Tuesday, October 8, 2013

SW Face of Stein's Pillar --> Free Lunch, Picnic Lunch Wall

The SW Face of Stein's Pillar
This past weekend finally marked the arrival of Indian summer in the Pacific Northwest, with moderate temps, clear skies and calm winds.  After several weeks of rain and recent mountain snows, a lot people were focused on the upcoming ski season, waxing their boards and scanning the web for the long-term forecast.  But I was still holding out hope of squeezing in some more rock climbing.

The seasonal window for climbing longer routes is closing quickly, and I had my eyes on the SW Face of Stein’s Pillar near the Mill Creek Wilderness in the Ochoco National Forest.  I pinged Guy to see if he was available and he responded with a “hell yes” and “oh by the way we should climb Picnic Lunch Wall on Sunday.” 

Stein’s is a 350 ft. spire of welded tuff that is fairly well known among local traditional climbers but otherwise towers in obscurity over the forests east of Prineville, OR.  I’ve wanted to climb Stein’s since I first saw it back in 1999, but I only recently heard about a high quality free line on the SW face.  Picnic Lunch, on the other hand, is one of the most recognizable walls in Oregon, visible from the main parking lot at Smith Rock.  The pair seemed like a great weekend 2-fer.

Stein's Pillar from the approach
SW Face of Stein’s Pillar, III 5.10d

We crashed at the trailhead for Stein’s on Friday night under a beautiful display of infinite stars.  We approached the next morning in perfect fall conditions.

P1 – From the main saddle, traverse left towards the obvious diehedral that splits the face.  Instant exposure.  Climb the sweet finger crack to a hanging belay on new anchor bolts.  .10b and super high quality jamming and stemming on solid rock.  Awesome pitch! 

Guy styling the amazing first pitch

P2 – Climb left off the belay past 2-3 new protections bolts, into a short corner with thin placements, then move left over steep ground on delicate face climbing past two more bolts.  .10+.  Short pitch.  A couple of hangerless studs have been left in the rock.  There are two sets of new anchor bolts about 4 feet apart, one for the bolted arĂȘte.  

Leading into the shadows on P2

At the 2nd belay station
P3 – Climb up a thin corner and over a bulge on finger locks.  Traverse right, clip two manky pins, and pull a 5.10 bulge (fun!).  Clip two more new bolts and climb past some manky rock to a hanging belay.  5.10.

We belayed right below a final bulging crack where there were 2-3 anchor bolts, 2 new protection bolts, and 3 old pins in the space of about 10-15 feet.  Honestly, it’s a bit of a mess.

Clearing the first bulge on p3

Clearing the 2nd bulge on p3
P4 – Pull the bulge (loose 5.10/10+) and start working left on a loose crack/ledge system past another new set of anchor bolts that are just on top of the bulge.  Its possible to use these newer bolts as your 3rd anchor, but it looks like an awkward spot with the bolts placed on the ledge below the stance.  Keep working left towards the arĂȘte, clip another bolt with a long sling and climb the easy face to the top.  

Rack: Single set of TCUs and cams from 00-#2.  Extras in finger size. Single set of nuts.  12-13 draws with several should length. Two ropes to rap the NE Face (watch your knot on the first rap).

The SW Face is a proud and improbable looking line on a striking tower.  The first pitch is amazing, and the rest of the climbing is sustained and mostly aesthetic.  The route could use a little maintenance, especially the studs on p2, the manky pins on p3, and chaotic mess of pins and bolts on p3/4.  

Free Lunch, Picnic Lunch Wall, III 5.10a R

After a few too many beers, we woke up under a juniper tree felling a little pasty-mouthed, but we stuck to the plan and racked up for the Picnic Lunch Wall.  Having gawked at this formation for years, I was psyched to climb. 

P1 – Clip the first 4 bolts on the sport route, then start traversing left on runout 5.10a nobs and nubbins, crossing over a corner, working towards the tower.  5.10a.

The 1st belay station after a delicate traverse on suspect rock
  P2 – From the ledge, down climb 5-10 feet, then climb left and back up to another small tower.  Clip a bolt and downclimb again over some loose and airy rock.  Make an exposed step left towards two more bolts and eventually a large belay ledge.  Heady 5.9.  Serious for both leader and follower. 

Following the traversing and airy 2nd pitch
P3 – From the ledge, climb into the main corner/ramp system past a couple bolts. Continue up on suspect rock towards the alcove.  Pull awkwardly out the alcove (serious) and continue up the first crack on better rock to a belay ledge.  50-60 ft.  Hard 5.9 with loose rock on the first half of the pitch.

P4 – Continue up the ramp on solid hand jams with good rock.  Amazing position.  Continue into gully system clipping a couple of bolts with pretty good stone.  Keep going, it’s a long pitch.  Belay on a spacious ledge after 130-150 feet.  5.8. 

P5 – Start up the big, left facing chimney climbing on bird shit.  Stay in chimney system climbing past some cool pockets – grunt grunt – until the climbing starts to ease off after 40-50 feet.  Belay from anchor bolts at the top. 5.9.

Rack:  Double set of cams to #4, single set of nuts.  12-14 slings/draws.

The climbing on Free Lunch is not as aesthetic as Stein’s Pillar, but come on – it’s the Picnic Lunch Wall.  So cool!  Be prepared for loose rock and a demanding effort that requires full concentration. 

More stoke!

The Picnic Lunch Wall - Free Lunch traverses into the main, arcing L-R ramp system, which is followed to the left leaning chimney to the top
Good times in Central Oregon!  Major props to Guy for being stoked on some chossy adventure climbing.   

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