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Washington Column - Southern Man

V 5.8 A2, April 28th and 29th 2000

Dan Arnold and Kevin Jones. Written by Daniel Brian Arnold

6:00 Thurs afternoon. K-man calls me up right on time. We're ready to roll. After the usual fast food and gas stops and the sprint to the base of the column we bed down and are asleep by midnight.

Up at 6 the next morning, we rack up for the three free pitches to dinner ledge. Say a quick hello to the two guys in blue jeans heading up the Prow (they will bail before the next party even has made it to the base to wait for them) and blast up to dinner ledge (well, maybe blast isn't quite the right word-we blast with the climbing and crawl with the hauling-usual song and dance).

Anyway, we're at dinner by 10:15 and ready to start the real climbing. Southern Man takes a line immediately to the left of South Face. K-man combines the 4th and 5th pitches (200 ft rope mandatory-do not belay at the new bolted stance mid-way up the 5th pitch, you'll run out of rope on the next pitch). He runs up the bolt ladder, then dances through some loose flakes, a couple hooks, a fixed rurp and then on up the thin crack that joins South Face.

My pitch. I follow South Face for a little while and then pendulum over to the left. Southern Man gets thin! The second time I pendulum, I grab a block at the base of a thin seam with a hook. A two headed alien placement, a #0 RP and a cam hook, followed by a good TCU and more of the same take me up to some more Southern Man vintage flakes, another crack and a gear belay at a ledge.

We fix those 2 pitches and rap down to Dinner ledge and the usual crowd of South Face aspirants. Cold tortillas and refried beans with big slabs of cheese never taste so good...

Sat morning, up at 6 again, ready to rock. Up the fixed lines while the South Face aspirants are still in their sleeping bags. K-man heads out, does a 5.7 face move followed by a bat-hook move to a blind alien placement (that'll wake you up in the morning!). Awkward wide crack aid with intermittent bat hook moves and K-man is to the top and a nice belay ledge. K-man says, "bring the #5!!"

My pitch. The impaling pinnacle really isn't a big deal. You get on one fixed head above it and then you get right on to decent gear. Follow the awkward flaring groove for a while (love the #1 camalot; keep placing it and back cleaning it) and then do a series of pendulums over to a solid A1 crack.

Here's where things got interesting. The A1 crack leads to a tiny ledge and a single bolt. THIS IS WHERE YOU SHOULD BELAY FROM (this is the top of pitch 8, there is gear in the crack next to the bolt). Not realizing how far i had gone, I clipped the bolt and kept going. The A1 crack peters out and you have to switch to another crack that begins up and to the left. I top step on a cam hook and find...nothing. I look some more and find a little piece of flake that I can put a hook on. I weight it, give it a bounce, it seems OK, so I commit to it and just as I am about to take the cam hook out, Ping! the flake breaks and i am air-born, but not for long. Somehow, my BD grappling hook (thank you grappling hook) which was attached to my chest harness snagged in one of the pockets on my daisy chain attached to the cam hook and somehow the cam hook stayed in through all of this (thank you cam hook) and i was caught before either taking a full daisy fall or ripping down to the pieces below me. I press the button on the adrenaline drain valve, top step on the cam hook again, and find a place for a ball nut behind the flake that broke off.

A few good TCU placements behind a flake lead me to the next conundrum. A couple large sections of the flake have broken off leaving nothing but a blank corner. I top step on the highest placement I have, can see where the flakes continue, can see that I will get a good placement when I get back to those flakes, but also find that there ain't no way that I'll be able to reach those flakes without an intermediate placement. I inspect the corner left by the broken flakes. There's only a tiny seam. I try a rurp, but it comes out under less than body weight. Finally, i find a little seam that a pecker will dig into. I put in the pecker, barely, holy shit it holds! I stand up and slam in a #4 metolius TCU. (note, this is the only nailing that we did on the route, the rest goes clean quite easily).

While I'm on the pecker, I hear K-man calling, "tennnnnnn feet." What the hell? Where's this pitch go? I look down, notice the bolt and the good gear next to it. Damn! That's where I'm supposed to belay from! This wasn't even supposed to be my pitch! I leave a pair of my aiders for K-man to get around the pecker spot, and down aid back to the belay.

K-man gets up to the anchor, thanks me for playing with my pecker, and heads up the rest of the pitch. The pitch still has some excitement left for K-man, though, thin placements behind the rest of the flake make it thought provoking. He goes free for a bit and then continues on to an awkward groove/gardening pitch that brings us to the 160 ft of 5.6 and the top out. A hand-shake, a nice view of half dome and rappels get us back down to dinner ledge before dark. Perfect wall!

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