Angel's Wings, Acts I & II

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teleross
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Angel's Wings, Acts I & II

Post by teleross » Mon Jul 15, 2013 1:41 pm

I had never even heard of this awesome chunk of Sierra granite called Angel's Wings until earlier this spring when I was perusing the AAJ and I came across a submission by Brandon Thau about a route that had been put up by Peter Croft, Dave Nettle, Greg Epperson and himself, Valkyrie V 5.12, 17 pitches 11 5.10, 3 5.11, 1 5.12 and two easy, taking a proud line up the sweeping slabs and upper turret on the right side of the main wall, and as of yet, the only free line on the wall.

Amazing stone!
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I had to climb it. But finding a partner for such an outing proved to be difficult. A big gnarly climb, guarded by a big gnarly 16+ mile approach proved to be too much for most. I fished around without any bites, until after much prodding and bombardment with photos and tales of epic granite, Sky was finally on a plane headed for Cali.

Our paths converged at midnight in Fresno after Sky's flights via LAX and my 5 1/2 hour drive from San Diego, and after some munchies courtesy of Wendy, and another 1 1/2 hour drive up into the mountains we were finally popping cold brews and settling into our ant infested road side bivy for the night.

We had a full day before we were going to head in to Angel's Wings, so we had picked out a climb with minimal approach that looked like fun. Chimney Rock Spire and a route called Kitty From Hell sounded good, but unfortunately the road was gated and signs posted of closure due to falcon nesting.
Bummed, but thanks to a newly purchased mountain project app for my phone we were able to locate another climb close by.

Stickup on Big Baldy provided 3 pitches of good granite fun!
Big Baldy...holding some sick stone
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Stickup goes pretty much right up the center of the photo
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The first pitch is a fun corner with neat face features, super fun!
The second pitch follows a big corner up and around a roof
Sky following the money corner pitch
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pulling around the roof
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The last pitch is fun wandering up big knobs to the top...sweet route in a beautiful setting.
Looking down the ridge to Chimney Rocks and the spire we had wanted to climb
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After Stickup we drove down to pick up our backcountry permit and Sky picked up a headlamp, and we both played tourist and picked up souvenirs.
Then we went and saw some amazingly large trees. Including the largest tree in the world, a giant sequoia called the General Sherman Tree
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These giant sequoia groves are amazing, and will disrupt your notion of large living organisms. To see these trees is alone worth the visit.

We still had a bit of day left and were itching to climb tho.
NOTE: This section of the trip report is purely fictional, and any resemblance that the characters involved, or the places described whether by word or image, have to actual people or places is purely coincidental.

So, back up the road we went, but instead of parking by the gate and taking the trail for fear of being detected, we schwacked down the ridge from near Big Baldy. After a fairly brutal schwack we were greeted with a nice view of the spire
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And after a shit suck thrash down a loose gully we were at the base of the climb looking up at the first pitch splitter
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Sky contemplating the moves on p2
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The third pitch is wild offwidth and some interesting rock followed by the last pitch which climbs a cool cliffhanger flake
Sky leading to the top
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A fun climb and worth the effort, highly recommended when not closed to falcon nesting, of course

After finding a better, more ant free bivy for the night, we eventually roused ourselves and began to motivate for the 16+ mile slog up the trail to Angel's Wings.
It was hot and long, not so much brutal up and down, but just endless mileage.
Thankfully there's some nice scenery along the way
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And many hours later you finally get are below Angel's Wings...it's quite a sight!
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We found a sick climbers bivy directly below the face by the creek, and stashed our Steel Reserves we hoped we would be drinking in celebration of a successful climb of a sick wall!

The next morning we were off.
Sky leading p2..fun cracks up through a roof to some tricky slab
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p3 is more funk slab...a theme of the route...followed by a brushy crack, which Peter Croft had assured me would be enjoyable given my history climbing in the PNW and specifically in Squamish...and yeah, it was fun in a shrubtastic kind of way

Then Sky got to lead the hero hand crack on p4
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p5 is slab up to a roof, then a powerful move up over the roof to some cool face climbing past a few bolts before making a reach left into a thin finger crack. I fiddled in some small gear, and pasted my feet before pulling left into the crack, when slip, my foot popped and I slipped down about 2 feet. Minor, except my hand whipped down the crack and my ring finger went over the gear. I had a weird tingly sensation in my fingers and I tried to shake out my hand to regain normal feeling, but when I began to be showered with blood I knew something was up. I looked at my finger and saw just a blob of oozing blood, so I wiped it on my pants and tried to get a look at the damage. Most of the fingernail was gone and the end of my finger was shredded into some kind of horrid flapper that I could pull back and basically open up the whole end of my finger. Blood was going everywhere and was starting to rain down on Sky at the belay. I figured I at least needed to get down to him to reassess the damage and see what could be done. So I down aided a bit, and then lowered off a bolt, cleaning gear as I went.
At the belay I showed Sky the damage, and thankfully he had a roll of tape. I wiped away the blood and tried to tape it up as best as I could before more blood spurted out. We discussed, but I felt that with 12 pitches of difficult climbing above us and my finger in its mutilated state that finishing the climb was probably not in the cards. Whether Sky actually agreed or was just being nice, I'm not sure, but either way, we disappointedly rapped down.
I was super bummed and pissed that such a dumb thing had happened...and of all the times for something like that to happen! ha! oh well, there was nothing left to do but drown our sorrows in our Steel Reserve.
We lolled around at camp in a malt liquor haze for a bit before deciding to just high tail it out of there in hope of making it to the store at the visitors center for more beer and burgers.
We quickly packed and raced out the 16 miles of trail, and made it with ease, and soon enough were properly drowning our sorrows in copious amounts of frosty beers.

