Hyalite Ice ’20

Heading back to Hyalite was like visiting an old friend. Upon seeing it, the memories flood into the mind, as does desire to create new ones. Though the conditions of the ice was great, the snow kept piling up giving me the willies about avalanche possibilities. In the end, it took reassurances from people that successfully tried riskier climbs for me to go for some of the more intriguing gullies. Wind was a big concern too for both drifting, and chill effect. It was one of my all-time trips there. 21 crazy pitches with 6 different people! SO Grateful to friends old and new for this amazing week of ice and mixed climbing. Shout out to #sterlingropes too!

1-5-20 Jeffs L, Black Magic- m6 wi5 Unnamed Wall w/Jeremy(prime condition)

1-6 Bobo Like wi5 3p w/ Jeremy (Prime condition, deep snow though)

1-8 Dielectric Breakdown wi5 2laps w/Erik (Prime condition, hooked)

1-9 Matrix, Feeding, Scepter wi5 w/Travis (prime- too fat!Sceptrr drips in places)

1-10 G2, HomeFA M7 w/Lane (PRIMO!, though our party took off much ice, sorry)

1-11 TIG, GLO, JL wi5-Unnamed w/Lane, Jenn, Marko (prime, hooked

1-12 Cleopatras Needle wi5 2p w/Jenn( Wet! first 40′ of crux)

1-13 MC 234 WI6 w/Jenn (Prime, with MC4 being athletic and pumpy!)

What a great venue Bozeman is! No wonder it is an exploding city. Low commitment, high quality, and access, it has it all. Thanks to Icefest for keeping the road plowed.

Seattle area dry tool crags

E4C6742E-B885-4C2D-8BC8-C79300BCAEBFWashington State has a few known, dedicated dry tool venues. They are mostly easy, and not known for their quality:

SR-900 (aka, Cougar mt.)Easy, not great

Black Ice Crag, Upper area(CYA) Exit 38. Easy, not great

Tool Shed, Baker area, never been there personally

Shuksan Crag, never been there personally

Rap Wall, Alpental (Fun when it has ice! Rock is not holding up well, not “easy”)

Then, at the suggestion of the local guru, we found this!!

Nestled not very deep in the Snoqualmie Alps are a set of undeveloped crags that offer a very fun, difficult dry tool (d/t) experience. A couple of friends and I had been poking around for months and eventually found the perfect venue. Thanks to the encouragement from the various guide book authors, and the original area route setters, we felt safe to develop these unnamed crags as a d/t area. It is remote and insulated enough from free climbing walls, as to not be prime free climbing rock nor suitable sport climbing projects. So far, we have 5+ amazing climbs up!! All completed routes are bolted. We are hoping to plan a low key, introductory festival soon! Feb 8th.

I do not bear the responsibility lightly in producing high quality and safe routes. I want to keep the standards very high in our amazing home forests.  There is also plenty of room to develop routes and I encourage others to develop routes at this amazing location.  All that I ask, is that you please develop in a way that is sustainable to our rock, and safe for our community.

My philosophy on dry tooling impact is best summed up by this great essay from Furnace Industries!

It will be a work-in-progress out there, so heads up! To support our endeavor, please visit our go fund me page.

Suggested rules of conduct at this crag

-Please limit scratching the rock with your points, take care with crampons while lowering or rappelling.

-Please use mono-point crampons, or rock shoes only, stick with existing placements when possible

-Safety attire: Helmets, eye protection, sheltered belays, etc. There is loose rock here! Climb at own risk.

-Do NOT use any resident ropes left on crag. Please feel free to use the resident ropes to pull your rope through, if you want to tr a climb. There is also reasonable top rope access from the top, approached from the far left side of the crag. Most trs need directionals.

-Please respect “closed projects”, they should be tagged so. Don’t d/t at the free climbing crags.

-Respect the access road, and watch for vehicles! Use proper trails. Have necessary parking passes, etc

FA of Social Candy d6, Waynes World 12-19

Some history… After a 2016 visit to the Playground with the Polish guy, I became very interested in finding a local crag that was not easy, crappy, or both. Years passed, and we halfheartedly looked around.

10-’19. Enter the author of the recent guidebook! I emailed him and it took a while for me to get to see both of his suggestions. In mid December, I saw what is now called(not by me) : Waynes World(WW). I was floored with the potential of the area, yet scared of the single bolted line I saw out there. This obscure crag had a smattering of top anchors from a 2003-2006 development that pushed all through the surrounding of crags. Too dark, chossy and jumbled, the far left crags (WW), never took hold on Garth and the gang that were the driving explorers at the time. I found that though the single project may have been climbed long ago, the entire crag has since laid abandoned until the recent d/t development. So far, the redevelopment idea receives near total support from the community and institutions that have chosen to speak up.

