Time Bomb 27 *****
Time Bomb 27 ******
Pitch 1 18 30m.
Start about 30m to the right of the tea spot to the right of the clump of yellowwood trees. Cairn.
Avoid the chossy left leaning cracks and start below the cleaner ramp to the right and diagonal up left to stance atop blocks at a cairn.
Pitch 2 23 40m.
From the blocks crank straight up using lay-backs sans any pro on white rock for 4 m to place good gear in a rail on your left rope. Move right and then carefully balance up onto a pointed block and do a tricky move to gain a rail past a bolt. Clip only the right rope. Move left and climb the orange recess. Rail right for 2m to a somewhat off-balance rest point. Climb straight up to a ledge on the right. Continue up the left leaning scoop to its top and then stance on a semi-detached block 3m to the left at a bolt and nut and cam belay in the crack 1,5m to the right at the same level. It is more comfy to stand and belay below the trad gear than the bolt. Look carefully and heed that the block is not properly keyed in – hence the bolt.
Pitch 3 40m 21R
Climb up the broken seam for 4m to place gear in gnarly weathered holes in the dodgy rock. Continue up past a bolt and then left past an expanding flake and do a tricky move to gain a jug and another bolt. Climb up carefully for about 4m and if you are lucky you will find a shallow yellow BD tricam or red alien cam placement and continue to the bolted abseil point on Down Time. Climb the ramp up left to the overhang. Climb out left and then another 3m or so to stance on a good ledge. Bolt and cam/nut belay.
Pitch 4 50m 24 *****
Find your way up the rock rib just left of the chossy gulley crack on the left for 4-5 m to a small stance at a tree making sure that you only clip one rope to pro with long slings. Place pro on the arete on the same (left) rope as far right as possible and launch around into space. Traverse right for a few metres on the headwall till above the belay bolt and then with intricate, delicate, balancy, stemming and one or two strenuous moves (and even a heel hook) on small holds maneouvre your way up the best climbing to be found at Yellowwood or anywhere. Initially one climbs to a shallow left facing corner using edges but instead of continuing high up it climb a thin crack that is part of a flake just to the right. At the top do a strenuous move right (poor feet) to a white spike that is the top of the flake and do a strenuous crank to a jug.
Continue up tending right past a gnarly rail where a camelot 3/4 works best and then do a tricky move up to some good nut placements. At holes in the rock where a BD 2 or 3 cam works best move right then up left and run it out to a large whie ledge. Walk up the large detached block on the right and then past the left of the guilotine flake to a rail. Continue another few metres to stance at the bolted Down Time Anchor on the Halfway Ledge.
Pitch 5 20m 25 *****
Scramble up to the ledge just above the anchors and stance 5m to the left below a shallow right facing corner at a bolt. Careful inspection will reveal a peg visible above the overhang about 15m up.
Climb the corner past the first overlap and step left into the yellow scoop below the overhang. Step back right and do a hard move up past the right end of the overhang to the rail below and to the left of the next small overhang. Place a good .4 or .5 BD cam for security in the rail to the right of the peg. Do a long hard move up from the peg and continue to a rail. Place a good small cam here as a directional and then move right easily for about 5m to a good stance with a fixed nut belay next to a large block under an overhang. Back this up with a medium or large cam as the crack is somewhat flared and the nuts may loosen due to the hot and cold nature of Yellowwood.
Pitch 6 40m 22
Crank directly up into a crack and continue straight up to the large overhang above. Bypass 2 bolts and 2 pegs (shared with his His Mother his Face) and above the second bolt traverse right for about 7m to reach large blocks. Place a directional above the bolt for the climbers following. Climb up and right over the last obvious block to a good stance below an overhanging jam crack.
Pitch 7 20m 19/20
Climb the jam cracks to the Down Time Anchor.
Most mediocre quite good climbers will be tested by this point and route to here warrants the title “Most of the Time”..
Pitch 8. 35m. 27.
This is the crux pitch and as a red point with practice, chalk ticked holds and gear beta is rated 26. It gets exponentially more difficult for climbers shorter than 1.8m.
From the anchor rail out left for 5m placing a Camelot 3 at 3m or so.
Once stabilized at the 2nd bolt it is best to unclip the 1st and extend the 2nd bolt with a 60cm sling, The 5th bolt is difficult to clip and can be avoided. Continue up the overhanging corner for 25m past a gnarly break on the right (Camelot 3) on pure trad and one final bolt to a fixed anchor on a yellow ramp.
Pitch 9. 15m 25.
Continue up the overhanging corner past a bolt to a nut and bolt belay.
Pitch 10. 18m 22 (Harder if short due to a very thin and bouldery move at the crux to attain a rail.) Climb up through the overhangs on grey gnarly rock and finish up on cleaner rock left of the offwidth cracks to a peg and bolt belay. A Camelot 3 is very useful on this pitch at the last overhang just above the crux.
Despite there being 10 bolts and one peg (besides the stances) on this route, it is a full on trad route: hard, intimidating, steep and exhausting. A full rack is needed that includes a double set of nuts to size 8, with singles to size 10 or 12., a double set of micro and small and medium cams to size 3. (2 Camelot 3 are needed on the crux pitch 8). Quickdraws are useful on the crux but 60m slings shortened to make draws are more useful overall. Take at least 12 60cm slings or otherwise 5 quickdraws and 10 or so slings.
