Aerial Anticipation (5.11c)
Location: The Wichita Mountain Wildlife Refuge. In the Narrows.
Specs: Generously rated 5.11c, 5 bolts, 2 bolt chain anchor, approx. 60 feet long
Flying High on Aerial Anticipation
While vertigo should never be central to a climber’s mindset when attempting to red-point a route, on Aerial Anticipation (5.11c) it’s a bit different. The ground seems to fall away exponentially with every step upward. Tiered roofs and powerful moves add to the misperception of height making the prospect of falling just a handhold away. Combine this unrelenting exposure with a sporty style unique to the Wichitas and you have one of those quintessential moments you yearn for when clipping the anchors on a classic line.
Starting Aerial can be an adventure in itself if the water is high. You’ve got to negotiate a step-across from the top of a partially submerged boulder to the main wall. After sauntering up an easy right facing dihedral, most climbers place a small cam with a long runner in the corner before traversing right onto the face to clip the first bolt. Now the real fun begins! Make a couple of moves up the face on positive edges to the first of three overhangs and clip a hidden second bolt (you won’t see it until you are eye-level with it). Use a long runner on this bolt to reduce drag and keep from being pulled right should you fall making the next moves. There are two variations for this next section: you can either go straight up and “walk like an Egyptian,” traversing left to the third bolt, or you can do the direct version by making a long reach to an open-handed hold, then pull through the second overhang. The latter method is preferred by most, although it is more strenuous. At this point, the third bolt, you’ll feel like you are hanging in space. All you see is sky and then that undeniable feeling of exposure sets in and you clinch the holds a bit tighter. Crouched in a squatting position you have to strain your head backwards to see the next clip and reach the next hold. You can hear the stream below and the echoes of your belayer and friends shouting words of encouragement and perseverance. You are nearing the crux, so get ready to pull hard! Commit to the bomber horn above your head, keep your momentum, don’t hang out too long or you’ll burn out. Clip the fourth bolt quickly, hike your feet up and go for a hidden hold on the left. Stick it! A couple of short powerful deadpoints and you can clip the last bolt. Beware, many climbers fall at the last bolt because they are so desperate to reach the top or they are burned from the previous moves. Keep your head on, take a deep breath, and concentrate. After clipping the last bolt the climb goes back to vertical and you can stand up comfortably again. Don’t get too relaxed though, it’s an airy top-out! A final chalk-up and climbing on in-cut holds leads to a grassy landing and chain-anchors. You’ll be happy you made it and so will all those people below.
To locate Aerial, park in the Narrows parking lot and hike the trail as if you were going to Zoo Wall or Lichen Wall. Aerial is on the first overhanging wall on the east side of the canyon after the long uphill and downhill that takes you over the ridge and into the main canyon of the Narrows.
If you want to top-rope the climb find a climber that will lead it for you and set it up on top-rope or rappel in from the top of the east side of the narrows to the anchors. Remember, don’t underestimate the climb or overestimate your ability. Climb safely, climb smart.