Saturday, February 15, 2014

The TNT project, first tries

On Thursday, Tom Thomas and I set off to do some winter climbing.  The plan was to try our new project TNT, but starting on that would most likely mean being finished there as well (and in a short amount of time).  We hadn't been on the route yet, but just looking at it suggests that you won't spend very long working it before becoming spent!  We decided our first stop to be Ohiopyle State Park.  Laura and I recently established a new M5 at Lower Meadow called Open Mouth that I thought would be a good warm up before heading to the main objective for a beating.  Tom is a strong climber and quickly dispatched Open Mouth on his 2nd try thus nabbing the 2nd ascent.  Congrats to Tom for a fine climb.  Now understand, Tom's a big dude... Possibly the strongest, most nimble, "big" guy I've ever climbed with.  He's so big that on his first attempt he opted to back up the last 1/2" stainless bolt with an ice screamer just in case his mass came lobbing off onto that tiny 1/2" bolt.  (In actuality Tom accidentally used the screamer). He was climbing well and didn't expect to fall and just left the screamer on the bolt.  Shit happens.  He slipped on the last move...rrrrriiiiiipppppp The Screamer worked!   It lessened the impact of his fall on the bolt as well as me belaying.  Thanks for using the screamer Tom.  I never knew catching a "big" guy could be so smooth!  From now on I'm going to recommend everyone use screamers on every clip when I belay for them ;)  Truthfully I just don't think Tom trusts my bolting and used the screamer ;)

Tom Thomas starting up Open Mouth M5
Tom Thomas on Open Mouth M5
After finishing our "warm up" we did a drive by at Cucumber Falls to see how the falls looked.  Tom's never climbed it and was disappointed he didn't climb it when it was in previous.  It was roaring open down the center, but the right edge was solid enough.  Tom jumped on and made a quick solo up for the novelty of it.  Here's a shot of him climbing in this beautiful setting!

Tom Thomas ropeless on Cucumber
 After Tom's Cucumber fun, we made the trek to the project.  He gratuitously offered me the first go and I gladly accepted.  Only one shot for the onsight and this was it!  I'll admit I wasn't too optimistic after climbing only two weeks.  I feel pretty weak have an obvious long journey towards getting back to where I was 2 seasons ago.  I was hoping to merely be able to pull into the start without injuring one of my shoulders again.  I tied in, then did my pre-climb jumping and flapping about.  I pull onto the climb.  Shoulders  working, no pain, cool!  I picked my way up good hooks to a point where I could stem out to the free hanger.  Passing the first bolt, way better than I anticipated. 
I continued up to a clipping stance for bolt #2.  Got it!  I strenuously traverse the free hanger and ice blobs, passing bolt #3 in the roof.  

A bit more traverse and then with a lucky one-swing stick in a lone blob I maneuvered into position and (very loudly) clipped bolt #4.  This was where the business of this line begins... and my efforts fail.  I tried to grovel my way higher, but was thoroughly spent as the climb easily bitch-slapped me off!  I was thrilled to make it as high as I did.  Tom lowered me down and was giggling like a school girl, congratulating me on a strong effort.  He was obviously very excited to be up for a go.  This new project was to be the maiden voyage for his new fruit boots.  He tied in, psyched himself up and set off.  He pulled his way through the opening moves and traversed the ice up to the 3rd bolt before the climb got the best of him.  A great effort.  We both took a second try only to repeat our previous efforts. Here are a few shots of Tom in action.

Despite out best efforts this line worked us over the first day.  We had a great time enjoying the stellar SWPA ice conditions.  We'll see if it get many more attempts this season (weather dependent)....

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