Index 4-16: Big weekend, and close call

4-15-16: Little Fire, and partner takes a huge fall on Law and Order, walks away with sprained wrist.

4-16-16: Solitude, and And Say.

Getting my first 2 day weekend in months had me amped to go big at Index. I had Paul lined up for plan of doing a wild route called Little Fire on Duck Wall. A fairly new route, the first ascentsionist  pulled the 5 hangers from the crux pitch bolts last season. There are thin gear placements to be had, but it makes for a bold, testy route that only a few elite climbers could onsite. I can understand why the fa team made the decision to do that, but it will keep me from repeating it unless it is restored. It was a very fun route to climb except for a couple of dirty pitches. The p2 hand crack is stellar, and the crux is just wild. I really hope to get a good shot at freeing it, but took aid for safety when we did the climb today.

After the spanking we received on that, I thought we should bring down the ambitions, and I suggested that we do Law and Order. Paul was hot to try it for his first 5.10 lead of the season. He did great getting through the crux thin crack, but came off while trying to clip a bomber .4 camalot. As the belayer, I instinctively reeled in an arm length of rope, locked off hard, and waited to see if his gear was going to hold. When I heard the first(of 2) C3 pop, I jumped off the dirt ledge and careened towards Private Idaho cliff top below. I fell 6 feet when the bolt finally caught him, his force pulled me halfway back up. He ended up taking a 40-50 foot fall and came down head first inches from a ledge.  We both had some bumps and scrapes. We called it a day, grateful that worse things hadn’t happened. When I retrieved the gear I noticed it was damp and dirtier than when I did it 2 weeks earlier. I had never used the jump-down belay save that I did. I know it puts extra shock on the system, but I knew the bolts would hold. I also knew he was 20+ feet above them. I think it was a good move at the time.


Well, I was not expecting to climb Sunday, but Jeremy was trolling, and I couldn’t resist another sunny day out. We started by repeating Solitude. It was as good as I remember, but dirty from the early season too. I got to lead the only pitch I had not yet led: the last pitch=such a money machine- and a bit edgy too. Jeremy had a bone to pick with And Say an “under construction” route that currently has 3 pitches. 2 of which are very good. The crux is so rad yet doable for the grade. Quite a weekend. I just checked in with Paul, he is doing great with a sprained wrist being the worst of it, phew. Live and learn.

Little Fire p2

Little Fire p2

Little Fire crux p4

Little Fire crux p4

Law and Order from about where partner fell.

Law and Order from about where partner fell.

Jeremy on p2, Solitude

Jeremy on p2, Solitude

Solitude p4

Solitude p4

And Say crux p2

And Say crux p2


4-4-16 index 6 p to 10d w sean

Running journal entry:   4-4-16 index 6 p to 10d w sean

Those words would ordinarily just blend in with my running climbing journal. But not this time. Due to my job schedule, I had not rock climbed for the past 4+ months. If you view my running journal, I wouldn’t expect any sympathy, however. I had lots of time to think about what my ideal first day at the crags would be. The best trip to Index would always include: Accommodating my partners ideas, doing a pitch or 2 that I have never done before, and repeating some of my favorites. Also not climbing for so long led me to be a little out of shape. So I would have to moderate the burning desire once I returned. The plan we came up with involved six amazing pitches on 3 crags:

Princely- Dr. Sniff– Beak, Beak- link up on LTW. Felt great for my first lead of the season being Dr. Sniff! It was so tough to leave the pull of the LTW. ” We must stay true to The Plan!”

Law and Order on Lookout Point. Great, long pitch that raps to 2 more classics: Baby Tapir, Strange Boar, for some shameless top roping!

The Snake. One of the most fantastic leads on Rattletale Wall. Small gear and dicey moves go on, on, and on .

It was Sean’s first time to Index. He did so well, I had to ask him if Index seems easy for him. He said it was not. Now its back to work 6 days a week again until September. Cant wait for my next mini vacation to Index for another day of magic!

Act of a Strange Boar

Act of a Strange Boar


Can companies “do good”? Cotopaxi.

