Sunday, September 28, 2008

Slippery Slab Tower - NE Face - 09.27.08

With the alpine season winding down, Adam and I decided on a mellow climb of Slippery Slab Tower. It is a spire on a ridge near Steven's Pass. We took the "alternate" approach coming from the PCT. This was an excellent approach, and reportedly 800' less elevation gain than the standard approach. (I suspect that the 'alternate' approach is used more frequently after the road is free of snow.)

After some pleasant hiking where we saw multiple hawks, marmots and even a bear eating blueberries. We even found some blueberries to eat along the way. They were small, most likely due to this year's short summer. After a few hours hike, we were on the climber's trail from Trap Pass to the Tower. The climber's trail was nice although somewhat exposed at times. But these exposed bits seemed to avoidable by taking an inland path.

We arrived at the base of the tower, and easily found the 3rd class gully approach. We scrambled up it to the base of the route. We sorted gear and packed a summit pack for the climb to the top. The printed beta suggests two pitches to the top, but online reports all have it as one full 60m pitch. I started up the corner with thin holds for feet when wearing boots. After a distance I reached a rappel tree, decided to clip it and head for the summit. A short 4th class step above the tree, and the route become 2nd/3rd class with some exposure. I set up an anchor just below the summit and belayed Adam up. Communication was difficult, which may be the reason it is broken into two pitches. We read and signed the summit register, hung out, snapped pictures and ate lunch. Slippery Slab is not very high, but is in an interesting location with great views in all directions. About an hour later we came up with a plan to attempt another summit on the ridge and started down.

After three raps to the base, we started scrambling/hiking in a southerly direction to see if any other summits seemed feasible. After some distance we came to a fairly good sized boulder field that we did not feel like crossing. We decided to turn around rather than hike out by headlamp later.

The hike out was uneventful, and we arrived back at the car 9.5 hours after we left it. Overall, I think Slippery Slab is a great beginner's climb. The hiking is all on well maintained trail save for a very short distance on a decent climber's trail. Adam and I both found Beckey's description of the first pitch (4th class) misleading. The moves are 5th class and made to feel harder with boots and the small features/cracks for feet. There is a gully just left of the route which may be what Beckey described. Because he also stated slings are all that is needed for protection. The corner which we climbed, I placed three cams and a nut. After that, I clipped the two rap stations. This is also a decent climb for late season or closing weather as bailing is easy, and the trail is not too strenuous.

My pictures are here.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Static Point - Lost Charms -09.13.08

Julie and I headed out to Static Point on Saturday to do the only route there we could complete. The 5.9/5.7 A0 Lost Charms. It supposed to be six pitches of 5.7ish climbing with a 5.9 move which can be aided by grabbing an old Leeper buttonhead bolt. (Yipe!)

It was our first time to Static Point, and we found the approach a little vague. (In reality, the approach was pretty straightforward.) Approach beta differs for this crag, but most of it is pretty similar. However, recent work in the area means that you cannot drive the road to the boulders blocking further progress. Now the road ends earlier with high berms blocking progress. This involves more road walking and once you hit the boulders it is a mile in on the overgrown road. The turn off the road to reach Static Point is obvious, but there are a few rabbit trails that we sadly followed just as others had before us. The real trail seems further than it should, and was marked by a cairn, and a pipe 1/4 full of dirt. Other pipes were just decoys.

We eventually made it to the base of the climb which involves a small bit of 4th class scrambling on slabs to get to. Julie led out the first pitch which was supposed to be up and right, and we wound up at the Spencer's Spaceport anchor. I led up and left to get us back on route. The second belay had a bolted anchor at the bottom of the "Pillar". Since it was after noon and we were on a big ledge, we opted to eat lunch. Julie led out on the next pitch up and across the "Bridge Flake" which had a few exciting moves just before gaining the flake. (The topo actually listed that section as 5.8.) I led out on the next pitch which had a barely finger crack on it and set up a belay at the top. Julie got to lead the crux pitch up and over "The Great Flake" and set up a belay after. I followed up to her location and then back down a bit to a traverse left and then up to a set of bolts. There is supposed to be another pitch that takes you to the trees, but we opted not to go, as there were some guys rapping from Online off a dead tree up there. We weren't interested. We rapped Online with 3 double rope raps. (Actually, most of the bolts we rapped on were older hardware, and I was under the assumption that Online had been rebolted.) Perhaps we rapped some other route.

Overall the route was enjoyable on great rock. It was not as run-out as I was expecting. It takes decent gear, and I was happy we packed double of aliens from blue to yellow. (The finger crack pitch I would have liked a third blue alien, but made a nut work.) It is fairly easy for the leader to French the 5.9 move, but as the follower, I would have found it difficult to remove a biner/gear from the bolt after making the move. I also think that it is probably about two moves of each foot, and not just "one move" of 5.9. It is a short steep featureless section just below "The Great Flake." Once through the move, my heart was pumping and remained that way through the rest of the pitch. (I didn't find a large creaky flake very confidence inspiring.)

I didn't have a camera. (Jennifer has it in NJ.)

Following the Bridge Flake

More of Julie's pics here.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Le Petit Cheval - 09.07.08

Looking through trip reports online, Julie and I decided to hit Washington Pass and attempt the Spontaneity Arete on Le Petit Cheval, a prominent feature on Kangaroo Ridge. (Sorry Sabrina.) Since it was later in the season, and I am growing weary of longer approaches, we figured the estimated 1-1.5 hour approach sounded good.

