So this weekend the plan was to head to North Conway and Daniel and I would finally finish Standard Route on Whitehorse clean and solidly. The last time I had been on Whitehorse was with Adam, and we had cruised up and crushed the entire climb, all eight pitches of it. That climb was when I learned the dangers of climbing with an Ultra-Marathoner – They never get tired, even after nearly running a 100 foot pitch.
So, Daniel got to my house at 0900 Saturday morning, we tossed my gear into the car, and we cruised off to get onto I-95 to get to North Conway. As seems to be our curse, however, we hit some amazingly bad traffic on the way, and what should have been an 1130 start time turned into a 1400 start time when we finally got to the cliff after traffic, a quick stop at EMS for a new guidebook, and a stop at DQ for some chili-cheese dogs. But make it we did, and after racking up and flaking the rope, looking at the cliff and checking the route in the guidebook, we started the scramble to the Launch pad to start my fifth attempt at Standard Route.
Now, up to this point I had attempted this route four times: Two times with Roman where we had to bail off, once with Daniel when the route froze over while we were climbing, and once with Adam where we finished the route fairly cleanly (where he took the lead on the hardest pitches). So, this was hopefully going to be our crowning climb, the time that I finally take most of the leads and crush standard. We were a little worried about starting so late, but figured that, as long as we went quickly and safely, we’d be fine and could descend before it got too dark, though we did bring headlamps just in case.
Starting out, we met up with a group that had just finished Beginners Route, and was rappelling down from Lunch Ledge (they didn’t go past that). Unfortunately they had misjudged their rappel points, or used too much rope, or some other problem, and their rope ended about 5’ off the Launch Pad. So, I had Daniel lock himself into a piece he had just placed and stay below the gear (while I kept him on belay), and gave the women the other end of the rope, which I attached to myself (So we all became one connected team). Using this they were able to get down to the Launch Pad, and stave off a crazy-epic adventure trying to lower down those last few feet.
Daniel and I continued on, feeling good about ourselves after helping out, and made it to the base of the arch rather quickly. From there I took over the lead, and we continued climbing to the Pinch belay, and then up to the Lunch Ledge. Around here is when we started noticing some other people on the rock with us. Now normally this would be expected and fun, but the scary thing was that these were individuals, not teams. Free Soloists up Whitehorse about five hundred feet or so… the first big-wall free-soloists I’ve ever seen. It looked fun, but not something I would want to do myself… more than a little trusting that nothing crazy happens, like rain…
After gaining the Lunch Ledge, Daniel and I took a short break and reviewed the guidebook, trying to make sure we knew exactly where to go. We also took this chance to try and spot a lost cam that one of the soloists had told us about; I was really excited to try and get the cam, since he had told us it was an old-school solid-stem Friend. After about ten minutes of looking around and route-prepping, I racked up, Daniel set up the belay, and I stepped off the Lunch Ledge.