Watch offwdith master Pamela Shanti Pack send the Mental Block, pitch 2 on first ascent "Kill Artist"
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Over the course of five years, La Sportiva climbing athlete Pamela Shanti Pack has worked, refined and battled the "Kill Artist" a five-pitch offwidth in Moab's Long Canyon. After the first “warm-up” pitch, described by PSP as a series of “steeply, overhanging calf-locks (5.12),” pitch two begins with “the hardest and most powerful moves I’ve encountered on an offwidth,” followed by an exposed mantle to enter a chimney created by a detached block. Coined by PSP and climbing partners as the Mental Block, the crux section begins with the mantle to enter the 20-plus foot chimney created by the massive block that remains constricted and suspended in the crack. After working through the chimney, the most committing move of the route is “a foot-over-the-head offwidth invert to layback off a knee-lock” to exit the chimney back onto the face. Once past the Mental Block, the remainder of the pitch consists of 40-feet of runout crack climbing.
“It’s worth it for that one move,” says Pack, of the cruxy and exposed invert required to move around the Mental Block. This type of inversion, or “Levitation,” is based on a technique first performed by Randy Leavitt and Tony Yaniro in the late ‘70’s, when the pair developed a method that used handstacking combined with placing a single kneelock in an offwidth in order to climb horizontal roof cracks. While the inversion pivot was the most compelling aspect of the climb, PSP also acknowledges it was the most dangerous move to protect; “we’ve decided that’s it’s really dangerous to place pro behind the Mental Block. If you fall it could shift the block and kill everybody.”
In order to protect the route and avoid shock loading the Mental Block, PSP placed bolts at the end of the chimney and one on the face to clip before attempting the Levitation-inspired inversion;
“I established a route a couple of years ago- maybe five years ago- in Vedawoo, Wyoming, called 'The Forever War,' on a 60-degree leaning offwidth roof. Before there were any bolts, I did take a fall on it and ended up having two surgeries…when you do this invert style, you cannot place gear in front of yourself because you block your own path, and if you place gear behind yourself, when you fall you come right back out and you hit your head. I was lucky that I didn’t die, and I did not want climbers to take that fall.”
After five years of work, PSP finally put down the “Kill Artist” on April 26, 2017. Of the pivot-inversion, she recalls it as one of the two (the second being on the Vedawoo route “8 ounces to Freedom”) most inspiring moves executed on a climb in the entirety of her climbing career, “it’s these moments of absolute biomechanical perfection that make all of that risk and training worth it. So, there’s been two seconds of my life that I’ve been really psyched.”
Photos: ©Dustin Moore
Video: ©Vansion Roadshow Productions, LLC.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
PAMELA SHANTI PACK is a member of the La Sportiva Climbing Team.
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