Sky's flight out of Fresno wasn't till the evening so we spent the day looking at more awesomely huge trees, and then visiting the fire lookout atop Buck Rock, which incidentally has some really fun looking sport climbing in a really beautiful setting. Then after unsuccessfully trying to gain a view of Tehipite Dome, the biggest granite wall in the Sierra at more than 3,400 vertical feet, we headed down into Fresno for Sky's first experience with In n Out Burger, after which I dropped him at the airport, and our paths diverged.

The whole way home I was bummed. As I retold the story to Trish on the phone, she couldn't believe it...what a stupid thing! I couldn't believe it either, how many big whippers have I taken, only to just fire right back up no worse for wear? oh well...shit happens, and I do think we made the right decision to come down, as much as it sucked.

ACT II

Back home I was bummed...I had no idea how long it was going to take my finger to heal, I was pissed that we bailed, and really I just wanted to climb. Trish and Ellie stopped by my work for dinner one evening, on monday or tuesday and I was retelling the story and talking about how awesome Angel's Wings is and yadda yadda yadda, and she's like "I'll go back there with you" and I was like what?!? really?!?
Trish is nothing if not the gung ho, go for it type, always down for whatever. Never mind she's never hiked that far, ever. Never mind shes never done a climb nearly that big, or even any alpine type climb at all, she was down to tackle one of the biggest baddest around with one of the longest approaches in the Sierra! Man, I love that gal!

So anyhow, the week wore on, and slowly my finger became marginally better although still being held together with superglue and tape, and work schedule showed Fri, Sat and Sun off....so we decided what the fuck...let's do it.
So thursday after work we were off, and after spending the night in Visalia we were winding our way up towards the visitors center to pick up or walk in permit which would allow us the opportunity to suffer for 16 some odd miles.
After sorting gear and food and whatnot, there I was again, exactly one week later, in the parking lot at Crescent Meadows heading to the High Sierra Trail and the slog up to Valhalla and Angel's Wings.

Trish all smiles before the hike
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Gawd...again?
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Trish loves the giant sequoias
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still smilin'
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the miles roll by
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Trish starting to understand just how far 16 miles is
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but she's a trooper and carry's on without complaint
the scenery helps
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getting there
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sure is purdy up in there
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pretty fucking worked after we reached the bivy
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There it is...once again! and big as ever
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glorious night for a bivy in the hills
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In the morning we were off, up the short approach to the base of the wall, and after a final supergluing and copious taping up of my finger, we started up.
Trish stoked!
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Linked p1 slabs up through the roof on p2 into one long pitch involving a bit of simul climbing...a first for Trish, which at first freaked her out, but after 30' or so she got over it
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Trish following the slabs above the roof
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I was happy that I could climb, and even more so that my finger hadn't completely exploded at this point. Finger jamming was awkward and painful, but it seemed that as long as I was careful it was more or less good to go. so up we went.

Back up into the brushy crack...fun as it ever was
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Trish on the slabs leading up to the brush filled crack
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The p4 splitter! So glad I got to lead it this time! SO good!
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Trish following
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Leading p5...no trouble this time...and way fun!
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Trish in the splitter hands finishing up p5
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Fun slot...p6 or 7 maybe?
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The next few pitches were difficult wild slabs connecting funky crack systems
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One of the pitches was probably 11+ and had shut down one party prior, was wild run out slab to a powerful layback up a seam with no gear...heady and way run!
We were moving along pretty well, and I was glad to have most of the difficult climbing below us at this point.

Trish loves her pano mode on her camera
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It was somewhere around p 8 or 9 that the cramping started full force. Earlier I had been having a bit of hand cramping and a couple in my arms, mostly from hauling the pack for Trish on the difficult pitches, but now the cramps were full on.

