Rap Bolters From Hell: A Classic Hard Line
Lost Dome, hidden deep within the confines of Charon’s Gardens, is one of the Wichita Mountain’s premiere climbing destinations for hard climbing. The majority of the routes on Lost Dome are intermediate to advanced lines (5.11-5.13), with the occasional 5.8 or 5.9 interspersed. Here you will find Steep Show (5.11+), Drop Dead (5.11), Slime of the Century(5.11b), Tied to the Whipping Post (5.13-), Lost My Religion (5.11) and, my personal favorite, Rap Bolters From Hell (5.12).
Rap Bolters shoots up the middle of Lost Dome on an orange wall streaked with florescent yellow lichen. Thin horizontal edges, delicate footwork, long reaches and a tricky finish make this climb a classic. It’s the kind of quality you wish every Wichita’s climb could be, yet a bit more difficult than most are. In the late 80s, when Terry Andrews established Rap Bolters, it was one of the first true “sport climbs.” Today, it maintains a bit of that history, it’s still equipped with 5/16” bolts and old SMC hangers…just a little incentive not to fall (there is a permit pending to upgrade the equipment).
It would be a tragic mistake to underestimate the opening moves of Rap Bolters and expect to casually stroll up to the first bolt. If you make this mistake, the turkey vultures will be picking your mangled body in no time. The first bolt is about 15 feet off the deck, the holds are deviously positioned and your footwork must be precise. Unless you have cat-like landing skills, a pro-wrestler for a spotter, or are certain you won’t fall, stick-clip the first bolt. Once you make the first clip take a deep breath and prepare to crimp. Climb thin edges, some a half inch thick, some much smaller, and clip the second bolt.
A short series of ultra-thin edges brings you to the first “hard” moves, a side step into a descent undercling and a long reach. There are different ways to make it through this section, you can stay left and reach for tiny crimpers until you can clutch the undercling or you can head straight right immediately after the second bolt. Whichever way you choose, get through it quickly, the pump is about to attack! Above the third bolt find a thin pinch hold with your left, pull hard and high-step to reach a jug. This is what most climbers consider the crux. Once past the pinch move you will get larger holds, but your forearms will tighten up and your breath will become labored. Clip the piton buried in the horizontal crack and shake off the approaching pump. Though the holds are better on the upper section the angle steepens. Clip the last bolt, and get ready for another crux section. Find some descent holds on the lip where the steep wall meets the slab, reach from these to a seemingly invisible slopey edge. If you are not nervous yet, you will be soon. Reach further for a better edge, that is, if you can find it, and use it to hoist your feet onto the slab. Now you are feeling exposed. Don’t look down at the bolt, just keep going up and right. It’s an easy mistake to make, you think you’re there, you think the next hold is good enough to make a little jump for, so you go for it…and you scrape off for a 15-footer. Instead, stay focused, take the last moves cautiously, a couple more slabby moves and you are at the anchors. Even if you have climbed it a dozen times you will still emit a sigh of relief when you reach the chains.
If you are not in the leading mood Rap Bolters can be top-roped by scrambling around the north side of Lost Dome and rapping from the anchors on top. This will get you to the 2-bolt belay station at the top of Whipping Post and Rap Bolters. It’s not the easiest route to set up but it’s a good one to try if you want to cross into the 5.12 range.
The approach to Lost Dome can be…challenging…for those new to Charon’s Gardens. It’s easy to take the wrong trail if you are not careful. The best way to ensure that you won’t get lost is to go with someone who has been there before. But if you decide to make the trek without a Wichita’s veteran here are some general directions:
Park at the westernmost end of the Sunset parking area, that’s the one furthest west in the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge. Hike the trail going west past a stinky pair of rock-housed toilets (I hesitate to refer to them as bathrooms or restrooms). Heading west you will cross a steel footbridge and another set of restrooms on your left. You will soon arrive at a trail map that looks completely confusing…if you can figure it out more power to you, it’s never made any sense to me. Continue on. Once you reach the first major streambed crossing (dry in the summer) go straight across the streambed, not left! This is where a lot of people get off-course because the trail going left that skirts the stream looks so obvious they never pay attention to the trail heading into the weeds on the opposite side. This will likely be a water crossing in the spring and fall. The key now is to stay on the trail for a good 10-15 minutes of hiking. You will continue heading west. There is one point where the trail begins heading uphill and it becomes less defined. Once you reach the plateau there will be a large open field and you will see the trail continuing on. Eventually you will see Crab Eyes on your left, do not branch off left here, continue hiking west. The trail winds through scrub brush and then opens to a clearing where you will see the “backside” of Lost Dome. Head southwest into the forest and find a trail that winds around the east side of Lost Dome and takes you to the south-facing wall. If you get lost…well, that’s why they call it Lost Dome.