. Urg! Indy found a small area and set up his tent (he found three, actually: on one some trees had fallen across, the second was at such an angle if he and Bri were to set the tent up there they would find themselves at the back of the tent by morning and could have to climb out, and the last spot was...well, a spot that had only a slight angle of inclination, so they wouldn't end up at one end of the tent by morning). After the tent was up, the two of them went to sleep (while more people arrived after them and noisily set up elsewhere in camp).

The next morning it was hard to wake, even for the morning person Indy. Mosca was outside their tent when Indy was clawing the sleep out of his eyes. "Wake up!" was his call. "Working on it..." responded Indy.

Soon the three were up and waiting for Cat and her Puerto Rican Photobug to show. Indy had told them to meet at 7:30 for a quick breakfast and then they would head to the rocks. Unfortunately, due to various circumstances mostly outside of their control, Cat and Rafi showed up after 8:30am. They then had a quick breakfast (Bri gave them some of her Italian coffee, of which Indy does not partake; Indy's just not a coffee kinda guy, ya know?), then geared up to go climb. The plan: go jump on Layback (5.5*) in the Near Trapps as a team of 5, then saunter over to Gelsa and climb that, finishing off with a Rafi-cooked vegetarian chili dinner enahnced with 'happy chicken' (chicken that was allowed to run free for most of it's life, not one that was couped up in a factory the whole time) cooked up by Indy and Bri the night of Floyd. Well, that was the plan, at any rate.

The group found themselves at the base of Layback, a team of 3 in front of them, just finishing the first pitch. Lady was secured off to the side so she wouldn't get in anyone's way (she wasn't very well equipped to deal with the verticalness of the rock before the group). Indy took Cat and Rafi over to see Gelsa, then came back to Layback. He got the ropes flaked out while Mosca got geared up to lead the first pitch (the plan: Mosca would lead pitch 1, then Bri would follow, cleaning, then Indy, then Rafi, then Cat, with a switch at the second pitch having Bri lead, Mosca follow, then Cat, Rafi, and finally Indy, cleaning the gear on this traverse pitch - but you know what they say about the best laid plans...).

Mosca went up, leading pretty well. Never having been on this route before, it was all new for him. He particularly enjoyed the 5-move layback section in the middle (hence the name of the climb). After he breezed up, Bri followed. At first her mind wasn't in 'climb the chimney' mode, and she let gravity bring her back down after only moving up a meter. But once properly acclimatized to the situation, she scurried up the chimney, slipped around the chockstone, and sauntered over to the crack which led up to the layback corner. Pausing for a moment, she then worked her way up the layback, and then to the belay where Mosca was waiting. After she was done, Mosca put Indy on belay and Indy made ready to go.

Indy and Cat had been looking at a face variation to the start of Layback. Indy doesn't like chimnies much, you see (and likes offwidth cracks even less!), and this was his second time on the route, first opportunity for him not to lead the first pitch. He studied this thin, shallow vertical crack on the wall ~7' left of the Layback chimney, and once he was ready, started up the somewhat thin face.

Indy never was able to learn from the guidebooks what this variation was, but it had obviously been climbed before (as evidenced by the piton he found in the roof 15' up). From there he traversed right back atop of the chockstone in the Layback chimney and dealt with the next problem before him. Getting up to the layback section wasn't a major issue, but starting the layback itself...well, that was an adventure in and of itself.

Without going into the gory details, Indy managed to claw his way up this section of rock. He's not entirely sure how he managed to lead it a year ago. But soon it was over and Indy worked his way up the blocky section above to the belay ledges. From there he, Bri, and Mosca discussed the next pitch. Bri could see it stretched out before her, and it was a rather exposed and blank-looking wall. Bri thought about leading this for a while, then thought better of it. She'd only done one real lead prior to this (Roux (5.2) just a week ago at Seneca), and the blank-looking wall didn't look inviting just yet (gotta like foot and handholds!).

