This is the latest installment of the Climbing Adventures of Indiana Mark. Written up for your reading pleasure.
[Warning: it's fairly long!! Read at your own risk]
[there is a 'sequel' of sorts which follows in a seperate post; actually, the post following this is from 'the other point of view'... :-) ]
Now...without further discussion....the adventure begins...
Touchtype Home Terminal and Paramount Importance present......
Starring: Mark 'Indy' Kochte (who's really from Ohio, but lives in Maryland, so go figure), Wynn Segal, Bob Scott, and Beth Patridge.
Guest appearances by Phil Sidel (Netter) and Jean Jorgensen (non-Netter).
Original screenplay: not yet out; probably won't be, either. Original musical score: imagine a lot of grunting and groaning...
Reading Time: many long minutes
Presented in Digitally Mastered High-Psi Visuals
Dates: August 27 - August 29, 1993
Friday afternoon: Indiana returns from work, bushed and tired, having worked all day long after working evening shift the night before. But, he only takes a quick refresher nap, as he knows he is once again bound for the wilds of West Virginia, to join in another adventure with trusted friends, to once again scale the sheer faces of the Seneca cliffs, in search of yet something untold (perhaps contact with the missing Mars Observer probe??). After the short recharge nap, the intrepid Indy gathered his gear for the weekend, packed the Laser (Indy's high-velocity vehicle of choice), and headed off into the sunset.
In less than two hours Indy was off the highway, and on the final leg of the trip: he had reached Rt 55. It was but an hour and a half to two hours before he would reach the mythological realm of.....Seneca.
Unfortunately, not all was well in the state of Denmark (but that's another story entirely). Nor were things to go smoothly for Indy; the dread hand of adversity raised it's ugly head (how's THAT for symbolism!) and struck a disconcerning blow into the Indy Mobile: the dimmer switch suddenly ceased to function, forcing Indy to drive the next 90 - 110 miles with only his bright lights for illumination. Now under other circumstances this would be no big deal, but here, in the Wilds of West By-God Virginia, after dark, it could be a dangerous thing. Especially to oncoming traffic. An irritant at best, but what if a WVa local decided he would take it personnally that the brights weren't dimmed in a timely manner, and pulls out a shotgun (or other implement of violence and destruction) to express his displeasure. The only thing Indy could do (once he determined that the problem was not fixable with the resources at his disposal) was to just bear with it, turning his lights on and off as he approached traffic (and trying to keep a distance behind anyone in front of him; unfortunately about half the people in front of Indy took exception to his being behind them with bright lights, and kept slowing down; once Indy was able to pass them (not many places to do that in WVa), they'd speed up and tailgate Indy with their own brights on).
At any rate, Indy managed to make it to the Seneca safely, without being shot at once (but was probably cursed up one side and down the other by other motorists!). He stopped off at the Gendarme (the local climbing shop) to leave a note for his friends Wynn and Bob (and Beth, a literal amazon woman and acquaintance of Bob's who Indy had not yet met; she's rough, tough, and not above carving her thoughts into someone's arm if the desire struck her). He found a note left by Bob and Beth indicating they were already there (but not where they were), but nothing from Wynn. At this point Indy realized that in his haste to depart from B'more, he had forgotten his tent, his flashlight/ headlamp, and his alarm clock. And cookies; he had NO cookies!! Indy left Wynn a note, and headed to Yokum's General Store to resupply. Unfortunately they had nothing for him, so he grabbed a artificially multi-reprocessed brownie, and some milk, and headed for the campground. Found a place to park, and got himself cozy for the evening.
