White Punks On Dope, Voodoo Dome, CA

June 22, 2008 - 5.9, 6p, trad.

We're up early and make the long drive to Voodoo Dome to climb "White Punks on Dope" (WPOD), a long moderate route with a reputation for quality and variety. From the Sorcerer/Witch side, the drive there is a bit tedious… it takes about 50 minutes or so to drive around the south, then back north along the east side of the ridge. We find the trailhead easily, and finally start hiking at 5:50AM.

The first half of the hike is pretty easy, along a distinct (yet very steep) climber's trail. Unfortunately - as we are to find out on the way down - we take a wrong turn (right after a small meadow with obvious large tree stumps), and end up going much too far to the right. There are so many trees that most of the time, you cannot see the dome at all as you approach… Anyway, we find ourselves headed too far right, then try to pick left-trending tracks as much as possible (there are faint tracks everywhere… could be the bears). Not long after that, we start doing pretty intense bushwhacking, trying to traverse left as sharply as possible. There are numerous slabby areas hidden in the woods that we have to circumvent by going above or below. Painful. And that's without even mentioning the plentiful mosquitoes that are eating us alive, and the already hot air…

We get pretty discouraged and come close to giving up. Eventually though, we find ourselves in a small clearing with a huge dead log, and can clearly see the first two pitches of the route right above us. You cannot come this close and give up! We are worried about the heat, and the fact that it's already taken us 50 minutes just to get to this point. Anyway, another steep 5 minutes up slabs and grooves and we are on decent ledges at the base of the route.

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Voodoo Dome from Needlerock Creek road. WPOD follows a line on the left hand side of the dome.
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The start of the trail is well marked (cairn on a stump).
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A good but steep trail will take you to a small meadow with large tree stumps.
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We loose the trail just above this section. The correct trail makes a hard left here.
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The first pitch takes the crack in the center of the pic.

The first pitch (5.7, the crack pitch) looks quite good, a straight line to the roofs above. We get ready as quickly as possible (still racing the sun), and I start up the pitch. I complain a bit about the slippery rock and wide crack (I used one of my two #3 Camalots as my first piece…) but do all right, running it out a bit where necessary. Note that this pitch is VERY long; about 70 meters from the highest good ledge. Eric has to simulclimb some (very easy terrain) to give me enough rope to reach the roof and setup a belay. There is a good stance on a flake there and very good gear for anchors (0.3 to 1" cams). Belaying lower is not appealing: no stance at all and less than bomber anchor options.

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Getting ready at the base.
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Halfway up the nice corner of pitch 1 (5.7).
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A mix of crack and face climbing will get you up.
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Higher on pitch 1.
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Eric following the pitch...

Pitch 2 (5.8+, the roof pitch) starts with an interesting move up and left to conquer the overhang. Good pro can be set in the crack just above the belay. It's tempting to go straight up that crack (I tried), but this is very steep and tricky (probably 5.10- or something). Much easier to step back down after placing gear, and side-step the roof by stepping onto the arete, almost level with the belay, then go up the easy slab above to an obvious alcove/cave with large chockstones. Another option would be to lieback the 4-5" crack just right of the belay and continue to the same alcove. I am guessing this might be 5.9/10a and protectable with a #4.5 camalot. Very short pitch either way. Bomber threads on the chockstones for anchor.

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...ang getting to the belay.
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Just above the crux move on the roof pitch (p2, 5.8+).
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Higher on pitch 2.
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Following pitch 2.
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Doing a bit of spelunking at the start of pitch 3.

The next pitch (the chimney pitch) is weird: step right onto an easy slab, thread the chockstone for pro and to keep the rope from jamming too badly, then walk up the very low angle gully/chimney to its end, before chimneying straight up (fun 5.7 back-feet chimneying with good pro) to a large ledge system at the base of the obvious dihedral.

The next (fourth) pitch is the money. The corner pitch (5.9): sustained, super-clean, low-angle corner with finger crack. Must use good technique (left foot and left hand smearing on left wall, right hand and right foot in crack/jamming corner), or it could be tiring. Beautiful, and very well protected for the first 2/3… at which point one reaches a ceiling (#3 camalot+long sling for pro), and is forced to traverse left (5.8+ undercling) into the rest of the left-facing corner. Only now, the finger crack is gone, and replaced with a gaping 10-15" crack… essentially unprotectable.

