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Blacksmith Peak 7/30/00

By Jim Herson

Last week Michael Johnson's hamstring gave way in the 200M Olympic qualifiers. Similarly Jim's back crumbled while picking up a bag of cement at Home Depot. Despite suffering in my usual stoic silence Anne became alarmed at the depth of my despair over the Home Depo rejection when I let slip the fact that Greg and Peter's 32 mile lunchless ascent of the Citadel had failed to ignite my normal jealous rage. Panicked, she insisted I recharge my batteries on some of that magical high sierra granite. Recruiting the perfect partner for such a trip was trivial. A friendly note to the expecting Chan gently reminding him that his climbing clock had essentially expired and that come November he's toast and suddenly the guide book was open and routes were being discussed. Oddly the same new parent preying strategy backfired on Hans. In his panic Hans ended up on what's arguably the second best, though still worthwhile, climb on El Cap (the Nose) only with Peter and not me?! Go figure. However I don't begrudge Peter for this. On the contrary I feel a strong kinship with Pete-man as we are the two sole survivors of the "Greg Forgot The Lunch Bucket Club."

As there no longer seems to be a concept of a reasonable driving distance for a day trip Chan and I found ourselves heading to the Whitney Portal for the day. I suspect that when temperatures drop Saturday afternoon outings to Indian Creek will become commonplace. The long drive allowed us to carefully consider the pros and cons of climbing a striking, relatively new, impeccable 5.12- line up the wildly exposed Keeler Needle or some dopey, interminable, slog fest up Mt Chamberlin. Chan, armed with charts and topos, was emphatic that Mt Chamberlin was an easy 7 mile hike in. Fortunately Courtney, a long time east side hiker who happened to have been a Whitney ranger, confirmed that it was indeed a 7 miles/4000' slog up to the half way point on the Mt Chamberlin trail. Chan, never one to cloud an issue with facts, continued to harp on Mt Chamberlin. As negotiations dragged on towards Bishop I felt a certain distance growing between us. In fact I could no longer even see Chan! It seems that the Southern Sierras were a blaze and Bishop was engulfed in a nuclear winter. Further investigation revealed that the fires were near the Whitney area and ash was raining down on the Whitney summit. Regrouping, we grabbed some Thai food and backtracked north to Bridgeport and the Blacksmith peak trailhead. The gratuitous 150 mile Thai food detour salvaged the required late night arrival and gave us a respectable drive:snooze ratio.

Up before dawn, only to discover we had basically bivied in someone's driveway, we were hiking by first light [well, first light plus an hour]. The hike to Blacksmith goes cross country up just another one of those incomparable trademark east side canyons. A truly stunning hike and I only fell in one river crossing. The Northwest Face of Blacksmith is 6-8 pitches of varied and engaging moderate climbing with one 5.11 section. Not exactly bulletproof granite but pretty darn good although the helmet Chan left in the car would have come in handy. The highlight was Chan's on-sight brawl of the 5.11 second pitch crux and the accompanying sound track. We hung out on top soaking up the stunning Sawtooth Ridge scenery and what could be seen of the smoked out southern Sierras. After a scramble and glissade back to the based we contemplated another newer, 6-8 pitch 5.11 route up the center of the face. However in a show of solidarity for Peter & Greg we spent the rest of the afternoon chowing down on hordes of delectable treats and enjoying a fun filled casual descent in full light returning recharged and refreshed to the bay area at civilized hour. And although we don't know for sure, we'll go out on a limb and claim the first free ascent of Blacksmith peak via the Bishop approach loop.


From: Jeannette Hung Great trip report, as usual! So it looks like you've gone soft... Chowing down rather than climbing? What's the world coming to? jeannette
From: Mimi Recker After many, many years of reading Herson trip reports, this is the first one that i could almost, maybe imagine myself doing. you haven't turned 40 yet, have you?
From: Mike Ruby Thanks Jim. Very entertaining. I kept thinking your saga was going to turn into some horrendous freezing bivy, hanging from your ropes on some god forsaken 5.13 thing in the backcountry. Odd really, I guess you must be growing up too. Your Hero. Mike
From: Clint Cummins Dear Jim, Thanks for sharing another fun trip report. Too bad about the smoke, but at least it prevented escalation of the argument on climb choice. I can visualize the brawl. Joel Ager described climbing with Chan on the Chouinard-Herbert some years back. When it got hard, Chan would just go for it and either get it or plunge. (I do the opposite -- I start pausing and placing lots of gear when it gets hard). It keeps my speed down, but also keeps me out of further injury.... Sincerely, Clint
From: Sam Joffe great report! how's the terracing look?
From: Aunt Pat Hi Climbers (this includes Kara, who Sheila says has INCREDIBLE balance and coordination. Already.) What's this about Home Depot and cement? Hope your back is better Jim - it must be because of the Blacksmith Peak expedition. I loved the write-up. The usual forgot-the-lunch, forgot-the-helmet, where-to-climb, caught-in-forest-fire episodes - but.........coming back in daylight? Whatever happened to those run-out-of-water night descents? Getting soft? I don't think so - too much retaining wall. Is it true that your Dad actually vomited from overwork, or is that one of your Mom's famous exaggerations? Sorry we missed the trip, ha ha. That's it for now. love, pat and ron
From: Sherry Listgarten Hey! It's great to hear a climbing report from you, even if it's mostly driving :) I'm still available for Kara-sitting... -- Sherry.
From: Peter Coward Outstanding report! Sounds like you guys had a great time. Just for the record (not like I'm really interested), exactly how far is the Chamberlin approach?
From: Chandlee Harrell Ho Jim! These truly is an outstanding trip report. I gotta learn to take a dose of valium or some such before reading your trip reports, so I don't get too outta control giggling at the workplace. By the way....am I included in your "climber" alias? --I didn't actually receive a copy of your report...? wouldn't want to miss out.. Had an excellent time on Sunday. Care to meet in the back yard for some irrigation work this Sunday? I'll bring the pain killers and muscle relaxants. --forge
From: Bill Wright Hi Jim, As usual, a great trip and extremely entertaining writing. Thanks for including me in the distribution list. I just got back from a trip to the Canadian Rockies. Here's a summary. I'd add you to my trip report distribution but my climbs are too pitiful to be very meaningful to studs like you guys. Bill

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