So after my recent bail from the Zodiac and a little too much time between El Cap routes (like a whole two weeks man!), Scott and I were itchin’ for some more fun. Unfortunately and fortunately (for me) Scott has climbed most of the trade routes and so he was looking for something a little more adventurous, so we set our sights on Never Never Land. This would be my third time up on the Captain, but only my second route involving wall life (we did Lurking Fear in a sort-of-day, slept on Thanksgiving Ledge because it was just so rad), so I was pretty excited for all the logistics and the harder climbing.
We blasted out of Santa Cruz a little earlier than on our previous trips, arriving at the bridge by about 11:00pm or so. We took a few minutes to move everything from the car to the dirt, then into the haul bags. Our bags were heavy, but not unbearable, at least until I tried to stand up while leaning a bit too far forward, sending my overloaded 80-100ish pound bag rolling over my head sending me into a forward somersault off the road into the dirt.
Bags packed and situated with two beers in the belly we started the trudge up to the Nose then beyond. The hike was familiar, having done it so recently to get to Lurking fear. I was glad, however, that we would be stopping at the Wings of Steel bivy where our bags would stay the next day.
In the morning, after cooking up a cup of Jet fuel grade instant coffee and 6 egg avocado burritos we set out. I was going to lead the first block of pitches, going as far as I wanted then changing over and sending Scott on to Timbuktu Tower.
I started up a mungy corner to skip the fourth class down and around stuff at the base. The corner was kinda tricky and filled with dirt but I was soon on track doing 5.7 OW with a wall rack and sneakers on. The fist pitch ends on a ledge leading to an amazing A2 sawed angles and hooking traverse pitch. Probably one of the most fun pitches I have done. These were my first pins I have hammered, striking up an addiction that will be hard to crave.
End of P1
The hooking moves on the pitch were some of the most fun. They were moderately easy, but to avoid pounding pins I would do 5 or 6 in a row to get from lower out to lower out. After the first two pitches we rapped straight back to the ground and hauled the bags up to us across the Great Slab that makes up Wings of Steel and other exciting routes.
P2 – Which one do I use?!
Ok Ill just wail on it!
After hauling, I set out onto a rivet ladder that lead to another horizontal traverse pitch under a small roof. The rivets were freshly replaced button heads, however, the damn things were at least 6 feet apart. They were so far apart that even with my 6’1” reach I had to top step my aiders and use a wire hanger to reach the rivets. It was strenuous and a real pisser.
a little lower out
Pitch 4 was an incredible pitch, traversing under a small roof on decent cams. We brought along a #6 which allowed me to avoid a long stretch of rotten C3, moves making it an easier C2ish. After getting a good placement the crack pinched and it was easiest to use inverted cam hooks into some difficult A2 or A3 hooking with serious fall potential (because I had to skip the bolt below me to make cleaning easier).
Looking for those hooking moves and rivet ladder
After pitch 5 scott took over leading an OW aid pitch up a large steep corner. This connected to a C2 5.8ish pitch bringing us to Timbuktu Tower. We had originally planned to fix a pitch off Timbuktu, but with the sun setting, the amazing location, and 3 beers each for the night calling our names we decided to skip it and just do it all tomorrow.
P6 OW Aiding grunt fest
Some folks are down there like ants…damned if I can see them now…
Beautiful headwall, is that Salathe headwall?
Timbuktu Tower – so close – so flat!
Breakfast of Kings
The second and third days of climbing were incredible. They were a bit slower than expected but moved us off the huge apron slab of the lower half of the wall and onto a wildly steep upper wall. The hammers were out for most of the day with a few pins here and there on most pitches.
Pitch 8 off Timbuktu Tower
One of the cruxes of the climb turned out to be an unsuspecting C2+ or 5.8 hooking pitch. When I jugged by, it sure didn’t look like there was anything 5.8 about it. The climbing moved past 10-15 feet of loose, expanding flakes requiring a gentle touch and a lot of side to side wandering.
One of the cruxes, loose expanding hooking.
It was a little warm, but I kept the sun off
After this we hit a beautiful C2 double arch corner on georgeous golden rock. This would be the pitch to move us left into the A2 Lost Arrows scooped out corner that would span the next 300+ feet of climbing. After this corner, I took over the leading, starting out before night fall and taking it into the night shift.
Double arch corner, a blown rivet was bypassed with a sporty bat hook towards the end
P9 - ? I think…
It suddenly got very steep!
That’s a biiiiig head!
We had been looking at the topo for pitch 11 and kept asking ourselves what the hell “C1 Barnacles” followed by “C2+ Slime” meant. Well it looked exactly like it sounds, weird calcified, wart-like, barnacle-like formations covered the wall and the flared corner. They were surprisingly strong, and amazingly sharp. The corner required my right side to consistently press into the things, scraping me up and covering me in thick brown, dirty slime all at the same time.
Oh that’s going to be slime soon!
There was a transfer from the main corner to a spliter on the left wall requiring a few Lost Arrows and tricky cam hooks for upwards progress. I remember narrating the crack like it was a golf game, until I got to the hard part and had to shut it up and focus.
Getting up there!
There are some folks..
The next few pitches all blur together in a steep and thin upwards push for a few pitches, most of which were done in the dark. There was a really hard penji at one point before a belay where I had to penji to a large hueco, climb a little and then swing into mega bushy corner, get set stemming, and blind place a #2. It was awesome.
Finally at about 1230 or so I pulled to the top of pitch 14, Long Ledge, where we decided to call it for the night, leaving 4 pitches for the next day to get to Thanksgiving Ledge, and then 2 easy pitches to the summit.
Long Ledge was pretty much exactly that, long, not wide, but it provided a nice stance and enough room to get the ledge set up with a little less effort. After a beer and some food we promptly passed out, waking up about 4.5 hours later for the final stretch.
Break down the ledge at Long Ledge
Today was going to be Scotts block, so after getting packed up and caffeinated we set out. The climbing again was slower than expected. This is no trade route. Pin placements were not scarred, dirt and plants needed to be pushed aside or pulled out. Loose rock had to be navigated. Microwave size blocks avoided. The climbing was excellent with what Scott described as the “All time hammering crack” taking several sawed angles, Lost arrows and Beaks. The climbing may have been fun, but I was lucky enough to get to enjoy my first thrill of funknessing pins out from the cracks and experiencing that satisfying THWAAANGGG.
Our favorite meadow
Old ass dowels on P15 leading to the Pinnacle of Hammerdom!
A3 Ramp on pitch 16 (needs a dowel replacement, unless you can reach the hook move)
The wart must be hooked!
P17 – Classic hammertime pitch, SOs and Las
Grit and bear it.
A3 Microwave size block avoiding
A little before sunset we arrived on Thanksgiving Ledge and shuttled our gear 200 feet up the way to the final 2 pitches of Lurking Fear.
Give me my free shoes and a free rack, I am going to end this bitch!
We ended up topping out around 830 or so. The plan had originally been to hike down and drive home this day, but that was not looking like a possibility. We made some phone calls, I got the following day off work and we headed to the summit where we found a nice bivy, had a little fire, finished up most of our food and crashed out for the night, leaving the rest of the hike and drive home for the next day.
All in all, it was a fantastic route, a little dirty at times, but amazing crack systems, fun features, good climbing. It was no trade route and had a really adventurous feel to it. It has a good view and some classic ledges and bivies.