Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Esmerelda - 10.18.10

I got to go out with Steve for what seemed like the first time this year. (I wanted to say Summer, but it is no longer, and I doubt I have been in the mountains with Steve since Spring.)

Due to my long hard day the previous day, and Steve bringing his wife's cousin along, we opted for a fairly mellow scramble of Esmerelda Peak in the Teanaway.

To avoid traffic we started a touch late, and arrived at the De Roux camp trail head after 9:30am. We hiked up the trail and took frequent breaks. After consulting the map we ignored the turn off point thinking it was just a cut off a switch back. We went too far and arrived at Gallagher Head Lake. We hung out a bit on some wooden benches taking in the scenery and getting cold. We altered our approach and headed cross country to the ridge to climb.

With some light bushwhacking we were on rocky slopes picking our way up the mostly solid terrain. With a few sections of third class rock, we were on the summit, taking in the views. We hung out for a while and then headed to the next "summit" on the ridge to the east. We continued to the next and then developed our plan to hike down a different way. A few loose third class bits got us down the ridge where we followed game trails down most of the way back to the trail. The slope was steep and loose and only got easier as we descended. I saw a fat garter snake on the way down and then we hit the trail and hiked out.

Scrambling the second summit (photo by Steve Machuga)

This was a fun trip and a good trip to do after the bruiser I had the previous day. It was fun to be out with Steve, and the summit of Esmerelda offers pretty nice views in all directions. It took almost as long to do the round trip drive as it did to climb the peak. Steve and I discussed how the book listed it as a T3, but we found it to be fairly easy with only a few steps of 3rd class. However, I am beginning to think that the technical scramble rating used also increases for navigational difficulty. But who knows. Yet another nice day out in the mountains.

My pics are here.

Exfoliation Dome - Westward Ho! - 10.17.10

Rod and I planned to get out on Sunday. Our goal was going to be The Blueberry Route or West Buttress of Exfoliation Dome. We wanted to get an early start, but not so early we had to ascend the "granite sidewalk" in the dark. We left Seattle around 5:45 am and arrived near the parking area around sun break.

However, we did not fully comprehend the beta for parking. Which I read as "park at the granite sidewalk." Other beta said it is the second wash. Well, we parked where a slide blocked the road and we walked the road for ten minutes before deciding that it must be the slide we parked at and proceeded back. The initial section was fairly wet, and we bypassed it in the woods before descending to the granite slabs in a few minutes. The slabs were still fairly wet and dirty, and I opined that we may not be on route, but we continued. We met an area that could be considered "the Grotto" and we climbed out of it on the left via a horizontal tree. At this point I continued in the woods as there was no undergrowth, and the going was fairly good. I found this better compared to the dirty wet slabs. Rod stayed on the slabs before eventually joining me in the woods.

At a section that looked like we were near getting out of the trees I suggested again that we may be off route. But we both managed to tell ourselves everything would be clear after the next bit. Rod started up some scary, possibly 5th class slabs. I didn't like them, so tried to bypass them around the left. But the slabs went on for a bit, and when I rounded the corner, I saw Exfoliation Dome about a quarter mile to the east. Rod was out of sight and high on the ridge above me. After some shouting we worked out a plan that would have him descend to me and then we would continue to the Dome from my location.

As he descended, I crossed an avy path bushwhack to a stand of trees. I waited for him there. He ended up having to rappel to get down and eventually reached my location where I was cold. It was not almost 11am. I told him there was no way we could keep the goal of the Blueberry Route, and we would have to settle for Westward Ho! a shorter mostly bolted route. We continued toward our route across another avy path into another stand of trees. On the other side lay the true granite sidewalk and we made some difficult moves getting onto it from the wet slimy corner that bordered the trees. The sun had yet to shine on the sidewalk, and it was still a touch slick from the morning frost. (It was 28° in Arlington as we drove through.) Rod and I gingerly made it up to the base of the route where we had lunch.

