Craig leading Pitch 6 on the First Ascent of "Freak Show" in 1986,
Somewhere in the cruel, evil depths of Craig Peer's mind, a plan was brewing. Approximately 20 years after Craig, Blaine Neely and Gary Hinton completed the first ascent of Freak Show on North Dome in Kings Canyon National Park, a second ascent attempt of the route started itching Craig's brain. But who could he cajole, convince, and coerce into completing the 2nd ascent with him? How about (former?) friends Kris and Carolyn (Dragger) from SummitPost? Yeah, that sounds about right... time to scratch that itch.
2006 2nd Ascent Attempt
Hanging on "Freak Show" on Labor Day weekend in 2006
During Labor Day weekend in 2006, after being told how wonderful a big wall climb of North Dome would be, Craig, Kris, and Carolyn carried enough water, food, and climbing gear to the base of Freak Show in order to attempt a second ascent. (Please refer to the trip report "Freaks, Beaks, and Parasols".) Stymied by heat and running out of time, the team agreed to rappel after the first four pitches and return in the spring of 2007 to finish the 2nd ascent.
Saturday, May 19, 2007
Kris leading Pitch 1 on "Freak Show".
After spending the night at the Sheep Creek Campground with Misha and Etsuko, the Crazy Craig, the Jovial Kris, and the Brainwashed Carolyn hiked up to the base of Freak Show with ropes and climbing gear for the first two pitches of the route. Kris, freshly recovered from an awful car accident in the end of 2006, accepted the sharp end of the rope for the first two pitches. Clearly Kris was brainwashed as well. Kris lead up the first pitch (5.8), started up the flake, made the wild step to the left to the slab face, traversed across while clipping the fixed pin and bolt, and then climbed up to the top of the first pitch after wrestling the bushes just before the belay. I followed Kris and cleaned the gear while Craig made three round trips to the base and back with water, sleeping bags, portaledges, etc. Several times I wondered to myself... "Did I really climb this before?"
Kris leading the traverse on Pitch 1 on "Freak Show".
After meeting Kris at the top of the first pitch, we hauled the two bags to the top of that pitch and Kris took off for the "5.6" second pitch. Now, if you've read this far, you'll understand that the loony folks that put up this route definitely underrated this pitch. (It was revised to 5.8). Kris showed his studly charm yet again and scampered up pitch two, fixing a second set of lines. I cleaned pitch two and after a brief moment, we returned for an evening of barbequed chicken, salad, corn, and tasty wine! Misha and Etsuko had returned as well from a day of hiking, exploring and photography.
Sunday, May 20, 2007
With lines fixed on the first two pitches, Sunday was comprised of hauling the rest of the gear to the base of the climb and then hauling it to the top of pitch two. Because pitch two is blocky, we had Craig at the top of the pitch hauling, Kris in the middle helping the bags, and me at the bottom releasing the bags and preparing them for the trip up. Satisfied that we had all the gear we needed, we patted ourselves on the shoulder and rappelled down. Five days later we would return.
Friday, May 25, 2007
Heading up from Pitch 3 to Pitch 4.
Because Kris had some work issues come up, Crazy Craig and Brainwashed Carolyn headed back to "Freak Show" by ourselves after spending the night at Phil Gross' place in Cedar Grove. We left fixed lines for Kris to meet us on Saturday morning. I had just enough wits about me to remember how much I hated leading pitch three the previous year and had negotiated leading pitch four instead of three. That left Craig with the sharp end on pitch three. Pitch three starts with a nasty bush but relatively easy climbing up a corner (A1) and then follows a wild free climbing traverse over to a ramp. The free climbing is not difficult but is balancy. With a harness full of gear and aiders dangling, every rock horn and every tree shrub becomes a hook for getting caught up on the balancy traverse. After Craig completed the traverse, he climbed up the ramp to the formerly A2+ roof that had shot me down the year before. To his surprise, it had been hammered out a bit by "Mungeclimber" and his partner. (No great surprise here -- when I had nailed it the year before, it took blade stacks straight up into rock that splinter cracked as I nailed it.) Evidently enough rock had fallen out that the roof goes clean now with a blue Alien and a green/yellow hybrid Alien. I cleaned pitch three and we set up the portaledge for a lovely Saturday night bivy at the bottom of pitch three.
