My favorite Index pitch: Up’er Zipper

“Thanks for the work developing that climb! Tom”, I said as we hiked down the Upper Wall trail. He yelled out “You’re welcome” He was arguing with his friend over the FA of the route and renaming it.

“It” was and old 7 pitch aid route on the Cheeks formation, that now goes mostly free. Many people enjoy the 1st pitch of the (lower)Zipper, a total sandbag 10b. Just above that is a A3 roof that is mind blowingly big, steep, and thin. Above that is some dirt scrambling to reach the ledge called the Beach, an airy perch that is usually reached by traversing “the Perverse Traverse, 5.5” via ferrata style. There lies the war chest that Tom and friends use to scrub some of the steepest rock at Index. A few years ago they scrubbed and bolted the upper part of the Zipper route, and rumors floated that it was one of the best long pitches at Index. I went up there early last year with Jeremy and it was too wet. Last Sunday, I got my first shot at it after the usual spend Saturday-in-bed-rest. Doug was fresh off a one year sabbatical, and raring for the plan once I told him of the obscure and hard to get to adventure.

http://www.mountainproject.com/v/uper-zipper/108146751

It totally lived up to the hype. I made the mistake of not warming up on another route, but it was supposed to rain that afternoon. It got up in the face with steep powerful movement right off the ledge.Welcome shake out rests occur about 7-8 times along the way. What a way it is too, when combining the 1st and 2nd pitch into an mega 60 meter lead! Alternatively breaking the lead up into 2 pitches though leaves the party at a hanging belay, then leaves a committing start off the belay as well. It seemed more natural to do it in one long push. After spending 5-10 minute at each rest, I joked that I did the lead in 8 pitches. I got up it with 2 hangs to de-pump in an effort that took way more than an hour to get up. It is such fun that is hard to describe. You will encounter: every size crack, with flakes, knobs, sustained, steep difficulty, and an unbelievably classic pitch that will not easily be forgotten. As Chandler says: “I climb at Index because it is the highest quality climbing I have ever been blessed to experience. As far as the individual routes go I can’t imagine there being anything better in the world”.

‘Nuff said, enjoy some pics:

Crimson Eye, and a small ratings bubble.

Before I go into a rant about sandbag grades, let me first state that the 2 new lines on the Upper Town Wall are just fantastic, and are/will get much deserved traffic on them. Super technical, thin, and very bouldery, Thompson/Fuller Memorial and Crimson Eye offer some of the best face climbing you can imagine. It is so great to have even more outstanding choices at my favorite place to climb.

Mt Project Page: http://www.mountainproject.com/v/the-crimson-eye-/111804803

Yes, Index is an amazing place to rock climb, but everyone knows how the ratings are stiff in most cases. That’s the tradition here, and I get it, but do we want to keep raising the bar? My last 2 recent reports highlight 2 routes that deserve such ratings scrutiny. I believe the FA team are well suited to do routes much harder than the pair of routes, so maybe that is a factor. Bouldering has allowed the average climber to do incredibly difficult sequences, and develop far greater finger strength. Maybe my job and age are making climbing more challenging to me? I have always felt that routes should be rated for the on-sight first go at them. If you get it wired then maybe you have Index ratings? RIGHT next to these routes is a route called Heaven’s Gate . It is supposed to be 11a/b, and is way more doable than either of the pair to its left. Make your own judgement by doing these amazing climbs (if you can), but be ready for some tough climbing.

Details: p1: I led Lamplighter for my 4th time overall 10c. P2 then Jeremy got shut down and offered me the crux 2nd pitch, which I fell on, then sent, but grabbed the draw after crux to clip it. note: if you can clip the bolt after the crux move, go for the hidden jug to the right of it first, then it is more clippable.-felt 11d.  P3: Jeremy did an amazing job sending the stiff sequence on p3 (rated 10-. I fell 2x tr-ing it! We mistakenly went left? felt 11b/c, I am told there is an easier way to the right. Gear handy at finish. ). P4: I was amazed that I got through the 4th pitch without falling or having a mental breakdown, because it is such a crazy and awesome pitch -felt 11b, 36 meters.The climb took us 6hrs! Thank gosh that there are rest stances peppered along most of the pitches. What a ride!!

click images to enlarge

Brett Thompson and Scott Fuller Memorial Route, UTW, Index

Lane and I picked the perfect spring day to do one of the best new climbs at Index.

The Brett Thompson and Scott Fuller Memorial Route is a recent addition to the top of the fabled Upper Town Wall of Index. After a couple of steep old school trad pitches, it eventually gets up on one of those steep, and exposed slabs you find at Index that can have incredible face climbing.

p3

p4  photo by Lane B.

