Monday, September 28, 2009

Alta Mountain - Standard Route - 09.28.09

Elevation Gain: 4000'
12 miles RT
Left car: 8:50 am
Summit: 11:10 am
Back at car: 1:50 pm
5 hours car to car

This was my redemption hike after sulking around the house this weekend with no climbing partners. I was going to do this on Sunday, but opted not to, thinking I may climb on Monday and wanted to be fresh. Oh well. I decided on Alta because it was reasonably close, and I did not want to mess with the 3rd and possible 4th class on Hibox if I was going to be alone.

I got off to a slightly later start than I would have liked, but was walking at ten to nine. I was hoping to make good time on the hike as I didn't want to be out too long. I just needed to get out. Not to mention there were threats of rain starting after 11am. I was wearing my new trail runners that my brother gave me as a birthday present when he was in town for the wedding. I figured I could give them a try and break them in (if that was even needed.)

I arrived in the parking lot and was the only car. There was lots of automotive glass in the parking lot. It must be a high prowl area.

The morning was cold, and I left the parking lot wearing my poofy and took it off after I gained about 300' vertical or so. Then I continued on. After the first 300-400' of vertical the trail is flat for a while. Right around where the trees start getting big, it gets down to business. Switchbacks galore and lots of gain. At the hour mark, I had already put 1300' behind me. The going got tough and then I got concerned that I may have been off trail. Or more appropriately, off route.

I got the book out and checked it. Everything seemed to be OK. After all, I had seen the Hibox cutoff, and I could now see Hibox from where I was on the trail. I clearly wasn't headed there. More gain finally got me to Rachael Lake. Things got a little confusing again with random trails all around the lake. I was able to stay right and managed to stay mostly on the trail after a short stop to look at the lake. Then the trail starts switchbacking up a hillside. After a few hundred feet from the lake, I consulted the book again. It was this time that I also removed my pant legs as it was getting warm.

Up to the top of the ridge, there were more random trails. One seemed to lead into a blueberry patch, so I picked and ate some. I took the right (and correct) path, and headed out. There were a bunch of false summit scenarios on this trail and I kept thinking I was close only to find out I wasn't. There were a few sections where the trail is more 2nd class, but nothing exceptional to note. I met a man coming down from the summit when I was about three minutes out. We exchanged pleasantries, and we were both on our way.

I arrived at the summit shortly afterward and changed my shirt and put my poofy back on. The wind was blowing from the west, but it was nice and sunny on the summit. I poked around a bit and took some photos, ate a lunch, and relaxed. I switched back into my now dry shirt and headed out. The fall colors were amazing! So was the blueberry snacking.

I made decent time back to the lake only to get on a side trail and have to turn around a bit. I got on the correct trail and continued down. Along the way I stopped to take some pictures of some interesting rock formations in the creek. Very smooth and looking glacier polished, but the ripples in the rock would suggest some other form of sculpting.

I passed a few people on their way in while I was headed out. I got back to the car exactly five hours after I left it. Even drinking around three liters of water, I seemed to have a dehydration headache. I chugged water at the car, and then drove out on the extremely washboarded road.

It was nice to finally get out before the rains hit. Hopefully there will be more days like this before I start waxing up the skis. I'm more than pleased with my speedy ascent as well. The guidebook states six hour from car to summit, and I did the whole round trip in under that time. (I was expecting more like three hours from car to summit.) And while I did not conform to race walking rules, I was never running, just walking briskly. With a pace like mine, I could have easily scrambled Hibox as well in the same trip and still got home before dark. In addition, it was an area of Snoqualmie Pass that I had not really been to, and gave me a new perspective on the area.

My pics are here.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Three Fingers - South Peak - 09.23-24.09

Elevation Gain: ~4200'
15 miles RT
Two days

While our trip to France was our honeymoon. This trip acted as our getaway after the wedding.

Jennifer hadn't been out much this year, so we decided to do the scramble of the South Peak of Three Fingers as a two day. This way, we wouldn't have to exert too much on one day. The plan was to leave on Wednesday and stay in the summit lookout overnight. Then hike out on Thursday.

