With so much amazing climbing around Boulder, my priorities usually don’t involve lengthy projects. A number of the routes I’ve had success on this year have required around five total attempts over the course of 2-3 days. Most of those routes I’ve chosen because they are compelling lines worth multiple visits. But in the back of my mind, I’ve wanted to push myself a little more and find a line that was not only compelling, but would force me to become a better climber.
Ultrasaurus fit the bill perfectly. First, it is truly a four-star route. Beautiful red, lichen-streaked, crisp rock forms a continuous path from the base of Dinosaur Rock’s north face all the way to the summit. The steady gentle overhang and distinct roof result in a keen sense of exposure that sharpens the senses. If pushing it at the top, trying to send, you might risk a 30 footer (shown above). The climb scales 40 meters over 16 bolts and requires not only power and precision, but tests pure endurance like I’ve never experienced.
Just to the left are the independent lines Milk Bone, also 5.13a and The Shaft at 5.12b. The three lines are all phenomenal routes and have served as testpieces for Boulder climbers for the last several years. Matt Samet, Ted Lanzano and Chris Weidner, among others have developed the north face of Dinosaur Rock and a big thanks goes out to them for all their hard work. Below you’ll find some fantastic pictures from D-Rock (Dariusz Kuczynski) of me redpointing Ultrasaurus, Ian redpointing Milk Bone and Tyler making rapid progress on his new project, The Shaft.
Though until Sunday, the best I had managed on Ultrasaurus was two falls, I felt like it could go on the next attempt. There are two objectives on the climb. 1. Get past the first 100 feet of pump clean and rest. 2. Hold on through the second crux.
If the two sections of Ultrasaurus were broken into two pitches, the climb would probably be rated 5.12c. Putting them together is what ups the difficulty. My first attempt on Sunday was the first time I was able to get to the rest below the second crux clean. Tyler’s photo of me taking a huge fall was the result of that attempt.
Meanwhile, Ian, having already dispatched Ultrasaurus a few weeks ago, turned his attention to Milk Bone. He also took a nice whip on his first attempt of the day, pulling out rope to clip before being sent flying by a blown foot. Milk Bone is more technically difficult than Ultrasaurus and although requires a good amount of stamina, isn’t as long.
After long rests, Ian and I decided to give our respective lines one more effort. It was inspiring watching Ian fight through the hard moves on Milk Bone and then gut out the last crux guarding the chains for the redpoint. It should be noted that Tyler gave Ian one of the greatest belays in the history of the world.
Tommy, Kate and Tyler all had their attention on The Shaft and all did well. Tyler had climbed the line earlier in the week, but cut the number of falls down to less than five on his Sunday go. With some endurance training and getting the beta dialed, I have no doubt that he’ll send the proud line. The same goes for Sir. Thomas Oviatt.
After being inspired by Ian’s gutsy send, I hopped back on Ultrasaurus. Again, I made it through the roof crux and, with a desperate lunge, to the rest below the ominous second crux. Having climbed up to clip the crux draw and then back down to the rest, I wedged myself into an alcove and spent a good five minutes composing myself, slowing my breathing and depumping. Then it was time to roll. I fired through the stressful stemming sequence and felt time stop as I latched the good crimp that ended the difficulties. Taking my time through the last 5.11 move, I clipped the anchor and took in the fleeting feeling of accomplishment that comes in the moments hard work pays off.
Anyone who has climbed with me knows I like to push my limits, but don’t determine success based on grades. I think it’s a shame when an amazing but sandbagged route gets less attention than another line that may be soft for the grade. Though he has sent several 5.13s, I’ll bet if you ask him, Ian would tell you his hardest redpoint is the incredible El Camino Real in Lumpy Ridge at 5.12c. But however flawed, grades do provide important benchmarks of a climber’s progress. After 5 years in the sport, it’s not every day that I break into a new number grade. I feel good having sent my first 5.13 and I’m hoping it’s the first of many to come!
All in all, Ultrasaurus took me nine attempts over the course of six days. It was worth it. Now I’d like to follow in Ian’s footsteps and try my luck on Milk Bone. Fortunately, I have a few friends who still have work to to on The Shaft…
*Thanks to D-Rock for some amazing photos. I recommend checking out his website here.