We actually made it halfway up the first pitch of Blueberry Route where there was a nice ledge and two rock seats. We had the crag all to ourselves, and geared up there. We packed the rope, water and a couple of poofy jackets and we were ready to go. We had brought a full rack for The Blueberry Route, but the beta for Westward Ho! was specific on what gear to bring. We decided to bring the full rack minus a few items just in case. I led up the first bit which completed the first pitch of The Blueberry Route, a wide crack up a slab. Unfortunately, a #4 didn't really fit in there, and made me wish we didn't bring it. I tried going further, but realized I would run out of rope if I intended to make it to the top of pitch one of Westward Ho!, so I backtracked and anchored and brought Rod up.

Rod led out on the next pitch, but skipped a bolt he didn't see before crossing the gully. then he had difficulty committing to the final move to make the first true on route bolt. He did finally come up with the right sequence, and then balked at making the moves above the bolt. He made a few attempts with very short falls, and a bit of hanging as well. He even attempted a lower and climb of the pitch on top rope to the bolt before he told me he wasn't feeling it and asked if I could give it a go. I lowered him back to my position and we switched ends of the rope before I headed out.

I climbed to the bolt on top rope. I initially feared what the pitch might look like as I often think of Rod being able to climb harder routes than me. I got to the bolt and found it to be fairly typical 5.8/5.9 slab. I eyed up the features, and climbed to the next bolt, clipping it. I did the same for the next bolt as well. Then there were some interesting moves up an overlap and leftward under a medium sized attached flake before rounding a corner and heading up after clipping another bolt. The difficulty eased off and I ran out of rope about four feet shy of the anchor. Rod tore the anchor, and I reached the anchor and brought him up. I think he slipped once, but otherwise had no major difficulties with the pitch on top rope. When he got to the belay, we discussed if he was up to leading it. This pitch was rated at 5.8 unlike the 5.9 previous pitch. He said it was now or never and took the rack and started up.

It appeared he may have been a little to the left of the route when his feet gave way while attempting to make a clip near the crux of the pitch. He took a fall that where he started on his feet, but finished with him skidding on his side down the slab. I asked if he was OK, and he said yes. I told him nice work in warning me about his fall, as he said "take" or "falling" just before he popped. He continued back up and had no issues with the rest of the pitch. I arrived at his location and we briefly consulted the topo before I set out on the third pitch.

This pitch was the easiest of them all, but once again rated at 5.9. The early section of the pitch was 5.6 and had at least 12' of spacing between the bolts. I had a bit of a scare between the widest spaced bolts when I was a bit left of the route on more lichen covered rock, and my left foot blew out. I did not fall, but it made me careful about getting the next bolt. The crux of this pitch did not at all feel 5.9, and I cruised the final section before bringing Rod up.

We swung leads and he headed off on the final pitch. From below, it was noticeably more dirty than the previous pitches and headed up through some overlaps before reaching the chains. Rod led this pitch and slowly overcame the overlaps placing tiny cams along the way. This was really the only pitch that required traditional gear. I hurried up behind Rod, and we began to rap the route.

No issues rapping, and we rejoined the rest of our gear at the base. We packed up and we started the long journey down the granite sidewalk. We were somewhat hampered by our lack of having not taken the sidewalk up and had to pick our way down like it was new to us. Fortunately the descent started easy with sandy ledges to skier's right of the slabs. Soon, we had to get on the slabs, and followed some corners and other features down. Then there were a few blank sections. I don't know if it was because I had a heavier pack, it was late in the day, or I had been sick, but I couldn't handle walking down the slabs at this point and reverted to crab walking. This proved not to be much slower than me walking, but we weren't making the best time. We eventually reached some bushes above The Grotto. We bushwhacked and down climbed a bit on the tree (mentioned in the guide) before getting into the grotto. The remaining slab bits were fairly wet and dirty and we were slow avoiding all the water down to where the path became boulders and not slab. Around 100m later, we were back at the road with headlamps on hiking back to the car. Turns out there is a nice parking area just after the granite sidewalk, but somehow we were unaware of that in the morning.