We left a little late on Wednesday...partially due to out of town guests the night previous, and partially due to some equipment issues when packing. We were finally at the trailhead and hiking around noon. At the trailhead was a sign which warned of both black and brown bears. Something I don't recall seeing before. I guess there are legitimate sightings of brown bears in the area?

Jennifer took the lead, and we were off on a pace that should get us to the lookout around 6pm. We stopped and chatted a few parties on the way down including a couple of guys who had stayed in the lookout on Tuesday night. We hoped that none of the other parties ahead of us had the same plan. As we headed up, we eventually left the dark wet forest for the hotter meadows above and eventually to the Goat Flats where we got the first view of the lookout. (It could be seen from farther away, but not easily with the naked eye.)

Once passed the Goat Flats, it seemed like the lookout was not getting any closer. We trudged onward until we got near where the guidebook claims the last water is before the summit. I reached the area before Jennifer and scouted around for running water. There was none to be found. After the two of us wasted a fair amount of time looking for water we saw a party coming down from Tin Can Gap. We consulted them about water farther up the trail which the man stated there was glacial melt not too far past the gap. They asked us to look for their lost camera and gave us a business card to locate them if we found it. Having seen them meant no one else would be up at the lookout when we got there. A true romantic getaway!

We hiked up to Tin Can Gap and proceeded eastward. Shortly, I knocked something out of a tree. It was the woman's camera. I put it in my pocket and continued to a snow patch a bit down the trail. Here, I built a small dam and dug out the backside for a location to pump water. Unfortunately, the filter was acting up and it took a long time before it started operating correctly. (It seemed like there was air in the system, and once it was flushed out, the filter operated in a speedy fashion.) We pumped about three liters of water figuring that would be enough for the evening. (I still had about a liter or so.) We packed up and continued on.

There was a short climb down a gully with a nylon rope in it. I think this rope made us feel like the gully was more hazardous than it really was and we took a fair amount of time descending the gully. I think in early season this is a section of steep snow. After that little scramble, we figured we would take our ice axes out and use them as canes with the ability to put them away quickly if we hit any more third class terrain. Of course, it was more trail until the final snow patch and we didn't need them. It was about 6:30pm when we hit the snow, and it was soft enough to kick steps in on the way up. Jennifer was concerned about making it to the top before sundown, but I knew we were so close that barring a incident it would happen. So we made our way up the snow and then put our axes away for the last bits of third class scrambling to the ladders. We took an exposed off route way on the left face a bit before rejoining the standard route and continuing around the corner to the ladders.

The ladders do not inspire confidence. Jennifer started up the first and was quickly onto the second while I stayed a ladder behind her. She had difficulty squeezing her pack through the notch at the top of the second ladder. Once through, she was turned around and had to readjust to get up onto the rock where the final ladder rests. Once up, she hung out a bit for me to get through the squeeze. Then she proceeded up the ladder as there wasn't room for both of us below it. I quickly followed behind her and we went about opening the shelter before the sun set on us.

Once in, we went about getting ready to heat dinner while watching the sunset and setting up our sleeping bags. The wind was rough, and it took a while to light and eventually boil water for dinner. (We cooked outside as we didn't want to be responsible for burning down the lookout.) Once done, we ate dinner while watching the sunlight fade, and the lights of the cities and highway grow brighter. After dinner, we watched the stars a bit before retiring to the lookout. With the swirling winds, we shut the front door, and kept all the shudders closed except the one for the door. It was difficult to sleep with the wind. Jennifer had thoughts of falling off the bed onto the floor, while I thought the whole lookout would be swept over the edge to land 2000' below on the glacier. We set our alarms to be up for sunrise.