Being a left leaning Bernie supporter, I find it easy to bash the necessary evil of the corporation. I could go on and on about how I feel that mega corporations are laying waste to civilization, blah, blah.. Lately, they have become the agents of change for the better in some cases. We are about to see it in North Carolina?

It seems there are so few models of these institutions that appear to a conscience for improving the communities that they produce in. Local small businesses are often good examples, but I found a small international one: Cotopaxi, that could be a good model for global issues we face. I wish them success. The products seem well made and even artistic. The ethics they portray seem sound, if not utopic.

I bought the signature: “I’m Feeling Lucky” Luzon Pack. Definitely a one of a kind, and will make a great summit pack, or around town bag. Its minimalistic design and bright colors may not play with everyone, but I enjoy them. I also like the retro packs a lot. The company is locally based in Utah, the operation has its products made in the Philippine’s. While educating myself with my research into this new outdoor company, I learned about the concept of operating as a “B Corp” company.


Their approach is best defined in that and this article on their backpacks: .

When I was contacted by a rep from the company, she challenged me on my thoughts on the concept of “giving”.

My mind went to different activities I do when I have the time. I volunteer in kids/mentor groups, political campaigns, my Condo Association, and also my blog. I do these things to give back to the community that I belong to and rely on. It gives back by connecting me, and offering me social interaction that has become an ever scarce commodity. Please be a force for good and give without expecting in return.

I will be trying out more of the gear they offer. The product line is quite large and creative. They even have a coat made from llama fleece!

Now if I could just get away from my 6 day/week project at work to try it out.


Survive your hobby: The Edelrid Jul/Flycatcher System

Bourgeau Left, p1

Doug on Bourgeau Left

Short Version: The Edelrid Micro-Jul system brings brake assisted belaying and rappelling to double ropes!! However to get proficient with the device, a good deal of patience is required. It has very specific details to its use. READ and follow ALL safety manuals! When combined with the Flycatcher Twin 6.9 mil ropes, you have a super light system, and confidence that will come from familiarity with this advanced product.


Wait, what is “Brake Assist”?


Long Version: My older climbing friends and I find we are continually getting drug into the future (In some cases kicking and screaming). I am usually the first though to get on board with trends like the Gri-Gri, and the many other advances that come along. It was only 6 short years ago that I finally got my first “Brake Assist”(BA) Reverso for bring followers up in an auto-lock type belay. A few years later I got a Gri-Gri, and have never looked back. The upside from a safety standpoint is obvious. Lets face it; the advantages against all of the distractions of a busy crag, the stress of a tough lead, etc. are more than enough! Why wouldn’t you take a long accidental drop out of the equation? Despite concerns about belay habits with such devices, most(many?) climbing gyms now only allow BA use.


The last rope-lead system not to have Brake Assist was the use of double or twin ropes. 2 rope systems are often used on long ice climbs and rock routes that have long rappels off, About 6 months ago, I stumbled on a super lightweight 2 rope system that offered BA. I was in Pro Mountain Sports complaining to Jim that I wear out my Reverso every year. He suggested going to a steel model and showed me the Mega Jul from Edelrid. There was a learning curve for me though, at first I didn’t read the brochure. I had no idea about the BA properties, so it came a pleasant shock when I got the hang of it. Soon my curiosity led me through an ever-revealing look at the company producing the device.


When it came time to replace my ice ropes Jim, from Pro Mt. Sports, suggested I look at the Flycatcher/Micro Jul system. After a season using them I am glad I invested in them. When I say invested, I don’t mean just money. They are expensive yes, but they will require an investment in learning time too. After getting used to them, I am happy with how they handle, the ease of how they drop throwing them on rappel, and how secure the belay and rappel feels (several options for rappel). Downsides also include how awkward it is load up for top/following mode. I have found that if you load one rope at a time, it is much easier. (see photo). Be sure to load both ropes, and lock those ‘biners!



Another small disadvantage for now is that I had to buy additional belay devices to cover my partners when using my Flycatcher system. Despite a few hitches, this is a major advance in technology that other companies will imitate soon. The next generation of this device should be even more awesome.