Overall this was an interesting trip. I am sort of bummed about not getting on the route we anticipated, but not surprising considering we turned the hour approach into a four hour ordeal. Westward Ho! was great, but descending the granite sidewalk I found not so fun. I think it will be a while before I head back to Exfoliation Dome again.

My pics are here.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Static Point - Lost Charms - 10.12.10

I wanted to get a multi pitch trad climb in before the season really ended. Adam was game for something and we set about a plan. Adam wasn't interested in something too hard, so we came up with a plan to climb Lost Charms. Adam tried to suggest climbs I had not previously done, but I wasn't feeling so great and opted to do something I know and would enjoy.

Unfortunately I forgot how arduous the approach feels for Static Point. But in 90 minutes we were through the wet overgrowth and out of the convergent zone jungle where the sun started poking through the clouds and warming us up. We geared up leisurely before doing the scramble to the Lost Charms tree. Once there I debated about the real first pitch and even considered doing the Pillar first pitch. Last time I was here with Julie, we took more of a Spencer's Spaceport approach to reach the anchor, and this time I wanted to climb the real first pitch.

We looked at the topo, and I eventually set out in an upward direction to the right. I aimed for a seam shown on the topo and was able to plug a tiny nut in before stepping out onto the slab with the seam. It turns out the seam took some gear and I was off. I had to go through some run out sections and eventually reached the fixed piton listed on the topo. From there I ran it out right to the belay on ledgy ground. This was the same station Julie and I were at, but now I believe it to be the correct belay station and not Spencer's Spaceport. When Adam arrived at the belay he stated the first pitch scared him too much and he was not interested in leading. I found that OK, as this route was well within my abilities to lead every pitch, and hopefully not get too mentally frazzled.

I led out, this time on the correct second pitch. It went up the mossy corner and broke left for a large ledge that became a right facing corner. It was easy terrain, which was nice as it was not well protected for the traverse. The corner section was really fun and protected decently. Above that there were a few choices. I went straight up as I thought that looked like the right way. There were a few unprotectable moves on some shallow cracks/seams before reaching some easier knobby terrain just before a big ledge that marks the end of the pitch. I brought Adam up and we had lunch. The remaining pitches would be on familiar terrain.

I hadn't led two of the three pitches we were about to do, and I was quite excited about the prospect. After our lunch break, I headed out on the next pitch, which climbs a blocky corner to the right of the pillar and then heads through a more blank slab before gaining the Bridge Flake. I found the moves easy, and while the crux of the pitch did not protect well, the rest of the pitch did. I didn't have gear for a belay at the end of the flake, and had to go a few steps further to build an anchor for the belay in a less comfortable stance. Adam cruised the pitch on top rope and declined the offer to lead the fourth pitch so I was on my way after we sorted the anchor mess.

The fourth pitch I remembered to be fun, and it was. Gear was a little tricky and I sewed it up where I could, and ran it out when I had to. Mostly it was reasonably protected, and I ran it out on the ledge to the anchor location. I set up another gear anchor, and brought Adam up. He attempted to climb a variation different than mine, but got back on track once he realized the flake he was on petered out. We re-racked, and I was off on the crux pitch.

I hesitated a touch on the lower portion where there are some thin ledges to gain a ledge system that bring you just below the bolt. Once there I clipped the bolt, and eyed my foot placements. About four steps up the slab, and I was able to grab the flake. It seemed so much easier than the first time. I then lie backed around the corner and headed to the next belay. The terrain was not well protected and it was traversing left. I contemplated the easy out of heading to the 5.8 finish, but did not want to deal with the rap route that would lead us to. So I continued with rope drag to the dirty corner for the finish at the chains. When I brought Adam up, he commented about the pitch three section being potentially harder than the true crux, and then we contemplated finishing the route by doing the sixth pitch. Adam told me it was around 4pm and that was all I needed to start rappelling.

The rappelling was a bit awkward as they stations are usually longer than 30m apart, but not even 50 m apart so there is a lot of extra rope leading you to think you can skip a station. Once at the bottom, we snacked and packed up for the uneventful hike out.

