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Arizona Climbing Trip Day Three: Crimson Crescent
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gblauer
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Mar 28, 2011, 8:52 PM
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Arizona Climbing Trip Day Three: Crimson Crescent
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Day Three: Crimson Crescent, Sedona. 5 Pitch 11a: P1 10, P2 11a, P3 9, P4 10+, P5 8



I went to bed at 9PM on Thursday night, knowing that we were going to be up early (6AM) to head to Sedona. Manny wanted to climb a spire in Sedona, a climb he put up a few years ago. He wanted to add a bolt to the top of the 4th pitch, creating a two bolt anchor. I took a Sleep MD hoping for a good of night sleep, alas, that did not happen.
We got up at 6, out the door by 630 and headed to a local restaurant for breakfast. I had oatmeal, raisins and a dollop of peanut butter (thank you Bett) and then we were on our way to Sedona. It’s about an hour and 15 minutes to Sedona, up over the top of a mountain rim (plenty of snow on the ground) and then you gradually descend into Camp Verde, Little Cottonwood and ultimately Sedona. The familiar red rocks appeared on the horizon and I knew we were close. We pulled into the State Forest parking lot/trail head and it was 45 degrees and sunny. I opted to bring all of my layers, not knowing what to expect by the time reached the base of the climb. I carry the gear; Manny carries the rope, hammer, bolt kit and all of his stuff.
The trail is actually very beautiful and nice easy walking for a mile or so. We then split off the trail to Jap Head Spire. The trail starts of easy, but, it gradually becomes more difficult as you ascend to the base. It becomes particularly nerve wracking as you start climbing the red slick rock slabs. The higher you ascend, the more you realize that you cannot fall. A misstep would lead to a very long nasty low angle fall to the valley floor. I have to say, it made me nervous to walk un-roped up this stuff. Manny bounded up with confidence and ease.
After 30 minutes of hiking we reached the base of the climb. The weather was warmer (or we were warmer due to exertion) and I had difficulty figuring out what to wear while climbing. It was cool and windy and the wind didn’t seem to be letting up. I settled on my woolen hoodie and a wind shirt, turns out that was a very good choice.
Crimson Crescent starts on the right side of the base and ascends diagonally to the left and then straight until you reach the soaring arching roof (left side of the photo above). You traverse under the roof and finish up a short pitch to a ledge below the summit proper. Manny started up the first pitch loaded with his gear and camera. He nearly fell right off the start, as it’s an awkward unprotected set of moves to get to a dicey stance for pro. Although Manny put up the climb originally he also had a partner; Mark. Mark did not want a bolt protecting the start and making the climb available to the “masses”. So, they agreed to leave it unprotected. Manny moved slowly up this pitch, but ultimately called down to say he was off belay. Each belay is bolted, so changeovers are really simple and easy. My turn to start. I feel heavy as I am carrying the bolt kit and the hammer. I make it up the unprotected start; although I am on a top rope, it still feels very balancey. I gain the ledge above the start and begin my ascent up a crack system and I reach for a hold, pull and all of a sudden I am falling. I pulled off a large hold. My fall is short, but this unnerves me a bit. I continue up, whoops, off pops another hold, but, I manage to stay on the wall this time. I put a foot up and off pops more rock. Then it dawns on me that this is some serious climbing on some really crappy rock. I pulled off more holds on that first pitch than in my entire lifetime of climbing. When I get to the belay, I congratulate Manny on his lead and tell him that I think this is some kind of “interesting” rock. He tells me that I need to use “Sedona sandstone technique”; climb slowly and deliberately choose hand and foot holds. I found P1 hard for a 9, Manny tells me it’s a 10. No wonder!
Manny takes off up P2. It’s an 11a, bolted pitch with the crux at the top. Once again Manny has difficult moves getting off the ground to the first bolt. He makes it, looking a bit desperate, once on belay, he seems to relax until he reaches the crux. He tries the crux 5 or 6 times, taking a hang each time. Ummm…I am wondering if I can even do it. I feel nervous watching him because he is such a strong climber and this move seems to be hard for him. He finally makes the moves, hoots and hollers and he is at the belay. Now it’s my turn. Actually getting off the ground is easy, I am now also using my very best Sedona Sandstone technique. I am stepping lightly, I am tapping rock with my hands, I am peeling the shaling rock off the wall and wondering if the bolts are in deep enough to extend beyond the shale. I only break a few holds this time. I easily make it to the crux, take a moment to suss the moves and to my relief I am able to climb through the moves fairly easily. I wish I could remember what I did, it did involve a mantle on my left hand, a secret hold with my right, a hand foot match and then it was over. Manny tells me I could have easily lead the pitch. I tell him he is crazy.
Manny offers me P3, an “easy, you can do it, it’s got 3 bolts” 9 that starts with an unprotected traverse to a series of corner cracks.


