February 6th is Bob Marley’s birthday and is also my climbing birthday. I started climbing in 1994 at the Pacific Edge on that date. So this year I got wound up in a cloud of ideas for first ascents, but spent the whole weekend fielding calls from bailing partners. As a last resort I called Steven Herbert, who agreed to come a long, but he said I would have to call when I wake in the morning to make sure.
So we headed down and saw Joe riding his bike on the big straight away on 25. He spoke of the Mud N Crud get together taking place in the high peaks, But I had other plans.
Our first destination was the Monolith to replace the stolen mussy hook from Feed The Beast. We climbed Cantaloupe Death and then moved over to replace Tom’s stolen hook. We decided against climbing Feed the Beast as we were still pretty trashed from a mega bouldering session at Castle Rock two days prior.
Just as we started to contemplate heading out towards Peeling Away, a route which Mr Mud had bolted and TRed and not led, Chapu and Steven Ford appeared.
For those of you who don’t know Chapu Villenueva. He is young underprivileged Mexican boy who could climb like Sharma one day. The Santa Cruz community has come together to raise funds for Chapu to fly to Spain this summer to climb and stay with Sharma. Chapu is also a champion in Jiu-jitsu.
Chapu is motivated to train and is pushed very hard by his dad and some folks in the community. I climbed Foreplay while Chapu looked on, and he motivated to climb it himself.
In this case Sebastian, Chapu’s father, brought a whistle to help him practice falling. As soon as it blows you must Jump!
Chapu failed, when the whistle blew he down climbed until the bolt was at his waist then jumped.
Next time he only down climbed one move before falling.
Here he is doing what he does best, actually climbing.
This might be a case of an indoor phenomenon. He has no problem falling at will in the gym. I don’t think he is ready for Sharma’s attention quite yet. On the other side of things Sebastian did fall practice on POD and climbed even further below the bolt before jumping. Like father, like son, I guess.
Chapu's little brother Tenoch had no problem falling on the Direct Route. And he has a Bob Marley style chalk bag.
So we got bored and stashed out extra gear and began the trudge toward Little Mustagh and Peeling Away. It was a really hot walk. We ended up bushwhacking a little more than necessary to get from the area of The Unmentionable to Peeling Away. But we eventually spotted it. It climbs the wall on the right of the grotto.
All I knew about the climb was that it had 6-8 bolts, anchors, was 60-80 feet tall and had been bolted and TRed by Dennis Erik Mr Mud. He had given me detailed dirrections and given me the first lead if I could do it stating it was likely 11b or so. I have to say that initially I thought the whole setup might be a joke due to a past misunderstanding I had with Erik. While bushwhacking I feared there would be no bolts on Peeling Away. But the past misconceptions were put aside by the genuine nature of his email about the climb and our past issues.
So there it was Peeling Away. Not quite 60-80 feet, more like 40-50 feet with bolts included. It was a real route, but it looked pretty loose. Standing at the base I tried to spot the holds which I thought would not break off, I couldn’t see any holds that didn’t look like they wouldn’t break off. The climb didn’t look like much but I was out here and I did not want failure to be an option.
So I roped up and made a conscious decision to wear shorts instead of pants on the climb. I knew a fall from the climb could be ugly for my skin and bones, I implemented my no fall because I am wearing shorts strategy. That’s the secret weapon!
In addition to the shorts I made sure to adjust my brain to the proper settings before I started climbing. I chose the runout and friable rock setting, which was a little rusty. I have been bouldering and sport climbing a quite a bit, so the 5.13 and crank settings are fine tuned at this point. I felt a little out of place but I knew I could handle it if I approached it with the right mentality. I was put to the test for the whole distance which morphed from the actual 40-50 feet to 60-80 mental feet as soon as I left the ground.
Right above the first bolt I grabbed a sharp undercling which seemed like an 80lbs max hold. Three points of contact was in order as I pulled into the first tricky sequence. Most of the holds felt like they were ready to go so it was pretty full value lead. It didn’t take me long to realize how appropriate the name was for this climb. I had visions of the flake and myself “Peeling Away”. I would have visions like this the whole way.
There was tricky high step mantel move above the 2nd bolt which really got my heart going. From this point on I could hear my heartbeat, and it was strong and fast. The only other time I had heard my heartbeat before was while squeezing through narrow passages while caving. The heavy heartbeat was also partially due to the position of the bolts. Almost every bolt was six inches out of reach at each stance, which forced me to do extra moves on friable lichen cover holds to clip those bolts. I guess Erik is taller than me. Damn tall people!
So I slowly worked my way up Peeling Away removing about 30 lbs of unnecessary rock along the way. I can’t tell you how long it took, but it felt like an hour or so. I never lost the focus. Every time I left a stance I committed to barely attached holds that were ready to peel. But somehow I was able to leave the most important holds on the wall. The weight capacity of some of those holds has to be only 30-40 lbs. I am not sure if it was my skill or luck that got me up the climb, but somehow I made it up without falling and without killing Steven. I was surprised that I made it.
Despite the quality of the rock I still did really enjoy the climbing or maybe it was the challenge I liked. I now have a better understanding of what Mud n Crud can do to a person. When I reached the top everything around me was so much clearer, the lichen popped with beautiful colors, the knobs were a little sharper, and I could almost see without my glasses. Just kidding, everything felt the same on top. I didn’t really feel anything. Actually I did feel something, I needed a shower bad. I know I made it to the top and I was the first to free it, but I didn’t know what it meant, so I went down pulled the draws off and walked back to The Monolith, this time without bushwhacking.
Little Mustagh looked incredible on the way out, which brought out the common sentiment of Pinnacles from Steven, “If only the rock was good”. But that is a huge part of the Pinnacles adventure. Even though I wouldn’t give Peeling Away any stars, I would say it is well named and worth climbing if you like the challenges inherent in loose rock climbing. That said the climb is in a beautiful setting in a lush grotto. with a seasonal waterfall at its back. I think I might have been at the upper threshold for weight on this route. If anybody over 150 lbs leads this thing I will make sure to get that person a six pack of beer next time I see them. I guess I would say that Peeling Away would be 5.11b if it were in the Rubine book or 5.11a in Brad’s book because he is tall. But I assume the grade will change if anybody else decides to climb Peeling Away. So good luck folks.
Little Mustagh, still waiting a free ascent!
So we went back to see if Chapu had gotten over his fear of falling yet. And he had. His attempts on Hot Lava Lucy had gone well, and he thought he could do it next time. Chapu had never climbed Feed the Beast and was nice enough to put the draws on it for me.
It was a pretty nice day at Pinnacles. It was fun watching the next generation starting to push it here and also go push myself into a different realm.