Often times people ask about a favorite climb or place you love to go. The Incredible Hulk is that special, favorite place for me. When I moved to the Bay Area I was stoked that the Hulk would be a couple hours closer. The Hulk granite has a special character and I’ve been learning how to climb best on the white alpine rock. The cracks have rounded edges and the angle requires balance and precision. After a multitude of trips, sends, and attempts, I wanted to become part of the history of the Hulk. I had been told the Hulk was tapped out, but I had already seen evidence of unclimbed cracks, variations and pitches. Sure the “King Lines” were climbed, but there was still fun new climbing to be had.
I have written the tale of Lost in the Sun before. The first ascent was done, many of the pitches lead clean but there was still an asterisk on my ascent. I needed to put in the time before the summer came to a close. With running adventures of July and August complete, Labor Day presented a final chance to climb the route in one go, finally leading the crux third pitch. Luckily my climbing fitness seemed solid and I had a partner who was as psyched on the route as I was. In fact, Jonathan Guy was my secret weapon. I had a lot of confidence in his try-hard ability and knew that he would either push me to send the crux or lead it himself. If everything went right, the route would not stand a chance.
I had an extra day off before Labor Day and so I hiked into the Hulk alone. The familiar sights of the five mile hike were both refreshing and relaxing. The solitude brought me back to the days spent solo brushing, bolting, and climbing in 2011. This time I was ready for the final act in my own personal drama. I spent the day of re-scrubbing and sequencing the route so we could free the third pitch. It seemed that my fitness was up to the task and I was psyched for the gang to arrive the next day.
I was still solo until mid afternoon so I took another lap up the first three pitches of Lost in the Sun. By fixing a single 80m rope to the top anchor you can mini-traxion these pitches. With a solid warmup and another confidence building lap on the crux pitch I returned to basecamp and napped until my compatriots arrived. It was a beautiful weekend and the sunny California weather didn’t seem to fit with the idea that the alpine season was ending.
Casey, Alaina, and Jonathan rolled in, psyched to the max and ready to hit the Sierra granite. The teams broke apart with Casey and Alaina heading off for Sunspot while Jonathan and I went up on Lost in the Sun. The first two pitches are a good warm up and I waited at the base of the crux pitch for Jonathan to mini-trax up. With sequences exploding from my brain, I sprayed beta at Jonathan as he climbed past onto the crux pitch. Giving a solid effort, he managed the TR flash and came back down and declared his intent to lead it.
This was the type of enthusiasm I was looking for! The plan had been to climb the route the following day so I could lead the first ascent of the crux pitch and do the first continuous ascent of the route. With both of us wanting a lead burn Jonathan put me on the spot and said the pitch should be lead, NOW! With all the ground work in place I knew I had to go for it.
My fingers curled around the crisp edge of the crack and my feet sent small chips of granite swirling to the ground. Rubber dug into the wall and I hoped the foothold would stay attached. My tips felt slippery against the granite as I crimped on the arete. Gravity stopped for a second as my body tensed and I moved my hand up the crack and stabbed it into a small slot. Quickly I was past the hardest move, but everything stayed tense since the pitch was not even halfway over. I sucked in the thin alpine air as fast as I could. Pumpy slaps lead up the corner until I could take a moment to rest. I was drawing closer to success, and the remaining sequence was mapped in my mind. My body performed in sequential elegance, all motions rehearsed and choreographed. I executed the last pull and the final jug greeted me with gritty congratulations. I mantled out of the corner and tip toed across to the belay. The dream was complete, the final piece of the puzzle was solved. Lost in the Sun goes free!
Jonathan followed the pitch, figuring out the gear beta and we rapped off for the full ascent the following day. Evening light shone across the Hulk and we got to enjoy some rest before we had to put it all together.
The next morning was cooler and we slept in to let the air warm up. Jonathan took the first lead and calmly executed the crux face climbing at the end of the pitch. I swung through and led the tricky second pitch. The holds are there but the climbing is devious and I was psyched for another send. Jonathan got it clean on follow and it was now business time. Jon racked up for the lead and fired the bolted section to the no hands rest. Up the thin corner Jonathan went, getting in gear when possible and he was sending. Past another rest, the final thin corner, and then he was at the belay. It was up to me.
I knew the moves and climbed confidently up the pitch and into the corner. A slight hesitation bought shouts of encouragement come from the belay. I crimped hard and made it to the athletic laybacking and then to the good rest. It was almost in the bag and I got to savor the final sequence to the top of the corner. No falls so far!
Jonathan kept leading and flashed the next pitch of varied 5.11 climbing. The spray of beta got him to the anchor but the final moves to the belay still offered a challenge. I followed the pitch, psyched for quality climbing and swing through to lead the fifth and final pitch. The 5.10 climbing is like the cherry on top with abundant jugs and a thin finish. At the final bolted anchor we decided to rap and climb some more, leaving a base to summit ascent for a future team. We only took a moment to let the success soak in before heading down.
Rapping off went quickly with an 80m rope and soon enough I was racking up at the base of Eye of the Storm. With a second rope and a quick lunch, we were exploring again. I had tried the first pitch a year prior, but I had spent more time cleaning the crack and removing bushes than climbing. This time I managed to send the 50-ish meter pitch, and was psyched to continue up the route. Jonathan swung through and climbed off onto a tricky slab.
From the belay you go about 15 feet to the right following a sequence of up and downclimbing with barely any holds. A single bolt off the belay guarantees that a fall would be quite a swing. The follower gets the same treatment since the second bolt is 10+ feet over but barely any higher. The crux after the second bolt was much harder and both Jonathan and I were amazed we didn’t peel off the flakey granite. The pitch ends with a short section of 5.11- laybacking that felt significantly “easier” than the slab below. We opted for the higher optional belay which used nuts and small gear.
From the belay you can see a beautiful splitter on the left wall (photo above), which was the main motivator for trying the climb. Jonathan kept the sharp end and launched up the steep clean crack. This pitch is tricky since the crack was often shallow or flaring and ran the full range of sizes from hands to fingers. Few rest positions are possible and Jonathan made great progress until the crack thinned down to tips.
Almost out of gear and unsure of where to go Jonathan hung and leap frogged a few microcams up a few feet. With nothing left to use he stemmed out to the arete and made tricky face moves well above his gear. Totally commited, he pulled through the scary section to a now blustery belay. With the sun quickly setting I did my best to follow as quickly as possible.
The pumpy splitter sapped all my energy and by the time I got to the face climbing I was gassed. A hang on the rope gave my forearms a much needed reprieve and I was able to keep climbing to the bolted belay. With the sun behind the mountains the temps were dropping fast and prompted a quick return to terra firma (which was easy with two ropes).
I was happy to get a look at a few more of the pitches on Eye of the Storm and hope to go back in 2013 for another attempt. The final day was spent goofing around on the popular Red Dihedral, which ended with us rapping off after the namesake pitch. Sadly this was my only weekend at the Hulk in 2012 but I’m psyched to have finished Lost in the Sun.
Hopefully more people will try out Lost in the Sun since its an easy way to add some pitches to the beginning or end of a Hulk trip. More beta is listed on MountainProject.com