Incredible Hulk, free activity. True to form, Dave Nettle called me in the midst of a heavy Sierra winter. As I often hear from him, “I just want to put a bug in your ear.” But no bug was needed. When Dave calls, people listen.
We cruised snow most of the way up, getting to the Hulk as early as we could: early June. On day one we reached the headwall corner that forms the right-hand border of the Hulk headwall, which each of us had spied from Dave and Peter Croft’s route, Venturi Effect. Yet another clean and steep corner up high. The end of the corner required bolts for free climbing, and as Dave is the human hammer, we rapidly dulled our bits. The next day we simply tidied up the first four pitches.
We returned a few weeks later, joined by Truckee resident Donald Otten. The three of us freed the pitches to the high point. Then, after a bit of aiding, cleaning, and working, we freed the upper pitches, which connect to the second-to-last Venturi Effect headwall pitch.
We put together approximately five new pitches along with seven pitches from other routes to complete the line, Tradewinds (IV/V 5.11+). It’s really a piecing together of various routes to form a direct, fairly sustained, high-quality free route.
After climbing on the Hulk you won’t want to quit, and neither did I. I came back with Jonny Copp, of Boulder, a few weeks later to check out other good-looking lines. We went light and brought no drill. We managed to aid/free four more new pitches between Tradewinds and Venturi Effect but were thwarted midway. We achieved the bivy ledge at about one-third height and got in another pitch-and-a-half before our vision faded into seams and flakes.
I returned again in August with Brent Obinger to free the four lower pitches. We added a few bolts to straighten out the second pitch, which is one of the few true face pitches I have climbed on the feature. The third and fourth pitches each have high-quality steep and varied cracks.
Even with the drill we couldn’t piece the line together up high, as it was fraught with large loose blocks and incipient cracks. Nevertheless there is now yet another high quality, four-pitch, 5.12- variant start to a number of Hulk routes, as this line goes directly to the “midway ledge” from which many other routes join and depart.