Given the highly volatile nature of west coast weather, necessity demands flexible (last minute) planning to be successful. I am lucky that Vern called me and asked what my plans were, because he knows I am off work and driven to make the most of it. We settled on an idea that neither one of us ever considered. Drive all the way to Vegas!!!!!! The weather even this far south was sketchy, but nothing compared to the pounding the west got this week. While staying in Vegas, having a rental house to stay in was a fortunate thing! (Thanks Mark and Rosey!)I must admit to a cold windy belay, or 6, but we made the right call. Logging in many multi-pitch routes day after day was the dream we had hoped might come true.
The drive down was endless, but we still got to the crags at 4pm the next day. Then on day 2 we had an amazing trad day linking Triassic Sands, Wholesome Fullback, and Our Father. Cant beat that for a start, but it then got even better! Another rest/sport day and its off to Unimpeachable Groping, a steep and relentless 5 pitch route that is simply one of the best! Day 5 , and we wanted to go up Risky Business, but it was too cold, so we opted for an amazing “alpine day” and did the complete Dark Shadows to the top of Mescalito. Cant describe how fun it was to do 10+ pitches in 4 long simo- blocks!!! Day 6, of course is a rest/rain day . Day 7, we were able to get 6 pitches at Black Corridor, then begin the monster drive back to Washington. It ended up being my best trip to Red Rocks (35p). It is a wonderful climbing destination, and I will be spending much more time there. Thanks Vern, Mike, Steve, Alasdair, Nate, Lisa, Fred, Randy, Aaron, Mark, Daisy, Abbey for keeping such great company, and Pro Mountain Sports for always having that last minute item!!
My 5th trip to the Utah desert yielded some great adventures. I thank Mike and Brinte for again being gracious hosts. Mike, always an agreeable and fun partner, did only 1 route with me that he hadn’t done prior. They were all great classics, and he got to swap the leads that he followed on his prior ascents. We started off in the Red Rocks Canyon. After a warm up day of sport climbing in the Calico Hills, we set our sights on Levitation 29. An astounding and steep route, it lived up to its stout reputation. I think the route is getting harder with the sandstone now offering fewer footholds in critical sections? At any rate , I enjoyed it and got up it with only pulling on a couple of draws. Great deproach too, down a scenic valley to the West (no leaving your stuff at the base, and carry 1 rope). We were excited to spend the night at the base of Rainbow Wall route, but the temps were too cold for us in the morning to enjoy our first time up that route. Retreat back to a cheap casino for showers. Next time..
Zion was one of the last major western areas that I had yet to climb at. It was covered in snow last year when I had the time. This was my best chance, with moderate daytime temperatures and stable weather in mid-March. Iron Messiah was first on the list, what a fantastic route! All types of adventurous climbing and long leads made for a great intro to the park. Next up was the monster route called Silmaril on the Watchman. Mikes tried and true strategy was to fix several pitches on day 1, then on day 2, jug and finish the route. With the strenuous and long pitches, this was a critical move. We were humbled by the first 3 pitches. Right off the ground we did a short section of aid, then a full power finish to a 50m lead. My lead on p2 started off on a set of huge blocks that had a set of blocks behind that shifted while I was jamming them. I was just able to keep it together and get beyond this dangerous section with some serious self-talk and breathing. Rocks were tumbling down the cracks, and my cams were expanding in the right hand crack. Be careful on this section. Mike did the 3rd straight hard lead with small amounts of aid, and with 1 69m rap we were on top of the original route pinnacle. Another 30m rap and we were back on firm ground. Day 2, we hiked back up and did the steep jug back to our high-point. The most memorable pitches after that were the 10+hands endurance corner and Mikes resilient off-width lead. Both days were exhausting and I can’t imagine doing the whole route in a day! It was my hardest sandstone route to date, a medium I am learning to respect. 1 sandstone lead can equal 3 on granite. A given hard lead can take hours to get up.
After such body-wrecking , It was nice to enjoy more reasonable classics. Monkey Finger and Smashmouth are 2 of the best. They made a great trip even better. A must do pair of routes for sure. I had never cragged in Little Cottonwood either. Mike showed me around for a couple of days before I flew back home. 55 pitches in all, 5 multi-pitch routes. Cant wait till next year! Thanks Mike and Britne!!
I had been crazy for this route since Steve and friends climbed it last season. Picture , and video of last years Rainbow Serpent. Not only did the stunning Rainbow Serpent come in this year, but so also did Fearful Symmetry. We went in with 4 people, hoping to do a quality photo shoot for Ben Herndon. We were prepared to do a 2 team ascent for top-down photos. The wind and cold did not allow for such shenanigans however. Leaving the 2 Bens at the base, Jess and I split it into 4 pitches to save on rope drag and stay more active. The wind swirled with crazy might in the Recital Hall, at times cracking like a whip. It sent horrendous spend-drift down on the climbers and left the base team to chop away at the huge ice blocks that fell from old icefalls to stay warm. The Hall is an earned and temporary position, with the easiest entry up a multi pitch WI4 just to get to it. (Aquarius)
…also of note the snow drifts before the Big Hill are large enough to need a big rig currently. We couldn’t do it with a Tacoma 4wd! Adds 1-2 hours to the approach. Still worth every step.
