Move to the Beat of the Jungle – Spring Break at RRG

Jungle Beat (5.9+, 2 Pitches)
 Rated traditionally at 5.9+, one is left to wonder, “Plus what?” I say, plus one.

“Newer leaders should bring doubles from .3 to 3” said the beta on Mountain Project. I took the advice and racked up along with a set of nuts and tricams. I doubled checked my gear to be safe. It’s been a long time since I had this much stuff on my harness, and with about 10 pitches of trad leads (and very little crack climbing experience) under my belt, I still consider myself somewhat of a gumby.

I looked up at the roof and worked my way down to figure out how to start out the climb, leading me into this large crack that went deep into the wall. I gave Mihail the fist bump and ventured off, slowly working my way up the awkward chimney. I was about 20 feet up and started to get nervous, it was a pretty uncomfortable position to not have any pieces in yet. I shimmied a couple more feet and found the first lip which marked the base of the main dihedral. I stared at the crack in the lip, trying to remember how to gauge sizes from a glance. Out came the 0.75, fitting pretty nicely in a section of the crack, though on hindsight, a #1 would have fit better further back in the lip. I yanked hard on the cam to test it; if the 0.75 popped while I was on the main face, I would be looking at a 35 foot deck. That’s something I could afford to do without. I clipped in and headed out into the open air.

The weird chimney before the dihedral about 20 feet up

Luckily, going over the first lip and up the lower dihedral was my style of climbing; good old stemming action. I’ve never been one to shy away from using my flexibility, and this route had a good amount of that. With stable positions for the next 20 feet I added a few more pieces of pro in the crack and layers of confidence in my placements. 

However the dihedral began to narrow in, resulting in some sections of chimneys and off-widths in order to place pro. Thankfully Nick gave me a taste of that during our trip in Yosemite; nothing a bit of grunting and excessively loud breathing exercises couldn’t handle. Before I realized I had reached the main roof where the first belay ledge was, and it definitely took me a minute to decide if I was ready for it. I placed my last piece in the dihedral and traversed out under the roof.

From a squeeze chimney the crack flared out to about 4 feet wide, and despite the section being technically easy, having 80 feet of nothing dangling below you made it pretty frightening. But I managed to stem 10 feet out from the roof and beached-whaled myself onto the belay ledge. It was a bit of a squeeze as the roof over the ledge was only 3 feet tall, but having a secure platform to sit on after that first pitch, I wasn’t going to complain. I struggled a bit making the anchor due to the awkward position, but eventually I figured it out and set Mihail on top rope.

Stemming out below the roof, about 10 feet out from my last piece in the dihedral

The initial plan was for me to lead pitch 1 and then swap leads with Mihail. But considering that trad opportunities are few and far between, I doubled down and decided to face the crux head on and lead both pitches. Mihail scooched over on the belay ledge and he helped change up the sub-par anchor I built. I leaned out as far on the ledge as I could and placed a #3 up in the horizontal crack beneath the roof before clipping in.

“On belay Shao”. 

I took a deep breath and went out into the open. Hand jams were never my thing, but I knew that was no running away from it this time. True to my style, I stemmed as far out as I could below the roof to stabilize myself in a triangular stance, cranked hard on the crimp below the roof and shoved my left hand into the crack. I recall how Nick Tripp described the hand jam being so bomber you could hang off the roof with just that one hand jam in true “Cliffhanger” fashion, but I wasn’t having any of that. I popped up a high foot and stepped hard, scrambling to find something else to grab. I don’t remember what it was, but it was good enough for me to pull over the roof. Still conscious that I could ill-afford a fall past my belayer, I carefully re-positioned myself and got a good second piece in.

From there, I don’t remember too much, but I was on autopilot. Back on the sandstone dihedral, I cruised the rest of the climb, finding excellent stemming almost the entire way to the top. I ran out a couple of sections without realizing, but I was solid throughout and topped out on the ledge shortly after. Anchor building was again a bit tricky but eventually I figured it out and not much longer Mihail joined me at the top. We spent a good couple of minutes soaking in the great climb we just did, reminiscent of the last time we did a multi-pitch together, back in El Potrero Chico. I laid back against the rock and looked out at some of best views of the gorge I’ve ever seen. 

It pays to be on the sharp end.

Trip Report by Shao
Photos by Conor

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