There were 4 of us, Brian Warshow (from Colorado USA), Mark Cowen, James Mader, and me Micky Wiswedel. Originally we planned to meet up after New Years eve and climb energy crisis. On recommendation by Dave Davies we decided to do Celestial Journey (Basically he said we would be a bunch of wussies not to do it) Being mainly sport climbers I think the hardest pitch was the walk in with the temps being like 34 degrees or something, we aren’t the earliest risers either so walked up in full sun.
We split into two teams, Mark and James in one team and me and Brian in the other. A round of scissors paper rock meant that mark and I were to lead the first 2 pitches with Mark being the first on the rock. Possibly one of the best pitches on the route, it follows a straight up 40m crack line with a tricky finger crack stemmy kind of crux. I think Dave would have laughed seeing us trying to find crimps and anything similar to a sport climb on the outside of the crack but in the end with a bit of grunting and scraping we managed to get through the crux. I think I pulled on the smallest hold I have ever gripped on the crux, I was not amped to take my first lead fall on trad.
The second pitch we thought would be easy but it seems that anything in a trad description that reads ‘awkward’ should read ‘what the fc*k is going on here.’ I found this pitch to be one of the hardest actually, maybe because this was the one were I came closest to falling, once again there was no way I was keen to test my placements and I held on something ridiculously small again. Brian having lots of big wall experience including Yosemite made the pitch look super easy using his codger like jamming, smearing and stemming skills to bypass the mini crimps and edges we were trying to use.
The third pitch, is an awesome face climb graded at 22. The crux I suppose was the footless traverse followed by the holdless mantle. An awesome pitch where you always feel on edge and are balancing on some really tiny holds. The next pitch 19 was the easiest and shortest but was still very cool climbing. Then followed a really interesting flaring crack pitch graded at 20. Stemming and lie backing saw us through this section with the crux being at the top where the crack flares and holds run out … once again we had to learn some new stemming skills on the spot.
To end the climb, you are faced with another amazing 22 pitch. It follows a crack up to and around a big block where a cool ‘cut your feet loose’ move gets you into another crack system. A short traverse gets you under a small roof where we used a kinda upside down sloper (undercling) to crank to another sloper. This I think was the crux to this pitch and was an awesome way to finish the route.
We topped out just as the sun was setting and walked down in the dark … without torches and no moon to light up the path either.
Overall the route is world class! Brian, who has traveled and climbed in over 40 countries around the world including super classics in Yosemite rated this one of his favourite routes ever, and has been bugging me to take him to meet Dave to thank him personally ever since. From the ground to the top you are climbing, no scrappy easy pitches and scrambles, just awesome climbing all the way.
Here is the break down of pitches lead; all onsight. No really hair raising moments, it all went pretty smoothly, we were buzzing and climbing like champions! (well, we thought) This was my 6th trad route ever and James’ 5th.
Pitch1_22 – Micky and Mark
Pitch2_20 – Micky and James
Picth3_22 – Mark and Brian
Pitch4_19 – James and Brian
Pitch5_20 – Micky and Mark
Pitch6_22 – Brian and Mark
Story by Micky Wiswedel
All images: © Micky Wiswedel