Death by Hands
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This route offers a little bit of everything that makes Arches climbing great. You’ve got your poorly protected slab climbing right off the ground… there’s the thin aid in soft rock above a hard ledge… some chimneying and offwidth of course… a beautiful hand crack… some scary face moves… and a good old fashion roped-up crawl.
Pitch 1. The first pitch is missing some of the original pitons and thus is somewhat runout and dangerous. Begin with gritty slab climbing up and left across huecos to a new bolt. Commit to the moves above and follow a shallow corner to an old stardrive. This is pretty spooky because if you blow it badly, there is a chance you could ground out. A long stick clip will help prevent this. 5.9R
Pitch 2. A few moves on fixed gear accesses the obvious splitter above which goes from black alien to offwidth. This is the money pitch of the route but again, the gear in the beginning is not inspiring and you’re looking down at a big belay ledge. Think light… the rock is pretty soft here. Belay from a fixed anchor at the top of the crack. (We fixed our rope to this anchor for the seconds to jug and then climbed up another 20 feet to a more comfortable ledge where we built a ‘reasonably’ solid anchor) 5.10, C2 (or C2)
Pitch 3. A boulder problem not far above the belay leads to a short, bolt protected chimney. Belay at the top of the chimney from gear. 5.10
Pitch 4. Traverse left on bolts to a short, funky chimney and follow this to a huge ledge. Belay from gear or climb on top of the pillar you were chimneying behind and clip in long to the rappel bolts. 5.9 C1
Pitch 5. We walked left along a large ledge and with a bit of exposed crawling and easy chimneying, we made the summit. When we looked at the book later we realized that we were supposed to go right on the big ledge. The book calls it Class 4.
Descent – Downclimb the last pitch and rappel the route. Be careful of stuck ropes on the first rappel.
From the parking lot, hike up a wash to the base of the Organ and then go left to the north side and the base of the route.
1 set of nuts (#6-10 offsets helpful), double set of cams from black alien to #4 Camalot. A few larger pieces. Extra cams from green alien to #3.5 Camalot for pitch two. (It is easy to back clean on this pitch.) Screamers.
EDIT - If you don't want to back clean on pitch two, bring 4-5 cams in each of the hand sizes.
Pitch one looked much easier than we found it to b...
Walker Mackey getting started on pitch three.
Looking down at Ben on the descent.
|Comments on Death by Hands
|By Sam Lightner, Jr.|
May 28, 2007
Yesterday the Arches Task Force retrobolted the anchors and a few lead bolts on this route. I'll go through it pitch by pitch below.... for the pitch 2 anchors this will be rather lengthy.
Pitch1 - According to Pete Gallagher, who did the F.A. with Steve Sommers in '86, this pitch was origninally bolted by Layton Kor on an attempt of the first ascent of the tower... I believe he failed. I replaced 6 bolts on this pitch with 4 and 6 inch strike anchors. That brings this pitch up to a grand total of 7 bolts in 180 feet... its no clip-up. I placed where I saw a scar. I left a couple of Laytons museam pieces for nostalgia value. You still have to get in a few marginal pieces here and there. Its low angle, but not for the timid. Still 5.8 R/X. There is a good anchor at the top with one 1/2 inch by 4 inch rawl and a 6 inch strike anchor.
Pitch 2 - I placed a bolt high above the ledge where others had been. Then clip a 1/4, then a fixed pin (there from the F.A. and seemingly solid), and then its clean from then on. I think this pitch gets the C2 rating purely cus if you blow it the mistake would no doubt be at the start and you would hit the ledge. However, after these initial soft moves it is very straight forward C1... actually doesn't get an easier than this. From 40 feet up this would be an excellent 5.10 free pitch.
Now for the lengthy explanation. Reading what Brad wrote, and having never done the route, I asked Pete if he was ok with me moving the anchor up 20 odd feet to the ledge. He is really busy and did not respond (yet). When I got to the anchor I saw that its not really 20 feet, but more like10 feet of 4th class. I also noted that the old anchor is on a bulge of soft rock that is completely exposed, where as the wall above the ledge is overhanging and dark brown. Just to be sure, I tapped the wall where the old anchor was... didn't sound good... so, I clipped into the old one and dragged the drill to the ledge. I sank a double half inch anchor into the hardest rock I have drilled in Arches. I have no doubt we will get 40 years out of this anchor as it is solid and protected by an overhang.
As I said, I did not get the go-ahead from Pete on this. However, I can honestly say that this did not change the grade or character of the route one bit except to give you a stance and to make for a more solid anchor. I filrmly believe a route needs to retain the character the first ascentionists put into it and I do not believe I changed this. The Arches Task Force mandate from the NPS is to put in camouflaged anchors that will be solid. THis location allowed that. The only thing that it changed was the pitch is now a full 60 meters rather than the original 57... incidently, in 86 60 meter ropes were hard to come by. I'm not so sure that Pete didn't have an anchor way below this originally (there is an angle next to the crack at about the 50 meter height), thus breaking the pitch into 2, thus making my change not a change of the original route but a change of how it has been altered over the years). In any event, as changes go, this is a small one that simply makes it safer to rappel and more comfy to belay. ITs still C2 and a really fun pitch.
Pitch 4 (by Brads description) I linked pitch 3 and pitch 4 as, being alone, I had no rope drag issues. I removed one of the 1/4 inch bolts that take you left and put in a halfy. At the top of the pitch, on the "knoll", I added a triple anchor (due to the elemental exposure) with long chain. It now pulls as easy as a drunk brides maid.
No changes to pitch 5 as it had no bolts and needs no bolts. You still down climb.
All three raps are straight forward and easy off camo chain... no need for sling's for a long time. They are 50 meters, 60 meters (large ledge), and 50 meters.
THis is a very good route and I consider it to be one of the easier aid towers in the Courthouse area... on par with Virgin WOol but an easier solo. THe one caveat to that is you need to be willing to do very soft slab climbing with a bad runout. Pitch one is spicy and the rock is so soft I cannot be sure that the bolts will last forever (nor would pins for those in an argumentative mood). If you are not up to a dangerous starting pitch, you should stay away. There is a lot of mandatory free climbing up high, which is spicy when your soloing, but its not that bad. The boulder problem is protectable though it would be safer with a belayer.
I went with the advised rack, but it would have been a bit les runout for me on the second pitch if I'd had 4 or five of each of the hand size pieces. I only used one #5 way up high. I placed only one nut and a tiny tcy would have sufficed in that spot. From the top of pitch two you need take only a single set of each and a few runners and spare biners.
I want to say something for the public record so that people 20 yearsfrom now know it. Most of the strike anchors on this route, including all on the anchors, are six inches long. This means that as the rock wears away we have like 4 inches of useful shaft to take advantage of (they are treated but not stainless).
A final note... watch for bugs. ON the first pitch I slammed my hand into one of the old angle-holes and felt a crunch. I didn't let go of the pin scar til I'd dragged the drill up and sunk a bolt in with my other hand... then I looked. I had managed to deadpoint onto a scorpion, crushing his body and tail before he got off a sting... lucky me cus that would have hurt twice... once when he nailed me and once when I let go and hit the ground.
|By erik rieger|
From: Boulder, CO
Oct 1, 2012
Thanks for the updated bolts Sam—great climb!
Pete Gallagher said the first pitch has the "friction coefficient of boogers," it's awesome for sure. My partner followed the second pitch, freeing everything after the lower pin, and thought it was the hardest "5.10" he's ever done. The rock at the start of the third pitch has the consistency of a sandcastle.