The tree belay at the end of pitch 8
This past weekend, we climbed Millenium Falcon , a wonderful route in the Dihedrals are of the Chief, that goes to first to Bellygood Ledge and then on to the summit.
We climbed only as far as Bellygood Ledge, and hiked down from there. Aside from the usual excuses, such as that it was getting late, and we’d been delayed by two groups in front of us on the route; I must admit that I was tired!
Pitch 2 - my favorite one on the climb
The climb started out easy - a 5.8 chimney, not too steep, or strenuous. However, that didn’t last!
On pitch 2, the holds got a lot smaller. We quickly went from a thin corner to a steep layback with tiny holds. The good holds to the side, for stemming, saved me here - allowing a rest periodically.
thin cracks on Pitch 3
Pitch 3 was harder than pitch 2, with a thin finger crack to a stretch left for the next foothold, followed by a traverse left, on to another thin finger crack.
Pitch 4 was the one rated 5.11, supposedly most difficult of the climb, but I found pitch 3 as hard.
Chimney on pitch 5
After three difficult pitches, the wonderful chimney on pitch 5 was almost relaxing! No hands rests, good holds, what a treat! It brought us to a wonderful, flat, grassy and mossy ledge where we enjoyed a quick snack.
After this , we traversed left across “Trichome Ledge”, one of the numerous sloping ‘ledges’ that seem to consist of mud, vegetation, and moss, and criss-cross the Chief in odd places. I always worry that the entire ledge will fall off (one did, when Tristan and I were on the Squaw), but he locals seem to trust them.
I’d not looked at the topo before starting up the route, and was under the delusion that we’d done the hard pitches, and climbing would now be easy - a romp to the top!
Boy, was I wrong. Pitch 7 was another 5.10d traverse to a sloping ledge, followed by pitch 8, which I thought was 5.10a.
It wasn’t. It was a steep crack, starting with small gear (1″, or red Camalots) and increasing in size to 3″ - that part was ok. But then it kept getting wider, and was wet. I could no longer jam the crack (too big) and instead, had to layback the very steep corner.
That crack was very burly, and my arms felt like limp spaghetti. Tis pitch ends with the magic tree, which may have been a lot more useful as a climbing aid prior to several year’s worth of desperate climbers grabbing it to pull themselves up.
The last pitch, a layback going to a chimney, seemed pleasant, and if I’d been less tired (like, if it started on the ground!), I’d have enjoyed it. As tired as I was, reaching the top was its own reward.
The route has 4 more pitches. We’ll hike up to Bellygood Ledge someday and start on those well-rested!