Old Woman Statue (The Hardest Peak in the Mojave, or Just the Most Sketchy?)

Old Woman Statue (right of center)

Old Woman Statue, an isolated granite spire deep in the Mojave Desert backcountry, was reported to be one of the few summits in the region that required aid climbing to reach. Doing some research, I came upon a trip report. It was six years old.

In the trip report, the climbers wrote that the initial approach hike gave way to a single 5.8 pitch leading to a platform at the base of the aid pitch, a simple bolt ladder. Although the free pitch had gone well, the party found the bolts on the aid pitch to be in frightening condition. The bolts were ancient, rusted, wiggly things that were in bad need of replacement.

Rick Kent and I met up early one morning for an attempt at this bad boy. Certainly after six years, this enigmatic peak sported new bolts! Aaah, the anticipation!
Eyeballing the objective

After a wonderful (albeit cumbersome) approach with big packs loaded with climbing gear, a power drill, two battery packs, and whatnot, we found ourselves working our way up to the base of the "Old Woman."
At the base of the Old Woman

She was a lot bigger than either of us had expected.

Some scrambling on class 3-4 rock led to the flattish base of the initial 5.8 pitch, a flakey crack system that would prove to have an awkward finish. The views were great, but a stiff wind was coming in, the temperature was low for April, and Rick and I were freezing by the time we found ourselves at the base of the aid pitch.
The super sketchy bolt ladder

And that's when we got our first look at the bolt ladder.

It started out good enough, with a couple of solid bolts at the belay. Rick volunteered to lead, thank god.

And so he did. Despite waving around on his etriers in the strong wind, Rick eventually worked his way to the 4th bolt and froze. It was awful, he reported. Rotten, dark red with rust, shifty, and he swayed for what seemed an eternity, trying to convince himself to "go for it."

It just wasn't meant to be. Nobody had done a thing to improve those manky bolts in the six years (presumably) since the last party had tried to climb the thing. We considered pulling out the drill and going to work, but for the wind, the cold, the freakiness of swinging around on those etriers up there on that blank face.

Rick asked if I wanted to take the lead and give it a shot.

I was quick to respond...with a resounding "No, thanks."

And so we rappeled down, and walked away with our tails between our legs.
Coiling the rope

*Photos courtesy of Rick Kent