This king line has been sitting as a forgotten aid climb in Pine Creek
Canyon right outside Bishop, California, and been eyed for years as one
of the most beautiful and stunning walls around. In 2019 the king
himself, Chris Sharma, was in town visiting his good friend Andy Puhvel
for a few days, and while establishing two 5.14s on another crag
spotted this wall from the road.
“Chris dragged us out there and soloed some chossy 5.9 to get a line up
and scout the route. He left for Spain a couple of days later and I had
no choice but to go to work,” says Puhvel.
The route tackles an offset finger crack that overhangs 20 degrees on a
perfectly planed flat orange wall, ascending for 35 meters.
“There are just not many granite routes quite like it,” claims Puhvel.
“The steepness alone combined with the sheerness of the wall give it a
really epic feel—like the Salathé headwall or other simply striking lines.”
[Also Read Chris Sharma: What I’ve Learned]
The route starts with 40 feet of 5.11a before hitting the overhang. From
there Puhvel and his partner Chase Leary deciphered a big move out right
to another crack in order to bypass a 20-foot section of seam that
seemed impossible. Puhvel and Leary—who are 6’6″ and 6′ tall,
respectively—dubbed the boulder problem “The Gatekeeper,” and think it is anywhere from V8 to V-impossible, depending on one’s reach,
because of the huge sideways move. The rest of the route follows the
main line with good finger locks, pinches, and an occasional bad hand jam.
“The route will go mostly on gear,” Puhvel says, “but it’s so steep it’s
really hard to clean, and because of the leaning offset nature of the
crack the rope would get pretty scraped over the edge, so we decided to
bolt it. We also wanted to keep with the tradition in the gully,
following the lead of “Mega” Marty Lewis who bolted the classic
Silverback crack a hundred feet uphill. Someone will lead it on gear,
but for now more people will try it, and we can revel in the slander of
people on the Internet asking why we bolted a crack.”
Puhvel’s 16-year-old son Cashus is an amateur videographer, and,
together with Chase, the three of them thought documenting the route
would be a fun project.
“Chase and I agreed that if we were going to make a video it had to be
comedic,” explains Puhvel. “Considering we were such goofballs up there
all the times working the route, we figured some good Monty Python
medieval mockery was in order. Both of us are technical Neanderthals, so
the video-making and drone footage was all Cashus.”
Regarding the route’s difficulty, Puhvel continues, “We think it’s maybe 5.14, but neither of us have ever climbed that hard. So we decided to call it
5.14a for now, just to give the King some respect, because he kicked our
peasant asses around for two years.”