Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Attempts on Just Do It

I have now been back 6 weeks since another amazing trip to Smith Rock in Oregon. After climbing To Bolt or Not to Be last year, I always wondered what the other famous Jibe Tribout route at Smith, Just Do It, would be like. Climbed back in 1992 by Jibe, this legendary line was the first 5.14c or 8c+ in the USA. I had heard that it is a very different animal to To Bolt as it is similarly vertical in the bottom two thirds but leans back considerably in the upper third of the route. The climb goes up the west face of the incredible Monkey pinnacle, which has to be one of the most impressive rock formations I have ever seen. The top section of the Monkey has a distictive band of purple rock and this is where the meat of the climb lies. The bottom part is a recognised 13d (or 8b) in its own right with its own chains. The upper part, which is mostly in the purple rock is considered to be 14a (or 8b+). I had seen the excellent videos of Ryan Palo and Drew Ruana crushing the route before my trip so I had some idea of what to expect. The route is long, at 35m+ it is a 17 bolt monster!

Me on Just Do It at the upper shake out (I'm wearing a black T shirt about 15 foot into the purple rock)
It was obviously going to big a major challenge for me and with only 2 weeks available, there was limited time to get stuck in. With this in mind, I decided I would focus completely on the route as there would not be time to do other easier classic routes, although there are no shortage of them round these parts. I teamed up with a good friend of mine, Richard Waterton, who was also keen to have a go. We were joined on the route by Mike Doyle, one of Canada's top climbers fresh off his send of Necessary Evil 5.14c in the Virgin River Gorge.

The Team! (at Redmond Airport). Me and Richard
After touching down in Redmond airport, the next day, despite the jet lag, Richard and I headed up to the route via some warmups in the Aggro Gulley and got stuck in. The bottom part turned out to be surprisingly unsustained with an initial 5 bolts of hard, crimpy 8a+ climbing involving a very tweaky, almost slabby 2 finger pocket move leading to 3 bolts of much more moderate climbing of about 7a+/7b with 2 very good rests on jugs.

Mike Doyle on technical edge cranking by the 3rd bolt

Mike on the crux pocket move of the lower part by the 8th bolt
The crux of the lower part is at the 8th bolt and is a desparate deadpoint off a 2 finger pocket to a distant finger sloper which you must stick with perfect timing which leads to an excellent rest by the 9th bolt bridging on smears in a vague groove where you can hold onto a small ledge with the heel of your hands. (This is the famous 'Sharma rest' where he took off his jumper mid redpoint during his quick repeat back in 1997). This tricky move took a while to figure out but by my 3rd day on the route I had managed to redpoint the initial 8b. On my second day, I was able to do all the moves of the upper part so once I had got through the 8b section for the first time, I had a go at redpointing as far as I could get to and nearly made it to the 13th bolt so I was psyched.

Me approaching the shake out at the 13th bolt
The first moves of the upper section are not too hard and involve pumpy 7b/7b+ climbing with one big lock move to a sloper leading to some massive flat jugs by the 13th bolt, where you can shake out with your heel out left on a sloping ledge, although it is pretty strenuous to hang there for long - this is your rest before the upper crux.

Mike approaching the purple band, at the 11th bolt
The next 30 foot section is by far the hardest section of climbing on the entire route and is 8b in its own right. Off the flat jugs, some basic pulls on flat crimps lead to a desparate crank off a sika'd edge for your right hand to a terrible sharp 2 finger crimp for your left hand way out left, which is difficult to catch as you have to deadpoint for it. From this crimp the hardest move of the route is a massive and powerful lunge to a tiny toothlike crimp for the right hand which allows you to stretch left to what we christened the 'Jibe rest'. This is a hole which would be a decent hand jam were it not for the fact that a chockstone has been irretrievably wigged into there so those with sausage fingers (myself included!) can't get their fingers more than a couple of joints in; also you are only on smears for your feet. Off the Jibe rest, there are 11 further hand moves involving powerful slaps between two 2 finger pockets, some diagonal edges and finally some better holds before the easier top out moves (This last section alone could be a tricky 2 bolt 7c+ if it were on Peak limestone)

So basically to do the route, you must do a long, technical, vertical 8b to the Sharma rest, a further 7b+ to a steep shake out on some flat jugs followed by a steeper, short and powerful 8b. If the route is broken down in this way, it begins to sounds almost manageable, however redpointing is the only way to test this! I have put together this 10 minute video of Mike on an attempt on the route just to show what its all about:

 Video of attempt by Mike Doyle

Me just before the flat ledge and the upper 8b
On my 4th day, I managed to get to the flat jugs by the 13th and pressed on into the crux, surprising myself by reaching the sika'd edge by the 14th bolt and slapping out to the 2 finger crimp (there is big whipper to be had here, around 20 - 25 feet with rope stretch, as you can't clip the 14th bolt and are forced to skip it!) On my second burn, I managed to stick the 2 finger crimp but it was like hitting a brick wall, the tooth seemed miles away! I was encouraged by getting this far though and it seemed like I might possibly be in with a shout of cracking the route by the end of the trip.

Mike about to go for the lett hand 2 finger crimp at the upper crux (14th bolt) with the Jibe rest up and left
However, the moves leaving the Jibe rest are critical to getting the route done and on my link goes from the 13th bolt I hadn't managed to find a reliable method, even straining my right bicep in the process while extensively working the moves (there are 3 methods from the various videos to enable you to use a poor 2 finger pocket for the right hand take an awkward left hand gaston and then stab into a good 2 finger pocket again for the right hand). I think it was on my 5th day on the route that Mike pointed out a crucial footmatch and outside left edge on the sika'd crimp (used as a handhold earlier) which made a big difference. As we had found it was essential to take a rest day after each day of attempts as the nature of the climbing is so intense, my 6th session on the route would be on the 11th day of the trip, leaving only one further day of attempts -  nothing like a bit of pressure to spur you on!

On the 6th session I again got up to the 2 finger crimp but still failed on the lunge for the tooth, although it was feeling closer. I had a concerted effort to finally do the link of the upper 8b from the flat jugs by the 13th to the chain and got quite close to getting through but didn't quite make it to the good 2 finger pocket. In retrospect and with more time on the route, I should have concentrated more on doing this 8b link before I made any attempts from the ground. As it was, it was tempting to have 2 full blooded redponts from the deck every session, which meant that I never managed to do this crucial link, which would have been a massive psychological boost.
The Monkey, never ceases to amaze!
I decided to take 2 full rest days before my final, 7th session on the route. It wasn't meant to be though. Although I got up to the 2 finger crimp twice from the ground and ticked the tooth before the Jibe rest, feeling not a million miles from sticking it, though no cigar! Obviously although it was a little disappointing to go away without the tick, I was happy to feel good on the initial 8b, to have had 8 good attempts in total failing at the 14th bolt and to have finally found a good method on the upper exit moves. I was feeling a lot of soreness by the end of the trip under my left shoulder blade at some 'trigger points' in the rhomboid muscle, where it joins on to your ribcage and I decided to get this seen to by a physio as this could have been holding me back on the crux move to the tooth. (I have had 3 sessions so far with great results). There is always next time and having written down a full beta crib sheet on the plane home, I am fully amped to return for another crack as soon as I can armed with full knowledge of what the route entails and some specific training.

Sunset at the Monkey Face
Thanks for reading folks and I can fully recommend Smith Rock to anybody looking for incredible technical edge climbing on stunning faces and aretes, get to it, you know it makes sense!

Last morning onsight attempt on Scene of the Crime 5.13b/ 8a
Higher on Scene of the Crime

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