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Trip Report: Climbing Symphonia de Las Ojas Secas 5.9

Date: January 3, 1999
Climbers Mathias & Frederik
Climbing Everything! Crack, Corner, Bridging, Jamming, Laybacking
Area Aculco Canyon, Mexico

"Symphony de las Ojas Secas", Symphony of the dry leaves. What a name - like a painting of Picasso. We arrive at the bottem of the Symphony and my my my - you cannot put a price on rock, but this crack would be next to "Guernica" on the actionars stand without doubt. It's a beautiful line. Straight all the way to the top the cleft - never bigger than a fistjam, but small as fingerjams in sections - is only interupted by two ledges spread evenly on the line. It just sits there surrounded by step blank rock to both sides - in the start with the sides angling in a bit enabling the pilgrim of this Mecca to bridge out and hopefully rest the pour arms a bit from the savage jamming. Mathias' win the lead, prepares mentally for the this feast to cme, and is only worried by the one fact that stands out from the notes taken yesterday "Big friends" - we "only" have the rack described before and could really use a Camelot 4 and maybe one or two additinal mid-range friends. But you cannot let you stop by technical details like that - we'll use what we got and if the Spirit of Aculco wants us to, we'll get to the top.

Mathias: "Really pleased by our efforts on Tennis I feel good about this 5.9 lead. My jams seem to be better and better and specially the finger jams and the hand jams are starting to bite. But it is really some test pieces all of this stuff - to the limit of my capabiliies but the fact that the protection and the rock is of such glorious quality would make it a crime not to at least give it ones best shot and see what happens. We got the beta and it's our obligation to use it.

It helps a lot also to have Fred as a firm belayer in the bottom - although we haven't climbed together for a long time we know eachother and Fred's knows when to pay attention and when to shout the obligatory encouraging comment. So I have all the trumph on my hand and I just need to play the cards right.

The start is difficult - almost a little boulder problem, a typical feature of this place - nothing comes easy here in Aculco. I manage to get up it and find a good nut placement high up. A nut! I haven't placed any nuts since we came - it's all been friends an usually the big ones. I am happy to get a nut in, it feels good to have the foundation of the climb to be a bus stopper nut size 4.

But I don't feel completely confident about the looks of what lies ahead. The rock is somewhat dirty convered in a layer of dust, some of the smaller cracks a filled with a bit of spider web, and the comment from Fred about "Hey wasn't this the route that Armando said had a snake in the cactus further up" does make this whole thing feel a bit unnerving. Well the next bit is fairly easy and I spread a bit of gear around my as I ascent to higher ground.

I have arrived a the start of the bridging phase of the route. It looked marginal from below but looks a bit better when right in front of you. The bridging goes on for about 4-5 meters terminated by a sizable roof which leads to the first ledge. I figure that the line must go up and then when possibe trend leftwards to reach some good looking holds (the crack continues on the right side of the roof, but it looks hard with no places to stand. The gear is immaculate swallowing friends on every size in the crack in the middle.

I slowly and carefully attempt the first moves and the rock up here is perfect. Great - I am feeling good now, the rock is clean and th climb looks challenging but not impossible. I get my feet higher up and start trending leftwards towards the roof. It's not as easy as it looked, but I manage to shake my arms one by one on a reasonable rest just before the roof. Looking like the crux, I take my time and finally go for it. It is a very commiting set of moves moving in a bit to the center again attacking the roof almost face on. No time for fooling around (ie. placing gear) I, pull up and finish the sequence with an unavoidabe mantleshelf. Pumped I stand up on the ledge and shout a big "Yooor" to Fred who had followed me intensly through the whole thing paying out rope generously in the right places. (Or had he just fallen asleep).

I go for it 100 percent and get a hold on the ledge with both hands

This is half way. What a pitch so far. I am pretty fired up looking at the widening crack above me and the ledge. It goes un uninterupted for maybe 10 meters and terminates at the second bigger ledge but not in a roof but in some weaknesses in the straight crack. It looks good, but also hard. I realize that I have used up one of my Cam2's and have only a CAM4, a CAM2 and Jesper Ritzaus old HB friends 3.8 to use in the wide crack. Not too good, especially as this ledge I am standing on could have a nasty impact should one fall during the section. Well, it can't harm to have a look at what is up there, so after having rested the arms enough I give it my first go. I get a camalot 2 in reasonably high up look at what is up there and descen to the ledge again. I looks like it might go. The crack is quite amazing, it takes some good jams but also enables you to some robo laybacking from both sides. Laybacking has been my favoorite technique ever since I started climbing and pulled myself up the practice bar above the entrance to the artificial wall in "Sydhavnen" Denmark. Long time ago, but ever since I have enjoyed laybacking whenever it's been presented to me. Anvil Chorus in Bosigran, UK; Positively 4th street in Yosemite etc. All stand out as laybacks from heaven and beyond and they run thorugh my subconsiousness as I prepare for the mental transition from the world of rough jamming to the perhaps more delicate world of laybacking.

