- Crab Eyes as seen from Lost Dome in the Wichita Mountains.
All week long the weather forecast called for partly cloudy skies with a high of 65 degrees in the Wichita Mountains. The plan was to go explore a rarely climbed area called Treasure Cove. I had wanted to explore this area some time, and I had finally found other climbers willing to make the journey, but things took a sudden turn Saturday morning before leaving. The forecast now was calling for rain through 10 a.m., but this was no big deal, as we would be arriving in the parking lot shortly after this, but what concerned me was the chance of thunderstorms at 2 p.m.
We still had a solid four hour window to get some climbs in, but since the beta I read about Treasure Cove indicated it was very difficult to get to we opted to head to Crab Eyes to climb Come Get Your Love, a 5.10a that I have had my heart set on for several months now. I was tempted to just give up on this too though and climb on Upper Mount Scott, which only requires a short 3-5 minute hike to the base of the climbs, but thankfully my climbing partners for the day were psyched to check out a new area.
So, about 10:30 a.m. we began making our trek to the well recognized rock formation known as Crab Eyes. As we made our journey down the trail I was surprised to see us arrive at the base of another formation called Echo Dome. I had been here before and Crab Eyes could even be seen off in the distance. So, we thought we must have been on the wrong trail and decided to just start blazing our own path towards the formation.
After climbing down about 75 yards or so we stumbled back upon a trail and figured we must be back on the right path, but was we journeyed further down the path we quickly realized it was taking us away from our destination, so being the smart climbers we are we decided to blaze our own train again and just start walking toward the tall formation. It was about this time I asked Naren if he brought a headlamp, he replied by saying, “I always bring a head lamp when I climb with you” ; followed up by accusations of being epic prone. Sure, I have had epics before, but I have way more successful climbing days than I do epics. He only remembers the epics.
After several minutes of hiking other rock formations began blocking our view of Crab Eyes, but after continuing on in the same direction we spotted the tops of the eyes just beyond another rock formation. We also saw another trail, so figured we were on the right path, but as we continued we noticed the trail becoming fainter, but saw karnes that seemed to be pointing us in the direction of Crab Eyes. We aimlessly followed these karnes into a field of boulders covered my thorns, so we back tracked a bit and once again began blazing our own trail, which once again brought us back on to a main trail and not soon after Crab Eyes were bigger than ever and the base of the climbs was well in our sight, but there was one problem – our climb was on Lost Dome, not Crab Eyes!
After viewing beta in two different guidebooks I got confused about where the actual climb was. Photos I saw made it appear that this climb was just a few hundred feet to the west of the formation, the guide book even referred to Lost Dome as “Crab Eyes Area”. So in my mind Lost Dome and Crab Eyes were one in the same, but boy was I wrong.
- Naren, on the start of Come Get Your Love (5.10a).
So after some hairy down scrambling off the west side of Crab Eyes we found the main trail again and referenced our guide book again and used the compass on my iPhone to get our bearings and discovered we were only a few feet from the trail split to Lost Dome. We didn’t realize this though until we started down the trail again. After a few paces I just happened to look left and see the train branching off. Shortly after that we found ourselves at the base of Lost Dome; and this time we where exactly were we needed to be.
Normally when stuff like this happens I get to the base of the climb and lose it, but this time I was still psyched. I was harnessed up and ready to go, gear and all, before my other partners. As I sat down and slipped on my shoes a smile came to my face and I muttered under my breath, “I’m so psyched!” This was they key indicator to me that I was ready to climb – I was ready to, “Get My Love On!”
The route looked easier than expected from the base, but as I began climbing my tune changed pretty quickly. The starting moves off the ground were pretty tricky and it required placing gear, but after a couple minutes of fooling around I was up on the rock placing a #1 red Black Diamond cam into a horizontal crack and making my way up to the first bolt, but not without some hesitance.
