For spring break, 99, I was all set to go to Arkansas, to climb for a week in the Sam's Throne Area. It seemed like a convenient place for Victor to go from Dallas. However, Victor vetoed that option, looking for something else. Him and Stan Hammon (also from Dallas), decided they would drive to J-Tree, so I ended up flying there and joining them.The granite at J-Tree is rough on the hands, although tape can help there. The friction is awesome, although I didn't trust it at first, especially when leading. Lots of great climbing ... we are sure to come back again.
We climbed at Indian Cove for the first two days, where I got pretty freaked on a couple of "easy" pitches where the protection was not that good. Scored a #2 Camalot as booty, it had been forgotten at a belay, and toproped a bunch of stuff too. The idea was to get a bunch of 5.2 climbs in (Victor wanting to lead some). Some of the climbs I remember :
We moved on to Hidden Valley, which is a neat place, full of climbers. We had our fire, and the beer going every night, which was a treat onto itself. Our first objective was The Eye (5.1, but a lot scarier), which Victor led. Moves were easy, but a lot of those flakes which made it easy looked very ready to break ...
After our descent from Cyclops Rock, more easy climbs were to be found at Echo Cove. Aside from the Indian Cove area, this was the one place we explored in depth. Our initial goal was to climb another 5.2 so as to gain the bolt anchors for a couple of 5.8 face climbs on the left side of the cove. It went OK, but I found myself unwilling to commit to the last 15 feet which involved an ascending traverse of a slab to the anchors. The challenge loomed, and I was psyched, but the prospect of sketching far out from my last piece, and swinging back into the dihedral I had just climbed was really unpleasant. Everything was low angle, but I had never before climbed something like this section. Pass...
It was becoming apparent that figuring out how to climb friction while on lead may not be optimal for me. So I decided we might as well set up some topropes rather than insist on leading everything. Victor led another 5.2 on the other side of the slab, which offered a less committing traverse to the same anchors mentioned before. On toprope, predictably, we were successful with both 5.8 climbs, and started to feel more comfortable. We were back the next day, also at Echo Cove, where we toproped RAF (5.9, really nice), some variation to the left of it (5.10), and later Big Moe (5.11a, none of us made it). We met up with a local climber, who was recovering after a pretty serious accident suffered on Half Dome, and who of course managed to flash the 5.11 in one climbing shoe and one hiking boot.
We concluded the by hiking through the Wonderland of Rocks, to Astro Domes and back. The place has a magical quality, it's as if the succession of domes and rocks were made exactly for the sunset light and vice-versa. Mental Physics (5.7+), definitely made it on my tick list.
We had another scheduled day of climbing, but Victor and Stan decided to split a bit early to get a head start on their long drive back. Not wanting to spend the night by myself, I went one up on them and took off early in the morning to get back one day earlier than planned. After the last evening by the fire, the last beer, and the last look at the incredibly starlit night sky, my thoughts shifted towards home. I would catch one extra day at work (i.e. one extra day of vacation saved for another climbing trip), and then take off for a week in London.
I learned :