She and Mosca turned to Indy and said, "Looks pretty blank, you lead it."

Fortunately Indy had been on this before, and knew the secret foot and handholds would appear when he needed them...or so he hoped! He reracked the gear while Mosca brought Rafi then Cat up. Once he was set, Bri set him on belay and off he went.

The second pitch of Layback is pretty classic. A blank wall gives way to footholds and handholds, with the occasional 5.4 move here and there, over air (was it mentioned that this traverse takes place over a roof? lot of exposure out there with nothing below you!). All very nice, very pleasant. Lots of places to place pro (gear), so freak-out levels can be kept to a minimum. Indy moved over, then up, while Rafi took a few pics of the climb. Indy continued up to the roof above, then awkwardly (scrunched up) stepped around the corner to another awkward stance. Clipping the piton then placing a camalot high, Indy began to study the next couple of moves before him. The exit moves. Man, seems harder than when he did it last year! The partially inverted Indy (from being scrunched up under the roof) spied a foothold down and right. Stepping down he was unscrunched. Stepping back up left he was now in a position to grab the last holds, and...voila`! The top of the climb.

Indy quickly secured himself and placed Bri on belay. She scampered across the face with no difficulties. The only bit that slowed her down was the 'reclipping' of the gear. Basically since this was a traverse (and a fairly lengthy one at that), and a traverse over a lot of air, she would not be cleaning the gear that Indy placed, but rather would unclip the rope going from her to Indy from the piece she came to, then clip the rope she was trailing behind her to the now-ropeless pro. Then continue on climbing until she got to the next piece. Repeat. Once she was at the top, Cat came next, followed soon after by Rafi (a caver-dude who was relatively new to climbing, having only been on rock outside three or four times prior to this; this was also his first experience at multipitch climbing; Cat had climbed in the Gunks before, but never multipitch, so this was her first experience at multipitch climbing in the Gunks). Finally Mosca came up, cleaning out all the gear that Indy had placed. Woohoo! Lunchtime...

After a quick feast session, the group went back to Gelsa. There they found a party of two on the route, still on the second pitch. Water was still coming down off the side of the second pitch. Hmmmm. Disconcerting. Indy and crew learned that the couple ahead of them had started well over an hour or two ago. Hmmmm. It's late (past 3pm), the sun's on the other side of the hill/cliff now (ie, heavily shaded here, getting dark), there's flowing water on the rock, and a slow team in front of them. Hmmmm! Well, Indy geared up to lead the first pitch. The plan this time: Indy would lead, then Bri would second, followed by Cat who would belay Rafi then Mosca up while Indy and Bri took on the next pitch (Gelsa is a 3-pitch climb, and the second belay station is a little cramped for having more than three people at it). And as soon as the second for the party in front of them started climbing, Indy started pitch 1.

Going up was relatively straight-forward. You follow a crack vertically, do a quick layback move with awesome holds (after getting a piece of gear in), step up atop a flake, clip the angle iron piton at the start of the traverse, move left and around a corner, place a piece, continue to the next corner, place another piece, then move up and onto the belay ledge. This is what Indy did.

And found that the belay station had ponds of water on it! Water was flowing down in two areas from the rocks above the overhang that covers the belay station, and puddles formed where the water was falling down onto the belay station. Gaaahhhh. The next moves off the belay were looking...less than inviting, what with all the water coming down there. Indy brought Bri up, then Cat, and Rafi. Mosca scouted pitch 3 from below. He reported that pitch 2 appeared dry after you got through the stream which starts the pitch, but the corner of pitch three looked all wet. While this was going on, one of Indy's shoes was filling with water running down the side of the rock behind him. Blah! Indy didn't feel like climbing through wet rock, much less doing leads through it, and since the rappel options at pitch 2 were....scarce, it was time to decide: rappel now or deal with the water above. Mosca reported that the other couple had yet to move or start pitch 3. If Indy started now, he'd be up to the other couple in no time. And with 4 people coming behind him, it was going to be a crowded belay, and a late afternoon, possibly going into evening. The decision was then to rappel. They would come back in the morning and climb this route (hopefully it would be drier, too!).