What the information on the web does not tell you is that much of the approach is technical. Second, third and fourth class terrain separate you from the route. Julie and I made quick time down to the river and across then out into the clearing. The trail ends at a 3rd class step, and this is where things begin to slow down. After the step there are numerous sandy ledges to hike, more 3rd and even 4th class steps to confront and two fixed lines! Once near the top we had minor difficulties finding the start of the route, and eventually, I led off for a rope length that may have been a touch too early. Julie led out on mostly 4th class terrain until we were on the ridge proper.

After a touch of scrambling around, we found the area that appeared to be the second half of the second pitch with some 5.7 corners. Julie led up and we were back on the ridge for some legitimate 5.7 crack climbing. Some unmemorable climbing led to the 5.7 corner that I led, followed by Julie leading a steep section out of a cove, and then my turn at the "fun headwall" pitch. It was the most fun climbing on the route (for me) and was an enjoyable lead. Julie led one more pitch and we scrambled (roped) to the summit where we hip belayed each other for the somewhat exposed summit moves.

We could not find a rap station or suitable rap anchor near the summit to rappel into the gully. So we down-climbed back to the last rap station and proceed to rap the route. This was tedious, and the rope was fighting with us to get stuck on every pull. It eventually did, and I had to belay Julie back up 30' to get it loose. We eventually found a rap station that would get us into the gully. This proved no better as the gully was sand on slabs and plenty of loose rock. We finally made it to our packs and started the down-climbing and rappelling that would get us back to non-technical terrain.

We arrived at the 'first' 3rd class step just before turning on our headlamps. We proceeded to find our way back to the trail and get off trail in the forest. Fortunately we just headed downhill to the creek, and found the correct crossing. I, deceived by headlamp and darkness, thought I was stepping onto a section of dry creek bed, only to plunge 1' deep into water. Thankfully the car only lay a short distance up a not so fun (in the dark) loose rock/boulder field away. This is a trip I will not soon repeat. I did not find the climbing worth the approach.

My pics are here.

Julie's pics are here.

Sahale Peak - 09.06.08

A group of seven of us made an attempt at Sahale Peak via the Quien Sabe Glacier. We decided to do a carry-over of the peak as I think that sort of thing is fun. As it turned out, the Boston Basin trail was worse than I remembered it and sealed the deal on the carry-over plan. Weather was forecast to be partly cloudy, but the skies remained dramatic throughout most of the day. The previous evening's weather was a bit wet and got us all thoroughly soaked coming up the near bushwhack of a trail up to Boston Basin.

After a few hours, we were across the slabs and roping up on the glacier. There was a fair amount of boot tracks so route finding was not an issue, especially since visibility fluctuated. We unroped at the top of the glacier and scrambled to within a few feet of the summit, setting up a prusik line for safety. Once we all arrived it was time to figure out a way off the other side. A guide book said rappel due south. So we got out a compass and threw the rope. On decent single 60M rappel and 20' of easy, unexposed 3rd class got us to snow.

A short walk across the Sahale Glacier got us to the trail that leads down to the Cascade Pass parking lot. Then it is just a long hike down to the parking area where we had left a car in the morning.

This was my first time doing a carry-over of Sahale as well as being at Cascade Pass or Sahale Arm. I found this descent to be much preferred over the Quien Sabe descent as it has a very short technical portion and then is trail for nearly six miles. At the end of the day the trail length was a bit tedious, but still better than the rough trail that leads out of Boston Basin.

My pics are here.

Julie's pics are here.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Snow Creek Wall - Outer Space - 08.30.08

After alpine plans fell through due to weather conditions Ian asked if I wanted to climb the Washington State classic Outer Space with him. I agreed. We left Seattle at 7am on Saturday and headed toward Leavenworth. We started hiking to the route from the Snow Creek parking lot around 9:30am. On our way up, we saw only one party on the route, but as we got closer, we noticed more parties arriving at the base. This should have been our indication to climb Orbit instead, but we stuck with the original plan.

Since the standard start was open and a party was just starting the remorse start, we opted for the standard start. Ian wanted to lead a 'warm-up' pitch before setting off on the crux 3rd pitch. He led the low 5.6 first pitch and then I led the 5.0 second pitch. We arrived at 2-tree ledge with two parties ahead of us and a third on the pitch. It was just after noon, so we sat down to have lunch. We chatted with Jen and BJ who I had met previously through Jennifer. After well over an hour, it was finally our turn. Ian led right up and past the crux to the next belay. I followed. The third pitch is the crux with some strenuous lie back moves at the start (5.6), and a strenuous 5.9 traverse with some exposure to finish. When I arrived at the next belay, Ian took off on the 4th pitch. This pitch did not offer too much protection, which made me glad to follow. It was face climbing on knobs up to a wonderful corner that got us on top of a pedestal. Now only a over 300' crack lay between us and the top.

There were some interesting moves from the pedestal to gain the crack and some monster holds. From that point it was feet on knobs and hands in crack. Delightful climbing. There were a few stretches over the last two pitches where the knobs ran out and you had to put your feet in the crack, or smear on the face. These sequences also seemed to be the steepest of the crack, but it may have just felt that way because they were more strenuous. Also, at the beginning of the 6th pitch, there was about 15' of 5.9 finger crack which was more difficult than the hand crack. Ian topped out of the crack (after two pitches) and I led out from there on low 5th/4th class terrain to a tree, greeted by goats. Then we had to hustle down the sandy nasty gully to get back to our packs before we were benighted.

Night came after we got our packs and scrambled toward the trail. The hike out was uneventful, and we were able to get food at South in Leavenworth.

Pictures are located here.