The Inertia Contributing Writer

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Remember a few weeks back when that guy climbed Morro Rock to propose to his girlfriend over FaceTime, then required a helicopter rescue and was subsequently arrested for suspicion of being high on meth?

Of course you do! And no climber could soon forget, seeing as Michael Banks’ pioneering first ascent has been added to the online, open-source guidebook Mountain Project and already has more than 8,000 page views. Banks is respectfully credited with the first ascent of the only route on the 576-foot-tall formation at Morro Bay — and it’s an instant mega-classic! At the moment, “The Michael Banks Proposal Ramp” is literally number one on Mountain Project’s list of the top 10 most classic climbs.

The route received 3.6 out of a possible 4 stars, racking up an impressive 57 votes.

The first ascent was group rated at 5.3X, one pitch long. Even though Banks — who quite inexplicably wore a wetsuit during the climb — free-soloed the route, Mountain Project regards it as a trad climb. Repeat ascentionists should know that any protection they choose should hold in peregrine falcon shit, because Morro Rock is caked in it.  

What’s the best season to climb the route? “Spring when love blossoms,” reads the route description. What’s the descent? “Descent is by helicopter – bring cash,” says another, because if a rescue is required you’ll be charged just like Banks was. If you manage the descent sans helicopter, you’ll still be cited for climbing. In case you need an FYI, climbing Morro Rock is outlawed by the city of Morro Bay unless you’re a member of the Chumash Tribe performing a spiritual ceremony. Aside from the bird shit, the volcanic plug is poor quality anyway, which is likely why several people are rescued after faulty attempts each year.  

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To his credit, Banks did summit the formation and made it to within 100 feet of the ground before accepting the helicopter rescue. He disputed the meth charge in a television interview, claiming military veteran status and stating that he uses prescription drugs for PTSD (no word on why those would make him act all cray, cray). He also says he’s an experienced climber — and he now has a first ascent to his name. Still, the wetsuit?  

The modest difficulty rating was reached after much input from the climbing community, and the  range in suggested grades was enormous. A lot of the suggestions hovered in the 5.2 to 5.3 R or X range, but others came in between 5.11a/b and 5.15d X, a grade that would make it one of the hardest and scariest single-pitch climbs on earth.

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There are plenty of other helpful comments on Mountain Project for anyone looking for insight on the adventure.

“The route gets a little heady if your wetsuit isn’t fitted properly,” says Andrew Davies from San Francisco. “Recommend packing some meth to help with the crux section. No rap rings on the route so far, just make sure to call your bank before you go–getting your credit card rejected for the rescue helicopter walk-off will make things a tad more sketchy.”



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