Sunday, May 30, 2010

Snow Creek Wall - Orbit - 05.29.10

For the past few weeks I've been trying to hook up with someone to climb Orbit. Weather and schedule finally worked out for me to be climbing with Josh. While the forecast was for 20% chance of precip, I felt that was a solid enough to attempt the route.

We left casually at 6am from Seattle. After a brief stop in the ranger station and a quick hike in, Josh and I were at the base of the climb around 10am. We spent a fair amount of time casually gearing up as another party arrived behind us. I was off leading the first pitch around 10:30am. Perhaps we took a slightly different start, but there was a small step at a tree, before going into the fourth class gully that is most of the first pitch. The protection was thin or non-existent in the gully, but when the moves got harder before the finish, there was plenty of pro to be had. I arrived at a comfortable belay ledge and brought Josh up.

We re-racked, and Josh headed out to lead the dreaded chimney pitch. He cruised to the crux, and then told me to watch him. He also noted to me that his top piece of gear was a piton. He started working out the crux moves, but complained that it was wet. He then fell on the fixed pin. I caught him, but he fell a little farther than I would have expected. He was alright, but had some road rash to prove his misfortune. He made another attempt, but this time placing a cam in the crack higher before the attempt. After another slight fall and some hanging, Josh managed to work the moves out and stopped the pitch at a slung horn just above the crux. I followed, and slipped/fell a few times before making the wet moves.

Once at the belay I informed Josh he had stopped midway on the pitch, so we agreed to let him continue so that I could get the 5.9 finger cracks. We discussed the belay options and we believed a belay could be set at the base of the cracks, giving me a short pitch. However, as I followed, I realized Josh had gone past the cracks to a belay below the "low fifth" bypass. I didn't have much gear on me and really couldn't set a belay to bring him back to the base. He also didn't want to down climb through a bush between him and I. I struggled in vain to come up with a solution that had me leading the cracks. In the end, I continued to his position. We talked about setting a top rope once we did the bypass pitch, but with the party behind us, that didn't seem like such a great idea. I led the short wet bypass pitch and wedged myself in behind the block as I anchored to the bush there. I guess the finger cracks will have to wait for next time.

Josh didn't spend too much time at the tight belay and was off leading the next 5.8 pitch which many people feel is the crux of the route. The climbing is fairly sustained, and is run out or has difficult pro. Josh sailed it in fine style. I followed, using tiny edges for hands and feet. While I found this pitch to be fine technically, it really was a drain on my feet to climb it and I got to the belay wishing for a foot bath. The hanging belay stance Josh had near an old bolt wasn't much better for feet, so a quick change to me leading and I was off on the next pitch.

Josh felt that this next pitch was equally as hard as the previous, but more due to it being strenuous than technically as challenging. I led up to the ledge which is an alternate belay. (Josh couldn't make it there because he ran out of slings.) I was at the ledge a bit because Josh had to deal with a rope issue before I could continue. There are two old rusty bolts, one Leeper and another home made looking number. I clipped both as there was no other pro to be had before heading up. It took me a bit to commit to the next moves, and then I was on my way. The were some interesting moves when you step out of the corner on to the arete just before finishing the pitch. I stopped just below a small roof, and set a belay as I feared I couldn't go on without running out of slings. Not to mention I had a nice crack in which to build an anchor. It appears after checking the topo, that I stopped in the correct spot, and Josh led the next short pitch to below the big roof. I think stretching that pitch to below the big roof would have been a great tactic, as there wasn't much pro for that short pitch anyway.

Below the big roof, we were in a more comfortable stance again on a good sized ledge. We ate a bit and Josh put on his shell jacket as we were out of the sun. He looked at the start of the pitch and said "I hope to see you slinging chicken heads on this pitch." And off I went. This pitch was wild fun. It was a face covered with knobs. The climbing was easy and if you slung some of the knobs, the run out was not as bad as the guide books make it sound. The only issue is finding your way. It is truly a choose your own adventure style pitch and I wandered around looking for the large ledge it was supposed to end on. I scooted up to a roof and found a ledge to the right of it and a chimney behind it. "This must be the place," I thought as I built an anchor and sat on the ledge to belay Josh up. Josh arrived with a big smile on his face.