Almost an hour later, while Indy was reading up on some Klingon starship combat tactics (being the versatile guy Indy is, he has to try to keep abreast of *all* the latest developments), Wynn showed up. Apparently Wynn had arrived while Indy was scouting out which bathrooms were available, and who the heck was that loud and large group of Pennsylvania teenagers over in Group Site D. Wynn saw Indy's interior light on and came over to say 'hey'. Indy stepped out of the car and they strolled back to Wynn's tent, and chatted for an hour. The group at site D never let up. After an hour Wynn retired to his tent, and Indy to his car. Sleep soon followed...(punctuated by sounds from Group Site D) Saturday: Indy arose, showered, and headed off to the 4-U Restaurant for breakfast (Group Site D was a mess, and all occupants were slumbering). Bob and Beth were to meet him there at 7:30; Wynn said he'd awake and try to make it by 8:00/8:15 (made it by 8:10). After breakfast, and introducing Beth to everybody (save Bob, who already knew her), the foursome departed from the 4-U and headed to the Seneca parking lot, where they geared up and started out. Wynn and Indy both had their full lead racks, Beth and Bob were carrying three ropes. All had water. The weather forecast: highs in the 80s to low 90s, humid and hot. The battleplan: stay on the West side of Seneca in the morning hours, pop over to the East side in the afternoon, avoiding as much sun as possible.
Initially the group of four was to split up into two groups of two, one group taking on the first pitch of Prune (~5.4 to 5.5), the other group taking the first pitch of Le Gourmet (5.4). But there was another party on Le Gourmet, so it was decided that all four would do the first pitch of Prune. Wynn asked Indy if he could do the lead. Bob would play clean-up and second, Beth would go third, and Indy would then come last.
It was at this time that an InterNet acquaintance of Indy's was heard coming up the trail (while Wynn was leading). Within moments the body of that familiar voice came trotting around the corner out of the woods, and it was none other than Phil Sidel of Pittsburg, and old-time experienced hand at the wonders of Seneca (and elsewhere; Phil's almost a living legend, having climbed with such notables as Jane Showacre, and knew of Joe Faint, both from the DC area of a day when the air was cleaner, when men were real men, women were real women [whatever *that's* supposed to mean], and small pink furry creatures from Alpha Centauri were clipping bolts). Phil was bringing another Seneca-newbie up to experience the wonders of Seneca Exposure (and climbing). Brief greetings were exchanged, then Phil and his charge moved on. Only to return a short time later because the route they wanted was taken, so they chose to wait it out at the start of Le Gourmet.
With Wynn already taking the lead, Indy decided there would be nothing for him to do here but climb, so this would be an *ideal* opportunity for him to tackle the first pitch of Cast Of Thousands. Thus Wynn led pitch 1 of Prune (nicely done), Bob followed in clean-up mode, and Beth followed behind them, on third (though she had to grab an errant stopper that wouldn't cooperate with Bob); this allowed her to climb pretty much anywhere she wanted (she followed their line). Indy was going fourth, and since there was no pro to take out, he definitely wanted a shot at Cast Of Thousands. So the plan was made, and the plan was followed.
Except the bit about Indy climbing Cast Of Thousands; the route spit him out like a big dawg, leaving him hanging there in space from a 12' fall (between rope stretch and 'normal' slack in the system; no negligence on the belayer's part as Indy did not keep going down to find a carelessly placed planet in his way). Indy tried twice more, but COT rejected his every attempt. Finally Indy was forced off to the side, to ascend a right-facing corner to the right the COT roof. As Indy clambored over to this corner and started up, he heard a cheery greeting from Phil, wondering what Indy was doing as that wasn't the first pitch of Prune. Indy responded that he had no clue what it was he was on, only that he was trying to get UP the thing! <scrabble, scrabble!> Indy thought at first it might be the Le Gourmet corner, but upon hearing Phil's voice, and not recognizing *any* holds from Le Gourmet, decided it was some other corner not normally climbed by mortal man, somewhere inbetween Le Gourmet and COT. The route was lichen-covered, and the penduluum potential was tremendous (Indy was a good 20+ ft off to the side of the proposed route). Eventually he overcame the difficult lichen-encrusted section and traversed left again, getting under the safety of the rope (no penduluum). Then shakily upwards he moved (geez, that rack of gear he's carrying is *heavy*!), gaining the belay ledge under the derision of his comrades (who, until then, did not know of Indy's plight; after learning of it derided him some more).