Saturday, May 26, 2007
A "restful" night at the top of Pitch 2 Leading the end of Pitch 4.
In order to continue, we needed Kris to meet us at the top of pitch 2 with the other ropes. Therefore, we were blessed with a relaxing morning of lounging around, languid and blissfully ignorant of what lay ahead. When Kris arrived at the base after an entirely sleepless night, we started to prepare for the day's climb. Pitch four was mine so Craig and I headed up the fixed lines to the top of pitch three. Poor Kris snoozed in the sun while I started up pitch 4. Pitch 4 starts with a short, thin knifeblade crack and then heads up a relatively easy, clean gear corner. Part way up this section, however, the corner crack disappears (5.8 R or C2+) and with clunky boots, I opted to aid up a potato chip flake to the left of the corner. It took tiny Aliens (black, blue/black hybrid) and eventually ended in the same corner but in a much wider section. During this part of the corner I leap-frogged the #4 and #5 Friends (silver and red) up into a little cave section and out under a roof. Unfortunately, I thought the pitch ended right after turning the corner of the roof, but I was wrong. I had squandered my gear and was now left with gear that was either way too small or way too big. I called for the pins and learned my lesson: try to always have general assortment of gear in most sizes when you're not sure what lies ahead. I finally finished the pitch and hauled one of the bags up. Kris awoke from his nap and cleaned the pitch with little trouble. We then rappelled all the way back down to the ledge at the top of pitch two for a restful evening.
Here Kris is sound asleep on the ledge at the top of Pitch 2 Belaying at the top of Pitch 4
Sunday, May 27, 2007
Hanging out at the top of Pitch 4
Though we were down at the top of pitch 2, Craig was slated to lead pitch 5 on Sunday. Now I don't want to make comments about the crazies who put this climb up in the first place, but pitch 5 represents the crux pitch and is not for the faint of heart. Craig was wound up tighter than a drum and was chomping at the bit to get started. (Or maybe get it over with...) Kris and Craig jumared back up to the top of pitch 4 while I packed the rest of the junk in the remaining haul bag. Once they hauled the last bag and I jumared up two pitches, Craig started off on pitch 5. Pitch 5 starts off with either 5.8 free climbing or a tension traverse to some wild pin and cam placements. Craig then began removing the 21-year-old quarter-inch bolts and replacing them with nice, new fatties. The not-so-nice and not-so-fat Craig continued up half way and realized that the daylight hours had flown by... he would not be able to finish the pitch that day. Now that we were behind schedule, a dilemma presented itself: Kris needed to be back to work on Tuesday and it now seemed impossible to finish the route by that time. What should we do? We finally decided that we should bail and Craig back cleaned his own handiwork on pitch 5. We deployed the portaledges at the top of pitch 4 and suddenly a new idea popped into our heads: Why not come back in about a week and finish the route? Kris didn't think he'd be able to return, but Crazy Craig and Brainwashed Carolyn certainly could. While Kris spent the evening surfing his portaledge, Craig and I started playing with all the pieces of the puzzle to devise the best way to rappel off and jumar back up. Five ropes, two fully stocked haul bags, four more pitches to go...
Kris, rappelling off into the abyss... will the rope reach the top of Pitch 1??? Going back up...
Monday, May 28, 2007
Craig starting off on Pitch 5, the crux pitch.
Crazy Craig woke on Monday with a brilliant idea: Why not tie the ropes together and rappel all the way to the top of pitch one? We added up all the distances and once we realized we were basically 300 - 350 feet directly above the top of pitch 1, we decided to go for it. We attached the ropes and Kris volunteered to go first. I could have kissed his stinky feet! He headed off first and kept us apprised of his situation. At the point of connection, he realized that although our plan was going to work, switching to the second rope was going to be a tricky operation. (Anyone ever see a Kris yo-yo?) Once Kris reached the top of pitch 1, we all cheered and I started my own rappel while Craig packed the haul bags. Kris continued down to the ground and soon we were all on the ground, cheering that the ropes reached the top of pitch 1. After walking back to the Zumwalt Meadows parking lot, we gazed up at the two tiny white haulbags at the top of pitch 4. It was like they were waiting for us to return.