IMG_2547

Rap Wall

Thanks for your support, if that is the case, and critique, if also warranted…. No doubt I have done “pick enhancements” on a couple of routes. My main motivation along with sustainable pick holes is: safety. I refuse to send my friends up steep leads with sketchy clips on the first 3 bolts.

 

Safety, and also sustainability.

The many popular existing d/t climbing areas around the U.S. and Canada all suffer from blown-out placement holes. Presumably, this is from hundreds of people falling off, degrading the placement to the point of rendering them useless. Recent remedies are to make more aggressive pick and crampon placement holes with a power drill, thereby making the route pick-hole placements sustainable over the life of the route. Dry tooling will mark and scar the rock. With that, for a crag to be sustainable with everyone using it, should the occasional non-positive hold be enhanced to a point that use does not destroy the feature? I know this also makes the climb easier, but this particular crag is so steep that most any climber will be fully engaged! All improvements are kept to a minimum as well. Good luck climbing here it’s stout, steep, and climbs fantastic!

Routes at Waynes World:

Boulderdash D3-D7? TR Routes 0% Complete (Lead D3 then TR Face for D7 Natural)

The Aspirant D5 60% complete

Imperial March D8 90% complete

Highstepping For Jesus D7 11 bolts. FA Tom Beirne 100% Complete

Painted Ruins D6 FA Wayne Wallace 100% Complete

Cold Therapy D7 10 bolts90% . Complete and SICK ROUTE

Social Candy D6+ 6 bolts

Routes at the Dark Side:

Agent Orange D7-8 5% Complete (tight right facing corner)

Dingleberries Of Eden D6 100% Complete

Rhinestone Cowboy D6 75% Complete (fully bolted, needs work on start)

Unknown Route with Chain Anchor and blue sling. 10% Complete

Vader Built My Hotrod 0% Complete (chimney route)

Alpine Corner D6 10% Complete (also TR access to the arete and left face likely D5, has bolted anchor)

Canada 11.2-’19

This wasn’t my coldest trip to the Canadian Rockies, but frigidity had a big impact on the outcome of the experience. Ambitions must be reigned in to the point of bailing on daily objectives at times. We did eek out a wonderful long Thanksgiving weekend up there though conditions were tough.

11-27 p1, Carls/ Silk Tassel wi4 w/Doug

11-28 Urs Hole direct 4p wi5 w/ Jenn

 

11-29 Shades of Beauty wi4 3p w/ Jenn, Doug, Eileen

11-30 Storm Creek approach

11-31 Johnson Canyon 4p

Temps weren’t the only concern. Brittle ice is the norm. Carlsburg is still wet. We got hit by an uncomfortably sized spindrift at the top of Urs Hole direct. Storm Creek Headwall approach had some pockets of snow that weren’t steep enough to slide, but would have been sketchy had they been. Johnson Canyon isn’t filled in yet either. Temps though…. Somedays the high never got over 0 degrees f.

Enough complaining though, what a great time to be out with 4 friends on a wonderful holiday of food, drink, shopping, and climbing!! Jenn did amazing leading many pitches. Doug can now focus on unpacking and packing for the ski season. Eileen is now a thin-ice specialist! Thanks to everybody (including my family) for the support in this nutty pursuit! You can still have fun while suffering.

 

Early Winter Couloir, NEWS

It’s still hard to believe that we went to the top of North Early Winter Spire in late November. The frozen scene was very surreal, and having that place to yourself just added to it.

Doug presented the idea to me just a few days prior. It was off my radar this time of year. I thought  it was more if a spring route, but many advantages lie in doing it in the fall. The lack of a cornice being one, steeper longer (though thin) cruxes at the chockstones, another. We elected to approach the longer way in from Blue Lake trail. Once around, we followed someone tracks up the route. I didn’t expect to summit NEWS, but the prior party elected to go to the top, so we did that too! There were some real tough moves at the top of the route though. (5.6??)

What an amazing experience the whole day was! Rapping down in the sunset, after a cold day in forbidding granite spires, left an air behind that we had done something quite special.

We belayed 6 pitches, took single+ rack , pins, 6 shorter screws, single 60m. The trail crews have done an outstanding job up there in the last  couple of years!!

Dougs instagram post

Mt Project page

Ziggy Stardust!- Canada ’19

Kai and I on p2, Ziggy. Photo, Rory

For the most part ice climbing is a sport filled with a degree of suffering. Every now and then though, the angels sing and the love of the universe is poured upon an occasional blessed day. Such was our incredible experience on an obscure, STEEP, and amazing route in the Icefields Parkway.

