August, '04


The Splitgerber-March Direct

With Paul and Brad



     This was going to be the coup d'etat of our trip to the Sawtooths. The Splitgerber-March Direct was the hardest thing we had yet attempted and we weren't sure what to expect. At 10b, would it be a cruise or would we get spanked? It didn't matter, we were committed to trying.

    The first pitch was the crux of the route on our topo. So when we climbed this pitch without any problems, we started to feel good about our chance of success. After the next two pitches passed with little difficulty, we found ourselves at the base of the first 10a pitch. The hard spot on this pitch was a traverse up high which offered little protection for the second. Of course, we weren't worried about what was up higher with a flaring, polished chimney right in front of us guarding the start of the pitch. Fortunately, it was Paul's lead as he was our resident chimney expert having climbed a lot in the Valley.

     Paul worked his way up the chimney with some effort and then walked across the face climbing difficulties up higher. On toprope, the chimney section was fun and soon Brad was at the 10a face section looking at a 25 foot pendulum fall if he skated.  Luckily for him, he was climbing in the middle and was able to clip into my rope as a running safety line for the moves. Of course, that meant that I was last and had no protection from the pendulum. It didn't take me long to decide that I was willing to leave a nut and a sling so that I could climb this section safely.  I placed them and then started traversing to my right holding the sling in my left hand. I was one difficult move away from 5.8 climbing when I felt the sling come tight in my hand. Immediate profanity ensued. I was screwed. My sling was too short and now I had to let go right before the most balancey move on the route.

     Eventually, I dropped the sling and concentrated on breathing as I made the moves and joined Paul and Brad at the belay. The experience had taxed me mentally though and I offered the next lead to Paul. This was all quite amusing to Brad who was happy to see me be scared for a change. He had been scared on our first climb of the trip and I had razzed him. Now it was his turn to give me grief. It was all good though and soon Paul was at the top of the next pitch yelling down for us to climb.

     I though this and the first pitch were the best two on the route. Fun crack climbing leads to a bouldery 10a crux at the end of the pitch. The crux is a traverse up and left to gain another crack system and it feels airy when you leave the crack and get out onto the face. Pure fun.

     I was feeling great as I left the belay for the next lead which our topo called 9+. After 120 feet of climbing though, I ground to a halt. Ten minutes had passed and I was only 2 feet higher when I heard Paul down below asking how it was going. I was already aiding. I yelled down some happy thoughts about whoever rated this 5.9 and committed to the placements. I managed eventually to get past the difficulties and I arrived at the belay with two cams, a few small nuts and no more rope. Luck was with me though and the two cams were the perfect size for the only available placements and I arranged a bomber belay. When Paul and Brad arrived, they confirmed that we had just climbed the crux of the route and we had a lively discussion about how 5.9+ pitches are always the hardest.

     One more pitch of mostly easy climbing and a short scramble took us to the top of the route where the normal back slapping and congratulations ensued.  It had been a great adventure. Not just the climb but the week.  We had climbed some spectacular sections of rock and more amazingly, found an entire week to hang out together in the pristine Sawtooths.  

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Looking up at the route from the Saddleback Lakes Trail.CLICK HERE to see a high res version of this picture without the route marked.


Me getting ready to lead the first pitch which was the crux on the topo at .10b.

Paul belaying me on the first pitch.

Getting started on what will be a fairly long day.

Trying to decide on a plan.

This is what the topo calls the crux, but it is definitely not. The crux for us was on pitch 4 and 6 which were rated 5.9.

Approaching the anchor on pitch 1. This is a fun pitch with clean rock and excellent protection. It would be worth doing if you just wanted to wonder over from camp in the afternoon and climb something short.

Brad and Paul approaching the belay at the top of the third pitch. This was a heady section on lead as I had to pull on some of those trees with scant protection down below.

Paul starting out on pitch 4. This may not look to bad, but it was quite slippery and difficult to climb. I was glad it was not my lead!

Paul slings some natural protection. It may not show in this picture but he is working hard to stay wedged into the chimney which is flaring.

Paul trying to get turned around.

Ahh... success. Paul's chimney experience from the Valley is obvious on funky pitches like these.

Getting in some good pro which will be of little  comfort on the 10a traverse near the end of the pitch.

The traverse turned out to be way worse for the last person (ME!) as there were no directionals at the end of the 10a section.


Taking a break after scaring myself silly on the traverse. "Hey Paul, why don't you lead the next one and I'll take the top two?"


Brad finds humor in seeing me gripped for a change.

Paul working up the 5th pitch.

This is up high on the 5th pitch at the .10a section. I actually enjoyed this pitch and thought it was one of the better on the route.

Me climbing through the .10a section on the 5th pitch.

A shot of be belaying Paul up the final 30 feet of the 6th pitch.

Casting off on the 7th and final pitch. We were ready to be finished by now but there was still a good 200 feet of climbing to go.

Brad and Paul, feeling worked back at camp. We could have climbed this day but we were in no mood. This was about all we managed. :)

Brad displaying his battle wounds.

A last look up at the Perch on our way out. It was sad to leave but I think we were all ready.

Paul on the hike out with Redfish Lake visible through the trees in the background.

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