We looked at the next pitch with the supposed 5.7 chimney and Josh started to lead. The climbing was so easy that he placed only a few pieces in nearly a rope length. I came up to him where he almost tricked me into climbing an off width before telling me the real route went up one final knobby face. I went right past him hopping boulders before reaching ground and pulling the rope in. Josh soloed up the remaining terrain to meet me and a goat at the top.

We hung out a bit on top snapping some pictures before packing our stuff and heading down. The descent was as bad as I remembered it. (Perhaps worse.) Last time I was up here is was later in the year, and now the descent was a little more wet. We scrambled down, I more slowly than Josh. We reached a spot where I was sure that we were supposed to go left and we went that way. The two options were a sketchy gully downclimb or a rappel off a single old bolt. I told Josh I wasn't rapping off a single bolt and we went back to the descent gully to down climb a bit more before getting on the trail back to our packs. The final scramble out felt easier after the full descent and then we were at my crux of the climb, the log crossing. I tried in the morning to walk across it, but ended up au cheval. I didn't hesitate to au cheval on the way back, but the log is uphill in this direction and took me a bit longer. The hike out was uneventful, except that it marked the first time I had hiked out the Snow Lake Trail in daylight.

I really enjoyed this route, and it was nice to get out and do something harder and more difficult than I have been doing. To make the obvious (although apples to oranges) comparison, I did not like it as much as Outer Space. I have to say that it has more varied climbing on it which makes it a little more interesting. The route finding is not difficult but a little more difficult than on Outer Space. The wildly knobbed pitch was a ton of fun and just really different climbing too. I'd recommend this route (and want to return) but I'm going to hit Outer Space again before returning to Orbit.

My pics are here.
Josh's photos here.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Icicle River Gorge Trail - 05.24.10

Jennifer and I finally got away for a little camping/hiking trip. We drove out to Leavenworth to camp with Matt and his brother Sunday night, and it turned out they had a similar plan for Monday. As Matt put it, "Drive to the end of the road and start walking." I was not aware that Icicle Road was still not fixed, so we headed onward. About five miles from Eight Mile Campground we were met with the road closure.

The road now a river

There was a newer road cut away from the river, but the forest service is not allowing public access by motorized vehicles at this time, so we parked and started walking. The new road is not yet ready for heavy vehicle access and is even susceptable to some flooding early on, where a small bit of rocks and mud is the only thing keeping the river out. It also showed plenty of signs of beavers, which might interfere with the road as well. We hiked on this a bit before it rejoined Icicle Road above the washout. We investigated the upriver side of the washout before proceeding up the road.

The work of beavers

After a while we came to the Chatter Creek trail head. After checking out the board there, (A trail conditions report from August '08 was on it.) we parted ways. Matt and his brother were heading back to Seattle via Washington Pass and Jennifer and I forged on ahead. Just around the corner we found the Chatter Creek Ranger Station. It looked like it was in a state of disrepair, but not too bad considering it has not been used in two years. Just across the road was the start of the Icicle River Gorge Trail. We decided to take it.

Unfortunately, the most dramatic point on the trail is the start where you cross the footbridge over the creek.

View from the bridge

There was some serious whitewater and interesting eroded rock in the constriction under the bridge. We watched a bit before heading up the trail. The trail climbs a short bit to a lookout area above the creek before dropping back down into an area that is more like a Western Washington forest. The ponderosa pines were replaced by western red cedars and the ground cover changed. We started seeing plenty of blooming (and past bloom) trilliums. We hiked on crossing several small bridges and hiking for what seemed like a while. The trail has not been maintained in a few years, but did not have too many logs across it.

Largest trillium I have ever seen

We had started this trip sans packs, and started thinking about getting back as this was a little more than we were thinking about when we left the car. But the trail was nice and we were having a good time. Despite dark clouds in places, we did not get any precipitation while we were out either.