We eventually got to sleep, and woke in the middle of the night to go pee and look at the stars. We quickly retreated to the warmth of the lookout to sleep until sunrise. Our alarms went off, but there was still no light. Jennifer fell back asleep quickly, while I lay awake. I woke her up shortly afterward to help raise the shutter on the east side exit window. (We had left the window open for ventilation overnight, but never raised the shutter.) After she helped me and saw a bit of the sun rise, Jennifer returned to bed. I stayed awake photographing different stages of the sun rising. I alternated between that, reading a mountain trivia book that was in the lookout and cleaning up. When Jennifer finally awoke for good it was around 7:30am. We didn't have a whole lot of water left and she wanted coffee, so I told her it was in our best interest to descend. Especially if the low clouds to the west decided to start rising and envelope the summit.

We packed up and closed up the shelter. Then I led out to down climb the ladders. While the ladders are easy, one slip could mean death from the top area, while the bottom two are less exposed. I moved over to the ladder and got down it so Jennifer could get on it. I did a bit of awkward maneuvering to get to the next lower position and Jennifer continued down. I started down the second ladder so she could move into position above it. I sped my way down to the bottom ladder and watched her climb the rest of the way down. The ladders definitely felt worse on the way down. And the squeeze move was a little scary pushing out through the squeeze into space rather than squeezing into a secure spot while going up. After the ladders we made quick work of the scramble bits above the snow. We admired the view a bit, and then put on crampons for the walk down the snow. While not necessary, they were nice to have. The snowfield is not very steep, and there is plenty of space to arrest a fall before hitting the rocks at the bottom. Plus the snow was softening up quickly with the morning sun hitting it.

After the snowfield we hiked down a bit to the real last spot for water before the summit. (Around 6200', right on the trail.) We stopped to filter more water and eat breakfast. The pump once again was being uncooperative, and we stopped after filtering about two liters of water. Figuring it wasn't that hot yet, and we were heading downhill. We should be able to make it to the car with that much.

With that, we started hiking the trail back. Each little bit of second class terrain we said "that is the last hard bit." Then we headed back up the gully with the rope. After making quick work of that, it was time to convert pants into shorts, and keep our trekking poles out for good. Just above Tin Pan Gap we saw a solo scrambler. She was concerned about the snow as she had running shoes on and no poles, ax or crampons. We told her what we experienced and she said she would make a decision when she got there. (Judging by the fact she didn't catch us on the way out, I'd say she went for it.)

At Tin Can Gap we met a party of two men and just below we met another party of two men, all headed for the summit on day trips. We hiked and hiked and stopped to pick blueberries a bit after passing Goat Flats. Other than birds, frogs, and a lone marmot, we did not see any other fauna. (Except perhaps whatever bit me and left large red itchy welts on my arms.) The blueberries were great considering how late in the season it is and that the leaves are turning and falling off of the bushes.

We made a last stop at Saddle Lake before gutting it out to the car. Once at the car we chugged water and drove the 17 miles out on the forest road before eventually driving home.

This was a super enjoyable trip. Partly because of sharing it with my new wife, but also because it was extremely beautiful. We had a lovely honeymoon trip. If I was to do this trip again, (for the fondue party??) I would plan/pack a little differently. First, we had brought helmets and I probably wouldn't if doing it again this time of year. We did actually use the helmets, and that was partially because we brought them, but mostly because it was easier to do the squeeze at the top of the second ladder with a helmet on your head and not on/in your pack. (We didn't wear the helmets at all on the way up.) Also, I would probably bring an ax, but not crampons. The amount of snow is short enough that if it required crampons, one could always use the ax to hack steps out. It was amazing to me the low volume packs that the day trippers were heading up with. I also think it would be interesting to do the trip in earlier season when the route is more snow and less trail near the top. That may require crampons, helmet and an ax.

One last thing, they were grading the road while we were on our way out. I can't say that it was any better, it seemed more like they were just spreading loose dirt over a decent hard packed gravel road.

My pics are here.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Argonaut - SE Ridge - 09.12-13.09

Elevation Gain: ~7000'
15+ miles RT
Two days

It was time to revisit the Southeast Ridge on Argonaut Peak. Last year Julie and I attempted it and started technical climbing way too early and had to bail because of it. This time I felt confident that the approach would go better and that we would successfully complete the climb. Since misery loves company, I recruited four others to join me on this expedition.

