Trip: Colchuck Balanced Rock - Let it Burn and West Face
With the low snowpack and high temps I was eager to get back up into the alpine after climbing up at prusik the previous week. My buddy Craig had yet to climb on Colchuck Balanced Rock and was psyched to check it out. We hiked in Friday night, and setup camp below the talus field below CBR.
First up 'Let It Burn', shown as the left line here:
Mellow climbing leads to a big ledge before the first hard pitch of the day, and maybe the crux of the route, P2 5.12-. Moderate fingercracks lead up and ever steepening headwall before the crescendo boulder problem leading to a improbable jug rest. Me very happy to have avoided the flash pump and onsighted the first lead of the day, photo taken by some friends on the 'West Face'.
Craig took P3 a fun 5.11 flake and crack system up moderate angled face with a thin crux 3/4 of the way up. Easiest pitch on the route?
Pitch 4 was a return to the steepness from P2, thuggy and powerful climbing leads to a nice slab belay. Me in the middle of the battle. Rated 11c by the FA party, Craig and I both found this to be as hard if not harder then P2. Maybe with some beta refinement it may feel easier.
Pitch 5, a delicate traverse to another steep overhanging crack capped by a powerful reachy boulder problem. Craig dug deep and put the rope up after a few falls. Truly committing climbing with big air if you blow it. Craig leads the pitch off with the incredible juggy flake traverse, dont fall!
Pitch 6 delicate slab climbing followed by easy 5.7
Pitch 7-9, 5.9->5.7 run it to the top.
Me on top, a little tired and dehydrated, but psyched to have pulled the onsight on one of the coolest routes in the region.
A quick downclimb back to the base of the cirque (easy right now with soft snow), proceeds to dinner and a few hours of chilling before sleep.
Day 2, our original plan of climbing 'The Scoop' was tossed after another party reported significant wetness on the crux pitch. Craig had not done the west face yet, so with a mellow alpine start of 7AM we made our way up to the wall again.
I brought us up to the base of the large corner in two quick pitches before handing over the lead to Craig for his onsight attempt on one of the coolest pitches around. Craig sent in fine style, battling through the wet slime that guarded the belay ledge.
I took the awkward roof traverse, which was also wet, classic. Craig followed with some swearing and grunting, which brought us to the base of the crux pitch. It maybe the hardest graded pitch of the route, but it was dry and craig fired it in style. Pulling into the roof
Craig cruised the squeeze chimney (maybe the only person to ever make it look 5.8?) and we ambled to the top, before cruising back down to camp, psyched to have pulled off two routes in perfect alpine conditions. Proud effort by Craig to onsight the West Face after battling up Let It Burn the previous day, in new shoes no less!!
The bugs are coming out, bring a tent. Tons of water flowing at the base of the cirque.
Doubles from green alien->#1, single purple c3/#2/#3, plus nuts for Let it Burn. Extra #2 for the west face.
Special nut tool, aka fork. If you want to save some weight for the approach (or if you forget to bring a nut tool like us) turns out a fork works almost as well.
Cross at colchuck damn, snow free the whole way.