Prime Rib of Goat climbed with John on May 20, 2017.
I’m a big fan of alpine starts for longer car-to-car climbs, especially if they are popular – you get more daylight to climb and descend, with the added bonus of (sometimes) beating other climbers to popular routes. However, I have employed an alternate strategy on several routes with great success. I call this method the “lazy-ass” start. This advanced tactic involves waiting until mid day to begin hiking toward your objective – sometimes this is done on purpose, sometimes as a result of rowdy campfires that went too late the previous night. In this case, it was on purpose: our intended route was a long, accessible climb that is well-protected by bolts. Prime Rib of Goat is an extremely popular route, especially among climbers who are still practicing their multipitch techniques. The slower teams seem to start early in the day; if you get your timing right, you start the route while they are causing traffic jams on the upper pitches. If you’re lucky, by the time you reach the final pitches, these other teams are descending, allowing you to climb the route unhindered.
This time, we were using the lazy-ass start to give our own lazy asses time to drive across the state. John and I met at the Mazama store at 11am, and after short drive to the pull-out, we began the approach. There was some interesting scree climbing and bush whacking to reach the start of the route – I recommend ascending the right side of the talus field and cutting left immediately above the last stand of trees. We went a little too high.
Soon, John and I were swapping leads up the route. This is a funny climb: anytime the climbing gets difficult, there is a huge hold within reach and usually a bolt at your waist keeping you super safe. John and I reached the base of the last pitch (Pitch 11) about 5 hours after starting the climb. There were a pair of climbers struggling on this pitch, with both the leader and follower taking falls. We also learned that 4 climbers were waiting at the top of the pitch to rappel. I did the math in my head and realized that we had two options:
1. We could wait in line, finish the route, and rappel behind 6 slower parties. Estimated time: 5 hours.
2. We could skip the final pitch and descend immediately with nobody slowing us down. Estimated time: 2 hours.
Considering that we had ice cold beer and a mountain of food at our campsite, the choice was clear. We began our rappels, which took roughly 90 minutes. This descent was a lot of work… I’ve learned to hate rappelling.
This climb is easy to pack for: all you need are 15 quickdraws or alpine draws. I brought 5 alpine draws and was wishing for a few more – the number of bolts on this route tend to create rope drag. A single 60m rope is all that is required to descend the route – don’t bother bringing two ropes. Don’t forget your headlamp – even if you move quickly, odds are that you will end up in a conga line on your way up or down. For anchors, I used my quadruple length dyneema sling to fashion a pre-tied quad anchor, which worked perfectly and saved a lot of time. Saving 5 minutes at each belay station adds up to nearly an hour on this route!
This is a POPULAR climb. Using an alpine start (recommended) or the lazy-ass start(acceptable) is key to avoid inevitable traffic jams on the route. The rappels took a long time and effort – use a car shuttle if you are able. We moved pretty quickly on the descent and it still took a solid 2 hours to reach the car from where we turned around. An enterprising climber might consider a comfortable bivouac on the large ledge in the middle of the route.