The game plan was similar to the previous year in that we would get a casual start on Saturday and hike in to camp. Once camp was setup, we'd go scout the approach. One difference is that we would use the Beverly Creek Trail Head instead of going over Long's Pass. This would save five miles driving, and eliminate about 1000' of needless elevation gain. As well as avoiding the light scrambling involved with crossing Long's Pass. I briefly considered an approach up Ingall's Creek Trail, but the drive was longer and nine miles seemed way too far to walk to camp. Although it did have the benefit of being all downhill on the way out.

By 3pm we had set up camp at the junction of 4th Creek and Ingall's Creek trails. We left our gear and headed east to scout the approach. Instead of going up Porcupine Creek like Julie and I had done the year before, we were going to go up the next (unnamed) creek to the east which has a large drainage scattered with beautiful white granite boulders. There were actually a few cairns up the drainage, but they stopped after a while, and who knows what they were meant to signify anyway? Adam, Zach and Matt got tired, and Gerry and I continued up the drainage to around 4500' where we exited left on some game trails. The going was good and we successfully reached Porcupine Creek higher up with what looked like 500' vertical of bushwhacking before we could gain the slabs of the upper basin. Feeling good about our scouting we returned to the boys lounging on a boulder in the drainage.

We got back to camp and did the usual camp things like eating and pumping water. We discussed wake up time and packing for the climb. I recommended that we all carry packs so when we switched into rock shoes a follower wouldn't be bogged down with lots of boots in the pack. We agreed on a wake up time and were planning on hiking at 5am.

Alarms went off and we were hiking at five. Going up the drainage was a bit slowed by headlamp usage, but we eventually made our cut off and were on a mild rising traverse toward Porcupine Creek. Once there we had a small bit of bushwhacking to get out of the trees, and then reentered the trees higher up back on game trails and easy going up to the slabs. Once out on the slabs, we made our way higher and westward toward the ridge. We made a last stop at the creek to filter water as we wouldn't find any on route. Then we started looking for the leftward trending ramp that gains the ridge from the Beckey description. Around 7200' we found one that fit the description which was a 2nd class goat ramp to the ridge. (Although lots of scat and tracks were seen, we didn't see any goats the whole trip.)

Once on the ridge we scrambled a bit before we got to a low 5th class dihedral which marked the point where we would gear up and be on ropes. We let Matt and Gerry go first figuring the two man team would be faster and be able to do the route finding while our slower three man team would plod along behind them. I took the first few leads and was making the moves up the dihedral in my approach shoes. Right after the dihedral the terrain was fairly 3rd class and I moved a bit before setting up a belay due to horrendous rope drag. I brought Adam and Zach up together and I was heading off to lead the next pitch. (We decided to lead in blocks due to rope management issues with the three man team.)

I believe the next pitch I didn't suffer from the rope drag as much and was able to go a full rope length across some slabby bits before setting up a belay. This time I brought the guys up separately and then I was belayed a short distance to move the belay to a good spot for the next pitch. At this point, Matt and Gerry and disappeared around a corner after attempting to go up a larger bump on the ridge.

We reorganized the ropes and Zach was off leading around the corner. So far everything was low 5th class and we seemed to be moving fine, but Matt and Gerry were running away from us. After Zach's first lead we wound up around a corner where Matt and Gerry then downclimbed to easier terrain and scrambled to the base of the next pitch. Zach thought that seemed conveluted and wanted to remain on the ridge, which had a series of small gendarmes. Zach headed off on a slow pitch up and over a few small gendarmes before the rope drag got the best of him. He brought Adam and I over and we then decided to follow the other guy's lead and downclimb to easier terrain and then scramble to the base of the next pitch.

Once there, we were at a section I called "Wall of the Eights." As there was a short wall with numerous cracks up it that all looked a bit harder than the 5.6 claim for the route. (One of the cracks was a 8' overhanging hand crack.) Adam took the lead and backed off the hand crack and finally found an easier way around to the right on the ridge crest. It was sketchy due to the friction climbing and high lichen coverage on the rock. Once through the initial section Adam was able to run out a full rope length to a belay where he brought us up. At this point he declined to continue leading as he felt he was costing us too much time. Since I knew the roof pitch was coming up and I wanted Zach to lead it, I took the next lead.

