Charlie Sassara left an email last Thursday: “Want to try a route this Saturday? Call me.” I read it slowly and then called, trying to figure out what the best excuse would be to not go. “I can’t,” I told him. “We just bought a house. I’m out of shape. My exercise has consisted of moving boxes and caulking.” I tried to sound weak, even upping the pitch to elevate my whiny voice. “I’m just not in shape to go climbing.”
“Ahh come on…” Charlie responded. “You’ve got a real job now. You’ve got a mortgage. The rest of your life is going to be like this. Get off the fucking couch and go climbing with me.”
I started to protest; after all me going climbing with Charlie means I would have to secretly pack ascenders. I stammered.. it was hard to argue with his logic. So I said yes.
So come Saturday Charlie and I trudged into the North face of the Wedge. After some discussion about options Charlie chose to ascend a series of gullies and dihedrals on a buttress just left of the couloir that drops from ridge right at obvious bend of the peak (climbers left of the rock routes).
I hid my prussiks inside a jacket pocket when Charlie wasn’t looking and we started climbing at 10:30 am. The first pitch – a full 200 feet – went up over a short band of boulders and then climbed a series of bouldery steps up to a good belay stance. Pitch 2 – also a full 200 feet – climbed a dihedral up to a long snow gully which brought us to a ridge line. Once on the ridge we unroped, ate some lunch and scoped options for the final pitch.
Charlie finally decided to ascend an aesthetic 60 foot chimney of compact rock and good gear. He scratched and stemmed his way up and cruised the crux pitch in excellent style.. Above the dihedral was another 100 foot chimney that was about 4 feet wide and around 60-70 degrees. There were good ice and moss placements for the left ice tool and a crack to layback with the right hand.
I followed and managed to ascend it without any falls – even though at one point my tool popped and smacked me hard on the head. The loud thunk made me appreciate my helmet! The crux consisted of intricate stemming with one tool placed inside a tiny crack and one tool tentatively sunk in frozen moss. The climbing was excellent!
We reached the top at 2 pm. Once on the top we unroped and began downcimbing a slope to access a couloir that drops down the north face. However the slope settled while Charlie was traversing it so we backtracked to the rocky ridge and descended a couloir down the south face and then hiked back to our bikes where (at 3:45) we cached the ropes and gear. Then we had to once again hike the 3 1/2 mile hike back up the base of the route to grab our packs!
At 5:30 pm we finally reached our packs where we re-hydrated, ate some food and then plodded out. In total we biked 6 miles and hiked 7 miles – much of the hiking through ankle to knee deep snow. We were trashed!
Charlie named the route Barcalounger because we were both off the couch. It was fairly mellow with one pitch of what felt like 5.6 / 5.7 climbing – albeit mixed (I don’t know how to rate mixed routes). This is the 5th route he’s climbed on the North face of the Wedge and there’s room for number of other first ascents. The rock is compact, the gear is good and the ice is starting to form. Get off the couch and go climbing!