Ziggy Stardust; rumored to been first climbed by Serge Angelluchi in the 90’s, it saw a FRA for sure in a 2012 online article…

…as well as : this year Andrew and partner did it and posted an enticing and mysterious photo on the Rockies Group page.  As soon as I saw the route, I leaped into planning an immediate trip up there with Kai, to climb it!

The trouble was, it was our first outing for this early ice season. Needing familiarity, we did a warm up (R+D 4+) after finishing the long drive up. Day 2 weather forced us into a crag day as 4-6 inches fell that day. Tasting fear had some fun options though and kept us patient.

day 3, ZIGGY STARDUST!! Our morning came with optimal conditions had on a withering route that had lost much of its lower ice due to sun effect. I could barely contain my excitement at the base, longing to get started and finally relax in the climbing movement. From the start on, there was never an easy section, and the sections varied so much as to seem like a 10 pitch affair! The 4 distinct sections alone on the 1st pitch are so fun to figure out and daintily solve as if doing a puzzle. Chimney to mantle, to scary traverse, to m5+ overhang to ice sticks, and finish with deep drum/thin detached ice! Thin pins, small cams for belay.

The second pitch was a serious, scary, detached, and thin ice affair. (Look for some rock gear too). Great care was taken to spread out my weight and never be too involved with any 1 pick placement or foot. Belay on left at a fixed stopper belay/rap, back it up with med cams.

The reward for that sketch was a fat, yet techy and enduro 3rd pitch! Don’t clobber your belayer too bad. Easily one of the best climbs in the Rockies. What a ride, and what a day on this hidden away, early season gem.

We finished this assault trip with a warm down on the classic Guinness Gully and drove back the same day! Thanks so much to Kai, Jenn, Rory, Quinn, Andrew, and the entire support network we have in the amazing sport we are lucky to be able to do!

Canada 11-19 10p

11-9 R+D WI4+ w Kai, picked out

11-10 Tasting fear wi5 3laps+

11-11-19 Ziggy Stardust, Mt Murchison IV-WI5 (expect thin/R)-M5,  w/Kai

1-13 Guiness Gully WI4 3p w/Kai good shape, wet

Obviously the route varies in condition, and it is neat to see the different forms it has taken (see photos), We caught it a little thin for sure, so be. careful with it. We took 2 KBs, 1-Specter, 6 small cams, 1 each med cams to blue, 10 screws, 3 of them: stubbies.

Some photos courtesy of Rory, Andrew, Kai, and others, Thanks

click to enlarge

California ‘19.2: Arrowhead Arete and Astroman!

Though a personal, lifelong dream, “Astroman” would have not gotten done without the efforts and care from many, many others in direct support! Jenn’s help alone was beyond remarkable, more on her later. Good friend Jeremy from Momentum Sodo was the obvious choice to badger into the idea of being my partner on the big climb. Dave has been providing the best rope combinations from Sterling. Heck, the 2 guys at the crag gave us such good route beta. Mike and Brit again provided a place to stay, shower, and I brought them much less trauma with this visit. Bree and Vivian watched our dog.  Only through all of these  players could WE have achieved success on one of the most notorious climbs in Yosemite!

The preparation was months in the planning for us. Training and planning along side my life partner was a welcome constant. With minor protest, she let me bring in a partner for my dream climb right in the middle of our first vacation to California! I made sure that we were positioned to have fun the rest of the trip.

We started off with my 2nd time up Reeds Pinnacle, and Lunatic.( my first time up the routes were in 1982!)

We got right after it grinding out the astounding Arrowhead Arete the next day. What a big day dealing with the dastardly approach, wild, old-school climbing, crazy summit, and insane descent to boot (done partly in the dark!!) The mt project comments aren’t too far off. Justifiably less popular, it is still one amazing adventure climb.

Jeremy then flew in for 48 hours, with the idea of getting after Astroman with me. The weather looked and was perfect. Midweek meant only one other party that we ultimately let pass us. The time finally came, and this was the time!

Weeks prior, we negotiated a strategy that involved me getting(1 fall) the Enduro-corner p3; in exchange for me ALSO HAVING to lead the notorious Harding Slot. Further karma exchange would demand that Jeremy lead the nails-hard “Changing Corner” pitch, which led to me closing with the last difficulty pitch, the scary 10d R (capital R), in the dark.