Fortunately, I had switched to rock shoes on the gendarme pitch and was doing my first lead in rock shoes instead of the approach shoes. This was good as there were a bunch of options on this next wall as well, including the one I took which involved lichen covered foot holds and some thin crack liebacking. Through the first bit I went on to tackle the next bit, but the rope drag once again brought me down. I set up a anchor and belayed in Adam and then Zach. From this point on, we would have someone on the end of the rope lead so they did not have to deal with drag from both ropes.

At the belay I handed over the lead to Zach and he went up the next section which had three options at the top of a 8' off width crack. There was a really nice looking hand traverse going left, a finger crack that continued above an overlap straight up, and a not so clean crack heading a short distance right. Zach felt the rightward option was the easiest but couldn't manage the move without placing a cam and using it as a hold. Once through the initial moves, he zipped up the pitch to bring Adam and I up.

Since I was tied in at the middle (tied to both ropes,) I was the first up and was able to belay Adam up while Zach re-racked for the next pitch which we hoped was the roof pitch. Once Adam was up, he belayed Zach off on the pitch only to have Zach almost run out of rope and have to call it quits just before the roof. This pitch was excellent climbing on varied terrain that ended in a belay just below a large roof. According the Beckey, this is one of the 5.6 pitches. Once we were all under the roof, Zach had the daunting task of leading up around it. While the climbing wasn't super difficult technically, it was strenuous and Zach was huffing and puffing his way up. This made Adam and I a bit concerned as we are not as strong as Zach. Once I started the moves, I too was huffing to get through it, which seemed to make Adam more concerned as well. Once at the top belay, we were on top of Argonaut's Southeast Spire. Zach belayed me to a notch where I set up a rappel.

There is the option of one single rope, or two double rope rappels to the notch. Neither anchor is great, so maybe it is better to do it as two single rope rappels. Matt and Gerry set up their rope on the lower anchor, so I was able to rap through to the notch between the spire and the false summit and join the other rope team patiently waiting there. The view of the false summit pitches were daunting. Supposedly two pitches with 5.6 hand crack. The whole face looked like hand cracks!

Anyway, by the time we were done with the raps it was 7pm and there was no way we could attempt the summit. Fortunately, it is a 2nd/3rd class scramble down from the notch and that is what we did. We got benighted on the way down which made the scrambling a bit more tedious. Around 6800', we stopped to filter water from a tiny stream and watch a Blackhawk helicopter fly around Mount Stuart. Then we were off again. We were attempting to connect with the summit walk off, but it was way too difficult in the headlamp conditions we were in.

We eventually made our way skier's right of the gully and in easier terrain. Then things got a little confusing before we found a cairn. (Which in the darkness seemed randomly placed.) We couldn't locate a path associated with it, and decided it meant it was time to follow the fall line. A bit of fall line travel got us into nicer terrain with big trees following game trails down. Then we ran into a bushwhack. I think we had to negotiate around 300' vertical of a stiff BW3 which had us all mindless and wanting to stop. (Fortunately we had kept our helmets on which minimized the damage.)

We eventually persevered and were back in less vegetated forest. We were getting close and then, I stumbled upon the trail. We arrived back at camp at midnight where I suggested a nap or sleep before hiking out. Gerry and Zach weren't in favor of that idea, so I gave in and we packed up and headed out. After the slow six mile plod out we were back at the cars. A potato chip snack and some water, and we were on our way.

We arrived in Seattle a little after 7am, where I went home and went to sleep for a few hours.

So we did not summit. At least we seemed to be on route this time and the climbing was enjoyable if a bit lichen covered at times. The position on the ridge is quite nice too. I think for this route to go, you need to bivy in the upper basin and do a full-on carryover. But I think it will be long time before I attempt to revisit this one again.

