Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Leavenworth - 10.28.08

After last week's trip to Leavenworth, Lori decided there shouldn't be anything keeping us from a return trip to give Classic Crack another shot. So we decided to go out and warm up on a few other cracks before attempting to tackle Classic Crack.

One thing I can say is, the Leavenworth climbing season is coming to an end. When we left the car around 10am, it was still around 40° out. As soon as the sun goes behind the ridge or clouds, it tends to get real chilly as well.

We started out on a crack we had dubbed "Puppy Crack" a few weeks earlier. This because we thought it was Dogleg Crack, but it is shorter (and easier.) After "Puppy Crack" we set up a top rope on Dogleg Crack. From a technical rating standpoint, it turns out Dogleg Crack, 5.8+ is not a particularly good warm up for Classic Crack, also at 5.8+. (We didn't realize it had the "+" until we were already trying to climb it.)

After a few attempts each, we both successfully climbed it without hanging or falling. The key for me was unlocking the right foot moves on the thin face while on the lower portion of the crack. After that, the crack climbs straight up for a bit, (easiest part of the climb) and then to the dogleg. After we were both confident about Dogleg Crack, we moved on to Classic Crack.

It was getting late, and neither of us felt comfortable about going unbelayed to the the anchor at the top, so we belayed it, and both rapped off, while I set a directional. Lori gave it the first shot, and was able to climb it to the top with a few hangs and hollers. I started climbing and did not get too far off the ground when I once again had difficulty unlocking delicate foot moves. After some hanging, Lori had to lower me as she was in an uncomfortable situation at the belay up top. I told her to clean the anchor and rap off as it was getting late, and I was getting chilly.

Overall, I have noticed for me that it is still the footwork that takes priority when crack climbing. Unlocking the moves on the lower portion of Dogleg Crack made all the difference on that route. Due to the right leaning nature of the lower crack, your right foot needs to be on the face through that section. Mostly Lori and I figured that you used the right foot stances just to bump up the left foot in the crack, and that the left foot was used for moving up the crack. A similar issue occurred for me on Classic Crack. The previous week I had got farther up the climb. However, I believe I muscled (pull up) my way through the delicate foot work, which tired me out. This time, I was having difficulty unlocking a move I had no difficulty getting past last time, but was attempting to climb it in better style. So I think when crack climbing gets hard for me, I will not blame the jams, but look to the feet.

My pics are here.

Lori's pics are here.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Sperry/Vesper - 10.25.08

Due to the mixed nature of an alpine rock climb this time of year, Julie and I decided on a scramble. The goal was the Sperry/Vesper combo. Only as I sat down to write this did I realize we did not summit Sperry, and were really not on Sperry at any point. More on this confusion later.

The hike was mostly uneventful early. Autumn colors were beautiful, as clouds broke and built. We had some off trail time below Headlee Pass on the talus, but this was corrected with no significant loss of time. There was a fair amount of snow below Headlee Pass, with more than 12" on the ground from the 4300' elevation up. We were somewhat surprised by this since there hadn't been much precip this week, and we saw no new snow near the Tooth at levels to 5000'+. Anyway, the snow up to Headlee Pass was of a decent quantity to not hinder our ascent.

After Headlee Pass, we traversed over to "Vesper Lake." This is where going got slow. The talus/boulder fields that lie in the basin had similar snow coverage. Which in a boulder field meant enough to hide problems, but not enough to protect you from them. One had to be careful not to twist an ankle. On an related note, the lake at approximately 5000' was frozen over.

Now for the Sperry explanation:
Being somewhat lackadaisical about the trip, neither Julie or I packed a map. (The USGS map clearly labels Sperry Peak.) All we had to go on was the description and map in the "75 Scrambles in Washington" book. The map should have been enough, but for some reason we saw the unnamed hump on the ridge as Sperry. (I'll take the blame for this.) We started around the right side of the lake as the book told us, and thought that it would take forever, as the going was really slow with the moderately snow covered boulders and slabs. It is probably for the better we did not attempt both, as our 9 hour day would have been at least 2 hours longer.

