The world is small, it is even smaller when it comes to the world of climbers. In 2010, Matt Robertson, author of Long Dong Climbing Guide, put together a team of 21 climbers from all over the world including some big names like, Mayan Gobat Smith, Hazel Finlay and Tim Emmett. Somehow the average Joe, climber wana-be, me managed to get into that climb as well.
During this climb of course we forged good ties, made new friends and climbed a pretty tall building. It was during this time I met Mike Knarzer from Phoenix. Of course Mike is a great climber known to climb desert cracks and towers. All this did not make any sense to me until last week when Mike and I shared a rope on the Incredible Hulk in the high Sierra.
Mike in blue shirt in 2010 climbing tower 2 of Marina Bay Sands and me in red shirt to his left
The first time I heard about the Incredible Hulk was when I watch the video, Orgins, featuring Lisa Rands and Peter Croft climbing the route Venturi Effect. The video will seem a little boring to those who have no interest in alpine trad climbing or is expecting to see Lisa Rands crank another boulder problem. But the more interesting thing about the video features the amazing legend Peter Croft. This guy is a bad ass, in case our Singapore readers out there doesn’t know. He is the Alex Honnold of the 90s and has some amazing feature under his belt, first one day link up of Salathe Wall and the Nose in 1992, free soloed the Astroman and the FA of Airstream, 5.13 on the Hulk.
The only thing I can imagine myself doing, is to climb 5.9/5.10s at 11000ft. To climb a 5.13 trad route at that kind of height is a serious undertaking and not the same as climbing the 5.13 in Tonsai beach where you can have 2 Khao pai pak (veg fried rice) in between burns!
The Incredible Hulk
I met up with Matt and Mike at Black Sheep cafe in Bishop when Kelly and I were passing through to get to LA after the whole month of guiding in Yosemite Valley. We had a great season, having 2 big wall summit and also guided another 2 clients on big wall summits and now its time for Kelly to go home and I will be without a climbing partner for 1 week. However when Mike talked about the Hulk, it struck me that this climb has always been at the back of my mind. The long approach, the altitude and the beauty of the wall is what draws me to wanting to try to climb something similar. Something more alpine like with big long routes.
Pretty high up in the Sierra with view of Outgarde Post on the opposite side of the valley.
Mike and I finally settle for plans after a few days of cragging in Bishop with the Singaporeans. We decided the 5mile approach is going to be our rest day and blast up Sunspot Dihedral on the following day, rap the route on the same day and descent. Sounds doable, after all its ‘only’ 11b and 8 pitch of climbing. Seriously, I have my doubts as I have never climbed so hard so high before and I know the approach is steep. That means the calves will blow out early on those crazy stemming and endless finger cracks.
The final approach before getting to bivy site. Hulk hiding behind the approach.
There was no time to waste, we cooked a big asian dinner at Matt’s place and started to pack for the 1 night stay up in the high Sierra. The following day’s drive from Bishop to Bridgeport is about 2 hours and that includes getting to the ranger station to get our Wilderness permit. And we park in the village at the trail head which requires a USD 10 parking fee that last for 7days.
Parking at the village
Packed our bags and have Mike’s little Miss Pather come along with us! The first 2.5 miles of the hike is on hiker’s trail which is easy to follow and pretty flat. We made good time to the fork of the trail before taking a break at the river.
The trail head
Pretty good view!
From the river its another 2.5mile climber’s trail and steep rocky terrain. As we started gaining altitude, the body begs for more air and the legs become sluggish. We took about another 2 hours for the last 2.5miles.
Crossing the river to the climbers trail
At this point of time, the objective is right in front of you and the size of the rock is just amazing. With many routes going up the wall, we chose something which is in between, not super easy like the Red Dihedral, 10b or something crazy hard like the Venturi Effect, 12+. The Sunspot Dihedral is a long sustain climb with 3 pitches of 5.11 back to back and the crux pitch is a 11b face climb protected by bolts.
Getting water before the heading to our bivy site
The bivy cave!
The following day we bolted off at 0830hrs after a double breakfast and some coffee. 15 mins hike gets us to the base of the climb from our rock cave. I took the 1st pitch 10a warmup and accidentally climbed the 10c tips that Mike has been wanting to do! Sorry Mike! Its a great climb and one could actually link it up to the 2nd rap anchors from the ground with a 70m rope!
View from inside the cave.. 1st class!
The 10c tips section I stole from Mike
Funky stemming already low down on the route
Pitch 2 was a breeze after the 10c crux is out of the way. I got pitch 3 which was pumpy underclings and roof that requires you to traverse out to the left. However the crux is actually high up on the pitch with a insecure shallow crack with huge run outs!
The runout before the bolt. Can you see the last gear?
Mike down low after the underclings section
Entering the spooky section as described in Supertopo
And a looooong reach out!
Mike got pitch 4 which is the tiny tips crack and super long and sustain! None of the crux on the pitch is hard but the route just keeps going and going for another 50+m ! Pitch 5 is a short bouldery crux with only 5-8m of hard climbing which pass a steep face and enters the Sunspot which is easy climbing all the way to the anchor. And if one as why is this called the Sunspot Dihedral, its not hard to spot the climb which has a big red patch of orange rock in the middle of the route!
Shadow of the wall! It doesn’t get sun till late!
The cruiser sections after the crux of the route and to the right is the sun spot
Can you see the sunspot?
Pitch 6 is a easy 11a and it all goes easy after that. Instead of climbing the summit we traverse right to the last steep headwall pitch of Positive Vibrations to climb another 5.10+ 70m pitch to get the the first rap anchors. At this point we are just a few meters short of the summit of the Hulk. Since we have a long day ahead and sunlight is quickly fading away, a few quick photos and off we go rapping the rite with a single 70m rope.
The mandatory selfie
Just short of the fake summit
At the rap anchor!
Windy and high Sierra clouds!
My first time wearing the Arc’teryx Atom Hoody to climb! Its too cold to wear other combos!
The day ended with a great dinner at Denny’s in Bishop at 1130pm and a 6 hour drive to LA at 4am for my scheduled car appointment.
Overall the climbing feels not too hard since there is not hard distinct crux but its long and keeps going and going. I’m happy to onsight the crux pitch and climb the whole route in good style with Mike. I will be back next season to climb another route on this wall and for now its the end of the climbing trip for me, just waiting for the flight out of LA tonight!
The route we took
Taiwan Rock Trip 2014 is full for this October but we have Krabi Rock Trip in Nov and if you are keen to learn how to multi pitch get in contact with me! I will be running SNCS Rock Level 3 courses and guiding in Krabi in Nov!
Climb some classics on the Thaiwand Wall during your SNCS Level 3!
Mega Classic climb of Tonsai that you should not leave without! Humanality 6b