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.
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!
So it had already seemed like I had been living out of my car for a month when Lane and I went on this 9 day trip to California. Since being off work in late May I have barely home for a couple of days at a time. I was a little cranky to say the least, but the incredible routes we did made for a whole lot of happy ( 6 big routes in 7 days). A miserable drive to the Needles proved to be very worthwhile. We did 3 amazing routes in 3 days, starting with the 3 pitch 10b named Airy Interlude. It is well named to put it lightly, also completely reeks of quality climbing. Weird weather on day 2 allowed us to do Igor Unchained , 3p, 9+. We saved the best for last with a day 3 ascent of Thin Ice, 2(long)pitches 10+. I can’t say enough about how incredible that route is. You just have to find out for yourself? The Needles is sure to amaze and challenge anyone who seeks its unique resources. Glad I finally checked the place out. Hike in on day 1, then after the day of climbing, Hang and leave your gear for the next days outings.
Next up was a couple of days in Tuolumne Meadows to do 2 stunning routes of renowned fame. I wanted to do Crescent Crack on DAFF Dome, but it was wet. Blown Away (4p, 5.9) made a nice plan B. It had a great variety of crack, slab, and exposure.
The route that was up next concerned me greatly due to its old school nature and difficulty. Oz (ounce) (4p, 10d), on Drug Dome was a classic test piece back in the day. Today, it still pushes modern climbers with its testy crux, and enduro corner pitches. It went smoothly for me, though glad I have decades of experience to see me through it. A must-do if I ever saw one.pics:
Last on the list of stunning classic climbs was Positive Vibrations. Many reports have glowed , justifiably, about the wonders of the route, so I will provide some drawbacks to it. It is more”alpine” than I thought it would be. Meaning, there are great rests and short cruxes with easier moves between. There is still some loose rock on it. It is not very steep in general. Dont be intimidated by it, the hard part is just enduring the whole experience of going up, and down it. I will also provide some pics to this right-of-passage route:
I have such strange luck when traveling alone. Dread of long hours alone in the car -in the middle of nowhere -is new to me in my recent years. The scars from my Euro trip still showing? Though I wish I could have found a full-time travel partner, I am looking forward to meeting up with several friends on a multi-state journey . Wish I wasn’t such a wuss about it.
I soon got into the flow of taking care of myself, and letting plans flow due to weather and people I would meet.
Overcoming my pre trip dread was easy after visiting my family in Pdx, then meeting old friends in Smith, then Utah, then Idaho, whew! Perfect weather the whole 3 weeks has helped me do many great pitches along the way.
It was a relief to finally succeed on the Titan ( 8p, 5.9-C3) with Mike. Our first attempt was hampered by rain and one of my biggest falls on lead. Neither one of us expected to return if we didnt make it this time.
After getting a late start, I was able to fix the first 2 pitches, and retreat in the dark to a camp at the base of the route. It was great climbing in the cool of the morning in perfect weather. The climb went great, and we finished the route by 3pm. Some pics:
Then after a few great days in Potash Road with various folks, , I hooked up with a nice couple from Brazil. We climbed Lighthouse Tower together (3p, 5.10+). Got some great pics there too on my 8th, and their 1st tower!
The trip continues to Indian Creek.I pulled in to Supercrack parking and met a couple from my neighborhood, David, and Dafna. We did a couple of fine routes in the shade. Cave route and Generic crack made a nice evening for sure. Dave and Dafna told me to find a wild man from Colorado in the Cottonwood camp. I went straight for him (Dave, from Colo.), and we hooked up the next 2 days on some of the most stunning climbing I have ever done. Day 1 sent us up to the Rambo Wall, and we got busy with Blue Sun for a warm up, then we went after Layaway Plan, an amazing 11+ corner to undercling roof. Dave came so close to the red-point, it came down to a spun biner. I pulled the rope and got the pink-point of it. Way-Rambo sent me to the cleaners, Dave , and wife Mia, led Desire, and we finished the day on a beautiful arch : Chestful of Kindness.
That evenings rain storm made Rimshot that much more slippery the next day. The 5 pitch 5.11 offers 4 very difficult yet fun pitches in the morning shade. Being cold at the belays was a testament to the near perfect weather I have had on this incredible trip.
After leaving Indian Creek, I stayed with Mike and Britne, thanks again to you 2 for the hospitality. The next day it was off to Castle Rocks/ City of Rocks to meet Lane for a few days. On the 3rd, and last day with him, I started climbing with Mike S. from Colorado. Mike and I stayed a couple of more days and had bagged many more classics, my favorites were Silent Partner, and Morning Glory. Left to reflect on the trip driving back, I believe it to be one of my best trips ever, climbing 80+ pitches average in 10c and 3 stars to boot. Being able to rope gun/guide allowed me to be compatible with 15 different climbing partners as well. So glad I went and made it a great memory.
When we found out that Goats Beard was in, all other plans were shelved.
