Monday, May 11, 2009

Leavenworth - 05.09-10.09

With a avalanche report that read like this:
We are urging potential backcountry travelers to avoid
traveling in or near avalanche terrain until the recent snow
has either slide or settled and stabilized over the coming
days. [NWAC]
Julie and I were not going to be going anywhere where snow was present. Which was a shame as it was her last weekend in Washington before leaving on her trip. So we scratched our plans for something big and snowy and resigned ourselves to heading to Leavenworth to do some rock climbing. Ken and Sammy had canceled their plans for North Twin Sister due to the same avalanche forecast, and we would be meeting them in Leavenworth Saturday morning.

We arrived in Leavenworth with no sign of Ken and Sammy. We started up Icicle Road to see if we could find them at eight mile campground. We found them walking the road just in front of Icicle Buttress and said we'd meet them in town to discuss plans for the day at Starbucks. In the Starbucks we decided to hike up to Givler's as Ken and Sammy had never done it. Julie and I had done it back in March, and we decided we would just lead the opposite pitches we led then. So after a brief stint in Starbucks we headed up the Icicle to climb Givler's Crack.

The hike up is a little longer than most approaches in the Icicle which keeps traffic down to Givler's given it is a four star route that mortals can climb. We had some difficulties in staying on route, but eventually wound up at the base where another party was on the first pitch. We sorted ourselves and gear and started off after the second of the previous party reached the top of the first pitch. Julie led the first pitch, and hung out at the bowl after the crux opening moves. Once the previous party started leaving the belay at the top of the first pitch, she headed off to finish the pitch. I quickly followed. Ken was about half way up the first pitch when I started off on the second. Now having climbed Givler's Crack three times, I can say that the second pitch is one of my favorite leads. I can also say that I enjoyed it much more on lead than following. It is super enjoyable, and long. I arrived at the top and started to bring Julie up. The wind at the top was pretty brisk and we huddled behind the anchor boulder to stay out of the wind.

After a short time Ken was in sight, and he finished the pitch with a tired smile on his face. He clipped into my anchor and brought Sammy up. Sammy was successful at removing the fixed nut at the bottom of the second pitch and came into site with a big smile on his face. I think they were both happy they didn't just go climb R&D. Once we were all on top, we basked a bit and then headed back to our packs at the base. We collected our gear and hiked a bit down before finding a suitable ledge to eat lunch.

After the hike down, we considered another multi pitch climb. We looked at R&D, with crowds on it and some clouds blowing in and decided if it started to rain, we didn't want to be on R&D. We chose to head to Barney's Rubble area which was by the roadside and had some climbs we could do.

Sammy wished to lead a 5.7 that he had led a few years earlier. Julie and I headed to a 5.6 crack to climb. I started up the 5.6 while Sammy climbed the 5.7. The opening moves of the 5.6 were weird as it had to be accessed through a cave like feature and then step up into the crack. After placing three pieces, I was having difficulty gaining the crack and finally asked Julie to lower me off. [I later realized that when she led the route that there were plenty of options for feet on the face. I was trying to put my foot in the crack which was painful and awkward. Sometimes I just have difficulty reading a route.] Sammy was undeterred, and was still making his way up the 5.7 as Julie took the lead on the 5.6. After getting about halfway up the route, Julie slipped and took her first lead fall on gear. It was a minor incident as she mostly ran down the wall backward about five feet or so. She bumped her knee, and had a small rope burn on her wrist. She got right back on and finished the route. I eventually followed (as Ken followed the 5.7) and we topped out. I found the rock on the route to be very greasy feeling and I am not surprised by Julie slipping on it. We later talked to Ian and he used the same adjective to describe the rock and stated that it was because it sees so many ascents being so close to the road.

After topping out, we headed into town to see if we could find Ian and his team who had climbed Yellowjacket Tower that day. We chatted at dinner, and then went our separate ways.

The next day our goal was Condorphamine Addiction(5.10b). It is loosely described as a seven pitch bolted alpine route. Ian had told me that it was within my reach technically. And if we couldn't do the .10b moves it was easy to aid past them. The hike in was long and steep (for cragging.) The trail was loose and sandy as well. We had a minor difficulty finding the correct trail when entering the woods. The book is fairly accurate with the turn left after the first boulder on the map description. Then it was fairly easy to stay on the path up to Condor Buttress.

