Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Three O'Clock Rock - Silent Running - 08.03.09

Steve and I made our second weekly trip to Darrington to Three O' Clock Rock. This time to climb Silent Running (II, 5.10a/b.) We got there a bit earlier this time and welcomed the cooler temps.

Now, prepared with watches we were able to make the hike to the base in 30 minutes. (It also only took us 1.5 hours from Steve's house to the trail head.) After reaching the base we started gearing up. Then Steve led out on the first pitch. This was agreed on earlier to give Steve the lead on the final crux pitch which he had not previously climbed.

The first pitch was nearly a rope length of easy climbing. (Almost running up the slab.) Steve brought me up and it was time for the second pitch where the difficulty increased significantly. Well, at least you had to be weary of where you put your feet, and there was no more running. I led the second pitch on some nice friction moves where it got harder through the last two bolts to the belay. I arrived at a nice belay ledge, and brought Steve up.

Steve got the lead on the next 5.9 pitch which started out with what looked to be great rock. However, it was polished and slippery. Foot placements were critical through the first four bolts or so. Then the route moved right a bit and the traction was phenomenal. Completely different character for the second part of the pitch. I followed him up and was off on to the next pitch.

From this pitch on, the first bolt was often a bit off the belay. (In this case, about 10-12'.) After clipping a few bolts, I could no longer see any above me and in a shaky stance decided to look at the topo. In the difficult stance for viewing, I accidentally looked at the following pitch which moves right after a few bolts. Since I could not see any bolts, I started to move right where people had clearly been before. After I moved right, I was stuck out on a ledge and could see the "next" bolt up and to my left about 15' or so. (There was a hidden piton that I could not see about 10' above the last point I was on route.) So I yelled to Steve about getting back on route. I put a cam in a weak flake and decided to head straight up to a ledge system that would bring me to the last bolt on the pitch. The climbing was easy up to the ledges, but was unprotectable. After going up about 20' I put another cam in a flake, and started leftward on the ledge system to get back on route. After crossing the ledge, I used some quartz dikes to gain the bolt and return to the pitch. The final climbing of the pitch went up a fun small gear protectable lie back past a bush to the anchor. Once at the anchor, I could see where I went wrong. Steve pointed out to me the piton as he made his way up my off route excursion.

Steve led off on the next pitch which was more of the same to start with, then some climbing up some creaky flakes to get to the anchors.

The penultimate pitch is where the fun really started. I led off up and over an overlap and mostly easy terrain while moving leftward. Then the the slab steepens. There is a section of steeper slab with widely spaced (10+') bolts going up. The bolts are closer to the left of this narrow slab near an inviting grassy corner. When I first arrived at the steeper section, it looked as though the right hand side would also work, but reaching the bolts may have been difficult. So I followed the bolt line up friction moves to another overlap and a piton. I clipped the piton and worked my way over the final overlap to the anchor, a hanging belay. I brought Steve up to my position and we readied the rack for the next pitch. (The guidebook stated gear to 4" for the final pitch, so we pulled out the 3 & 4" cams, but Steve didn't need them.)

Steve left the belay to clip the first bolt on the final pitch. There were a few moves on a slab protected by a bolt before having to surmount a double overlap. The first overlap was not as high, and was protected by a bolt. The second was stepped, and higher and needed to be traditionally protected. Steve made his way through the overlaps and I asked him if he felt they were the .10b portions. He didn't think so. He continued up onto a slab where he took on a bolt before reaching the final flake. He told me his feet had had enough and he needed a rest. After resting on the rope briefly, he made the easy moves to the flake and was shortly at the belay. I found the moves through the overlaps to be difficult and required me to bounce to make the moves. They were high steps and required manteling as there were no holds above the overlaps. Once past the overlaps, I used any possible rests before gaining the slab that tired out Steve's feet. I moved up the slab quickly and deliberately. I was soon at the fun flake moves to finish the route. Once there, we set up our rappel and started rapping the route.

The rappels were uneventful, except for a serious lapse in judgement on my part where we reached one of the larger rap ledges and I forgot to clip in before undoing my rappel. That will never happen again! Yipe.

I liked this route better than Total Soul from last week. I think the line was more logical and the final two pitches were really 3 star. (Maybe four.) At times Silent Running seemed more run out than Total Soul, but it was usually on easier ground. It is a slightly shorter and easier route, so it is a little quicker to finish than Total Soul if you have less daylight to work with. It was more enjoyable too, because last week's "warm up" on Total Soul made the moves on Silent Running pretty familiar to me and it feels like I may have gotten rid of the rust from not climbing for a while.

On the way down (rapping and the drive out) we discussed with each other that it seemed darker than the previous week. We knew we were getting out a little earlier and there were no clouds in the sky. We couldn't understand why. I thought maybe because it was so hot the previous week, that being in the shade did not make a difference. It wasn't until we got back into Darrington that we had our answer. There was a fire on the other side of Whitehorse Mountain. We had seen the forest service helicopter in the morning at a makeshift helipad near highway 530. (But there were no signs of smoke in the morning.) We stopped to see it landing and it appears there were fire fighters from Targhee NF on the scene. After snapping a few pics, we drove home.

Fire on the Mountain

My pics are here.

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