Saturday, September 20, 2008

George Route -- Half of It, Anyway

Karabin's guide calls this an adventure route -- he's right about that. In Phoenix Rock, the route shows as linking up with the v-notch above the rescued dudes perch, the west-facing notch from which I emerged on the last August Canyon trip. I only got halfway. It's easier than the Neck route -- goes up straightforward terrain to the little green bush near the bottom of this picture, just left of center, then heads right in sort of a ramp-shelf system. I explored that frozen wave-looking thing, bit of a drop on the other side. Kept pushing right till the climbing got way intense for having no protection. Actually, I stopped right before it looked like it was going to get way intense -- around a corner on easy, but thin ground. If it was five feet up, anyone would try it. It's 300-400 feet off the deck right there. One slip and it's the express route the whole way down, barely a bounce before the big plunge. Extreme exposure. There are enough bolts on this route to minimize that danger -- I figured I'd come back sometime with a rope and maybe a partner and try it. But first I wanted to go as far as I could, so I pushed onward, already starting to feel the beginnings of that exposure. That's when the sentinel buzzed up to me, the lone sentry ordered to spy on this ridiculous wingless mammal clinging to the rock -- and to deter said mammal from going any further. The bee darted all around me, but not like the horse flies that zoom at 300 mph in figure 8s around my head sometimes at Camelback -- the bee flew purposely slow, as if to better use its eyes. Its buzz was like a red alert in my head -- I'd seen this behavior before. Bees are really smart and don't want to mess with people, any more than they want people messing with them. When a hive is nearby and menace lurks, advance guard bees will steer people away from them. And that's just what I felt this bee was doing. Which meant, of course there was a hive nearby. Except I doubted all the non-scientific gobbledegook I just spoke of -- I'm no bee scientist, and I don't really know how bees act. How could I know whether there was a hive or not? So I decided to keep heading around the ever-steeper mound of the corner of red rock, trying to peer at the terrain beyond, seeing what I might be up against if I made it around the corner without slipping, deciding there were a few very hairball parts on the other side of the corner, then heard and saw more bees. I stopped, focusing on the air just over the bulge of rock. Yes, there were bees, but were they just working a flower patch on the cliffside for some nectar? No. The little bee bodies I saw zipping to and fro just ahead were clearly converging on a central point around the corner on the northwest-facing cliff. It was a hive, all right. I aborted the whole plan right there. It seemed foolhardy, to say the least, to risk disturbing that hive while on sketchy, steep Camelback rock above a 300-foot-plus death fall.

The next two shots were from the bottom -- the exit of George route is marked "top" on each. In the first picture, note the horizontal crack-line at the left -- that's where the beehive is. The corner I'm talking about, and my stopping point, is the ground immediately left of the long horizontal crack. If it weren't for the beehive, it's possible to suck it up and traverse the corner, drop down onto a large ledge where those bushes and palos are growing just right of the crack, then scramble upward to the top. Definitely more trippy than pumpy. A fun adventure, which is exactly what I'm looking for.