Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Three O'Clock Rock - Total Soul - 07.27.09

Steve and I finally coordinated to get some climbing done. The goal was to head out to Darrington and get in a slabtastic time on the nice granite. We talked Sunday night and decided that our second attempt on Dreamer could wait, and we would head to 3 O' Clock Rock to see if we could accomplish multiple routes. We were headed there with the intent of climbing Total Soul (III, 5.10b?) and Silent Running (II, 5.9+?).

We got a late start and arrived at the trail head with no time pieces. We made quick time up the trail and stopped briefly to marvel at some cut tree trunks and a still standing western red cedar that had a 10'+ diameter at the base. Once at the base of the slabs, we made our way to the Total Soul route.

(Photo by Steve Machuga)

As we geared up, we discussed lead options, and I told Steve it didn't matter, I'd have to lead a 5.10 pitch no matter how we split them. So I told him to combine the first two pitches and give me the lead on the third pitch (a 5.7) so that could be my warm up lead. (Using the "Weekend Rock" topos.)

Looking down from two pitches up. (Photo by Steve Machuga)

Apparently I did need the warm up because after struggling to overcome one of the overlaps on the lower 5.9 section, I pulled on the draw to get over it. My lead went smoothly and soon Steve was leading the fourth pitch where the difficulty started to increase.

Starting the third pitch (Photo by Steve Machuga)

This was probably the hottest time on the slab as well. The sun was hitting us directly and we were lower and there was less of a breeze. The fourth pitch was some climbing that followed a quartz dike up with a minor crack system. For whatever reason, it was really hard on the feet and both of us had painful feet from that pitch on. (My feet didn't fully recover until getting a night of sleep.) To add insult to injury, the belay at the top of the pitch was an uncomfortable hanging belay. Fortunately for me, I was moving on to the next lead. Unfortunately, that meant not resting my feet or toes for the 5.10 pitch.

The next pitch starts interestingly enough with a few moves up an overlap to a branch pull and onto some ledges. From the ledges there are two variations; a line of bolts on the left (5.10b) or some on the right (5.10d.) The right looked easier at first, but then looked to be featureless steep slab. After contemplating the right, I choose the left line. I was able to clip the bolt and was attempting to move out left to start up, but couldn't maintain traction with my left foot. After a few balks, I went for it and slipped and fell. (I was at the bolt, so not really a lead climb.) I grabbed the draw to get back on, and then was able to climb through this crux cleanly to a small flake where the going got a bit easier. The pitch finished moving right again, so I experienced a bit of rope drag as I had not anticipated that directional change. After the move right, I went up through a bush to the next belay. (Looking at the Nelson book this morning, he has the ledge labeled "ant farm ledge" which would explain why I had ants crawling up my legs for the duration of this belay.)

Steve leading the second 5.10 pitch

I brought Steve up where he rested his feet on the nice ledge and cursed his luck for having drawn the hanging belays. This would also be the point we were both ran out of water. (Did I mention it was hot? On the drive home, the outside temp was hovering around 90°F. We did have more water waiting for us at the base of the climb though.)

After a short rest, Steve headed out on another challenging pitch. It started out easy enough following some features up to some overlaps. After one overlap the crux moves came climbing on top of a left facing shallow dihedral. Steve paused for a while before finally working out the moves. I kept a keen eye on him and was quick to arrest a fall should he have one. He clipped the second bolt and kept moving. Unbeknown to me, it somehow became unclipped and he used it to clip the third bolt on this steep smooth slab. When I arrived at these moves it took a bit of time to move off a small ledge on the first moves. I could see the minor bulges in the slab on where I wanted to put my feet, but the first right foot felt insecure. After finally deciding on a feature I moved up, only to slip off onto the ledge. Another attempt and I nailed it, keeping my upward progress going as the slab was thin and the climbing uncomfortable on my feet. I arrived at the next hanging belay panting and in considerable foot pain. Rather than stop at the uncomfortable belay, we quickly changed the rack and I headed out onto easier (5.8) ground.

Surmounting the overlap (Photo by Steve Machuga)

This pitch turned out to be the most wandering of the climb and somewhat varied. There was some initial thin moves to a small ledge with a small bush on it. After traversing left on the ledge there was a large overlap to surmount. Since the overlap was large, I couldn't bring my feet too far under it to get over it, which meant a bit of a high step to make it up. After going through a bunch of options, I got my left foot as high as it could go, and then put my right foot on the lowest lip of the overlap. With some manteling, I was up and moving onto the rest of the pitch. This was also the most gear intensive pitch and I placed about three cams and one nut. (I also somehow dropped my #2 Camalot down to pitch 2, so I'll have to replace that when I get the money. Not sure how it fell, as I wasn't even going for a piece at the time.) The rest of the pitch followed some overlaps and corners up to the belay. It was markedly more dirty/mossy than the previous pitches and gave Steve and I the impression people don't always climb the last two pitches.

The final .10b "headwall"

But we did, and after I brought Steve up to the belay he set out on the last 5.10 pitch which was thin and dirty. After gaining the steep slab, there were some leftward moves to the second bolt on thin features. He moved up slowly and made it to a tree from which he brought me up. I found there to be one committing move at the leftward motion, and the rest to be easier (although sketchier due to the dirty factor) than the other 5.10 bits on the route. Once at the top, we wandered around a bit to see some views. (Not much really, it isn't a true summit after all.) We then located the rappel tree (as well as the rappel sign) and mused at the uniqueness.

(Photos by Steve Machuga)

After a rap through the trees to another tree. (A rap anchor made with nylon nautical rope and 4" stainless rap rings.) A rap from the second tree got us back to the top of the 6th pitch. From there it was a bunch of double rope rappels back to the base. (We were able to make it into the gully from the top of the second pitch.)

(Photo by Steve Machuga)

Once back at the packs we drank a lot of water and packed up. We took a short exploratory hike over to another part of the slab before heading down to the car. We arrived back at the car around 6:45pm and drove home.

Overall I was happy with this trip. I really wanted to do more climbing in Darrington and got the chance. I think my rustiness of having only climbed three times since May showed. I think I am capable of climbing that route clean and without the aid. Hopefully Steve and I will head back and climb one or more of the other routes there and perhaps I'll get a little more practice in before heading back.

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