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It's hard to believe that Airhead, which climbs the plumb line dihedral and crack system up the center of Arrowhead's south face, isn't an RMNP mega-classic. Not only is the line itself the most obvious directissima on the wall, but the climbing is really good and the crux pitch is one of the gems of the Park.
After approaching via any of the methods listed for Arrowhead, begin climbing from the highest of a series of ledges below the obvious, hanging, left-facing dihedral. This feature is several hundred feet right of the low-point in the McHenry's-Arrowhead ridge and about a hundred feet left of Ithaca. The first pitch is just left of the clean slab of Ithaca's first pitch. Above the dihedral system the beautiful splitter crack of the crux pitch is visible.
P1: Wander up the path of least resistance to a belay ledge about 25 feet below the true start of the corner system. Do not continue up to what appears to be a sloping ledge at the base of the corner itself as the belay there is poor. Low 5th.
P2: Climb up the corner with good gear and increasingly difficult moves until an opportunity presents itself to swing out of the corner onto the right hand wall and climb the arete for 40 feet. Wild! One can either return to the corner higher up, or continue along the arete to a belay stance. 5.10+, 140'.
P3: With a handful of wires, this pitch is easily linked with the previous one. Continue up the slightly mossy corner all the way to a nice belay ledge (5.10c?), or, after 20 feet, once again swing out right around the arete and follow unprotected, clean face climbing to the same belay ledge (5.10a R). A short pitch, maybe 50'.
P4: Amazing! Ascend the now shallow, left-facing corner for 40 feet before reaching a small roof on the left side. Pull through this and continue up the stunning splitter past a few cruxy sections punctuated by really good rests. This pitch takes great, small gear (that is pumpy to place), but it is nice to have some hand-size cams for pods and the anchor. Lots of thin but positive 5.11 climbing up immaculate rock with one brief section of 5.11+. Belay on a huge ledge, 120'.
P5: Although a bit scary and having less than ideal pro, this pitch is nevertheless great fun. From the right end of the ledge, ascend a corner to a chockstone and then hand traverse back left over your belayer's head for 15 feet. Climb a nice, leaning, finger crack and pull up onto a stance at some loose blocks. Swing around to the right, then trend back left up a series of stacked blocks all the way to the ridge. 5.9 and possibly very dangerous, 80'.
Descend via the walk-off or rappels (one 70m rope plus easy downclimbing).
Double set of cams from small to #0.5 Camalot, single #0.75, #1, #2, #3. Lots (double set?) of wires, RPs, and draws.
|By Brian Milhaupt|
From: Golden, CO
Jul 17, 2009
rating: 5.11d 7a 24 VIII E5 6a
Linking pitches 2 and 3 is probably the best way to go. I didn't see a good belay stance and climbing the entire corner makes for a natural pitch. The directness and great movement make this a four star climb. I subtract one star for the dangerous nature of the final pitch. Tiptoe through the stacked blocks carefully.
|By Mark Ferguson|
Aug 10, 2009
rating: 5.11+ 7a 24 VIII E4 6a
Although short and not a lot of climbing for such a long walk, this route is awesome. The crux pitch is one of the best pitches I have done in RMNP.