Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Leavenworth/Peshastin - 04.07.10

Adam and I had planned to head out to Leavenworth to check out some new routes in the book. Unfortunately the weather was not cooperating, and they had snow in Leavenworth last Thursday. We figured we would give it time to melt and planned to head out Wednesday, which had a forecast of 56° and mostly cloudy. We arrived in Leavenworth to our main objective Aquarius around 9 am. It had rained most of our way down Tumwater Canyon, and when we got out of the car it was cold and damp. We decided to see if the weather was better at Peshastin Pinnacles.

While I doubt the weather was any better at the pinnacles, it felt better. We made our objective Martian Diagonal and hiked up the brief bit. There were a pair of men there as well, and one of them looked familiar and I am sure he is a locally famous guy, but I didn't ask him his name. Once at the base I told Adam I was interested in doing the Diagonal Direct start and then we could finish with the rest of Diagonal.

While easy climbing, the first pitch of Diagonal Direct had hard to place gear. After attempting some cam placements in some solution pockets, I gave up and ran it out to the first bolt some 15'+ up. More easy climbing followed and then I got a placement of a blue alien in a pocket (which later removed itself.) I continued up to another bolt and then onto the anchor. Once there I brought Adam up and he prepared for the second pitch.

The first ten to fifteen feet of the second pitch are probably the crux of the route. There are some steeper moves to regain the slanting ramp which defines the route. Adam placed a few cams before clipping a bolt and making some precarious moves while muttering "This is more heady than I thought it would be." Once back on the ramp he raced up it placing gear where he found an opportunity. I then followed.

We swapped the rack at the belay and I was off on the final pitch. I was able to place a large cam before clipping a shoddy rappel anchor and stepping out into the exposure of the ridge. I went up and over a bump, and slung a deteriorating boulder before walking up the final ridge bit. There I placed a nut on a hangerless bolt and made the short down climb to the anchor. I brought Adam up and he was appalled by the terrible anchor. (A 1" bolt with a homemade aluminum hanger.) I spotted him for the down climb and we rapped gingerly off the anchor. Before walking down to the packs, I showed him a few lines on Dinosaur Slab.

The sun was shining a bit, and we ate lunch before driving back to Leavenworth to attempt Aquarius.

It was not as sunny at the base of February Buttress, but we were going to go for it. Since we had no plans of carrying the book on the climb, we opted to leave it in the car after rereading the description a few times. Aquarius is a new route from last year that made it into the new guidebook. It runs parallel to Ground Hog's Day and is supposed to be of similar difficulty and length. When we arrived at the base we noted that it is closer than the 40' away the guidebook states. (More like 15'.) It cannot be missed, and so I got the first lead.

The climbing is easy going passing two bolts before a steep corner is encountered. The corner appears slightly intimidating from below, but it is conquered with easy moves and is well protected. Above there I could see the chains ending the pitch and I cruised easy ground without any gear to get there. I brought Adam up and we agreed that the pitch did not feel 5.7 to us.

While belaying Adam up I tried to decipher where the second pitch went. When he arrived at the belay, I told him I thought the more interesting climbing was up a shallow corner on the right. It was dirty and mossy, but the path to the left looked too easy to be the route. There is supposed to be a bolt near a corner on this pitch, but we never saw it. It started to rain slightly as Adam led the pitch eventually finding his way to a tree anchor. I followed his path until his last piece of gear and then traversed left to see if that seemed to be the route. I decided it probably was, as I could also see the anchor for the top of the pitch in line with the left route and about ten feet or so above our tree anchor.

Adam and I debated about who should lead the last pitch, but since there was a light rain falling he defaulted to me for speed. I led up and right to the anchor, although I am pretty sure I should have stayed left of the tree. Once there, I clipped it for my first piece. I remembered the book said to move right of a small roof, but going right around the roof did not look protectable. So I took the path left around the roof. There was some fun climbing but the rock had a lot of lichen on it. I was able to protect it well at first, but then when the angle eased off I had to run it out a bit. Eventually I merged left with Ground Hog's Day and finished at that anchor.

On rappel, we tried to check out more of the route. But since there was light rain, we didn't try too hard and headed back to the car.

On the drive home we discussed this new route. We both felt it was easier than 5.7, but were we on any of the second or third pitch? Hard to say. If the route saw a little more traffic and therefore was cleaner, it might be a pretty fun route. As it is now, it is a little run out and difficult to follow. Neither Adam nor I were interested in going at this route again in the near future. But I also would not recommend it to new leaders as the route finding is somewhat difficult and perhaps a bit contrived. Hopefully more traffic will make things more obvious.

My pics are here.

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