Column of the Giants

This past weekend I had the privilege of visiting a new crag called Column of the Giants (actually called ‘Columns of the Giants’ but no one says it like that for some reason). Column of the Giants is a small and very steep basalt crag in Tuolumne County near the Sonora Pass. I went with my friend Vian who is a badass under the radar 5.14 climber. Although unintentional, this is probably the first “girls only” climbing trip I’ve ever been on.  A bunch of good people we know also came out; Rick and Denise, Pete and Lydia, Allen, Bryan and Erin and some people I met for the first time. Pretty much the same crew that climbs at Jailhouse every year. The style of climbing here is so steep and bizarre that it took me all of Saturday to get used to. It’s probably the most pumped I’ve ever gotten on the biggest blocky jugs you can imagine. It’s a good thing Vian was there because I needed lots of beta.

We've arrived!

Making lunch before the hike up to the cliff.

Lunch. Mmmmmm basil!

View of the cliff on the hike up.

Lydia of 'Lydia's Mouth' fame on her project.

The "warm ups"

When we got there Vian picked out a warm up that she said was 5.11ish. Later on Lydia informed us that our “warm up” was a 5.12b. Needless to say, we were flash-pumped out of our minds the rest of the day.

Buster, Pete and Lydia's doggie. The tongue never goes back in the mouth.

Caspian, smartest dog in the world, rides on Bryan and Erin's scooter with them around the city.

The view out of part of the cave. Actually steeper than it looks.

One of the most exciting parts of the trip was when Rick spotted a baby Swift that had fallen out of it’s nest and onto the talus below. I named it Raisin.

Vian using her sleeves to pick up Raisin.

Me and little Raisin.

We soon discovered that Raisin had lice. Ick! We originally wanted to take him home and rescue him by bringing him to the animal shelter but, sadly and after much deliberation, we decided that it would be best if we just let nature run its course. We knew Raisin would probably die as most baby birds do who fall out of the nest and have to go without food, water or shelter. So sad. RIP Raisin.

The last place we ever saw Raisin.

On a lighter note, Vian and I both sent a climb called Spin Doctor (12d). It’s an 80 foot long horizontal roof climb on big flat jugs. The beta is a little cryptic and there are many kneebars. Luckily, Vian had all the beta already from a previous trip. The climb is very pumpy and has a boulder problem crux right at the end when you are most pumped. There is an interesting rest involving a flat block shaped like a table top upon which you get your knees on top of and upside-down kneebar with your feet above your head essentially bat-hanging as a rest.  We decided that it was the hardest 12d either of us had ever been on and that it had to be 13a. But maybe it’s just the style of climbing we are not used to. It’s not very common to encounter an 80 foot roof climb at any given sport climbing area. I also sent a 12a called Delirious that is similar to Spin Doctor only easier because the jugs are much more incut. At one point the climb is so steep that you are climbing downwards before turning a lip and climbing up slightly less steep terrain to the anchors. Dope.

Kneepad application. (photo by Bryan Alberstat)

Me on the beginning of Spin Doctor. (photo by Bryan Alberstat)

Spin Doctor just before its get REALLY steep. (photo by Bryan Alberstat)

I can’t help getting excited about the upcoming season. The beginning of Fall is just around the corner and with it comes the start of Jailhouse season. Our little trip really whet my appetite for the long, steep and blocky routes that I fell in love with there last winter.

We left with some major jug rash the likes of which I've only ever gotten in the gym.

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