Wednesday, 8 May 2013

US Trip 2013 - Take 8; Castle Crags - Round 1

During our short visit in Ashland were we stayed together with Scott Balcom for couple days we made a plan to go explore and establish new highlines in Castle Crags. He recommended to us using words like; epic, beautiful, unexplored, forgotten or remote. Just two of these coming out of Scott's mouth was enough to get our immediate attention. Even though the schedule of our trip was already pretty tight we were stoked to re-organize our schedule for this exciting adventure. I was a bit afraid it might be a bit too ambitious because as we learn establishing new stuff is always way more work then repeating existing spots but it is also way more exciting, rewarding and besides we are pretty experienced and good in it already. It was decided then, we were going to storm the Castle!

Our second day in Castle Crags. In search of new possible lines. Psyched in front of the Castle Dome!! (photo by Jordan Tybon)

Jordan and I went to Castle Crags after our visit in Humboldt. We had lots of problems finding bolts and bolting equipment. It seemed like there is no store in Northern California which carried them at the time. We were getting really frustrated but then finished ordering glue-in bolts from Fixe online and buying 8 expansion bolts from a really nice guy we met at the "Humboldt Highline/Longline Festival". We thought the problem is solved until ... ;)

We finished leaving on Monday (29th of April) and after stoping to get even more supplies we arrived on the campsite which happened to be really expensive ($25 per day!). We spent there one night and at the morning drove to Vista Point from were we thought we could start our hike to the Crags. Unfortunately the info we had was wrong and you can not leave there your car overnight. Damn it! This part of our trip started to be more and more 'cowboy style'. We drove to Mt. Shasta to the local outdoor store planning on getting more info about good spot to park and start hiking and buying a climbing guidebook. The owner of the shop happened to be really nice guy and provided us with some info although the climbing guidebook is out of print (new one is in preparation process right now). We finished with little info about the whole area which was pretty much just a confusing hand-sketch of the trail system and few black & white photocopies of the biggest walls in the area.

Pretty much whole info we had for our trip to Castle Crags

Well, the good place to park and start your hike is Soda Creek exit of the I-5 highway and that was where we finished. After eating breakfast and packing most of the stuff (not including highlining gear) we were able to realize how heavy our backpacks were and that was just the first load. I definitely didn't feel excited about that hike.

The gear we carried up and down way to much for almost a week (that doesn't include food and water) (photo by Jordan Tybon)

We finished hiking up in 2 hours finding our selfs confused and dodging around in order to find a right path. Jordan found an awesome and well hidden spot five minutes away from our water source (Indian Creek) which turned out to be amazing, first-class bivy. We also worked on it during next days so now it has a nice fire-pit, 4 seats, 'gear-tree' and nice flat tent spot. After quick snack and setting up our camp we went up with just drilling equipment and few cams and a rope for a scouting mission. We checked pretty much whole lower ridge where we found and bolted our first spot. It turned out to be really cool and we scrambled, hiked and climb 4-5th class terrain for the whole day. The ascent on the far sight of the potential highline spot turned out to be pretty scatchy. It doesn't look like but climbing slabby and mossy terrain in hiking shoes with 100m drop on one side was kind of challenging experience. We placed 5 bolts in total (3 on tensioning side, 2 on the spire side + 2 existing climbing bolts for back-up) and started our hike down to the campsite.

It's nice to hike with a light backpack (photo by Jordan Tybon)
Almost at our first highline spot (photo by Jordan Tybon)

We couldn't stop staring at the Mt. Hubris aka The Ogre Summit and the wall next to it. The notch between this too was calling for the most obvious and epic highline in the whole area. We decided to climb up to the top of The Ogre next day following region's classic 'Cosmic Wall' (8 pitches, 5.6R).

Fixing to leave after bolting first highline in Castle Crags ever! Feels good ... The target for our next day is just in a background (photo by Jordan Tybon)
Route-scheme (
Chilling next to our "rager-fire" (photo by Jordan Tybon)

Next day at the morning we went up to our climb. We definitely didn't find the path and did some EPIC bushwhacking. I was lucky enough to have long pant on but Jordan's legs were fucked when we got to the place were out route starts. The climb was really fun but the day was brutally windy. It was windy to the point when it's hard to enjoy yourself but we did anyways ;) ... We couldn't hear each other on the belays and I was cursing my self for not bringing my new walkie-talkies. We finished the route in about two hours, linking it by climbing in total 5 pitches. The view from the top was definitely rewarding. Behind our spot way in the outback is even more spots. On one ridge there is probably around 8-10 rock spires alone. This place is just amazing! We were out of words. Another good news was the spot between the peak we just climbed and another wall was definitely 'highlineable' and way epic. After grueling rappel in a wind which kept the ropes horizontal making them get stuck on every each rock tooth and descend to the campsite we could rest for couple hours.

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