As I close in on 500 5.12s, I’ve found that the ones I have left to do at my home crag, the New River Gorge are mostly the HARD ones. Back in 2001 or 2002, I was a top rope tough guy maxing out at 5.11- or so. However, my climbing mentor Bob was doing his best to climb every 5.12 in the world. Despite me not being strong enough, I made a point of getting on EVERY single 5.12 I could. Looking back, I owe Bob big time for all the marathon belay/ “pull me up” sessions!
I’ve gone back and done just about every of these routes, though one route, “The Cutting Edge” 5.12b at Bubba City has continued to spit me off over the years. I specifically remember climbing 5.13 one day out there, yet once again, not being able to do the route! Two weekends ago, it was quite hot and conditions were bad, but I finally worked out the two crux sequences on the route. I went for a send go but got pumped mid-way through the second crux and blew it.
|Climbing Le Grand Fromage V5 at Moore’s Wall. Boulder is great training for routes! Photo Greg Loomis
This past weekend, though, it felt a lot better. I used typical “Siege Tactics”, rappelling off the top of the route to hang the draws, brush and chalk the holds, and work the crux moves hanging there. I extended several draws to make the clips easier and then waited for some clouds.
The route has open shuts, which was scary for coming top-down. I leaned over, dropped my rope over them and also clipped a biner to them, then did the reverse pull up on a couple of maybe dead trees. Because of the open shuts, my rope fell out of one of the shuts, but it stayed in the other and also, my biner stayed. A little scary though….
My fingers and body remembered what I taught them the previous weekend and I was happy to do the route pretty easily, though I still had to try hard, spending a lot of time between the first and second crux on really small hands, but good feet shaking. (I was 95-100 percent on all the moves which is always nice.)
About 10+ years ago, Eric Horst re-engineered the route to add a final 5.12- sequence going to the anchors instead of a jaunt up 5.easy slab to a (now dead) tree anchor. Unfortunately, this part of the route was wet, but “dry enough.” This ascent made for number 480 5.12s for me.
Here is some blow-by-blow beta if any of you ever want to try the route.
Cutting Edge starts on an easy scramble up pillar to a small ledge, then immediately launches into a “so-so feet” traverse right on steep jugs to the arete. A fairly long, but easy move leads to two great incut hand jugs, and an easy clip (but hard bolt to hang.) This is where it gets serious. Some smaller edges and a pretty high left foot leads to a slimper left undercling/sidepull. Unfortunately, there is a roof so the right foot just dangles, but I worked out a right toe hook under the roof to surf up to a pretty bad sloper/edge. From that, a move left to a good (well better) sloper leads to the next clip and a shake (though a poor one) before the real crux.
This route really works the left hand and a couple set-up moves lead to a ½ pad sidepull, a nothing smear for the left and a bad right back-step smear (glad to have my Tenaya Iatis.) From the sidepull you make a long move to a really bad pocket/crimp. Still about 80 percent on that left hand, walk feet up some and GO HARD again right hand to the better pocket. Sticking that pocket, you’re out of the woods if you can keep it together. A couple better feet lead to a good sidepull and clip. From here, there’s about 30 feet of 5.10+ or easier climbing and essentially a full recovery before launching into the finish. A hidden pocket on the arete leads left to a good hold, and then another pocket/pinch on the arete with some high feet leads to some pretty bad holds just below the moss covered top. The anchor clip is easy because the feet are good.