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Sling Diplomacy, round 2 10/1/99

By Jim Herson

Climbing with Hans Florine is not unlike touring the Louvre in a bullet train. It is not the alpine, solitary, contemplative retreat you might expect. Nor is it the spiritual growth big wallers painstakingly undergo as doubt, fear, and self pity give way to confidence, courage, and self pity. No, climbing with Hans is to flaunt contempt for the length, difficulty, and historic significance of the Valley's tallest. Gosh, is it fun!

Embarking on a mission that made Albright's Mideast shuttle diplomacy look like umpiring a Little League scrimmage, Hans and I returned to the negotiating table to explore a framework for that seemingly intractable sling thing. For those not familiar with the religious fervor ignited by this thorny issue it seems Hans, the big stud muffin, can't be burdened to climb with an extra 6 grams of nylon webbing??? Unfortunately I've grown much too proficient at coddling these overgrown, high maintenance, needy partners [Hi Greg, Chan, Peter, Jeff!]. You can't just silence them with a plate of grub [Hi Allen, Chris, Jacques!] or cheap red wine [Hi Ann!]. You have to give, give, give and only then hope their whining subsides. Kara can't be weaned soon enough so dad gets back his #1 partner who, I might add, enthusiastically defers to *all* my climbing/gear brainstorms!

Anyway all I could squeeze out of Hans, the Netanyahu of sling negotiations, was a meager two slings per pitch for the pitches we planned to link. In exchange I had to forfeit the aiders.

Also, rather than catch more flack for thinking outside the box I decided, at the cost of great personal discomfort, to wear both left and right climbing shoes this round.

After meticulously racking the perfect Halfdome rack of ~50 items, (slings, biners, and cams) I gave Hans a gri-gri and quart of water to hold. He remembered to bring one of them. Ironically on my first trip up the Dome one of my partners was also a very tall, long haired, goofy blond who shortchanged me on the water [Hi Dave!].

Just as Robbins et al might have done 40 years ago had they thought to pack more slings, Hans and I fired the regular route in a zippy 1:53:25. I lead the pitch breaking stride once, in mid pendulum on the Robbin's, to spruce up the rack. Whatever headaches he caused in packing, the king of speed more than made up for with the perfect, cushy belay. Batting cleanup on these simul-climbs is best left for the master. Not only is falling *not* an option but you have to constantly throttle the lead rope, using the gri-gri, making sure never to slow the leader when he's on easy ground while keeping minimal slack in the system at all times. No matter how hard I tried I couldn't shake that blond maniac at the end of the rope yet I didn't get hosed once! And he quickly dispatched with the two (inevitable) rope snags. [On slow sections the second catches the first leaving long loops of rope to hang up.] Nice work Hansy!

Other than one small Tibloc mishaps that almost left me in a foul mood this morning [a Tibloc isn't designed and should *never* be used for simulclimbing -- 'nuff said] the climb was a blast! We blazed up to Big Sandy in 1:15. I lost a few minutes in the Zigzags as I was short a few draws (which I had left at the one gear exchange -- doh!) and had to back clean & conserve gear. We finished the route with a hip belay just like Robbins et al must have done 40 years ago.

We speculated that this was the first sub 2 hour grade VI which is weird if you consider a grade VI is the definition any climb longer than, say, 2, err, hours??? Anyway having now climbed a total of 48 pitches together in a bit over 4 hours Hans and I have yet to share a belay. He still has no idea I can't tie a cordelette...


Now back to our regularly scheduled program. Anyone up for the Salathe this weekend???

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