As Indy breathed once again (and spat out bits of lichen), Wynn started up Front C, a nice and short 5.6 route, and about the hardest that Beth wanted to do. Beth was having periods of doubt concerning going on, but these demons she conquored for a while, deciding to tackle them again at the top of the next pitch. Wynn made short work of Front C, dancing up the route in moments. Bob followed and cleaned again, then Beth followed, a little apprehensive with the amount of exposure (little did she know this was *nothing* compared to what she would eventually experience!). While Wynn was doing the lead Phil had shown up again. Commented that he had intended on snapping a photo of Indy climbing this unknown variant to COT, but Indy just climbed too fast for Phil to get the camera out and shoot. Indy briefly thought of telling Phil how another friend of his called him 'Spiderflash', but thought better of it. After all, Indy had taken one fall that day already; definitely didn't flash COT (but then again, did flash this COT variant). Indy snapped a quick photo of Phil belaying his second up while Beth started up Front C (complaining constantly about photos and cellulite butt shots). After Beth made it up (and a nice job of it, too), Indy went next.
Front C is not exactly a straight-forward climb, as one has to go up an overhanging left-facing corner, first working left wall, then the overhanging right, without being sucked into the corner itself. Indy has, in the past, found this route tricky but not that impossible. This day Indy's climbing senses weren't balanced properly, and he was sucked into the corner, making for a *very* awkward route. Carrying extra gear didn't help. And the phrase "...bow down to the one you serve..." kept echoing through his head. Eventually he made it up and joined his friends.
Wynn suggested that for sake of speed, Indy should lead the final approach to the Summit Ledge. And while Indy was doing that Wynn could deal with rope management problems (with three ropes piled atop one another, there were some potentially big problems!). Indy sped up after all made sure his belayer was properly tied down. The final pitch of Old Man's fell before Indy readily (being only 5.1), but inside Indy knew that he was having a very 'off' day; that was the worst he's ever climbed a 5.1 before ever. After he was finished he brought his friends up and through the Traffic Jam area. There they met Tony Barnes - save for a handful of routes, Tony is Mr Encyclopedia of Seneca - and a client getting ready to rappel down. Indy and Tony discussed Things Of Importance (tm), and Indy learned of a treasure hidden deep in the wastelands of Arizona, at a fabled place called Granite Mountain. Plans were laid for Indy to seek adventure and high glory there within the months to come.
After the intrepid foursome were clear of the Traffic Jam area, disccussion was mounted concerning visiting the summit itself, and plans to follow after that. All were concerned about Beth's apprehension with the exposure, but she rallied her internal forces (probably through new and unique methods of Swiss Army Knife tactics), and dared to visit the elusive Summit. The group marched off, up the trail to the summit. There they came to the end of the Summit Ledge, and one at a time, the four gained the Summit Proper. Appropriate ceremonies were performed (photos for evidence, the Signing Of The Summit Register ritual, and the basking in the really really warm sun) before they headed back down again. Back at the bottom end of the Summit Ledge they set up a rappel down the East Face, knowing that they'd be out of the sun this way (it was mid-afternoon). A short time later all four were down, safe and sound on the Broadway Ledge.
Beth and Bob decided that they were bushed and tired, and were looking for the path to return to civilization (well, as much as it can be called here in the middle of WVa!). Plus they had to convene for dinner and discuss work-related business stuff (yuck). AND everyone was out of water, save Indy, who still had 3/4 of a liter left (out of two liters; Indy used the Force to stave off the Demon of Thirst). Indy proposed that they follow him, as he and Wynn were heading up to the North Peak East Face for one more climb. Within minutes the brave (but tired) adventurers were at the base of the North Peak, having also been treated to seeing a little wildlife: one of the largest geckos Indy's ever seen there; completely brown save an electric blue splash of color under it's neck). Bob and Beth informed Indy of the cockroach-control nature of geckos, something Indy will definitely keep in mind for future use.