We decided to continue up trail as we expected to be reaching the bridge back across the creek soon. It took longer than we expected, and once we got to a bridge we still appeared to be heading upstream. I quickly ran ahead to make sure we were going the correct way and I was able to see the vehicle bridge at the Rock Island Campground. We were going the correct way. At the campground I checked to see if the water fountains were working, but of course they were not. Since Jennifer and I had not packs, we did not carry any essentials with us including water.

We got back on the trail and headed back toward the car. The trail went quicker on this side of the creek and once again we were in a cedar forest.

Needle carpeted trail

The rest of the hike out was uneventful except for us missing the new road back before locating it. This was a fun hike, and surprisingly populated for a Monday. (We saw two other parties.) Considering the road is closed, it takes a bit of hiking just to get back in there. You could take a mountain bike on the road, but they are not allowed on the trails due to it being a wilderness area. I'd like to explore this area further in the future. It was also nice to get out without a pack on and just go for a walk. Of course, it would have been nice to have some food and water with us, but we survived.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Lundin Peak - West Ridge - 05.22.10

Planned this return to Lundin Peak a while ago. The weather was looking not to cooperate, but everyone wanted to go anyway if just to check it out. So despite the 60% chance of precip, we headed out.

The trail head parking lot isn't melted out yet, so we drove up the road about 100m and parked. We were pretty much on snow from the cars, but there were some bare patches in the woods. The snow was fairly firm as long as we kept to where people had been compacting it all winter. At least when we set out, it was not raining.

Further on in the woods, we were following wayward snowshoe tracks of a few men who were headed up Red Mountain. We go back on the "trail" and had to do a few interesting stream crossings as some snow bridges were either sketchy or non-existent. We eventually reached a spot to cross Commonwealth Creek and did a short down climb into the creek bed. Crossing was on logs and stones that were barely out of the water. Then a climb back up the other side to where we traversed into the upper Commonwealth Basin. Around this time, there were some sucker holes and we caught a glimpse of Kendall and the backside of Guye, as well as Cave Ridge. However, we were headed into a cloud in our direction of travel.

Tyler took the lead making steps into what was now about knee deep snow. (There was 6-8" of fresh snow above 5000'.) We followed up and headed to the base of the descent before traversing under the south face to a low area on the ridge. Around this time it started to snow. It was Noon, and Zach was interested in making a go of it. But the snowy icy rock did not look appealing. I told him I was calling it and that we should just eat lunch and head back down. Zach wanted a look at the route. So he scrambled onto the ridge and found there to be too much snow. Sal and I joined him and found the same thing. While on the ridge, the sun poked through the clouds and illuminated the basin on the other side of the peak briefly. Then it returned to snowing.

By the time we had finished eating lunch, the clouds rolled in again and we had to make our way back down in very low visibility conditions. The skies really started clearing up once we were in the lower basin, and we had sun for a good portion of the hike out.

This was a fun trip to get out when the weather was not so great. It was amazing to see all the fresh snow high up for this late in May. Sometimes the weather just does not cooperate with my plans. But due to the lower temps, we never really got wet as the precip that fell on us was in a frozen form.

My pics are here.
Sal's pics here.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Yard Art/Lawn Darts - 05.19.10

After sadly not going out on Sunday due to the forecast rain and not seeing any rain in Seattle, I convinced Adam to do a one day trip to Leavenworth. I was hoping to get a lot of climbing in, but the forecast was against us. (40% chance of rain after 2pm) So we drove into the Icicle and headed straight for Peek-a-Boo Tower to do the three star route Yard Art, but finish with the four star Lawn Darts.

Adam starting the first pitch

It was partly sunny as we hiked up, but we quickly donned jackets for the climb, and I ended up in my shell before leaving the ground. Adam led the first pitch which was varied 5.7 climbing and mostly gear. (I found the crux of the pitch to be a chimney like feature about half way up.) I came up to the belay and got confused by the guide's description of the second pitch. "Scary moves off the belay" was not exactly true, as the first moves off the belay were not scary. Once you clip a bolt, there were some delicate moves (crux of the pitch) left before making a few moves upward where you are able to grab a large crack and the difficulties ease off for the rest of the pitch. I led up this pitch and brought Adam up.

