Weekend Whipper: Zippering “Piece After Piece” on Seldom-climbed 5.13

"Other than almost decking this is a phenomenal route."

Video loading...
Photo: Patrick Cattell

Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members! Download the app.

Readers, please send your Weekend Whipper videos, information, and any lessons learned to Anthony Walsh, awalsh@outsideinc.com.

Established in 1985 by the legendary Alan Watts, Crack of the Eighties (5.13a) is a devious and technical pitch at Donner Summit, California.

Crack of the Eighties doesn’t climb much like a crack at all, however, and relies instead on powerful (and frustratingly shallow) side pulls and laybacking. “The climb also has a bit of a reputation for finicky gear placements,” the climber, Patrick Cattell, wrote to Climbing.

Cattell adopted typical headpointing tactics for this route: toproping and placing the gear while free climbing to establish the best stances. “Everything felt good,” Cattell said. “The gear, although small, felt solid with the exception being a gray Metolius Mastercam which had to be placed blindly in a shallow section of the crack. On the first lead attempt, I climbed through the crux only to slip. The blindly placed [cam] ripped but the next piece down, a purple Metolius, caught me no problem. Awesome, [I thought], the piece is bomber and even if the gear placed higher rips I will be okay.”

Cattell made a second lead attempt later that day. He successfully laybacked through the crux and placed the gray Metolius blindly, made a few moves, and realized that just two of its lobes were engaged in the stone. “Instead of reaching down to adjust it, I said ‘fuck it’ and decided to keep climbing knowing that I only needed to do two insecure moves until I could place a bomber [cam],” Cattell said. “Only I lost concentration, and, after making some moves, I felt too stretched out and hesitated.” Cattell’s foot popped and he was off, hearing “piece after piece rip out” as he fell.

The gray cam ripped, unsurprisingly, but Cattell said his years of trad climbing indicated that purple Metolius to be bomber. “I’ve heard gear that size is not meant to take falls, but previous falls on it from other climbs lead me to believe otherwise,” he said. “In hindsight, I think I could have gotten another small piece to back [the cam] up.” Cattell’s third failed piece didn’t actually rip at all: a nut had somehow unclipped itself from the quickdraw during the fall. “I figured that the cable on the nut broke in the fall,” he said. “Would the nut have held the fall? Who knows. I ended up with only rope burn up my ass crack and slight whiplash, lucky me.”

Happy Friday, and be safe out there this weekend.

Weekend Whipper: Leader Nearly Eats Loose Block on J-Tree Sport Climb

Weekend Whipper: Even “Bomber” Gear Has Its Limits

Weekend Whipper: Bolt Hanger Falls Off⁠—With the Climber Attached

Film: How Matt Cornell Free Soloed One of America’s Classic Hard Mixed Routes

"The Nutcracker" explores the mental challenges of solo climbing and the tactics Cornell used to help him send the route.