Honnold’s multi-pitch 5.13 on Gran Trono Blanco
From: Alex Honnold
Subject: Re: Trono Blanco
Date: February 8, 2012 2:01:27 PM MST
Hey guys, just got back from a pretty exciting trip to Mexico with Will Stanhope, Paul McSorely, and Andy Burr. We went and checked out the Gran Trono Blanco in Baja California. Will and Paul had been there briefly 4 years ago to try climbing an old Paul Piana free route, the Pan-Am, but hadn't managed to send the crux dihedral.
We only had a week out there since Andy had to get back to SLC in time to take care of the family. That meant that we took full advantage of our time. The first day we drove in there, set up camp, and humped 1000 ft of line to the top of the wall. The hiking was no joke! it's some of the most rugged terrain I think I've ever hiked in. Big boulder choked gullies and granite walls and slabs everywhere. It sort of felt like being in an obstacle course, except with a heavy backpack.
The next morning Will and I got up super early to hike to the bottom of the Pan-Am while Paul and Andy rapped down in. The hike down was crushing but surprisingly scenic. As we got further down the gully there was more and more water, and eventually there were palm groves and cool plants. And we saw big horns, which is always exciting, especially in the middle of the Mexican desert.
[Honnold on the crux 5.12+ dihedral of Pan-Am]
I fell off the crux of the Pan-Am, a 12+ lieback/stem corner, but sent it second try. Will fired it first go on toprope, which was pretty impressive considering it's a really pumpy warm up. The rest of the route was just fun times. It was cool having Andy above us hanging out taking pictures. Makes it feel like a party.
We spent the next 2 days checking out an old aid line named the Giraffe. We rapped down and checked out the free climbing potential, scoping variations to bypass the bolt/rivet ladders. The top of the wall was pretty slabby and was surprisingly easy to free but the bottom was a lot steeper; it all turned out being heinous technical slab. Just off vertical. But it was doable at least.
We took a much needed rest day, then I climbed the Pam-Am again with Paul so that I could do a 2-pitch variation finish that I thought looked cooler (and Paul Piana had emailed us to recommend). While we were romping up the wall again, Will rapped in on the Giraffe to work on some of the crux pitches.
The next day, our last day in Mex before Andy had to leave, Will and I rapped our lines to the bottom of the Giraffe and climbed our way back out. Will mostly supported because his tips were blown and he didn't think he could do a few parts, but he managed to free the majority of the route despite carrying all our water and jackets and stuff on him. I fell on two of the hard slab pitches but sent them both second try. It was crushingly hot in the sun, making the thin slabs feel a little more desperate than usual.
[Photographer Andrew Burr notes: "Real and raw emotion displayed by someone is powerful, but when felt by all, it invokes surrealistic euphoria. If this photo captures just a small piece of that, then I have done my job. Shown here is Alex, completely stoked after completing the mega thin and bold traverse of pitch 5. While only halfway up the wall, this section was the last of the uncertainties. Alex answered—the wall will go free!"]
We topped out by early afternoon after freeing a new 10-pitch 13b. We all felt totally spent. We hiked everything back to camp, packed up, and headed pack to San Diego (where we'd carpooled from). For feeling like it's in the middle of nowhere, Gran Trono Blanco is surprisingly accessible.
It was a tiring week in Mexico. . . I hiked to the top of the mountain 6 times in 7 days, and freeclimbed the face 3 times. I was really pooped when we got back.
Now I'm in Las Vegas for the next month or so, sport climbing a bit. It's a pleasant change of style. Maybe not quite as exciting, but sort of relaxing to just have fun climbing for a bit.
Hope things are going well in Salt Lake. Say hi to everyone for me,