The trad-style/headpoint testpiece Must’a Been High (5.13c R), on the Rincon Wall in Eldorado Springs Canyon, Colorado, saw a record four ascents over a three-week period in late February, early March. The climbers were Boulder hardmen Justen Sjong, Matt Segal, Matt Wilder, and Chris Weidner. First sent as a TR by Sjong in 2002 and dubbed Knee Jerk Reaction, the line fell as a lead to Eric DeCaria several months later.
When asked why he never made an initial gear-only lead, Sjong responded, “I didn't feel I could safely lead it during that time ... I can't say I’ve ever done a climb that was worth the glory of a death fall. Other folks thought it would make a killer sport route and I would agree with that ... But I never planned on submitting a bolting permit, because it appeared to have natural gear placements.”
Musta Been High, a 60-foot route up an opening slab to an overhanging rib,is littered with kneebars and kneescums. Each climber had his own thoughts on whether or not to use the sometimes controversial equipment – the sticky-rubber kneepad. DeCaria first sent the route on lead without a kneepad, which is how Segal chose to tackle the route, too, stating, “The first ascentionist didn’t wear a kneepad, so why would I? Repeating the route in lesser style then the first just feels like a regression of the sport.”
On his ascent, Segal took a dangerous fall: he made it through the crux, placing a small Stopper, and continued on to place a purple C3. “I kept climbing until I was one move away from clipping the anchor and completely slipped,” Segal recapped. “I fell and pulled the purple C3, taking a 30-footer onto the Stopper, and came pretty close to hitting the slab below the crux.” After shaking off the scare and with a bit of rest, Segal sent – this time skipping the C3 placement, “just punching it from the nut to the anchor.”
The only fixed gear on Must’a is a small knifeblade protecting the first crux. “Must’a Been High is harder and more committing than the three other 5.13 trad lines at the Rincon Wall, and the other 5.13s I've done in Eldo are all bolt-protected,” Weidner reflected. “It's definitely one of the hardest trad pitches in the canyon.”
Lowe Balls and small cams (and possibly kneepads) are Weidner’s recommendations. And Segal suggested first working the route on TR. Along with Lowe Balls, Sjong used the #000 C3 units.
Sjong, Wilder, and Weidner all opted to slap on the kneepads for the climb. The kneepad, Weidner recounted, created more secure climbing, with kneebarring from the bottom to the top of the route. His reasoning? Why not use the best equipment to increase safety and your odds of success.
Sjong, when approached with the kneepad question, retorted, “I like to kneebar! It wasn't a debate in my mind. I also used chalk, sticky-rubber shoes, leg loops, nuts, cams, and I back-stepped…and I trained on plastic.”
Segal differed over the use of kneepads: “It’s a personal choice.” But, he added, “I don’t really care how others climb as long as they’re not damaging the rock. I strive to climb in the best style I feel possible, and I think kneepads are poorer style … We’ve accepted sticky rubber for our feet, and chalk and tape for our hands, but what’s after the kneepad? Will it be acceptable one day to tape skyhooks to our fingers so we don’t have to grab as hard?”
Dates of ascents: Matt Segal and Matt Wilder, February 22; Chris Weidner and Justen Sjong, March 12
Sources: Justen Sjong, Matt Segal, and Chris Weidner