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Jamin Smitchger
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PostSun Aug 19, 2007 4:09 pm 
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If I havenít gone climbing for a while, I sort of get this urge to go try something that is well beyond my limits or just plain painful. The same thing happens when I am cooped up all winter just hankering to get out in the outdoors on some mountain in the middle of nowhere. I begin to thing that doing something hard is synonymous with doing something fun. I start thinking how much of an exciting adventure it would be to climb Liberty Ridge or something, and I forget that it would be just plumb miserable to even attempt that climb.

This past Tuesday I decided to attempt the most technical summit in the Seven Devil Mountains. Climbing maniac Paul Klenke rated the Twin Imps at 5.2 when he did the first free solo of the peak in 2004. He also recommended to take the trail to Dog Lake and to start the climb from there. I looked at the map and found a sort of route that traversed along the slopes of the highest peaks in the Seven Devils Range. It involved about 6500 vertical feet of elevation gain, 8.5 miles of off trail travel, and was ďprobablyĒ not more than class 3 until the base of the summit was reached. Although it involved 400 vertical feet more of gain and 6 more miles of off trail travel, I decided that it might be easier because it was 5.5 miles shorter.
TOPO!map Seven Devils Traverse
TOPO!map Seven Devils Traverse

I reached Riggins, Idaho at about 6:00 pm this past Monday. I drove about 20 miles up forest roads to Seven Devils Campground at 7600 feet. From the campground, there is a trail that goes up to Sheep and Mirror lakes. Although it is in great shape at first, it becomes more of a climbers route once the pass above Mirror Lake is reached. There is actually no trail down to Mirror Lake.
Smoke on the drive to Riggins
Smoke on the drive to Riggins

After navigating my way down to Mirror, I started looking for campsites. I finally found a patch of grass about 7 feet long and 2 feet wide. Everywhere else there was nothing but rock.

What would await me the next day? Would it be an incredible traverse with incredible views? Would I even make it to the summit, or would I die a lonely death attempting a forbidding spire of rock? I was unsure whether I would even have enough stamina to actually travel 4 miles off-trail to the base of the summit block, but I was determined to try. The things that go through your head on the night before a challenging climb are very varied. You harden your mind to do whatever you need to do, and yet your fears always come back. You never stop fighting them.

The next morning I woke up at 6:20 mountain time. I ate a hurried breakfast and started up the talus and scree to the saddle on the east ridge of the Tower of Babel. From 8700 feet on the east ridge I descended 500 vertical feet to traverse below some cliffs. Then I went up an obvious gully up to 8800 feet. After traversing to the pass between She Devil and The Ogre, the scree slopes turned into talus blocks, which allowed easier travel. At this pass at nearly 8,800 feet, I had a good view of the route that I had used in June to climb He Devil. The West Couloir/ The Couloir route looks much steeper than it did in June. It is mainly just a dangerous chossy gully right now. After leaving the pass, the terrain was so easy to walk on that I did a mile in about 45 minutes. Along the way I noticed that Brimstone Lake, the pond about 1/3rd of a mile south of He Devil seemed to be dry, a fact that would cause me agonizing suffering on the return. At this point I began conserving water a little bit because I had not encountered any water on my route.
West Couloir/ The Couloir Route on He Devil Peak
West Couloir/ The Couloir Route on He Devil Peak
The unclimbed East Face of the Tower of Babel
The unclimbed East Face of the Tower of Babel

Continuing onward on talus and minor patches of scree, I found the terrain reasonably easy and no more than class 3. At the basin below Devils Throne, I encountered three gullies toward the south ridge of Devils Throne. The south and southwest gullies looked easy, but they seemed to cliff out toward the ridge. The westward trending gully was not very obvious, but it is an incredible break in the cliffs that leads all the way to the south ridge of Devils Throne. From there I did a descending traverse down the ridge to the saddle between Devils Throne and The Twin Imps.
First Views of Twin Imps, Wallowas, and Hells Canyon
First Views of Twin Imps, Wallowas, and Hells Canyon
Westward trending gully to South Ridge of Devils Throne
Westward trending gully to South Ridge of Devils Throne
He Devil, She Devil, and rock. Why doesn't anything live up here?
He Devil, She Devil, and rock. Why doesn't anything live up here?

