By: Ted Brasket
With Lorry Brasket and Jeanette Vincent, we drove to the east side of Babo. We hadn't done that side for 8 years and we had two shifts to take up on separate days. Jeanette and I did an exploratory on Tuesday, May 19, to smooth the way for the groups. From our camp at 4200', we hiked up the road 0.1 mile to the ranch gate. This is as far as you can drive. Going through the hiker's gate, you pass the ranch in 0.25 miles. Here you'll pick up the trail around the corral and start up Thomas Canyon. After crossing the wash 4 or 5 times in approximately 1.5 miles, you'll reach the end of the canyon. The trail exits right and is steep up to the saddle at 6500'. From the saddle, you can see a deep notch. There's a steep, brushy trail up from the saddle. There's a large chock stone in the notch. You still have 1000' of gain and three rock pitches in about 1/2 mile to reach the summit.
We did the first pitch by three different routes and decided the fastest way to get everyone up was right past the chock stone. The rock is slick and it's a tight squeeze past the chock stone to the top of the pitch. There would be one person in each of the groups who wasn't completely confident they could do the peak from this side. To make sure they got up this first pitch I tied loops in an 8.5min rope and hung it from the top of the pitch and dropped it down past the chock stone. They could climb up through the tight spot using the loops when needed and would also be on belay from the top. We did this pitch without packs to get through the tight spot. As each climber came up, we could haul their packs so they could go on up out of the way. The looped line hung there until Sunday so both groups could use it.
Now that we had this worked out to our satisfaction, we went on up to the second pitch. It's just up around the corner, a short distance, and is a 70' climb following a dark water spot. 60' goes really well, then it's vertical and slim pickings to the top. There are belay bolts back 15' from the edge. I'd give this pitch a 5.4. Both of these bottom pitches are more difficult than the long 120' top pitch. To refresh our memory, we went up and right over slabs and to the final obstacle to the top pitch. When a guide book called it an Oak Jungle, they were really right. Out of the Oaks and you're there. The distance is short between these two pitches also. From east or west, you do this same top pitch.
Our easy going, compatible "Senior's Day" group included Ernie Spiehler, Judy Ware, Jeanette and I. The added ages for this fun group of four equaled 262 years. A very memorable day.
Sunday would be peak #2 of three peaks we wanted to do with Patty Kline to get her to #95 on the DPS list. If we got these three peaks, she'd be able to walk across the finish line for her list finish peaks. The day went better than I had hoped for. Because of the assistance and experience of Rich Gnagy and help from Dean and Pat Acheson it went great. It was a wonderful week spent running up and down Babo. Thanks to all involved for making this experience such a pleasure.
P.S. A CELEBRITY! On Saturday, May 23, I met two climbers at the ranch gate. After a bit of conversation, the younger of the two said, "Don won't tell you himself, but he was on the first ascent of the South East Arete in March of 1957." Forty one years ago. That same year, the same climbers re-established the "Forbes Route." He gave me some good information including where to use a short webbing runner through a hole on the left side of the crux 10' from the top of pitch 2 on the Forbes Route. I'd climbed it four times previously unprotected. That was good news. When I checked the register the next day, it said it was his 76th time on the summit. He looked to be about 60 and very fit. His name is Don Morris.
P.P.S.S. The following Sunday, May 31, Patty, Jeanette and I did South Guardian Angel for her 95th list peak. We were really happy that Patty was able to climb these three difficult peaks with us. She showed a lot of courage making these summits.
On Tuesday, June 2, we did North Guardian Angel with Judy Ware, Dean and Pat Acheson plus a fellow we met in camp. Another perfect day with a humorous, compatible group who really worked well together.
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