The rock is just too brittle for me to even consider his kind offer. I gladly belay him as he starts up the pitch. The photo makes the climb look low angle, but it’s really not. Manny quickly dispatched this pitch, using the three bolts and a few more pieces of gear. I follow him up, nothing too hard, the cracks are a bit awkward but doable. The rock has changed from a deep red color to sandy color. The texture has changed as well. It’s sandstone its really grippy for your feet. I am feeling pretty good as I head to the belay, just as I am heading up for my final few moves I break a big sandstone chicken head off in my hand. Manny had just used the same chicken head. I guess I wasn’t using my very best Sedona technique, as I should have pulled “down and not out”. Oh well, the next climber will have a lot fewer holds on the climb because of my Eastern (solid rock) climbing technique. Needless to say, all of this fragile rock is making me feel darn nervous. I know I am safe following, but, I feel nervous for Manny leading. Anything can happen and if Manny gets hurt, I will be responsible for getting us off the rock. I mentally rehearse exactly how I would do that. I stop myself and concentrate on climbing and I try to think positively.
It’s super windy by now and it’s cold, I am literally shaking/shivering at the belay. We are now at the famous 4th pitch. As Manny calls it; “The Scary One”. It’s a tight corner climb until you reach the soaring roof, then you do a very difficult traverse with horrible hands and really crappy feet (vertical/slab, no features, just “roughness”). There are four bolts across the roof and they protect the follower as much as the leader. If the second falls, he/she will have to prussic up to the holds. There are absolutely no face holds on the slab. So, it was a “do not fall” situation. This photo is of me climbing up the tight corner.

The biner near the corner is actually the first bolt into the traverse. The nut with the red draw marks the end of the traverse. The crux occurs between bolts 2 and 3. I easily make it up the corner, the rock feels a bit better and I am finally not breaking any holds. I make it to the second bolt in the traverse and then the fun begins. It’s damn hard and it’s super scary. I know if I take the fall it’s going to be a real pain to get back on the wall. I try the move three or four times. I whine, I whine some more. I honestly think I am not going to be able to make the moves. Manny encourages me to “crawl” under the roof and then put my body/feet square on the rock. I try and try some more. The hand holds are covered with mud/dust/junk. They are peeling off in my hands. They all feel slopey. The feet are nonexistent. Adding to my overall joy is the fact that while Manny is belaying me through the crux he is taking photos! Here I am whining and crawling under the roof, desperately trying not to fall off. Well, the story has a happy ending, I did make the moves, turns out when you commit to putting yourself square on the rock, the hand holds are much more positive. They are not great, but, they are better than from the side. The feet, well, let’s not talk about them, there were no feet. I make it to the hanging belay and I am grateful that Manny added the 2nd bolt to the anchor. I am also amazed at Manny’s prowess (and balls) for leading this pitch. At this point we are both freezing. The wind is so fierce I feel like I am going to get blown off the rock even though I am securely anchored.
Once again Manny offers me the last pitch to lead, “it’s easy, one bolt and a nut and you are done”. I decline, I am frozen and I really don’t feel secure on this shedding rock. Manny starts up and has a hard time getting to the first bolt. Turns out his partner Mark places the bolt after the hard moves, with no possibility for pro in between. Mark is one badass climber. Manny makes the move up, clips the bolt and can’t find any more gear on the climb. Gee, glad I didn’t lead it. It’s a very short pitch, yet we have to resort to hand gestures to communicate. The wind is blowing so hard it carried our voices far away from each other. I just want to finish the climb and get off this windblown rock. On TR the moves are straight forward and within a minute or two I finish the climb. We choose to rap off immediately rather than celebrate our success. It’s just too darn cold. We rap off easily, gotta love those bolted rap stations. Manny cleans the climb while rapping and I am at the rap stations longer than I care to be. I am cold, tired and I just want to get to the ground. I patiently wait, as I realize I am guest on this rock and that Manny wants to clean his “baby”. Turns out there is a lot of controversy about this route (see http://www.mountainproject.com/...rock_area/105815965) for Arizona climber opinions on this climb. Much of the controversy centers on the “cleanliness” of the climb. Manny insists they did a lot of cleaning when the put it up. I think he did, but, the rock is dying. It’s constantly shedding its outer layers. You could clean it today and within a year it would be shedding more rock. Once we got to the ground we ate our lunch, I drank a liter of water and out we hiked. It was a really fulfilling day, very rewarding and at times very scary.