This was a fun route to return to two years after my previous climb. I wanted to check out other routes in the area, and now I have a better idea. There is no way I'd be leading most pitches of Online any time soon as the run out is a little unsafe for my pleasure. But The Pillar looked tamable, and I tried to spy The Curious Cube as much as possible, but it was difficult to see protection opportunities. Compared to Darrington crags, Static Point is more run out, and in a fashion that does not make sense to the mind. For instance, the Green Crab Traverse has a .10b crux between the first and second bolt. A fall there leading to bad consequences. Of course, they had to place bolts where they had good stances, and the crux was not a good stance. Lost Charms protects well and I did not mind most bits of run out. I'll return to Static Point, but not too soon, as I do not imagine there are too many other routes I would do there.

My pics are here.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Squamish - 10.2-3.10

I finally got someone to go to Squamish with me this year. The weather was looking good for what I am sure may be the last weekend that I would attempt to go up there. Matt Jillson was game and we opted for a plan of heading up casually on Saturday morning and staying until Sunday evening. While I had big dreams of climbing on the Apron Saturday and Sunday after talking to Matt in the car we opted for a day of single pitch cragging on Saturday and to get some multipitch action in on Sunday on the Apron.

It was interesting to see the improvements of the Sea to Sky Highway. Although there did not seem to be many. But we did notice the signs were now in English and Salish, to which Matt said Squamish has a seven in it. Indeed it does.

When we arrived we set up our tent at the Chief camp ground. And, like last year there were no envelopes, so we couldn't pay, even though I actually had the ten Canadian Dollars needed. We opted to check out Murrin Park as our first destination, and hit the Sugarloaf area to warm up. There are some easy four star routes there, and since we both didn't sleep well, we wanted to warm up easy. When we arrived at the cliff, ropes were on most routes, but no one was in sight. I led Little Spark first which was a wide crack followed by super easy blocky steps near the top. We found a group getting instructed up top, and walked off for our next route.

Matt led Lieback Crack, a three star 5.7 which we both awkwardly liebacked higher up. It didn't feel right the way I did it, but I could not figure out another way to do it. We watched a pair climb it on top rope later, but neither really did any liebacking on it.

I then led Magnet, another four star 5.4. This route was really easy, but really fun. After we both climbed that we set the rope up above Power Smart a fun 5.8 slab that didn't look like it protected well. (And our top rope laps convinced us of it.) After that we opted to head to Smoke Bluffs to see what we could find.

At Smoke Bluffs we ran into Bram and his friend going to climb Split Beaver, a difficult .10b offwidth. We headed to Neat and Cool in an attempt to climb Cat Crack. However, the Neat and Cool crag was overcrowded, and probably an instructional group as is typical of Smoke Bluffs on weekends. We looked through the book and found Laughing Crack which is above Zombie Roof. Since it had a fixed line to reach, we figured not too many people go up to climb it. Upon climbing the fifth class rock with a chain, we reached the route to find another party just packing up. We geared up for the route and Matt led it. This was an awesome five star crack route that had a nice position and was a joy to climb. (Except for the pain it inflicted on my feet as I jammed the smallish crack.) We rapped off and then climbed down the chain to find another objective.

Over at Penny Lane, we found Quarryman, another five star route. It was later in the day, and I wasn't feeling too much like leading, so Matt once again led. He climbed it well, and brought me up. This route was noticeably harder than the previous route and had some interesting moves exiting a corner and going around another to finish with a crack. We briefly toproped Popeye and the Raven, a .10d slab before calling it a day and putting our sights on tomorrow.

At dinner we made a plan to wake around 6am to be climbing by 7am on Sunday. We expected this to be a good time for the light to be on the rock. When we awoke at 6am, we snoozed twice to 6:30 and then decided to stay in until 7, as it was still dark and damp outside. We figured we needed some sunlight to dry the rock out a bit. After our multiple snoozes, we awoke at 7 to a very cloudy damp day. We prepped for our climb and eventually headed off toward the Apron, walking from the campground.