Adam coming up the second pitch

Adam said he'd give the next pitch a go, but balked a bit a few moves from the third clip. He started to down climb a move and I didn't like what I saw and locked him off just before he slipped and fell. He shook himself off without any injury and got back on. He started to do the same moves again but admitted his head wasn't in it after the fall. He backed off and gave the lead to me. I cruised up the spot where he peeled, and made the few delicate maneuvers to reach the next bolt and continue to the top. When I got to the anchor, instead of proceeding to the base of Lawn Darts, I stopped and belayed Adam up. There was a wet patch on Lawn Darts, and I wasn't sure it was possible to do, so I wanted to look at it while I belayed Adam.

Adam cruised the pitch on top rope, and we briefly assessed Lawn Darts from the belay. We agreed the water did not appear to affect the route, and I belayed Adam over to the base of the climb, where he brought me up.

We put the trad rack in our pack, and I counted enough draws to make it to the top. Then I proceeded up. This long pitch starts easily and then reaches a small overlap where I slipped after clipping the bolt. (I did not fall.) That shook me up as I was just standing there, and I think it really messed with my head. I hung for a bit before getting back on. The rock near my feet had a high quartz content, and was quite slippery. I had to work for good foot placements before stepping up onto the overlap, where traction got better. A few moves higher up and there were larger features and eventually some cracks/holes that made the climbing much easier through that section. Around this point, it started to rain slightly. Not enough to make the rock wet yet but enough to make me notice.

Adam at the base of Lawn Darts

The crux of the route comes surmounting a roof. It is easy to get halfway up and clip a bolt above the roof, but I found the next move right to be difficult. In my head I just wanted off the climb, and with the slight rain, I just couldn't motivate to figure out the correct sequence and eventually grabbed the draw to move over. Once in my new position I used some "bigger holds" to gain upward movement and continue to the top. I didn't find the upper section that difficult, but my mind was pretty fried and that always makes climbing feel difficult. At the top I set up a belay and brought Adam up. He hung to rest his calves, and then fell twice at the move right above the roof. Fortunately the rain waited to come down harder until he was at my side. Then we started our rappels.

Rapping in the rain

While we rapped quickly, the rain started coming down harder. By the time we were on our final rap, the rock was wet, and we were getting a little more wet too. We packed up and the rain subsided, only to return again harder about the time we reached the car. Our hopes for other climbs faded, and we headed home to Seattle where it was raining heavily on the west side of the Cascades.

A few interesting items of note. One is that I have been noticing the weather forecasts to be spot on lately. The forecast for Seattle the other day said showers until 11am, and I think they may have lasted until 10:30 before tapering off. Today on route, the rain arrived around 2pm just as forecast. This is interesting, but I have made a new policy of going out to Leavenworth as long as the forecast calls for less than 50% chance of rain. Not sure if I'd apply that same rule to the west side or mountains yet. The other item of note is that Lawn Darts is completely within my capability and I did not climb it that well. I started off with a good head for the climb, but the impending weather and generally lackluster day wore me down. As well as my unexpected slip. I'm not sure there is anything I can do about climbing in weather, but I'll try to be more conscious of my deteriorating head space in the future.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

North Twin Sister - West Ridge - 05.15.10

5300' elevation gain
14 miles RT
Left car: 5:15 am
Summit: 5:00 pm
Back at car: 8:15 pm
15 hours car to car

I had scheduled a trip to do the Twin Sisters Traverse as a long one day. Vance and Andrew agreed to join me. We went to the trail head (Or gated bridge) on Friday night to sleep for our 4:15 wake up time in the morning. Vance and I had alarm failures, so we were a little late and didn't get out of camp until a quarter after five.

