Merriam Peak 2003

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Date: July 2003 (?); Javier Gonzalez and Paul Wiggins. July 2010, Copied from old trip report page

Merriam Peak, North Buttress III 5.10

Merriam Peak from the lake. The North Butters is the right most dihedral.
The dotted black line indicates the route.
Paul on the approach
The first pitch--lead by Javi.
Paul on the second pitch.
Paul traversing after the second pitch.
Paul on pitch four.
Paul on pitch five, fairly sustained 5.10 b.
Paul on pitch five, fairly sustained 5.10 b.
Merriam (left) Royce (right).
Royce (left) Feather (right)
Granite Park.

Paul: The day I got back from Michigan I had several messages on my answering machine from Javi saying we had to go this weekend to climb Merriam Peak. I had been saving Merriam Peak for the end of the season--by that time I would have climbed a lot of trad--but Javi had other ideas. For him it was a good way to open the season. Since Javi was so fired up, I though "why not?"

Javier: It seem that everyone but Laurent had a great weekend. I am sure that Laurents' problems had to do with some crapy place that Eric must had taken him in the drive up, like the Mohave's Chinese place. They should had gone to the 'Still life cafe' in Independence. A fillet mignon and a vichyssoise soup would had left Laurent with his French attitude at 100%. At any rate, for Paul and Me the weekend went fine. Paul got a chance to show off at 4000m on a 5.10b 'pump fest layback'. It was a good show for me. Not so much for other people, since he was quite far from the ground, I doubt anybody else saw it. I'll send you some pics this evening, so you can enjoy it too. For me it was a hard and strenuous route, and got a good workout. Taking that pack on the 5.9 pitches has made me stronger, and wiser.

Paul: Javi is the King of long approaches and this was no exception. In was six hours slog up from the pine creek road to the base of the route. Fortunately I lost a lot of weight while climbing--the mosquitos were feasting on the unsuspecting. When we came to the lakes, I itched all over and had a head ache. From the lakes, the route "looks like 5.5" according to Moiner and company. After staring at the rock for a few hours, we didn't see anything that look even remotely like 5.5. Meanwhile Javi--unbenknownst to me was having second thoughts. According to Eric he later said that at the time he wasn't particularly worried since he thought we would just rap off the second pitch after finding the route was "too difficult." Meanwhile I was thinking that this Javi guy must have balls of steel.

Paul: We both slept very well that night and started the approach at about 7:00 AM and were climbing by about 8:00 AM.

Javier: I am happy to have lead the 2 easy pitches on the route, which they went at hard 5.8. Bear in mind that other reliable sources (Not Fred...) rate them at sustained hard 5.9. Above is the first pitch which I lead.

Paul: Javi climbed the first pitch fast then suddenly halted... went a few meter higher, then climbed down and set a belay. I guessed that he had decided to give me the pleasure of dealing with the next few moves. The pitch was excellent with clean granite cracks. I guess it was supposed to be 5.9. It was certainly that hard and I finished the pitch without big gear or draws remaining. When Javi joined me, we traversed left to a nice belay and Javi continued on our third pitch.

Paul: The third pitch is that pictured in Moineer's book.

Javier: I tried to put an hexe like in the classic picture of Bob Harrington in Moineer's book. But a cam was more compatible with the new mileniun technology. I also tried not to step on the rope, since it looked I was going to need it...

Paul: On third pitch Javi stopped at a very uncomfortable belay. We were anchored on three pieces under some not too solid flakes. The flakes shifted ominously as I weighted the anchor.

Javier: The second 5.9 pich followed, was led by Paul. I followed it with the bagpack, which was pulling me down like a mofo.

Paul: Pitch four was again excellent. I came to the infamous loose flakes--thin flakes of granite balancing in the crack. The flakes vibrated audibly when knocked. I think I should have moved right but the left seemed more direct with better pro. I lapped up some well protected layback moves (5.9) and passed the flakes with almost tangible relief. At the end of a long pitch, I reached a beautiful belay ledge. If there had been two beers waiting for us there, I would have called it a bar. The ledge was flat but protected by a three foot high flake.

Paul: Javi realized right away that we had finally reached the 5.10 b pitch. Looking in the picture to the left you can see the crack is clearly overhanging. Having reached the last real challenge of the route--or so we thought, we stopped for a snack. After I had collected myself, I started powering up the crack. Reaching a rest of sorts in the picture above left. I wedged my leg in the off width and opposed it with a very marginal hold on the left and rested as well as one can in that position.

Javier: The 5.10b pitch started with an overhanging layback. Paul did it quite easily while engaged on a casual conversation about my despair. After the overhang, I could heard Paul puffing slightly for a minute. That must be the 'pumpfest', I though. Later he erroneously called that the 5.10 part was over, and ask me if I wanted to continue. I have to thank my years of experience to the fact that I refused the offer. This alternative would have increased our vacation by one night, not a good option, paradoxically. Then I jumar up the rope, of which I am not embarrass. I have to thanks those new and shiny Paul ropes on the 5.10b pitch. The route followed the ridge in an obvious and easy (to Paul) way. The descent route was some class 3. This route has put some light on what I am missing and what I have, but was not aware of its tremendous usage. I am clealy missing a third lung and a third ball. Luckilly I had Paul's balls with me. Also I had the T-block, that optimized mofo. These winning pair saved the day. Over all the route was a serious undertaken, over my limit, but a learning experience. It was not fun to know that I had climbed at my limit on the lower easy half of the route, and the hardest stuff was ahead. Next time I'll look for the 'long and easy' or 'hard and Williamsom'.