Tuesday, October 19, 2010

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.

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