Once I was off work and the ice formed, what busy plans they were. It started in Canmore for 5 days. Back to Seattle for a day, then Hyalite for 8 straight. A night at home, then Leavenworth then, Lilooet , …you get the idea. I came home from the latest trip to low temps, and many messages from wanting partners. . Shaun asked me to join him in trying Drury Falls, A route that comes in nearly every year, and stays in until the temps or any danger goes up. Shaun was game for the new Goat-oriented plan which was to be his 1st multi-pitch ice route and 3rd ice route overall. Worried about the routes objective hazards, we were comforted by reports of 2 parties having success on it the days before our try. Reports of hanging daggers overhead all day, and double with sunlight made sleep uneasy the night before. A 3 am wake-up from Shauns house in Leavenworth, and a 700 am start on route. We were stunned by the first light on the route. Earlier that summer, I had done a 7 pitch 5.11 route just next to our waterfall! We were impressed that there was a way through the giant roofs guarding the top forest. It had to be one of the longest, and more importantly-,Funnest ice routes I have ever done. We were like kids at the playground of our dreams. Though Shaun and I were at opposite ends of our career, and had barely met, We were newborn to the world and grateful for life, instantly and forever connected by this thread of temporary ice. Thanks to his roommate : Heidi, ..Vern and Craig for having the cahones to do the onsite, …John for the reassurance, …Shaun for the solid effort on his first big ice route…. Christina and Pro Mt Sports for the hardwear.
We did the route in 6 LONG pitches, 6 hours car to car. We found the first crux to be a long wi5 (p2). the other cruxes were the section through the roofs( a clever, thin corner in the middle of giant roofs, p5). The last pitch was an endurance pillar that took my last shred of energy, p6. The ice was greatly varied in type and consistency, adding yet another element to the intense experience. The route is never super difficult, but the position is always on your mind. It saw 3 ascents in 3 days, and thanks to the internet, it may see more until it falls apart.
pics are in reverse order.
Feeling very lucky to land in Bozeman this season, and enjoy some climbing with Vern, and Keenan. 2 young men that I have had discourse via internet, and now swapping leads with them, on some great ice routes. Huge Thank Yous to Ari, Marko, Lisa, Charles, Vern, Keenan, Anita, and Tab, for being such giving friends.
Day 1. Vern and I ran into Anita and Tab on Palisade Falls, after saying goodbye to 2 friends from Oregon. It was in smaller, steeper shape with large cauliflower’s to manage. Great fun for laps on different lines.
Day 2: Killer Pillar is still soaking climbers on both sides. The left side being slightly drier. The mixed is fun and drier, so is the tube start behind the pillar on top rope.
Day 3: Late start works great for getting up Slight of Hand, which has a short approach since the road is till ungated as of late. (gate will close jan 2, unless snow depth warrants earlier closure) Very fun route.
Day 4: Rest for me, Vern and Keenan head for Horsetail Falls.They report good conditions there too, then did Palisade again.
Day 5: Vern, Keenan, and I go after Climb above Dribbles, now known as “Alex in Wonderland” ,starting with Silken Falls. It is a long approach and the 1st rock pitch is loose and sketch. Keenan led this, but V and I froze at the cold belay. We were also running out of daylight so we bailed before the crux 2nd pitch quickly.
Day 6. Vern and I do a very wet Scepter. We recovered from that in warmer temps and did the 4 other routes to the right. Starting with Mummy 2 then Matrix (fun) ,solo right of Matrix, then finishing with Feeding the Cat. Great day!
Day 7 Responsible Family Men is a great pitch. Worth the long hike up there, the exposure and ambience is like that of a big Canadian route. We took the direct approach using Markos great beta yet again. We wound down the day with Switchback falls , and the mixed route to the far left. Fun day!
Day 8: Cleopatras Needle was in great shape, but less there than the other 2 times I have done it. Ari, and I followed a tired Vern up and I got some great shots in the early morning sun. What a great trip we had, hooking up with friends for climbing and socializing. Quite a sport for occupying the darker, colder months of the year. Thanks to Marko,and Ari for putting us up for the week!
Here are some shots and thoughts from a 5-day trip I took with Lane, Steve, and Christina.
Canada is such a reliable place if you have to go ice climbing. We had hoped to go to the Hyalite Icefest, but the team agreed we had better chances at a lot of ice going to the colder regions. After all, it is still early season in the first week in December.
Day 1, I have taken to visiting the closest crag first, in order to climb as soon as you can finish the drive. Haffner Creek is great for that. Tough short routes immediatly reward the long drive. Satisfy the whole clan, including Christina on her maiden ice trip! Huge thanks to Pro Mt Sports for having all the latest gadgets for this crazy fun sport.
Day 2, Another warm up day on Moonlight and Snowline again with Lane, Christina.
D3, following the great advice from Steve, we head into the Ghost. Enjoyed Dead Bird, Yellow bird, and Good, Bad , Ugly rounded out a fun outing. Hope to see the rest of this cool valley someday.
D4 and it is time to try something big with the master himself, Steve. He had his eye on a set of routes ending high on Mt. Wilson. Oh, Le Tabernac is a 2 pitch 5 that gains access to an even bigger cliff that offers much greater prizes. The most obvious hard route was Whoa Whoa Capitane . Steve had already done the crazy one on the far right: Les Miserables. He saw fit to do the 1st lead on OLTab. It ended up being so very wet for him, enduring a constant shower for half of the pitch. With guilt I led the dry second pitch, and we started the big wallow up to the upper bowl. What an amazing set of climbs are up there!!! The ultimate Ice Crag, offering a half dozen multi-pitch stunners. We were to be humbled by more water pouring down the early season ice (bailed). Next time.
D5 Cold temps can be dealt with unless accompanied by high winds. That was the scenario that led us to the Grotto Canyon, enjoying its shelter and very fun routes. Enjoy the photos, and please be a part of the online content , post your report soon.thanks.
Also, I am selling 3 pairs of plastic double boots. they are lightly used and going cheap.