After a brief look, they headed on to the North Peak when Indy looked over and found none other than Jean Jorgensen, a climbing acquaintance from Akron, Ohio, that Indy had met on a previous trip out earlier in the month. Indy and Wynn stopped to chat with Jean and his friends (Eddie and Richard; Eddie is the owner of Action Haus Equipment, a mail-order climbing equipment shop, reputedly having the lowest prices around---and if someone has lower, he'll match it!). Bob and Beth moved on, taking Wynn's gear with them (Wynn was done leading for the day; it was Indy's turn). After a chat or four, Indy and Wynn moved on, wanting to do something *easy* to finish the day on. They came to the start of the Pooh Wall area and started looking around. There were numerous options: Christopher Robin (5.2, but looked like it was mostly 4th class; Wynn didn't want this option), Exposition (5.2 up a grungy corner; Indy's been on before and got off-route onto a 5.7 off-width), and Promiscuity (5.4 that meets with Christopher Robin past the 4th class section). It was decided that Promiscuity would be The Final Climb of the day. So Indy prepped himself and started off. About 1/3 of the way up the route, 20' off the deck, Indy was puzzled. Granted he was tired and his judgement was not 100% clear, but this was silly: he could find NO places to put in *any* pro! He had one good piece about 6' below him, and another manky piece (that pulled straight out of the flake it was in with a good tug) at neck-level, but that was it. The first piece would not protect him from a ground-fall at this height, and the piece currently in wouldn't protect a falling ant! So Indy decided to back down rather than risk a potentially serious grounder (brief images of an accident Indy suffered 5 years ago flashed through his mind; he had no intention of repeating said event or injuries again). Brief discussion followed, and Indy decided that he was going to do Exposition (after the off-route epic last time he felt he knew where this unknown route was supposed to go). So up he went, higher and higher. Indy surmounted the corner and remembered that the guidebook said to 'go right' at this point. So Indy went right, following the path of least resistance. And kept going right, getting more and more worried. Something was wrong, but it wasn't clear what.
Finally Indy came across a decent-looking face with a few flakes, and a pin (piton for the uninitiated) in a crack. Indy clipped the pin and slotted a backup nut and looked at the predicament before him. It was doable, but this definitely was NOT Exposition! He looked around and noticed some 15+' to his left the left-facing corner he was supposed to be in. And he saw the heinously evil and totally unprotected traverse he would have to deal with to get back over there from where he was, and decided that it would be best if he just went straight up from here. The moves appeared obvious, but the lack of footholds made Indy cautious. And the lichen-covered upper half made Indy hesitate for a bit. Yes, there was a route here, but it obviously hasn't been climbed much. Why? Why has no one been up this? What could there possibly be up there? No answers were forthcoming; the rock stood mutely before Indy, taunting him.
So Indy grabbed the holds and started up the first move. And immediately started looking around for where he would place his next piece of protection. And found nothing. Hanging there was draining on his already weakened arms, so he backed off and took a second look. Then tried again. And noticed that the rope-drag was horrendous, and it wasn't helping his upward progress much by pulling him down. So he backed off again, after failing to see the next foothold. Indy pulled up some extra rope and tried again. And backed off again. This time he noted that the wall, while it did have a couple of obvious initial moves, was overhanging perhaps by about 5 or 10 degrees, and the moves up above were hidden by lichen and not readily apparent. Uh-oh. This could be bad. Indy tried once more, moving up the first couple of moves and looked frantically around for holds above him somewhere. Anywhere! God bless, where did this thing go?? He backed off again, thinking that he can't afford to fall here. If he did, the pin and nut would not protect him from hitting the rather large ledge he was currently standing on, though they would prevent him from rolling off the same ledge to his doom. Futilely he looked around, seeking other avenues of ascent that would prove easier. No luck.
