Climbing Log – 4/5/09 – Mount Wilson Attempt; Sentimental Journey (5.9)

mount wilson

Jason has a dream to climb to the top of Mount Wilson; I don’t blame him. Mount Wilson does have its spell. Looking at Mount Wilson from the parking lot of Old Oak Creek Campground, I bet I am not the only one who wonders how much space is up there – is it a sharp ridge or a wide ledge?

The night before April 5, Jason described his proposed route Sentimental Journey with extra passion, “Ting Ting, we can do this.” The route does not have much information in the guidebook: a photo, and less than a hundred words…”One of Red Rock’s oldest routes and a big step into the unknown…” I read it loudly, my eyebrows were frowning. I was not too sure but I surrendered to Jason’s persuasion. Jason was bold and I was naïve.

I woke up Jason at 5 am in the morning. Jason’s friend Ali instructed us to yell “Mount Wilson” and took a shot. We packed much extra stuff: another rope, all the layers we had got, water and food. The route winds 2000 feet and we were ready to bivy.

The approach was not good karma. Right after we started to scramble, Jason asked me to go ahead because he needed a bathroom break. However, he after all took a different approach than me. At many points, we yelled at each other but never could confirm where each other was. Most of the time, my yells did not even get a response. After climbing up and back down several times attempting to regroup with him and failed, I decided to get to the base on my own. It was not easy because it involved much 5th class climbing with a backpack and some scary down climbs. With caution, I eventually arrived. It took us more than two hours to get to the base and the guidebook estimates one and three quarters.

I looked at the first pitch; it was basically a crack in a corner. It did not look too difficult but when Jason asked me to “take,” I started to doubt my assessment. During the whole climb, which was about 100 feet, Jason asked me to take three times and I also heard some “yeeh-hah” and “yahoo” after he passed some sections. I was shocked and concluded that this climb must be more than just a 5.9.

It was my time to follow up, and the follower carries the pack, and the pack was heavy. I could not even start. After a few tries, I decided to climb an easy section left of the route and swing to the right to clean the gear. After I cleaned the first piece of pros, I still could not climb up the crack from that point. I asked Jason to lower me down and I came back up from the left and traversed to the right to clean the second piece of pros. At this time, I was at a better stance and the climb seemed to become a bit easier.

I climbed up and Jason instructed me enthusiastically that the section I was about to cover required lie-backing. That was it. I could not climb with the backpack. I asked Jason to drop some rope. I re-attached myself to the middle of the rope, tied the backpack to the end and dropped it to the ground. I kept climbing but it was not easy; it was not a 5.9 to me and I had to take a break a couple times. What was even worse was I did not give enough slack to the backpack and it became an issue. I hauled the backpack up and set it straight but a knot I forgot to untie got stuck in the crack down below. I could not move up even though I only got a few feet left.

Jason lowered me down to untangle the rope and originally he wanted me to ascend the rope with his ascender. However, we had spent about three hours in total on this first 100 feet. Jason said, “let’s bail.” I agreed with him with silence. On the way out, my steps were heavy, my heart was sinking, and this was a sentimental journey.

We got back to the campground; it was still early – a little after 4 pm. A girl headed toward us because she read the sign I left a week ago looking for a partner. After Jason asked her about her experience, he actively encouraged us to pair up. I did not engage much in the conversation because my mood was awful. I found an excuse to leave the scene, and on my way driving to town, my tears started to drop non-stop. “I have been here for a week, and I have bailed three routes – rain, injury, and incompetence,” I mumbled, “and I had to take a few rest days.” I was so frustrated because I felt I had got nothing done.

Later that night, I went to a nearby Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf to surf on the Internet. I initiated a dialog with a guy over another table only because I spotted that he had a climbing guidebook. He listened to all my stories or I should say venting patiently and gave me an awakening advice, “You should be comfortable at where you are.” He continued on sharing with me his experience learning from bailing and as well he gave me some route suggestions accommodating my ability and ambition. During the entire chat, I felt that he is a true climber and his advice was pertinent and sincere. My sense matched his identity – at the end, I learned that he is a professional guide working for Chockstone at Smith Rock.

I went back to the campground; Jason and that girl were still chatting. I approached the girl and expressed my late-arriving welcomeness. We decided the next day, we should head to First Creek and do some short routes at Lotta Balls Wall.

Photo: Mount Wilson; Photo Credit: Ben Smith

1 thought on “Climbing Log – 4/5/09 – Mount Wilson Attempt; Sentimental Journey (5.9)”

  1. Pingback: Final Frontier: An Outdoor Blog » Blog Archive » Climbing Log – 4/6/08 – Lotta Balls (5.8)

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