Thursday, June 7, 2007
Looking down Pitch 5
Crazy Craig and Brainwashed Carolyn, fortified with additional boxes of Ak-Mak crackers and Easy Cheese (Thanks for the addiction, Kris!), jumared back up to the top of pitch 4 by around 2:30 pm. Without enough day left to lead the devious 5th pitch, we decided to take it easy and deployed the portaledge. Surrounded by the stunningly beautiful (and equally deserted) Kings Canyon, we basked in the sun, and watched the darting swallows play in the updrafts. We ate as much as we could and rested, both mentally and physically, for the following day.
Friday, June 8, 2007
Looking across Pitch 6
Evidently Craig's dreams (nightmares?) of pitch 5 kept him up the previous night so by the time the sun hit us, he was antsy to get going on pitch 5. (A3+) We packed up the junk and he headed off into the morning sun. Slowly, bit by bit, he lead up the fifth pitch. He cursed the first ascentionists and proclaimed them all out of their minds. (The first step is admitting you have a problem?) He continued past the previous high point and climbed up under an expanding flake. Some placements were three tiny nuts, all equalized; one placement was a RURP. Craig continued up the steep pitch, under a roof and eventually reached the top of a large flake. He then drilled three new 3/8-inch bolts, two extra long ones, and hauled the gear. I cleaned the pitch and met Craig and the top of pitch 5, just as darkness was enveloping the valley. Though exhausted, we chowed down some beanie weinies and Ak-Mak crackers with Easy Cheese. I plopped down on the portaledge and promptly fell asleep.
Craig's an ol', dirty dawg.
Saturday, June 9, 2007
Looking up at North Dome from Zumwalt Meadows
After a breakfast of canned fruit and a granola bar, again Craig took the sharp end of the rope and started out on the hook/rivet/bolt traverse at the beginning of pitch 6. Like before, Craig drilled out the old quarter-inch bolts and replaced them with new fatties. This took quite a while to accomplish on lead. Craig finally reached the far corner and began up the dirty corner. Excavating each placement also took a long time to accomplish. Bit by bit, mungeball by mungeball, he worked his way up. Then, once near the top of pitch 6, all of a sudden the rope went taught and I heard Craig yell as the rock his last piece was in crumbled and fell. Clearly agitated, I checked if Craig was ok and he stated he was in a state of shock and exhaustion after falling 20+ feet. The Energizer Bunny, however, he hauled himself back up and requested more gear. This was when the haul line nightmare began. After sending Craig more pitons, he lowered the haul line too quickly for me to stuff it in the rope bag so it managed to get stuck on a bush. I yelled for him to slow down, but it was too late. He brought the rope back up but it got hooked on a downward-facing flake. As both of us tried to flick the rope and free it from the flake, somehow, it hit one of the carabiners Craig had place for lead rope protection and clipped itself. Unbelievable! Craig had taken a 20-foot whipper, the haul line was caught on a bush, a flake, and was now clipped into a piece of pro, and it was starting to get dark. What else could go wrong?!?
One by one, we set out to solve the problems. Craig managed to lead the rest of the pitch. Then he suggested using the long cheat stick to grab the haul line and get it out of the carabiner. I leaned way out and could just barely reach the haul line, but the wind made the long, aluminum pole sway and dance. I finally managed to grab the haul line and was able to feed it out to free it from the carabiner. We then maneuvered the haul line to free it from the flake and I decided we could haul around the bush. Eventually, Craig got the bags to to the top of pitch 6 and I started to clean the traverse as the sun began to set. I quickly realized, however, that cleaning a pure, horizontal traverse is a tricky and difficult process. I used a combination of lowering out, clipping gear with aiders, wild swings, and long-arm reaches but still missed cleaning a couple of carabiners. Oh well. By the time I reached the far corner and headed up, I was cleaning under headlamp. Thankfully Craig had deployed the portaledge and when I reached the top of Pitch 6, it was approximately 11:00 p.m. Sleep came quickly that night.
