Last week I had the good fortune to climb one the finest rock climbs the Sierra has to offer: Positive Vibrations (5.11a). The route, just west of Bridgeport, CA, (five miles and 3000+' hike up Little Slide Canyon) is on a striking monolith of granite perfection known as The Incredible Hulk.
Marty Roberts and Rob McKay were perfect partners for this adventure. Several years ago Marty and I climbed a different route on the Hulk; the Red Dihedral. Marty has been traveling for the last year and was just getting back into the climbing groove. Rob is a super strong climber from here in Sebastopol who I have only just begun climbing with this year. Our plan was to hike in on Wednesday, climb Positive Vibes on Thursday as a party of three, then another friend, Eric Berghorn would show up to climb another route as two parties on Friday.
The trek up the trail, across beaver swamps, along the creek and over boulders was a beautiful trudge. We talked and laughed, catching up on old times and past climbs. Finally the Hulk came looming into view, luring us forward. Even from a mile away we could see the dark specks of other climbers high on the shimmering white tower. It was hard to fathom that tomorrow we would be high on that same face.
We got an intentional late start, waiting for the temps to warm up. About 10am we got started, Rob leading first, swapping leads as we went, with Marty following, self belaying on a mini-traxion.
Each pitch was spectacular and seemed even better than the previous.
Thin cracks, wide chimneys, splitter finger and hand cracks, and technical face moves all with tremendous exposure; Positive Vibrations has it all.
We inched our way up the wall, arriving on the summit before the sun went behind the ridge, then began a long series of rappels down the blank face.
Psyched on the summit, and rappelling in evening light.
We got back to camp just as darkness fell, still totally stoked. The stove roared to life and we ate an insane amount of food before collapsing exhausted under the stars.
Eric hadn't arrived and I was concerned about whether he had gotten the time off work. In the morning we slept in and lounged around eating, and drinking coffee. Feeling tired, we decided to hike out, so packed our bags. Just as we were leaving Eric arrived in camp, throwing a welcome kink in the plan. We had a war council and decided that because Eric had driven from Calistoga and hiked all the way in to climb with us, it wasn't really right to leave without him climbing something. So Rob and Marty bailed to climb in Tuolumne Meadows while Eric and I switched gears and did an afternoon ascent of Red Dihedral.
We roped up at noon and cruised up the perfect cracks and corners, doing the route in about six hours, arriving back in camp before dark. Somewhere between the summit down-climb and the rappels to the descent gully I managed to lose one of my approach shoes, so had to walk down in one climbing shoe. This was really a bummer as the shoes were pretty new, I'd just put some expensive insoles in them, and my feet were already screaming from the tight climbing shoes. The thought of hiking all the way back to the car with one shoe was undesirable. I did have a pair of flip flops with me and with some tape and a sock turned one into a nice sandal that got me all the way down without suffering much. If anyone finds that shoe I'd be happy to get it back!
(Outguard Spire on the right, Reggae Pole on the left)
Once down we had a swim in chilly Twin Lakes and burritos in town. So another excellent adventure and good times were had by all. New stories were made, to be told and retold around campfires in years to come.
Photos by Jerry Dodrill and Marty Roberts.
For more information about the Incredible Hulk, visit the route beta page at SuperTopo.com
Jerry Dodrill Photography