Aug 272011

600 feet 19 bolts, 10 days, 6 brushes, 4 partners and 1 route later, here is the long-winded tale of my experience new routing on the Incredible Hulk.

Photo Topo

Stemming out under the small roof, I know that I haven’t done it this way before. I hesitate and wonder if I’m going to blow it. (Stop thinking Luke, just climb). I’m inching my way towards the bolt. Opposition is crucial when all the holds are facing the wrong way. Clip, layback, I’m at the next stance. Almost there, I punch it a little more and prepare to grovel to the belay. Granite peels off the wall, my feet push hard to allow progress up the groove. I’m there, a sinker lock. Grab a good edge, stem out. I clip the anchor. The final pitch is my reward. I’m dancing up the face. It’s less than vertical and good holds are abundant. We are done for the day, maybe for this season. I had no idea it would happen so fast.

James leads us up the Red Dihedral on a scouting trip

Bolting is FUN!

It all started a year ago: August 2010. John and I had just climbed Beeline. It was an easy day, a fun time in the mountains that left me wanting more. Hiking down the gully, I searched the Hulk for something between Red Dihedral and Beeline. Hundreds of feet of rock but only one or two forgotten routes. I saw a crisp looking corner, took a photo, made a mental note and started planning the next trip.

Starting up the first pitch

Over Labor Day 2010, I convinced my roommate Keith that it would be a good idea for him to belay me while I chucked rocks at him from above (AKA route development). He seemed willing and he happily doled out slack, as I slowly climbed the first pitch of what became Lost in the Sun.  The afternoon turned into evening as I cleared rock and slowly hand drilled a single belay bolt. Eventually Keith awoke from his belay slaving and was able to climb the pitch clean on follow. The first twenty feet off the belay was “blank” and I was convinced the next pitch would need protection bolts if it was possible at all. We called it quits and the 2010 season was over.

Luke is psyched after getting through the crux on pitch one!

When this summer rolled around I was thinking of the Hulk and wondering if the route could go. I recruited my friend James and come July we were hiking up a very snowy Little Slide Canyon.

Snowy Little Slide Canyon

While ground up adventures are proud, I didn’t want to start climbing and bolting a line that was impossible, drilling unnecessarily up the face. After climbing to the top of the Red Dihedral, I traversed right from the belay and set up a few directionals so James could lower me to the potential route. Instantly I saw possibilities, trundled some loose rock, and climbed around on what became pitches 4 and 5.

The next day we aborted our plans to Escape from Poland (thanks James!) and started  a bolting and cleaning mission.  This was a huge success, with James and I climbing most of the unknown sections on pitches 2 and 3. The features all connected and the route was becoming a reality.

With the Hulk imprinted in my mind, I had to go work on the route. I often struggle to find a partner when Lizzy is out of town and this trip proved no different. I decided to go solo. I aid soloed up through ground that James and I had tried on the previous trip. The moves were doable and I free climbed when possible. I had brought a drill and hammer in case I would need to place any bolts on lead, but when I took out the hammer and the drill, I was shocked. I had brought the drill holder but had forgotten to put in the DRILL BIT!  I kept climbing, hoping that the next section would hold gear. It took a few marginal pieces before I could get in a bomber cam. This pitch made me understand the excitement and adventure of going ground up!

Jonathan pulls the pitch one crux

The next two days were spent aid soloing, lead bolting, cleaning and mini-traxioning the first four pitches. The route had come into to place with at least one bolt at all belays and more protection bolts on the crux pitch. I spent a lot of time thinking about where the bolts should go and tried to put them in reasonable places both for clipping and to protect falls.

Luke works through the crux of pitch two

The final trip I was only pseudo partner-less since I was tagging along with two friends, Casey and Jonathan. The were going to spend Saturday doing Positive Vibrations and agreed to help with my route on the other two days.

I was nervous when I started leading the first pitch of Lost in the Sun. I had done all the moves before, but I was not totally sure of where the gear would go. At the stance before the final crux, I put in a few suspect small cams. Trusting my feet, I moved left towards the belay, leaving the security of the corner. In a second it was over and the first pitch had been freed! The second pitch feels slightly harder with cool face climbing right off the belay and a slab traverse that brings you to a thin crux. Figuring out the beta was tricky and I was psyched to execute on lead. With no expectation for the third pitch, I set off. Grunting, crimping and smearing, I made my way through the seam crux and to the rest below the tips corner. Excuses filled my mind, and I aided through the crux to the third pitch belay. I was exhausted and happy to have made it as far as I did.

The next day, with the boys gone to climb Positive Vibrations, I was on my own. I mini-traxioned the first two pitches again without falling. Wasting no time, I jugged the crux section and started aid-soloing the fourth pitch.

Pitch 4 overview

I figured out a workable sequence on the 4th pitch and climbed up to the top of the fifth pitch. With the bolting finished, I continued up into the true unknown. A short splitter led to blocky terrain and I trundled a few big rocks before realizing that the climbing was easy enough to save for another day. I had seen a passage to the Red Dihedral splitter (P7 or so on that route) and didn’t think another bolted belay was necessary or prudent. The “construction” and composition was complete. The pitches had starts and finishes and I could see all the moves.

The night left me anxious and nervous for the following day. With Jonathan gassed from PV, Casey and I decided to go back to our highpoint so I could lead the fourth and fifth pitches.

After a mellow start I worked up to the crux, clipped the bolt and made the bouldery moves up higher. The send was not yet in the bag and I had to technique my way up tricky stemming section, described at the start of this post.

With the third pitch still a project, I plan on going back next year for a complete and continuous ascent. More specific beta and information can be found on Mountain Project. This has been an incredible process and a dream come true for me. Lost in the Sun tends to have more face-climbing and laybacking than straight in jamming. Many of the cruxes are tricky to figure out, which was very rewarding on redpoint. I hope many people are able to enjoy this route!



  10 Responses to “Lost in the Sun, a new route on the Incredible Hulk”

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  1. badass luke! congrats on the development, maybe I’ll make it out there one of these days, gotta get stronger first, though. good stuff!

  2. Awesome! Congrats Luke, I was suspected something was up with all your trips to the Hulk 😉

  3. Congratulations, looks like a great adventure! Thanks for sharing it in such detail 🙂

  4. Luke-

    Inspiring man, way cool. Nice route in a spectacular area. Way to go!!!

  5. Congrats LUKE!!!! Keep crushing it!

  6. RAD!!!!

    well done sir!

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