On the way out to Leavenworth Monday morning, Steve said he was interested in doing the link up of Heart of Gold (5.10-) and Prime Rib (5.10b) that would give us a nice seven pitch outing. I was game. I hadn't been to Duty Dome before and knew that Heart of Gold was a somewhat popular route that is probably lightly crowded on weekends.
We hiked up to the base and geared up. Heart of Gold has bolts, but will take gear in a few spots, so we had a full trad rack on us. The start was a little interesting, and the first bolt is somewhat awkwardly placed from where we started. Since the third pitch was supposed to be the crux, I let Steve have the first pitch lead. Steve led off, and was soon around the corner out of sight. About 50m of rope later, he was at the top of the pitch. I followed up and met him there.
We had a discussion on where the route was supposed to go, and then I led off on the second pitch. Steve seemed to think the route went climber's left to a slab, while I was pretty sure it went right. I proceeded rightward for a bit over a few steps where I could see the bolts for the next anchor. There was no obvious way there, but there were plenty of flakes and features I could use for protection on the way there. So I started up a bit. The rock was loose and fragile, and that is when I noticed a line of bolts to my left. So I downclimbed to the top of the first step, and proceeded to hit the slab with a line of bolts. This was far easier climbing than the first pitch. (Felt like 5.5) I arrived at a nice new anchor for the belay. Later we would determine that I should have traversed far right after the second step (A small tree/shrub is there) and then headed straight up to the anchor. This did not look like an appealing option to me at the time because it looked like 20'+ of traversing without protection.
Our off route adventure did not greatly impact our position, as Steve just had to traverse about 15' right of the belay to rejoin the route at the start of the third pitch. He then continued on for the rest of the pitch until it was time for me to follow. The third pitch was clearly the hardest. (Well, we don't know what the on route 2nd pitch was.) There was an awkward, but not difficult move above the belay, then some really thin slab moves for a few bolts, before the difficulty eased a bit. I met Steve at the belay, and led off on the 4th pitch. Truthfully, if one starts the third pitch at the correct belay, you could probably incorporate the 4th pitch into it, as it is merely 40' of 3rd class slab. There is a belay anchor at the top, and after that, you are in the 3rd class gully.
After topping out, we weighed our options. Weather was moving in. (It was no longer sunny, and the wind picked up.) We figured we could continue on Prime Rib, or go close to the road to climb some single pitch climbs. I told Steve, we might as well go for it while we were up there. So we proceeded to the base of Prime Rib.
The first pitch starts with some steep tricky crack moves (5.7/5.8) to gain the slab. Once on the slab, there are ample bolts, and nothing trickier than what we had seen on Heart of Gold. The belay comes up quickly and I followed Steve up. To expedite things (and because I do not lead 5.10b) Steve was leading all the pitches on Prime Rib. He led off on the second pitch which starts with some lie back moves to reach the base of the next slab. The second slab was most likely where the .10b rating comes in. Steve gained it on the far right but then had seriously difficult moves to head left toward the bolts. He hung at the second bolt, before working his was flawlessly through the rest of the pitch. When he was about 10' from the anchors, I alerted him that I could see raindrops. He asked what I wanted to do, and I said "Let's go for it."
I climbed up through the lie back, and started to get on the base of the slab when the rain started in earnest. It was not likely I was going to complete .10b friction slab moves on wet rock, and we opted for Steve to lower me to the base of the climb. Then he would rappel and clean the gear.
Once at the base, we made a sketchy walk off down the wet gully and got back on the trail to retrieve our packs at the base of Heart of Gold. Then it was back to the car and Seattle bound.
While at the Duty Dome area we saw some new climbs being put up. Also, the pitch I led is newer and not in the current guide books. There was a lot of interesting climbing to explore there. I am hoping to go back. Steve and I also discussed the second pitch of Prime Rib which we both believe that you should gain the slab on the left, and not on the right. The left seemed to have more difficult feet, but had the edge of the arete for hands at least. It was nice to be out, even if we got rained on during our sixth pitch.
My photos are here.
(With some of Steve's pics.)
(With some of Steve's pics.)