Friday, August 6, 2010
A day on Turkey's premier alpine rock route, Parmakkaya
Yesterday I spent a great day with my new friend Adnan on Turkey's unimaginatively named "Rock Finger," or, in Turkish, "Parmakkaya." Certainly my hideous climbing partners in Colorado could summon up better names, but, no matter, it was a great route. Parmakkaya was first climbed in 1971 by John Waterman, from Colorado, and Dennis Mehmet. In my guidebook from 1993, the author calls it "Undoubtedly the most committing and hardest route to date." Well, that's not really a good description since the Euros arrived. Now, the spire has 4 routes, with grades up to 7c(.12d), seven pitches, and "nerve wrecking bolt distances." The nerve wrecking part scared me off the new routes, but I was soon to find out that the classic route was not a walk in the park.
Adnan and I set off at 4AM from our village, with the idea that we would climb light and fast, and thereby avoid the intense mid-day Turkish sun. We took the jeep road up the beautiful Apple Valley, and parked Buddha as high up as we could take her. From there, it was a 2.5 hour hike up to the spire, perched at 2880m(9,448ft). It hadn't rained in the Ala Dag for three weeks, so of course, at about 7AM, it started to rain. Adnan and I took shelter under a boulder in the scree slopes below the spire, and prayed for it too stop. Allah was on our side, because with a half hour the rain had stopped, and by the time we reached the base of the route through some steep talus, the rock was dry.
Adnan took the first pitch, and he wound his way up past rusty pitons and sharp limestone to a hanging belay off of a single thread through. From here I took the crack pitch up the face to the shoulder of the spire. The climbing was good, and I even sunk a few jams in the sharp rock. There were lots of fixed pins, and I only had to place a few stoppers between them to feel good about not ripping all of them out in the case of a fall. Once on top of the shoulder, we decided to extend the belay upwards 5 meters to cut down on the rope drag for Adnan on the last, and crux pitch. So, again, we found ourselves at an airy belay, perched on top of a detached pillar. Adnan styled the crux, though he said he was cussing his whole way through it. I didn't hear him because the wind had started howling, and dark clouds were steadily building in the valley next to us. Following the pitch, I did a bit of swearing myself....10a moves above old pitons through a roof and around an EXTREMELY exposed and windy corner to me to the safety of a crack, which I quickly followed up to Adnan and a very black looking sky.
Tagging the summit, the first thunder rumbled ominously and echoed down the valley. Over one shoulder was blue skies, and over the other it was completely black. I freaked out a bit, and made Adnan hurry off the summit...we still had at least two full length rappels and limestone is notorious for catching ropes up during the descent. Adnan tried to assure me that the weather would not come over to us, but that's not how it works in the mountains I know. So, off we went in a hurry.
As we tossed the ropes off the summit, I instantly regretted not coiling them up into bowling balls, a common trick for windy days. The ropes blew back up towards us, tangling themselves in an impossible nest. Adnan took 20 minutes rappelling and sorting them out, while I sat on the summit, trying to focus on the slowly dissipating blue sky, not the growing black sky. Finally rappeling down from the summit, thunder roaring more and more consistently, I happened upon a midway station. With a few wits still about me, I realized that I should stop, pull the ropes from there, and break Adnan's long rappel into two smaller ones. It would, of course, extend my time exposed to the weather up high on the spire, but it would also insure that the ropes would pull cleanly. It was a good choice, as even pulling the ropes from my mid-station was a struggle. As we pulled the ropes, they whipped around the tower, commanded by the a higher source of power than us--the tempestuous winds, but slowly we were able to retrieve both ropes and I instantly calmed as we tossed them off our second rappel and I saw them both graze the ground. Our long ropes had broken two final rappels into one, and I didn't care if my rope got stuck once I was on the ground.
Five minutes later, there I was. Done with Parmakkaya, chased off by a thunderstorm, but not without tagging the summit.
Hiking down and back to the car, Adnan and I were struck by the sun, which had positioned itself behind the spire, and sent light streaming down either side of the rock. Clearly this rock had a better name in mind for itself than "rock finger."