The quintet left the rocks and filed into New Paltz to check out the deals at Rock'n'Snow. Once they finished going through the store (where several members of the party picked up some 'cosmetically scarred' locking 'biners for half price) they retired briefly to the motel room Cat and Rafi got for quick showers all around (tent camping is great, but Indy had to admit that a nice hot shower is good, too). Once all were finished with the showers they drove back up to the parking area just down from Camp Slime where Rafi cooked up his vegie chili dish and added in the pre-sauteed chicken pieces parts that Bri and Indy cooked up a couple days earlier. The stars were out, the moon was bright, the night was clear. Indy spied a satellite pass overhead. After a leisurely dinner the group went various ways: Mosca to his metallic tent, Indy and Bri to their tent in Camp Slime, and Cat and Rafi (and Lady!) back to Motel 87. Sleep came quickly for most all.

Sunday morning came quickly. Indy woke first and quickly exited the tent. He thought the sun was going to rise at 6:59am. Here it was, 6:40am and the sun was already up - ack! He quickly packed his stuff, woke The Short Italian, and went down to the car...and saw the entire valley area below the Gunks filled with clouds in this early morning hour. Quickly he grabbed his camera and ran for the top of Gelsa, where he took some photos (finished his roll of film even; no further pics for the rest of the day). He wished he had Rafi's camera, but that was 8 or 9 miles away, not easily accessible. While he was up there he studied the top pitch of Gelsa. The corner glistened with water, but it wasn't flowing down like it seemed to be yesterday. Hmmmm! Maybe by mid-morning or early afternoon it'll be dry? Indy hoped so; he had promised Bri they would do the climb, and if Bri wanted she could lead the third pitch. Indy headed back to camp.

After rousing Mosca and dragging the poor Short Italian from her sleeping bag, Indy finished packing camp. Cat and The Gourmet Chef showed and The Chef quickly set about cooking up some blueberry cornmeal pancakes for breakfast. Plans for the day were discussed. Lady scouted out the parking lot for extra food. When breakfast was done, and dishes cleaned, the group geared up to climb. Mosca was going to take Cat up Gelsa first; they would climb as a team of two. Indy would then take Bri and Rafi up afterwards, with contingency plans to go climb Little White Mushroom (5.3) at the far end of the Near Trapps should there be a line on Gelsa, then return to do Gelsa. Mosca and Cat headed off first, knowing they'd be faster, while Indy and crew finished the last-minute details of packing things away (visiting the porta-potties, etc), then headed up.

They arrived at the base of Gelsa just as Mosca was starting the first pitch. There were people on every pitch above them. Hmmm! Could be a small wait, depending on how fast the upper parties are. Indy noted that the water flow coming down the rocks at the start of the second pitch was now absent. Good news. But the number of people climbing...Indy and crew took the one mile trek down to the other end of the Near Trapps in search of Little White Mushroom. Along the way Bri found a few, but they were in the wrong place according to the guidebook. Indy also tried helping out a couple guys searching in vain for Yum Yum Yab Yum, a climb Indy did last year after spending 1-1/2 hours searching for it. He got them in the general vicinity, but could not remember what the start looked like. Unfortunately he was pressed for time as the trio had still a good portion of the hike ahead of them and Indy left the other two guys at the base of something (later Indy learned that it was indeed Yum Yum they were at the base of and that the two guys had enjoyed the route, although rope drag on pitch 3 was from hell; Indy had broken pitch 3 up into 2 pitches when he climbed it, thus nullifying the rope drag).