I also learned that it is a really bad idea to try a rope team of three on a ridge climb like this. There just seemed to be too many issues that hindered our team. There was no logical or easy way to simulclimb for one thing. Another was the rope drag. Just the basic rope management flaking added time to our climbing. The whole party would have been faster if it was three teams of two instead of one rope of two and one team of three.

My pictures are here.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Observation Rock - North Face - 09.02.09

Happy 100th post!

Elevation Gain: 3800'
10 miles RT
Left car: 7:30 am
Summit: 3:00 pm
Back at car: 6:45 pm
11.25 hours car to car

GPS route and topo provided by John Banes. The GPS has us going 11.5 miles and 4332' of elevation gain.

Planned a climb for Observation Rock mid week to avoid the crowds and was joined by Adam, Rich and John. Adam, John and I drove down from Seattle and met Rich at the Mowich Lake Trail Head. We geared up and were off.

We were going to use the Knapsack Pass approach to the climb as I felt it may be faster, or at least shorter. It took a bit of finding near the ranger's cabin at Mowich Lake and then we were heading up the trail. It took us an hour to reach Knapsack Pass (where we took a short break) on a pretty good trail which continued down the other side for a bit. Around 6000', the trail disappeared into a boulder field. There were a few cairns and then nothing. We picked our way through the boulder field which was somewhat loose and arrived at a gully on the other side. We watched a herd of goats scramble up the hillside before we were able to skirt the top of the gully on a snowfield where we picked up a faint trail and continued down to the Wonderland Trail.

The hike down to the intersection of the Wonderland Trail took longer than expected. Once there, we turned left and went about a 1/4 mile up hill (steps mostly) to the turn off for Observation Rock. We got on the climber's trail and headed up. This trail too is longer than it appears, and we spent a good deal of time getting closer to Observation Rock. Once closer to our destination the trail peters out a bit and we had to pick our way through a few little bumps on the ridge to where we could leave the moraine and head to the base of the north face.

We stopped there to gear up as rockfall is always hazardous this time of year at the base. We geared up, and scrambled the last bit of loose rock to the base where we got pelted with small rocks falling.

Adam and John quickly started out on their respective leads while Rich and I dodged golf ball sized rocks at the base. Soon we were simul climbing and getting out of the bulk of rockfall danger. (Although it did not feel soon enough.) The climbing was generally lower angle and easy at first, and Rich and I did join our respective partners at the first belay.

I led out on the next pitch going up through some solid ice with running water on top. Then conditions changed to a hollow snice on top of who knows what. I ran up a section of this between two muddy sections flanking it and was able to place a screw at the top. I continued a bit further where there was a nice stance and decided to set a belay. (I thought about continuing, but the stance was too nice to pass up as a belay.) Rich had made it a bit farther than me over to my left, but his stance looked significantly less comfortable than mine. And I remember from last time I climbed Observation Rock, that I got tired at bad belay stances.

I started to bring Adam up right after a softball sized rock whizzed by within six feet of him. He made his way up to me where he complained that his calves were toast, but that didn't stop him from racking up to lead off on the final pitch. I instructed him to use the water grooves as good rests and to try to resist front pointing to save his calves.

Adam headed out trending rightward up the grooves until it was feasible for him to head straight up. It was around this point that we realized he wouldn't hit flat snow/ice with the amount of rope left. He was fortunate to get to significantly less steep terrain with a decent ledge to set up a belay. I headed up quickly as my heels were hurting from my boots and I was a bit dehydrated and wanted to drink and eat at the top. Once passed Adam, he tore down the belay and we headed closer to the rock wall in hopes of getting in the shade.

Due to the moat and the crumbling rock wall, we had to stay on the snow to remove our gear and eat lunch. Fortunately the partly cloudy part of the day was starting and we were occasionally gifted with clouds blocking the sun. We sat down and eat and drank for at least a half hour. I took off my boots and taped my ankles even though I am pretty sure I was not getting blisters. However, I had to do something as I was experiencing lots of discomfort. Adam took a brief nap. Then we packed up to head to the summit.

