In the Mountain Project entry for his route Carbondale Short Bus, a 5.14- R that he established in Indian Creek on March 21, 2012, the late Hayden Kennedy, who was around 6 feet 2 inches tall, wrote, “The route is much easier the taller you are, the grade is very height dependent.” That didn’t seem to be a problem for the considerably smaller 5-foot-7-inch-tall Brad Gobright, who on March 28 logged the fourth free ascent of the compact, bouldery climb—six years and one week to the day after Kennedy’s first ascent.
This season, over the course of six trips up to the route, located at 4X4 Wall, Gobright dialed in the intricate, delicate beta. He told Rock and Ice, “It’s not pumpy but has mega hard foot smearing. Breathing too heavy would cause my feet to slip off the sandstone.”
Gobright was drawn to the very un-Indian-Creek-like nature of the route: though it’s gear-protected, it hardly climbs like a straight-in splitter crack. Rather, it involves technical laybacks, heady runouts, and a crowd-pleasing dyno guarding the chains.
Before Hayden Kennedy made the first ascent of Carbondale Short Bus in 2012, Nick Martino had worked on the climb, but left it as an open project. The second and third ascents were done by Matt Segal and the British James Pearson, in 2015 and 2016, respectively.
Part of what makes the climb such a serious affair is the small gear that any would-be ascentionist has to trust. Kennedy’s Mountain Project gear beta was heavy on teeny, tiny cams—including three 000 C3s, nested one after the other to protect the final, hair-raising dyno. In a video of him projecting the route, Nick Martino said, “All the gear on this route is tiny. You know, not a lot of metal in some soft rock. The metal can kind of just skate out of the crack, and it’s hard to shut that out of your head and just focus on what you have to do.” Gobright said he took at least one exciting fall while projecting the line: “I took a 30-footer on a purple master cam.”
The one way in which Gobright compromised on style for the actual send was by pre-placing the first cam. He explained in a Facebook post, “I found I couldn’t reach the [first] placement from [a critical] kneebar and I would have had to solo the first 20 feet. I can’t risk breaking my back again. Regardless, I’m psyched on climbing my hardest trad lead to date.”
In addition to Carbondale Short Bus, Gobright has also been projecting another Hayden Kennedy original in the Creek. “I’m also trying Hayden’s route Kokanee Corner [5.13+] on the King of Pain Tower, but I don’t think I can do it,” Gobright told me. “Mega hard reach off the first bolt. Hayden was the man. I’m going to keep trying it for another week, but it’ll probably have to wait for next season.”
That both of his projects this season were Hayden Kennedy lines was not a coincidence: “It was my goal of the trip to try and climb HK testpieces,” Gobright said. “He was such a badass and it feels good to try and follow in his footsteps.”
Hayden Kennedy on the first ascent of Carbondale Shortbus:
James Pearson climbing Carbondale Shortbus: