Crud and Mud

Thu, Dec 31, 2020

With: Jackie Burd

Story Photos / Slideshow Map GPX

Jackie was set to return to Santa Barbara at the weekend, so we made plans for a last visit to Pinnacles National Park before her departure. It would be the last outing for 2020, not one of the best years on record and one most folks would be eager to be done with. Our day was cut short by Jackie's first fall on lead, no serious injuries resulting, but a warning perhaps, to let 2020 be.

Crud and Mud

The entry in Rubine's Climber's Guide Pinnacles National Monument reads as, 3rd and 4th class Once again this hapless formation makes it into a Pinnacles guidebook. Never seeming to produce a route worth either the hike or reporting, Crud and Mud is only worth visiting if one is looking for a serious bushwhack. We found neither a 3rd/4th class route, nor a serious bushwhack, and rather enjoyed the feature as a short, easy climb.

Located southwest of Bear Gulch Reservoir, it requires a bit more effort to reach than the objectives we had climbed the previous two visits. The guidebook shows use trails going around the south and north side of the reservoir, the description for The Frog using the northside route. We did this on the way out, but found it isn't really a climbers' trail and not very straightforward or convenient. The real climbers' trail goes around the south side of the reservoir, forking off the Chalone Peak Trail. We would use this on the way back. The northside trail does offer some bouldering objectives that we checked out but didn't attempt - they seemed much harder than either of us would try solo. There were no bolts for protection that we could see, but it would be possible to get a rope over them if one wanted to prussik. At the west end of the reservoir, just before the southside trail drops to cross the creekbed, a trail forks left that goes up to Crud and Mud. This trail was in excellent condition, clear of brush - it seems the trail either didn't exist before the 18yr-old guidebook was written, or Rubine simply didn't know about it. The trail led nicely up to the toe of Crud and Mud, and from there one can follow the rock around the west side to the uphill saddle. We stopped about halfway up the west side to examine a possible route up a side gully, but it led to a steep rock face, north-facing and damp from the overnight drizzle that wetted the area. We continued up to the saddle on the south side, finding a short but pleasant route up from that side. I would put it at class 5.5 with a selection of three bolts protecting it. The first bolt is the key, allowing one to safely move up the crux section, but after that the route becomes 3rd/4th and the other bolts seem excessive. Jackie led the climb up, clipping two of the bolts before reaching a rap chain anchor about 30ft up. She then belayed me to the anchor where we unroped and scrambled the short distance to the nearby highpoint about 20ft further. Our perch gave us a good view of The Frog and The Hand, our other objectives further to the west. We scanned the area in between for signs of a connecting use trail, but saw nothing obvious that stood out. We returned to the rap chains and rapped off the southeast side, then packed up our gear to head out.

The Frog

I had hoped we might find a more direct route between Crud & Mud and The Frog, but after several attempts to follow thin trails that ended in heavy brush, I decided we needed to drop back down to the creek. There is a very good trail leading to it via The Hand and The Snail as we found later, but we never dropped all the way back to the creek to find it. Instead, I led Jackie along another weak animal trail that took us through some heavy brush, sometimes crawling on our knees. Jackie doesn't like this sort of adventure and I paused to apologize often. Eventually she needed to take a break when we were in the vicinity of The Snail, so I left my pack with her and went off to explore various options while she rested. Upon my return, I was happy to report I had found the climbers' trail and there would be no more bushwhacking on our way to The Frog.

We made our way to the downhill toe of The Frog, resting while we got out our guidebook to examine our route options. We quickly identified all the routes around the toe, moving around to the northeast side where we found some pretty spicy lines. We returned to the northwest side to try a 5.5 route called Lonesome Dove. We thought maybe we could solo the initial part to reach easier ground, but I backed off with my climbing boots when I didn't trust the freshly green moss and lichen. We decided the use of rope from the base would be more prudent. Again, Jackie took the lead. Along with the usual sportclimbing quick-draws and a few slings, I gave her a pair of cams to use in a crack on the left side of the 30-degree slab she would ascend. She made a few efforts to place a cam after getting about 10ft up, but was unsuccessful. She slowly climbed another 10ft up the ramp, testing foot and hand holds, doing her best to avoid the lichen and moss. She paused when she came to a small bulge that would take her up to easier ground, again cautiously searching for holds. And then, with little warning, she fell. Her feet slipped out first, bringing her chest against the rock face, her hands helplessly trailing above her head. There was no chance she could arrest herself and the rope was just a limp noodle doing nothing at this point. She crashed feet-first into a manzanita bush at the base of the rock and flipped over on her back. A few branches were broken in arresting her fall, actually helping to absorb some of the kinetic energy she brought down with her. I told her not to get up immediately against her natural instincts, so she lay there while I asked her a few medical questions and took the inappropriate picture for posterity. I then helped untangle her from the broken branches and examined injuries to her arms and legs. Her wrists and knees seemed to take the brunt of the trauma, but overall she got away with some pretty minor injuries considering the speed with which fell. We decided it would be a good time to call it a day. The Frog could wait for drier conditions.

After packing up our gear, we followed the decent climbers' trail back down to The Snail and then to The Hand. I spent a few minutes examining the lines there for a future visit (they looked harder than the advertised 5.6-5.7), after which we continued down the drainage to the old CCC road and back to the reservoir. We discovered the much better trail around the south side of the reservoir and made our way down the Moses Spring Trail through the upper caves section. Back at the parking lot we washed off some of the blood. Jackie was a bit beat up, but otherwise in good spirits. Her spirits were even better after stopping in Hollister on the drive home for some Chicken McNuggets. Mmmm....

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