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The low angle gully of pitch 3.
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The fun 5.7 chimney that finishes off the pitch.
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Looking back at Warlock Needle from the comfy belay ledge atop pitch 3.
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Getting psyched for the money pitch (5.9, 5.6PG).
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Pitch 4 starts with a great 5.9 corner.

I stay in the corner for a while, generously expressing my anguish at the lack of pro above, before commiting to the step across and the low angle offwidth. Fortunately, the angle is lower, and "liebacking" the lip of the OW makes for 40' of runout (PG) 5.6 climbing. I'm carrying a #6 Camalot because of a message on Summit Post stating that the crack could be protected with one of these babies. This is not the case. You can leave it at home...

I start breathing again when I reach the belay ledge. Had I known about the runout I probably would not have taken the pitch (yes, Eric is the bolder climber of the pair... I'm just a chicken). I'm glad I did it though; I would have missed out on a very nice pitch. Note that while following, Eric found what appeared to be a good placement for a tiny nut/medium RP on the wall to the right, about 2m (6ft) above the roof.

I have had enough emotions for the day and ask Eric to take the next pitch (pitch 5, the slab pitch). It is a full rope-stretching 60m pitch with 4 bolts for pro (plus a decent #1 Camalot behind a flake before the first bolt). A bit bold. Most of the pitch is easy slab (5.5'ish), but there are commiting moves here and there, up to 5.8). The pitch leads to a double-bolt belay/rap anchor on a very large ledge.

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Nice and technical with very good pro.
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Higher on the pitch.
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Looking up at the low angle offwidth above the corner.
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Views from the belay.
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Eric leading the run-out slab of pitch 5 (5.8 R).

There are two options for the last pitch: either straight up from the bolted anchor, following an obvious arching flake past a large tree (looks like 5.6 or so) and finishing on slab to the top, OR (much better), move the belay 30' left to a striking, sharp splitter finger crack and follow it to the top (switching to the RHS crack about 20' above the ledge). This is 5.9 and is one of the best pitches on the route (the finger crack pitch). I really have a good time on it. Eric is just jealous, whishing he'd got the lead. Again a very long pitch. I have to stretch the 60m ropes to reach a belay at the edge of the summit ledges. And that's it!

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Lucie following pitch 5 with the Needles in the background.
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The spacious ledge atop pitch 5.
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Moving the belay to the base of the splitter finger crack.
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Starting up the splitter crack (5.9).
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Switching to the right hand side crack is the crux.

From here, an easy scramble up the arete (ledgy, not exposed) leads to the very top of the dome (picture time!). Then back down 30' to a fortuitous downclimb to the right (East), down a short ramp onto the forrested slopes behind the dome.

A very good route. The best climbing is on pitches 6 (if you do the finger-crack finish), 4, 1, and 5, in that order (from best to good). The descent is a steep but straightforward hike down the gully between Voodoo Dome and Warlock Needle. Good trail, which becomes a bit confused at the end, where one must traverse left (East) as close to the base of the dome as possible to get back to the base (inobvious; cannot see the dome most of the time).

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Following the last pitch.
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Last scramble to the summit.
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Summit pic with Warlock Needle in the background.
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Scrambling down the back side of the dome.
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Descending the gully between Voodoo Dome and Warlock Needle.

On the way back to the car, we follow a good trail (steep) all the way… Spend some time cleaning and cairning it to make it more obvious. This trail connects back with the trail we followed on the way up just above the little clearing with the big stumps.

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Back at the base of the route where we left our packs.
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On the trail back to the car.
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Back at the car.
   

Note about the weather: it turns out that because the route is on the SW portion of the dome, and p4 is in a large left-facing corner, we didn't climb in the sun before p5. By that time, we were high enough and had enough of a breeze that the temperature was very comfortable all the way (T-shirt). In other words: perfect timing. Things got quite hot on the way down to the car but that didn't matter.

Water: we had 6 quarts starting from the car. Drank 2 before roping up, left one at the base for the way down, and carried 3 on the route (drinking one at the top).

Gear: 60m rope required. Gear to 3". Leave the big gear at home; the wide section at the top of p4 is much too wide for even the largest cams.

Approach beta : Best to camp along the Needlerock Road as the drive from the Sorcerer/Witch side is rather long. Primitive camping options and good pull-outs available. camping at the Peppermint Campground is also an option (was closed as of June 2008, but will reopen after construction work is done; expensive). The route can also be approached from the regular trail from the west side but it seems like this would be significantly longer.