Lately I’ve had a great climbing partner at the New named Doug. We met at the AAC campsite and have similar goals and abilities so we’ve had very productive days. Doug is a mountain man who has lived in Moab, Bishop, Montana and Telluride. We had been wanting to adventure to South Nuttall to check out the great 5.12 cracks there, especially the Beckoning.
Here’s the description of South Nuttall from the guidebook. “There are 5.10 routes here that will make you crap your pants. There are bears, coyotes, giant spiders and probably alligators. Take a 70 meter rope, doubles on #4 and #5 Camalots, a machete, bivy gear and an assault rifle.” Although this is a bit exaggerated, needless to say it’s an adventure day, especially compared to the other cliffs at the New.
So Doug and I thought it would be a great way to introduce my friends to the New. Alaina and Sam came down from DC for the weekend and neither had climbed at the New before. I knew these girls were bad asses and could handle it otherwise I wouldn’t have suggested going there. Alaina is an all around hard woman with a number of 5.12s on gear under her belt. Sam finished climbing the 7 summits when she was 18. As I said, bad asses.
Saturday morning we packed into Doug’s inconspicuous red van and left camp full of optimism. There are 2 possible approaches to South Nuttall, one is straightforward but the plethora of no trespassing signs and large dogs scared us off. People in the South are nice but there are some crazy ones too. We parked at Roger’s Campground and took the trail that “will fade away at some points and just when you think you’ve lost it you’ll bust through a rhodo thicket and pick it back up again.” The description is about right except for the part about there being a trail. I don’t think it actually exists. After about and hour and a half of walking on deer trails we ran into a hunter who told us where we were. Apparently we were at the 1st approach where we didn’t want to park. At least we were able to orient ourselves and get to the cliff. Instead of the 50 minute approach the book describes, it took us about 2 hours.
The climbing there was pretty fun. The cracks weren’t quite as splitter as I was hoping (I’m spoiled from Yosemite) but the Beckoning was fun and so was Munson Burner, a steep 12c that climbed more like a sport climb. Alaina was the only one with a send that day putting down the Beckoning first lead attempt. We were planning on leaving early so we could get out in the light but as usual, we were too excited about the climbing. Doug and I went to the scramble/solo out while Alaina was finishing up on the Beckoning. Doug did the climb out with his pack and said it was no big deal. He went ahead to find the trail. I waited for the girls and we ended up setting a fixed line to make it safer. By the time the three of us were up it was pitch black. That was fine because we all had headlamps except for the fact that Doug still hadn’t returned. It had been about 45 minutes! We waited around and explored the area but he was nowhere to be found. We were thinking about separating to cover more ground but just having watched Cabin in the Woods I knew that wasn’t a good choice. We wouldn’t have wanted our great day of climbing to turn into a horror movie.
The top of the climb out was in an ambiguous area. We assumed Doug had tried to find his way back but everywhere looked the same. After shouting his name for a while we decided that he would make the smart decision to make his way out of the woods. The way out seemed simple enough…hug the cliff line and it would hit a dirt road that would take us to the car. Alaina, Sam and I ended up going through an Army obstacle course. We crawled, jumped and broke through rhododendron that was so thick we couldn’t see the stars. Machetes would actually have been useful. Fortunately we were all in good spirits and knew we weren’t in a bad situation yet because we had food, water and light. I would have felt much better if Doug were there. He was out in the woods by himself at night. He’s a competent guy but it’s easy to question your decisions when you’re out by yourself. We came up with a plan for what we would do if we showed up at the car and Doug wasn’t there. We knew where his keys were so I would go back to our site and get food/water to cook a meal. If he still hadn’t shown up then we would make better plans for finding him.
After 50 minutes we made it to the dirt road. Another 25 took us to the car. When approaching the car we saw a headlamp in the distance. The light was reflecting off of a red van. It was Doug! He had arrived back at the car about 10 minutes before us. What a relief.
We were lucky and made the right decisions and we weren’t even in a very remote location. If this had happened in the Sierras with bad weather setting in, we would have acted very differently.
We arrived back at the campsite hungry but with great food plans. I was going to throw together some 1 pot chili with lots of cumin and quinoa. I started to set up my kitchen when I saw a note on our table. It said, “Hey guys. I think you are the two I met at the market today so here’s some kale. If you aren’t those guys, here’s some kale anyways.” There was a huge bunch of fresh kale waiting for us! We were already relieved to be back together but this really put the icing on the cake. But instead of rich unhealthy frosting it was green, fresh and delicious. We cooked it up with some garlic, almonds, raisins and soy sauce as a perfect appetizer. We were rejuvenated both physically and mentally. Maybe is was the heaping portion of chili but it probably was just the free kale.
Overall it was a good day despite only getting in a few pitches. 3 days later Doug and I were back but this time we stayed together and didn’t get lost.
I’ve been in DC for a few days to recharge and hang out with Chris Cote and Hannah Shaw but I’m going back to the New today. Adam Cohn is taking a few weeks off from work so we’re going to crush! The weather is looking kind of iffy at the New so we’ll probably head to the Red until mid November. Greece is only 3 weeks away!