After a while, and passing many small groups of climbers (Indy couldn't remember it ever being this crowded in the Near Trapps in the past; people must be fed up with 'the maddening crowds'), they got to the start of Little White Mushroom - only to find water streaming down the entire first pitch! Indy was despondent. While the start of the pitch looked pretty straightforward and easy, Indy hadn't brought climbing shoe galoshes. A nearby group of people (Indy learned later they were the local EMS climbing school with students) pointed out to Indy that most people do the vertical finger crack variation that was ~10 feet to the right of the nominal start to Little White Mushroom. The nominal start looked somewhat interesting, but also incredibly easy (low-angle friction-slab/corner; if that was rated 5.3, Indy probably, when the rock is dry, climb it almost without using hands) but the variant finger-crack start...that looked interesting and slightly challenging (more vertical, not so slabby). Indy geared up, Bri flaked the rope, Rafi secured Lady from wandering the woods and taking out any bears that might be in the neighborhood.

Once ready, Indy began climbing. The route proved to be somewhat challenging. Maybe 5.4, 5.5. Enough to keep Indy's interest (hanging onto a rock with one's fingers wedged in a thin crack will tend to do that). Indy was also looking for pro placements, and found fewer spots than he had anticipated finding from below (the crack was quite shallow in places). Nevertheless, it was a very straight-forward and fun lead. Soon Indy was up to the tree ledge and hooked in to a sturdy tree. He then brought up Rafi (to teach him how to clean gear from a route as a second in a multi-pitch situation) and then Bri.

The three then studied the route above them. According to the guidebook, pitch 1 was to go up 75' to a "belay stance", and then pitch 2 would finish off by going up the last 50'. What Indy just came up sure didn't feel like no 75', even if he started on the variant start. Looking over to the nominal pitch 1 section of the route (which was more than soaked) Indy saw rap slings tied around a sturdy tree there (there was a rap station where Indy was at, too). The two rap stations were basically the same distance off the ground - ie, less than 75'. Indy frowned, trying to figure out what the heck the guidebook was trying to say to them. Bri informed Indy that she was ready to lead the next pitch. Indy and Bri discussed the route, and decided that she would stop at a belay ledge partway up. They decided to break the climb up into 3 pitches instead of the 2 as noted in the book. The distances of the pitches and the description of a "belay stance" just didn't seem to be jiving with what Indy saw, and he couldn't figure out why they didn't stop or say belay at the ledge with the trees. Bri racked the gear to her, and at Bri's suggestion, Indy taught Rafi how to belay a leader. Up The Short Italian went.

She decided to take this pitch a little slow, taking every opportunity she could to place gear (hey, the more you place, the more practice you get at placing, eh? only she didn't take all the slings/quickdraws, so if she placed tons and tons of gear, she'd run out of those quickly, but Indy didn't think she was going to go quite that high to use up the 'draws she did have so didn't worry about it much). Up she went, pausing to find places to stick in nuts, tri-cams, and camming devices (camalots, aliens, tech friends - whatever was on Indy's rack that she took). Soon she got fairly high, higher than what Indy thought she was going to go (ie, she totally by-passed the ledge Indy thought she was going to stop at to belay). Indy called up, and Bri said she saw a couple likely looking spots ahead and was going to check them out. So up she went. The first she reported was too wet, but the other, by a bushy tree, looked okay. She went over and onto the ledge. Now hidden from view by the busy/tree, she called down that she wanted to finish the route. Indy and Rafi looked at each other.

"Do you have enough slings?" asked Indy.

"I've got plenty of nuts and camalots left. I'll make do." she replied.

"But do you have enough slings?" asked Indy again.

"I have three!" came the enthusiastic response (though a misunderstanding she only had two, not three, but Indy didn't know this at the time). Not knowing how much further the route went, Indy wasn't sure that this was a good idea or bad. He called up again.

"Do you think you can make it with three?"

"Yep!" she said and up she went.

A few minutes later she called down "Off belay!" Indy could hear the elation in her voice. Cool. Indy readied to climb. Once he was on, up he went.

