Mt. Garfield - Infinite Bliss

May 14th, 2004

Note: New Infinite Bliss Topo (zipped), older: Infinite Bliss topo by Evan Cabodi

Friday was going to be a beautiful sunny day before a weekend of cloud and showers, so I called Pax up and we decided to head up the recently publicized sport route on Mt. Garfield's West Peak called Infinite Bliss (IV 5.10b, 23p). This impressively long route climbs roughly 2600 vertical feet, and is claimed to be the longest "sport" climb in North America. A couple months ago Joe Catelani and I had figured out the approach (the WRONG way), and had climbed up to the top of pitch 12 before bailing. The fun climbing on the lower half of the route lured me in for another go.

Pax and I pulled into the parking spot, a pullout on the right side of the middle fork road exactly one mile past the Taylor river road intersection. Seeing as it was a weekday, we felt pretty good about having the mountain to ourselves today... that way the rocks above us should sit right where they are all day. But alas, not one minute before we head out, Chuck and Jeff show up looking equally disappointed at the sight of another car. We all saddled up, hiked the 100-200 yards down the road to find the begins of the wash that drains the South Face. You have to hike through the forest a bit before the trail crosses the wash to its right side, and a well worn trail starts leading up the hill. We left a little before 8 a.m. and it took about 30 minutes to get to the base of the route.

I soon lead off, running the first two pitches together. Pax came up, and we began a running belay up through the next 3.5 pitches that lead to the top of the lower angled slabs. These pitches are quite fun and clean 5.4-5.8 friction climbing.

Pax leading up the lower slabs.

The next pitch that gains the first major ledge was pretty wet, so I detoured via a ramp on the left. We continued up the next pitch, which climbs a short 5.7 wall, then eases off into low angled slabs again. Above is a steep wall that is cut by a ramp/gully. I continued on with the running belay through two bolts of 5.7/8 and then up the very easy gully to a belay at a full length pitch from the base of the wall. In the ramp, there are only two pieces of pro, a bolt about half way and a fixed pin on the right about 15 feet below the belay, but the climbing is very easy.

Pax coming up the ramp on the 8th pitch.

We were feeling pretty good about our time so far, having climbed the first 8 pitches in 1.5 hours. The first 5.9 pitch is next, and pax lead it quickly and in good style. A large ledge and an easy 5.7 pitch above lead to the first 5.10 pitch. One thing to note, when leading this 5.7 pitch, bypass the chain anchors and scramble up to the base of the steep wall on the left to belay on a flake below the bolt line.

Pax leading the first 5.10 pitch (11th).

The 11th pitch is a good primer for what's to come higher on the route. I had on-sighted it a couple months ago, but shamefully I fell following it when I tried to force some off route moves. I could tell I wasn't having a spectacular day already, just not using my head enough.

A more moderate pitch (5.8?) leads up another 30 meters to chains. I decided to keep going (pitch 13), as I could see another set of chains up and to the right (at 2 o'clock position). We running belayed through this full ropelength, placing some small cams in the flakes for protection.

Pax following pitch 13 with Jeff on top of pitch 12 (lower right).

Another good moderate pitch (5.6?) leads up past 5 or 6 bolts to a belay where the wall begins to really kick back. This is were the route starts to get "interesting" and many people I've talked to have gotten lost. There is a bolt just left and up from the belay. We just started a running belay on widely spaced random gear placements for about 3-4 pitches until we reached the base of the upper headwall. What you want to do is go left to the bolt, then go back up and right to a belay that is above and right of a stand of trees, but just below and left of a big set of heather bushes. This is probably a 40m pitch with two bolts in it. From this belay between the two floral features (prominent landmarks for the descent too) ascend up but mostly right on an obvious ramp for about 120 ft. This will lead you to be under a big bush on the slab above. When the upper headwall looms above, you're in the right spot to head up if the big bunch of trees on the bottom right of the headwall are above you. This is what it looks like from where you exit the ramp and start climbing strait up:

Looking up towards the upper headwall.

Looking down on the scrambling slabs. The first dot is the belay between the trees and bushes.
The traverse follows the obvious ramp for maybe a 250ft pitch between belays.
The final dot is the belay where the bolt line picks back up.

Anyhow, Pax and I running belayed up through the first pitch of the headwall which ends on a tricky little friction slab (5.9?). The crux pitch (20th) is next and climbs an impressively steep wall. At almost a full 60 meters, this is a truly challenging pitch for "only" being 5.10. Pax was eager to lead this one, and I was eager to let him!

Pax styles the crux pitch.

Dave following the 20th pitch. Photo by Pax.

Even with 17 draws, he had needed to back clean a couple to have enough for the full pitch. I was just happy that I was able to climb it cleanly! Pax took the next pitch too, which climbs up a somewhat funky wet chimney via stemming and scrounging (5.9?). One thing to note is that the crux pitch ends at an anchor without chains. About 10m up there is a chain station that, on the descent, you can rap to the base of the crux from with two 60m ropes. The 22nd pitch is a fun and easier pitch that climbs up some blocky ground to just 30 meters below the summit.

Looking down at pax from the 22nd pitch. Fun!

The last pitch to the top is a little stinger. It looks easy from the belay, but the usual lack of holds and steep friction make it a tricky 5.10a. Finally though, after 7 hours of painful rockshoes, we were on top!

The main peak of Garfield looms a long ways in the distance.

The descent went real smooth, taking three hours of rapping. We did have to downclimb the ramp on the scramble, but other than that it's all chain rapps. Another option for descending the route is to carry over the mountain and descend down the other side. However, more than one party has spent an extra night out trying to negotiate the brushy cliffy terrain. Rapping the route will take most folks 3-4 hours and is the reccomended method of descent.

Infinite Bliss has a mix of very nice sport climbing, alpine adventure, and a summit to finish at. Some of the loose rock and climbing above pitch 12 aren't great, but I guess it just keeps that flair of the "hazardous enigma" in it. Unless you go to the very top, up to pitch 12 is a worthy climb in its self. Thanks again Pax for a great day in the mountains!

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