May 6, 2006.
Kurt Hafer and I venture up Tuttle Creek to climb the Direct South Face. From the approach gully I spot an outrageous dike system running diagonal across the Land of Little Rain wall. Whilst sharing a sleeping bag with Kurt that night, a seed is planted in my mind. We finish the DSF, and I vow to return.
May 20, 2006.
I return with Kostas the Greek and Nate the White. This is their first time in Tuttle Creek, so we can't help stopping every 50 feet and staring at the massive expanse of the South Face. Kostas remarks that SFLPP is much more impressive than Riverside Quarry.
Arriving at the top of the approach gully, Nate leads a short pitch to the top of a pillar.I take the lead on the second pitch.Inspired by the John Long's stories of the Stonemasters, I make a determined effort not to place a bolt. Every time I start to reach for the hand drill I think, "What would John Long do here?" Answer: he would keep going - ALWAYS.
Arriving at the belay, I drill two bolts and bring up Nate. I start up the next pitch, and about 15 feet off the belay I find myself desperately trying to pound in a bolt whilst being buffetted by gusty winds. Drilling the bolt takes about 30 monotonous yet terrifying minutes. This is hard work, I think, but this is how's it's done -- just like the stories I'd read.
June 9, 2006.
I'm back, this time with Charles, who it seems is always keen for a bit of suffering and/or adventure. We regain our high point, and after 3 more bolts gain a crack system. Charles climbs it to its terminus, and them embarks on a 50 foot runnout to gain the belay. While seconding, I deem this a little bit too crazy, and insist on adding a bolt. The hand drilling and exciting climbing has taken its physical and psychological toll on us, so we decide to retreat and indulge in a day of cragging at Whitney Portal the next day.
Charles and I are back.After slogging through the tedious approach and ascending the all too familiar approach gully, I start to question our tactics. We still have hundreds of feet to go, and given our time constraints (weekend trips only) and the slow nature of hand drilling, we are looking at a completion ETA of about 2015.
Pushing beyond our high point, I start pitch 3 with a scary runnout and hand drill 2 bolts before relinquishing the lead to Charles.Charles whacks in 2 more bolts and we call it a day.
Back at our bivy ("The Ranch"), we swill whiskey and brood. The climbing above looks hard, and there is a long way to go. We reach a decision: the hand drill is not going to work. The only viable option for us is to procure a power drill. We also discuss the idea of climbing Land of Little Rain and rap bolting the route, but leave this issue open for later discussion.
August 9, 2008.
Work/school/relationship commitments prevent our return to Tuttle Creek until late season.In the meantime I've managed to obtain a 36V Hilti Hammer Drill on eBay (i heart AuctionSniper), along with 20 bolts.
Arriving at the trailhead, Charles and I shoulder our ~80 pound packs. In late season there is no chance of obtaining water in the canyon, so we'll have to carry about 50 pounds of water in. This is in addition to the 3 ropes, drill/battery, bolts, hammer, rack, draws, food, and sleeping gear we'll need.
The approach is the most work I've done in awhile, but we are optimistic that we will finish the route this trip. Regaining our high point on pitch 3, we get our first taste of the power drill. IT IS AWESOME! Bolt holes that used to take 30 minutes now take about 20 seconds. I contemplate the amazing increase in speed, and the potential for abuse -- with great power comes great responsibility, I think to myself.
By the end of the day we've made great progress, and finished an amazing 60 meter pitch up the dike. In the course of a few hours we've placed almost more bolts than in the previous 3 trips combined. Inspired, we retreat back to the Ranch, confident that "tomorrow will be the day".
The next day we ascend our fixed ropes to our high point on top of Pitch 3 (by now the original pitches 1 and 2 have been combined into a single 55 meter pitch). Rustling through the haulbag to do a bolt count, we discover to our horror that we only have 10 more bolts. Given the nature of the climbing this will be pathetically short. In quiet desperation, we admit into our minds the possibility that we will most likely need one more trip to ensure The Send.
Heading up pitch 4, Charles does a fantastic job of putting in 8 bolts before passing the lead off to me. I push the remaining 2 bolts as far as I can, but come up approximately 100 feet short of the "Sea of Knobs", the point where we estimate the end of major difficulties on the Dike. With heavy hearts we descend.Stashing 2 ropes, 2 gallons of water, the drill and aid gear in a cave, we vow to return ASAP.
August 22, 2008.