1-11-14 -Rainbow Serpent.
Pitch 1 is an easy short way to get to the start of the pillar. 25m, wi3. The lower pillar had crazy mushrooms stacked out into space above you. We found a doable way up the right side, yet the rope drag made progress halt just short of a wild roof formed when a dagger broke off days prior. I got the roof lead,(p3) feeling like I had to do bouldering to get through. A great cave belay left Jess with the 40m finish endurance pillar, (p4, for us, A better party would combine 2 of our pitches). It was a longer route than I expected(The book says 70m, more like 100m), the exposure was tremendous at a few places, and the ice brittle. Despite suffering from the elements, it was a fantastic climb that I will never forget. Thanks Jess, BenH, Ben E.
Stay tuned for Bens Pictures in the coming days!
2-6-2014- Banks came in in a flash again this season, sporting brittle, chandeliered, and thin ice. Sounds just wretched but can be very exciting if your head gets into it. We (Jess, Ben, and I) started by tope-ropeing the Cable route, a deceptively long and difficult route. It is full on for 50 meters, and if in thin shape, the scale can go up dramatically. I was just barely able to get it on tope-rope, feeling like it was the hardest ice I may have ever been on. Super technical(in thin shape), and always steep, it is a mind boggling route. There is a nice 2nd pitch above, that is seldom done. Be REAL careful if you try to set up a tope-rope on this one! The traverse is very exposed.
2-6-13- Jess, Beau, and I head for Zenith, hoping it was in good shape, and more importantly, the high-ever-threatening-ice-dagger would hopefully be gone. We pulled up to it, and noticed it had grown into a enormous 60′+ free hanging monster the size of a large tree. The tunes drowned out the noise of the collapse, then Jess first noticed it was suddenly gone in a cloud of dust. With that good omen in the bag, we were still humbled by the amazing Zenith. It is yet another route that you can just throw the grade system away with, depending on the conditions. I don’t remember ever leading such a long and difficult single ice pitch in my past. I even did a take after the crux. If brittle and thin, it too, is nowhere close the rating offered in the guide book.The other routes in the area look gamey as well, so be careful out there.
1-25-14 Tunnel Vision ,Angora Grotto. GM to Heart of the Country, LTW Index w. Shaun , crazy fun 4p.
I have been blessed to live in areas that enjoy great climbing venues within a 1-2 hour drive of home.
Portland, Oregon has decent cragging, boasting 4 areas minutes from the city. Beacon was always the prize day out. The scene and route selection can be cumbersome however. On the day-trip/weekend radar , you always have Smith and 50 other crags to enjoy. Viva l’Oregon! Great place to live for sure.
A huge step up at the time for me was moving to Tahoe and having Donner Summit and the lake environs to enjoy solid granite. Sierras were the standard weekend fair, and seldom disappointed.
One could build a great case for moving to The Vancouver/Squamish area…wish I had done that.
Seattle took time to develop, and continues to a dozen years later. I have well-plundered Leavenworth, Vantage, and half of Tieton. I keep finding myself stunned by the routes at Index! You can’t easily find such a collection of sustained and inspiring climbing. The character of the pitches in the 5.10-5.11 routes suit what I like in a route. I enjoy thought-provoking, balancey, sustained, quality, tricky, and insecure movement. You WILL get that here, and it is humbling at times. Some moves feel impossible at first go. Then there is some secret laser beta you get, and then.. oh I get it. Tough place to onsite., hope you like a challenge. I used to avoid Index because of Hwy 2 traffic(it can be an issue), and a reverse snobbiness about the place. Glad I got over it and can get down to business here again! No wonder the parking lot is always full now, Thanks AAC and WCC for the work on that. See you out there! Thanks for reading.
Its fun to compare the areas and the climbs they offer. My nature is to climb everything out, then move to another locale if possible. Not gonna be easy at Index. I seem to be fairly entrenched in Seattle for a bit, so its great to have new wonders waiting . Looking forward to some time off work now as well!
Part 1: Snoqualmie mt.
Part 2: Dec, 2013. The temperatures dropped, the messages stack up. Not being the type of person that can say no to an enthusiastic partner, we planned on 2 teams of 2 and headed up to Alpental Valley. Usually buried in deep snow and snow enthusiasts, we found a valley of ease and solitude, oh and some amazing ice. The original plan was to go big, but Doug, Daniel and I had heard bad things about the other local areas. After viewing a knarled finger on my phone, we set out as a party of 3 to tackle the 3 pitch WI4; Flow Reversal. A route I had done in fat conditions a few years ago, Video here . We found it in outstanding shape with water ice from top to bottom. We each had a lead and enjoyed it to the fullest. 2 rapps with a double at the end and we were back in Seattle before dark.
