September 7, 2019.
After climbing the Peregrine Traverse in August, I determined that I’d be ready to tackle Eagle’s Dare with my friend Linda. Rated 5.9+ by most sources, it felt well within my ability to lead. After all, it was totally bolted. The catch: the route starts at the bottom of 7 or 8 rappels, and the only way to get out is to climb…
When we rendezvoused at the gate early that morning, the air was heavy with moisture. Linda pulled out a stack of pages filled with beta about the route. I thought about the crumpled post-it note with beta I’d shoved in my pocket the night before. We divided up the gear and hiked up to the lookout. The sun poked up above a sea of clouds as we prepared to descend into them. It looked just like all the photos I’d seen of the climb!
We left extra gear in a pack at the top of the climb and located the first rap anchors. It was now or never. I rigged up my rappel and stepped backwards into the abyss.
We repeated this ritual six more times until we reached what was presumably the bottom. Along the way we passed by wildflower gardens, patches of lichens, shrubs, trees and various textures of rock. It was a beautiful series of rappels, with big, beefy anchors just where we needed them. With our 70 m rope, none of the raps felt like rope-stretchers.
I reached the ground first, got out of the rope and began searching for the first bolt. In the process of walking through deep grass, I soaked my pants and shoes. I scanned the rock, high and low, looking for some shimmer of metal to get me on track. After much futzing around, I finally located what looked like a single bolt up a lichen-encrusted slab. “I think I found it!” I yelled. I looked down at my feet and there it was, a cairn, marking the start of the route. My gaze had been aiming high and I’d completely missed the obvious stack of rocks. Sigh.
We were completely socked in; I couldn’t see the next bolt or guess where the route went from there. We sat and waited for a sign. And waited. A 1-minute sun burst was all I needed to get excited to lead. I didn’t know that it was the last glimpse of sun I’d see all day. It was 11 am.
Pitch one felt runout but very easy. Although the air was wet, the rock felt dry and sticky. Relaxed climbing took me to anchor one. I belayed Linda up and then set off on pitch 2. I’d been anxious about this pitch, the technical “crux,” and I was delighted to see how well-protected it was. I made the dreaded step-across move, which was not that hard, then breathed easy.
The next pitch consisted of what was described in the book as pitches 3 and 4. There was one wonky high step part-way up the otherwise lovely climbing. The position was exciting and I could only imagine the views that we could have had if the sun was out.
We could hear another team climbing the Peregrine Traverse the entire time we were climbing; but they were only visible for about 5 minutes as the clouds briefly parted. I wondered how alone we would have felt if we couldn’t hear any other humans all day. It probably would have amped things up a bit.
Next, the “Terrible Traverse,” which I re-named the “Terrific Traverse” after climbing it. Perhaps the loose stuff had dislodged since the first ascent. I thought it was thin, but quite interesting and enjoyable. Very well-protected, too.
After that, I simply played connect-the-dots with the bolts over varied terrain. Some awkward moves at the bottom gave way to enjoyable movement later up the pitch. I carried just enough alpine draws to clip all the bolts before the anchor. On the following pitch, the hardest part was getting through the PG sections where it felt especially runout, given the bolt spacing on the rest of the route. Near the top, I went right around a little rock spine, then cut left to reach the anchors. As a result I had horrific rope drag bringing my partner up. As far as I could tell, that’s how the route went, so I’m not sure what I could have done differently to avert the rope drag.
The final pitch was the weirdest and least enjoyable: a short, leaning rappel to a narrow ridge with a big drop below, followed by a traverse around a blind corner and up into a gully leading to the top. All the descriptions we read of this last bit described a scramble but we clipped into a set of bolt hangers and belayed that last bit up to the lookout.
All in all this was a fun, adventure climb. Despite the gloomy weather, the rock was perfectly climbable and there was enough visibility to feel safe proceeding. Kudos to the efforts of the FA team who put this up! The only drawback is that Acker Rock is far enough away from anywhere that I can’t see myself getting back there anytime soon. Now it’s your turn. Get out and enjoy.