Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Three O' Clock Rock - The Kone - 02.22.10

With the great weather Steve wanted to get out Monday. He was thinking the North Face of Chair, but when the trip reports started coming in over the weekend, we moved our sights to rock. Thankfully, as I had already climbed Chair this winter and wanted to get to Darrington and on the rock. We decided on The Kone, a five pitch route rated at 5.9. Steve's coworker Gene would also be joining us.

I picked up Steve and we met Gene in the Arlington Park and Ride. Gene drove the rest of the way. We had a casual start and even though it was after 9am by the time we got to the forest road, there was still plenty of frost in the deep valley. The car's outside temp gauge was reading around 34°F. We stopped at the parking area and headed up the trail. We arrived in short time and went about determining where The Kone started. Once we figured it out, we geared up and scrambled to the base where Gene took the first lead.

The climbing was a bit run out with bolts and a few opportunities for gear. I believe Gene placed only one alien during the pitch. The bolts and the anchor could be seen from the base of the route. I was the monkey in the middle tied into both ropes, so I followed and cleaned gear. When I got to the stance at top, I belayed Steve up. For the sake of rope management and expediency, Steve took the next lead.

The second pitch is a short run out pitch around 5.4. Steve figured he could combine it with the 5.9 third pitch and did. There was an option to take a 5.7 bypass around the overlap but Steve was having none of that. Soon he was bringing me up to the next belay. The belay was quite the hanging belay with little rests for feet. There was a fairly good sized knob that Steve kept imploring me to sit on to rest my feet. But I could not get comfortable and danced around the whole time I was at that stance. Once again due to racking and management, (and the lack of the stance to accommodate three people) when Gene arrived at the belay we sent him out to lead the fourth pitch.

The fourth pitch was a completely bolted affair and in no time Gene was bringing me up. When I arrived at Gene's stance, he suggested I lead the fifth pitch right now and after some rope rearranging, I was off to the final anchor. This was nice, as climbing was possibly slightly easier on my feet than the tight hanging belay station at the top of the third pitch. Once at the top, I was off belay and Gene brought Steve up the fourth pitch before I brought Gene up the fifth pitch. Gene then belayed Steve up the final pitch.

We then set about doing our rappels. The raps in Darrington are usually set up for a double 50m rope rappel. However, we had one 70m and one 55m rope and felt that some of the raps from this route could have been completed with just the 70m. Although I guess to be safe, it is best to stick with the double rope rappels. Not all the rap anchors were new either and there were definitely some museum pieces we were rapping off of. We backed up one set of slings with a new sling on one of the anchors as well.

After that, it was late afternoon, and we decided to call it a day. The climbing was fun and we had a good time. We noticed while we were there that Under the Bored Walk appeared to be rebolted with modern hardware. That is one I anticipate climbing some time this year. The Kone was 99% dry and it appeared other routes did have some seeps on them. It was nice to get out on the rock. In the sun it was beautiful and warm, but on the rappels, the sun went behind the ridge and the temp dropped. I was happy to get a lead in as I felt I climbed better on lead than following. (Which can often be the case for me.) The climbing was enjoyable and it was a route I would repeat, although not anytime soon. Also, the book stated small rack to 2.5". I think only two or three pieces of gear were placed on the route, and they were all aliens. So if you plan to do The Kone, bring a set of blue through red aliens and that should be all the gear you need.

My pics are here.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Tooth - South Face - 02.20.10

2600' Elevation Gain
4 miles RT
Left Car: ~8 am
Summit: approx 3pm
Return to car: 7:30pm
<12 hours car to car

Ken wanted to knock out one of his winter goals of climbing The Tooth. He was recovering from a tweaked ankle and felt that his ankle was up to it. I warned him it may not be as easy as he thinks while trying to paint a picture of the conditions Julie and I climbed in last February. This time I packed steel crampons in case I felt I needed to climb in them.

We got off to a casual start and saw a few guys in the parking lot with plastic boots. (One was in Randonee boots, but no skis.) Since they had a rope, but no ice tools we figured they were headed for the same destination. We knew due to trip reports, that the North Face of Chair would be a zoo as everyone in the state would be descending upon it. So we would have one other party to work with. No big deal.