The hike to the summit was a little rough. Typical two steps up and one step back on loose pumice. At least the rock was small and light and you are less concerned about injury from it. Just below the summit we dropped our packs before the last bit. What a relief. We all agreed that not having a pack made uphill travel easier. (Thank you team obvious.) We lounged at the summit a bit before starting back down.

We picked our way around the summit to the descent plunge stepping into loose pumice and even skiing it a bit. We made a brief stop to filter some water. Then we made our way back down to another section of the Flett Glacier between Echo and Observation Rocks and started walking down it. It soon turned to ice and we put our crampons on for a speedier direct descent down the glacier. Around a rock outcropping we continued down the glacier until we could move left toward a snowfield and regain the rock. We continued with our crampons on through a loose rock band and then down another snowfield before taking our crampons off near a well developed bivy site.

We regained the trail and started our long trail walk back to Knapsack Pass. Once again the trail took longer than it seemed. (Perhaps because we could see the pass the whole time?) We returned to the intersection with the Wonderland Trail and proceeded to get on the trail to Knapsack Pass. Now on the trail we had less navigational issues as it was fairly easy to stay on trail. Although due to the lengthy feel of the hike, we had thought we were off route at one point, only to be confirmed on route by John's GPS. We continued until we hit the boulderfield where we initially took a higher crossing and moved through it a bit quicker. Nearing the trail on the other side of the boulders, we dropped lower to a cairn only to have to climb back up to the trail. Back on the trail we dispatched that last of our uphill hiking to take a brief break at the pass before dropping the 1200' down to Mowich Lake.

Overall this was a fun trip with a friend and some new people. The conditions of the climb were much worse than when I had previously climbed it in 2007. This time around the ice was dirtier, and there was more rockfall. (And we climbing in late September in '07.) This is probably due to the extremely warm summer we have been having. Another thing too was that the face seemed to be mostly lit. I remember having no sun on the face for the climb and being quite cold last time. This time I prepared for it, but the sun raced up the slope with us leaving me somewhat dehydrated after the technical portion. (I drank five liters of water throughout the day.) Temps were high and this led to a general discomfort on my part as I was expecting things to be a touch cooler above 7000' and in the shade.

I have to say while I don't know if the Knapsack Pass approach was any quicker, it was a more interesting way to go. The 3+ miles of trail to get to Spray Park are not boring, but are tedious on the return and don't provide much along the way of views on the way in. The alternate approach kept our interest and gave us good views of Mist Park and some light scrambling as well. Although it may not be specific to this approach, the goat herd(s) in the area were actually afraid of people which I guess means they are not acclimated and expect food etc. from us. This is a totally different experience than Washington Pass or Enchantments goats. Also, I presume if you wanted to, you could also summit Fay Peak on the way out if you had the energy.

Speaking of scrambling peaks, my original intent was to scramble Echo Rock after the Observation Rock climb. However, we were a little late, and my feet were acting up. Adam was also in the fourth day of climbing out of the last five and was pretty knackered. Upon getting a closer look at Echo and the route up it, I don't know if I'd ever scramble it as the rock just seems horribly loose and the terrain steep enough to incur death with a mishap. John made the comment that it was a giant cairn.

Another issue is what was happening with my boots. I had a hot spot on the way up to Knapsack Pass in the morning which I addressed, but it continued. I then got a hot spot on the other foot as well. I attempted different lacings and by the top of the ice climbing I was practically in pain. Surprisingly I had no blister, but soggy feet. I bandaged and taped them, but they still gave me discomfort on the way down. This is the first time I had experienced problems with this particular pair of boots. I thought it may be due to walking a long distance is a stiff boot. And I am not unwilling to rule out walking in warm temps in an insulated boot as a contributing factor. It could be that my feet haven't truly recovered from the Forbidden epic, and wearing boots is going to be uncomfortable for me for a while.

My pics are here.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Exit 38 - The Gun Show - 08.31.09

Steve and I were not feeling up to the rematch with Dreamer. (Two days earlier I had the long damp hike to Thompson, and on Sunday he was crashing, I mean jumping BMX bikes. So we canceled. I called Adam to see if he was still available and we made a plan to head to Exit 38, the Gun Show area. (Perhaps named for the numerous steep routes there?) We were heading there to climb a slab route and get on some other routes that perhaps we could.

