Full Value. That is the best way I can describe Construction Job on Shortoff Mountain. It boils down to three pitches totaling about 300 ft that go at 5.5, 5.7 and then 5.9. But those boiled down stats don’t even begin to describe the actual climb.
Finding the route is relatively straightforward because Straight and Narrow (5.10a) is a very distinctive line with a dead tree halfway up and Construction Job is the next one over. Simply rap into the gorge, head climber’s right past Little Corner, Maginot Line and Straight and Narrow and you’ll see the “diving boards” on the rim that mark the end of the route.
It had been a while since I had lead on gear and I took the first pitch. I opted for the path of least resistance mostly because I knew that it was going to be a long day on my arms and I needed to conserve my strength. You can follow either the left or right facing corner system as they both protect well at a leisurely 5.5. The first pitch ends about half a rope length away on a comfy 10ft by 2ft ledge.
Ben took the second pitch which was a baby of a 5.7. It couldn’t have been more than 50 ft and was easily sewn up. It reminded me a lot of the first pitch of Bumble Bee Buttress which is a great climb that is a must do once the Peregrine closures have been lifted.
Pitch 3 is the money pitch. Once Ben and I were at the small sloping second belay ledge it finally hit us what we had signed up for. Not only was the route daunting but a nearby waterfall was regularly raining on us which just added to our doubt. But hey this was Shortoff Mountain and once you’re in the only way out is to climb out. And besides, we’d been told that it was one or two 5.9 moves followed by a whole bunch of 5.7 sort of like Zoo View at Moore’s Wall. Man oh man, were we in for an awakening.
Ben racked up and started working his way around the overhanging fingercrack corner. The crack ate up small cams which bolstered his confidence on the first of the three cruxes. The first crux is a delicate, balancey, stem, undercling on awkward feet. The rock blanks out but jugs are in sight but just beyond reach. The jugs taunt you and all you want to do is thrash n’ dangle your way up to them but you know that that won’t work. While this first crux is short it will definitely force you to pay attention.
After this Ben found his methodical leader head and plowed through the rest of the route for the most part out of my sight. Now it was my turn.
I’ll be honest. I’m not a great climber. 5.9 is at my limit and Construction Job scared the bejesus out of me because this route looked stout. With no option but to second the line I started moving. I’d like to say I cruised the first crux but I didn’t. I thrash n’ dangled past it but I got past it clean but exhausted. Now I was at the second crux which involved rounding the roof/bulge/bend and getting on to a ledge on the golden brown rock. The ledge looked large enough that I could rest once I got past this second crux but boy was I wrong.
On jugs I pulled the bulge and realized “shit shit shit, can’t stop here.” While there was a platform for my feet, there was nada for my hands and I had to attempt to gun it on jugs like Ben did and pray that there would be rest over the next bulge. I made it maybe 5 more feet before I lost my feet and I came off the wall.
It’s been a while since I’ve fallen and I nearly forgot how much I hate it. So there I was dangling in mid-air, 200 ft off the deck, pissed, exhausted and dehydrated with unknown feet of overhung climbing ahead. Sizing up my situation I decided that I didn’t have it in me to pull the second crux again, conceded to the Shortoff Mountain gods and prussiked past the second crux.
If you have ever prussiked up rope you know how exhausting it is even if it is only for 10 feet. After what seemed like ages I got back on the rock and kept climbing overhung 5.9 rock for another 40 feet before I found a decent resting spot to jam my body in. If there is no rest for the wicked then I am a bad, bad man because damn I was drained and I still had at least 80 feet of legit climbing to do.
Working my way through the chimney, gulley, roof system on jugs would have been a lot of fun if I could have stopped thinking “when is this route going to be over with.” With no other options I focused on the double diving board and headed up.
The third and final crux is at the double diving board. This is the kick you in the teeth, did Shortoff Mountain really have to put that there, why won’t this route just end crux. Once you’re under the double diving board there is one last overhanging mini-roof/bulge on rails to pull. The only problem was I had to traverse 5 feet over on wet hand rails and tiny feet and there was a 2ft by 2ft toaster jutting out from the rock. I’m sure there was an easier way to get by it but lets just say I surmounted that obstacle with terrible form that included a dick jam, a knee and quite a few four letter explicatives.
After all of this I still had 40 feet of 5.5 ladder climbing to get to the top where I could finally relax and melt into an exhausted puddle of accomplishment.
Now that might have been a lot more to read than you wanted to but in short, this is not a one move wonder. This has 60-80 ft of sustained, overhanging, no rest for the wicked 5.9 climbing that is about as full value as it comes. I’m definitely going to do it again but not before I get stronger as a climber.
Also, if you’re not interested in climbing all three pitches I met two dudes who rapped down from the bivy cave to a ledge system which allowed them to traverse over and climb the final pitch of The Golden Rule. I haven’t done it but it’s there if you’re feeling adventurous.