Manny and Mark you are seriously badass climbers!


(This post was edited by gblauer on Mar 28, 2011, 9:55 PM)


moose_droppings


Mar 28, 2011, 10:19 PM
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Re: [gblauer] Arizona Climbing Trip Day Three: Crimson Crescent [In reply to]
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Thanks for the TR and pics.

I bet the FA was gut clenching experience considering the quality of rock.


gblauer
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Mar 28, 2011, 10:22 PM
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Re: [moose_droppings] Arizona Climbing Trip Day Three: Crimson Crescent [In reply to]
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I am sitting with the first ascenionist right now...he says "hell yes". They bolted the roof on lead, they hauled a pack and drilled on hooks.

"it was terrifying" according to Manny.


losbill


Mar 29, 2011, 5:43 PM
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Re: [gblauer] Arizona Climbing Trip Day Three: Crimson Crescent [In reply to]
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Gail - Awesome TR. You have to love a TR with note of a foot/hand match! Love the comment "pull down not out" as well. Words to live by! Great photo of you in the "tight corner". Seemed a little cooler than our day at the Gunks, or was that just me reading "too much between the lines"? My best to Manny. Psyched to get out there and visit him some time. If he hasn't done so yet he really needs to get together with Doug. Two peas in a pod.-- Bill


sonso45


Apr 13, 2011, 1:15 PM
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Re: [losbill] Arizona Climbing Trip Day Three: Crimson Crescent [In reply to]
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Nice having you along Gail. I just had my head a bit off on the finish to the sport pitch. Watching you cruise it made my day. I had a bad head day.

The final and shortest pitch, #5, can be protected after the bolt with a nut in a flaring slot but I felt like just going for it instead. Sedona safety can mean lot of things, like moving slowly and keeping 3 points of contact to reduce the chance of peeling off some of the rock. It can also mean to climb as if your protection wasn't all that reliable.

Sedona towers are fun voyages and serious climbs usually. I can only think of one or two that don't cause me to gird my loins and sack up for a serious adventure.


(This post was edited by sonso45 on Apr 13, 2011, 1:17 PM)


markguycan


Apr 15, 2011, 2:36 PM
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Re: [sonso45] Arizona Climbing Trip Day Three: Crimson Crescent [In reply to]
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thanks for the TR and compliments, Gail. Manny and I had a good time fighting the fear and the cold on the FA.
-Manny drilling on P4.
Sedona is always exciting but not as scarey when you are more used to the Soft Sandstone Technique.
Maintain 3 points of contact, pull down not out, step lightly, press or mantle often. And, of course- don't fall!

And HAVE FUN!


gblauer
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Apr 15, 2011, 3:25 PM
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Re: [markguycan] Arizona Climbing Trip Day Three: Crimson Crescent [In reply to]
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Mark you and Manny are insane! Many Kudos to you for putting up this climb. It's a winner (despite my whining on P4).Maybe next year I will meet you in person.


enigma


Apr 15, 2011, 8:16 PM
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Re: [gblauer] Arizona Climbing Trip Day Three: Crimson Crescent [In reply to]
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gblauer wrote:
Mark you and Manny are insane! Many Kudos to you for putting up this climb. It's a winner (despite my whining on P4).Maybe next year I will meet you in person.


Super Beautiful. Thanks for the great pictures, you look wonderful and happy. No fallen cracks.
Always wanted to go to Sedona, just never worked out , well maybe that will be my goal before I leave the West Coast.
You sure must have been cold, looks like you are bundled up.
Never realized you were such a hard trad leader. I'm impressed, your a hero in my book. Smile


Partner happiegrrrl


Apr 16, 2011, 12:33 PM
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Re: [gblauer] Arizona Climbing Trip Day Three: Crimson Crescent [In reply to]
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I'm in Sedona as I type this! Nice TR, Gail.....

I have only been on one route here(Queen Victoria, back in December as I headed west) and am "just driving through" today(though I will stay overnight, and maybe a few extras, and hike), but this place sure has exquisite rock formations!

I, too, found the approach up the low-angles to base unnerving, and was appalled to find myself huffing and puffing(having thought 6 months of cabin-living with no car would have gotten me into at least SOME form of physical fitness).

But my partner gave me tips on Sedona Sandstone Technique before he got more than a few feet off the deck, illustrating some examples as he began the climb. Luckily for me, that route is a trade route, and pretty sturdy. Kudos to those who lead these routes and put them up in the first place!


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