Kevin Jorgeson on the first ascent of Ambrosia, Buttermilks, California
On January 8th, Kevin Jorgeson made the first ascent of Ambrosia on the Grandpa Peabody boulder at the Buttermilks, near Bishop, California. The 45-foot line represents the next level in difficult highball bouldering, featuring a V11 or V12 into a 5.13 finish. Kevin forwarded us the following report and photo he posted on his website about his amazing ascent.
12 December 2008
A long dormant project in the back of my mind is now, finally, occupying all of my attention. I have never been so motivated for climbing in general, let alone a project like this. I have always found it difficult, if not impossible, to train. But now I find myself working to exhaustion every time I'm in the gym. When driving around town, I miss my turns because I am thinking of the sequence. My fingers sweat. I imagine what I want it to feel like up there and what it will take to get to that point. Despite only being here for the weekend, I am psyched to give this project my full attention in these three days. The result of the first day of work (this year) is a firm sequence but still no clean ascent. The goal is to rehearse the climb as much as possible and hopefully make several clean ascents on top rope. With many cruxes, its difficult to know how they will feel all stacked on top of one another until I can link it all together. If there were bolts, none of this would be a big deal, but then again where's the fun in a 45-foot sport climb?
14 December 2008
This thing is harder than I thought. Despite my best efforts, I have not been successful in top roping the line. I will return to Santa Rosa and train harder.
28 December 2008
After two weeks of training, I was eager to see how the project felt. On my second top rope attempt of the trip, the unthinkable happened: I broke a crucial hold off the lower crux, rendering it impossible. After working for 2 hours to find a new solution to the bottom 25 feet of the climb, I still do not know if it is possible.
30 December 2008
What one does in the face of a challenge tells you a lot about a person. I’ve learned that I can be a stubborn bastard. After getting nailed by a wave when trying to make the first ascent of Fool Me Once (5.12x), I borrowed my friend’s pants and got back on it. After falling off of Gaia and hitting the ground in England, I got back on and finished it. So, when this hold broke, I simply could not accept that the line didn’t go. Just when it felt within reach, the climb presented this new obstacle, testing my mettle, and again forcing me to take my abilities to another level.
3 January 2008
I have discovered a beautiful solution through the lower half of the wall involving an intricate and difficult sequence on very small holds. Although harder than it was originally, it is possible. I worry now that with the added difficulty of the bottom the top will be even harder. No doubt. It’s all cumulative. With 31 moves, this is the most continuous, committing, dangerous undertaking I have ever experienced. Tomorrow I will try to climb it clean by bouldering to the halfway point and then clipping into a top rope for the top. Then I will know if my training has paid off.
4 January 2008
It goes. Today I managed to climb the face cleanly from bottom to top. While my mental and physical preparation feels adequate, my fingers became extremely numb during the climb, causing me to over grip and nearly pump out. Conditions will play the primary role in realizing this dream of a line.
5 January 2008
More of the same numbness today. I’m beginning to think that waiting for the afternoon temperatures and shade is not such a good idea for such a long route. No matter how warmed up you are, the cold afternoon granite sucks away all sensation in your fingertips. I must return home for a few days to rest and present a slideshow that I have been working very hard on. I will return fresh!
8 January 2009
Today I made the first ascent of Ambrosia on the Grandpa Peabody boulder at the Buttermilks! I have been working this line for two years now and very intensively over the past month. At 45-feet tall, it is neither a route nor a boulder problem. It features a 20-foot V12 to a reasonable rest where you can decide to either drop or continue. From the rest, you have a 5.13a to solo. For reference, the rest point is at same height as the lip of Evilution, but instead of an easy slab to the top, you have a continuous, slightly overhanging wall with serious moves all the way to the top. Tommy Herbert first tried this line on TR in the 1990s and I first saw it as a possible climb in 2006.
After establishing The Beautiful and Damned, Flight of the Bumblebee, The Golden Rule, and Footprints, I still did not feel ready for this line. So in October of 2008, I took a six-week trip to England with Matt Segal and Alex Honnold to climb on the bold, legendary and difficult routes of the Grit. This trip served as a kind of mental training for me, helping me to gain more experience in situations where you are essentially soloing.
I drove back last night, extremely psyched but not too nervous. I had struggled with getting numb while working it on top rope in the late hours of the day, so I decided to try it in the early morning sun. After a brief warm up, I stepped out of the cool shade onto the sunny face and began climbing. The lower crux felt hard, but I got through it. Resting at the halfway point, I looked up to see the top wall glowing in the morning sun. Having never attempted the line in the morning, I was amazed at how the golden streaks and lichen lit up. I began to hesitate in the midst of the uncomfortable silence when I heard from a yell of encouragement from Tim, who was shooting photos. This brought me back to the present and I realized that this is where I wanted to be, this is how I wanted to feel… this was my opportunity to make this line a reality. So, I chalked up one last time and committed. The next crux felt amazingly solid and as I transitioned into the easier climbing, my pace doubled, I found a rhythm, and I was quickly at the last hard moves. Holding two pinches that are almost too wide for my hands to fit around, I lost my edge and realized the seriousness of the situation. I was soloing. Movements slowed. I could hear myself taking deep breaths. The sensation of the granite crystals digging into my fingertips was magnified. With two moves remaining I felt my nerves begin to take over and I felt a slight quiver in my body. Pushing through, I executed the remaining moves as carefully as possible until, as if in a dream, I felt my right hand sink into the finishing jug. Instantly, all the tension was released from my body and I relaxed under the hold, breathing. It was over. Sitting on top of the boulder, looking across the basin to Mt. Tom, all I could do was regain my breath and smile.
I find it kind of sad to be done. I found so much purpose, drive and passion towards achieving this goal and now that it is complete, I feel a void. But such is the conundrum of such a project. While now the line is complete, I can say with absolute confidence that the process of making this dream a reality was just as much, if not more, enjoyable than the attainment of the goal. So now my search continues, as it did before I ever set eyes on Ambrosia, for the next beautiful line that inspires me to improve.
— Kevin Jorgeson