So I have been hemming and hawing about doing some solo aid climbing since it is hard to get a belay partner during the week. Heck, it is hard to get a partner for the weekend since I hangout with boulders. Anyway, last night I decided today was a good day to give it a shot.
Of course, I got started late and the morning's blue sky was turning gray as I parked in the parkinglot for the Western CWM in Gatineau. "All well, at least I'll get a hike out of it if it starts to rain" I thought as I started down the trail. I arrived by Cave Wall and did a walk of the cliff to see how wet it was from the last rain and to scout for spots that would make for a solid ground anchor. As I passed the Reaper Buttress I saw a rigid stemmed friend near the crux on Mr. Toady's Dihedral. I don't think it was a bail piece since the anchors can be accessed if you are careful. Anyway, I rapped down and wow was this puppy over cammed. Using a nut tool and just the right persuasion I got the cam out after about 30 minutes of work.
After rescuing the cam I decided to forgo aiding and do a lead solo on the North Wall instead. I picked Route B 5.4. Route B is a fingers to hands crack that eats gear. For a ground anchor I used two slings around a tree with locking biners and attached the rope with a figure-8 on a bight. To self belay I used a (unmodded) gri-gri backed up with overhand knots every 6 feet or so. I kept two knots clipped to my harness at a time. With everything good to go I climbed up, set a cam, clipped and tested the system with my feet a few feet off the ground. I know this did not represent a true lead fall but I was able to check that the anchor and gri-gri loaded up as expected. .
I climbed slow and deliberately while placing lots of gear. I found myself, surprisingly, very calm as I climbed. With the rain holding off, a couple drops fell while finishing the route, I took some time to admire the view before rapping.
I found feeding the gri-gri to be annoying a points but manageable on this climb. Certainly a device designed for soloing would have been better. Perhaps carrying the rope in a backpack might help too. All in all a good day of firsts. My first solo lead and my first bootied cam.