In June 2000, I lead Joe Hastings and Shawn Lani and my wife Ellen, to a remote collection of granite spires known as Blue Mass. I had searched the literature and could find no mention of climbing at Blue Mass. We decided to go have a look.
Joe drove a four wheel drive "it's a rental car" Blazer while Ellen drove our GMC Savanah van over overgrown deeply rutted two-track dirt roads.
I wondered what we would find: crumbly granite? short easy climbs? unprotectable horrors?
When we arrived at the first formation I rushed from the car to touch the granite. It was solid! I scouted out our first climb, this looked like fun.
Meanwhile, Shawn and Joe were worried. Their gas gauge had suddenly dropped to empty. Ellen came up with the perfect solution. Go climbing now, worry about gas later.
I grabbed the gear. Joe and I flipped a coin for the first lead, I won. As we roped up at the base I found out that this was Shawn's first rock climb. How many people do their first rock climb ever on a first ascent of a route?
The start of the climb was under a rather large overhang. The face to the right had some nice knobs that actually felt like they would stay attached to the rock when loaded with body weight. Unfortunately, they made ominous hollow sounds when tapped. Such are the joys of the first ascent.
I worked a small stopper into a crack and committed to the wall. A nice series of holds led up around the tip of the overhang to more protection placements. Above I made several stems across the chimney to work up above the small ceiling on the right wall. Above the ceiling I did a wonderful exposed traverse to the right to reach a nice finger crack that lead to the summit ridge. WOW! The moves were varied and fun, the protection was good, the rock was clean and sound. This was going to be a great day.
More pictures and a route description
Shawn came up next. He did great. I was glad he could figure out the moves on his first climb and also glad that he paused to "savor" the traverse move high on the route.
Joe followed swiftly and we thought the climb was 5.6 with reasonable protection.
The descent involved a traverse along the back of the formation to the notch between it and the formation behind. Then a walk down a gravel slope to the car.
The traverse was 5.3 or so. Joe lead it and placed two pieces of pro. We belayed Shawn from front and back on the traverse. Shawn savored some of the traverse moves. As an optional last move I made a fun jump.
Since we were perhaps out of gas, the name of the climb was obvious.
Joe and Paul Doherty.
Returning to the cars we found that the gas gauge had made a miraculous recovery, it was a quarter full again. So we sent Shawn home to prepare for his wedding in two days while Joe, Ellen and I looked for new rocks. We found one immediately.
On the more usual dirt road approach to Blue Mass this would be the first big dome you park under. Roadside Dome.
Joe spotted a crack going from left to right across the top of the dome. He chose it for his lead.
The crack was wonderful it swallowed hands and protection, the angle was low. The rock was solid. Joe lead out nearly a full rope length then stopped and belayed. I followed then lead a second short pitch to the summit up a crack that took off upward while the original crack continued its horizontal path. Fun easy climbing at 5.3. In honor of the Blue Mass area Joe called it Cyan Time again. We descended by climbing up to a gully and heading north and down a sandy slope to the car.
It was my turn again. As we walked back toward the car along the base of Roadside Dome I encountered a concave face with a water trough right in the center. I remembered how much fun I had had climbing the water cracks on Lembert Dome in Tuolumne meadows and knew I would have to try the route even though protection looked nonexistent.
The start of Cyanide.
I started by mantling into the wide groove I got a small tri-cam into a tenuous slot then moved by stemming. There were few protection placements but the climbing was good so I kept going. The groove narrowed. the climbing was still fine on solid rock, but the protection stayed sparse. Finally I arrived at the steepest part of the groove. To the left there was a crack just out of reach that promised good pro. I grabbed a good knob on the left wall pulled up and stood on it then made a neat exposed step left to better holds and bomber protection. I breathed a sigh of relief and ran to the summit. Joe followed easily. Keeping to his blue theme I named the climb Cyanide, 5.7 R/X. It is probably best to think of the first 90 feet as a free solo. Go over the summit and descend the walking gully to the north or south.
Joe put up the last climb of the day named "Stuck on the Granite"
In this photo follow up the shear left side of roadside dome, the line continues up the left facing dihedral of the next dome. Stuck n the Granite climbs this dihedral.
Start by climbing to the ledge on the left side of Roadside Dome. Go into the tree filed gully behind and work up and right to the next dome behind. Look for a foot width crack just to the right of a chimney. This is the start of Stuck on the Granite.
Joe jammed up the crack then climbed up to a sloping area that let him traverse right. He climbed up a knobby wall to the base of the dihedral. Then blasted up to the summit. The pro was good. The climbing was 5.6.
We had a great day. There is something special about leading off into the unknown. Even easy climbs like Cyan Time Again gain extra excitement when you are doing them with no knowledge of what lies ahead. Cyan Time looked like it was steeper than it really was and like the crack pinched out to a thin seam. Both perceptions were illusions. In addition, although I am very good at placing protection, I didn't think that any of the protection in the first 90 feet of Cyanide would actually hold a fall, so I was free soloing a long way up on new rock. That was really exciting!
Joe points out that the lack of a guidebook frees the mind we just looked around and said, "let's climb that." Then we went over and climbed it.
After you have gained experience climbing find your own Blue Mass and have fun.
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