Thursday, June 9, 2016
Chapel Pond Slab, Regular Route: 06/04/2016
Back when I first started climbing, my first multi-pitch lead was up Regular Route on the Chapel Pond slabs. With its comfortable belay ledges, exciting but non-intimidating exposure and wonderful views it's a great first lead. It's also a route I've returned to many times for the sheer fun of easy climbing (5.5 on the Yosemite Decimal System) on a long route (6 pitches) in a superbly scenic setting. But Saturday's climb topped them all, when my wife Beth and I led our 12 year old son up Regular Route for his first multi-pitch climb.
We've been top-roping with our kids for several years, but haven't taken them on any multi-pitch climbs. At 8, our daughter Sylvie is just too young, even though she's a strong climber. But Daniel has been ready for a while. All we needed was an opportunity to get Daniel to the cliff without his sister. Thanks to an all-day Girl Scout jamboree, that opportunity came on Saturday.
Climbing as a party of 3 can be awkward, but it worked out well for us on Saturday by tying Daniel into the rope about 20 feet ahead of Beth. Rather than swinging leads, I led all 6 pitches. That allowed Beth to focus on giving Daniel any pointers or assistance he might need, and me to focus on route finding, setting belay anchors and placing protection along the route.
As it turned out, Daniel's top-roping experience left him well prepared for the climb, so assistance from Mom was unnecessary and we ran through the pitches as quickly as I've ever climbed them. There's a wonderful flow of lead, anchor, belay, repeat that you settle into on a long, moderate route like the Chapel Pond slabs. Before we knew it we were at the crux of the climb on the 5th pitch.
After four pitches of laid-back slab climbing, pitch 5 feels vertical. It's a short (30 feet) face with moves that feel harder than its 5.5 rating. But, as climbers say, it's all there and within minutes the three of us were sitting on the huge terrace at the top of the pitch, relaxing, refueling and soaking in the views. Directly across from us another party was climbing Empress, another 5-star moderate route on the Slabs, with the leader dramatically silhoutted against the sky.
The 6th and final pitch is a great end to the climb. I ran the rope out to its very end (200') over easy rock (5.2) to the top of Bob's Knob, a mini-summit directly above Chapel Pond. The views are superb:
Of course a climb is only half over when you reach the top. There's still the descent, and Chapel Pond slab's descent route is notoriously difficult for beginners to find and follow. But the descent went smoothly and before we knew it we were soaking our feet in Chapel Pond's sparkling waters.
We've got a few more multi-pitch routes on our climbing agenda for the summer. All we need to do is make plans for Sylvie (she'll get her turn soon enough). Any babysitters out there?