Biking up the road with a heavy pack proved challenging. I was having difficulty finding an appropriate gear, and my bike started having shifting issues. I got off and walked a bit and then would get back on, not loosing a whole lot of ground to Andrew. (Vance, with the heavier bike lagged behind us.) At some point Andrew committed to walking as we felt we were expending a little too much energy biking. (We were about a mile and a half in.) At this point we heard trucks coming up the road and got to the side. They stopped out of sight below us and we heard talking. When they got to us, Vance was in the front seat and the loggers were offering us a ride. We threw our bikes in the back of the first pick up and jumped into the second one. They took us to the fork before Daily Prairie, and we were once again on our bikes on flatter terrain. We figured our ride with the loggers gave us a fighting chance to make this traverse happen as it shaved around an hour off our approach.

We stashed the bikes and headed up the overgrown road encountering snow fairly early. We were on continuous snow from 3800' up. The going was still good, as the snow was firm when we walked on a snowboard track that was just like a sidewalk. When the road deteriorates, the snow got soft, and we post holed our way up to the woods and onto the ridge. This was discouraging as we were now feeling like South Twin was slipping away from us. When we exited the woods onto the ridge, we pretty much made a choice it wasn't going to happen when we saw the conditions on South Twin. (Lots of snow.)

There was plenty of snow on the ridge we were currently trying to climb, and that made for some early route finding issues as well as making some of the climbing difficult. The going was relatively easy though and we were having fun. The sun finally poked around the false summit and started shining on us directly as we climbed the sticky rock and tried to avoid the snow. Around the time we reached the obelisk is where things started to slow down and get spicier. Tracks in the snow were on the exposed north side of the ridge. But the sloppy unconsolidated snow at the top of a steep snow slope with cliffs below was not appealing to us, so we started trying to bypass the snow and had some difficulties doing so.

At one point we were stymied and decided to down climb to tracks in a gully below us. The downclimb was not particularly easy an we had difficulty picking our way down to the gully. The snow was OK at first, but then we had to do a not so pleasant traverse across another gully to continue. After that point we really tried to stay on rock.

We were wasting a lot of time, but we were now in a position where it would take the same time and effort to turn around as to continue, so we forged ahead. We stuck to rock to regain the ridge with just brief steps on snow. (We would do this whole ridge climb with our ice axes in our hands, or between the shoulders for ready access.) Once higher up and near the crest of the ridge again, more of the snow was ice with a little bit of soft snow on top. We didn't want to put our crampons on, and tried to avoid it the best we could.

We reached a section below "the crux" that required some icy snow crossing. After too much hesitation we finally decided to bust out the rope. (As we weren't going further without it.) Vance led out on the pitch to near the notch and chimney from the route description. He brought Andrew and I up and we popped through the notch to the other side. While Andrew brought Vance up, I scouted on ahead and found more steep insecure snow a bit further on. It was now late in the day and all the snow was quite soft, although it did not appear to be prone to sliding.

Vance once again led the way up some rock to avoid some skittish moves on snow. Andrew and I followed and we made a few rock moves before needing to traverse under the ridge top to points beyond. I led out on a steep traverse to much milder terrain on the other side. From there it was a snow walk on the summit ridge to the summit. We didn't stay long, and then we down climbed the first steep section from the summit col down before turning out and plunging a bit. Vance and I got a couple of nice glissades in, but the snow was so soft and deep that glissade technique was very important not to bury yourself. The rest of the hike out was uneventful and we made our way to the bikes. (The moment we had been waiting for.) We agreed to regroup at intersection in case someone got a flat, or so that none of us would go the wrong way. We regrouped a few times, and were set on not regrouping again, but I watched Andrew's rear tire blow. (Due to a heated rim from braking.) Since we were around a mile and a half out, he patched it and we were on our way again. It ended up deflating, and he came jogging in about two minutes after us. Even with the tire repair, the four miles or so took about 40 minutes.

This was a fun journey, but sad because we hit it at less than ideal conditions. It will probably be a much nicer climb in a few weeks or so, but who knows? South Twin was not in any sort of condition for us to surmount a summit attempt either. I'm guessing this is a climb that is better suited to later in the season as a traverse, or even just the West Ridge of North Twin. The rock is sticky and fun to climb with lots of holds too. I'd like to revisit this climb at another time and give it another chance. One thing is for certain, the summit of North Twin Sister has some of the best views. We could see peaks in BC, Vancouver Island, the Olympics, North Cascades, and as far south to Mount Rainier.

