Monday, July 25, 2011

Three O' Clock Rock - 08.24.11

Rod and I headed out to Darrington to climb on what was one of the hottest days of the year so far. Not always a good idea for slab climbing, but it usually means Darrington will be dry.

The drive up was pleasant, and soon we were gearing up in the cool valley floor for a hike to the rock. This was Rod's first time at Three O' Clock Rock, and we were debating the routes to try and get on. I really wanted a second crack at Revolver after trying to climb it wet back in September. But I was also interested in climbing Big Tree One again to get some gear placement "practice" in since I hadn't been on rock in over a month. The harder rating of Revolver had Rod suggesting we start on Big Tree One. This made sense, as it is on the South Buttress, and would be sunnier in the afternoon. And Revolver was on the North Buttress and perhaps wouldn't be as hot during the hottest time of day.

We got to the base and geared up for Big Tree. Rod led it and took a while completing the pitch. I had to run off into the woods before following. I joined him at the top of pitch one. We swapped the rack and I headed off on pitch two. Perhaps it is coming off the couch after a month of not climbing, but I didn't remember this pitch to be as run out. I got to the top and brought Rod over and he prepared for the next lead.

Rod headed up the third (and best) pitch of the route. I had told him where I thought the crux was and he made good time heading up to it. At the crux he balked. He tried a higher gear placement and then even added a second cam. He down climbed a few steps and yo-yo'd a bit. He inspected holds and tried different options. After a long while, he confessed to me he did not have the moves in him. I lowered him down to the anchor and I switched to the sharp end to tackle the moves. The crux of the route in my opinion is a move where the lie backing ends and you have a few friction moves before picking up the lie backing again. I'm not sure it is the technical crux of the route, but it is the mental crux as you leave hand holds and counter pressure for some straight smearing.

I climbed up the crux on top rope and then rearranged the gear Rod had placed so I could have more gear above the crux. I tried the moves and was attempting to remember how I did it last time, but I was not being successful. I couldn't commit to my right foot. I down climbed a few times to a ledge to rest my feet. Was I no longer capable of doing the moves? I had tried low, I had tried midway. What if I tried high? I started back up and instead of forcing my moves rightward I just followed the natural rhythm of the rock and found myself going up a bit more before rightward moves commenced. It felt good. The small tree that I had previously slung appeared bigger, but not as lively. I slung it again and headed off to finish the pitch.

Rod joined me and commented that he still didn't like the moves, even on top rope. I presented him with an option to lead the final pitch as I wanted to move onto other things. He didn't feel the need to, so we started rapping the route.

Once back at the packs we huddled in the shade and ate lunch. With my need to be back in Seattle by 5pm, it was too late to start a 6+ pitch route like Revolver. We had to come up with other options. I suggested Dirt Circus, a route I had not previously done. The first pitch was bolted 5.9 and the second was a bolted 5.9+. I offered the easier first pitch to Rod and we hiked over to the base.

There must be a good reason for this route to be called dirt circus. The first 10' of stone were filthy. We joked about how we should have power washed it before climbing in the morning and that it would have been ready to go by the afternoon. Rod tied in and made several attempts to place a cam so he could continue. After a period of time he said it wasn't going to happen and I offered another route for us to climb.

Rod got the lead on Under the Bored Walk. A route I suggest to anyone who is climbing at Darrington for the first time. I had him lead it to the top in one pitch. I followed, experimenting with my approach shoes. This was quite scary at first, but as the difficulty eased and I got used to the feeling of chicken heads under my feet, it was not too bad. Afterward, Rod said the route was a good one to bring people new to rock climbing as it was fun and easy.

I love Three O' Clock Rock for the ease of approach and so many good climbs in a range that I can climb. It was great being out on the rock. I feel I needed this to prep me for Squamish in two weeks. We'll see how things go.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Mirabelle's first camping trip - 07.19-20.11

Jennifer and I had been plotting this trip for a while, but weather and work kept getting in the way. This time I had a span of four days off and a better weather window to work from. The goal was to head to the dryer east side of the Cascades, and spend a night in the van. OK, not tent camping, but a start. We considered tent camping, but since we'd be in the van anyway, why bring a tent?

First thing we learned was that Mirabelle needs breaks from the two hour car trip. She slept a bit on the way over, but perhaps awoke from pressure in her ears as we cleared Steven's Pass. We made a few stops on the way over to comfort her and opted to stop in Leavenworth to walk around and give her a nap.