Trish looking pretty worked about now, but game to carry on
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At the bottom of this squeeze I had a bit of water which seemed to help, and we pressed on.
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The pitch was pretty physical, and while hauling the pack for Trish my arms were severely cramping in protest. Once I had the pack up to me, Trish started up and I had a few sips of water, and then our water went dry :(
Trish got to the belay and was complaining of nausea again which had been plaguing her for the last couple of hours...maybe the altitude I was thinking...dunno.
Anyhow, I led off on the next pitch, a fun easy chimney to a sick perch sitting up above an overhanging wall some 1,200' off the deck.
Beautiful spot!
Trish following the chimney
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Looking up at probably the last 600' or so of the route...
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10 pitches up, with 7 more to go, mostly squeeze and other forms of wide according to the topo, with some slab thrown into the mix, and my body reeling with cramps and no more water. Disappointment again on Angel's Wings, especially because we seemed to be moving quick enough to have enough time to finish. But I didn't think I could lead all those pitches without any water with those cramps. So again, reluctantly, but I believe wisely, we went down.
Pic from our high point a beautiful belay perched out over the wall...not a bad spot at all :)
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I was bummed, but so stoked and proud of Trish! To hike out there and jump on that route for her first alpine experience was really something and I'm so glad that we had that experience...it was a wonderful adventure, in a beautiful place with the most awesome gal!


We spent the evening lounging at the bivy watching the stars some out and the next morning packed up and trudged our way wearily down the trail.
One last look...will I come back...dunno...
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Trish painfully but without complaint with tender blisters on her toes, and me, kinda over the gnarly slab climbing and funk cracks on Angel's Wings, dreaming away of the splitters on the Incredible Hulk...and our next adventure :)

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skykilo
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Re: Angel's Wings, Acts I & II

Post by skykilo » Mon Jul 15, 2013 1:46 pm

You hiked in there again a week later!? And you had to bail again!?!?!?

That's a lot of pitches and hauling does take a toll. Good job with the hiking and everything else, Trish. It'll be there next week....

teleross
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Re: Angel's Wings, Acts I & II

Post by teleross » Mon Jul 15, 2013 2:20 pm

Such is life...it's good for the soul. But yeah, I really do hate bailing. 5 pitches first time, 10 the second...so maybe third time's the charm? I doubt I'll go back, that climb is whack. Way hard slab climbing on a couple of those pitches...not really into that again. But you never know...
I had doubts that we would even make it as far as we did, but Trish stoked on it so I figured fuck it...why not?

For now though we're going to go climb splitters on the Hulk, once my finger fully heals...finger cracks are really awkward and painful

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huevón
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Re: Angel's Wings, Acts I & II

Post by huevón » Mon Jul 15, 2013 4:44 pm

That looks super bigtime. I would definitely want healthy wings for any of that

ryanl
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Re: Angel's Wings, Acts I & II

Post by ryanl » Tue Jul 16, 2013 9:22 am

Holy cow. Big effort Ross, and way to go Trish!

Any pics of the digit?

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skykilo
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Re: Angel's Wings, Acts I & II

Post by skykilo » Tue Jul 16, 2013 9:29 am

Image

teleross
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Re: Angel's Wings, Acts I & II

Post by teleross » Tue Jul 16, 2013 10:10 am

gnar.
basically I could pull open the entire end of the finger from where the finger nail is torn off, one big shredded hole for an end of a finger. gross. Thing is still oozing today!

ryanl
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Re: Angel's Wings, Acts I & II

Post by ryanl » Tue Jul 16, 2013 3:30 pm

gross. I love it.
yur a hard man dude. can't imagine climbing so soon after, let alone the same thing.

naomig
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Re: Angel's Wings, Acts I & II

Post by naomig » Tue Jul 16, 2013 9:04 pm

Holy shomly, dat was a lot of werds! Nice work Trish. Ross, it seems like you found the right kind of girl for you. One that doesn't mind the spank sauce.

Sky is actually one of the most reasonable people I know - although his opinion of what is optimal and best can change by 180 degrees sometimes. When I tweaked my shoulder on Coyote Calling in Utah, it was he who suggested despite feelings of being disappointed on both sides. I'm really glad he didn't have the mindset to push on and ignore my injury. Your finger looks GNARLY!

I'm a big fan of superglue on my fingers as well. Works like a charm. Right now I'm nursing my offwidth caused full arms, hands, legs and ankle scratches with polysporin. They got infected the next day and I was all swollen and on heat. I thought it was the bruising that hurt, but no it was the wounds. Aaaah, the things we do to ourselves to have fun.

teleross
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Re: Angel's Wings, Acts I & II

Post by teleross » Wed Jul 17, 2013 8:30 am

Yes all in the name of fun!
:)

oh, and you know the more civilized way to start Tantalus Wall is via Milk Run right?

E_$
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Re: Angel's Wings, Acts I & II

Post by E_$ » Wed Jul 17, 2013 1:29 pm

completely gnar, all of it, including the dedication. and Trish, hardcore!

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DonJuanPakistan
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Re: Angel's Wings, Acts I & II

Post by DonJuanPakistan » Wed Jul 17, 2013 2:15 pm

64 miles? You're like a Tarahumara with camalots.

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