Competitors will struggle however in trying to get an eco-friendly award called: Bluesign Certified. I had no idea how dirty the rope business is ecologically until my research led me there. Some big players are headed to Edelrid due to them setting a great standard in this and other fields. Have your own look into this good example of a modern and progressive corporation. I cant wait to try out more from their vast product line.

Great instructional video



Task at hand Reverso/ATC type Jul type device Advantage:
Lead Belay Smoother BA Jul
Lowering Smooth Smooth + BA Jul
Top/Follow belay Smooth and easier to set up+BA BA, smooth, tough to set up/counterintuitive Rev/ATC
Rappelling Smoother Smoothish+BA, 3rd option? 2 biners draw
Longevity Aluminum wears quickly Steel yet lightweight Jul
Learning curve Easy Takes awhile to become proficient. Rev/ATC
Overall Jul




Other reviews:

Weigh My Rack

Cold Thistle

“Half” vs.”Twin” Ropes

Lane getting drug in to the future,

Lane getting drug in to the future,

Canadian Rockies 2-’16

Thankfully I had climbed to my hearts desire on my last trip. 4 big routes in 5 days will satisfy your ambitions for a while. Now though, I really needed a vacation as much as another Canadian Rockies ice climbing trip. It just so happened that the temperatures skyrocketed to the point that smashed records for mid February. Welcoming a laid-back trip, I felt fortunate to have developed an actual social network that was a great way to spend time between great climbs. It takes a while to partnerships and friendships in climbing to the point where you almost always have options. It is a game of give and take. Having great partners like Steve, Bob, etc., can really make the difference in attaining your dreams. I even got to stay with a climber that I have idolized for many years. It takes work to maintain good friendships, but the rewards speak for themselves. Huge thanks for a great week to the following folk: Steve, Sarah, Seth, Raphael (and wife Vera), Tomas, and Andres (and wife).


So lets talk climbing!!!! We relied on the Ghost (and Bob’s great truck,) twice for solid, and dryer ice, and it paid off with the beautiful climb called Fang and Fist. It is a 3-4 pitch route that gradually gets steeper until the top which almost overhangs!! So fun, yet so far back there on tough 4×4 conditions. Later in the week we still found dry conditions on Wuthering Heights. We got in a couple of great mixed crag days at Haffner and the latest rage area: The Playground delivered some awesome dry tooling! So fun there, yet manufactured /drilled holes make it an ethical dilemma for some I’m sure. The warm temps continued, yet we still were able to stay dry on Cascade Kronenburg, and finally got wet on the crux of Carlsberg. Things felt surprisingly safe as long as we weren’t on a slope that could avalanche. What a great week!

Look for an exciting review of the Edelrid Flycatcher and Micro Jul system soon!

“The Circumvention”, aka Fan-Wallace new mixed route

P1170105There we were in thick fog, trying to find a thin, mixed route that had not been climbed before. We were lucky to find the start after wandering back and forth in the deep, and steep snow. I figured it would be a 2 pitch affair, so I asked Laurel to lead the first. (p1)She had a real treat going up the thin mixed corner on cams, pitons, and a screw. After 20 meters she stopped at an offwidth crack. I would recommend to future parties to finish the 1st pitch with the wide crack, so as not to (possibly lead fall, and) land on your belayer. There is a fixed pin there now just above where she belayed from and no wide gear is needed with the gear found in the chockstones deep in this classic section. (p2)After grunting up the short wide crack, I pushed the belay up to a place where one could watch the leader for the last pitch. Once again Laurel was game to swap leads, and get after the steep finish! (p3)Thin, rotten ice led around the detached ice candle. She opted to do an exciting mixed finish to the right rather than try to campus up the rotten candle. What an effort she paid, right up to the finish, where she came off before she could grab the M5+ tree limb at the very top! After regaining the overhanging block, she then pulled to the top of her first, first ascent.  Nice work, Laurel! The Alpine Mentors are proud of you.

   I had been eyeing this line during many prior visits to the Alpental Valley. We in Seattle are lucky to have fairly reliable ice venues so close to town. Its nice to be one hour away from such fun.

