Thursday, July 16, 2015

Mortal Coil on Zeke's Wall

It has been an age since I posted anything. But, due to a break in school I've been getting outside to climb again and I feel like sharing. This last Tues I partnered up with Blake Herrington for a crack at Mortal Coil 12a.  It climbs a nice looking granite sector on the far right side of Zeke's Wall.  Though people have climbed at Zeke's for years, traffic has aways remained low.  Based on my observation, I don't think many people have visited the cliff in last 5 years.

At one point, climbers were able to drive up a logging road to a high trailhead. Now, after a few years of inaccessibility, the road has grown over, leaving a single track cutting through the high weeds and brush.  Fortunately, the main trail to the cliff is still there if you can find it.  My best advice is to follow the Mountain Project directions.  If you find a small cairn on the right, just bash your way straight up the hill for 30 feet and then angle gently right.  With luck you will find a beaten track!

Overall, the approach took us 2 hours from Reiter Road to the base of Mortal Coil.  I think we wasted 30 minutes just attempting to locate the trail that ascends from the walls base up to MC.  Don't try and bash your way from the base of Flow up and ends up slabbing out.  We did this and had to descend quite a bit to get around this feature.  Instead, when you come up Zeke's trail and first enter the field of vegetation, head East straight across and enter Old Growth, then up and right.

Armed with the essential brushing technology, I linked the first and second pitches (10.c,10,b).  The climbing wasn't too difficult, but unearthing many of the holds added to the challenge of this pitch.  Safe to say it took me a long time and I was psyched when I smeared my way to a comfy ledge, equipped with great anchor.    

Having cruised this pitch, Blake took to the sharp end, tackling the first difficult lead of the route (11.d).  Without going into too much detail, this pitch traverses bolted terrain out left, requiring a high degree of subtle footwork.  There are 2 cruxes that felt about the same...very insecure. As the traverse ends, a roof and undercling take you back to the right to another spacious ledge and belay.

Blake really took his time and it was impressive to watch him battle with numerous possibilities, so many of them requiring powerful and balancy backtracking.  Eventually, he solved the riddle and cranked up the roof undercling to the next belay.

Following this pitch was spicy!  At one point, I had Blake lower me a loop to protect a potentially hard side ways fall.  This seemed to work really well and gave me the confidence to proceed.  I was really impressed by the quality of stone and the subtle climbing style.  It reminded me of an easier version of the Free Gand Wall slab traversing pitch.  Good stuff!  Soon I was at the belay racking up for the crux 12- roof pitch.  Basically, this pitch is a continuation of the same feature and takes a vertical Right facing corner up to a large roof and undercling, followed by a nice rest, and then bouldery bolt protected climbing.

Having only done a bit of trad climbing this last year I was a bit nervous. But, things all came together and I mustered the gumption to commit to the spectacular roof climbing.  I found some nice trailing stem positions for my left leg as I continued moving right out the roof.  Really cool.  At the rest I definitely took some time to shake out my arms.  This was a good move.  After sufficient recovery I tackled the final difficulties and attained the belay.

Pitch 3, 11d

Due to the steepness below, I couldn't watch Blake second the roof.  All I can say is he didn't really rest and soon he was at the anchor, clipped in next to me, having sent.  Next Blake fired up his toes for some more delicate climbing.  Pitch five tackles a long face of interesting patina trending up and left (11+).  Again, he applied a measured approach, taking time to search out the terrain before committing to some delicate maneuvers.  The terrain eased up after that before serving him a final sting in the tail towards the end, replete with some quartz infused features.  I really enjoyed the flat geometry of this pitch and the increasing exposure, not to mention the positive crimps that kept things doable.  To keep me on my toes (or literally not), one of my footholds decided to break towards the end leaving me reeling.  Good thing I had some nice hand grips to prevent me from falling onto the rope.

Pitch 4, 12a

Pitch 5, 11c/d

Pitch 6, 11b

Standing between us and the top was one pitch of 5.11.  I'm sure this was clean when established back in 2008, but looking up from the belay I was nervous that dirt and moss might stop us cold.  Feeling like I wanted to chicken out of this lead, I offered the lead to Blake, who in turn offered it back to me.  We were just so giving at the magnanimous.  Accepting the honor, I grit my teeth and went for it.  It wasn't pretty, but I somehow scraped my way to the anchor without falling.

The Wrath of Zeke's.  His and His matching leg wounds.

Overall, I thought Mortal Coil was a nicely protected route on a really neat wall.  It delivers a rigorous approach, challenging climbing on good rock, and a healthy dose of solitude.  Big thanks goes to Eric Hirst, Fitz Cahall et al., for putting up a fun mixed rock route and all the prodigious efforts involved!  During the descent which takes a line just left of the route I found one of the FFA party's draws accidentally left behind.  It is safe to assume that our ascent was the second ascent.  Hopefully this inspires some other PNW climbers to get out there and climb it.  The holds should be clean for a at least another couple months.

In accordance with our day, we rounded things out with a stop at Zeke's hallmark burger shack, where shakes and burgers were had.  This Zeke's guys is so famous.  After inquiring into this Zeke person at the order window, we told him about our climb on Zeke's wall. He had no knowledge of a Zeke's Wall.  Figures.

Yesterday we finished out our climbing time by spending a nice afternoon at Index.  We both red pointed Bobcat Cringe 12b.  I'd tried this 15 years ago, and it was so satisfying to come back and be strong enough to finish it.  Can't say enough about this climb!  Lastly, we climbed Rattletale 5.10b which I hadn't done.  Another Index classic.

Who can name this splitter?


  1. Awesome work and great write-up and photos! I'm particularly amazed you had enough left over to get on Bobcat Cringe the next day. Yes, pretty sure that was the 2nd ascent, and the first "true redpoint" of p4 (I had to pull the rope a couple times and leave gear in place before I finally sent it in 2008.)

  2. BTW, it's actually pretty easy to get to MC from the water source at base of Flow as long as you don't try to climb the first gully near the waterfall. The crux is knowing to contour back around into the woods, gaining zero elevation until you've gotten all the way around the "toe" of the buttress and the wall with MC starts coming into view. From there, the last short stretch up along the base of the wall is rough but pretty obvious, traveling through open woods and some moss-covered talus.

  3. Thanks Eric for putting up Mortal Coil for others like myself to enjoy. Hope this drives some much needed traffic up to the Zeke's area.

  4. That splitter?
    I can name it, if you like.

    If not, can I name that corner just left of it?

  5. Ok Jon... what is the name of either? B-

  6. What is the name/ locale of the splitter? I would love to climb that! Thanks,