Inspecting her gear along the way, Indy was extremely pleased that all of her nut and tri-cam placements were more than spot-on; they were excellent. Only her camming device placements needed some work (which is odd because most beginner leaders quickly learn how to place cams, but have a heck of a time trying to master the art of nut and tri-cam placement - and hex-placement for that matter, too, but Indy had no hexes on his rack, so it wasn't an issue). Indy climbed up...and entered the Water Zone.

From about halfway up the pitch the route Bri had taken (easiest and clearest path available) followed what was now a water course. At first it was just flowing water. Moving up about 8' Indy found deep pools of water. 5' above that Indy found miniature waterfalls. Gah! Fortunately it didn't get any worse than that, and Indy only got mildly soaked in a few places.

The upper section of the climb turned out to be a 3rd/4th class 'gully'. Indy found only a couple of pieces placed, one without a sling (the tri-cam's built-in sling was long enough in this case). Above him was a beaming Bri, happily belaying him up. He worked his way up to her. She was sitting in a little cove, anchored to a group of small trees. Above her was a 2-move 5.0 section and the very top of the climb, where a larger tree waited. Indy decided to climb up so as to not crowd the belay cove Bri was sitting in when Rafi came up. Once up he anchored off and they hauled up the rope to put Rafi on belay.

Rafi made quick work of the route and was up in no time. With Bri belaying, Indy could just sit back and enjoy the views. Rafi was up the pitch in no time, and dry as can be. Once they were all up, they reracked the gear, coiled the ropes, and sought out the walk-down.

Finding the way down from the top of the cliff took no more than 5 minutes of walking through calf- and knee-high brush, following faint trails. The downslope scramble proved fun as the trio had to negotiate a huge fallen tree (squirming under it proved to be the best way to go), and they saw...more water flowing downhill here! (a virtual stream at one spot) Soon they were at the very opposite end of the Near Trapps. And in an area Indy had never been before. The three started to walk back to get their packs and Lady, but were repeatedly distracted by the neat-looking routes that were down here. Even Caver Rafi, newbie to climbing, stated that the next trip they take to the Gunks they were going to come back to the far end here and do some of these other fun-looking routes. Indy and Bri were all for it.

Once back they snacked real quick and packed their gear for the hike to the other end of the Near Trapps. The Puerto Rican Chef had to get back; he was supposed to meet Cat at 1:30, and it was nearly 2pm now. They were going to try and get on the road and take off for home. Bri and Indy were going to go do Gelsa before leaving. Mosca was up in the air about what he was going to do: leave when Cat and Rafi did, or stick around and climb with Bri and Indy. He was quite flexible with his travel plans.

Not a few minutes after the trio (and Lady!) got going on the trail they encountered Cat and Mosca coming the other direction to meet them. Mosca and Cat relayed their tales of fun and adventure while Indy told Mosca how their climb went, and how Bri did on lead. The group started to head back. Indy lagged behind when he ran into the two guys he met earlier who were looking for Yum Yum. Comparing notes they verified they had indeed found the right climb. Indy'll have to remember that spot and come back and do it again. But for now he dashed forward in a vain attempt to catch up with the rest of his group so he and Bri could jump on Gelsa.

Indy got to Gelsa, but none of his party were there. In fact, no one was on the climb, either. Ack! Where was Bri? He raced ahead, hoping to catch her and get back before someone else decided to climb the route.

He caught up with her at the road. There Cat, Rafi, and Mosca bid Indy and Bri farewell, and Indy and Bri ran back to Gelsa - just in time to find two other guys looking at the route.

"What route are you guys going to do," asked a wary Indy, fearing he knew the answer, but hoping they were going to do another climb next to Gelsa.

"Oh, the same one you are," they replied, " but since you guys really want this, and we've done it a few times before, why don't you go ahead and we'll jump on another climb we want to do."