Three of us donned snowshoes from the start although they were not needed on the groomed road, it was nice to have their crampons when we left the road and the "trail" got icy. At which point, Jack who does not own snowshoes donned crampons for the ice (after prompted by a slip and fall.) We made time to the hanging valley although the path up was arduous and not very tracked snow. We were happy we made the decision to go with snowshoes, and I was especially happy I now had snowshoes with a riser bar. (And better still, that I could operate the riser bar with my trekking poles which have a notch in the handle for such tasks. Once in the hanging valley we took a break in the sun and donned a layer as it was colder and more windy higher up and we would be in the shade until getting on the rock. At this time we could see the party ahead of us and knew they were headed for the same destination.

We originally contemplated caching our snowshoes at the big boulder in the basin, but opted not to as they were helping more than ever near the head of the valley. We took them off near the entrance to the notch gully where we had to do a sketchy traverse over the cornice. (Which seemed safer than attempting to go through it on the right.) After that, Ken set a hand line for us to make the high traverse on the other side. Then we scurried up to Pineapple Pass.

The other party was still on the first pitch, so we geared up while they moved on. It turned out the guy hiking in ski boots had brought rock shoes, but the other guy was going to climb in his plastics. The original idea was I would combine the first two pitches, and Ken would have the second two. Jack and Dylan would climb together and decide who led what pitch. I led the first pitch, but due to rope drag, and an abundance of pro placement I opted to stop at the top of the first pitch and bring Ken up. That would also give Jack and Dylan the ability to get on the rock sooner. While definitely more attention grabbing than in summer, the first pitch was not nearly as scary as last February where virtually all holds had snow or ice on them. Many of the larger ledges did have snow and ice on them, but the smaller holds did not. And at no time was I wishing to have crampons on. In full sun the rock was warmer too. This meant I got to climb in bare hands and not in gloves which may have reduced the spiciness. While Ken climbed the pitch, the sun went behind clouds and with his wet gloves on struggled to maintain warm hands.

When Ken came up I offered him the pitch two lead and he set about climbing it. There was a funky two piton anchor part way up that he was glad to clip into. Then he placed a nut and a cam to protect an awkward mantle into snow from rock. The rest of the pitch he danced around the snow up the slab to the belay tree. I took the next pitch.

Although the party ahead of us had kicked nice steps into the snow on the third pitch, the sun was back out and it felt pretty sketchy on the soft snow and I opted to take the ice ax with me. (We had brought it up in case we felt we wanted it.) While it added security, it was better for keeping my hand out of the snow and getting cold for the rock bits. I brought Ken up and we contemplated the final pitch. Normally Ken likes to take the ramp, but the right side is supposed to be easier up to the rappel tree. So he decided on it and was on his way.

Since there was a traverse to the right on snow under the wall, Ken set a nut before heading out that way. Neither of us had climbed this section before and Ken did not know where to start. So he set about trying to place pro. After a cam and a slung horn, he tried to chop some ice to get at the stuck cam that had been there for years. (It was now joined by another BD .3 Camalot.) Since they were encased in ice he opted to place his own cam and had a web of rope around him. He removed the first cam he placed and straightened out the rope to reduce drag. Then he started upward. We did not realize until rapping off the summit that this was not the easy way. Ken likened it to 5.7, and when I got there I would say it was not 5.4, but hard to tell. Ken led a touchy lead up the left of the three or so small corners. It had awkward moves with not so go foot placements in between nice ledges. At one point Ken was doing the Fred Flintstone up. When we saw the two fixed cams on the right side corner, we knew that was supposed to be the easy way. Oh well, it was fun and interesting.

I led out the last bit to the summit from the rappel tree which consisted of steep snow. I was able to find a one foot square block to belay Ken up from. We hung out on the snow dome and noticed the paw prints of something that could have been a fox, coyote or bob cat. Wild. We watched as we saw people reaching the summit of Chair. As it was getting late, I belayed Ken back to the tree and took the ax so I could follow down. The last step before the rap tree alcove was tricky, but then I was back into the relative safety of the alcove. Ken had stopped Dylan and Jack from continuing up and they were setting a rappel from the top of the third pitch tree. Ken rapped to their anchor and I followed. It was nice to be in the sun again after hanging out at the windy and shady top rap station.

