May, '11



Levity's End on

Moro Rock

Written By: Bill Grasse




    I was comfortable, sitting in the passenger seat of the car as we rolled on... We started in the dark.  In the groggy morning under a blanket of stars.  Our music complimenting the melodical hum of the car in motion.

     It’s day now and the white lines pass rhythmically out the window and bare desert is all we can see.  I stare at this and a feeling of happiness comes over me.  It’s been years since I have been here, felt this.  I love road trips!  

    “Man it can’t be time to get up!”  I thought as, sure enough, Ben started rousing.  I was tired.  Real tired.  The thought of getting up was leaving me sick.  Let alone the 8 or 10 pitch route we were going to climb today.  We drove all day yesterday and my body hurts.  Matt’s up now...  As I lay staring at the ceiling, trying to muster the strength to get up I hear Brad up and somehow I start to rise.

     We were to climb Levity’s End on Moro Rock with Brad today.  Brad was a fixture back home among friends and he and his family had moved to Three Rivers months ago.  Ben, Matt, and I were crashing at his house on our way to Yosemite and to see him and the family.  Naturally, any visit wouldn’t be complete with out seeing his local crag and doing some good old fashioned rock climbing.  

     HOLY CRAP THOSE TREES ARE HUMONGOUS!!!  I thought as we drove towards Moro Rock.  I had never seen the Sequoias and as we pulled into the parking lot my focus was on the trees.  “Yeah sure, the climb... sweet!  Just let me get one more picture...” I said as the crew cajoled me to get my gear and stop taking pictures.  “You’ll see bigger trees than these.” Brad said as we started the hike towards... towarrrrrrrdsss... where?... “Look at these trees!”

     It’s funny sometimes how hard climbs can sneak up on you.  At first it’s just this easy multipitch thing on Moro Rock.  Then it’s a 10 pitch cruiser climb.  Then a 10 pitch 5.10... oh yeah and it’s R rated... “What? Wait a minute...” I thought as we arrived at the first approach rappel.  You see, to climb Moro Rock you start on top and have to get to the base to start the route.  Similar to the Black in Colorado.  We had climbed in the Black and so were used to this style.  So, on we went down and to the left both repelling and down climbing until we were pretty sure we were at the base of the route. 

Pitch 1:
    “We should top rope this because it looks like the gear sucks... the rappel ropes are still up!” one of us said as the another pulled the ropes.  Angling up, then right, and finally, back left with marginal gear and one bolt, Ben rocked it.  Of course with no shortage of heckling from Matt, Brad and me.  Next up was Matt on pitch two.  Lets see what kind of heckling we can give him.

Pitch 2:
     After coming to the conclusion that we should not go straight up, despite the chalk and a bolt, Matt headed off up and left.  This was a good decision.  An easy ramp lead to a  five-star pitch of slinging “knobs” up a steeper head wall to gain a humongous ledge.  Though Matt did have some runouts on this pitch, this was one of the wildest and most naturally protected pitches I have ever seen.  On top, we were pleasantly surprised with the nest that Matt had built.  Now it was my turn to take the lead... crap!

Pitch 3:
     You ever wonder why the hardest leads seem to sneak up on you?  Cocky and confident I lead off; beaten and frustrated I lowered down an hour later.  In between?  That consisted of confusion, trying multiple route options; getting 50 feet above gear and looking at ledge fall and faced with a 5.7 move that I could not commit to, resorting to my normal behavior in these situations: “BEN! DO YOU WANT TO FINISH THIS?!!!”  As always, he did and as I easily made the move that I was unable to when it counted, I thought to myself: “This is going to be a long trip.”

Pitch 4:
     As Matt hurriedly raced up from the ledge I looked up at a seemingly gearless pitch of rock above.  Matt, like a labrador chasing after a steak, grunted and powered up the thin edges.  The whole time ninja-ing pro every ten or so feet.  After what seemed like 5 minutes, “off Belay” was bellowed from above.  Upon following this pitch, hidden cracks and thin edges appeared giving way to another pitch of quality climbing.  This was especially true of the top where I dynoed, Brad cake walked (without aiders), and Ben traversed.  Fun!

