Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Heavy is the Head - Mt. Charleston

Cover art for the novel Crown of Swords by Robert Jordan.

I remember my first day at the cave. Late July, 105 degrees in the valley. I lugged a Mad Rock triple pad, my camera, a tripod, shoes, water, and all the other accessories up the half hour approach. Craig suggested we stop several times along the way. I thought he was just being considerate, and while that was part of it he kept saying that he didn't want to overheat. That the project he was working took every ounce of power and endurance, and that he didn't want to redline on the hike up.

I shot Craig on the first ascent of that project that day, now known as Crown of Swords (Named by Bill McLemore).

Now, nearly two months later, those words I half-listened to while wiping sweat off my face are resonating as I spend entire sessions focused on this problem/route.

Today I spent 2 hours in the cave alone and only tried the line 4 times. I fell off the last hard move to the jug 3 times, and on the next attempt failed to get past even the first crux. The diminishing returns with each attempt on this beast are shocking.

It's easy to see now why the two people who have done this line are stymied when the question of a grade comes up. It is truly a hybrid of sport climbing and bouldering.

Crown of Swords breaks down into a hard V9 section that links through 3 V4 movements into a V8 with a very precise, powerful redpoint crux at the very end. Originally this link was considered low end V11, and it still may be, but because it is so long people have taken to giving it a Yosemite decimal grade, and by translation downgraded it because it is not thought to be 5.14.

There has been no consensus yet due to lack of traffic, but people are saying everything from V10, hard V10, V10/11, Soft V11 5.13d/5.14a, harder than this, easier than that and so on. It's great to have these discussions and comparisons and serves as one more example of the delicate and fickle nature of grading a young problem.

I'm hoping to get my fitness to a point where I'll be able to send in the near future, and then maybe I'll be able to weigh in with less speculation and more observation.


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