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Trip Report: Climbing Western Saga 5.9

Date: January 31, 1999
Climbers: Mathias, Frederik & Martin Beale
Climbing: Corner Crack 5.9
Area: Joshua Tree, California

After three successful ticks from the Three Masters of Stone it was my turn to lead again and the next route on the list was Western Saga - a true splitter going through a fierce looking corner and tackling a sizable overhang some 30 meters of the ground. I had a slight bit of commitment quarrels with myself - I felt that Fred and I had done our fair share of adrenaline pumping crack climbs during the last month or so. So I had to find some motivation and Dr. Beale provided this when he confronted me "So are you on for this one Mathias?" - Hmm yeah I hesitated, I don't know it looks pretty steep. "Well if you are not on for it I'll give it a go" Martin replied. Argh, why can't we just call it a day I thought by myself but I knew the only acceptable answer would be "Well I guess I might as well give it a shot". So be it - we quickly fired up the monster rack in the increasing freezing weather, and I stepped into the very steep and bouldery kindoff start. Not too much of a problem though and I felt good about the decision as I placed my first bomber piece of pro.

I soon found myself jamming in the crack provided and there was plenty of footholds and I got up to a big ledge where it looked like the serious stuff was starting. Boy - so far the route felt really good - maybe it was tricky but I just felt like I was flowing up the rock, the route that I had led earlier this day had gone without any problems whatsoever which I was very surprised about - expecting the 5.8 crack to give my plenty of troubles. Now I had upped the bet to 5.9 and was definitely expecting to be under serious pressure - I was even starting of the route with the "If I can't do this route Martin will be on for leading it instead" kindoff thoughts - so I was really pleased with the first 20 meters below me.

The stuff above me looked familiar - hand sized crack going some ten meters up to a roof and continuing up unknown territory - looked very much like many of the splitters we climbed in Aculco and El Escalone. There is only one way around this stuff as far as I see it. Get some pro in as high as you can reach, look for the first possible restpoint, get committed and then just f*cking go for it. Once you are doing the jamming/laybacking business there is no way back. To my great surprise the crack had edges inside and it was possible to layback a lot of the way. Cool! I love laybacks so any opportunity and you find me hanging out there "Avoiding the problem" as Martin would put it.

Anyway - I got my Camelot 2 as high as I could reach, spotted a small crimpy ledge on the left and went in for the business. I wasn't more than perhaps one meter of the ledge and I though - this'll never go - than crimp looks shite and there is still 3 meters to the jug looking feature on the right. Go on Matis - this is what we are here for to pull hard and to tick some savage cracks. Yoist! It works - I get myself fired up and start just going for it 100%. Great! Get some gear in, reach the crimp - fine. Jam, Layback bridge with the feet - m I want you. I want you badly. Fire off some more of the rack. Great - the no 4 camelot goes in smoothly, no need for lubricant creme. Get those bloody feet sorted out - there's way to much power on the arms. Yeah baby that's better. Holy rock I am already at the roof - God that looks big but after sticking a superb cam1 in on the edge of the roof there is only one thing on my mind. Sex. I just want to pull out on the roof, get the full exposure and then explore the unknown territory above. I feel good. I have the feeling that the hardest part is over and done with and it's just a matter of pulling up and enjoying the climax.

My oh my, this baby is just spreading her legs for me.

Yoooooooooooor! Yoor! Yoor! Yooor! The roof is excellent - a sudden foothold appear from nowhere and it just sits there in the left rib and I use it - first with one foot - then with the other foot and then with both of them. Ahhh, this is great. There hand business in the roof is proving a bit tricky but voice tells me "no, not the left hand, use your right hand and you'll get up". So done and bang everything falls into place as I explode up in one big crescendo.

The terrain above me is gentle and sweet - the perfect afterplay. I get it over with quickly as one does and at the stance I fall asleep, drained, excited and too tired to belay Martin of Fred up through this Woman of Rock.

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