This has to be one of my favorite “50 Classics” so far. While denigrating the top half of the route seems to be a popular activity on MountainProject, it feels a little like downrating the North Ridge of Stuart for the low-fifth above the Great Gendarme — its the final adventurous cap to a great trip. And the first 400 foot crack more than makes up for it.
The weather wasn’t looking too great for Monday, so we decided to start early and run out the pitches to lessen the belay changeovers. From what we’d read the climb had ledges every 70 meters or so, and could be cut down into a 7x70m block, with seemed like way too much fun to pass up.
The first pitch was by far the best, with one continuous ~210 foot finger and hand crack to a large ledge. There was a short section of rather tenuous polished 5.9 (which I managed to make more so by kicking out the nut I was protecting it with while going for a foot jam), but otherwise it was locker finger jams. The wet part everyone talks about was mostly easy hand jams so it didn’t change things much, and with a little simul-climbing from Sandy I was up at the first ledge and belaying her up.
The second pitch clamped down to mostly fingers and became very slick, but took protection everywhere and so kept up the 5.fun action. You could stem between the two walls of the corner, and by the time you pulled the roof the hard climbing was over. Then it was fun jug hauling up to the next ledge with a piton, just a few feet before hitting the 70m mark.
With the first 400 feet done the continuous crack petered out, but there were still plenty of short cracks and features to link together to move upwards. A few moderate sections link to Crescent Ledge on the right, from which you can take a deceptively tricky corner back left towards the route. This is not rated highly, but is mostly face climbing and would unpleasant to fall on. Eventually I escaped left and upwards onto some creaky flakes, belaying just before the next ledge system when I ran out of rope. If I were to do this again I’d move onto the flakes immediately and not place any pro on Crescent Ledge, allowing the rope to run straight and giving a few extra feet to reach the next belay.
From the large ledge the climb makes a sickle shape, gradually steepening on low fifth until curving back on flakes to a roof. The holds were all there to make this low-key, fun climbing, but the gear wasn’t great for the traverse on the flakes until you get to a piton in the roof. A few lieback moves takes you over the roof and up another corner to a belay and the end of the technical difficulties.
The promised thunderstorms had not appeared, so we continued running up the low fifth for a 70m pitch, and then I quested straight upwards towards the top for another 70m. This wasn’t on route, and the crumbly rock and sparse protection showed it, but it kept it engaging to find my own way on the easier sections. After another tree belay, I traversed left along a ledge and up another 100 feet, topping out on the wide flat dome of Fairview.
There were obvious cairns leading back to the bottom after hundreds of feet of slab climbing, with a few sections where you definitely want to pay attention. A fall here would not be a pretty sight.
Having finished this goal, we went back to camp to cook up some veggies and prepare for tomorrow’s Cathedral Peak.