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Found 239 results

  1. Trip: North Hozomeen Mtn - Zorro Face, IV 5.9 Date: 8/31/2013 Trip Report: “squamish?” Written at the end of a planning email for Hozomeen which addressed some nagging details, this would become our refrain throughout the trip. Labor Day offered a nice climbing window, and our list of objectives included just plain ol’ good times at Squamish, which typically promises immediate rock, clean rock, solid rock, protectable rock—all conspicuously (or suspected) absent at our objective. Most likely, many of you are aware of the opening passage in Jack Kerouac’s Desolation Angels: “Hozomeen, Hozomeen, most beautiful mountain I ever seen, like a tiger sometimes with stripes, sunwashed rills and shadow crags wriggling lines in the Bright Daylight, vertical furrows and bumps and Boo! crevasses, boom, sheer magnificent Prudential mountain, nobody’s even heard of it, and it’s only 8,000 feet high, but what a horror when I first saw that void the first night of my staying on Desolation Peak waking up from deep fogs of 20 hours to a starlit night suddenly loomed by Hozomeen with his two sharp points, right in my window black – the Void, every time I’d think of the Void I’d see Hozomeen and understand – Over 70 days I had to stare at it.” Later in the novel: “The void is not disturbed by any kind of ups or downs, my God look at Hozomeen, is he worried or tearful?... Why should I choose to be bitter or sweet, he does neither? – Why cant I be like Hozomeen and O Platitude O hoary old platitude of the bourgeois mind ‘take life as it comes’…” “take life as it comes” indeed. This is a useful mantra when approaching the west face. We had suspected an approach from the N down a gully would grant us access—Colin Haley’s blog post seemed to confirm this suspicion. However, this approach is nontrivial; the initial gully third-class down-climb, while loose, and dangerous, pales next to the shenanigans required to cross several precipitous ribs to our targeted launch point. A slip at any point spells an unpleasant end in the valley a couple thousand below. The approach took us a tedious and painstaking 4.5 hours (this after a first day of humping heavy loads 11+ miles to a camp just N of the peak.) Camp in that basin; S and N Hozomeen left to right, with the west (Zorro) face mostly out of view; some of its northern margin on the right skyline. Our approach continues down (out of view) from the furthest notch on right. Views during approach included the Picket range. Approach soloing; downclimbing skills or funeral bills. squamish? “take life as it comes”, also a useful mantra when trying to piece together leads up loose, sometimes friable and/or vegetated and/or wet, mostly welded shut (read: sparsely protected) metamorphosed basalt. The stuff is also called Hozomeen chert and was valued by the Salish for making knives and arrowheads. Hozomeen apparently is native Salish for "sharp, like a sharp knife." Looking up at much of our (foreshortened) route, which tends left to the central summit in this pic. Finally at the base, we decided to take it one pitch at a time, figuring we would try to retain the option to bail. squamish? Rock, paper, scissors, Rolf wins first lead this time. End of rope. I follow and gain an appreciation for the climbing challenges this Hozomeen chert will proffer; sparse pro and selective handholds will be the order of the day. I lead up a second long pitch to the only evidence of human visitation: a ¼ inch bolt and a bail ‘biner. Someone came, saw, and turned around; foreboding. (We did not see any other indication of passage higher than this.) After a couple pitches of metamorphosed basalt, we were talking about turning around too. But we could see trees on ledges above, and figured we could still bail in a relatively safe and reasonable manner. squamish? The land of milk and honey beckoned us. The third pitch required an exposed step-around with muddied feet; expletives drifted down to my belay. No pics. My pitch 4 went steeply up to a ledge, and traversed left; we were somehow making our way, and could still bail. Rolf’s face at the pitch 4 transition betrays some of our uncertainty. During his pitch 5 lead, some curses and words in the wind, “I wanna go home”. It was probably just the wind; he would’ve said simply, “squamish?” I’d like to forget pitch 6. I was forced up a steep 5.9 corner/arête with a paucity of gear. And what few pieces there were went into mungy and rotten fissures. Loose rock abounded, and without gear, there was no way to constrain the ropes from sending it down. Rolf didn’t get hit, but reported that he dutifully tied knots below his brake hand in case he was knocked out—so sensitive to my needs. I grunted up to a fat ledge, and Rolf managed to follow without getting shelled. Then Rolf drew one of the plum pitches, the seventh. 