The route can be done with a sport rope and a thin tag line, especially the last 3 pitches, but there is no advantage to doing so compared to 2 skinny 7.5mm half ropes. In a party of two the one rope can be used for hauling. 70m ropes are useful and saves you one abseil on the Down Time descent and also allows one to more easily haul provisions if you climb in a party of three by one of the followers tying in the middle of the rope.
Grading. as is always the case at Yellowwood and elsewhere, is open to invidual experience on a pitch, interpretation and endless debate. At Yellowwood the temperature on a single day can be so variable that one can freeze and swelt (more than once each) on a single day. Ideal climbing temperature is nigh impossible on any single day on Yellowwood and each increment of 3 or 4 degrees C above or below 18 degrees will add a grade to any one pitch. It means that the crux pitch will probably feel like 30 on a very hot or very cold day and especially if one is doing a ground up ascent which is the most conventional and best style of climbing at Yellowwood. Sieging routes with bivvies is rarely done and I believe that grading routes should not encompass that paradigm or style at Yellowwood.
At this stage the only one of the harder pitches that has been more or less properly onsighted is pitch 5 off the halfway ledge by Ben Louw, (who by the way has done some 14 grade 29 sport routes this year.) I did give him some gear beta which helps but he very nearly fell at the crux which is not scary or difficult to protect. So grade 25 seems reasonable for this pitch as an onsight although with practise or beta this would probably rate only 24 for tall climbers.
The crux pitch 8 was freed on lead by Squeaks Halsey after lots of practice the day before and on a previous occasion and Willem Le Roux has also TR freed it. It has yet to receive an Onsight Flash but the consensus red point grade for tall people over 6 ft is 26. I imagine a more realistic onsight grade with no chalk marks and only RD in hand is at least 27 for taller climbers and increasing exponentially for shorter climbers. I have not tried very hard but have spent some time on the pitch and am completely flummoxed in moving past the last bolt.
The next, 9th pitch is also very hard and my benchmark for grading this pitch is Uber Huber on TM. Quite frankly this pitch is harder (never mind the context high up on Yellowwood)
Bolts: I have spent more than a decade trying to stitch this route together and by placing bolts and some fixed stances have probably opened myself to armchair critics. However without bolts it would probably never be climbed by anyone I know or know of. It would be too hard, scary and dangerous. In the recent past there have been two very serious accidents at Yellowwood on the 3rd pitch of Prime Time Direct, a mare 22 grade. I have led this pitch 7 times and always lead it because it is so objectively dangerous and it surely deserves a solid fixed piece of gear that has now been placed. On one attempt in March this year I broke a hold on pitch 6 of Time Bomb, cratered onto a ledge and the rope only caught me some 15+ metres after I bounced over an overhang. I was extremely lucky to survive that fall without serious injury but my butt was severely bruised and on the walk down I could not properly control my leg and fell over cracking my ribs on a sharp boulder.
Pitch 3 is 21 R. I and a few other climbers have lead it sans bolts and even with 2 bolts it is still the most run-out and scary of the all the pitches on the route. The bolt at the stance is to ensure that the belayer is out of the fall line of the leader and a fall could be some 30m.
Without the bolts on pitch 8 one would be in for a 40m fall with a high fall factor that can be mitigated by combining the previous pitch 7. This would mean a massive rack and very bold strenous climbing for almost 60m. That will make this pitch nigh impossible for anyone except the “elite” climbers in the world – hardly a project that I would have bothered with if this was the case.
The other fixed stances are partly for convenience and partly for safety. As anyone knows that climbs at Yellowwood, racks are heavy with doubles on most all sizes and yet one can still end up at a stance without the correct gear to be safe. And this is a common difficulty that has resulted in a waste of time and some danger on many occasions on this very route.
As examples: one can easily run out of the correct gear for a stance as Ben did at the end of pitch 2 where he belayed off the single bolt.
The gear at the end of pitch 3 is plentiful but is seated between flaky shale blocks that inspire no confidence and hence the bolt.
The start of pitch 5 has only a micro cam and a tiny nut as pro as anchors on a narrow exposed ledge – hence the bolt.
One can easily run out of the correct gear at the end of the harder 2 pitches 8 and 9 and hence the fixed stances. Only the end of pitch 1, 5 and 6 are gear friendly with lots of options.
Other fixed stances are part of the Down Time rap route.
Time Bomb is the best route at Yellowwood and eclipses even Prime Time Direct in that regard. The route has no bad climbing and there is a dearth of easy moves. Like all Yellowwood routes there is the odd bit of dodgy appearing rock, scary balanced blocks that one has to negotiate, and run-outs. There is very little chossy rock or vegatation that bothers but holds can and do break off especially if you weigh 90kg like Ben does.
Most of the climbing is extremely engaging and tricky and few of the pitches are despatched onsight lead in less than an hour. (2,4,5,8 and 9 each require around 2 hours to lead and follow- so do the math for a one day ascent.)
Best time to do this route is probably October to March if you are lucky enough to find a cool day. It behoves a 2 am wake up to start climbing at first light and thereby secure a good 16 to 18 hours of daylight. It will help enormously to stash food, water and warm clothing along the Down Time abseils some time before your attempt. So in that case walking up on a day before and then climbing Smalblaar and stashing provisions on the Down Time descent ledges would be very useful.
The descent is relatively quick and easy by using Down Time.