Late Season Luck

Late season (good)luck cannot be counted on as a weekend warrior in the NW. So, when it happens there is a sense of satisfaction and the sad feeling like its over for the year too. We had the fortune of experiencing this several times during brief weather windows this fall. My focus was of course on multi pitch, but it also became ticking off “top 100 “ routes at Squamish. We did 8 of them this fall, and it rejuvenated my love for the place, even with its growing pains, Squamish is still an incredible venue.

Merci Me 5.8

Sole Mate 10b

Sunblessed + Enlightenment 10b SB is very fun, enlightenment scary however

Blazing Saddles 10b wild!

Rainy Day Dream Away 10c

Pitch in Time (w/extension) 10d

Apron Strings 10b

Rutabaga 11a, possibly my favorite pitch in Squamish!


Index also came through with another run at Hell Bent for Glory in the heat, and a spank down on Free at last to flail on the Glass Eyed Tuna pitch that supposedly is 10d? not buying it, but great job on the new guide book fellas!

Even though I’m working a tough job currently, I feel compelled to grab that last bit of sun.

Now It is amazing to think about ice season coming! Wish I didn’t have to work all winter 😦

Squamish ’17 and Hell Bent 2

Weather plays such a huge role in climbing and making plans. We were rained out our alpine plan, but Squamish serves one heck of a plan B !! If you only do 7 pitches there I recommend:

8-19,20-17 Squamish 8p to 11a, w/Jenn

 Rainy day 10c,

A Pitch in Time (w/extension),10d

Apron Strings 2p 10b

Arrowroot 10b,

Rutabaga 2p 11a, Rutabaga especially is spectacular.

All but 1 are top 100 routes according to the 2012 guide, and a damn good time!

a few days later Lane and I did my second go at Hell Bent for Glory in hot conditions. I led all but the 1st pitch this time. Once again the weather was an issue turning us both into sweaty, exhausted, and satisfied people. Such an amazing route, sustained and takes much energy. Fixed lines no longer allow for quick descent, use your 70 to get down and beware of leaving gear at a belay as some pitches traverse a bit.


Dairyland, S. Nesakwatch Spire 10d, 6p

Last weekend sent Lane, Doug, and I to the Canada to have a go at an obscure, yet outstanding climb high in the Cascade Range of British Columbia. It was Lanes idea to explore this area that none of us had been to prior, and what fun it was doing Dairyland in what started out to be soggy conditions. We spent 5 hours Saturday going up the 4k+’ vertical approach(ugh), and enjoyed the climb on a brisk Sunday. The climb starts off great, then has a blah pitch. Once that section is over, the crux, and last pitches are quite spectacular. You and your partner WILL be doing the rock, paper, scissors thing for the $ pitch! The whole package of being up in the mountains, good climbing and great friends embody the very reasons I pursue such a strenuous and risky sport. It’s great to be so excited about it even after 40+ years of climbing. It is however strange to run low on quality routes on my (local)to-do list, but fun to explore the unheralded and seldom visited routes!

Special thanks to Doug for providing the SUV for the drive that ended on a pretty rough road. Additional beta in Blake’s new book Cascade Rock.

click photos to enlarge or else they will stay small. forever.



Hell Bent for Glory, Index

If you are willing to overlook a crappy approach trail,, wholesale excavation/destruction, and dusty starts, the Diamond is producing some amazing climbs. Long, sustained and old school fun is how I would describe Hell Bent. Though short pitches are the norm, the corner pitch(3) is sooo good, as is the last few face climbing pitches. Thoughtful and in balance, you climb more with your brain than body. Jeremy and I had a blast in the cool temps, watching people scrub and work their projects. The route saw 3 parties on it today alone. Thin gear and stoppers are not very useful. Can’t wait to try Sabbra.