With that the two climbers waved farewell, bidding Indy and Bri a good time on the route. This left no one around. Indy racked up, Bri flaked the rope, and away Indy went - back up the first pitch for the third time this year.

Bri came quickly on Indy's heels. The belay was dry as it normally would be, which made Indy happy. Bri sat down beside Indy and stated that she did not want to rappel from here again! Indy nodded happily and went off to do the second pitch.

Pitch 2 proved to have some interesting moments for Indy. The first move left Indy in an awkward position for placing gear. He got something in, but couldn't get to his shoulder-slings, which he kinda needed to clip the rope to this piece. So he used a short runner, fearing the rope drag he was going to experience soon. Once clipped, he moved on and encountered an awkward step on the traverse. Indy was kinda tired, not feeling totally up to snuff, and made the move harder than it probably needed to be (he even - horrors - used his knee!). But once through it he got back into the groove of climbing again. Placing another piece he moved around the nose and into a steep corner. Placing a third piece high he worked up the corner, then onto the face to the right, where he found a piton (the last place to get any kind of protection before the belay; the rest of the pitch - all 10 or so feet of it - was unprotectable so a fall would be significant).

It was at this point the rope drag Indy had been fearing made itself felt - with a vengeance. Indy would pull on the rope, and it felt as if Bri and two elephants were pulling back. Ugh! Indy looked at the next section of the pitch, and knew that there was no way he was going to be able to overcome the friction force of the rope drag while making those small face-hold moves and stay on the rock. So he pulled up with all his might about 15 feet of rope. Then having it coiled around his arm, started the last few moves of the pitch. He made it to the belay station corner, with barely a foot of rope to spare. <whew!>.

Anchoring in, he put Bri on belay. She started climbing. She also got stuck at the same wierd spot that Indy had problems with, but somehow she worked through it in a much nicer way than Indy had done (ie, she didn't use her knee!). She then zipped around the nose, up the corner, then played on the face to the belay. Wow, minutes flat!

One pitch to go, the final pitch before they were at the top, and done with the route. Indy had told Bri that if she wanted to she could lead this pitch. She was looking forward to it, but then got kinda psyched out after hearing some of the difficulty Cat had where the water was still on the route. But looking up at the first section up the corner to the roof and the traverse below the corner it seemed very easy and straight-forward. She took Indy's rack and decided that she could always stop and set an anchor if she didn't feel like continuing and belay Indy up to finish the climb. Indy said that she could do that, but this was the last ledge until the top; any belays she set would be 'hanging belays' (which aren't the most comfortable in the world; Indy knows this from experience). She nodded, then went up.

This time she had Indy's entire rack: all 16 quickdraws and slings, full set of nuts and tri-cams (well, up to a #5 tri-cam; Indy never bought the monstrous #6 or #7 tri-cams!!), full set of small-to-medium camming devices comprised of Aliens, Technical Friends, and Camalots (all 'tm', of course). She began setting pro immediately, and before she had gotten 25', she had already placed 7 pieces of gear. She was happy...but now she had to do the traverse under the roof. Not hard in and of itself, but protection opportunities were rapidly dwindling. She did the traverse, got a technical friend in (same one and in the same spot Indy has used when he's led this pitch), and moved up on the now encounter the overhanging corner above her.

She looked around, trying to find a place to put a piece of gear (being above one's last piece of pro is...well, kinda scary). The wall in front of her was quite wet, and one of the handholds she would need to use to move up through this overhanging corner section the water. Hmmmm. Dilemma! She tried to move up, didn't like what she was finding, came back down. Tried again. Came down again. Looked for somewhere to place gear. Couldn't find it. Tried to go up again. Found a one-inch wide horizontal crack off to the far left behind her at the outside section of the corner and managed to wiggle a .75 Camalot into it, and clip a long sling to it. Her last long sling. She did the move up and down and up and down bit a few more times, complaining to Indy that she was stuck and it was wet (after all this time The Short Italian had suddenly gotten a crash-course in learning what it is sometimes like to climb with Indy - even if the Weather God is not in sight, sometimes he leaves little gifts behind for Indy and his friends).

