Saturday morning was by far our earliest start. By this time there were 9 of us, and most were up before me. We ate a quick breakfast at the campsite, and before we knew it we were all loaded up and headed to the crag. Gavin informed me that he had just talked to Mike, who had left San Jose at like 6am; Mike didn’t know how to get to the crag, but would meet at the campground at noon. I acknowledged this and as planned we went straight to Area 13. We spread out on the Left side of the Area 13 wall and began climbing all of the fantastic multi-star easy grade climbs. One of my favorites was “Ugly, Fat and Mean, Come to Mammoth, Be a Queen.” It was an airy arete with great holds everywhere. On this climb, you don’t really climb, you fall into a methodical progression that requires almost no thought. The holds are there, the clips are even, the feet are obvious, yet the climb is delicate: it was like dancing. If I ever get the balls to solo a climb, this would be my first. It’s easy, exposed, and would surely make me look like a Queen dancing up it with only a chalk bag.
Before I knew it, Gavin was reminding me it was afternoon. For some reason, I thought that Gavin’s mention of Mike in the morning meant that he would be picking him up. Needless to say, there was a miscommunication. I pulled off my harness and headed back to camp, woke Mike up from his hour long siesta, and we headed back to Area 13. The rest of the day was lazy and careless. Everyone was having a great time, and there was plenty of PB&Js to keep everyone satiated. So just before leaving, I nudged Mike and convinced him to go with me to check out Maltese Falcon. Maltese is a 4-star 5.12a that is one of the more famous in the area. Having never red-pointed a 5.12a outdoors, I had made it my goal to crush this climb during this trip. So we left the group and walked off to find the Maltese Falcon wall.
Mike helped me sequence the climb, and off I went. Clip 1 was pretty easy and provided a good rest. The sequence felt good and I had only deviated a little, but before I knew it, I had clipped 5 of the 6 clips on this route. I thought I had it in the bag. I was going to blitz right past the outdoor redpoint for the grade and nail an on-sight, or at least I thought. Clip 5 is right next to the crux. A large sloper-undercling leads to a high left-hand Gaston lock off. After 3 tries locking-off then retreating back to the rest, my forearms nearly screamed “take” for me. After one hanging rest, the move seamed easy. I was at the 6th clip, reached for the remaining draw, and it wasn’t on the side I expected. When my hand reported empty, I shifted my weight to reach to the other side, and SLIP! Whipper! After I finished, I belayed Mike as he sent with no problems. “I’ll rest tomorrow and send on Monday,” I said to Mike.
We rallied the troops and headed back to camp. Everyone seemed to split up at this point. Some had to go into Mammoth Lakes for food and supplies for the weekend. Others went for a shower. Chris and David stayed at camp. Mike humored me by riding along to the hot springs. And after a fruitless attempt to find the other hot springs in the area, we stopped by the one form the day before to find it packed. “Spirit Wind” was there again, this time naked, and hilariously hitting on a group of 3 young uncomfortable-looking downhill mountain biker boys while ignoring the 3 middle aged women right next to him.
We were the first back to camp. David and Chris already had the fire going. We all cooked our own dinners and began to drink. Chris began working on a blueberry cobbler, which he cooked with only a blanket and his farts (Dutch oven).
Sunday we went to The Alcove, a section of the Main Island area. The alcove has some great climbs, most are 5.10- with a few pumpy, but fun 5.11s. We spent most of the morning and afternoon here.
At one point Justin wanted to get some pictures from above, so I gave him a belay. By the time he had gotten to the top and screamed “off-belay,” I was already doing the bathroom dance. So as soon as he was safe I took off, leaving Justin to think he was stranded. When I returned, I jumped on the sharp end and headed up towards Justin. Dana wanted pictures too, so she made Justin, who had climbed without a shirt, cook in the sun for one more climb. But it was worth it, Justin got some awesome shots.
It was warm on Sunday, so when someone suggested we bail and head to the lake for some cold beer, just about no one complained. It took a little time to get everyone mobilized, so we got to the lake right around Sundown and the temperature was already dropping. But on the bright side, we had beer! As I recall, Dana and Derek grabbed the only full submersions in the lake. The rest of us sat on a log drinking beer and began to clean the dirt from under our fingernails as we realized that we would not be taking lake baths like the two straighties on the trip.
Sunday night was a repeat of Saturday, only this time we had eight times more wood to burn, mostly because the previous nights fire was fueled by David and his saw; he was able to procure copious amounts of fuel from a downed tree in the area. So that night we burned the hardwood that I had purchased from the local hardware store, as well as the bushels that magically appeared at our campsite at some point during the day. After finishing my dinner, I saw David looking up a the the trees far above the fire. “Pretty, huh?” I said to him as the hot air from the flaming pit made only one section of the tree’s leaves dance in the otherwise still air. “Pretty? I’m afraid they’ll dry out and catch fire.”
Well, we didn’t catch any trees on fire, but when we woke up Monday morning, we found two notices from the Ranger, one for leaving food unattended, and another for not dousing the fire properly. Woops! I was embarrassed. I certainly knew better than that. So when the ranger rolled up as we were dousing the fire. I took the brunt of the responsibility. Luckily they were pretty cool and let us off with just the warnings. Hilariously though, when I had walked back to Justin, Dana, and my campsite, Justin says, “That ranger just came by and complimented how clean our campsite was!” I rolled my eyes and laughed. At least we didn’t start a big gay forest fire, because that shit would have been hot, fierce, and unstoppable! (Note to Roland, update the trip information to include proper fire conduct, i.e. bring a shovel and the last to bed douses and mixes.)
When we got to the crag on Monday, we all had planned to spend the day on Stoned Wheat Thin Cliff, however, only Justin and Dana ended up getting on the wall there. They attacked “Pull My Finger” 5.10a, 17 bolts, 180′ 3 pitches. The rest of us went to The Potato Patch. Mike and I warmed up and strung up some TRs. Although Eric had a few stiff lead climbs remarking, “I don’t know why I do that shit,” after Mike had given him props for doing a delicate slabby lower section with a sketchy first clip. All the while we were watching Justin and Dana slowly making progress up their exposed climb that seemingly can be spotted from anywhere in the canyon. After just a few climbs for me we all headed over to “Maltese Falcon” so I could give it a second shot. This time I did worse. I fell off the crux 4 times before I realized I had the beta completely wrong. Oh well, next time I’ll get it.
About this time I saw Justin and Dana throwing the rope down off the top. “I guess they’re rapping down,” I thought to myself. I won’t go into too much detail, but I’ll say this, Nick and I ran up a 3rd class gravel field to free their rope after they had rapped only the first pitch. We all learned that when you climb in large groups, something that could normally be a pretty scary situation is quickly solved with a little communication.
Clarks Canyon, as described by rockclimbing.com, is “a beautiful climbing area with mostly sport routes.” More accurately, “Clarks is fucking beautiful, and at 7000 ft altitude, I hope you don’t mind seeing your lunch more than once a day.”
Ranger: “Would you put your hand in there?”
Connor: “Yes. Yes, I would.”