Finally he looked back up at the rock in front of him, mentally visualizing the moves past where he already had gotten to. Then he went for it again. The rope drag was incredible. The strain on the arms was unbelievable (it bloody-well overhung!). The balance inconceivable. Indy made his feet work, finding those non-existant footholds, and stood higher. He was fully committed at this time; there was no turning back. On an overhanging face Indy worked his arms to the limit, making his balance *stay* where it was, his body almost one with the rock, and while holding on to a wierd sideways hold with a couple of fingers of the left hand and the Force, reached out to the right and grabbed a side-cling. <grunt!> Up with the right foot, pull in with the right arm. Frantically the left hand floundered on sloping ledges above, finding only lichen and not much else. Indy looked up, getting an eye-full of lichen, and spied a knob up and right, just within reach....
Desperately his left hand shot over and clutched the hand-wide projection. Move feet, higher, both hands on the knob, stand, reach up with the left - and there's STILL nothing for pro! No choice - move!! Indy's reputed teflon fingers and hand took on the property to Stealth 2 Rubber as he frictioned his entire left palm (sweating like nobody's business) on a sloping ledge coated entirely with lichen. Chips of the plant-life flew everywhere as Indy worked his way up. Ahead. There! The next handhold. Quickly the right hand flew and snared the hold, the feet coming up level with the left hand. Pull...stand....and he was up! He still had a 10+' section in front of him, but the 15-20' face-from-hell he was past. But there's been no pro since down below! Ye gods, mon. Indy's eyes darted around and spied a short crack going up to the top. His limbs were shaking like tree branches in a hurricane, his veins coarsing with adrenaline, and he forced himself to breathe and relax. He managed to get out one of his Friends, the #4, and tried to slot it. Argh! Too big. Pull out the other Friend, the #3. Plug it in the crack. It fit! Clipping the rope to it he felt much, much better (his last piece of pro was about 30 or so feet below him). But still heavily drained. Indy made the final moves to the top of the route, then placed himself behind a very large boulder and prepared to bring Wynn up (who was wondering what in the world was going on up there with Indy grunting and groaning and cursing up a storm; Wynn couldn't see what Indy just conquored, if you can call it that, but would soon enough find it.)
As Wynn was climbing, Indy reviewed what he had just come up. Knowing that his entire day has been an 'off' one for climbing, he was assuming that the section he just struggled over was 5.6 or 5.7; definitely much harder than a 5.2 he had mentally prepped himself for. Wynn was making nice progress when all of a sudden Indy heard him call out "You got me?!?". Indy took in what little slack there was, then suddenly there was a great weight on the rope, jerking Indy from his perch slightly. He held his ground and the rope, and waited, knowing about where Wynn was at this time. Wynn's voice drifted up to Indy from below, "Where did you *go* on this thing?!?" Indy had no good response; he wasn't sure how to describe what he had just turmoiled through properly. He started for form an answer when Wynn's weight eased on the rope and Wynn started climbing again. Wynn's verbal displeasure at the amount of lichen that he was digging out and having fall in his face was very apparent to Indy (and the rest of the world), and Indy was very sorry his friend had to suffer this way. Finally Wynn popped over and Indy asked him what he thought it was difficulty-wise. Wynn responded, "Well, I don't fall on 5.7s, not seconding, anyway. I'm guessing that's probably an 8, or a hard 8." Well, okay, but it didn't make Indy feel that much better; he was still massively drained, physically and psychologically.
From there they sat on the summit of the North Peak, and reorganized their gear whilst chatting with two chubby kids who had a lot of questions about climbing (mainly just asking; certainly didn't seem interested in trying it). While they were talking, Indy was changing out of his climbing shoes (much to his feet's relief!). As he was doing this, a young Oriental girl wandered by, patted Indy gently on the shoulder, said "Don't smell up the mountain too much", and went her way down to the decent trail. Indy looked around, confused. Where'd *she* come from?? Who was she; she acted as if she and Indy were old friends, but Indy never saw her before. Indy felt the back of his shirt, to see if someone had slipped a 'pick on me' sign there. Nothing. He looked up but she was gone.
