By Greg Murphy
We've decided that using the whole weekend to get in a long climb is extravagant, self indulgent, and just isn't necessary. With a little more focus, motivation, and efficiency, most climbing objectives can be completed on Saturday, leaving all of Sunday to do house projects, laundry, shop for groceries, take care of the kids, etc. "In a day" now means leaving the house on Friday night and returning Saturday night.
In keeping with this new ethic, Peter Coward and I drove up to the Sawtooth Range/Matterhorn Peak area and climbed an outstanding route on the Incredible Hulk. This route, Astro-Hulk (5.11), was recently put up by Dave Nettle and ours may have been the second ascent. We arrived at the trailhead area at 11:30 pm and got the alpine start going at 4:30 am on Saturday. Since the birth my second son Alex six weeks ago, this was a refreshingly solid 5 hours of sleep.
The predawn hike in was a beautiful mix of trail and cross-country as we watched the morning sun hit the peaks above us. We did the approach in 2h 23m with an elevation gain of about 3,000 feet. The face was in the shade and the first couple of pitches were quite cold. After 2 warmup pitches, the climbing starts in earnest with a dicey, technical 5.11a face traverse above some roofs. Peter unlocked this section with a cool head and some smooth, devious climbing. Three more pitches of 5.10 or so took us to the stellar 7th and 8th pitches, both 5.11. Pitch 7 has some awesome clean stemming and corner turning at 5.11a, while pitch 8 climbs a striking corner with some sporty long layback sections between gear placement at 5.11b. Although the climb continues along the summit ridge, we opted to rap from the top of pitch 8. I had been to the summit twice before and Peter will have to wait for another day when he returns to do Positive Vibrations and the Red Dihedral.
We hiked out quickly and enjoyed the descent through alpine meadows, wildflowers, aspens, fir forests and finally back to the car. The car to car time was 12h 23m and we made it home by 11:30 pm. The route is outstanding with a nice mix of varied, continuous 5.10 and 5.11 climbing. The Incredible Hulk is a great destination back country crag with the comparatively mellow approach, fabulous location, and choice of great climbs.
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