From the November 1996 issue of What’s the Beta?
Author: B.B. Binder. Climbers: Bruce Binder and Pat Brennan. September 1st, 1996
The grating sound of a thousand pound block in motion sends a shock of dread through my entire body. A split second later a thunderous roar echoes across the canyon. The rope running down to Pat snaps taut as a drawn wire. Crashing rockfall and the clatter of rubble assault my ears as the chocking dust from a geologic bowel movement clogs the air. “Pat!!! are you OK?!!!??? “Oh, man… oh mann…..”
It is September 1, 1996. Smoke from a huge backcountry fire casts an eerie gloom over our efforts of this day. We’re in a seldom travelled canyon above Bridgeport, California on one of the steepest, wildest lines we have ever attempted.
“I almost died mann….” ARE YOU OK????” “dunno… gimmmeamunite…..” [silence]
The 5.11x entry pitch had gone for me at 10.c (R) and was the scene of our current state of affairs. This pitch is uniquely “entertaining” for both the leader and the second…thin, technical and traversing, I utilized exotic techniques to reduce friction in order to complete the runout sketchy lead: Triple runners, double rope technique utilizing out 8.8mm haul line as a second lead rope… Midway though the pitch, I had slotted my hand into a seemingly solid crack… the pressure of the jam caused the huge block forming the right side of the crack to shift imperceptibly…. but terribly obvious to my adrenalized senses. The hand whipped out of the crack as if it had been dipped in scalding water, automatic reflexes taking over without conscious thought. I shouted down: “Pat. Watch out here. This f*cker’s loose!!!” Something that Pat had apparently forgotten. Below, after endless minutes, the dust was finally clearing. Pat had taken a 20-foot pendulum-into-a-ledge-out-of-the-way-fall, which he survived with only a fist sized abrasion and contusion on his left hip.
Shaking and nauseous, he completed cleaning the pitch, eyes saucer-wide. This was only pitch two, with steeper, more difficult ground above. What fun. Pat’s next pitch was one of the “easiest” on the route. An incredibly overhanging series of ton-sized flakes stacked in the corner of the steep dihedral: 5.9. Above, the route steepens. Over our heads is the pitch that stopped Pat and Steve Untch five years ago: a sustained gently overhanging 5.10 offwith too wide for the # 5 Camalot, too wide for heel-toe jams, too narrow for t-stacked foot jams, too loose for secure Big bro placements… come to me you beautiful lovely horrible beautifulhurtmehateyouloveme lovelyhorriblewatchme ahhh… ahhh…fff…. ffff…. foothold.time for a bolt. [breathe] (retch)
P1 on Doctor Offwith’s “Puke factor” rating system. More gently overhang wide corner…. then I am finally at the base of a rotten, 40 foot headwall split by a solitary flaky handcrack, a critical section witch will bring us into the beautiful, sweeping upper dihedral we spotted years ago. Time to belay. Idrill another bolt, back this up with our #4 bigbros in the now 10-inch-wide slot [gouging a crater for one end of a bigbro in the decayed rotten matrix], find a flared TCU placement, and call it good. “OFF Belay!!!” [one pitch and one fall later]
Finally a good ledge were Pat belays. The thin seam in the corner accepts my fingertips only. The haul rope hangs free in space down to Pat… steep. Right wall still rotten and overhanging. Left wall blank, holdless, vertical… inner wall of my fear the steepest and hardest of all not what I bargained for Pat tells me I may have to lead the pitch after this as well, he holds up an injured hand from the fall he took leading the last pitch shut up Pat I’m trying to concentrate here shallow breath ragged and not at all under control blood on the slings of the anchors the smoky gloom funeral pall I close my eyes alone under the shroud feel fear running through me deep swift current sucking me under cool darkness icy deep silent waters smoke blood fire.
It’s 6:30 pm. Pat whooops and hollers in the evening of the day, the last of this incredible climb below him. He disappears onto the flat summit to set anchors and bring me up. Soon “Belay ON!” floats down. In the deeping twilight, I clean the station, and, finally calm, start up rock overhang to the very last.
Regge Pole, Little Slide Canyon out of Bridgeport, Ca: East Face Dihedrals III 5.11a. F.A. Bruce Bindner and Pat Brennan September 1, 1996. 15 hours round trip from high camp.
This route ascends the spectacular system of dihedrals visible from the Barney Lakes Trail, and ends dramatically at the very top of the spire. Start in the huge right-facing corner on the right side of the pole. After several pitches (5.10 R face and 5.10 offwidth)., step left into a crack spitting a 40-foot, rotten headwall (5.10) to ledge. The slightly overhanging corner above, (some 5.11a LB but never easier than 5.10 OW), leads directly to the summit of the pole in two more wild pitches. This is without doubt one of the most incredible lines in the area.