Since we had already decided that the hump on the ridge was Sperry, it was an easy decision to go straight toward it from the south end of the lake. We picked a line up the slope and made our way to the summit. (The lack of tracks in the snow could have tipped us off, but did not.) We made our way to within 20' of the summit as there were some exposed moves on snow covered rock that we were not interested in. It was now about noon, and we sat down to eat lunch.

After lunch we headed to Vesper. We retraced our steps to the saddle between the hump and Vesper and proceeded up. After the initial snow slope, going got slow again as we had to post-hole our way between rocks and delicately cross snow covered slabs. About an hour later we were on the summit of Vesper. We dallied for a bit and started to head back down. The same slowness ensued although somewhat aided by our ability to retrace our steps. At some point we left our steps and found someone else's steps and followed them down to the crossing at Vesper Creek.

The hike out was uneventful, save for some late starting hikers trying to make it to the lake. What's up with late starts and unprepared hiking in the snow?

My pics are located here.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Leavenworth 10.21.08

Ian, Lori and I headed up the Icicle to get some late season cragging in. Ian was interested in leading Classic Crack and we were all going to top-rope it. Slightly cold but decent weather was in store, and on a Tuesday in October, we could pretty much guess there wouldn't be a line at Classic Crack.

We climbed most of the routes on the 8-mile rock. Lori and I were disappointed with our attempts at the old school 5.8 Classic Crack, after we cruised the 5.7 Givler's Crack a few weeks earlier. We were expecting our performances to be better. My morning performance was really weak as I couldn't even manage a clean ascent of the 5.7 Mickey Mantle. I felt somewhat redeemed when I was able to climb Twin Cracks (5.8) fairly easily as our last attempt at 8-mile rock. Ian lost a #1 C4 Camalot deep into Classic Crack. A NOLS group showed up and they said they would attempt to retrieve it. (They were unsuccessful.)

We then hiked up to Be-Bop Rock where Ian and Lori both led Bit of Heaven, a slabby 10a. I gave it a go on top-rope, then led the uninspiring 5.6 Junior's Cookin'. At that point, the sun went behind the ridge, and it was time to head home.

Overall, I enjoyed the experience of finally trying to climb Classic Crack. I was hoping for a better performance, and I'm not going to let that get me down.

Ian and Be-Bop Rock.

Autumn in the Icicle.

Hiking out.

Lori's pics are here.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Tooth - South Face - 10.18.08

With the days shortening and the temps dropping, Julie and I were thinking of at least one more alpine summit this season. The original plan of the East Ridge of Ingall's Peak seemed a bit snowy and cold, so we opted for the South Face of The Tooth. It is only an hour drive, and we had both done the route, and we could see how much snow there was higher up. Plus the partly/mostly sunny forecast and south facing nature, meant relatively warm temps.

So we headed out Saturday morning at a leisurely pace to The Tooth. We were the second car in the parking lot that wasn't related to some type of Alpental Ski Patrol meeting. We left the parking lot in clouds and heavy dampness. The closer we got to The Tooth, the better the skies appeared. When we got to Pineapple Pass, it was quite cold, but at least the rock was dry.

Julie started up the first pitch with gloves on while I belayed with my poofy and gloves. I followed the first pitch with the gloves on and the poofy, and took them both off before starting off the lead on the second pitch. (We were now in the sun.) The next two pitches went off without a hitch, and then we were sitting on top of The Tooth by ourselves.

Four rappels later, and we were greeted by a soloist at Pineapple Pass who was looking to get a decent time for a car to car trip. The hike out was under clearer skies, and beautiful fall colors. Even though it was mid October, the weather was nice enough that we would have expected to see more people climbing. We're glad we didn't as it made for a really pleasant experience, and an 8 hour car to car climb.

My pics are located here.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Green Giant Buttress - Dreamer - 10.11.08

Finally, our schedules and weather cooperated to let Steve and I climb together. Since it was early October, and the snow level was around 5000' most of the week, we decided alpine options would be a little cold and snowy (for rock climbing.) We made the decision Thursday night to make an attempt at Dreamer (5.9) on Green Giant Buttress.

