Monday, April 27, 2009

East Face of Monkey

Back in the mid- nineties, when I was about 10, my dad and some friends took a trip to Smith Rock. On that trip we tried to climb the Pioneer route on the Monkey. At the time the Monkey looked massive, absolutely huge. In reality it's a short 3 pitch bolt ladder/ 5.9/ scramble route... But at the time, as an impressionable kid, it looked giant. On the route we got snowed on and rappelled...

In 2004 Sonnie Trotter climbed the East Face placing all the gear on lead. That was the spring I graduated from high school and Ben Moon's shots absolutely blew me away... They still stand as some of the coolest photos I have ever seen. Trotter looks like he's climbing 1000 feet off the deck given the airy nature of the Monkey at the laser cut arete to his right. At the time I could only climb 13a sport and mid 5.12 trad, so it was out of the question to try the line. But I vowed to one day get strong enough to send it.

This spring I buckled down and drove to Smith, intent on really giving it a serious effort. My good friend Charlie Long came with and hiked up to the Monkey many, many times. I owe him hours of belay duty. At first, the route felt impossible. Powerful, painful, and hopelessly long. Charlie and I ended up bringing at least 5 PBRs for every session. After one attempt my fingers would be bleeding and I'd need a little pain relief to give it a second burn. A couple low buzz American beers did the trick. A little trick I learned from Andrew Boyd...

The trip was coming to a close... I had to work on Squamish on Sunday, and by friday afternoon I still hadn't sent. In the end, as always, sending came down to a mental thing. I focussed on how wild the climbing was, how much of a joy it was to be up there, and blocked out negative thoughts. Placing all 14 pieces on lead and skipping the bolts, I was pumped out of my mind at the top.

The next day my good buddy Rich Wheater snapped shots of me in the early morning light. Charlie gave Chain Reaction three burns but came up short.... just barely missing the final jug. Then I drove for most of the night and worked all day yesterday teaching in the Smoke Bluffs.