Freedom Rider, Liberty Bell

Liberty Bell Group

When your to-do list at Washington Pass dwindles to the last few ticks in the book, Freedom Rider will offer an arresting and consuming adventure. Don’t take it lightly, it is a serious affair. At times the rock is loose, cat-littered, and vegetated. (apologies to the party below us!)I would say that over half of it is very fun climbing though. There are also some very memorable sections that surprise the climber too. The crux is a real head scratcher, I got to the highest part described on the 10d thin, and then just did a pendulum past the off-width to save time. I knew it was going to be a long day: up at 430 am and back to Seattle by midnight! We got pretty tired as it was our first big route of the rock season though. A very ambitious project considering that. Thanks to Jeremy for the amazing day!

The super topo and Blakes book are pretty accurate beta resources, here are a few others, and some pics:

Moab ’17

P1200747I had only been home for a couple of days when Lane asked me again to join Paul, Michael, and him in Moab. The steady rain in Seattle and the pending work project sent me re-packing light enough to fit in a small Honda with 3 guys, their gear, and a dog.(what, am I a teenager?) We met Lane in Moab after a communication fiasco that would be repeated throughout the trip. It is a very different experience climbing and travelling as a party of four. A leader must emerge, yet maintain democracy. Though it may allow greater flexibility, misunderstandings are bound to occur. A few nice advantages become evident however:

If you need 2 ropes to get down, you are set.

If a partner or 2 wants a break, set.

If one of the cars are too lightweight, pile in the other.

Working as a team to get the first leader up the first pitch can be very quick.

Critical gear can be handed back, or left in place for the 2nd team.


“Swap-roping” (swapping top ropes)

Makes for fun team meals at camp or restaurants. Shared expenses.

As a result of good weather, luck and company, we all got up some great towers and crag pitches:

4-9-17 Maverick Butt. 4p to 5.11 w Lane, Paul, Michael R. What a crag!

4-10-17 Sister Superior, Jah Man 4p 10+a0. Went too high at the crux, fell. Such a great route though.

4-11-17 W. Face 3 Gossips 3p 5.11 a1. Intense crack climbing, got it with 1 take, and 2 gear-pulls.

4-12-17 Long Dong rt. Kissing Couple 5p 5.11 ao. Our favorite climb, we all agreed. Tough first pitch, got it clean, except the blank section at the top bolt. We came in from the high approach, and 3 of us got to take the low approach out. Paul got the car and picked us up. Met interesting folk on trail.

4-14-17 Scarface Wall 4p to 5.11b. Got the on-sight of the legendary routes at this amazing crag.

4-15-17 Donnelly Canyon 3p to 5.10 w Lane, Ramsey, Whitney. Lane and I got to pretend that we belonged with 2 charming young ladies.

Some photos by Lane, James, and Michael Rowley Photography

Red Rocks ’17

I’m just gonna let the pictures do the talking about my best trip to Red Rocks yet.

Ok maybe the stats can have a word too..

3-26-17 Prince of Darkness 5.10c a0 7p with JC, difficult route! Holds are worn out.

3-27-17 Black Magic, Lotta Balls 6p 5.8+

3-28-17 Epinephrine 5.9 16p, Wow, what a route!!

3-29-17 Black Corridor 6p to 10c

3-31-17 The Fox, Danger Bros. Roof+ 4 others 6p to 11a w Mike. Burley , fun routes!

4-1-17 Y2K, Next Century, Out of Control 7p to 10d, stuck rope y2k, other 2 routes are fantastic.

4-2-17 Community Pillar 5.8+ 6p Think fun tunneling

4-3-17 Fiddler on the Roof 10d 4p So techy, thin, 48p total

Thanks to Jeff, Stefanie, Jenn, and Mike, love you guys..

click image to enlarge..

Escape to the Desert: part 2

I have just discovered my floor for the lowest temps I am willing to ice climb in: 7 degrees fahrenheit. So the temps were heading much lower for the week that I had set aside for my friend Mike. He convinced me that the thing to do is get a  plane ticket and enjoy the sun and warmth of Red Rocks and Zion. It worked out fine doing about 20 pitches in the 2 areas over 4 days . Up first was a romp up the south face of Windy peak. We had wanted to try Jubilant Song but to keep with the crowding theme, there was already 4 people ahead, we opted for a route next to it name Hot Fudge Thursday. It is a fun 6 pitch route that has 4 great pitches mostly at the start. We also found out why it is called Windy Peak.

