Climbing Day Trip to Wheeler Gorge Near Ojai
I didn't take any photos (because I'm a lame ass), but this photo above was taken by my talented friend Jean Michael Auffant Schroder.
Last weekend I had the chance to hit up Wheeler Gorge (close to the same area as the Black Wall post) with Michael, and it turned out to be an epic area! It's been quite some time since I've had the chance to get back to lead climbing. I've been doing routes here and there on toprope, but since the first half of the year has seemed more geared toward hiking and mountaineering I haven't had as many weekends where I go out solely to focus on climbing and lead climbing. Last time I trad lead was on Black Wall, and the last time I sport lead was in the Hinterlands... definately a ways back.
But I digress... last weekend I rode up to Wheeler with Michael in the afternoon. We probably got there around 1pm, which was the perfect time for hitting up the conglomerate rock wall near the lower tunnel on the left side, which was all in the shade. A really unique wall, entirely conglomerate rock. There were a lot of good holds, but the rock was often polished too.
Cobble Climb (5.8) Started off with a lead warmup on Cobble Climb which turned out to be good, but I'd be lying if I didn't say I still got the willys from the idea of cheese grating on the wall if I fell. The wall was not completely vertical, a lead fall mightve hurt a bit, but would have been fine. Alas, I din't fall and niether did Michael.
Cruiser (5.9) Second lead climb was just to the right of Cobble Climb and was called Cruiser. It had a harder beginining getting over a lip of sorts on the wall, but then felt easier than the 5.8 done previously.
Both of these warmup leads were fun and good practice for the mental games that come from leading. The canyon area was relatively quiet except for the cars passing through the tunnels that would honk their horns really loud (I never realized this was a "thing" people did), and then randomly giant groups of families hiking through the canyon would pass through. Otherwise, we had the place relatively to ourselves.
Silent Mind (5.11b) The third climb of the day proved to be the most... interesting. Michael decided to try out this climb called Silent Mind, I would just attempt to toprope his efforts. Welp, there was a small creek seperating the wall and a dry area to place the rope, so we opted that I would lead belay from the dry area. I knew that it would be better to be close to the wall, to prevent myself from flying into the wall, but i figured I could handle a lead fall by bracing my feet against two boulders in front of me. False. On the second or third bolt, Michael took a "lead fall" (barely, he downclimbed most of it) to think about the next steps of this challenging climb... but that slight downward momentum on the wall and the slight weight differences caused me to plunge my whole lower body into the creek and against the wall. It was like one of those slow motion moments... I was bracing my feet and slowly was like "NOOoooooo" and my body just tipped in. Michael barely noticed a thing, still had him on belay, but just was soaked now.
We lowered, to re-asses the situation. Ah-ha -- dumbies -- anchor the belayer to a boulder. So we rigged up a pathetic anchor to the boulder behind me and gave it a shot again. At the same crux, instead of falling in forward to the wall, I fell sideways off the boulder I was sitting on... into the creek... again.
Third times a charm. This time I stood in the water, anchored to the boulder. Sucess! And Michael did freaking awesome on the climb... no thanks to my dramatic belay.
Toproping was another story in itself. I fell really close to the bottom on the first attempt which sent me swinging to the left and down into the water because of the stretch in the rope, so I imediately tried to stick my feet into the air to keep them dry which meant my butt cheeks were just sitting on the water, and somehow I think in the attempt to get me back on the wall and near the start point I ended up even further into the water and Michael ended up swinging onto the wall from the belay point. Wet Chalk. Wet butt. Wet shoes. I tried the climb again and got half way, then decided to give the wall the win for the day. The climb was a hott f*ing mess, but was quite entertaining. In the end, it was worth sacrificing my body to the creek so that Michael could send the 5.11b. He did awesome.
I think we took a break after this to eat lunch, drink a beer (naturally, because it makes things safer of course. Don't ask questions.), and scare the passing families in the canyon when they saw us probably thinking we were up to no good.
Unknown, Left of Cobble Climb (5.9+) After "lunch", we decided to do a lead on this climb that was in the guide as Unknown 5.9+... which was really fun as well, but the beginning gave me the chills because it was a weird traverse on the lip of the wall. I just did what I normally do when I feel freaked out on the wall... get real silent, start cursing to myself, and tell myself to put my big girl panties on and just do it already. It may be a weird way of coping, but its what works for me. Then bliss.. sweet, sweet bliss. Also, Michael was a solid climbing parter. Letting me brood in silence and encoraging at the same time.
Exodus (5.11a) to Gridlock (?) to Sunshine Dust Bunnies (5.10-) Then, to take advantage of the last bit of remaining sunshine we went under the bridge and climbed another route on the other side of the canyon. I'm not quite sure what to call the climb. It started up a route called Exodus which from the ledge of the belay to the first bolt was super run-out. Fortunately, it wasn't that complicated to get to the first bolt. The crux, however, was getting above the first bolt over this lip in the wall. Michael did it, no problem. I struggled on it, but got over the crux without falling. Then the route jumped onto another route called Gridlock and ended on Sunshine Dust Bunnies. This climb was freakin fun! It was on this awesome sandstone, it traveresed, it had pockets. I really liked it, and glad we ended on it. Michael lead the climb, I toproped, but we both red-pointed.
Honked the horn of the subaru when I left through the tunnels.... I still don't get it. "ITS JUST FUN DAMNIT!"
Excellent climbing area though. I've already raved about the black wall climbs, but this was just as fun. Stoked to come back. Time to start pushing myself harder on the leads I choose, but also just to enjoy the fun easy stuff as well. It's nice the area has a balance.
Wow! I wrote an essay. Sorry about that one.