Our second rappel got us to the top of the second pitch and we set a double rope rappel to the base. Jack, Ken and Dylan all rapped on single strands before I tore out the extra anchoring and rapped last to the packs. It was starting to get dark and we were quickly getting ready to go. After the long period of time it took to get up and over the notch and to Pineapple Pass, we decided to rappel from Pineapple Pass down into the basin. Ken went first, as I was hesitant about cutting through the cornice. I followed and Dylan and Jack came behind. There was an issue and then we were back on snowshoes hiking out.

Once we hit the steep part exiting the hanging valley it was time for headlamps. We also removed snowshoes for this part as it seemed easier to descend without them. Although I will state having my new shorter snowshoes made it much easier to go down steep hills with them. There were plenty of times during the day where I stated aloud "I would not have felt comfortable doing that in my old snowshoes." Once back at the trail, we put the snowshoes on for the slog out.

This was a great trip, and it was fun to get out in the mountains on a climb with Ken. The route was in much easier shape than last year when Julie and I attempted it. Or perhaps the bluebird sunny day just made it feel easier. I looked at last years pics, and it did seem like there was more snow then. The climbing was enjoyable and Ken and I had a great time. Ken also got to take one of his 2010 goals off the tick list and that always feels nice. I'm pretty happy about this trip and hopefully I will remember that at the end of the year when I am reminiscing.

My pics are here.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Hyalite Canyon Ice - 02.13-15.10

At the beginning of the winter, Matt was trying to drum up interest in an ice climbing trip to Vermont for the February weekend he had off from school. I countered with a possible Joshua Tree trip, and due to funds and access, a more local venue was chosen. The venue in this case was Hyalite Canyon just south of Bozeman Montana. Matt managed to get an even six of us to go and the plan was to leave Friday, and come back Tuesday with three full days of climbing in between. Unfortunately, the day before we left I awoke with a sore throat. I hoped it would go away, but by the time we were in the car heading to Bozeman I had a respiratory infection. The ailment would put a damper on my weekend, but I strove to have fun.

We got a late start on our travel day and the vehicle I was in did not arrive in Bozeman until some time around midnight. After securing a hotel room with three beds, we got about to getting to sleep in an effort to maximize our time the next day.

Once again hobbled by a late start, we probably arrived in the parking lot around 10am. We choose the area with the shortest approach and great assortment of climbs, the Genesis area. It had snowed the previous day and I gave my new snowshoes a try. They were not needed on the packed trail, and unfortunately ineffective in the thigh deep powder off the trail. (I'm sure they work great on "Cascade Concrete".) They would be relegated along with all the snowshoes to the hotel for the remainder of the trip.

We arrived in less than 20 minutes at the Genesis area. Josh and Adam went about setting up top ropes on the G1 wall where everyone took turns climbing routes in the WI4 & 5 range. I attempted a couple of routes but was too weak to climb such steep routes due to my condition and would have to lower off before even gaining the halfway point. I took some pictures and mostly belayed and tried to stay warm in the light snow. After everyone had their shot at three different routes we tore down the top ropes and headed north along the wall to reach other routes that we could lead. While I led Tree Clump, Matt and Josh climbed up Lower Greensleeves and onto Hang Over. Adam followed me on Tree Clump where we originally climbed the easier left side and then top roped the steeper right side before rappelling back down. Upon arriving at the base of Lower Greensleeves, we alerted Zach and Alex who had just topped out that the time was 3:45pm. They set up a rappel and were soon joined by Josh and Matt coming back from their climb of Hang Over.

That evening we went to the Montana Ale Works for dinner and had bison burgers. While I recommend the food and local beer selection, it is not a great choice for a Saturday night as we had to wait nearly an hour before being seated.

Sunday morning we had an earlier start with clear skies and much colder temps than the previous day. We didn't make a decision until the parking lot that we would go to the Mummy Cooler area to check out climbs there. The hike up was fairly long (an hour?) before we got to the routes Mummy Cooler II and the Scepter. Unfortunately there was a considerable avalanche danger and we opted not to climb Cooler II which looked like an awesome route. We went around the corner to a route that was not in the sun and was quite cold at the base. It may have been called Mummy Orchid. Josh led Adam up in one pitch, while Zach led the first bit and I led the second bit with a funky frozen moss top out. Matt led Alex up in one pitch as well. We rapped the route and everyone but me top roped a pillar near the second part of the route. While Matt and Alex finished the top roping, the rest of us headed south to other climbs.