Specifics: “The Circumvention”, aka. Fan-Wallace is located above Source Lake area, on Bryant Buttress. To the right of Flow Reversal, and Resistance Is Futile, yet left of where people skin up to Chair Peak. Best approached from the Flow Reversal area, up and right, reaching a sweet thin gully with turf hooks and thin ice. When it gets steep, there could be an exciting direct finish to the pitch, or the obvious off-width crack to the left. We did it in 3 short pitches, but best to do it in 2. Move the belay high enough to see the leader either finish on the ice daggers, or the exciting “Fan” finish to the steep ramp up and  right. 2-60m ropes just reach the bottom in 1 rap.  Pins, stoppers,cams, screws and specters are all handy.

Other Snoqualmie Fun:

Snoqualmie mt. N. face part 1

Snoqualmie Ice part 2

Kurt Hicks Topo

Mt proj

Gallery, click to enlarge, some photos by Laurel.



Inspired gadgets: Firn Line Designs

How I found out about Firn Line Designs:

I was headed down Silken Falls after getting my revenge on Alex in Wonderland (aka: Climb Above Dribbles). It was such a great route and tribute to the genius of Alex Lowe himself. As I was rapping past another party, I was (visually) struck by the gear on the harness of the party leader, Derek. He had on screw protectors that looked easy to remove while on lead. He also showed me the simplest, most compact v-threader I had ever seen. Easy to use, light and compact my 2 improvements would be to make the color brighter for ease of locating it on a crowded harness, and ease of clipping it in and out. Of course I asked all about the manufacture, and it turned out to be a small business from a climber in my home state of Oregon. I contacted Terry and he sent out his whole line of products to me, and a new gadget the we developed together! I was impressed with the minimalism, and function of all the items.

After purchasing the items, I got the chance to try out my new gadget designed to use carabiners instead of the plastic ice clippers. It worked very well except that I need to find some bigger carabiners the size of Ice Clippers. I am sure that most of these items would be a great addition to any ice gear arsenal. Happy climbing!

Ice clip prototype:

simple, make in different sizes?

simple, make in different sizes?

Harness goes behind the biner.

Harness goes behind the biner.

Maybe a little wider of a model would get it past the gear loop?

Maybe a little wider of a model would get it past the gear loop? The biners  never shift once in place.

Canada Ice 12-’15

P1160712.jpgI got real lucky. The job completely stalled out and the Rockies ice routes came into great shape. Lane and I joined our friends Doug and Moira, in the Field area. I had huge plans to try as many big routes on my list as possible. We “warmed” up on Twisted, a route that just started forming up a few years ago. It was in tougher shape than last year, but such a good route. Lane and I went for Super Bock the next day, only to find 4 parties on route , 2 of them ahead of us. It was too cold to stand around, so I tried to find a separate line next to the other parties to keep moving. The last party was not excited about my plan,and went so far as to call me “rude”. Well, the other parties jumped to my support, and even said the route was over their heads. The climb was in very difficult shape for sure. It was dripping, and the ice was a bit rotten. We did it anyways though, and were impressed with how long and steep it was.

Next up was a route that I have been wanting to try for 20+ years, because it never comes in shape. Mixed Master is one the best routes imaginable. 7 great pitches long and gets difficult at the top. I cant describe how happy Doug and I were. We were in party mode all day long!

Lane had been keen for Bourgeau Left. Due to the cold temps, another sunny route sounded pretty good. Once again there was another party ahead that were not impressed with the conditions, so they bailed. Up I went into a very wet and strange ice crux. At the top I was drenched, but happy to have had such determination and luck to get up 4 amazing routes in 5 days!! Next up, Doug and I went after my 2nd try of French Reality, but it was just too cold and the snow too deep without flotation. Off to Haffner to pad the pitch count:  21 pitches in all for a great week. Thanks to Doug, and Moira for such a nice place to stay, and spend a fun New Years with. Lane for going up on short notice, and Pro Mountain Sports for the great deal on my new ropes!

Look for a product review soon from a local gear manufacture that has some interesting line of products! Firn Line Designs from Oregon is next!

Click images to enlarge

Squamish 15.3

I am very excited to have gone to Squamish 3 different times this year!! What a great venue for long routes with low commitment. I can see why so many people are flocking there to climb and live. I hope the town and area handle the growing pains ahead.

