Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Highway 61

Yesterday, after a couple of previous attempts, I managed to nab the 2nd complete ascent of Highway 61 at Cathedral Ledge!

Highway 61 is a 4-6 pitch (Depending how you finish) 5.13a free variation to the aid route Mines of Moria that was put up back in 2003 by Tim Kemple. The route goes straight up the beautiful and intimidating Mordor Wall section of the cliff. The climbing is defined by powerful boulder problems on the slippery Cathedral granite protected by a combination of bolts, gear, and bashies at the route's crux. 

Cathedral Ledge showing our line of ascent

My friend Sam Bendroth and I had twice previously tried for the complete ascent but had gotten shut down by different factors including the onslaught of New England black flies this month. Instead of starting around 11am as we had in the past we got any early 6am start to try and catch the 1st .12d pitch before the sun really warmed it up. This ended up working well and I sent on my first go. Despite having sent the pitch in the past, Sam didn't manage to pull through the crux deadpoint. I'm sure he's got it in the bag soon!

 Looking up at Pitch 1

We hung out on the ledge for an hour or so waiting for the .13a second pitch to go into the shade. After a while I tied in and punched into the stiff boulder problem off the ledge. The non-stop rain we've been having for the past week and half had washed all of the chalk of the pitch, making it challenging to find some of the subtle holds but I managed to squeak through to the corner where you can get a big no-hands stem and recover.  The next section of the pitch climbs up and  onto the left wall of the corner culminating in a powerful yet subtle boulder problem protected by 2 bashies and an old machine head below your feet. I just managed to hold on through the crux and mantled onto the ledge above following the beautiful finger crack to the anchor above. 

Sam pulling the lip on the crux pitch

The 3rd pitch follows a beautiful left-facing corner which was completely overgrown until I rapped in a few weeks ago with an old ice tool and wire brush and brought this 5-star .11b pitch back to life. If this one were on the ground rather than the middle of the Mordor Wall, it would get climbed everyday!

At the anchor above the crux pitch

After Same led and I followed the third pitch we assessed the situation above. The Bridge of Kazad-Dum (11d)  was pouring with water as was the Pendulum Roof (.11d) out left. Climbing up and right on an un-known slab line looked to be the only option. I started up the pitch and after about 60' of climbing hit a big runout friction slab that I just didn't like the looks of. I put a biner on the bolt below and down-climbed about 15' before making a 50' traverse right across the .11b slab to join Lights in the Forest via the "new" "McCormick-Bendroth Connector." From there we followed the last two pitches of Lights in the Forest to top of the cliff to complete an awesome day out on a very worthy route!


  1. Sky high. and lot of inspiration and lot of respect.

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