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!!
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!
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.
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.
Postscript: I have just learned that Nick Dodge , Author, “A Climbing Guide to Oregon” passed away sept 28th 2012, after a battle with cancer. I cant say how big of an influence his work was in my early climbing life. I dedicate this story to the memory of this man, and his classic work. RIP, Mr. Dodge
There is a constant battle going on inside the mind of the climber on a scary lead. Ambition and stoke are at war with self preservation. Throw in added stresses like loose rock, exposure, and constant overhang, and you have the supreme conflict like we had on the Turkey Monster last weekend.
Hidden in the trees of the Menagerie Wilderness in Central Oregon, the Monster towers above the canopy with its bizarre sculpture. The 350′ tall tower defies imagination and gravity with a much larger girth in its midsection than its skinny base. At the top of the crumbling tube is a summit that reminds one of , of course, a turkey, but I see the devil himself.
Originally climbed in 1966 by legendary climbers Eugene Dod, Dave Jensen, and Bill Pratt, they aid climbed the steep cracks on the NE Face using 70 pitons and placing 30 now ancient or subsequently replaced bolts.(Thanks Ty-ler Adams) Later free climbed at 5.11 (thanks to Jeff Thomas), many of the anchors were updated, yet the large loose blocks and the sketchiness remains.
Obsessed with it as I was from the old Dodge Guide, Bob M, Tim O, and I climbed it in 1990, swapping leads and chucking blocks on our way to the top. I still had vivid memories of the amazing , yet scary time we had on it with great friends. Here is what I wrote in my journal 22 years ago:
“Truly a Monster. It had been a goal of mine ever since I first saw it in (Nick) Dodges book. Was really a serious undertaking. I had to muster a lot of gumption for this one. Bob led the first one, a 10a or b., rotten, but neat! 2nd pitch put me on the sharp end to tackle the first wide roof, then the “Giant Rotten Bong” crack, which was incredibly loose, perhaps the loosest of my career. After that came the cool, 5.11 crux which Bob attempted. it was so tough to clip the small hangers, he “took” on the last one. I stranded him at his belay above by pulling his rope and leading it myself on “pink-point”, barely pulling it off. From there, easy to the summit, found a rotting summit register and some rabbit bones with my new lucky rabbits foot!”
Sept-2012. A couple of years ago, I had the good fortune of making friends with Ben and Bekah Herndon, from Moscow, ID> An aspiring pro photographer, he asked me what climbs I thought would make a good photo shoot. I of course set his sights south to the Monsters lair. We planned it for last year, but weather didnt allow. We again planned it for sept of 2012 and tried to get a much help as we could. I brought along Christina, and Ben, his wife. Nobody else made it there, so we went for it with the team we had. Bekah did great, following my leads on the first day all the way to the top! I am grateful to not have pulled down any loose stuff on her at the belays. ” Sorry I killed your wife, bro” was not something I wanted to offer my good buddy. On the way down we fixed a static line and rapped to the beloved earth.
Early the next morning, I did the first 2 pitches again(!) for the close-ups pictures. They werent any less intense doing them for the 3rd time. What a run, and I hope Ben gets his great article in a coming magazine! Thank you B+B, and X-tina for a wonderful, and safe weekend.
Stray Notes: This area is closed to climbing from April-September for raptor mating season, Check the inter webs for exact dates. Also of note is the notion locals have, that this area should remain as obscure as possible to the masses.Sorry to blow it up). Info in the several guide books were a highly contested affair. The best one for beta is Northwest Oregon Rock by Tim Olson. Please respect this as a wilderness area, thanks. .
Some photos courtesey of Christina M.
I have a new favorite route. Last minute planning brought Lane and I to the base of the Burdo/Johnson route they named The Hitchhiker. It rambles up the steep SE Face of South Early Winter Spire. Originally planning to attempt Gato Negro for the 2nd straight weekend, we opted for more sunshine instead. The switch was last minute, so I didnt have the anticipation nor expectations. I was blown away by the quality and positioning of the climb. It has every type of climbing as well as serious exposure to add to a full-plate meal of a climb! Dihedrals, led to slabs with thin cracks, flakes, (easy)wide sections, roofs wild traverses, you name it. Leading every pitch was stressful, as the climbing is thought provoking, but it was so fun, I didnt care. It took almost 8 hrs to do the 9 pitches. Each lead had its own surprise. Though the route has about 20 bolts, it still requires a big rack and I am glad I took 1 aider for the 3 short sections that I couldnt free. I know I write in superlatives but this route for sure is a gem. I hope to see more reports on this relatively newer route.
Great way to spend my 49th birthday. Thanks Lane and Christina for the cake and climbing party weekend.
Burdos book and these reports will have more beta, enjoy!
Cascadeclimbers description, very accurate!
Now for some pics!