Everything around us was wet, and this was more apparent on the trail up where some of the rocky scramble sections were dripping. We arrived at the base just as the second of a two man rope team left the ground to start the first pitch of Over the Rainbow. We spied the route, and decided to stick with our original intent of climbing Sparrow. We geared up and Matt led off. The first pitch had only four pieces of pro in around 40m of climbing, including a traverse over somewhat easier slabs. I followed and headed up the second pitch which had some run out before a cam could be placed and then up to a bolt. A bit above the bolt was what I felt was the crux of the pitch. A short steep bulge that required careful footwork to get atop of. After that I wandered the slabs eventually reaching the belay tree. I brought Matt up, slipping at the crux. I belayed him down the next very short pitch to a tree, and followed shortly afterward.

By now we were feeling wetness in the air. We were in a cloud, and it appeared to be getting wetter. From the belay we could see what almost looked like rain on the pitch above us. It was a fine mist surely getting the rock wet. Matt set out and chalked his shoes in hopes of drying them out from standing in wet needles and mud from the short down climb. He climbed a crack and then set out on a short slab. I followed, but the rock got more wet by the time I arrived at the slab, and I slipped. I slipped again just hanging on the rope. I dried my feet and quickly scampered to the ledge. We made a quick gear change, and I started out on the next pitch.

I continued on the ledge before slinging a tree at the base of a line of bolts. The first bolt was ten feet or more up on a slab that was now quite damp. My first moves on the slab were slippery. I had a foot slip out just standing on the lower angle portion of it. I couldn't imagine reaching the first bolt. I kept drying my shoes on my pant legs. I chalked my hands, but they became wet when contacting the rock. I tried to wipe away the wetness on the holds, but it didn't help. Then I got the idea to hit my chalk sock on the holds I was going to use to dry them off, and perhaps keep them dry. After every move, I'd take the chalk out and chalk more holds. Mostly this was an issue for my feet, as my hands did not need as much friction to keep me on the rock. I eventually made the first clip, but the rock was so wet I could not continue up a friction slab. I hung. I discussed with Matt what he thought. I watched him rub his foot on the slab below him, and he said he could not do better. He wondered if I could aid through the section. I couldn't, but thought I could attempt to stand on a bolt and then clip the next (about eight feet apart.) But there was a big stretch of lower angle terrain that did not appear to have bolts, how would I reach it? Plus there were two more pitches of 5.8 slabs above the 5.9 slab I was attempting to climb. Finishing was looking impossible. I thought about waiting out the clouds, but who knew what would happen? I finally conceded to being lowered and climbing back to Matt. [After looking at the guide book Sunday night, I realized I was trying to climb the a .10b pitch from "One Scoop" that was wet, and that the 5.9 was a less bolted route to the right. Not sure I could have got up that either.]

We discussed the option of rappelling, but it did not appeal to us. Especially considering we would have to retrace the Apron approach trail. Matt asked if there was another route we could get on, perhaps Banana Peel? I looked at our topo, and sure enough Banana Peel shared the ledge we were on. And the remaining pitches were mostly 5.4 with a small bit of 5.7, much easier to climb in the wet. I led out through some trees and bushes and connected with Banana Peel in about fifteen feet. I continued on the Banana Peel's fifth pitch. We swung leads from there on easier ground before reaching Broadway, when the rain started in earnest.

We scrambled off Broadway to the woods and donned our approach shoes for the hike out. The dense canopy kept it a bit less rainy in the woods, but the two locations with fixed lines on the hike out were super slippery and a bit sketchy. We eventually came back out to the trail unscathed.

We did a little poking around to find Dreamcatcher. It is almost in a cave surrounded by boulders as big as houses. There was a climber working on it and we watched a bit before scrambling back out of the area and onto the trail for our drive home.

This was a fun trip, although not as productive as I would have liked. We did get in some four and five star routes and did make it to Broadway even if we had to finish on a route I had done before. Matt and I discussed trying to get the rest of our crew to come up for a long weekend and really have fun.

My pics are here.