Think about the elements of a great climbing trip: Good friends both new and old, a spectacular setting, awesome climbing, maybe a couple big falls, if you’re lucky a proud send or two, and music, beer and stories around the campfire. Last weekend at Shuteye Ridge had all of it. If you’re looking for rad climbing photos from Shuteye, check this out. Here I wanted to capture a speck of what makes the rest of Shuteye so memorable.
Jonathan, Alania, Steven and I spent days visiting High Eagle crag where the Aerie cliff hosts some of the hardest routes in the area as well as Electric Eagle, an incredible 400 foot rainbow-striped monolith.
Steven is silly strong and has no hesitation to push is limits on 5.13+ or even harder. He’s constantly positive, enthusiastic and looking for the next challenge. Partnering with him was a blast and kept me motivated the entire trip.
Since Shuteye is at higher altitude with variable weather and requires off road capability I never know when an opportunity will arise to go. October was the last time we made the trek. With so much time and uncertainty between trips I’m hesitant to do anything but onsight climbing. But though I remembered exactly zero beta, I didn’t forget having a great time and coming close on War Eagle (5.12d) at The Aerie. The climb fits my style – powerful, technical, sequential moves on slightly overhung rock. Just to the left of War Eagle is a recently freed 5.13+ that gave Steven a reason to put on his climbing shoes.
Most people take a circuitous route through the first section of War Eagle that avoids a hard boulder problem crux. But to me the direct variation is too much fun to pass up. My optimism was fatal when I pulled on for the first go, pitching off at that crux. The upper crux was no bargain either and felt like reading braille. I could hear the rock laughing at me as I tried in vein to piece together vagaries of younger beta. Finally I just scrapped my notions of rediscovery and started from scratch. I found a new sequence with a dynamic foot movement off a sharp gaston and a reachy undercling. The moves were actually easier to downclimb. So I was humbled but had an answer to the puzzle and the draws hung. Steven put together much of the neighboring route, using all of his +7 ape index to get through the wild V10 crux.
I started my second attempt with a defiant optimism, and squeaked through the low boulder problem only to find myself dangling from the end of the rope when a foot hold broke while resting before the upper crux. Evidently the day was going to be a fight with the Climbing Gods.
So I began my third attempt with an agitated optimism but was too depleted to pull it off. War Eagle was turning into more of a chore than I had anticipated but I was more determined than ever to send the amazing line.
The 4WD campground to access High Eagle is a great place to meet new friends and we shared beers and stories of the day’s vertical events around the campfire with other groups of Bay Area climbers before crashing under the sharp stars.
On day two Jonathan and I each took quality whips at Electric Eagle when holds shattered in our hands. Both the roads and routes at Shuteye Ridge are rustic. The highlight of the day was topping out the formation on Taipan Rising, a perfect 5-pitch 5.11 A0 with the potential for a seriously strong climber to free the aid sections…
Day three had arrived. The sun was intense and we were sore. But after warming up on some amazing techy 5.10s, I felt ready for another crack at War Eagle. I started off with a lethal optimism and nailed the first crux before cruising through the annoyingly difficult 5.11 that leads to the the business. The upper boulder problem is a long sequence of hard moves ending with two desperate stabs that require not only power but reward precision. I felt solid but undershot the last move, pausing for a second as my agonized fingertips fought a losing battle with the threshold of a rounded edge. I knew that was my chance. I pulled back on and finished the route, the upper 5.11 feeling tauntingly easy after the unintended rest.
Steven put together big sections of the monster on the left. It’s fun to watch him climb. With another trip he will have a great chance at a truly proud line. Meanwhile Jonathan knocked out an onsight of a rarely done 5.11+ mixed route on High Eagle and Alania was putting the send down on a couple of Shuteye’s amazing slab routes.
Looking ahead to a long drive back to the Bay, the trip was winding down. You could hear it in the surrounding silence. With the draws still up on War Eagle, I tied in for one last run and pulled on with an inspired pessimism. Send.
Thanks to Jonathan, Alania and Steven for a great trip. I want to go back tomorrow.