We did touristy things for a bit and then hung out by the Wenatchee River where she got her feet wet and played in the sand. We had dinner in town before setting out to our destination of Glacier View Campground in Wenatchee National Forest.

The Glacier View Campground is a great car camping destination if you are going to be kayaking on Lake Wenatchee. However, it is not well suited to our purpose of just parking the van and camping in it. Most sites have a walk in, so many do not have good platforms to park and camp. We did a lap before opting on site 18 where we got ready for the night.

Camping went well and we all slept in the pop top through the night. I had pillow issues which left me with a stiff neck/back the next day, but Mirabelle appeared refreshed when we awoke the next morning. We intended to hike up to Hidden Lake, but typical of mid summer in the Cascades, the mosquitoes were biting. Since we didn't wish to bundle her up too much, and we wouldn't dream of putting deet on Mirabelle, we turned back and figured we could find a less biting option near Leavenworth.

Mirabelle fell asleep in the car ride and we drove up Icicle Creek hoping for a place to hike. When she awoke we tried to hike up the Snow Creek Trail a bit, but that proved too sunny, even with her hat and sunglasses. We once again went back into town to Riverfront Park. We hiked a bit there before stopping at the same locale on the river to have her play in the sand and eddy.

Overall I think this trip went well. We'll perhaps try our first tent outing this summer as well. We may also return to Leavenworth in the autumn when the sun is not so strong but it is drier than the west side. When we got home MIrabelle was a little flush and we thought she had gotten a sun burn. It dissipated, and we were relieved that we were not bad parents.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Silver Peak - NW RIdge - 07.07.11

1800'+ elevation gain
~5 miles RT
Left car: 7:15 am
Summit: 9:05 am
Back at car: 10:45 pm
3.5 hours car to car

Without any willing weekday partners I was able to get away for a climb of Silver Peak in Snoqualmie Pass. There weren't recent trip reports, but Silver usually holds snow pretty well. So I went to find out if I could ski it.

When I arrived near the meadows, I was startled by the lack of visible snow. Since I was feeling like this might be a hike with my skis, I left the skins in the car and headed out in my approach shoes. I parked the car by the PCT and headed toward the woods where the brush looks less thick. The first two creek crossings were tricky with numerous blow downs. Once reaching the third which was even more tricky, I opted not to cross, but to head upstream. Within 500' vertical of the car I was on continuous snow on the other side of the creek and picking my way upward. I switched over to ski boots here for better purchase/platform while kicking steps.

I started following some downhill ski tracks, but they cliffed me out and I had to traverse and down climb a bit to get back on track. A few veggie belays later and I was in the lower bowl heading toward the ridge. The sun was out and I was trying to stay in the shade as I made my way to the ridge. Up on the ridge I stashed my skis and continued on snow for about 50'. I then put my approach shoes back on for the trail walk/scramble to the summit. The view were great with undercast skies.

Once on the summit, the wind picked up and clouds rolled in from the west. The snow was in decent shape, and I didn't want to get rained on, so I hustled it back to my skis where I got ready to descend.

Dropping in was fun and I made my way back toward the bowl I had come up. There were a few hesitations where I had to make sure the line went before continuing. Then picking my way through some of the terrain that I veggie belayed up through. I took my skis off for a bit while traversing through some terrain that was low on snow and then donned them again at the top of my final steep slope.

A few turns down, I lost an edge bouncing over sun cups. I was sort of complacent about it and fell into the slope thinking I would just stop. I didn't. After 30' of sliding and getting beat up I opted to arrest the slide with my Whippet. The runout was clean but I was picking up speed. The fall was not forceful, as I only lost one ski a few feet before stopping. I collected my stuff and continued down.

Now I was on flatter terrain and I was attempting to not have to cross the creek again. So I kept it on skier's right of me and followed some faint ski track out as far as I could before the inevitable bushwhack took place. I struggled through budding blueberry bushes for what seemed like a long time before once again arriving at the PCT and finishing the hike out.

This was a fun trip and I am glad I finally made the summit. I am also glad about skiing in July. Next time I will not be so complacent when it comes to falling and arrest as soon as I am laying down. Mostly I have a few abrasions. (The bushwhack drew more blood.)

My pics are here.