Josh had spied "The Matrix" earlier and saw it in much fatter conditions than the guide picture. It is normally rated an M4, WI4, 5.9 or something like that. The fatter conditions rendered it more like a WI3+ or 4 and Josh wanted at it. Zach and I went a little further and climbed Cave and Gully a decent WI3 route in the sun. Unfortunately because of the sun the outer ice was a bit rotten and ice on the second step was seriously delaminating and a little sketchy. Zach led, and I followed after taking a short fall right near the start before realizing the surface ice was not to be trusted. We hung out on top until Matt and Alex arrived before we rapped off in the direction of Feeding the Cat. We arrived to a joyed Josh and Adam after their successful completion of The Matrix, or the variation they climbed. And we all made the long hike back out to the car from that location.

On day three we headed to the Amphitheater wall to climb the corner climbs. I think the original intent was to do a little top roping there and then head to Mummy Cooler I to do some easier leading. (Alex was interested in getting a lead in.) After Josh and Matt set up top ropes, Zach and Josh quickly finished Fat Chance and then started on Slim Chance. Both are supposed to be WI3, but Slim Chance had become overhanging possibly due to the super fat condition it was in.

I belayed Alex on a mock lead before tackling Fat Chance myself. Unfortunately, I had Alex leave the screws in and I was going to remove them on the way down. This proved to be a hazard, as the rope caught on one of the screws while I was heading on a different track around a bulge from the line Alex took. Suddenly I was in a situation where I was leading. I attempted to flip the rope, but there was too much tension, even after Adam gave me slack. I told him I was going to try to climb above to a better stance and then attempt to flip the rope. I really did not want to traverse back over the steeper bulge to the screw. After a few strenuous moves up the rope felt like an anvil pulling me down and my legs were getting tired. A few moves and I would be on a decent ledge like stance, but the rope tension was too much. Now I was set to take quite a fall. I finally gave in to a down climb. I made some moves down and then across the bulge before finally flipping the rope off the screw. At that point I was so pumped I just decided to come off the wall and get lowered. What an ordeal.

I rested a bit on the ground while eating lunch and gave Slim Chance a try with Zach's Quarks. The route was steep, and I was overgripping the unleashed tools with the fat gloves I was wearing. I got up a bit on the climb but was already too pumped to continue. Later after more rest I gave an attempt on the line that Josh set up a third top rope for. This line started on Thin Chance (or in Alex's case half on Thin Chance, half on the rock.) I made a few moves and felt good until I stepped up and couldn't locate a position for my left foot. I backed off and that concluded a somewhat depressing third day in Hyalite for me. Later Zach would tackle the line that moved from near the top of Slim Chance over to an icicle on the left. With all of us watching, he successfully completed the climb without taking or falling. He even threw in a figure four move for the cameras! After that, Josh climbed Slim Chance one more time to tear the anchors and the group decided that it was a good time to leave. (It was around 2pm.)

Overall it was a good trip. Since I was not the organizer, I took the position of being a participant. This was frustrating at times when we were not organized, or my voice wasn't heard when picking an eatery. I enjoyed myself on the trip, but could have enjoyed it more if I was not ill. The climbing was great and I would like to go back and lead more as well as get on harder routes on top rope. I think for the money we spent to get/stay there, I didn't get a whole lot of climbing done. Once again, this was mostly due to illness as I could not complete steeper routes that we set top ropes on. It was also due to inefficiency in our group and perhaps other issues. The climbing that I did do was fun and I would go back again even this winter if possible. The rest of the party was talking about making it an annual pilgrimage, but I'm not so sure at this point. I also felt like I would enjoy ice climbing more with a newer set of tools.

My pics are here.
Alex's pics here.
Josh's pics are here.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Mount Erie - 02.06.10

The original plan was to head to the desert for some climbing. But in a strange twist the weather was forecast to be better west of the mountains. So Sabrina and I changed our plans and headed to Mount Erie. The hope was to clip some bolts and maybe do a little top roping. We left Seattle around 7am and arrived near the top of Mount Erie around 8:45.