I just finished 3 weeks off from work and was frustrated by the weather and lack of partners. I was able to get a great trip to Leavenworth, and finally a great trip with Lane to Squamish right at the end of it.

At the top of the list was Life on Earth on the SW Face of Mt Habrich. We took the Sea-to-Sky Tram which takes you just over half way up the mountain. A few easy miles, then long steep up-hill trail, leads to the split heading to the right in the trail, then the base of the route. Look for a red rope heading up to the base of the climb. The first pitch is very fun with cracks and face moves. The rest of the route has an occasional hard face moves with decent rock the whole way. We were surprised to see many parties up there even on a Friday, but we never were slowed down. We teamed up with the party behind us to double up our collective ropes and rappel the route. Much better option than going down the other way in rock shoes. Thanks to Gary and Elise for the option. Great day in the mountains.

Next up on Saturday was the big prize: Milk Road and its legendary 4th pitch endurance corner. It was wet at the start of the route, but still fun going up the 2nd pitch with its arch and face moves.. but before we knew it, I was headed up one of the best pitches in Squamish determined to on-site it. It got to where it seemed silly to do it in the best style because I got very tired, and the lead took a long time. I should have just hung on a piece of gear, but I was not giving in, and got to the top under what was left of my own power.. The rest of the route was pretty forgettable except for the super crazy 8th pitch. What a wild ride it is, with delicate foot mantles and insane exposure. Once again I was determined to get it clean, and thanks to a great climbing season, I did!!

We topped the long weekend off with Bulletheads East, a 4 pitch romp that has great fingers and hands the whole way up on good rock. I am very grateful to have had such good weather and climb 3 long routes as I am headed back to a work project that will last 12 months with no more breaks. (regular) Life goes on.

Habrich Beta Mt. Project. report

Milk Road beta

Bulletheads East mt proj

click images to enlarge…


Der Sportsman, Prussik Peak

In the last few years I have done climbs in the NW that make me wonder why I travel far to find quality rock climbs. Yes it is fun to travel and visit these great places, but why go hundreds/thousands of mile when we have some of the best routes in the world right here?

Der Sportsman is one of those routes that I would put up against any other in terms of quality, setting, and pure excitement. Be drawn up this amazing route, and puzzled by the difficult sequences it requires. It is, for sure, one of the top 10 climbs in the Northwest. Sustained, strenuous, and tricky, it remains wonderful the whole way once you get 40 feet off the ground. Enjoy amazing Washington State.

Labor Day ’15 had all the trappings of an anguishing weekend. Bailing partners, and worsening weather forecasts sent me in a tizzy to find a new plan. The internet helped me to find a couple of good people and new plans were made last minute. A bright young man named Matt,  from Marysville/Dartmouth, met up with me to crag at the very fun Ozone Crag in Leavenworth on Thursday, and we did Orbit on Friday. I had wanted to repeat this classic climb for some time, and it was a nice conditioner for what was to come…

I had a back up plan of climbing with friends at Tieton, but as I complained to the internet:” I want to climb bigger routes”, Laurel( my Alpine Mentors compatriot) asked me if I thought Der Sportsman was big enough? I was hooked immediately to the idea, but concerns about the weather and pushing the route in a day seemed like a lot to ask of my knee.

It was. We had to though because the weather hit hard on Sunday and pushed our schedule to do it all on Monday. 6 new inches of snow was still there in the high country when we came over Aasgard Pass on our way to Prussik Peak. The South face was just getting into the sun when we arrived, but it was seriously cold. With numb fingers. We did the first of many amazing sections. Laurel and I felt lucky to have Zac along. He just destroyed the first 2 pitches in freezing wind-chills, while we belayed in partial sun. Clouds sent us into our puffies at every belay too. Laurel did the middle 2 money pitches, and then I was the finisher, getting the very strenuous 5.11 flared hand crack. The glow from this route will not wear off any time soon. Neither will the pain from the long loop we finished going down the trail to Snow Creek parking, 21 hours, and 80,000 steps later.

Beta and Pictures follow:

Sols amazing 2nd ascent report

Mt Project page

Jens’ early trips

Ultimate link-up Alpinist

Audrey Sniezek 

click to enlarge images..