Valiant attempts on Poland Hill

To Poland Hill We GoWe wake up in Vedauwoo, the reward for punching through Friday night fatigue, packing the car, and meeting Kate and Mark in Wyoming. It’s well worth it. The tent never felt better, and the day greets us like a herald of summer sun and warmth. Eagerness for the day’s potential creeps in as water is boiled for morning coffee.

We head for Poland Hill, inspired by the perfect weather to climb hard. Mark and Kate start with Sugar Crack 5.7 and Little Old Crack 5.5 while Ann starts up Kim 5.6. Kim is touted as good beginner trad lead, and it does offer good protection, but the sideways lean makes it feel insecure. A difficult climb to relax on. Ann takes one rest hang to get through it, then builds an anchor for the first time on her own at the top. Everything she does is solid.

Fantasia 5.9 is the main event. Mark is psyched up to lead it. This is a sustained, vertical offwidth that was once considered the hardest crack in Vedauwoo. Combining our big gear, Mark starts up laden with giant cams and big bros. It’s a terrific gruntfest. Mark does admirably, keeps moving, passing gear from the outside of the crack to the inside with his body wedged in the mouth. At one point he asks me to take rope so he can relax for a minute – I’m not even sure if he weighted it. It’s the kind of climbing where a long fall is unlikely, but a two-inch fall can be painful and discouraging. Tension builds up. He grovels up the remainder without resting, to our cheers.

For my attempt I get on a bolted route, Piece of Dirt 5.11a. Remembering the last time we were here and did it on TR, I think I have a chance for a redpoint. I stem the moves to the first bolt, then begin to lieback the flake. The second bolt is a tough decision: clip low on dicey feet but a reasonable fall, or get into a full-tension lieback at the bolt and risk launching into the boulders below. I go for the low clip, stick it, but pop unexpectedly on the next move. Ann wasn’t expecting it either, and slams her elbow hard into a boulder while catching me. As soon as she’s convinced her elbow is okay I get back on, make the next clip, launch into the crux moves from the flake to tiny crystals, and pop off. Suddenly I remember the sequence, get back on, and do it. The rest of the thin crystal climbing goes well, if a tad shaky. I still feel undeniably high when I reach the anchors.

We spend the rest of the day toproping these two routes. My fight on Fantasia leaves me scraped up and full of respect for it. The view from Poland while kicking back in the sunshine hasn’t gotten any worse, either. Vedauwoo is here for us.

Kate got lots of great pictures.

2 responses to “Valiant attempts on Poland Hill”

  1. Wow, I’m impressed by both of you! Ann, good job on the solid anchor & lead. This is major stuff, now you guys can comfortably swing lead on multi! Woo-hoo. And, way to go on the 6 feet of torchure, Dylan!

    I remember those OW’s with fondness 8^) Can’t wait to go back for some more.

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