March 1999
Pinnacles Rock Climbing
Steve "Fitz" Fitzmorgan

Pinnacles - Trip Report
Subtitled - Lessons Learned

At 8:15 am I received a call from Gina stating that she and Jeff would be running a little late, and she expected they would arrive at my house by 8:45 or so. At around 8:45 am they did indeed arrive, and we quickly decided which car to take and continued to load everything into the Jimmy. Of course we had to stop and get some gas, and then stop again to get some food.

After a solid 2 hours of driving, we pulled into the Pinnacles and instantly got stuck behind some tourists at the check-in station (I think they were playing cards with the ranger). Finally after paying our $5 entrance fee, we found out that both of the standard parking lots were full so we had to park in the picnic area lot which happens to be about a mile from the info center.

Once stopped, we pulled out our gear, lightened the loads slightly, and started our hike in. At about 12:00 we came up on Tourist Trap and noticed that nobody was there, so we figured that this would be a great place to start. Gina decided that since she had already seconded Rat Race (5.7 **), that she would like to lead it. Jeff and I were fine with that, so I set her up with all the gear including my helmet. She looked at me and asked if the helmet was really necessary. She said something about the "geek factor", and that someone she used to climb with would have been laughing at her for wearing it. I said that if she planned on climbing with me and my gear, the helmet came as part of it.

Gina started up, and she looked strong and confident, placing enough gear but not too much. Once she got to the roof, she protected the back corner of the roof and started up. She found the bucket hold and tried to come around the outside, but fell (HARD), not just a couple of feet mind you, but a good 15 foot with a twist. When she fell she started doing a backwards flip. Her feet touched the rock first, quickly followed by her back, then with a big CRACK, the back of the helmet!

She spun herself around and thanked me for making her wear the helmet, then started back at the roof. This time she protected the outside of the roof, and proceeded to work it with little effort and plenty of grace. After setting up a belay, she took both Jeff and myself up, and once again thanked me for making her wear the helmet.

We decided that Jeff should lead Swallow Crack (5.6 ***), so we headed on over to the Discovery Wall. Of course when we got there it was busy, so I decided to lead Fly-By (5.9 *). It was my first lead of the year, and I figured that a Pinnacles 5.9 would be a piece-o-cake. I geared up, put my helmet on and was on my way. I got up to the roof, and decided that there weren't enough foot holds to continue on with, so I downclimbed and traversed left till I found a route up.

It was pretty thin, and I was happy to find a couple bolts along the way, but by the time I tried to exit the roof I was pumped. I was two-thirds of the way through when I popped and proceeded to take a 25 footer. Fortunately it was mostly air, and I ended up with only a few scrapes and bruises. After a few minutes I was back at it, and this time I too protected the roof, and proceeded through it with much less effort than the first attempt.

After setting up the belay station, Jeff followed with what seemed to be little problem. Next it was Gina's turn, and she had the pleasure of removing the last piece that I placed in the back corner of the roof. I knew she was either going to have to down climb the same route I took, or take a pendulum fall back out onto the face. She started climbing and quickly got to the corner piece. Next thing I knew, I felt a big tug on the rope and heard a loud "WHOA!". She said that it was fun after the first second or two, and she also finished with no problems.

After descending, we found Swallow Crack was just opening up, so we set Jeff up with all the gear and sent him on his way. He got about half way when we decided it was getting late, and decided to lower him off. Even though he didn't get to finish, he certainly remembers what it's like to be on the sharp end again. We packed up our gear, hiked back to the car, and were at the park exit at 7pm. We stopped for some dinner, talked about the day, and then headed home.

Lessons Learned

  1. If I hadn't made Gina wear my helmet, she would have been SERIOUSLY injured or worse - no question about it! The helmet is damaged, not just scratched! (Both Gina and Jeff will be making a helmet one of their first purchases)
  2. If you use non-standard equipment (I use 2-8.5mm ropes instead of the usual 1-10.5mm), make sure you go over the proper use of it before you start climbing. We had some confusion, but nothing too serious.
  3. On a less serious note - If you're planning on heading to a popular destination, make sure you get there before the crowds do.

All in all, it was a good trip, I got to make a couple new friends, have an influence on their climbing safety, and get my first lead of the season done.




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