We're back, this time with Nate and 31 bolts. Distributing the loads over 3 people makes the approach much easier but the trudge still takes approximately 4 hours. We regain our high point, and Charles makes the first lead of Pitch 3 -- an incredible 60 meter pitch up the dikes which goes at a relatively moderate 5.10c. Pushing Pitch 4 to the end with some spicy free moves and a 20 footer after a bathook blows, I slug in an anchor and call it a day.
The next day we regain our high point and put Nate on the lead. Like a duck to water, Nate takes immediately to slugging in bolts and making spicy free moves with the 20 pound drill in tow. After 60 feet I hear a scream of excitement and look up to see Nate grinning like an idiot. He's reached the Sea of Knobs, and the end of the major difficulties! Romping up another 60 feet of 5.5 on huge knobs, he reaches a belay station, where the route joins Land of Little Rain. Adding a bomber bolt to the belay, he brings us up.
The end within sight, Charles takes off up an amazing pitch up the Sea of Knobs. Here confusion as to where Land of Little Rain goes causes us to inadvertently add 2 bolts their route. We would like to offer our deepest apologies to the LOLR first ascent team for this error, and extend a standing offer to remove our bolts.
Editor's Note: The FA team went back up and removed & patched the offending bolts, extending the line to the Summer Ridge in an unprotected 5.4 pitch across the sea of knobs
Reaching the end of the rope, Charles attempts to drill an anchor when the power drill suddenly dies.Luckily we had brought the hand drill as a backup, so after retrieving it from below Charles finishes the route as we started it -- by hand. Bringing Nate and I, we hoot in excitement, and I make a quick recon to the summit ridge.
Descending via rappel, I make the first free ascent of Pitch 5 (estimated at 5.10c, 40 meters) and Charles makes the first free ascent of Pitch 4 (estimated at 5.10c, 55 meters). Now as a team we have redpointed every pitch of the route and our ascent is complete.
Back at the Ranch after stripping our 4 ropes from the wall, we break out the party favors. Whiskey and wine leads to a discussion of route names. Although "Nate Dike" has been the working name for the route over the last 2 years, we decide to dedicate the route to Michael Strassman, a prolific Sierra activist and long time resident of Lone Pine who had tragically passed away the year before.
Although I never had the good fortune to meet Michael, his trip reports in the AAJ had provided much of the inspiration for my own exploration of the Sierra, and his modern attitude towards bolting had provided the impetus for our change of tactics on the route. Reading his writings I feel a connection with his drive to explore and maybe even empathize a bit with his dark side.
Rest in peace, Michael.
The Michael Strassman Memorial Route climbs the South Face of Lone Pine Peak following an impressive right leaning dike, dubbed the Super Dike. This prominent feature rips across the otherwise blank wall for nearly 500 feet, offering up some incredible climbing along the way. The first ascent was accomplished on September 30, 2008 by Scotty Nelson, Charles Ince and Nate Ricklin.
Get the topo here.
For more information including approach beta, see the summitpost page.
• P1 (5.7R): Climb the dike up the pedestal angling up and right toward a bush then follow the ramp up and left. At the top of the pedestal (sling horn for pro) traverse left into a left-facing corner that angles up and right. From here traverse right into a smaller ramp and head out across the face to a discontinuous dike that leads to a mantle then a roof and a belay. 50M.
• P2 (5.10a): Climb up and right passing 4 bolts then get into the right facing corner. Climb this until it ends and move up and left passing a bolt then angling right toward a prominent ledge. 40M.
• P3 (5.10c): Amazing climbing follows the Super Dike. 55M.
• P4 (5.10c): Follow the Super Dike past a bush while doing some killer climbing along the way. 50M.
• P5 (5.10c): Continue on the Super Dike past 4 bolts into the ”Sea of Knobs” where the climbing becomes very easy. Look for the a 3 bolt anchor. This is where MSMR crosses Land of Little Rain (40M).
• P6 (5.4 X): AMAZING climbing (no protection) leads up and right through the ”Sea of Knobs” to a prominent bush and a 2 bolt rap station (35M).
If you are going to the summit, follow the Summer Ridge up and left. Alternatively, from the top of P5 follow Land of Little Rain by going straight up and slightly left to a broken roof where a large crack will take you almost to the Summer Ridge (60M).
Follow the ridge and jump on the Direct South Face Route (Beckey Route) to go to the summit. Otherwise, 2 ropes (60M) allow you to rap the MSMR from the bush back down to the notch.
Sick Dike Climbing Photos:
Charles cruising up the unbelievably continuous P4
Nate getting into the runout on P1
Dike pinching and slabbing, fuck yeah!