Sunday, June 10, 2007
[img:301191:alignleft:small:After finishing the route, Craig revised the topo. Here is the revision.] [img:225540:alignright:small:Craig's an ol', dirty dawg.] Morning always makes the previous day seem far away, doesn't it? Well, Sunday dawned bright and warm. We were tucked away at the top of pitch 6 in a little nook, surrounded by rock ledges and shrubs. For the first time in several days we could pee without hanging and poo without dealing with a climbing harness. Things were looking up!
My free climbing shoes were conveniently omitted from the haul bag so Craig was left with no choice but leading the next pitch as well. 5.5 and then a short traverse and we'd be off! Right?!?!
After a short aid section, Craig climbed up the dirty, loose seventh pitch. Again, a degree in archeology was necessary to find protection placements and took a bit longer than anticipated. However, the voices of friends Phil Gross and Steve echoed from the far side of the "Borneo Traverse" (Pitch 8) and provided extra motivation since they were there to help us. Three cheers to Phil and Steve!!!! Craig managed to maneuver around the loose blocks and reach the top of pitch seven. Unfortunately, the haul bags got stuck and I had to jumar up and down to free them before leaving the belay at the top of pitch 6. Once the bags were free, I sped up the rope, left all pins, and cleaned the rest of the pitch. I then immediately left the belay and led across the "Borneo Traverse" (the crux was a Manzanita Bush maze) and fixed ropes across so we could shuffle loads. Luckily, Phil and Steve had brought empty backpacks and so we made a total of five shuffle traverses. We had topped out! Yea!
After loading the haulbags and backpacks, Phil and Steve began scampering down the steep but mostly walkable traverse to the head of the canyon to the west of North Dome. Unfortunately, Craig and I were exhausted and had trouble keeping up. I, in particular, was feeling awfully wobbly and lost my footing several times. Luckily, Phil and Steve knew the best way down and were literally our own private saviors. I'm not sure where our reserve energy came from but somehow we managed to drag ourselves off the mountain and reached the cars at about 8:30 p.m. -- just in time to race off to the Cedar Grove restaurant and FOOD FOOD FOOD!!!
We must have been quite a sight for the lady at the front of the Cedar Grove snack bar. Craig's face was so black he looked like he had changed races. My ears were full of gravel. We hadn't seen a shower in days. We stumbled into the snack bar with our knee pads still on. The woman who took our order, however, wasn't phased a bit. "Would you like a baked potato or fries with that, m'am?" Is both
the wrong answer??
When we took showers at Phil's place, I felt sorry for the shower. It had to deal with more dirt and grime than it had probably ever seen. I remember coming out to the living room with the intent of chatting with Phil, but not really being able to carry on a coherent conversation. The bed at Phil's place felt like a soft, fluffy cloud of paradise.
Monday, June 11, 2007
[img:301040:alignleft:small:Looking up at North Dome from Zumwalt Meadows]We had done it! A second ascent, 21 years after the first. Craig and I hiked back up to the base of the climb to retrieve the rope we had dropped and wandered around Zumwalt Meadows, basking in the glory of all that which we looked at from above and couldn't do: dipping one's feet in the river, stretching out on a sandy beach, listening to the gurgles, smelling the wildflowers.
Somehow we had climbed the Freak Show and made it back in one piece. Simply amazing.
Just a quick note of thanks to Philip Gross, a generous and prolific climber and Park Service maintenance worker at Kings Canyon. Without his and his friend Steve's help we might still be wandering around at the top of North Dome in a delirious stupor! If anyone has the opportunity to meet or climb with Phil, it's a chance not to be missed.
Thanks to Kris Janisweweski as well -- even though I can never spell his name correctly -- someone had to help keep Crazy Craig in line! Leading the dubious "5.6" on pitch 2 was a big help too. Let's do it all over again, eh? Just kidding!
Thanks for reading and happy, safe climbing to all.
Brainwashed Carolyn, a.k.a. "Dragger"