Saturday, April 25, 2009

Tieton River Climbing - 04.25.09

Julie injured her foot in Montreal. So mountain excursions were out of the question as should could barely walk at times. So, she was interested in some rock climbing. Due to her injury, and the suspect weather forecast for Leavenworth, we decided to see what Tieton was all about. The forecast for Tieton was to be 60° and mostly sunny. Since it is a two and a half hour drive, we left Seattle at 5am to maximize our climbing. This was unfortunate, as when we first arrived in the parking lot around 7:40am, it was still quite chilly.

We figured we'd warm up on the hike (about a quarter mile of trail - the second half uphill.) When we got to the base of the climbs, it was windy and in the shade. It felt even colder than the parking lot. We sized up our first climb, and neither of us were willing to start climbing due to the cold. Since we were the only ones there, we left our packs, and headed back to the car where the sun was shining. As we got to the car, a few other climbers showed up. We chatted, and decided to drive down the road to check out "The Bend," another area of Tieton climbing. (We were at Royal Columns.) After our short drive and a stop at the toilet, we headed back up to the crag.

Once there, we put on all the clothes we had, and started slowly to do our first climb. The first choice was the three star Western Front (5.3). We started easy to gauge how tough the climbing would be. Tieton has a reputation for having stiff grading, but we didn't really think so. I will say, that the climbing is fairly steep for the grade in concern to Western Front. I led the route, and found it very heady, as many of my gear placements were not ideal. The climbing is crack climbing between the andesite columns and the moves were pretty straightforward. However, I found gear placement to be difficult, and some of my gear to be suspect. Julie followed the route and saw the difficult placements. One of the issues I had with gear was that I neglected to bring up a #4 Camalot, because the guide book said gear to 2.5". This was regrettable, as there were multiple good locations for it along the route.

First cold lead of day

After completing the route, I ran down near the car (and sun) to warm up a bit. I returned as the sun started lighting the tops of the columns where Julie had waited for me. It was somewhat warmer now, but still chilly. But the sun was starting to heat the columns, and it was around 11am.

Julie led out on the next route, The Rap Route (5.5). It was a short stem/chimney, that became a crack above a short column. The route did not feel any harder than Western Front, but seemed to have easier gear placements. After I followed, and we rapped from the top, we contemplated our next move.

Now that the sun was out we decided to eat lunch and relax on some rocks at the base of the columns to warm up a bit. We briefly sought out our next objective, but returned to the rock when we realized how windy it was just around the corner from our lounging spot. After more relaxing, we finally got up to do our next route.

It was my lead, and I chose Good Timer (5.4) because the small roof on Slacker (5.4) scared me off a bit. (That and Slacker was more in the shade and seemed to be windier.) Good Timer had some loose rock on it, and again was somewhat difficult to protect. The climbing was fine, but nothing remarkable. After I led it, Julie cleaned it and we contemplated our next move.

We found a route on the far left that looked interesting to us. Julie asked if I would lead it, and so I gave in. It wasn't in our guide book, so we weren't sure of the grade at the time I started up. The route seemed to be a lower angle than our previous routes, except for the last 6-8'. About a third of the way up it had a small crack which was too small for my fingers except at the very top of it. I worked my way around it to the right and made my way up the rest of the pitch. I found this route to be the most enjoyable climbing of the four we did. Perhaps it was because it took gear better and I felt better protected because of it? Perhaps it was just the route? After we climbed it, we borrowed another climber's guide book in the parking lot and found out the route was a 5.7. ("The finger crack" which I bypassed probably gave it that rating.)

After that, we left for home.

My take on Tieton is that the rock is slightly better than at Vantage, but still quite dubious. The climbing is fairly interesting and enjoyable if you can look past this issue. However, it is difficult, especially when leading to get over this. After Julie followed Good Timer, she told me she thought the whole column was going to fall. I found myself more concentrated at times on the pro and its ability to protect a fall, than on the climbing itself. The terrain is somewhat different than Vantage as well, as it is a greener part of Central Washington. I'll probably return to Tieton at some point, but not likely soon.

A few more pics located here.

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