Monday, August 10, 2009

A Wet Day - 08.10.09

Steve and I planned our third consecutive Monday to be at Three O'Clock Rock again. But weather was looking to thwart us and made us think of heading to Leavenworth to climb The Mole with only a 20% chance of precip there. After contemplating the two hour drive and the possibility of getting rained out after hiking six miles, we decided to take our chances with the 70% chance of rain on the west side. So we headed to Darrington with the hope we could get a few pitches in before the rain started.

We didn't even make it to Darrington before we saw ominous clouds and wet roads. Just before reaching Darrington, it started to rain on the car. It was now time for "Plan B." Steve and I discussed this possibility the night before and decided that if it started to rain we would do a reconnaissance mission to see if we could find some slabs worthy of climbing.

This mission started years ago when Steve was on a hiking trip and saw some potential slabs for climbing in a valley. So, before long, we were driving the Mountain Loop Highway heading for the trail head.

Once arriving we set out on the trail and then veered off at an opportune moment to head to the valley of our choice. It was raining, however lightly, from the moment we parked the car. The rain barely made it through the thick forests of the area, and the trail stayed dry in the woods. Once breaking out of the woods to avalanche deposition areas, we were both in shell jackets and remained that way until back at the car.

Once out of the woods, we could also barely see our objective. Low clouds hung in the valley as we pushed our way through 6' high vegetation. While it was not raining hard, the bushwhacking was causing us to get soaked. Well, at least our pants as we had shell jackets on.

After a period of time we got to talus that led up to the slab. We rock hopped a bit before reaching the toe of the slab. Unfortunately, there wasn't a good view of the slab from this point as a good sized roof blocked our view of the upper slabs. So we made a sketchy traverse through some vine maples to our right to get a better look. We arrived at a nice boulder and viewed the slab, but we still wanted better views. So we traversed a bit more to our right where we took a few pics and examined the slab a bit.

Then we started heading back. We traversed back a bit lower which did not seem as sketchy as the original traverse. We were heading to a spot that looked like a trail, but at least would be another good vantage point to view the slab. When we got over there, it was not quite a trail, but we realized humans had been there before. There was plenty of iron ore on the ground, and so I poked around thinking there may be a mine present. After following the trail of ore uphill, I came to an old mine. We viewed it briefly, and Steve even went inside a few feet before we gained access to the slab. We took a few more pictures and discussed possible lines up the slab. Then we retreated back to the woods. It was difficult to find our way out a bit in the high brush, but eventually we made it back out to the trail. A short time later, we were back at the car eating a late lunch and taking off wet clothes.

Overall it was a productive trip. I think if it was not raining, we would have given the slab a go. We'd probably try to give it a go without bolting as we think it can be protected with gear and natural protection. It looks like we can manage about four pitches and there are plenty of tree rappel options if we need to bail or rappel from the top. As for the climbing, it looks like typical PNW slabbing. The rock had a great texture and most of the slab was fairly clean. Being we could find little to no information about these slabs in books or the internet, we are not sure if we would be making first ascents on this slab. Having said that, we did not see evidence of the slabs having been climbed. Not that we got the best look with binoculars from the base, but there were no slings or pitons evident from where we stood. If people did climb it, it is probably few and far between. If we get a good period of dryness, I'm sure we'll be back to give it a go.

My pics are here.

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