The Incredible Hulk
(Red Dihedral Route)

9-11 Aug 2003 - by Rick Booth

The Red Dihedral or Ygdrasil Route on the Incredible Hulk is one of what Peter Croft calls the "Big Four", the others being Dark Star on Temple Crag, the Harding Route on Mt Conness, and the Harding Route on Keeler Needle. Harding got around. These routes are not the hardest routes in the Sierras but they are all at least 5.10, long, and located in interesting and picturesque areas.

Rounding up partners for backcountry rock climbing routes is problematic. All of the climbers I know pretty much fall into two camps. They are either mountaineers with only a modest interest in technical routes or they are die hard crag rats, only interested in a short stroll to a rock climbing route. Since a reasonably difficult backcountry route requires solid rock climbing skills the attempts to find climbing partners has been mostly confined to the group of rock climbing friends. There are two extreme responses to suggestions for this kind of project from this group. The first response is something like this:

"I am thinking of going in to climb the Jingus Direct on Mt Wahoopadu. Is that any kind of trip you might be interested in?"

"Climbing that stuff is for the terminally dumb."

End of conversation. At least it is quick and to the point.

The second type of response goes like this:

"I am thinking of going in to climb the Jingus Direct on Mt Wahoopadu. Is that any kind of trip you might be interested in?"

"Dude! I saw a picture of that route in the climbing magazine and it is so cool looking! I am so there! When do we start?"

"Well, ah, ok. You know we have to hike in about eight miles, up 4000 feet, and camp at 12000 feet for a few nights."

"No problem, dude. I camp at Joshua Tree all the time and my grandfather took me back packing once. Just give me a list of what I need to bring."

Uh, oh.

"Ah, ok, your pack is going to weigh about fifty pounds. We have to bring in food, sleeping bag, and a couple of ropes."

"Ok, I am still there, dude! Fifty pounds, huh? What does that feel like?"

"Kinda heavy. We also have to be prepared for rain so we have to get up early, like when it is cold and dark, and be ready to move at first light."

"Really? You mean this could take all day? Man, I don't know. Are you sure?"

"Yep. And pulling 5.10 at 14000 feet isn't quite the same as at 4000 feet at Josh. There isn't any air up there."

"Aaaahhhhhh!.I just happened to remember I might have a date for the Owens Gorge with some chick who can crank 5.12 in the gym that weekend. Let me get back to you on this!."

That is about it. I am fortunate that my wife Dee is interested in these kinds of projects and has been my partner on many trips. I am also fortunate to have a small group of friends who are both capable and enthusiastic about alpine routes. For the Red Dihedral trip this consisted of Alexey Zelditch, a quick learning and very talented rock climber, Jim Curl, whom I have teamed up with for several other projects, and my oldest rock climbing pal for many, many years, Allan Peery, who had not been back packing in twenty years but for some unfathomable reason just had to climb the Red Dihedral.

We headed out of the Twin Lakes parking lot about 1 PM on Saturday, August 9. We were anticipating a fairly short hike into the base of the route where we were going to bivy. The first part of the hike is fast on the flat Barney Lake trail. After a couple of miles we were supposed to leave the trail and cross a bog and then head up Little Slide Canyon.

Based on some information at the SuperTopo web site we thought we could leave the trail early and head up around the corner into Little Slide Canyon. Alexey and I tried this. We were separated from Al and Jim in the bog and managed to thrash our way through the bog and over to the other side. This required wading through a bunch of water with our sandals on. On the other side of Robinson Creek we were forced up higher and higher due to the bushwhacking. It was awful. We ended up having to contour around for a long ways before dropping into Little Slide Canyon. We had left the main trail far too early. It turns out the standard cutoff near the Toyabe-Hoover Wilderness sign is fairly dry this late in the season and Jim Curl found a separate crossing, marked by a cairn under a pine tree near the trail, that is also dry and heads up the hill on the opposite bank to join the main trail. In any case, we eventually all ended up at the bivy area, which is below Maltby Lake and right at the end of the talus fan at the base of The Incredible Hulk. There is a small stream flowing through this area, which seems to be coming off the snowfields up higher. It is not part of the Maltby Lake outlet.

We agreed to get up at about 6:00 AM to get going. About 5:30 AM I started hearing a lot of sniffing, snuffling, and schnarfeling down around the foot end of my bivy bag. In the gray area between sleep and awakedness I evaluated the options: bear, marmot, gang of squirrels, or possibly even an off route beaver from the bogs at the entrance to Little Slide Canyon. I popped straight away awake and sat up. It was the dog from the campsite just up from us. The dog took one look at me and leapt forward and planted a huge kiss square on my face. The dog backed up, tail wagging ferociously and eyed me intently, no doubt overjoyed at the thought that there might be someone to play with. Well, that wasn't me and the dog lost interest and wandered off. For the life of me I have no idea what in doggie consciousness was so interesting about that corner of my bivy bag. About 7:30 we headed up the talus.

