A Diamond in the Rough – The SCAR

Last Sunday, David and I had planned on heading up to Hatchers to go touring around scoping lines, and possibly doing a little bit of cleaning.  After getting hit with 12-18 inches of snow and high winds the avalanche danger in Hatcher Pass was incredibly high, plus it was overcast and cold, so instead we headed south with the idea of checking out a new boulder along the Seward Highway that David was psyched on.

Hatcher Pass Avalanche Images

We repacked our stuff including the cleaning kit, rope, and as many pads as we could fit in his truck per David’s indication that we would need them (1 KJ Highball, 1 Old school Evil Pad, 1 Large Metolius trifold, 3 regular sized, and 3 half pads). Driving south out of Anchorage the weather was clear and calm, so we both felt like we’d made the right call.

I have to admit, when David told me he had a new place to check out along the highway, I was not expecting much.  The highway doesn’t really lend itself to high quality bouldering. We parked along Windy Point (which thankfully wasn’t too windy) and hiked down to see if the tide was out enough to make it feasible.  Scrambling down the loose and chossy rock pile to get to the ocean, I was completely dumbfounded by what I saw. We descended into a slanting gash in the hill with a low angle slab on one side, and steep, overhanging walls on the other. The outermost section of the gash was formed by two overhanging faces that converge to make a beautiful, leaning arête with a tall slab topout. And there were holds: jugs, slopers, crimps, pinches, sidepulls, underclings, etc. David knows his stuff, so I should know better than to doubt him, but there’s no way I would ever have expected to find a feature like this so close to town.

David cleaning the top of the SCAR

David cleaning the top of the SCAR

We were giddy with anticipation as we set to work carrying the pads, fixing the landings, and cleaning the holds. I was amazed at the quality of the rock with virtually no loose holds and very little actual cleaning needed on the lower part of the boulder.  David worked his way down on a rope scrubbing the orange lichen from the topouts and uncovering fantastic holds to finish on.

Todd approaching the topout of Wild Bore-v2

Todd approaching the topout of Wild Bore-v2

We started climbing with the right most line and generally worked our way left through the problems, which looked to get progressively harder.  The first line turned out to be a nice v0-Beluga Blues, but we hadn’t cleaned the topout, so if you head out there be careful as there may be a few loose holds on the upper wall. Next up was an incredible 4-star highball v2 -Wild Bore, which starts on the v0 and follows an obvious line of jugs left to the arête and most obvious topout.

Next we tried the direct line up the right side of the arête.  There were a plethora of underclings and such to start off with, but then the holds are either in the wrong direction,or terrible to use, or both.  The solution was to power past the bad holds to the obvious incut crimp, which then links into the same topout as the v2.  David pulled out a quick second go send of Hard Bore-v5, but I really struggled with this one.  I just couldn’t seem to get the left hand to settle into the hold right.  After a dozen or so goes, I finally stuck the  hold and sent it.

We tried the left most line next which starts midway up the wall on a jug and climbs up and right to the lip to top out.  While the holds look a bit suspect, they were all solid.  David sent The SCAR-v4 first go, laughing at how good the line was while he topped out. The lip of the problem is tall and intimidating from the ground, but the holds were so good that the height was not an issue. I followed suit and was shocked again by how good the climbing was.  This was another incredible line.

David sticking the crux of Hard Bore

David sticking the crux of Hard Bore

The last line we thought was possible started just left of the arête and linked into the same topout as Wild Bore and Hard Bore. There were a good holds at the bottom followed by a blank stretch that looked like it would either be incredibly hard.  I pulled on to try the move and the first go beta worked without being terribly difficult. We pieced together the other sections and the problem that once seemed unlikely took shape. I managed to nail it second go from the start, while David also sent a few tries later.  We both were amazed, another 4 star line Hidden Octopus-v6, with fantastic movement and holds.

We realized it may be possible to link the sit start of Hidden Octopus into The SCAR and started working out the beta.  I managed to find a sequence starting off of a couple of poor crimps and moving through a few other small crimps into The SCAR, resulting in Crouching Shark-v6/7, but to me this problem is incomplete. Linking the sit start of Hidden Octopus and Crouching Shark is quite hard and while it felt close, that move eluded me.  I’d guess this last linkup will be in the v10 +/-  range.

A storm was raging to the south as we packed up and light snow drifted across the Turnagain Arm while the tide crept back in. It is incredible to think that these climbs have been here, so close to town, and we never knew. David settled on calling this crag “The SCAR” which seems to fit the feature and pays homage to the original guidebook for highway crags. There is another section of wall at the SCAR that looked pretty loose, but some heavy cleaning tools (likely a crowbar) may make it safe to climb on. This could yield another 3-5 problems of unknown quality ending up with 10-12 problems from v0 to v10 at this one crag. It makes me wonder what else we may have missed along the highway.

David hitting the lip on The SCAR-v4

David hitting the lip on The SCAR-v4