The climb went well, save losing time in letting a party pass us. That, and the Harding Slot took hour after hour of unprecedented effort to get through. I felt it was just awful. Somehow I thought my decades of experience would get me up any such obstacles. This one was different, and so I paid a dear price mentally and of course physically. I got the pitch done”clean” but left a bunch of elbow and knee skin, and felt like I was gasping for life along the way. Jenn had dinner and wine when we got down at 10pm!

Jeremy’s great quote after was: ” We have to get up the rest of this route now, because I never want to do that(HS) ever again!” My quote later was: “at least the rest of this is regular climbing!”

Now thinking back after a few days of rest, the initial ptsd is gone, a few other highlights come to mind: The route is so very aesthetic, yet has some loose rock, and a very specific bird guano section. It seems sustained, and at times tricky, but it helped to remember that people free-solo it regularly now, so most moves are doable enough. The “easier pitches” will eat gear, so beware, and bring plenty. Hauling a small pack is great for the whole route, and gives you a rappel option too. Haul your helmets through the HS, tape up knees, elbows loosely, use a long knot, as I just barely fit through it. Try not to panic, just get up a half inch at at time.

Team also sent routes on 5+ Dime cliff, Lovers Leap, and Mt. Hoffman! Click images to enlarge, thanks, Wayne and the Astro-team!

The history of the Astroman climb is also fantastic! I won’t go into it here but much is written into the ongoing story. I must admit that this one feels pretty good. Thanks friends, family and everyone that puts up with my brand of shenanigans!

 

 

Smith Rock ’19

View from top of Cowdog

Like they say: the only constant is change.

My mind again changed when I went to Smith and remembered how much I enjoy the place.

A huge change that I am on the verge of is retiring from my job/career as a union carpenter foreman. I’m sure I will still work in a limited capacity though. More on that later, but let’s get to the important stuff.

Smith rock has dramatically changed as well. I didn’t think it could fit more people, yet at least there are ever more new routes out there for them to compete for. To say it was crowded was putting it lightly. Pressing to get in line for the “cool kids” newer routes, we did manage to squeeze in 17 pitch effort in a cool/cold three day weekend, 4 multi pitch routes too!

10/12-14 Smith Rock 17p to 10c, 4 mp w/Tom

10-12 Voyage of the Cowdog 3p 5.8+, Fish and Chips 10c, Power direct 10a, Pack Animal direct 10b 2p

10-13 Attempt@ Dirty Pinkos 1p 5.8, Chouinards Crack 5.9, Lets Face It 10c, Lost in Space 10c 4p

10-14 Dirty Pinkos 9+, 4p The place emptied out on Monday!

 

A few thoughts on retirement: I am so grateful and lucky to have been able to work in a signatory union field. The pension, pay, and benefits are something every worker should be able to enjoy. I hope we can rebuild our union membership back to where people can have a living wage! Of course, I hope to climb more during my retirement and enjoy life without the toil of waking up so damn early, and working outside like I have my whole life.

This post is dedicated to Cascade climbers.com. Even though the sites content is flagging, the friendships and memories I have made from it have not.

Diggin’ For Dreams, Half Moon IV-5.11aVS

 

 

James and I had a rather intense 19 hour day going after another second ascent in the Washington Pass area.

I must divide the experience into two categories to tell the story.

One category would be the amazing climbing and setting of this astounding climb! 8 of the 9 pitches we did were fantastic! P3, 5, 6 and 9 are particularly interesting. We added the 4 bolts recommended by the FA team too!

The other category would be the sheer terror of the 4th pitch loose rock section that came with a warning in the first ascent report. I felt grateful to survive pulling on the large loose blocks with nothing solid to step on either. Also, unique to our trip, was a horrible descent down to reach our packs at the base. 6 hours down a vast and terrible gully with 10 rappels on tiny trees. Did we take the wrong way down the right hand of the 2 gullies?? No help having contrary descent beta between the AAI FA Report and the Herrington Cascade Climbs descent beta.

Q: Ok, what’s up with the VS in the rating?

A: Very Serious is an additional rating I am using to describe a part of a climb that is or has a very serious section along the way. I rarely, if ever invoke such concepts into an already serious pursuit. The “Kitty Litter”  pitch #4 on this climb is full-on terror for 30 feet! If the 30 feet of this route disappeared, it would be a fantastic addition to the hard core list of routes at WA Pass for sure. Unless it was turned into a safe lead or via ferrata, we, the second ascent team, would not support this rock climb being offered as a “Select” climb in any list or book.

We did do our part in making this climb better by adding 4 bolts to the finish pitches. This made the finish downright fun.

