Saturday, April 11, 2009

Peshastin Pinnacles - 04.11.09

Julie and I set out for Leavenworth with the lofty goal of going to Castle Rock and climbing Canary (5.8). We did not want to warm up on anything that we had done before, and decided on Cat Burglar (5.6) as the warm up climb. When we arrived at Castle Rock, we were dismayed by the "boulder start" of Cat Burglar and the amount of run out at the start of Canary. (No wonder they call it "Scary Canary.") After some attempts to make sense of starts of both routes, Steve McKim showed up and recommended we not attempt Canary if we were not feeling up to it. Julie had been sick during the week, and I didn't feel great about getting on these routes. So Julie and I made the decision to head to Peshastin where we believed it would also be sunnier and warmer.

It turned out the weather was great at Peshastin. Clouds blew through most of the day, and temps were warm. My only complaint would be the wind. It made it chilly at times when it was really blowing, and added an extra element to the climbing.

We started the day with Martian Diagonal. I led out on the first pitch. While the opening moves are fairly easy, it is about 15' to the first bolt and a little heady because of it. I found protection opportunities sufficient on the first pitch with the rock being a little low in quality. I ended the pitch at the big anchor for the top of the first pitch of Martian Direct. There was another anchor a few feet higher, but I did not see it. It also did not have as comfortable a stance. When Julie arrived at the belay, she still wasn't feeling up to a lead, so I led off on the second pitch. From the dish the anchor was in there were a few steep moves, then the climbing got really easy. However, protection wasn't as abundant as on the first pitch, but then again, the climbing was easy and secure. I arrived at an alcove with three bolt hangers that I thought was the next belay. Two were old Leeper hangers, and the third was a modern stainless hanger. While I could see a large "truck hitch" anchor bolt about 30' above me, I did not see other options with it. (It turned out when Julie and I arrived there that there was in fact two modern bolts for an anchor. Oh well.) I belayed Julie up to the dubious anchor and then she set about leading the final pitch. This involved finishing the final bit of the ramp, and then some ridge climbing to another interesting homemade anchor. (A large 3/4" bolt with a piece of plate aluminum attached to it with a hole drilled in it. Not confidence inspiring.) I arrived at the final belay, and then we set up a rappel for the 15' so we could walk off the north end of the ridge.

On to our next target, the classic Potholes on Dinosaur Tower. We hiked up the rest of the hill, and mused about our attempt at the Skyline route the previous year. I then proceeded to lead the first pitch. The first pitch was steeper and had more bolts than I remember it from climbing it with Ian two years ago. Again, in typical Peshastin fashion, the anchors at the top of the first pitch were dubious. There was a two bolt anchor with rap slings. (One hanger was a spinner, and the bolt looked as if it could be pulled out of the rock.) The other anchor was another Peshastin truck hitch, combined with a homemade piece of plate steel, and an older SMC 1/4" bolt and hanger. I opted to use the second anchor and added a cam for a four point protection anchor. I belayed Julie up, and she headed off on the second pitch which she led in fine style. After rapping the route, we headed to our next destination: Grand Central Tower.

Our goal was to climb the West Face Route, but once in site of it, noticed a handful of people at the base. We opted to head to Sickle Slab and hit the classic Windward Direct (5.8). From the base of the slab, the route did not look intimidating, and followed a series of typical Peshastin grooves/cracks up the slab. It was bolted, but judging from the cracks, it could take extra protection. I led out on a particularly windy lead. (Must be where the name comes from.) I found the route steeper than it looked and very heady. The moves were all there, but it was a bit of a distance between bolts, especially near the top where additional pro could not be placed. The grooves and cracks were great for foot holds, but really hurt my feet most of the way up. I stopped for a period when my feet were in comfortable pockets a few bolts from the top to give my feet a rest from the pain. The route has a somewhat scary finish as it is not obvious where it heads, and appears to drop off the other side of the ridge after the last bolt. A few moves past the last bolt, and I saw the anchor over to my left. Surprisingly, this was a comfortable belay stance, once again using the Peshastin "truck hitch" anchors. There were a couple of museum bolts up there as well. The nice thing about the route, is that you can rappel about 30' down the back side of the ridge to the ground, instead of taking a second rope to rappel the 140' of the route.

After that excursion, Julie and I headed back to Grand Central Tower for another shot at the West Face. It was Julie's turn to lead and she started up. Maybe it was the stress from the previous route, or perhaps it was just late in the day, but Julie struggled on the pitch. I followed, and found it difficult, even falling at one move. After reaching the anchor, we agreed it was time to call it a day.

While it was not the day we had anticipated, we had a great time. We notched a few 4-star routes, and a couple 3-star routes. We each climbed seven pitches and generally had a good day. Oddly, I found Potholes significantly easier than when I climbed it in '07, but found the West Face to be harder than I remembered it from '07. This visit should probably sate my Peshastin cravings for the year. Plus, it seems the weather is improving, and I'll be able to climb in Leavenworth more reliably from here on out. (It won't be long before the alpine season is in full swing, and Peshastin will have to wait until next year.)

My pictures are here.
Julie's pics are here.

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