In a few minutes I was at the base of the summit block/ spire. It looked bad. I was amazed that Paul Klenke had soloed it in boots. Well, I thought, if he can do it in boots, I can do it with my rock shoes. Luckily, I had brought a rope, stoppers, slings, etc. I carefully began the ascent.
Lower portion of the North Imp, Class 5.1
Lower portion of the North Imp, Class 5.1
Spire of Death, Not.
Spire of Death, Not.

It actually, was not as bad as I had thought. Narrow ledges and good holds carried me to the base of the arÍte. Once there, there was some great holds that were not entirely visible from down below. Once within 15 feet of the summit and 200 feet off the deck, I had two choices. I could either climb up the easy but extremely exposed arÍte or traverse along The Catwalk, which is a ledge about 6 inches wide over 200 feet of air. I chose the arÍte, which was actually rather simple, and then I did the remaining exposed class 3 to the summit block.
Baldy Lake
Baldy Lake
The arete, the other side is much easier
The arete, the other side is much easier
The Catwalk, a 6 inch wide ledge 200 feet off the deck
4 labels
The Catwalk, a 6 inch wide ledge 200 feet off the deck
The penalty for mistakes
The penalty for mistakes
Smoky Hells Canyon and Wallowas
Smoky Hells Canyon and Wallowas
Dog Lake
Dog Lake

Views were limited by smoke from fires. After taking some pictures, I began the rappel down. I wanted to go down the route that I came up, but if I had slipped, it would have resulted in a pendulum off the arÍte. I decided to just rappel off the summit ridge, but in the process I discovered that I did not have enough rope. What was I to do? I had already begun the rappel, and the rock around me didnít have very many holds. I eventually locked down the rappel and rock climbed back up to the arÍte. It was about 5.8.

Once on top of the arÍte, I put the rope in a crack between two rocks for a directional, and I finished the rappel down to the bottom.

It was about 2pm, and I had about 1/3rd of a quart of water left. I was already thirsty, but I decided to conserve the water. On the way back to the basin below Devils Throne, I frantically looked everywhere for water. My mouth was dry and beginning to feel like sandpaper. I was getting thirstier the sweatier I got. It was probably not in the eighties up at that elevation, but it was dry. As far as I could see there was nothing but waterless talus and scree. Then in a shadowed area under Mount Belial, I spotted a snowbank. I quickly ran toward it, and I decided that I would fill all my water bottles with snow whether the snow was dirty or not. I could feel the snow melting in my mouth before I even reached the snowbank, but I had been deceived. It was merely a white rock. By the time I reached the basin below Mount Belial, I was almost ready to descend down to the Hanson Lakes, but I was sure that there had to be at least some water in Brimstone Lake. When I reached Brimstone Lake, there was merely cracked mud in the bottom. At that point I saw no point in descending down to the Hanson Lakes because the Cannon Lakes were not much further and somewhat on my route.

Approaching the pass between She Devil and the Ogre was hard. I was so thirsty. When I finally reached the pond above Upper Cannon Lake, I merely drank out of the lake without regard for the purity of the water. THEN I noticed little red bugs in the water. I looked down at them in a disgusted manner, and went and got my filter.

The rest of the trip out was uneventful. I finally reached my car at about 8pm.

Notes: I would rate the Twin Imps at 5.1 rather than 5.2
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wildernessed
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PostSun Aug 19, 2007 4:51 pm 
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Awesome. I remember pumping water in Ice Lake /  The Eagle Cap Wilderness, 4L into a water tanker, then looking down below the intake hose at a partially submerged and bloated mouse. gag.gif , you can't waste good fluids though.  embarassedlaugh.gif
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Brian Curtis
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PostSun Aug 19, 2007 5:44 pm 
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The little red bugs are copepods. They are no doubt a good source of protein up.gif I've had lots and never suffered any ill effects.

We're actually considering a close variation on this traverse as part of our September hike trip.
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gyngve
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PostSun Aug 19, 2007 9:04 pm 
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Jamin Smitchger wrote:
Notes: I would rate the Twin Imps at 5.1 rather than 5.2

lol.gif  lol.gif  lol.gif  lol.gif
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peppersteak'n'ale
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PostSun Aug 19, 2007 9:17 pm 
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Gyngve, for us non-climber types, what's the humor - inquiring minds want to know  hmmm.gif
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PostMon Aug 20, 2007 9:35 am 
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peppersteak'n'ale wrote:
Gyngve, for us non-climber types, what's the humor - inquiring minds want to know  hmmm.gif

There is no practical difference between 5.1 and 5.2.
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Jamin Smitchger
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PostMon Aug 20, 2007 12:09 pm 
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Except that a hold may be a little tougher to grab. Not much difference, but it is there.