My pics are here.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Mount Dickerman - Trail - 05.11.10

3900' elevation gain
8 miles RT
Left car: 7:45 am
Summit: 10.45 am
Left summit: 12:00 pm
Back at car: 1:45 pm
6 hours car to car

Adam and I were hoping for a summit, so the original plan was Bryant Peak, but I made a last minute change to Mount Dickerman, because the weather forecast was slightly better further north.

I had attempted this with Sabrina and friends a bunch of years ago without success due to deep unconsolidated snow. I was hoping this time would be different. Our first snag was some construction on the Mountain Loop Highway which delayed us 10-15 minutes. When we arrived at the trail head, we were the only car.

We set out quickly enjoying some of the large trees in the forest and the numerous blossoming trilliums. We made fast time on the trail covering the first 1000' of gain in just 35 minutes. We blasted out the next 1200' in a similar time and then we hit continuous snow. This slowed our pace and we replaced trekking poles with ice axes for added safety on the hard snowy hillside.

When the terrain changed to more open meadows, there was no longer a single consolidated path to support us. Our progress slowed again. We navigated our way around glissade paths trying to find the best steps to support us. When we started leaving the trees, the snow got a little more firm and we were making good time again. We arrived at the summit with clouds surrounding almost all of the nearby peaks except for Twin Peaks to our east. We waited for over and hour on the summit for the clouds to clear, but with no luck. (Although the clouds did put on a display for us swirling and blowing around making it look like we would see a clearing.)

After our lunch and break, we headed back down. In the open meadows we tried to make out the slides we could hear across the highway since we left the car. We did see some snow come off Big Four, but we were expecting more with all the noise we had heard. The plunge stepping was not very easy on the way down and we did a couple of small glissades just to not walk for a bit. Back on the trail we hiked quickly all the way out and were back at the car in what seemed like no time.

It was nice to get out and a get on a summit. Bummer that we didn't get the views that Dickerman is known for. Partial bummer for a non technical summit, but it was nice to get out and get some exercise.

Some pics here.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Condorphamine Addiction - 05.08.10

This was supposed to be a non-climbing weekend. I was going to spend time with Jennifer and maybe go camping, or at least work in the garden. Scott dropped me an email and wanted to know if I was interested in joining him on Orbit, and I had a hard time refusing. You see, my spring has been stagnant, as I am repeating routes I have already done. I needed to get out and climb/lead something harder. Orbit was just the ticket. So I was to meet Scott, Claire and Dave out in Leavenworth in the morning as they were going to head out the night before.

Driving over the pass, the weather turned more wet on the east side of the crest. I was concerned. Down in Tumwater Canyon it was raining, but I could see a bit of blue skies to the east. Perhaps it was dry and fine in the Icicle? I arrived at the wet Snow Creek parking lot to see Dave standing around in his poofy, with perhaps a super light rain falling. We waited a moment before Scott and Claire arrived and assessed the situation.

Initially Scott and I were in favor of the "let's get some exercise" option of hiking up and checking it out. But we didn't seem to have a majority on that one. So we decided to wait an hour or more and see what would happen. We bided our time at the Sleeping Lady where Claire and Scott had breakfast. Scott periodically checked the sky to see if it was clearing. Hard to tell if it was.

We headed back to the parking lot to gear up. It appeared we were going to go through with the hike after all. Just before we left the parking lot I mentioned that we couldn't bail off the route without leaving gear. Even if it was currently dry up there, and we started climbing, what if the 30% chance of showers hit us on route? We would have to keep going up if we didn't want to leave gear. I offered the suggestion of climbing Condorphamine Addiction. While I was interested in repeating that route again, this was not the scenario for it. All agreed, and we headed up the canyon where the sun was shining on south facing slopes!