Pitch 5:
     Who wants it? We all asked each other as we looked up at chimneys, ledges, roofs and a endless overhanging wide hands crack to finish it all off.  After my butt kicking on the last pitch, I wanted some redemption.  “I give it a go,” I said reluctantly.  And so in seconds the rack was handed over with three smiling faces staring back... Shit!
So off I went with what was not-so-bad climbing on VERY lichen covered rock.  A chimney, hand cracks, roofs, off-width flakes and laybacks lead to the base of the final overhanging wide hands crack... or... “SOFB! It’s thin hands!!!”  Looking up I had twenty or so feet of hands, a wide pod, and then maybe fifteen more of thin hands.  Looking down I had one #1, one #2, one #4, and a bunch of small gear.  “Maybe I can just walk the gear and get the #4 in the pod.”  This was the wrong decision. After back-cleaning and pilfering, I was reaching above the end of the roof expecting to find a ledge but low and behold, I only found an off width.  Ten minutes later, I puked a little on top.

    As Brad worked for the last ten feet and Ben and Matt cruised, I came to the realization that I was beat and had no clue how I was going to get up the last pitch to the top.

Pitch 6:
     The last pitch had many options but the best were a 5.10 looking line on the right skyline or a poorly protected “Classic” 5.8 that Brad recommended.  My back hurt and my body was trashed more than it had been in months but I tried to hide my suffering from the crew.  So casually, I opted for the easier of the two options and would follow Matt up the 5.8.  Brad and Ben would follow the right skyline which was a great picture opportunity.  So good in fact, that when Matt pulled up the rope to belay me I failed to notice the end leave the ledge.  It wasn’t until he had pulled the rope up thirty feet that either of us noticed. 

    Long story short, it was impossible to get the end back down to me and I had to free solo the first twenty feet off the ledge until I could reach the rope which was just like a big boulder problem and kind of fun. 

    On top we enjoyed views of distant peaks and thousand foot walls, winding canyons and granite spires, and as we took it all in we were all happy sitting on that ledge.  We had attained not only a summit, not only an adventure, and not only personal victories and challenges, but rather, another achievement all together; the real reason we were there: A kinship that can only be found or understood with rock, rope, and the best of friends.



Matt and Bill starting down the west face of Moro Rock.


Some of my very best friends.

Larry, Curly, and Moe.


A beautiful morning.


We quietly slipped by this sleeping local.


Ben getting us started on the first pitch.


Ben high on pitch one.


Matt's version of 'tying into the same rope' on "easy" terrain..




Matt starting up the knobs.


Matt high on the knobby face of pitch two with Bill and Ben at the belay.



Bill piecing together a sequence through the features of pitch two.



Ben enjoying one of the best sections of the route.


Arriving on Condor Watch Ledge.



Matt's anchor at the top of the second pitch.

LE023 LE029


Hospital Rock from Moro Rock


Bill getting started on the dicey, third pitch while Ben belays and Matt takes five.



The start of this pitch isn't too bad.


But soon you're 35 feet out from some manky gear and looking at a ghastly pendulum.


Only 10 more feet to an old 1/4 inch bolt.



That's a forearm with a story to tell.



Ben starting up the direct line on pitch three.





Ben searching for holds high on pitch three.


Matt on one of the more delicate sections.

That's my knot. We're both on the same rope.



Watching Matt traverse behind me on the same rope.        Wheeeee...


Looking down the POORLY protected third pitch.




Matt leading pitch five with the exit cracks visible above.



Here's Ben giving me a hard time for not climbing faster because there is too much slack in the system.


Here I am at a blank spot (where Bill dynoed) and Ben is still harassing me to move faster.


He's laughing now but I'm plotting my revenge on the traverses at the top of the pitch.


Ben at the top of pitch five with the General's Highway in the background.

He's moving a little too slowly though.


Maybe Ben would climb faster with a little help...



Bill entering the domain of the lichen.


The book calls for two pitches to the top from here but Bill managed to link them into one monster pitch with a little backcleaning.


Nearing the top of Levity's End.

LE066 LE067 LE069


Matt and Ben cruising up the last section of a great route.

Levity's End finishes on a giant ledge one pitch below the summit of Moro Rock. From here we spit into two teams and each picked a line to the summit.



Matt leading Pennies on the Patio.


Ben leading Enigma, a 10d sport route that's directly above the top of Levity's End.



Bill following Pennies on the Patio.


Looking down the middle fork of the Kaweah River to the town of Three Rivers.


Descending the paved steps to the Moro Rock parking lot.

Moro Rock as seen from the General's Highway.



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