During the second to last weekend in June, prior to mandatory quotas via permitting in 2013, we found the Incredible Hulk in typical California form, overcrowded. The easier and more popular routes on the face, Positive Vibrations and Red Dihedral, each saw approximately five parties on one weekend day. The Polish Route had two climbing parties including us and Escape from Poland we had to ourselves. That being said, we had as good a route to climb as anyone on the Hulk that day. It is hard to discount any of the climbs on the Incredible Hulk. The off-width is what primarily keeps the city dwellers at bay from the Polish Route. The 4”-5” splitters are quite impressive and not to be missed if you are into the Hulk.
The Polish Route shares its first four pitches (two of which make up the acclaimed off-width section) with Escape from Poland. As the name implies, you escape off of the Polish route, after climbing its better pitches, onto Escape from Poland. The rock quality deteriorated immediately as Escape is perhaps the least climbed moderate route on the face. Its highlight is a large roof pull (Iron Curtain Roof) on its second pitch away from the Polish Route which can easily be seen from camp, just left and up from the Sunspot. Three 5.10+ pitches of climbing from the top of the Polish route off-width pitches land you on the left upper shoulder of the Hulk. From there, with an 80m rope, we reached the last pitch of Positive Vibrations with one long meandering 5.9 pitch. We traversed onto Positive Vibrations, climbed it to the top and rapped the Venturi Effect route which eventually bleeds back into rap stations on the lower part of Positive Vibrations. We used an 80m rope, but supposedly a 70m rope makes these raps. Dave Nettle and John Fehrman established Escape from Poland in ’98.
There is tons of existing beta on how to access base camp for the Incredible Hulk. The start of the route is just left of Positive Vibrations (look for a line of people) in a left facing corner, maybe 20m up hill.
Escape from Poland, 1300’, 5.10+
1st-2nd Pitches- 80m- 5.10+/ These two pitches are easy to combine with an 80m rope despite the FAer’s topo showing 310’ and MP calling for 290’. The 2nd pitch offers relatively easy climbing and the rope drag is minimal. The first pitch is one of the better pitches on the route. A clean left facing finger crack corner offering sustained climbing for a long distance placing gear at will. When the climbing eases up, you meander up and left to a decent belay ledge. You will see a bolt up and left from the belay which is off route.
3rd Pitch- 50m- 5.10/ These next two off-width pitches are the stand out pitches/rock for both the Polish Route and Escape from Poland. They consist of parallel (wide) splitters up a steep face. Supposedly they have been combined with an 80m rope, but that felt to me (I led both pitches) to surely involve a short bit of simul-climbing not to mention the need for hauling up more large gear. Much is made of the hanging belay between these pitches, but I found it to be a decent stance and not as bad as most big wall hanging belays if you are used to that. The belay is best made as the right side crack starts to get wider (beyond 5”) and you look to transition to the next crack left where there are hands for 50’ or so. During this transition, you will find a small crack to build the perfect gear belay in. The 3rd pitch was quite a bit more strenuous than the 4th in my opinion. The upper portion of the right crack works you a bit physically. The start of this 3rd pitch is discussed at detail via summit logs but is actually fairly straight forward. Protect with a C4#5 up and left from the ledge and then traverse right to a horn and sling it, then back clean the #5 and proceed with more face traversing to the crack up and right starting near the large corner. At approximately 40m, start noticing the crack up and left and consider your belay in the next 10 meters or so.
4th Pitch- 40m- 5.10/ The first 50’ above the belay involves nice hands. Then the crack widens to about C4#4 allowing quite a few deep fists along with a minimal amount of off-width compared to the pitch below. Pull a fun bulge/roof and continue as the pitch eases up to a comfortable fixed belay.
5th Pitch- 30m- 5.10+/ This is where the “escape” happens. Down climb and traverse right into the large left facing corner. Climb the chossy corner up to a fixed belay at a decent stance. This is mostly a finger crack corner, some finger locks as well as some lay-backing required.
6th Pitch- 25m- 5.10+/ This is the “Iron Curtain Roof” pitch which is the main landmark of this route from camp. It is just up and left from the “Sunspot”. Continue up the corner into the roof which is best traversed out right via chimney technique even though only half of your back is engaged. The roof protects well with small gear even though the rock continues to be quite chossy. There is an old sling belay as you follow the corner above the roof, but I advise stopping short of that belay at a much better stance via gear.
7th Pitch- 60m- 5.10/ Continue up the corner, where the rock never really improves over the previous two pitches but you will find more hands on this final pitch of the corner. You do hit a wide spot or two again but I placed no wide gear on this pitch. You hit a nice flat ledge for a slung belay.
8th-9th Pitches- 80m- 5.9/ Again, the FAer’s topo claims 300’ but we got to the top of these two pitches with an 80m rope in one pitch no worries. It meanders a bit, but start up the obvious left facing corner. At its top, turn right and continue up blocky terrain taking small corners until you turn the arête onto the final pitch of Positive Vibrations. Set up a semi-hanging gear belay.
10th Pitch- 45m- 5.10/ The FAer’s call this 5.10 and MP calls this 5.10b. It felt more like 5.8/9. I led it in 15 minutes if even. Down climb a meter or two depending on where you are located on the arête and traverse right into the mostly hand crack of the last pitch of Positive Vibrations. Climb the splitter straight up and over the top. Scramble right maybe 30’ to the rap descent (slung piton/nut) on the Venturi Effect and set up belay there to save time.