The hike up was tedious and wet and eventually we found ourselves at the base of Condor Buttress. We geared up and Scott led out first on the .10a variation. By the time Claire was following, it started to rain slightly. I was concerned about leading the .10a variation in the rain, and opted for the standard 5.7 start pitch. I arrived at the top of the short pitch just after Claire started her lead of the second pitch. By now it had stopped raining.

Dave waited for Scott to leave the small stance before joining me at the anchor. He then led the next pitch. Dave was a bit slow and we lost touch with Scott and Claire on this pitch. I tried to cruise it remembering that it was my favorite pitch of the route from last year. However, I was confused about a move and couldn't manage it. After a while of balking, I finally made a committing move that did not feel great, but gave me forward progress. The rest of the pitch went off without such difficulties assuming you don't consider the slight hail shower that occurred. I cruised past Dave and headed up the next short pitch to bring him up.

After Dave's lead of the fourth pitch, I was ready to lead the pitch I had to aid on last year. (The only pitch I really cared about repeating on this route.) While I could not tell how Scott had completed the moves, I did see it did not take him a whole lot of effort, so I wanted to do it easily. I enjoyed the easier terrain below the crux and then made some awkward moves to the position just below it. After clipping the bolt, I worked out some moves and finally went for it with no issues. Thanks to my height, I was able to clip the next bolt as soon as I got through the crux. The bolts in this section are ridiculously close and after another step or two, I was clipping another bolt. The sequence went great, and made me now feel like perhaps this is the best pitch of the route. I brought Dave up and gave him some beta on the crux so he could complete it without grabbing the gear. Then it was off on the next pitch.

It turns out the next pitch was more cruxy than I remembered it and there were numerous bulges to overcome, although I cannot say any were more than .10a in difficulty. I also cannot say which one may have been the hardest. By the time I got to the belay Scott had already rapped from the top and I just cruised past the belay to go to the top. I brought Dave up (through some more light hail) and we set about catching Scott and Claire on the rappels. The walk out was uneventful.

While it was nice doing this route again and enjoying freeing the crux, it was not a great time. Not because of the company, but because I really wanted to get on something new and different. I wanted to be climbing a trad route and not a bolted one. When I arrived at the parking lot, I told Scott "I forgot to tell you if it is wet to call me and tell me not to come." I wish I had told him this, although he did not have cell reception and likely wouldn't have called me until I was out the door already. While we were on Condorphamine Addiction, we saw clouds in the Snow Creek Wall area all day, so I think we made a good decision not to climb it on that day. Oh well, Orbit may have to wait until next weekend.

My pics are here.
Scott's pics are here.
(Scott's got some great pix of me at the crux.)

Monday, May 3, 2010

Leavenworth Trip - 04.30-05.2.10

Adam and I did a three day weekend in the Leavenworth area finishing with helping out Matt with field trip on Sunday.

We took a midday ride out on Friday for some cragging at Clem's Holler. Arrived around Noon and headed up the steep trail. We had lofty goals of climbing some nice sport climbs, but decided to warm up on the first two pitches of Playin' Possum. Doing only the first two pitches keeps it at a reasonable 5.8 instead of the .10a rating it has for continuing onto the third pitch. I led the first pitch, and Adam led the second. While the climbing was not particularly difficult, my head wasn't totally in the lead, and I had to hang a bit at one point (mostly to rest my feet) before continuing upward. After completing the climb, I was not exactly ready to tackle the harder projects, so Adam and I went searching for Arselips and Elbows (5.8) a 14" wide top rope crack.

According to the book, Arselips is "up and left" of The Hatchet. We found it to be generally left, and that dropping down into a meadow was a more sane way of reaching said climb. We first attempted with some exposed moves on grassy ledges before dropping to the meadow and coming back up. I'm pretty sure we were mostly following goat trails. The terrain was sometimes steep, and had a thick coating of ponderosa needles on it adding to the slippery factor. Plenty of sticker bushes in the area too. You have to persevere to get to this climb. Once there, we had an easy hike up to the bolts to set up a top rope. Then it was time for the groveling to begin.