After clipping the first bolt I felt safer, but saw the run out to the next bolt was a little above my comfort level for such vertical terrain and the more difficult grade, although this section was no harder than 5.9. After standing there for a while I eventually made the moves to the second bolt and had my belayer hold me there while I evaluated the next moves. After analyzing the route I cooled my head a bit and placed a piece of supplemental protection that was purely a “mental piece”, and I was off again and made it to the third bolt without much of a problem, the next bolt was a little closer than the previous, so I continued up on thin edges and balancy moves, after clipping my quick draw I hung there again gearing up for the next moves.
- Naren, seconding Come Get Your Love (5.10a)
From here I had one more bolt to clip and then the crux moves to another bolt. I was slightly hesitant here, but once again managed to calm my nerves, made the moves and clipped into the bolt, I was now at the crux section of the route. I was in a pretty good stance so was able to stand there a while and evaluate the route. It was going to be dicey: so after a couple of meager attempts I had my belayer hold me once again.
After evaluating the route a bit more and making several attempts I finally made one of the two crux moves and was now at waist level with the bolt. From here I was going to have to make another sketchy move up to a downward sloping ledge with some sharp edges to hold on to and nothing but smearing for foot placements. I hesitated a number of times and finally decided to just go for it, but I freaked out again, taking a 10-12 foot fall past the first crux move. Since I had already made the move I allowed myself to pull back up to where I was and give it another go.
This time I saw something I hadn’t seen the first time. I large slot that I could use as an under cling for my left hand. This ended up being key to pulling up onto the sloping ledge and standing up to clip the last bolt. After hanging the a bit and catching my breath I decided to go for it again and was back to where I was when I fell, this time with a cooler head, yet still with a sense of desperation, then suddenly I remembered the huge slot I could use as an undercling. I fired my left hand into the slot, smeared up the wall and then stood on the ledge. After this I was able to comfortably clip the bolt.
The route at this point was pretty much done. You could see the chains off to the right, but they were just out of reach. I was going to have to make one more move to reach them. After evaluating the route I saw what I needed to do and began making the moves, but my rope wasn’t moving my belayer was keeping me tight an I yelled “ROPE” but it only got tighter, he had thought I wanted him to take in rope, I could feel myself being pulled off the wall, so I yelled, “SLACK”, and finally I was given the slack needed to comfortably clip into the anchor. For a moment I thought I was going to be taking another fall, but held on tight and avoided the effects of gravity.
After we all finished this climb I climbed the route again and then decided we should climb the interesting looking dihedral just to the right of Come Get Your Love. It wasn’t in the guidebook, but it looked fun. We doubt it was an FA, but for all we know it could have been. The start of the climb was very tricky, but after those initial moves the route eased up a bit and was a blast to climb.
Mike leads the way out of Lost Dome. Crab Eyes can be seen in the distance. This really shows just how far off course we were.
After finishing this climb it was already 4 p.m. so we decided to head back to the car since it would be getting dark soon. We had cloud cover all day, but didn’t get one drop of rain until the hike back. We also discovered on the hike back we missed a key turn in our journey to Crab Eyes. After crossing a creek we should have taken a right, following a trail along the creek bed, but we continued on the trail straight. Had we followed the right path we would have easily gotten to Crab Eyes and still had time to correct our mistake and get in other climbs, but on the bright side we now know two different ways to get to Crab Eyes (not that we will ever climb there, the ratings on those routes are sick).
Some people might consider us crazy for driving the 2.5 hours for just two climbs, but to me it was well worth the journey. Especially since I had wanted to do this climb for a long time. Even if I didn’t climb it clean, I had fun and I got to take a nice fall, something I hadn’t done in a long time. I think taking small falls like that every now and then helps you become better. It reminds you that not much is going to happen if you fall. Falling really isn’t that bad, just so long as the gear holding you is solid.
- Heading back to the car. Lost Dome can be seen in the background (left side of the frame)