We were then excited to try the Tatooine Route on Kinesava in Zion: A legendary  15 pitch 5.11 route on the South Face of Mt. Kinesava. We hiked in with heavy packs and spent a beautiful night at the base. The only problem was that spending 14 hours on a ridgerest pad is not good for our backs. We both were stiff in the morning and climbed as high as we dared push. We cleared the first 4 pitches and were impressed with the quality and position of the climb. I will be back to try again with a different tactic: fix 2 ropes, and fire the next day. We rounded the trip off with 70 degree  perfection cragging at Black Rocks near St. George.



Red Rocks ’16

Escape to the Desert part 1

Sandstone has its own flow and its been a couple of years since I’ve touched it. So fun to climb on, and I am glad to have had extra time to climb and ( a sweet condo to..)recover. Thanks to Bob for the invite and the idea to spend a great couple of weeks in Red Rocks!

10-19-16, wake up wall, 5p to 11a

10-20-16 Breakaway/ La Cierta Edad 10d, 6p

10-22-16 Nightcrawler 4p 10c

10-25 -16 The Hood, Mt Charlston 4p to 10d

10-26-16 Inti Watana, mt. Wilson, 10c, 12p

10-28-16 wake up 3p to 10d

10-29-16 SourMash BVW 10a 4-8p

10-31-16 Eagles Dance 10c, A0 9p

11-2-16 Black Corr. 5p to 11a

First up was combining Breakaway/ La Cierta Edad. Wicked steep intro to the game on Breakaway, spicy too. It was nice to wind down on La Cierta, but got worked from the overall day.
10-19 Hoover Dam sightseeing on rest day. Quite an experience for a concrete guy such as myself!
10-22 Nightcrawler 4p 10c Just wow, what a great climb. It was so hot, that we just waited in the shade (until 130pm)at the base for the whole route to go into the shade, got back at dark though. Great straight up trad climbing.

10-26 Inti Watana, mt. Wilson, Not hard for the grade just long and pretty fun. Tiring day.

10-29 SourMash BVW 10a 4-8p Super fun route and the moves are great! Probably my favorite route  of the trip! Did it in 4 amazing pitches.

10-31 Eagles Dance 10c, A0 9p. Ended the trip on one of Red Rocks great climbs! Even more enjoyable to me than Levitation, and it has a single rope (70m)rap line!! We combined a few and did it in 7.

What fun it was to have relatively great weather in  the disneyland-for-climbers that this place is. Can’t wait for my next trip here.

Click images to enlarge..

Heaven’s Gate ’16

9-11-16 Heaven’s Gate, UTW Index 5.11a/b 4p, 1 fall w/ Priti

I was eager to lead the crux pitch after following it clean back in 6-9-13. Steve was going for his 3rd try at leading it clean back then. It has a super steep finish capped by 2 back-to-back roofs!

Heavens Gate is an incredible face/sport route that starts again with the great giver, 1st pitch: Lamplighter. I am getting to the place where I need to repeat routes at Index, and this one was high on the list. Everybody on Mt.proj gives it 4 stars. Priti, a delightful, up-and-coming climber, picked this route on my list and we were off and running on my only day off again this week. She spared me my 5th straight lead on Lamplighter by getting her first red point on it. I then took the remaining 3 pitches(P2 is Hard!!) and systematically (slowly) worked each of them until the top of p4:  I got off route on the roofs twice, and couldn’t recover the 2nd time taking my own whip off it like Steve did 3 years ago. Makes me even more excited to climb it yet again, after easily dispatching the crux after my 1 fall. Beta is approach each roof from the left then moving right after over the lip with the arms. Stay leaned off to the left.

I have a bad case of Upper Town Wall syndrome and will probably be on Lamplighters trio many more times.