Dougs trip report
The next day Doug and I just had to head back up to get the amazing route to the right of it. We had vague notions of getting the first ascent, but really, there is very little uncharted territory so close to Seattle. Steve Swenson probably did the fa in ’74, lol. It was unnamed however and after comparing it to other options we called the climb: Resistance is Futile. It drew us quickly up it with 2 easy start pitches and a short, but intense WI5 crux at the end of the 300′ waterfall. It was a pumpy over hung 2 column feature that once again had to be cleared of many daggers aimed at my head. 2 double rapps and we were back at the car by 2pm this time! Such a fun route to finish an amazing weekend. Now its off to Bozeman the enjoy the Icefest, see you there?
Wow! Had another great weekend in the Washington Pass area. This time we made it up one of the taller routes in the area. We tried the 1500′ Gato Negro last year too, only to have rain spoil the plan. I liked the idea of returning with 2 teams of 2 on the route to share big cams, stoke, and additional safety (except for the occasional rock-fall) . The plan was for me to turn on the jets after we shared ropes on p4. That way Lane and I could clear the descent with no parties above us. I combined p8-10 into 2 -61meter leads, and skipped the last one to save time.We did it in 9.5 hrs camp to camp. The route was very high quality, with several “money” pitches: p2, 4, and 8-11. Take the super-topos advice on the seriousness of the whole package. I took a full set of cams: 0-5, with an additional half set of small cams. Stoppers were not very useful, but I placed a dozen clips of them. One was a small nut in the crux to avoid plugging a lock. Beware the bad tat on the first chockstone on the crux pitch.
Lane, Tom, Daniel, and I had a great time sharing each others company, and living this amazing experience. Thanks again Guys!
The last 5 pics, courtesy of Lane.
Here is Jen Holstens account of the most recent effort to enchain the entire summit ridges of the Pickets Range in Northern Washington State.
Here is Chads write-up.
I dont have much to say right now except for WOW! To do all of that in cold and stormy conditions is just amazing. While they were on the traverse, I would look out my window at the clouds and wonder just how bad it was up there. Yes we had 1 day of the 6 in the Northern Pickets in which it did not rain or ice pellet, but it wasn’t that bad until the end. A 30 hours storm made the trip over Challenger and the hike out a miserable affair.
I will write more about this stupendous trip soon, Check back, Thanks, and honored to be friends with these 2 climbers!
Washington State has always been known as a great state for alpine climbing, but rock climbing has always seemed like an afterthought. There have been efforts to change that, with many high-quality routes added in recent years. Having traveled extensively this summer, I have found strong comparisons in quality climbs locally with states known for their great rock climbs. If The Passenger were in any other state, it would be highly publicized and renowned. Since this great climb is tucked away in the corner of the country, and next to Liberty Crack, it will probably remain relatively unknown.
I had always been intimidated by these modern routes until Lane and I did The Hitchhiker last year. Though difficult, they can be managed with a strategy that one would approach with any route. Just grind it out pitch-by-pitch, and dont worry about pulling on a piece of gear or 2. After reporting on the wonders of HH, several people chimed in about its sister route: The Passenger. After 2 full months of travel and quality routes, I set my sights on it. A week ago, Vern and I did the Boving Route on SEWS, and I thought I would be clever and leave my gear at the base of the route to return the next day with Shaun. Vern left and called Shaun to find out that he had broken his finger and would not be up for the route. So went my luck at the start of the campaign. I returned fresh with Vern the next week and we made quick work of the route in 5+ hours of climbing. We found the route to be extremely high quality, with short crux sections, good rests, and great protection. There are no endurance sections. The new WA Pass guide is fairly accurate, though the length of each pitch is not described after the first few, and a tough crux is left out at the top of pitch 3. Also use the belay at the tree, top of p2. Doubles on cams to 1 1/2″, 1 set of stoppers. Pitch 5 is a bitch too, watch out for the loose block mantel to the belay. I like the Blue Lake approach. Enjoy the pics, and plan your send!
I must pay tribute to an inspirational climber that put up a set of truly amazing climbs. One can only imagine what Paul Boving would have gone on to do, if it weren’t for his untimely demise back in 1977. Here are a few of his best:
Thin Fingers ( Did many times)
NW Face North Early ( I did it in ’03)
NW Face, South Early, The route that Vern and I just did ,7-10-13!
The day before however, I did a solo of the SW Butt of Cutthroat Peak. I wish I could say good things about the route, but the views were spectacular.
Having only done a couple of Paul’s finest, I was wary of his route on South Early Winter Spire. It had the makings of a brawl with 3 stiff pitches, the first 2 are the cruxes. Never mind doing them in the cold morning shade. I took the first one, and found it to be techy, balancey, and insecure. At the last 20 feet of the lead, I got suckered into some chalk to the right, shoulda gone straight up and left of that finish. The 2nd lead also offered great pro, it is a core workout on rattly locks in a flared thin crack. Though a short lead it is also sustained the whole way, Super fun, yet the Boving Double Roofs offer another spin on the boldness of our past explorers. Just make sure your follower is strong, not a fun fall off this one. We finished the route in a simo, and the summit is becoming a place of great celebration for me as of late. For Beta I like the Beckey topo over the Supertaco, simple is better in this case.
Thanks to Vern, Pro Mt Sports, and Paul, for yet another great experience!