Friday, August 10, 2012

Work In Progress: Trench Warfare 5.12d

Matt Kuehl riding the wide pony on Trench Warfare.
Photo: Adam Floyd

Trench Warfare has to go down as one of the most awesome and difficult tradition climbs I have ever attempted.  This 50' foot straight horizontal roof crack leaves a lot for your imagination! Your creativity and ability to fight the pain in this inverted arena might be the only chance to come out of this war alive.  When you're on this beast you might find yourself attempting moves you previously thought were impossible but now seem to be a reasonable solution to your problem. This awesome looking offwidth crack packs a real punch for it's relatively short length and it feels like it's at least a mile long.  This crack will undoubtedly have you questioning your commitment to handstacks and your personal well-being as you attempt to unstick your feet before you might just come slipping out upside-down towards the trench below.  But that's just the beginning of the fun stuff, you're in for a wild ride.

Looking out and up at Trench Warfare... it's horizontal. 

This route is mysterious in nature and its hidden existence under a huge toppled boulder in Little Cottonwood Canyon makes it an adventure to find and a true experience to climb.  When you arrive at the crack you will find yourself under the huge boulder crawling through the V-slot "trench" looking up at the crack just knowing you've found something great.  This route is truly one of a kind and an unforgettable burl-fest.  After finding the climb on a solo mission and getting my first actual view of the crack I knew I'd have to return and give it a go.  A few days later I returned with good friends Molly and Sean to give the route my first attempts.  Although a little intimidating, the approach slab to gain the start of the crack is actually easier than it looks and you can plug gear in the crack before even leaving the slab.  Once getting a piece or two and chalking up several more times it's now time to commit.  So you stack your hands and kick your feet up and the madness begins!  It can be difficult to become comfortable hanging like this at first but soon you get used to the horizontal difficulties and technique and creativity really takes over.  Although my first attempts were cut short on time, I started to get a good feel for the crack and knew my next visit would be much more productive because of it.  

Mark Gaguire working out the first section.
Photo: Adam Floyd

The next morning I posted on Mountain Project looking for climbers who were interested in spending a day working on Trench Warfare. Shortly after two enthusiastic and skilled climbers with an interest in the wide and a curiosity towards the route responded that they were interested in joining me.  Neither Adam Floyd or Mark Maguire had visited the route before, but that didn't stop us from giving the route a run for its money.  I got back on it first and progressed my way across the initial wide crack using hand/hand stacks and a lot of foot jam trickery.  I found the crux of this section to be the middle of the crack where it no longer easier accepts my size 12 boots.  I found myself spending more time and energy unsticking my feet than I really wanted.  Another common difficulty was efficiently placing gear and not burning precious energy.  When relying on handstacks which require your hands to be used together as one, removing one to place gear means your hands are no longer useful to hold you up. Because of this most every piece of gear I placed was while hanging primarily from my two feet in the inverted sit-up position.  Occasionally there would be small features to occupy one hand, but these where always quite minimal. Whenever the crack allowed it I would climb in the "wide pony" position with my feet on the outside and my handstacks in the middle. (Almost like you're on an inverted bucking bronco)  I found this position to be ideal and very secure, the only downside is the crack wouldn't always allow me in this position because of my wide feet.  One funny moment from this section was when I "fell" out of the crack just to discover I was still dangling comfortably from one foot with all my other limbs out of the crack.  So I grabbed an old #4 Camalot from my harness and nearly placed it before my one remaining foot slipped out entirely.  A pretty hilarious position to attempt to place gear from!  I refined my technique until this section felt smooth and do-able then eagerly approached the wide pod. 

Tom Randal enters the wide pod.
Photo: Alex Ekins

The distinct second half of the route is a lot different in nature because the crack opens up allowing you to struggle inside and become nearly upright for a short while. Although deceiving in most photographs, the wide pod section is still horizontal and doesn't round up to a vertical squeeze like it often looks.  The harsh reality is you're still on a roof crack and your only hope of crawling out is to try and relax, get gear, and flip back upside-down when you're ready for round two.  The wide pod presented a really neat challenge as well the unforgettable "reverse birth" sensation when first entering it.  I ungracefully struggled upwards inside using aggressive chicken-wings and a desperate crimp mantle until I found myself in the claustrophobic wide chamber too tight to even turn my head.  Unable to relax for more than a few moments I placed gear above my head and began the slow and agonizing "cartwheel" back into the inverted position.  Once here you know you're in for a wild ride and you have to simply find your happy place void of pain and gravity.  Getting into the wide pod was a more difficult squeeze than I had imagined, mostly because of the one really high foot and absence of anything for the other foot to really "push" off from below.  Luckily the chicken wings are totally bomber, and as long as you relax and breath you should be just fine.  Whatever you do don't get too tired to unweight your chicken wing, because then you'll be stuck, bad stuck... (that may or may not have happened to me).

Jay Anderson in the inverted shuffle in the wide section.

Once in the full body inversion I felt like a was bending space and time with every shuffle towards the outside.  The crack is pretty flared and tightens up a lot where your feet are jamming which makes it pretty do-able once you get your feet up there.  As I progressed I found increasingly secure foot jams and it was great to no longer rely on chicken wings and inverted arm bar nothingness.  While upside-down I was able to use small edges and crimps to help aid my sideways progress, but eventually they disappeared and stacks or magic abs were required to keep on truckin'.  This was another section where I don't think my big feet really helped my struggle, and perhaps it just made it a little more painful... it's hard to compare I suppose.  I wasn't often able to get straight heel-toe cams, but rather most of my foot jams were heel and side of foot jams which were generally just more uncomfortable than I wanted.  Either way it worked and I eventually stopped thinking about it and just shuffled my body towards the best hold on the whole route.  Once gaining the flat jug you're almost to the lip where there original 5.12d line finishes.  At this point I was totally exhausted but very psyched to have to just done all the moves on this awesome line.  I experienced much difficulty on the way, but it's was what I was looking for and working this route was pretty meditative and gratifying. 

Brad Jackson approaching the lip.
Photo: Kennan Harvey

So at the end of my session I left myself just enough energy to clean my gear off the route and belay Adam on his first attempts for the day.  Once the projecting process was complete I was free to evaluate all the cuts and bruises I'd accumulated from Trench and a nice warm shower helped me realize my soreness.  As I write this a few days later I must be honest that I am still sore and still doing my best to recover by climbing anything with face holds and big ledges for me to sleep on.  I never thought my legs would get so exhausted, but yet they are the most sore.  This route was another great learning experience for me and a trad project that I will keep until it gets completed.  Each attempt brought me drastically closer and I know that in time I will learn the intricacies of the crack and unique body positions to enable me to climb it clean.  Until then I'll be heading back to Red Rock Canyon for a productive Fall where I hope to keep building strength and climbing with new friends and maybe even finding some new ridiculous wide route monstrosities to attempt.  All in all my time hanging with Trench Warfare and the people of Salt Lake City was an unforgettable and positive experience.  I can only hope for more of this in the future and can't wait to see what's around the next bend.

Not tired yet? Turn the lip and top out to send the extended version Wench Warfare 5.13a

1 comment:

Jonathan said...

I am a climbing photographer/videographer that just moved to Salt Lake City. I have been reading up on Trench Warfare. Though I am still some time and many sit ups away from attempting it, I am interested in checking it out. If you are willing to let me shoot your next attempt and maybe do some minimal playing on the route I would love to join your party on your next trip.

Here is a link to my facebook where you can friend me if you are interested.
Good luck with your project.
Jon Vickers