Sunday, August 3, 2008

Camel's Head

This looks like the skull of some long-dead, big-eyed bird or crocodile, doesn't it? It was one of the pleasures from my day on the Camel's head, besides the joy of just being out for an afternoon on the mountain. With a few hours to kill today, I opted to try to find the spot where those yahoos got stuck. Now, I know as well as anyone how tricky the head bluffs can be to traverse. But I figure I ought to be able to climb to anywhere they did and return to my car safely, and without too much problem. As mentioned, the exact location of the dugout they'd found was hard to pinpoint from the media coverage. I never found it, but I did see a few possible candidates. I decided my true goal would be to thoroughly explore the westernmost high bluff on the head, with the hopes of finding a back door to the Ridge Route/Yellow Wall plateau. A wonderfully long rappel point can be found there, but as far as I know the minimum climbing rating to the plateau is at least 5.1 (the top part of Yellow Wall) and not safe to free solo. I suspect there's a safer class 3 or 4 scramble that gets you there, but I didn't see it today. What I did see was the western bluff and the area around the Camel's Foot. Though I began at about 1 p.m., the climate was kinder today, only about 100 degrees, with the occasional blessed cloud and a friendly breeze.
Took Bobby's Rock trail to north side of bluff, scrambled up class 4 terrain to the trail system on top of the bluff. I'd been there before and knew to look for these markers:

At the top I also found this "gem" mounted on a rock:

Isn't that sweet?

Here's the full context for the arch. A spectacular Camelback formation not easily visible to the masses.

A few years ago, my friend and I were on the Ridge Route plateau looking at the arch from the other side. It dawned on us that a dog was standing in it -- we decided it must have been a coyote. No sane pet would ever try the climbing route up to the eye. I'm still not sure if 4th class will get you there (and to the set of bluffs directly east) or if I'll need to break out the ropes. I need to pick up a copy of Marty Karabin's guide. A guy I met last year at the Pyramid boulder told me he'd climbed about 100 routes at Camelback. Not all of those are documented, undoubtedly, but if I run into him again I'll ask him about the route possibilities near the Foot. I saw a few slabby gullies that might lead to the top of this formation and beyond. As it was on Sunday, I decided I'd have to rappel about 90 feet to the base of a cliff, then scramble up what looks like a loose system of trails on the south face, behind some houses. I might have done it except for my landing spot was too close to the undefined back yard area of a multi-million-dollar home. The space could be private property -- gotta be respectful of that. But when I tried to find another break to the east, I met only sheer cliffs, a very steep and loose and gully, and slanted gravel zones directly above more sheer cliffs. I had a very enjoyable break in the shadow of an overhanging boulder, chomping on Ritz crackers and drinking chilled Tang. Spent about two hours scoping out the bluff but saw no signs of the rescue.

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