Beta tweeks that vary from other reports: p2 is easier than p3 for sure. P3 is pumpy, and a damn crazy pitch! P6: don’t keep going up the finish dihedral, instead, step right around the prow to the low belay after 20 meters. Easily combine p6,7 and belay at my first bolt? watch for rope drag is all, or P7 is really short traverse right, a little then up to the exposed ledge on the prow, where I placed the first of 4 bolts. I belayed there and backed the single bolt up with the second bolt 20 feet higher (strange tactic, but would make sense to add a second bolt to make a legit belay). I then went to the summit in a 60m lead from there, unrigging the complicated belay en-route! Hilarity for sure.

Lastly, I have no idea where the FA Team came down that awful area just West of the Half Moon, but don’t take it lightly and avoid the horrendous gullies if at all possible(see photo)

click photos to enlarge

California ’19

 

ww p1

Lane and I got down to the Sierras again this year, ticking off some old school classics at Lovers Leap, Toulomne Meadows, and the legendary Calaveras Dome.

We began our long weekend with Surrealist Pillar direct, finishing with the impressive Hospital Corner. What a great link-up. We wished it were cooler enough to finish with Tombstone or Travelers, but when the sun came around it was oppressive.

I had yet to visit the newly settled Mike and Britne in their new life just outside of Sonora. They stay in a cute ranch together with the mighty beagle known as Chief. We all headed to the Grotto crag nearby and really enjoyed basalt splitters until the sun made that too tough again. Unfortunately, one of our party slipped on the descent trail, and sustained a tib-fib fracture. Heal up fast Brits!

Next Lane and I headed to Toulomne and checked out Dozier Dome, a relatively recent addition to the knobby slabs that frequent Toulomne Meadows. Starting with the 4 star Felsic, then Cheetos and Everclear, and the dastardly Plutonics, rounded out a slabby yet fun day

Crescent Arch was dry! We had a look at it last trip here when it was wet. Glad we hit it dry because it was brutal, and strenuous to lead as is. Enjoyable in the end though.

Wall of the Worlds on Calaveras Dome. Wow, what a climbers climb, and one of the best crack climbs ever! It felt like an expert route setter put this one up. Right from the start it gets thin, then opens up to ring locks, then off hand, all of it exciting, doable movement, with rests in between the tough sections. Then the traverse gets interestingly harder as you go along, climaxing in a wild undercling to flare section. SO good, then the route goes to pure fun after that. We only went as far as far as the top of the Mexican Flake, we had a plane to catch that evening. I’m always impressed with the climbing available in California! I’m grateful for living there for 4 years in the 80s, and several trips each decade since. Thanks again to our great host Michael, Britne, and Chief. Thanks also to Lane, and Sterling Ropes.

7-4 Surr. Direct, Hospital Corner, Lovers Leap 5p 10b w/lane

7-5 Grotto  5p to 11a w/ Mike Brit , lane

7-6 Felsic, Cheetos and Everclear, Plutonics Dozier Dome 7p to 10b r w/Lane

7-7 Crescent Arch, Daff Dome 7p 10b w/lane

7-8 Wall of the Worlds, Calaveras Dome 7p 10c w/lane

 

 

 

The Passenger, and a call to involvement

The climbing community is exploding in numbers, but also too should be our involvement in the infrastructure and our influence. I spend most of my time pursuing my own agenda and pushed on by my “tick list”. I do try to get involved through a couple of volunteer activities, as well. Last weekend I drug Doug along into my scheme to spend Saturday working (still ongoing and needing help)on the eroded base of a prize crag in Mazama. He was promised a few pitches that day. However, he got so into the work, that we came back to task again moving huge rocks to the wall. This time we got to work with Big Givers themselves; Bryan B., Mark A, Lowell S, Jeff T, and many others. Somehow Bryan and I hadn’t met prior, but quickly formed our mutual admiration party.

For Sunday, Doug was promised a run at Bryans impressive route on South Early Winter Spires, S.E. route called: the Passenger.  In perfect weather, up at 4:30 am, we began the long day of hiking up and doing its 8 great pitches. So many memorable moves on this climb, starting with p1s undercling. Right away getting you into tricky moves, I was able to figure out the double undercling again on p2. This left Doug with the sustained p3 and its tough move at its end. I did the crux p4 in the same style falling on the 5.11 friction and aiding the 12 boulder problem. Added bolts on the 10d block mantle make the following pitch less dangerous. Further up, the spicy 5.9 section is a bit  pg rated? The rest of the climb was fun including the direct finish! The place was almost deserted too.

It was my second go at the route and I was able to eliminate a point of aid for myself and great to not have to lead all pitches too!.

Thanks to Doug, Mark, work crews making our crags better, Sterling Ropes, WCC, and the AAC for putting together this awesome weekend!

Stephs reports:

My prior ascent:

click to enlarge photos