We were attempting to access the Powerline Crag and had some minor difficulty determining where to park. (Thankfully we brought two guidebooks with us.) Then we headed out on the trail in an attempt to find the crag. In typically Mount Erie fashion, we hiked too far over some sketchy terrain. We were only about 20' above a trail that looked level and should lead us back to the crag, but could not find a way down. We hiked back and eventually found the crag and our starting point for the day, False Impressions (5.8).

It was a bit chilly and Sabrina and I procrastinated before I decided to do the first lead. By this time, a man and a woman arrived and started on the route immediately to the right of False Impressions. I balked at the high first bolt and committing step out onto the route and handed the lead over to Sabrina. She balked a bit before she got going and she was on her way. She made her way smoothly through the first four bolts and then hung because of the pump of figuring out the next move. After getting back on the wall, she made quick work of the rest of the route. I followed the route, and found it more difficult than I probably would have on lead. I also took a direct start which eliminates the committing step out, but it means you are climbing for 10-12' before reaching the first bolt. Sabrina climbed it again on top rope and found it more difficult to follow as well.

Sabrina cleaning the anchors on False Impressions

A crowd had gathered by this point and there were now six other people in the area besides ourselves. So Sabrina and I headed to the east end of the crag to climb a few more bolted routes. This involved a scramble up to a ledge system which was somewhat precarious. Fortunately there was an anchor bolt that we anchored into as well as secured our backpacks to. One of the other parties also came up to the ledge and we negotiated routes.

I led the 5.8 Finishing Touch which I found easier than False Impressions. (Perhaps why one guidebook lists it as a 5.7+?) It was less steep and had some thin balance moves. Sabrina led it after me and found it more difficult. I followed her lead and we did an ill advised walk off to climber's right to get back. (We were using a natural anchor and the only rap anchor was being used by the other party.)

Sabrina on Finishing Touch

After our walking excursion, we set our sights on No Holds Barred (5.10a). I got the first lead and cruised up the easy section at the bottom to the second bolt. I paused for a long time attempting to unlock the moves above me all while my legs were getting pumped. I finally hung and attempted again. It wasn't working. I lowered off and rested my legs and then had back at it. This time I was successful as I had made a plan from the ground. I then fell repeatedly trying to figure out the next set of moves. Part of my issue was that I had not seen a critical hold for my right hand that was near the fourth bolt. After finding the hold I was able to move up and complete the route. Sabrina led it after me and had a short fall at one point and hung a bit at another point before completing the route. I tried it again on top rope without any issues.

Sabrina climbing No Holds Barred

At this point we contemplated what to do next. We knew we had to leave the immediate vicinity as there were no climbs left for us to do. Where we started in the morning had become crowded, and that was no longer an option either. So we were going to have to scramble down from the ledge to walk up and out. I decided that we should put our packs on and climb Finishing Touch again so we would be at the trail. Sabrina agreed if I would lead it. So I did. In the mid afternoon after a bit of climbing, the pack really affected my ability to climb. It made the 5.8 feel harder than the .10a we had just climbed. Near the top I avoided the crux of the route by traversing over to the final moves of No Holds Barred. I anchored to a tree and brought Sabrina up.

We debated briefly about going to another location to climb but Sabrina suggested we relax and enjoy the view. Being fairly tired and knowing the difficulties of getting to another crag on Erie, I agreed and we sat a bit on an outcropping enjoying the day before returning to the car to go home.

Glacier, Whitehorse and Three Fingers

Overall this was a great trip. It was nice to get out with Sabrina who I had been missing going out with. While the forecast was for "mostly cloudy" the day went from cold and overcast to sunny and warm. Short sleeves weather in the afternoon was welcomed by all. I felt I climbed well enough, but was hoping to climb better. I enjoyed all the routes we did, and would probably recommend them to others.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Cabin Creek - 01.31.10

Jennifer woke up with a sore throat so we cancelled our plan to ski at Lake Wenatchee and camp in Leavenworth. She was still interested in doing something so we went to Cabin Creek once again. We have found it smart that if you are not going to get there first thing in the morning that it is a good idea to wait until Noon to get there. That way the morning people are leaving and there are less people out on the trails. We also managed to get the best weather (no rain) that we have had at Cabin Creek all year. We did one loop and called it a day so Jennifer wouldn't get too run down. The groom was a bit tracked out but the snow was soft and forgiving. I fell once going uphill when I didn't spread my skis enough. Other than that it was a good time.

Not quite blue skies, but no precip