Second attempt. It's probably now or never. As soon as I get above my in-situ camelot 2 I am commited and need to move fast. I get up to the cam, and to my pleasant surprise can get my feet well jammed into the crack for a shake on the arms. I get Jesper's old friend (once broken, but now fixed by Fred with a bit of fishing line) in high up and have now only my camelot 3 to protect the rest of the this section. I could abandon the climb completely at this stage if I wanted to, but it would seem wrong not to go for it fully commited. But I am definately considering backing out.

I layback in a superb flake, jam my feet and slowly gain altitude. I place the remaining camelot but have still aboute 4 meter to go. Shit. It doesn't look like there is the usual "thank-god hold" near the ledge above so I don't fancy just going for it - I am by now pretty pumped and falling off is a real threat which I by any means want to avoid doing 4 meters above my last piece of gear. But I need to finish what I have started so I decide to do the sometiems unavoidable and highly unrecomendable - backclean my camelot 3. As I move higher up I reach down - unplug the camelot, and replace it further above me. The problem with this technique is that you get a bigger and bigger distance to your second piece of gear meaning that at some stage you are totally dependandt on one piece of gear which to make matter worse you replace in between moves. Seriously bad practice but difficult to avoid if you are not in possesion of the monster rack that would be required to do it safely.

Anyway - I move faster and faster as I get more and more pumped and the fuse is getting shorter by the second, and after a bit of swearing and shouting at my self, I reach the stuff that I was headed for. I seroiusly need a place for a small friend or a nut and try a 2.5 which doesn't stick, start to get really worried, but then -kaboom- a bombproof friend 1.5 deep in a widening crack exactly where needed. No time for celebration though and I somewhat desperately but still in reasonable control reach the second ledge and I am now 5 meters from the top. Whoa - what a mother. I am completely exhausted both psysically both also mentally and take a few minute to rest on the ledge.

The last 5 meters is no pushover at all but the very las bit has luckily some excellent foot holds and I top out from the shadow into the welcoming sun. What a route. Fred soon follows...

Fred does the route in style and I am well impressed. The crux with the unavoidable mantleshelf was pretty difficult I thought, but I was thrilled that Fred did it clean so the ascent finished as complete as possible."

Frederik: "It is good to be climbing again after not really having climbed for a year or so. Mathias is far better climbing than I at the moment, so I am happy to have him do the leads. It allows me to rework the techniques, get to trust my feet again, with the safety of a rope from the top. At least I seem to be able to follow the stuff he leads, so it works well. I am not feeling completely tip-top though - the severe cough I have had since Christmas is still with me. It seems to be worst when I do anything physical, so after a hard section or some strenuous moves I end up coughing for a few minutes before being able to move on. It is a bloody pain, actually. We will try to find a doctor in Guatelajara when we get there in a couple of days."

After these great classics, we are pretty hungry and decide to return to the Master of Grilled Chicken who served us yesterday in Aculco. Once again, the chickens are simply brilliant.

Back on the rock, we decide to have a go at Limones 5.9. It looks tricky from below - it is a hand crack leading up to a little roof with a fist crack around it. The roof looks hard because there doesn't appear to be anywhere for the feet. Anyway, Mathias takes the sharp end once again and heads up towards the crack. Hmm, the crack is proving pretty tricky to begin with. The chicken is lying firmly in our stomachs, the strength is quickly ebbing away, and there doesn't appear to be much left of the attitude that got us up the climbs in the morning. After trying an alternative line a little to the left, Mathias decides to back out. Apart from the chicken, another factor could be that Mathias is doing all the leading which is mentally exhausting. But anyway, we decide to bag it. We cannot help wondering about the fine line of Psycosis which looks a little more doable but actually was graded a little harder at 5.9/10a. Mathias leads off again. Brilliant climbing like all the other routes in Aculco, but two thirds up the chicken gets its second revenge and Mathias goes cold in the crux. By now it is also getting dark so we decide to back off this route as well and end up retrieving the gear from the top. A disappointing finale to the Aculco climbing experience, but the routes we did do earlier in the day and yesterday were so rewarding that we don't care. This place is a jamming paradise. A place for the pumping jam pilgrim to search of the truth, a place where Odin must have enjoyed sculpting the cracks and Thor must have struggled to tick the multitude of routes in this Valhal of The Jam. It is nothing less than a horizontal version of Yosemite. Okay, maybe not as big...

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