Beware of Wallace Col

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Take-a-Hike
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Post by Take-a-Hike » Mon May 22, 2006 2:40 pm

Doyle: Regarding experience, I sure hope you keep those articles coming, cause I get an awful lot of experience from your adventures, as well as others on this forum. In particular, your adventures going over Colby Pass in a snow storm. That story, along with our own little mini-adventure last August of going over your "short cut" to Peter Panda lake from the Graveyard Lakes in less than desireable weather, prompted me to really spruce up our clothing inventory to a more "high tech", lighter, weather resistant clothes that will endure colder temps yet still not be a burden in the pack. Wife and I have spent a lot of money on clothes this winter, but in long run I think we'll be more comfortable and healthy in case of goofy weather in the mountains.
As we all know, one person's (mis)adventures could save many others a lot of grief.
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DoyleWDonehoo
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Post by DoyleWDonehoo » Mon May 22, 2006 3:16 pm

Thanks! I try not to hold anything back, including my mistakes in the hopes others will avoid my wayward decisions.

I am trying to whip up another story before the 'packin season really starts.

Sadly in a way, it is a truism: with mountain gear, you really get what you pay for. You can get by with some gear and pay for it in weight and bulk. The good light and bulk-less stuff costs more. The good thing is once you have it you can use it for years. I suggest getting the good stuff right off otherwise you will have a garage like mine with multiple packs, tents, sleeping bags, stoves of every type, pads, you name it. I could outfit an expidition.

Tip for the day: If you are a 3 season backpacker, get a 30 (or 20) degree 800 fill hi-tech super-lite-under-a-pound sleeping bag, and suppliment it with hi-tech pile like light-weight low bulk (you know the kind=$$$) clothing. If it gets cold in your bag, just put on the pile socks, pants and shirt (and cap if needed). The clothing serves for strange weather hiking, sleeping and evening clothes.

With the weather like it has been, being prepared has become more important.
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Post by ironmike » Tue May 23, 2006 10:33 pm

If you folks think Secor sandbags his ratings, then don't bother picking up any of his predecessor's books, e.g., Roper's guide or even Voge's. In fact, the climbing community regards Secor in the exact opposite context, and complain about ratings inflation.

I agree most with wingding: the ratings system in the 2-4 range is highly subjective, and has everything to do with your base of experience. Don't trust a guidebook, get out and calibrate your own sense of what ratings mean.

Finally, you can search the WPSMB or mt-whitney.info for copious information about Secor's accident and long recovery. RJ is a local icon of mountaineering, climbing, and other outdoor pursuits and we're very lucky to have him and his assorted "eccentric" works around to banter about.

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Post by wingding » Wed May 24, 2006 7:49 am

I agree - we are lucky to have the information Mr. Secor provides in his books. I was at the top of the Baldy Bowl last year and watched that accident - not a pretty site. Accidents happen to experienced hikers, climbers and mountaineers as well as inexperienced ones.

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Post by sierra cyd » Wed May 24, 2006 2:49 pm

Also to be noted as that some passes can vary quite a bit depending on the exact spot you attempt, a pass such as Potluck, for example. If you try to attempt it "the way that it looks like everyone else goes" you'll find you're in some pretty nasty vertical scree covered stuff requiring use of hands for sure, but if you take your time and look around, there is an easy class 2 route that is hidden and hard to find that starts/ends at a high point on the saddle above (not obvious at all). I had an experience like that too coming down Snow Tongue, it got so terrifyingly trecherous half way down that I actually climbed all the way back to the top and climbed down about 30 feet over from where I attempted before and it was a regular loose class 2, not that bad.

My point is that the actual "class 2" portions of these routes are often pretty specific, and really are not described in detail in most route descriptions (especially Secor's which are super brief). So you're lucky if you figure them out, you need to take your time sometimes and scout around.