In the meantime another couple, local climbers Bianca and Matt, came up the 5.4+ variation to the second pitch. They intended to finish the third pitch, but realizing this was Bri's third lead ever, opted to explore the rock on the outside wall left of the Gelsa corner.

Bri was decidedly unhappy with her situation at this point. Indy suggested she place a second piece in, and if she wanted he would lower her down to the belay. Bri thought about that for a moment (rough translation from what she thought in Italian: what? trust my life to these little pieces of metal?? are you NUTS?!?), moved up to get a second piece in, but didn't want to lower off. Then as Bianca started to climb past Indy, Bri sucked in a breath and barreled through this section. Quickly she went up, out of sight from Indy. She clipped a piton and found in short order two places to get some small tri-cams in. Upwards she went, not pausing now! The end was in sight. Just a few more meters...

Down below Indy was paying out rope at a furious pace. Soon he heard the faint distant voice of the Short Italian call out.

"Off belay!"
"BELAY OFF!!" shouted up Indy. Bianca squeaked, startled (Indy forgot to warn her that he had brought his extra-loud lungs). Very shortly after that Bri informed Indy that he was on belay. He broke down the anchors and started moving up.

The fourth piece, a medium-sized tri-cam, Indy found wedged at an awkward angle. With 'wedged' being the key word here. Indy could not get it to budge. Move. Wiggle. Anything. He wasn't in the most comfortable of positions, but managed to get out his nut tool and started to pry at it. Nothing. Indy recalled Bri saying she didn't like this particular piece but couldn't get it out. Well, it wasn't coming out! Indy tried bashing it from a few different angles. Nothing. No movement whatsoever. It was growing late, Indy was growing tired, and hanging here in this position wasn't helping. Indy told Matt down below that there was now booty here for the next person who came up this way (Bianca had gone far around the corner to the left; if Matt wanted to come up to get the piece, he'd have a bit of a pendulum action to deal with). So Indy unclipped the sling and moved sadly to the next piece (while cheaper than camalots, tri-cams aren't exactly inexpensive pieces of gear to get). The rest of the gear (before and after) was textbook perfect. Even the #2 nut Bri had slotted and told Indy he wasn't going to be able to retrieve Indy managed to (barely!) get out. Indy worked his way to the corner and started up.

Indy now saw just how wet this part of the climb still was. Trying to avoid that made the moves here more awkward than normal. And being tired just added to it. Now, Indy's done this route a few times before; it wasn't a stranger to him. But still, it made him pause for thought a moment before he slipped past the wet area, and then squirted up the rest of the route.

Up at the top he found a tired and drained, but happy, Bri. They got their shoes changed, rerigged the rack, and coiled the rope. Bianca finished her variation to the third pitch, reported it as maybe 5.4 or 5.5, dirty with loose rock, but not altogether bad. Indy will have to keep this in mind, maybe try that as a variation next time.

Indy introduced Bri and Bianca and they had a quick chat about Italian ancestry before Indy and Bri headed off to go retrieve Indy's pack, down at the base of the climb.

A quick 5 or so minutes later they got the pack and headed back out, only to encounter Bianca and Matt coming down the trail for their packs.

"I have something for you," Matt said to Indy as he magically produced the blue tri-cam Indy had left behind. "You just had to find the right angle and it popped out clean."

Indy was thankful. He thought he had tried all the angles he could, but obviously he missed one. The two pairs of vertical adventurers bid their farewells and went their seperate ways. Indy and Bri ate more snacks at the car, then headed back to Maryland, stopping only briefly for a bathroom and dinner break. Late that night they arrived in Baltimore where they unloaded the car then crashed out.

Another successful (if a bit damp) adventure complete.

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