The route starts at the end of a third class ramp. Jim and Al started climbing about 9 AM and Alexey and I started up around 9:30. The first pitch is easy 5.7 or 5.8. The second and third pitches were linked and went about 200 feet long at 5.9 with some scary sections with minimal pro. The crux Red Dihedral pitch is the fourth pitch. This is about 100 feet of non stop no rest 5.9 hand jamming up to the crux. Fortunately, there is a rest before the crux, which is created by chimneying. The crux itself requires a couple of finger locks and a move up and to the right to the belay. The belay has some loose blocks.

The rest of the route pretty much heads straight up. Pitches 5 and 6 were linked. Pitch seven has a nice hand crack on it, which is much shorter than the dihedral below. Pitches 8 through 10 were linked in two pitches. We got lost somewhere up there and had to move back to the right. This ends in a notch. From this notch it is a third class stroll to the south (right) over to the base of an ugly 5.8 crack system. Fortunately this is short but ends at a dirt covered ledge. The last pitch is a short loose 5.6 chimney to a hole that has to be squeezed through. The exit from the hole is a belly flop. I lead this pitch and belayed Alexey up through the hole. Once he had squeezed his way through the hole we both looked at each other and said the same thing. "How on earth did Big Al get through that hole?" It was good for a laugh. The summit is a short third class stroll from the squeeze hole.

The descent starts by heading east away from the main West Face for about 20 feet and then heading south. This is fairly steep and loose third class down climbing. This gets to a rappel station above the couloir that cuts the South Ridge. The reference guide from SuperTopo indicated a 60 meter rope can be used to rappel into the couloir but it sure looks improbable. Maybe a 600 meter rope but not 60. Anyway, 60 meters does, in fact, work fine and we were soon in the scree filled couloir. The descent down the couloir is straightforward except for one point where it heads to the left through an improbable looking slot. This drops into the main couloir and down to the base of the route where we had stashed our shoes. After that it was the usual scree and talus thrash back to camp. Al and Jim spent about eight and a half hours on the route and Alexey and I took about nine and a half hours. We hiked out the next day in the morning and avoided just about all of the thrashing we encountered on the way in. This time of year the bog near the beaver dams is shallow enough that it is not a very big problem.

We did this route in 9 pitches, linking as many pitches as was reasonable with 60 meter ropes. The last pitch up the ugly 5.8 crack and chimney was broken into two pitches because of the rope drag. There were six pitches of 5.9 or harder, two of about 5.8, and one (the last) which was about 5.6. With the exception of the Red Dihedral itself there are no long sustained sections but there is quite a bit of 5.9 climbing and several of the pitches went a full 200 feet. We took a double rack of cams from the smallest Alien up to the #2 Camalot plus one #4 Friend (or #3 Camalot) that is useful at the belay at the end of the Red Dihedral itself. We went with triple cams in the hand sizes. For a big scaredy cat like me that allowed for one piece about every 8 to 12 feet in the dihedral. A set of stoppers is handy up to the big ones. A large "God stopper" (you know, the one at the bottom that is supposed to hold when everything above fails so you don't see God) can be placed at the bottom of the Red Dihedral from the top of the little tower at the base of the crack. A bomber smallish stopper, along with a green Alien, can be placed at the top of the Dihedral to protect the finger locking. Further up, the bottom of the 5.9/10a hand crack can be protected with two solid smallish stoppers. A couple of long slings were also handy.

This is a great route in nice area. There is a lot of other rock climbing in this area so it is possible to make many trips to this region. Thanks to Al Peery and Jim Curl for coming on this trip. Special thanks to Alexey Zelditch for partnering with me on the route and putting up with my concerns about finishing the route before dark. The weather was fabulous and not as windy as expected. Our only regret was not bringing enough beer!

Final Notes:

Probably the hardest part of this route is figuring out how to get into Little Slide Canyon. Alexey and I left the main Barney Lake trail far too early and ended up contouring around and hit the cliff band part way up Little Slide Canyon up high and to the east. This meant we took the high scree trail through the cliff bands as indicated by SupeTopo. This

is easy but dropped us into a flat willow choked area which we had to skirt around on the outside as best as possible and then thrash through some of the willows. After this thrash it was a little up hill to the bivy spots at the base of the talus fan. There are two ways to cross Robinson Creek. The first is the standard way. Go to the Toyabe-Hoover Wilderness Sign and turn left. This is dry for a while but turns into a bog with various beaver damns (rock on, beavers) here and there. The bog can be traversed on fallen logs and a circuitous trail. The crossing of Robinson Creek can be done on a small log or wading through a shallow section. On the other side there is a well defined switch back trail leading up through the forest. Jim Curl went a slightly different way. He used the trail marked by the cairn under the tree, which is about 100 yards before the wilderness sign. This trail crosses Robinson Creek and goes up hill for a ways and then heads

west to join the normal trail. Further up the canyon there are two options. The trail is indicated as heading up through a gap in the cliff band. This is supposedly third class in some sections. Al, Alexey, and I came down through there and it works fairly well. Jim went up and came down the outlet from Maltby Lake, which is the scree and talus to the right (west) of the cliff band and reports that this is straightforward also. In any case, there are at least two decent options for getting in and up Little Slide Canyon without the need for bushwhacking in from about Tonopah, NV like Alexey and I did.