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Post by giantbrookie » Wed May 24, 2006 4:49 pm

ironmike wrote:If you folks think Secor sandbags his ratings, then don't bother picking up any of his predecessor's books, e.g., Roper's guide or even Voge's. In fact, the climbing community regards Secor in the exact opposite context, and complain about ratings inflation.
Yes indeed. I grew up peak bagging with Voge and then Roper's guide. There is no doubt there has been ratings inflation on various routes, and we've seen many routes ratchet up in assigned degree of difficulty. I think actually that Secor is a victim of his own thoroughness. His guide is so far beyond the old Climbers Guide (Voge, then Roper) that it is in entirely another league. Here's a typical example of a Voge/Roper route description. Mt. Ritter. Route xx. The west slope is class 2. Yup, that's it. Never mind how intricate the darned thing really is (missed a cutoff ledge system and did a few hundred feet of class 4 when I did it; yes, my dad and I did have rope, just in case). In contrast, Secor takes you through every twist and turn of this route. Herein lies the biggest complaint I've heard some climbers level at his book: that the old school guide with almost no detail forced the climber use his/her own route finding judgement so much more, both picking the best route, and ascertaining the difficulty level. Secor himself, as all climbing guide authors have said, writes that there is no substitute for the climbers own judgement in the field. I think in today's paint by numbers society, this point is missed by too many. There is no doubt that Secor's book provides more complete and accurate information than ever before and because of that it, sadly, opens him up to far more criticism than he deserves. As you can see above, I am not immune to engaging in it, but I certainly don't mean to demean the man nor his contributions to the Sierra and the enjoyment of others. His rating of class 2 on Kaweah Pass is certainly legit in most folks (including my) definition. I felt the objective dangers weren't stated adequately, but that was only because RJ is so thorough about stating them elsewhere. I have found his descriptions to be true to the letter the vast majority of the time. Roper and Voge never faced the level of criticism Secor receives simply because they didn't provide enough info to make themselves targets--that and the climbing/peak bagging community of the day didn't expect that much info. Again, my hat's off to Secor. May he recover and continue to be a force in the Sierra, and many thanks to his enormous contributions to Sierran hiking.
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Post by Moonwalker » Wed May 24, 2006 7:23 pm

I think the point about the subjectivity of guidebooks and class 2-4 is right on. I'm new to this side discussion about Secor, I didn't mean to make him a target. I like his book! My interpretation of his rating at the time was, well, technically, maybe it *is* class 2. At the same time, maybe *no one* should do it. Aren't there some class 2 routes that should never be attempted by anyone?

Aside: In his description of the Lamarck Col route, Secor includes a photo of the route and an arrow pointing to a possible shortcut that says "don't go this way!". I discovered his book immediately after descending that exact hair raising shortcut, and bought it immediately, thinking, to hell with learning the hard way, it's time for a guidebook. But that route was far tamer than what I found on Wallace Col...

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Post by quentinc » Wed May 24, 2006 8:36 pm

You must have a later edition of Secor's guide than I do, because I could never find the right spot for crossing Lamark using his description!

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Post by Moonwalker » Wed May 24, 2006 8:52 pm

quentinc: 2nd edition (p. 266). His description of the crossover point on Larmarck Col in my edition: the first notch to the right of a small, sharp peak (the most easterly of several notches on the crest).

That's from the east side, of course.
Last edited by Moonwalker on Thu May 25, 2006 5:33 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by ironmike » Wed May 24, 2006 9:16 pm

giantbrookie, your post is spot on. I agree 100%, though your points are more eloquently presented than I could manage. Thanks.

BTW, my favorite example of ratings inflation was Humphreys: the short face above Married Man's Point has gone from Class 4 to mid 5's.

sierra cyd: your comment about the "actual 'class 2' portions" being specific is a good point to make as well, and it ties in with giantbrookie's post. Routefinding is a core skill for anyone who goes off trail in the Sierra (or sometimes even the trailhiker as well), whether the route is Class 2 or Class 5.impossible and since that skill is judgement-oriented, no amount of guidebook reading (or blogging!!) will fill the void.

Nonetheless, I am fascinated by guide books of all eras, and envy the men with the time and experience to craft them.

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