Here the rock can have features like: patina, tortoiseshell, thin seams, stegosaurus spiney craziness, with an occasional crystal pocket. I had to take some time to figure out the sequences, as they were neither obvious nor effortless. It felt like a never ending boulder problem, fitting perfectly with why I like climbing at here. Great challenges can yield great rewards.

 

“Bouldering with a rope” . Blake Harrington knocked it out of the park for me when he described what Index is to himself. The modern climber cannot deny the influence that bouldering has had on the sport of climbing. Bouldering demands intense concentration on ever smaller holds and figuring out some tricky sequence to solve a typically complicated body riddle. Get rid off the fiddle and extra weight of gear and of course you can find the sport at its most difficult. It is bringing up a generation of power house athletes that if they do rope up, will find routes that are very difficult indeed. Being an old schooler, I struggle with this influence at the gym, at the crags, and occasionally when I boulder. I am used to the slightly more natural lines, but do enjoy the prospect of pushing myself. Bouldering, and sport climbing are good ways to do just that.

The first ascension team named the route for a couple of close friends that took their own lives. The route is great and I hear the 2 young men were too. I’m told Scott was the master of slang and super strong boulderer and Brett the laid back trad guy with a sweet spot for Darrington. I am getting to know the fa team and I wish them peace and closure with their friends departure. Thanks for the huge effort it took to put up such a long outstanding climb and bringing your burden and collective memories to the community.

 

Another bout of Labor Pains

Ah early season. Stoke runs high, conditions are weird, and people forget to bring things. Plan “D”is often in play. Due to unfamiliarity and spectacular snow cover, it can be such  an amazing experience though, just good luck figuring what to do. Limited possibilities can crowd routes, but this Memorial Day, the weather kept many parties away. Monday was the only day it wasn’t snowing, so we made for the shorter West facing lines that got sun once it warmed up in the afternoon. We had picked Free Mojo, but the sun wouldn’t hit it before 1 pm. Labor Pains it was, even though Lane and I just had done the route last September. Would it be as fun as I remember?

I was rusty and the rock was damp, so I was not as relaxed as last time. The gear felt worse too in the damp cracks. I combined the last 2 crux pitches this time, and had the worst rope drag possible. Barely able to pull the crux and exhausted with drag of the 2 ropes, I still say that it is a great climb with a chip on its shoulder. I wish the pins could be replaced with bolts, and a good belay could be added to the last 2 pitches. It is dangerous to move off that belay there now with the way the bolts are. Don’t let my whining take it off your list though. Just bring long slings, Revolver carabiners, and some nerves.

click images to enlarge.

 

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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

 

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.  cc.com 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..

Labor Pains, NEWSpire

So lets just say that your to-do list at Washington Pass is getting low. (It could happen!) I have a great, unheralded climb for you! The Labor Pains route on NEWS is an engaging, fun, and spicy outing for sure. I just kept imagining the FA party squeaking their way up this discontinuous line. Not quite the spook-fest that the guide book suggests, it does take tiny cams and stoppers quite well. It doesn’t have an “enduro” section, or big run-outs either. It does have tricky moves that require a bit of “go-for-it”. I absolutely loved the quality of climbing, position, and atmosphere of the 3 tough pitches of the route. Adventure calls! Add it to your dwindling list of outstanding climbs there.

 

I started a Mt. Proj Page 

We enjoyed the new Matrix Crag in Mazama too. Beta at http://www.goatsbeardmountainsupplies.com/ or at their gear shop in Mazama.

Squamish ’15

I wasn’t even thinking about going climbing last weekend with the hot temperatures here in the NW. It was a tough week at work in 90+ degree temps every day. Doug called me though looking for a partner. I do enjoy climbing with him as he is willing to swap leads and always has fun projects in mind. First up was to get up to shady higher altitude climbing at Fluffy Kitten Wall, near Mt. Habrich. After going up the sensitive watershed road for a few miles(FWD, and clearance), it is only about 45 minutes to the base. The wall goes into the shade around 10 am, which is when we started up the 6 pitch 5.11a gem of a route. The pitches were not strenuous or stressful, just long and enjoyable. Lots of foot jamming, you dont need 4 of any cam either.

Jesse’s Blog trip report

Fluffy Kitten Wall from RC

Double TR on CC

Next up was Sunset Strip, a newer link up in the Western Dihedrals -that also stays shady for the first half of the day-. It is a 12 pitch classic that I hear can get quite crowded, but not for us. we started at 630 am and it took a long time still to get through all the tough pitches. What a package that climb is all the way to the end! I ran out of gas on the last crux.

One of my favorite weekends ever! Thanks Doug for rolling out for this great trip!

Mt Proj. beta

Squam. source