Once at the buttress, it was easy to identify the start of the climb. Julie and I were apathetic about who climbed which pitch and she finally decided to lead the first (5.7) pitch. After a short distance, she was at the belay and brought me up. The first pitch was nothing remarkable, and a good warm up for the rest of the climb. I took the lead on the second pitch (5.9) which starts with a fun traverse, and then goes up around a corner on steepening terrain to the belay. I think there was 12 bolts on the pitch as I was nearly out of gear at the next belay station. I brought Julie up and she started off on the next (5.4) pitch. After nearly a full rope length, she brought me up. I commented that the latter part of the pitch seemed a bit thin for 5.4. We briefly studied the topo for the route and I was off on the next pitch.

Our fourth pitch started out with easy fun climbing with some horizontal crack features on the slab. It then got to a point where it was steep and there was a difficult move. I commented down that I thought Julie combined the 5.4 and 5.8 pitches and that this was the first .10b move. She didn't believe me as it looked easier from her stance. Not knowing for sure if it was .10b, and feeling like I would kick myself if it 5.8 and I aided the move, I set about trying to figure out how to gain a dish above a bulge with no discernible hand holds. (There were some very tiny edges etc. and an arete to my right that I could use.) After a few attempts at upward progress, I informed Julie I was grabbing the draw and heading up. While it made the move easier, it did not make it more secure, and after gaining the dish, I held on to the draw for a bit until I was able to grab a small hold above me. At that point I moved slightly right and clipped the next bolt. The next moves went left around/through a roof where the difficulties lessened to the next belay. The moves left from the clip felt more like 5.8 or 5.9 from the previous .10b moves. I quickly moved through them and was at the next belay.

I brought Julie up to the crux where she agreed with me that it was a .10b and she proceed to follow my lead by yarding on the draw to complete the move. When she arrived at the belay, we consulted the topo again and agreed that she must have joined the 5.4 and 5.8 pitches and that was indeed the first of the .10b pitches. She then led off on the next .10b pitch.

On the next pitch there was a point from the belay that did not look difficult, but Julie was hesitant below it. She said the moves were thin and committing. I asked her if she thought it was the crux of the pitch. She said she wasn't sure. After some pause, she successfully completed the moves and put me on belay. I arrived at the same spot and saw what she meant. While this portion wasn't as steep as the crux in the previous pitch, it had some thin feet and not a whole lot for hands. I gingerly transferred my weight up to my right foot, and made moves to quickly get through the crux. The difficulty eased after a few moves and I continued to the top of the pitch. When I arrived, we both agreed that the moves felt more like .10a moves than .10b.

Since I had most of the gear, I told Julie I wasn't stopping to transfer gear or the backpack, and I would continue on the final 5.4 pitch to the top. I arrived at the top chains in no time, and brought Julie up. We remained anchored in, and ate our lunches. We wanted to get started on our rappels as we could see another party coming up the route.

We made seven raps down bypassing a party of four on two ropes on the way down. The rappels were easy, and being only single rope, we had no issues with throwing or retrieving the ropes.

The whole climb and rap took about 4.5 hours and Julie and I decided we would check out Bathtub Dome to see if there were options we'd want to climb there.

With some navigational difficulties and some steep sandy trail, we finally arrived at Middle Tier of Bathtub Dome where we were looking to climb a 5.7 crack called New Fixtures. (A two star route.) After looking at it and remembering that Smoot has it rated R in his guidebook I talked to Julie about it. The first 15' or so is climbing between a detached pillar and flake, so I would say there are not safe gear placements during that segment. We then opted to climb Chumstick 2-Step which is a bolted 5.9 to the left of New Fixtures. As we started gearing up, the wind picked up tremendously and started blowing clouds over our heads. we went from shorts and t-shirts to pants and jackets. Then we decided we did not wish to get rained on and packed up and hiked out. Arriving back at the car around 3:30pm we decided to just head back to Seattle.

Overall, the climbing on Condorphamine Addiction was fun. I think my favorite pitch was the 5.9 pitch. The 5.10b moves are easily aided if need be, and I would like to go back and give another shot at freeing the first .10b moves. We witnessed the leader from one of the other parties climb it, and he made it look effortless stemming his hands out to both sides. It probably still wouldn't be easy, but I'd be happy if I could free it. It would also give me a chance to come back up to Bathtub Dome to climb Chumstick 2-Step which looked enjoyable. The hike in and out of the area was tedious, but worth it considering how enjoyable the climb was. I did not find this climb to be as classic as Lost Charms or Dreamer, but was definitely something I would go back to do again. It can also be done with combining pitches, but I think the way we did it was fairly enjoyable. The topo is fairly accurate, and should be easy to follow. You may be able to save time rapping with two 60m ropes, but since it is setup to be rapped with a single 50m rope, I like not bringing the second rope, and not having to deal with the mess that is associated with double rope rappels.

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

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