For those of you that don't know what we are talking about.
http://www.climber.org/data/decimal.html#fifth
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gyngve
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PostMon Aug 20, 2007 12:44 pm 
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Jamin Smitchger wrote:
Except that a hold may be a little tougher to grab. Not much difference, but it is there.

For those of you that don't know what we are talking about.
http://www.climber.org/data/decimal.html#fifth

Give me a break.  Any rating between 5.1 and 5.3 is largely subjective and arbitrary.  It's called low-5th.  It's like asking who sucks more -- the Texas Rangers or the San Fran Giants.  Who cares.

So back to you "correcting" the saintly Paul's rating... why even say anything?  You can't possibly compare Paul's 50x experience over you plus boots vs rockshoes plus other considerations such as hydration/fatigue to differentiate over something so negligible as who calls it 5.1 vs 5.2.

btw Jamin -- you should go climb the Upper North Ridge of Stuart.  I have a guidebook that says it's just 5.4.
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PostMon Aug 20, 2007 3:03 pm 
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What he said plus.....was that a Post Falls 5.2 or an Index 5.2?
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Jamin Smitchger
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PostMon Aug 20, 2007 3:21 pm 
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I didn't know there was a route at Index that was rated at 5.2.

The climbing is more difficult when you are soloing in boots vs shoes, and you tend to rate things higher. The original ascent party rated the climb as 4th class in 1963. Paul rated it at 5.2, and I rated it as 5.1. With more ascents, eventually climbers will reach a consensus. Why are we bickering over details?

Quote:
You should go climb the Upper North Ridge of Stuart.  I have a guidebook that says it's just 5.4.

Is that guidebook right. If so, I would be willing to try it.
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PostMon Aug 20, 2007 3:33 pm 
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No, it's NOT right! I'd give it more like a 5.3.

...or maybe it's closer to 5.8 or easy 5.9.
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PostMon Aug 20, 2007 3:49 pm 
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Why do we have to constantly poke fun at JS?  Give it a break.  There are subtle differences between 5.1 and 5.2 and there was a time when I was accutely aware of them.  The difference between 5.1 and 5.2 matters for some people just like the difference betewen 5.7 and 5.8 matters to some people.  Like JS said, a rating is based on a consensus.  JS thinks it's 5.1 then so be it.  It will be determined over time.  Might open it up to others who aren't sure it's yet within their scope.

There are other Annapurnas in the hearts of men.  (Or something like that).
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PostMon Aug 20, 2007 3:49 pm 
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Jamin Smitchger wrote:
Why are we bickering over details?

Most folks here don't have a clue what you are going on about anyway, but YOU made a point of downgrading the route, so YOU started it.  Sounds a bit like chestbeating to me, and considering your history here, I'm not surprised it didn't go unnoticed/unchallenged.

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PostMon Aug 20, 2007 4:03 pm 
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Jamin Smitchger wrote:
I didn't know there was a route at Index that was rated at 5.2.

Possibly Leo Chimney?  The short pitch from the big ledge to the RR bolts is rated 5.0.

Quote:

The climbing is more difficult when you are soloing in boots vs shoes, and you tend to rate things higher.

Which is why most of the Rockies hardroutes aren't harder than 5.9 A2?

Quote:

as 4th class in 1963. Paul rated it at 5.2, and I rated it as 5.1. With more ascents, eventually climbers will reach a consensus. Why are we bickering over details?

You bickered over the details by rating it 5.1.  The point is that correcting a rating from 5.2 to 5.1 makes you look like a fool and should be avoided.

Quote:

Is that guidebook right. If so, I would be willing to try it.


(it also lists WR Forbidden as 5.2)
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PostMon Aug 20, 2007 4:12 pm 
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I also find it funny that you say Klenke gets the first free solo of the peak.  Maybe the first recorded-for-posterity-on-the-Internet free solo.  On a peak like this one, I bet that it's often called a scramble.
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