I offered to go out with Sabrina for her 40th birthday to Darrington. We chose Three O' Clock Rock as it had the shortest approach and felt Silent Running was a good route for the day. Sabrina invited her friend Jayshree to come along who had never been to any of the Darrington crags.
We left Seattle around 6am and made a final stop in the Darrington gas station before driving up the forest road to the trail head where two cars were parked. A casual gearing up and we made the walk up to Three O' Clock Rock to find no other parties there. We were now in the sunlight, and it was quite hot. We discussed who would lead what pitches, and Sabrina set about leading the first pitch.
At the top of the pitch we retied so Sabrina was in the middle and I headed off on the next pitch. It started out smoothly but was a bit cruxy near the end of pitch with some more difficult moves. It ended on a comfortable ledge where I sat to belay them up. Jayshree took the next lead which was a pitch I really enjoyed. One of the guide books calls it "the...pitch defines the character of D-Town slab dancing at its best." The lower two thirds of the pitch is all friction with palms and smears before reaching some small flakes before the belay. It was wonderfully fun and I cruised up it on top rope. A completely different experience form last year where I felt it was slippery.
Sabrina led out on the next pitch which is the pitch I got off route on last year. I told her to trust the line and the hidden fixed pin would reveal itself. She was hesitant to enter the run out, but did and found the pin and continued through the easier run out to the final corner and the anchor. She brought us up. It was fun to climb this pitch correctly as there was a large easy section of chicken heads midway through the pitch that was fun climbing. Clouds rolled in around this time and cooled things off a bit.
Upon arriving at the belay, I quickly racked up and headed out on the next pitch. This pitch was fairly nondescript and easier than I remembered it from last year. I cruised up it feeling it was much easier than the 5.8 rating it holds. There was some run out near the top, but on easier ground. I brought the women up and Jayshree got the next lead which I previously felt was the star pitch of the route. She led the pitch confidently and brought Sabrina and I up. The bolts on this pitch were closer spaced than I remembered them, but probably due to the fact that I was leading it last year. The belay stance was not large and I got moving quickly to lead the final(bonus) pitch.
This time on lead, I found it easier to surmount the overlaps/roofs that are the prominent features of the lower part of the pitch. I kept telling myself that the crux was at the last bolt on the slab where Steve had to take last year. I knew it was important to save my feet on the way there, so I could work it quickly and get through it. After the overlaps, I took rests on prominent ledges before tackling a small corner and heading out onto the crux slab. (The "Weekend Rock" guide book claims the final corner to be the crux, but I do not think so.) The slab is fairly steep there and lacks the undulations of previous pitches. I moved up and clipped the one bolt. A few moves higher and I was able to reach out right to the final bolt and clipped it. Then I moved up and found myself lacking a direction to continue. As I tried to figure out what to do, I fell. It was somewhat unexpected. I felt like a time bomb ticking right before the fall. I also have a vague recollection of about to yell something to the belay, which caused me to yell "falling" a little late. The fall was uneventful, as I just ran down the slab backward. I hung briefly to rest my feet and then got back on the horse. This time I took a line farther to the right and closer to the final bolt which seemed to have the friction I needed to gain the big flake and breathe a sign of relief. I tried desperately to place a nut, and got a halfway decent placement before moving up the final fun corner where I placed two more pieces as I wasn't confident about the nut or felt 100% about the cams either. After that I was at the tiny quartz dike ledge that was the final belay.
I brought Sabrina up. She stumbled a few times in the area I fell and then pushed through the moves as my nut placement popped. She joined me at the small stance and belayed Jayshree up. While none of us thought the beginning overlaps were the cruxes, Jayshree felt fine with that slab and felt the crux was a touch lower near the previous corner.
We began our raps, and the parties below us on route were kind enough to either get off route, or wait for us to join them at larger stations. Rapping went fairly smoothly, and Sabrina and Jayshree even simul rapped the final pitch.
I really enjoy this route. This time, I enjoyed the third and final pitches the most. I really need to come back and lead the third pitch as it is the only difficult pitch I have not led on this route. We brought a rack with us, and used at least one piece on every pitch with the final pitch taking the most gear (3-5 pieces.) No need for a #4 on the pitch, and aliens were the real stars. I think I would not bring nuts in the future as they are too difficult to place in most spots on this route. It was also fun having three, as it gave us more relax time, and negated the need for carrying a second rope.
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