Heavens Gate

Thompson/Fuller Memorial

The Crimson Eye

Blake on HG

About David Gunstone the first ascensionist

Scroll past photos for specific info on the accident.

lesson to be learned from the accident:

Squamish Chief newspaper, Friday 28 May, 2004:


Climbing death ruled accidental by coroner
‘Breakdown in communication’ cited in 2003 death on Grand Wall
By John French
Like many days last spring, May 31, 2003 was a great day for climbing.
While it may have started as a good climbing day for David Christopher Gunstone, it certainly didn’t end that way.

Gunstone was in Squamish, visiting from Seattle, to do some climbing on that Saturday afternoon. He was with a group of friends and they were climbing a route called Exasperator at the base of the Grand Wall area of the Stawamus Chief. Exasperator is a popular route with a moderate difficulty rating. The route is described as a two-pitch crack climb.

Gunstone, 41, finished a top rope ascent at just after 5 p.m. He was on his way back to the ground when things went fatally wrong. Gunstone fell 25 metres to his death.

Coroner Jody Doll investigated what happened leading up to Gunstone’s fall and determined his death was accidental. Doll’s report was completed May 6 of this year.

Doll determined that Gunstone fell when his climbing team failed to tie two ropes together. Essentially, where two ropes were needed to lower him to the ground, there was only one in place and he fell to his death because he ran out of rope.

According to Doll’s report, Gunstone and his friends arrived at the bottom of Exasperator and met two other climbers already on the route. Gunstone’s group had met the other two climbers through previous encounters in the climbing area. The two climbers completed the first pitch on Exasperator and said they wanted Gunstone and his group to join them and lead the climb up the second pitch.

In consultation with climbing experts, Doll determined that two ropes were initially used to begin lowering Gunstone. One of the ropes belonged to Gunstone while the second one belonged to the other group of climbers.

“Mr. Gunstone and his group planned to leave after Mr. Gunstone was on the ground,” Doll wrote in her findings. “Their rope had to be removed from the system during the knot pass and replaced with a rope from the other group. When Mr. Gunstone’s rope was untied, the replacement rope was not attached in time. As a result, the rope passed through the belay device and Mr. Gunstone subsequently fell to the ground.”

Gunstone and one of the other climbers were using a belay system. Gunstone was on the wall and the helper was on the ground with a mechanical belay device attached to his harness. Gunstone also had a harness and the rope was securely attached at his end.

According to Doll, rock climbers have to look after their own safety and share responsibility for the safety of all the other members of a climbing party. “It is an accepted and common practice for climbers to double check knots and harness configurations, confirm instructions and vocalize plans,” she wrote.

“When a climbing situation develops into a social atmosphere, as is often the case when larger groups of acquaintances congregate at the base of a climb, and especially in a controlled top rope situation, a relaxed atmosphere often evolves,” Doll wrote in her report. “In these situations, the direct line of communication and psychological connectivity between the climber and the belayer is interrupted by exchanges taking place in the group on the ground.”

Doll found that a number of factors contributed to the fatal accident that spring day last year. “There was no well-communicated plan to complete the transfer of the ropes and there was a break down in the communication between the belayer and the rest of the group on the ground,” Doll wrote in her report. “The belayer instructed the third member of Mr. Gunstone’s group to complete the rope disconnection and reconnection process. The belayer stayed focused on Mr. Gunstone and assumed the rope reconnection had taken place. The belayer began to lower Mr. Gunstone and continued without noticing that the approaching end of the rope had not been reconnected.”

Doll learned that confusion developed between the two groups in the minutes before the fall as 60 metres of uncoiled rope lay at the base of the climb.

“This created a confusing mess of multiple untied rope ends that could not be easily identified and separated,” Doll concluded.

Gunstone’s resulting fall caused massive head trauma. After the fall a call was made to 911 and local emergency officials arranged for an air ambulance helicopter to take Gunstone to hospital in Vancouver.

Hwy. 99 was closed at the base of The Stawamus Chief for a short time while the injured climber was loaded into the aircraft.

“His injuries were catastrophic and he was essentially dead [from the impact],” Doll said in the days after the accident. “When B.C. Ambulance got there, people were performing CPR on him. Some of his body processes were shut down.”