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First Ascents Among the Condors at Pinnacles National Monument

Posted on: January 27th, 2010 by Erik Lambert

Condors at Pinnacles National Monument

The condors circle as the belay bolts are put in. The silhouettes are AAC members Brad Young and Bob Walton.

AAC Member Vicki Young tells the story of her family’s recent climb in Pinnacles National Monument. What did you put up last weekend? Tell it here.

January at home in the California Sierra can mean snow and cold. January in Pinnacles National Monument (just outside of Soledad, California) can mean sunshine, if you’re lucky. We braved the Central Valley fog to get in one last climbing day before the annual Raptor Closures kept us out of some of our favorite areas.

We had a specific goal in mind: my husband Brad wanted to get his 800th climb at Pinnacles. So we gathered up a group of friends – some vastly experienced climbers and some “newbies” – and hiked out to Crowley Towers to put up a few new climbs. The line that Brad had picked out to be “The 800 Club” went up fairly easily at 5.7 or so. Brad and some of the more seasoned climbers showed the new guys how to hand-drill bolts (on lead, of course) and everyone took turns being part of the crew. As Brad and Waldo were putting in the belay bolts on top, the largest flock of California condors we had ever seen showed up to circle above us – practically within touching distance! The sound of the wind in their feathers was incredible. We had seen the condors before, but always at quite a distance and never so many at once.

Tricia Young, the youngest member of the FA crew.

"It's only 5.7 if you're over 4'7." This is 7-yr. old Tricia as part of the FA crew. Dad Brad Young belays.

Once the anchors were ready, the ascent party began. And party it was! A grand total of 13 in the first-ascent group, with an age range from 7 to 60+, tied-in conga-line style.  The guidebook entry for the FA for this climb will be an essay.