Overhang Overpass- bar dips and a hangover

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Overhang Overpass- bar dips and a hangover

In 1974 Charlie Porter saw that I was coping with an excess of unfocused energy so he told me about this beautiful, super clean corner high up on Lower Cathedral Rock that he had just tried. He and Mark Chapman had climbed the short 5.9 (old school) first pitch but had been stymied by a bulge in the corner itself.

John Bragg, equally restless, decided to go up with me and have a look. With blessings from Charlie, John and I soloed the initial few hundred feet of Overhang Bypass, which served as the approach to the corner. After a bit of a thrutch over the overhang on the first pitch we came face to face with the corner. Wow! Porter hadn’t exaggerated. The corner was a beauty, clean and elegant something we could really sink our teeth into. Unfortunately, we had bitten off more than we could chew. We struggled up past a fixed piton (courtesy of Charlie and Mark) and came to a screeching halt at a 2- inch bong they had placed just below the bulge. We couldn’t get high enough above the bong to take what would qualify as a fall. The ignominy of it all, thoroughly chastened we limped back to the Valley just in time for our usual session at the Mountain Room Bar.

I had never before had what I would call a project but I couldn’t get that corner out of mind. What was I lacking? Not gear, I was fully equipped with E.B’s, swami belt, chalk bag and the best pitons and nuts that money could buy. I know, I’m too frigin weak. Luckily, the idea of training was just beginning to emerge and Camp 4 was now fully equipped with parallel bars and a pull up bar- the slack line would arrive a few months latter. I found bar dips easier than pull ups so I attacked the parallel bars with a vengeance. In a short period of time I was doing 60 rep sets.

Suddenly, I felt ready. A friend of mine, Bill Putnam had just arrived from Boulder and was eager to have a look. Our pre climb session at the bar that night took on a life of it’s own and the next morning I was greeted with a hangover that pushed back the adventure a day. Good thing, my body was able to rest after all of those dips.

The next day, head clear, we began the approach, but not before Bill told me that, since he was out of shape, he wanted to assume belay slave status. The first pitch out of the way, I once again confronted the corner. Based on my first encounter I assumed that if I got over the bulge I would be home free- WRONG! I was suffering from an optical illusion; the corner above the bulge appeared to kick back to less than vertical.

Bulging with new muscle (thanks to the bar dips) I climbed to the fixed bong and surmounted the bulge with something approximating ease only to encounter the REAL problem. There I was 10 feet above the bong staring up at a seemingly endless, parallel sided, vertical, off fingers crack. Was I bold- no, dumb- yes, but not so much so that I didn’t immediately realize that there was no way I could possibly hold on with rattly fingers and at the same time manipulate a nut into a useful placement in a parallel sided crack. Where were the cams I needed? Oh, I remember, about five years in the future.

The wuss factor won out, and unwilling to do the gentlemanly thing and jump off 10 feet above my gear, I launched on up, desperately hoping to find easy ground QUICKLY. Not so, adrenalin and fear propelled me for a full 30 feet before I found a couple of opposing footholds that allowed a thank god stem. My heart sounded like Buddy Rich beating drums on my chest as I placed a bomber stopper.

As far as I know the climb didn’t get a second ascent until the development of cams a few years later allowed for more casual protection options. That’s the nice thing about first ascents- ignorance is bliss.