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.