10/8/13 - Pamela Shanti Pack has done wide cracks as hard as 5.13c, but when she climbed Jihad in Vedauwoo, Wyoming, in late summer, she called it one of the hardest of her career—despite its relatively low 5.11d rating.
Jihad was put up in 1988 by Vedauwoo offwidth master Bob Scarpelli and went unrepeated until this year. At the time, Scarpelli’s most challenging offwidths were rated mid-5.11, but Jihad reached a new level.
"The offwidth legends’ 5.11d's—those by Scarpelli, Craig Luebben, and Jimmy Dunn—are still testpieces today, and modern ratings just don't apply,” Pack said. “Bob Scarpelli described his 11d rating as meaning "Don't bring Your weak shit here." The historic 11d is one of the hardest offwidth grades out there."
Jihad is a geometrically striking, 60-foot, overhanging and 45-degree leaning crack on the North Corner crag in Upper Blair, left of S.S. Maywood. After a run-out face climbing start, a squeeze chimney roof leads into leaning, 4- to 5-inch offwidth, and finishes with steep, traversing, flared fingers.
The hurdles Pack faced before her ascent were fierce, from a potential factor two fall onto the belayer to a rabies-threatening bat bite that resulted in a month of painful injections. After an onsight attempt failed at the final move, Pack worked the final section several times and did two redpoint attempts over a month’s time, the second one successful.
“The onsight attempt was terrifying and not exactly safe,” she said. “I misjudged the gear and ran out before the end of the route. After that I went back and climbed the last 15 feet five times in a row to make sure I had the gear and moves dialed. It was excruciatingly hard to go from such brutal offwidth climbing to such a delicate finger crack, and I did not want to blow my redpoint on the last move again. I honestly didn't think I would have it in me to get back on the route if I failed on that third attempt, because the offwidth was crushing my soul.”
Despite having climbed the wide cracks of Vedauwoo for seven years, repeating most of the granite area’s hardest offwidths and chimneys, Pack describes Jihad as one of the hardest of her career.
“I was terrified standing at the base of the route,” she said. “Although the pitch is only 60 feet, it [feels like it] has the logistics of a big wall.
“I'm hesitant to give Jihad a modern rating,” she added. “Lucille is considered a benchmark 12+/13a at Vedauwoo, and Lucille was casual in comparison.”
In 2012, Pack put up Forever War (5.13c/d R), the hardest-rated wide crack at Vedauwoo. Click here to watch wild video of her on the route.
Date of ascent: August 22, 2013
Sources: Pamela Pack, Ben Fullerton / Fullertonimages.com