Temps were hovering around freezing as we made the drive out to Darrington Saturday morning. The drive in is pretty straight forward. Although with a standard sedan, you may wish to stop earlier than Steve and I. (We bottomed the car on rocks a few times.) A high clearance 4WD could get even further than we did. Our driving progress stopped at a slight pullout on the left of the road just before a ditch.

We started hiking the road and after a 1/4 mile came to the point all vehicles would have to stop. Brush got thicker, but it was never that much of a bushwhack. Beta for the approach was accurate, and after some point in time we were near old mining debris and crossing the "braided stream." This is where is got slightly tricky. We approached the base of the "three tiered waterfall" as described in the approach. There was a very faint trail through serious vegetation right at the base of the falls. It did not look easily passable. So Steve and I hiked up a slippery slab at the first tier of the waterfall and found a more suitable looking path. We did a not so fun bushwhack up this path for about 10 minutes until it became a dead end. We hiked back down and found the correct bushwhack start from the falls. Which was at the base of the slab we climbed. It is currently marked by a log going up from the water into the bushes.

Once we found the correct drainage, things started going more smoothly. A bit of bushwhacking and we were back to homo erectus. Now on semi-wet slabs scrambling up the drainage. Near the top of the drainage we had a choice, go right up something that looked like the side of a moraine (Rock loosely embedded in dirt.) or go up a "path" to the left. We wrongly chose path. If we had looked at the beta, we would have correctly gone right and taken less time and danger to reach the base of the route, but instead this is what followed:

Photo by Steve Machuga.

We scrambled 3rd and 4th class slabs for a bit. (And possibly some 5th class moves.) We even got out the rope at one point. Then the rock eased a bit, and we were finally near the base, where another party had left a pack. We geared up and from what I can tell, scrambled some 4th or 5th class up to the base. (Actually we got the rope out again for the final bit to the base.) At this point it was close to five hours since we left the car.

I led out on the first pitch, and according to Nelson's topo, combined it with the second pitch. From where we started, we were just shy of a full rope length, so there was about 15' of simul-climbing that Steve and I had to do to reach the anchor. Because I am blind, I totally missed the three bolt anchor and slung a bush and brought Steve up.

Steve started out on the next pitch, which looked too run-out for my taste. (Once again, we couldn't see bolts correctly and this pitch was somewhat off-route.) This pitch is supposed to go right and then up, but the bolts we could see were directly up and then far right. It wasn't until it was too late to turn around that we saw the bolt directly right of the belay, and the line of bolts leading up below the bolt we "aimed" for. Steve felt "our" variation was in the 5.10a land. This wouldn't surprise me, as the first bolt he clipped was on the Urban Bypass, which I believe goes at 10a. He made a scary run-out traverse over dirty rock to reach the next bolt. (No pics, as I was watching him closely.) I followed up behind, taking what may have been a slightly easier path.

We got to the next pitch where I led off on somewhat run-out knobby slab. The climbing was enjoyable and got the heart beating a bit. Steve led up the next pitch which had some awkward moves up what was called a 5.7 corner. The pitch was fun and ending in the most comfortable belay stance since the top of the first pitch. Steve led out on the next pitch which is the one Dreamer is known for. It starts in a shallow corner with easier climbing. It then goes to the top of a pillar, where a bolt is clipped. Then traverses right with no protection up to the bottom of a large flake. Then a 5.9 traverse back left and over the flake to enter "The Blue Crack." An awkward, 5.9 flake/crack that brings you up to the next hanging belay. Steve led it in fine style. I got cold at the belay as the sun went behind the ridge. I was getting tired and I think the cold I was getting all week finally was getting the upper hand. I followed behind, but felt really tired. (I also hadn't eaten a lunch yet.) I took a fall midway through the 5.9 traverse. Regained my composure, but had to struggle the rest of the way up the pitch. At the top, I asked Steve what time it was, and he said 4:30pm. I told him we had two hours of daylight, and it was in our best interest to descend.