Indy never saw her again. But it's a small world...who knows...
The two tired climbers then took the decent tourist trail down the mountain and to the parking lot, where they found Phil Sidel sitting in the grass with his partner. Indy plopped down next to Phil and both Indy and Wynn regaled him with the tale of their adventure. Then Indy got the bright idea to check the guidebook out (he had been carrying it the entire time!). There was a pin in the climb; perhaps it was listed? He scanned the page where Exposition is described. And found the following entry on a route just right of Exposition:
"Pitch 2: Climb straight past the pin on flakes and knobs to a ledge. Climb a short crack to the summit. (40 ft)"
Hmmmmm....straight past the pin....on flakes and knobs...to a ledge. Sounds *damned* familiar! Short crack to the summit....wow. Too familiar sounding. Indy looked up to see the name of the route:
Octave Doctor, 5.9
What?!? 5.*9*?? On LEAD?!? Yyyy-ikes! What did Indy get hisself into? It was decided by all that it was probably a good thing he didn't know what he was up against when he went for it. Otherwise....
After this Indy and Wynn doffed their gear and headed over to the swimming hole, to soak their sore and tired feet. There Indy ran into a girl from DC named Trisha whom he has been running into everywhere but locally (saw her and a friend of hers at New River Gorge in the spring, the two of them again at the Gunks over July 4th, then the two of them again at Seneca a month later, then her again this time). Brief greetings were exchanged, and Indy filled Wynn in on the 'small world syndrome' he's been experiencing all year long.
From there Indy and Wynn retired for dinner (and promptly devoured a healthy pizza and drained a pitcher of iced tea and a pitcher of water). As they were leaving the restaurant, they ran into Jean Jorgensen and friends again. The two parties regaled each other with tales of high excitement (and sandbagging). Jean was pleased to hear of Indy trouble with Promiscuity; apparently Jean had tried that route before and found *nothing* for pro. Indy's backing off just confirmed to Jean that he (Jean) wasn't being utterly dense in his pro placements. Wynn finally departed, seeking the comfort of his tent. Indy remained for a few hours with the other group, and plans were made for Indy to join Jean and friends on a mini-expedition to a secret climbing area in northeast Ohio towards the middle of September (and tenative plans for introducing Jean to the wilds of Maryland climbing should he have an opportunity to fly out to B'more given the current airfare rates). Finally the group retired back to the campsite for the night, with Jean and company offering Indy a berth at their site (gladly accepted). The night haze cleared off and the group slept ('cept Indy, who got up for a bit at 4am and wandered around, gazing at those brilliant points of lights in the sky). Group Site D finally chilled out somewhere around 2am. Sunday: Indy, his comrades, and Jean and company all gathered at the 4-U for breakfast in the morning (much ribbing on Indy for the "5.2" lead from all around). Plans were set for the day: Jean and Co were going for Greenwall (with hearty recommendations from Indy). Indy and crew were going to hit the Lower Slabs, to give Wynn, Bob, and Beth some new routes to play on, and Indy something to relax on. The rest of the day was uneventful. The Lower Slabs were unpopulated so Indy & Crew had their pick of routes. Two ropes dropped down covered Scuttle (5.5, hand-crack) and Descrepency (5.8, finger/ hand-crack w/face moves). Wynn gave Scuttle a lead while Indy and Bob set up top-rope anchors. Beth cleaned behind Wynn, doing a good job of it. Indy, Bob, Beth, and Wynn all got two climbs in that day, relaxed routes in the shade. Finally Bob and Beth had to go, so Wynn and Indy explored the swimming hole a bit, basking in the warmth of the sun, lazing in the swirlingly cool waters. Eventually Indy was forced to depart, leaving Wynn to the mercy of the baking rock and blazing sun (and to work on his tan).
Indy returned to his humble abode, unpacked, and pretty much died for the rest of the evening....