Cracking the Goose Egg: Dirty Sanchez

May 30, 2010.

Dirty Sanchez (5.8 III-PG), Goose Egg Mountain, Tieton River Rocks

It was the second day of climbing at Tieton, one of my favorite areas due to its wide variety of moderate trad climbing intermixed with harder stuff and bolted routes. I was climbing with a new partner who was relatively new to the climbing scene. This was a chance for me to really work on my leading skills, which I was too happy to do.

She was up for taking on a multi-pitch climb on the chossy, broken up face of Goose Egg Mountain, so I couldn’t let this opportunity slip away. I had read about Dirty Sanchez, which was within my lead ability but I knew would challenge me because it was: multi-pitch, loose, run-out, and required some routefinding. These were all skills that I often left to a more experienced (or foolhardy) leader and took on the role of follower. Now, it was up to me. Sweet.

We easily found the approach trail to the the base of the cliff and looked around for the start of the climb. It took some time, scrambling around on loose piles of rock, before we located the trees at the start of the climb at at the top of pitch 1. The book mentioned looking for the obvious rib; it turned out to be the second obvious rib which led us to our belay station.

We geared up and I led up the 5.3 face/moss slab towards a big tree. One lonely bolt lay just a few feet below the tree. I clipped it with a long sling and proceeded up to make an anchor. The tree atop pitch 1 is enormous; my cordelette was too short to make it all the way around. From here I belayed my partner up and now it felt like we were officially up and running.

The second pitch was a bolted 5.8. The bolts are spaced quite nicely at the bottom and they become run out near the top. The climb followed little ledges in a corner, where my rack could get in the way (oops, forgot to switch sides). Near the shrubbery towards the top of the climb I traversed left across the face before coming back right again to the bolt line, while my partner managed to climb straight up. The anchor consisted of two bolts, slings, and a steel biner, all of which looked to be in good shape.

The third pitch was a weird 5.7 trad lead. I couldn’t find many good gear placements because most of the cracks were tiny, dirty and shallow. Others were simply too huge. The rock quality here, as with most of the rest of the climb, was questionable; most of the “cracks” were gaps between detached blocks.

Pitch four wasn’t really memorable, although I do recall the book mentioned the anchors would be hard to find (they weren’t). I’m pretty sure I put in a ton of pro on this pitch, mostly because the rock quality was relatively exceptional.

The fifth pitch was S C A R Y. It felt harder than 5.7 to me and it was difficult to protect. The so-called “finger crack” took awhile to get to and there were only two or three good jams anyways. Here, as in the other pitches, I had to do a lot of smearing with my feet, and the lichen just made those moves feel a little spicier than they should have been. At the notch above, I had to build my own anchor, which was crap. I found myself sitting on, basically, a pile of blocks. I slung a sketchy pseudo-horn and backed myself up on a 0.5 cam behind me near a tiny shrub. So, I did the best I could, and I suppose that is a lesson to learn when climbing alpine style stuff.

The next pitch was a short, sporty 5.8. There were only 4 bolts before the anchor, no big deal. I remember the first bolt being nice and close but the other were in precarious clipping spots. I spent a good amount of time searching for decent handholds and smears while meticulously testing everything, as I had been doing all day. Right after clipping the third or fourth bolt I pulled off a serving plate-sized chunk of rock that I sent hurtling down towards my belayer. Sorry. This sent my brain spinning for a few minutes, but I got going again as soon as I could and gratefully attached myself to the anchor.

The final section is only 5.5 but this is where the PG rating comes in. I felt like good protection was hard to come by throughout the climb, so I dreaded it getting worse. The knife edge traverse was admittedly pretty cool. It felt safe to stand up there but there was a huge, sheer drop to one side, the wind was blowing, and it felt dramatic. I slung a projecting chunk of rock about halfway across for some peace of mind and quickly made my way to the slabby rubble pile ahead. The rock was covered in living things. There was a ton of exposure, jagged edges, and absoltutely no options for protection. I know that I eventually placed a nut or a cam but my recall of this section is a bit blurry. It felt much harder than 5.5 and I was talking to myself to keep my mind from wandering. I carefully planned my sequence while testing everything twice to make sure it wouldn’t blow out under body weight. I was terrified of pulling off a hold and falling 20 feet across a mangled rockpile onto a tenuous placement. Once I got to the top I found a single bolt, which I equalized with a #2 Camalot and a brown tricam (hee hee). HOORAY!!

When my partner arrived, we broke down the anchor and traversed across the top of the mountain, which is a shifting pile of big, slaty-looking blocks. The downclimb follows a rocky gully and there is one rappel halfway (or so) down to make the steepest section more manageable.

For us, the whole ordeal took 8:15 car to car, including 5 or so hours of actual climbing. We didn’t break any speed records, for sure, but this was my first multi-pitch lead of this magnitude and I was damn proud of our success. I proved to myself that I was truly capable of leading a climb like this on my own, which was the greatest lesson I have learned in my climbing endeavors so far.

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