This turned out to be a wise decision, as we had minor difficulties rapping with daylight. (One rap left Steve 15' shy of the anchor, and I had to lower him.) I had to make an intermediate stop to make sure I would reach the next anchor. On the last two raps, the other party reached us, and we shared their ropes for the final raps. I was a little slow packing up, and we lost them going into the bushwhack. We turned on our headlamps and headed downhill. Steve and I then proceeded to march around (through?) vine maples for what seemed an eternity before we regained the gully where we should have left it in the morning. The rest of the scramble/swhack/hike out was uneventful, but all by headlamp.

Overall, the climbing on Dreamer is a step up from what I am used to doing. I think my difficulties with the 5.9 pitch were more due to fatigue than my climbing ability, but I will most likely have to wait until next year to tackle that climb again.

Pics are located here.
(I included Steve's pics as well.)

Monday, October 6, 2008

Leavenworth - Gilver's Dome - 10.05.08

With a somewhat grim weather forecast for the weekend, Saturday was a write off. But Sunday looked promising on the east side of the Cascades. Lori and I made plans Saturday to head up Sunday morning. Rain occurred most of the drive over including areas NE of Steven's Pass where the snow level was reaching down below 4000'. We were not optimistic. Upon arriving in Leavenworth with the clouds breaking up, spirits heightened.

The goal for the day was the 4-star classic: Givler's Crack. It is a two pitch climb with a 5.8 crux right off the ground and a long second pitch with a really awesome 5.7 hand crack. Lori led off the first pitch in great style and was soon at the belay. After some decision making on which crack she should take to get there. (There is an alcove after the crux, with two cracks leading up to the belay ledge. Lori took the left crack.) The second pitch starts at the base of a hand crack that goes straight up the face. I cannot say anything else about the crack other than the climbing was awesome! After about 20m, the angle eases and then eases again before reaching a boulder for the belay. I brought Lori up and we hung out a bit before walking down to our packs.

With the time being around 1pm, we hunted around for our next objective. We found it in Rare Earth (5.10a), a steep bolted slab. I felt unsure of climbing it, and let Lori have the lead. She progressed slowly up the slab with some minor detours that were perhaps easier ground. After a fall around the fifth bolt, she cruised up the second unrelenting half of the climb. I followed the pitch but had to take twice as it felt my feet were going to burst into flame. Because of my height, the first three bolts went easily, but the second half of the climb really did not have breaks. It was a relief to finally arrive at the anchor.

We hiked back down to the packs and proceeded to climb Freewheelin' (5.7). A short crack with a slab finish a little to the left of Rare Earth. I found the start awkward and bypassed it somewhat with a flake to the left. I lie backed the flake until I had a decent opportunity to gain the crack. After having climbed Givler's Crack, this climb was disappointing. The crack was flaring and did not take jams well. It ended quickly and then picked up as a very thin crack to the right that wouldn't even accept my fingers. A brief stint in the second crack led to a slab with a bolt which didn't seem necessary after climbing Rare Earth. I brought Lori up, and we proceeded to our next destination.

Our final goal of the day was to climb Dogleg Crack(5.8) at Alphabet Rock. We had some difficulty getting down from Freewheelin' and spend a while hiking over to Alphabet Rock. Interestingly, we found a crack we though was the Dogleg, but was too short and did not have an anchor at/near the top. We then realized we were too far right and found the correct route and proceeded to set up a top rope. I was too tired at the end of the day and gave up without really having completed a move. Lori attempted the route and had difficulty with the lower crack and then proceeded to climb the route Hind Quarters (10a) and switching back to Dogleg Crack near the top. We tore down the top rope, and headed back to Seattle.

A great day was had. The weather was good if a little variable. Givler's Crack is easily one of the best routes I have climbed. Although Givler's is popular, we had the route to ourselves and only saw another party coming up as we were leaving the base. Since it is a 4-star route, it spoiled us for the rest of the day. Especially Freewheelin' as it was not nearly as good as Givler's Crack. I'd recommend if you were taking the 45-60 minute walk up to Givler's, that you may wish to stop at Freewheelin' first. Unless you are trying to beat the crowds. Although if there is a line for the route, Freewheelin' would be a nice diversion during the wait.

My pictures are here.

Lori's pics are here.