The forecast is for a 50-60% chance of rain all weekend, so we do our best to start early when see clear skies in the morning. This is our first time to the traditional area at El Rito. It appears to be used far more lightly than the sport area. The approach from the forest road to the cliff is essentially a bushwhack. The cliff itself sports enough vegetation that we wonder if the climbing will involve bushwhacking too! Packrat Dihedral 5.6 looks clear at the bottom and has been recommended, so I gear up to try it.
The first pitch makes for soothing climbing. There is a bit of the cobblestone rock prevalent at the sport area, but most of the rock is the hard volcanic tuff without the cobbles. There are a lot of blocky shapes and cracks for holds. The fifty-meter first pitch gives me time to really sink into it. At the bolted anchor below a big roof I pull up our tag line, then Ann follows quickly. Pitch 2 is where the excitement comes. Skirting the big roof to the right, I take the exposed step onto the lip of the roof to good hand holds supplied by a big flake. Wanting a more secure stance, I move my feet onto the flake, then realize I’ve passed my only opportunity to protect the lower face. Rather than try to put a piece in below my feet, I make two more moves to a creative stopper placement in a pocket. If I did it again, I’d protect that flake while my hands were on it, even though the footholds there are small. As it was, a fall off the roof would have swung me into the dihedral below. Luckily both the holds and the protection improve, and I finish the pitch smiling. Ann follows, criticizes my runout, praises my creative stopper, and we hike up to the summit and descent trail.
The good weather seems to be holding, so we start up another route, The Big E 5.7. The first pitch follows a thin diagonal crack up a very smooth face. The protection and holds are just what is needed to climb the crack, no more – very nice climbing. When I reach the belay there is a cloud darkening on the horizon, and it grows as Ann follows. Given the forecast, we decide to rappel down on our tag line rather than start the 5.5 second pitch. Of course the cloud retreats after we do, but we’re still feeling good about the day regardless.
The rain starts during the night, and continues through Monday morning.