Thursday, September 30, 2010

Mount Thompson - 09.29.10

So it was time again to make another attempt at Mount Thompson. After last year's long walk in the rain, I was ready for another try. This time the forecast was for solid sun and I partnered up with Adam. We were going to use the super secret shortcut to shave 6 miles off the round trip.

We met rather casually for this adventure at the park and ride at 6:15am. We then drove to the shortcut and proceeded up the road. Unfortunately the road was closed in less than a mile. But we felt we still had a chance to do the climb and drove a few miles to the standard trail head. We knew there was another shortcut we could use that would shave some distance off as well. We headed up the Commonwealth Basin in an attempt to do this shortcut. Things were working well, but then the trail disappeared and we were heading up a dry creek bed. When the creek bed was no longer dry, we left it for bushy terrain where we eventually made it to a talus field. We went about half way up the talus field before ducking into the trees on the left when we saw a passage through cliff bands.

The going got immediately tough and we were yanking on blueberry bushes to make progress in solid BW3 terrain. The first slope was steep and we were under huge bushes. Continuing got me to a point where my head was above the blueberry bushes, but we were still bushwhacking. We knew this travel was reducing our chances of a summit. The crux came shortly after a small waterfall which I climbed but Adam went to the left of in the trees. There was some steep terrain where we both at some point used our vege belays to "save" us. For me it was having both feet give out on a steep wet slope where I belly flopped onto the ground still holding a berry bush in each hand. Who knows how far I would have slid had those bushes broke.

Shortly after the crux the angle eased and we were back to a more moderate bushwhack. We followed a few gullies littered with granite boulders while continuing upward. I knew we must be close as the rock had changed. After moving up through a few gullies, I saw someone above me. At first I thought Adam had somehow found a way up faster than me. But I looked back to see Adam below me and I shouted to him that the trail was only twenty feet above me. I popped up on the trail to see the rest of a party of through hikers pass me on the PCT. Adam and I quickly hiked the trail a bit and stopped for lunch on a rock shortly after the Katwalk. The time was 11am.

During lunch we devised a turn around time of 1pm. Of course, this was if we were not climbing by 1pm. We made great time to Bumblebee Pass and dropped over the other side. Compared to last year this was much easier as it was not wet and visibility was great. On the way down from the pass I located the trail to the start of the climb. Something Sabrina and I could not see last year due to clouds/fog. We hiked this path to the talus and started up. Right at the start of the talus are a few cairns, but then no others. I hopped around on solid rocks for a bit and was making good time. I thought we'll be climbing at 1pm.

I was more than halfway up, and there looked to be a gravel path just above me. Arriving at it, I was dismayed. It was loose gravel and each step cause a two square meter area to start sliding downhill. I had to tamp with my foot before each step to stabilize the slope and prevent this from happening. Adam was gaining on me. I left this loose gravel for more stable larger blocks, but my progress wasn't much better. I was looking at my watch after each series of moves. 12:40...12:45...12:50 Adam shouted up that it was 1pm. We still had some time I thought. My watch showed 12:55. I was still probably 100' vertical from the notch, while Adam was perhaps that distance below me. I spun around. I told Adam I wanted to at least make the ridge. But I had no desire to continue up this annoying slope. I just wanted to take a rest. We had a short discussion about making an attempt on the peak. I eventually conceded knowing we would have got back to the car near midnight even if the rest of the climb went flawlessly.

We scrambled back down the talus field to where it ended. Skier's right seemed to be better, and I'll keep that in mind when I finally give this mountain another try. At the base of the talus field we took a rest and snacked while sitting around on boulders. We saw a military jet fly by fairly low near Chikamin Ridge. About ten minutes later we saw another that appeared to come up Burnboot Creek toward Lemah. Then another buzzed Chikamin Ridge. A final F18 flew up Gold Creek not more than 500' off the ground and split the saddle between Chikamin and Huckleberry Peaks. It happened so fast I could not get the camera out in time. We waited in hopes of seeing it again, but that was our one chance. It was a wow moment that must have been a real show for anyone on the PCT in that vicinity. After waiting twenty minutes for another spectacle, we headed back to the car.

The hike out was long, tiring and uneventful. Although a bit more scenic than last year when there was little to no visibility. I find myself having more difficulty with such a long approach, and more importantly deproach to a climb. I now have the approach dialed for this climb, and if the weather does not deter, I hope to make it happen in the future. I doubt I'll attempt the shortcut again, but we did scout the shortcut a bit on the way back. Not enough to see where we went wrong though. And for all the bushwhacking through blueberry bushes, the blueberries were not all that good. (Seemed like they needed another week.)

My pics here.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Three O' Clock Rock - 09.22.10

I finally got out for the first time in over a month. Originally the plan was for Matt, Adam and I to climb at 3 O' Clock Rock, but Adam was coming down with a cold and decided to stay home. Thankfully he drove Matt to my house where we left Seattle for Darrington after a brief coffee stop around 7:30am or so.

We were at the base of the crag around 10am to witness lots of water streaks on the rock. I was a bit surprised as the previous day had no precip, and it didn't really rain too much in the days prior to that (at least in Seattle.) The route I had intended to do, Revolver looked to be the wettest on the rock, but we decided to give it a go anyway. We had to take the Silent Running start, as the approach pitch to Revolver was a watery mess.

I led up the first pitch of Silent Running and brought Matt up to lead the traverse. The traverse was relatively easy, but had some loose flakes and seeps to cross. We reracked at the start of the first pitch to Revolver for Matt to lead. Unfortunately, the opening moves were dripping wet and he had to detour around the overlaps to keep the feet dry. It worked out well and soon I was following. We looked over the second pitch and decided it would go.

I led out on the second pitch and made some easy moves to cross another water streak to continue. The rest of the pitch was dry and I eyed the third pitch while bringing Matt up.

We decided that the third pitch would go as well, and Matt set off to climb it. A little slip near the crux of the pitch, and a few clips later he was at the chains. I came up and we agreed that the fourth and fifth pitches would not be climbed by us today due to dripping water. We rapped off and contemplated our next objective while eating lunch. It was only 1pm.

Wet slabs above the third pitch

We opted to climb Cornucopia, unless it was too wet. After the short hike/bushwhack over to the base, we deemed it dry enough to climb. Actually, it was completely dry, and it was a little warmer over on the south buttress compared to the north buttress, even taking into account that it was now the warmest time of day. The sun had been in and out of the clouds most of the day, but was appearing to be behind them for the rest of the day when I started off on the first pitch.

While not wet, the route was quite dirty. It was littered with pine needles, moss and lichen. I had a few false starts before slinging a bush and heading up the corner. The climbing was fun, and not difficult except for the dirty qualities. The protection wasn't great for a bit either, but I made do. I arrived at the top and brought a speedy Matt up, not before requesting he pack my poofy as it was getting windy.

He led out on the second pitch and got a bit scared during the runout to the anchors. (I don't blame him.) I followed, and led a pulse raising third pitch with balanced moves and well spaced bolts. Everything turned out fine, and we were both on top starting to rap. After the raps, we did the hike out and drove back to Seattle.

Overall it was great to finally get out again and to one of my favorite places. I was sure with the early start to Autumn, that I was unlikely to get back to Darrington again this year. Not only did I get back and with good weather, Matt and I got to climb two routes although Revolver did not get completed. We did a total of seven pitches in the roughly six hours that we were there. It was a great time, and hopefully not the end to my cragging season. Revolver seems like a nice route, but could use more feet to clean it up and make it shine. It seems that Cornucopia could also benefit from more traffic, especially since the top anchor seemed a bit old as well.

My pics are here.