First stop was Endless Bliss. When Steve led this and I followed it earlier this year, I knew I wanted to come back and lead it. I was hoping to do so on Thursday night with Sammy and crew, but things have been falling apart for Thursdays and this was an opportunity to do it in the afternoon, and surprisingly with no one else on route. (I have said it, and it is close to true, but it is the best route at Exit 38.) We geared up at the base and I was off. The climb can be done in two pitches, but we opted for the single long pitch. I led off and everything was going well until around the crux. I went to clip a bolt with a Yosemite draw and the biner came off with the rope. This sketched me out pretty good and I ended up placing another draw rather than attempt to reconnect the biner. The next few clips were high drama (in my head at least.) The second half of the climb is easier. And with my more settled head, I finished up the route.

Adam passed the crux on Endless Bliss

I brought Adam up and he fell and hung around the crux with his calves burning. (Just before the short fall, I could see him trying to shake his legs out.) One you get to this difficulty of slab climbing, usually it is better to move through the cruxes fast and get your rest later (or before.) I think that is what sketched me out when I had the draw mishap. After Adam reached the top, I lowered him off and proceeded to complete the two raps to the base. I looked at the next route left of Bliss and decided I really wasn't interested in leading it today.

So we walked over another route to the left. This is a two pitch route, that is rated 5.10-. The first bit is steep and blocky but appears to ease off after the first three bolts. (Generously placed in the first 15'.) Adam said if I lead it, he'll follow. So I started up. Two clips up I couldn't seem to find an adequate hold and hung a bit. I lowered off and tried again. Same issue. I hung a bit more until I figured out the moves and I was off to slightly less steep ground and a few feet to the next bolt. This lower angle (read 89°) section was the easiest of the pitch, and I should have relished that. However, I cruised up higher through steep moves before hanging again at a point where the route went right. Once again, I couldn't seem to find a hand hold. I hung a bunch of times, I tried to go straight up, but I couldn't seem to make the move. I finally tried moving a little right before up and right but my feet weren't right. I hung again, and the next attempt the feet seemed right and for some reason, I was an inch higher and was able to grab a nice hold that I didn't know existed earlier. After that I sailed through the next few bolts to the anchor.

Adam hangdoggin' on Elation...

I brought Adam up who struggled on the first three bolt section and then seemed to cruise the rest of the pitch. Unlike Endless Bliss, this pitch was a real arm burner. However, things were about to change. The second pitch is a slab, not unlike Endless Bliss. I handed the lead over to Adam who led up hanging on a few bolts, and grabbing a couple more. I followed and found the crux of the second pitch to be a touch harder than Endless Bliss. After this calf burner we rapped off.
Adam rapping the first pitch of Elation...

Once at the bottom we figured we were a little spent to keep climbing the harder routes there and moved on to Squishy Bell to finish up the day.

After the hike up, Adam led the 5.6 on the left side, and then the 5.8 next to it. I followed both routes climbing in my new approach shoes. The shoes climb better than I may have hoped. Although they will take a little getting used to and trusting before I lead climb something hard in them. While I had no issues on the 5.6, the 5.8 required some smaller footholds that I was thinking the shoes would blow off of. Each time I told Adam to watch me as I thought my foot would blow off, he said before he could take up any slack, I was already above the move. So it may just be a trust issue, but they sure are comfy to climb in. Hurrah for light comfy approach shoes I can climb in. I can't wait to see how they feel with a crampon on a glacier!

Overall a nice half day out. It was fun to lead Endless Bliss. However, Elation at the End of Eternity was an equally nice climb with the added bonus of having a completely different character from one pitch to the next. Although it doesn't have the same wonderful position of Endless Bliss. It was nice to get to work out my new approach shoes as well on some easier stuff. Most of all, it made me glad Steve and I didn't attempt Dreamer, as I wasn't in top form, and Dreamer is probably going to require that of me.