This weekend was my first trip to Tollhouse Rock in the Southern
Sierra of California. Warning: The "fast-and-light" techniques
described herein are not recommended. In fact, may as well solo...
Seven on seven.
8 am Sunday morning. Em and I are at the parking area for Tollhouse
Rock, in the midst of a blitzkreig-like 33-hour round trip to-and-from
Southern California to pick up some furniture for a friend. We have a
guidebook. We have shoes. A rope. Harnesses. Gear... "gear" is a
euphemism. We packed only locking biners and belay devices; enough
rack to toprope at the local indoor gym.
Something needs to be done. I scour my pack. Two carabiners surface.
Then, on my chalkbag I find a neutrino. In the bottom of the pack,
covered in dusty chalk, I find an REI locking 'biner. We're up to
four carabiners. Em digs out two from her pack, one of them scarred
booty from the base of El Cap. With a sigh, I peel the keys off my
keychain carabiner, its gate deformed from years of duty opening beer
bottles, and add it to the pile.
Base of the rock. Em finds a 12" long loop of tie-off in her pack. I
pull the waist-belt (made of standard 9/16" supertape) off my pack and
tie a runner. Start the lead, tiptoeing up thin face moves on granite
smooth as a baby's bottom, following a plentiful line of 3/8" bolts to
a slimy water streak and dicey traverse to the belay bolts. Every
other bolt gets the rope clipped thru a single biner, lockers at crux
sections. Oh, well, that's how we did it thirty years ago.... Gotta
remember to save two carabiners for the belay anchor.
On the bright side, in retrospect, I clipped at least as many bolts
as not... "Skip-a-clip" is our name for the pitch [Hippo in a
Bathtub, 5.7, is what the guidebook calls it]. 150 feet later, we walk
off, retrieve the rope, coil, and continue.
Tollhouse Traverse catches our eye. This 5.easy route has been climbed
in roller skates, cross-country skis, even a formal evening gown.
Sounds good. I heave the "rack" onto my harness and begin.
120 feet up I find a crevice where I can wedge the tie-off knot.
Later some bolts sprout from the rock like isolated tufts of
Clip, clippety-clop, clip.
No belay anchors. No more rope. Climb with me.
Two pitches up, a pair of bolts raise their eyebrows at me, but only
one carabiner left. My belay pearbiner is donated to the fray, Clip,
clip. Out of gear. Hip belay on.
Another "sling" belay off double bolts, one of the 3/8" bolts clipped
by an "accessory clip" [warning--not to be used for climbing] Em had
along, the other on a bomber locker, no extra carabiners left, hip
belay on. Em screeches as she spies the accessory clip of the anchor,
the good carabiner on 3/8" bolt hidden from view.
Exhilaration of the fast pace and easy climbing draws us onto an
alternate, harder exit on thin, poorly-protected face. Clip.
Friction, edge, toe-dancing , clip. Pass a double bolt belay at the
half rope. Another bolt higher, no more rope. Single bolt belay.
Hand off the remaining carabiner and single tied runner. Your lead.
Em, 20 feet above me, finds a thin flake behind which she wedges our
knotted ½-inch webbing, (the only pro on the pitch) then blasts to the
summit, slings a root with the remaining runner.
We chat with folks on the top, then blast down the road to the car,
three hours round trip, seven pitches on seven carabiners.