Looking up from the base

The opening moves were on the face while stepping on boulders to gain the crack. Once at the top foothold on the outside, it was time to move in. I found the chicken wing very secure, but it took a fair amount of trial and error to get some sort of secure leg into the crack. The left side of the crack is also a loose corner, with a small finger crack, but I did not feel too comfortable grabbing on it as I was afraid to pull it off. Inside the crack it was narrow, and a deep breath could mostly keep my in my place. I realized after some struggling that I had to exhale to make moving up easier. In my first attempt, I managed to gain the crack and move a few centimeters off the outside rock before needing my left foot to do something. I took a rest while Adam gave it a shot.

About to leave the outside world

Adam gave the crack a try and made no further progress than I did. He tried it first in his trail runners figuring that would give him an advantage. After his attempt, he decided his next attempt would be with rock shoes. I gave it a second go with a result of getting about six inches higher than my previous attempt. I was able to successfully use my left arm and leg in the attempt, but found the upward progress too much of a struggle to continue further. Adam gave it one last try and it looked something like this:

He's in there

After getting to roughly the same height I did, Adam melted out of the crack and I lowered him to the ground. We both agreed that that was the most effort we have ever put forth to move two inches! I thought I could get up any 5.8 in Leavenworth on top rope. Apparently, this climb proved me wrong. After our struggles, we called it a day and headed back to the car. Our sport climbing objectives at Clem's Holler could wait for another day.

We awoke late (8am) on Saturday, and had breakfast in camp. By the time we packed up camp, it was about to rain and when we arrived at parking for our intended destination for the day (Peek-a-Boo Tower) there was a light rain. Looking west made us concerned so we drove to the mouth of the canyon hoping for better weather. We stopped in the Snow Creek parking lot and by the time we rolled out of there, it was raining as well. So we headed to Peshastin again.

It appeared that others had the same idea when it started to rain in Leavenworth, and many small parties of climbers dashed out of the parking lot to get to climbs quickly. We were in no rush and decided to climb Windward which we figured no one was running to. When we got there, I was not too enthused about leading it and we decided to walk around to see if we could get on something else. When we arrived at Dinosaur, and saw no one on Potholes, we jumped on it. Adam had me lead the first (5.8) pitch and he said he would decide at the belay about leading the second (5.7) pitch. I personally have always found the second pitch harder, but that may just be me. No real surprised on Potholes except for me having more difficulty this year with the crux of the first pitch. And Adam getting a good chuckle from watching me struggle with the final moves to the anchor. We rapped off and headed to Grand Central Tower to climb the West Face.

Adam past the first bulge on Potholes second pitch

It was nice to finally lead the West Face and not have any trouble on it. Well, no trouble climbing it. There was a party that was off route on Nirvana Ridge that kept raining sand down onto us. It does not make for a comforting lead. Adam followed, and even got hit by a slightly bigger rock on the way up. We rapped off to find the wind had died off and it was downright warm out. We decided the clouds cleared enough to the west to try the Icicle again.

We drove back and watched the outside temp drop from 68°F to around 60°F by the mouth of the Icicle. We stopped there to head to Surf City to climb a few moderate cracks. We started on Paydirt, a nice 5.7 finger crack that I would revisit. I was a bit too tentative on the lead on this one, and I am not sure why. (Must have been the theme for the weekend.) I had a minor slip and even opted not to place gear at one point. Hopefully I can revisit that one with a better head.

Stepping into the finger crack

Adam then led Blunt Instruments which was one of those cracks that does not really require crack climbing technique. It was a bit dirty at the top and also finished with a slab like Paydirt did. (Although the Paydirt slab was a bit more runout.)

After that I attempted to lead another route there called Undertoe. I couldn't get a decent first piece in and so we called it a day. This time we were at The Mountaineers group campsite and had a feast. Ben Evans showed up and cooked a huge pan of bacon chorizo paella.

Sunday I was pretty spent from the weekend (and sleeping on a Z-Rest) that I had the student I was with lead all pitches on Midway. I did not climb well, and even used a piton as a foot hold before attaining Jello Tower. It was nice to sleep in a bed last night.