5.9+, climbs a nice corner (but with a section of unavoidable decking potential), then a tricky traverse to another corner, up and then traverse again to the only belay opportunity. Again, only so much gear and rope management was possible; missiles flew by my safe belay spot, but a few also threatened while climbing—somehow, no carnage. This wouldn’t happen in … Rolf up the p7 corner. Hand jams!?! Pitch 8 had a couple steep sections. Here Rolf discerns which holds to clean and/or trust. Pitches 9 and 10 stretched the ropes, continuing up the “corner” system we had identified as a weakness. More 5.9 (mostly easier) runouts. At the belay at top of pitch 10 I placed the only iron we used, a crappy pin to back up a solid piece and a marginal piece. For pitch 11, Rolf raced the sunset to a ledge. Uncharacteristically, this pitch didn’t stretch the rope; he thought we should take the bivouac bird in hand. I thought we were close to the summit and could possibly manage to climb to the top in the twilight-soon-to-be-night. He pointed out that idea was risky, and his logic prevailed. In retrospect it was definitely the right move. “take life as it comes”, also useful for shivering through the beautiful folly of an exposed bivy on a sloping ledge one nasty pitch from the summit. We’d brought some warm clothes but could have been warmer. All in all, the bivy wasn’t so bad, and definitely not as miserable as our unplanned bivy on Lemolo Mox across the way. Hozomeen wasn’t done with us. In the morning, I put together a long and winding pitch on some of the worst rock and pro conditions on the face—one strong cup of coffee, scary to the last drop. But it got us to the summit ridge! Unfortunately, the only spot to belay again made rope-disturbing rubble unavoidable. On the finishing moves, Rolf got clocked right in the helmet with a softball-sized rock, but was ok. Shudder. Top of our climb, just North of the summit, shortly after getting rocked. Glad to have done it. Another Scurlock masterpiece. Our route makes its way up to the left-facing corners directly below the summit. Our bivy occurred on the relatively large snow patch right below the summit. In the background is the Southwest Buttress, climbed many years ago by some hardcores. Kerouac again: “And I will die, and you will die, and we all will die, and even the stars will fade out one after another in time.” But we won’t die on Hozomeen. Hopefully not in Squamish either. But I will climb again at the latter. Both Rolf and I have mildly obsessed over this face for years, and were gratified (gruntled, even) to execute our vision. I expected technical demands exceeding 5.9, but given the challenges of Hozomeen chert, was glad for the limit. Probably half the pitches had some 5.9 moves, depending on what you trust for holds. We stretched the rope for most of the 12 pitches of pure adventure. I am fortunate to have a teammate like the curmudgeon: rich in experience (old), strong (for his weight), solid (old), and somehow able to check my relentlessly positive delusions. Thanks hardcore. A couple summit shots: And more pics. BTW, we descended the North Face route, rested, ate and drank, packed up and marched to car. The mosquitoes for the last couple miles were some other $#!+. Gear Notes: Single set of nuts. Tricams up to hand size v useful. We took lots of small cams, but the doubles would actually be better in the mid-range. Approach Notes: Nontrivial. Day 1, due to tons of rain the day before, we elected to take the scenic Skyline trail instead of the steep bushwhack. Day 2, follow your nose and low sense of self-worth.
  2. Trip: Waddington Range - Bicuspid Tower - FA of "On a Recky" Date: 7/23/2013 Trip Report: This is the follow up to Ben's McNerthney Pillar trip report. I was waiting to confirm some details of past routes on the face and I got backlogged getting my place ready to sell here in Boulder so we can move back home to Washington. It’s time to end my 5-year hiatus from the Cascades! And for the record, that jump shot with Peter Rabbit only took one go… [img:left]http://farm4.staticflickr.com/3686/9556712328_58681c0bd1.jpg[/img] Now then, after a much-celebrated rest day wandering around in the hot sun after coming down from Waddington, Ben and I went on a reconnaissance trip to scout out the Stilletto Glacier approach and potential new lines on Dentiform Peak. With Bicuspid Tower as a secondary objective for the day, we planned to leave a rope and rack at the base for a full attempt the following morning. The idea was that with the path dialed and lighter packs the next day, the approach could be done in 1.5 hours. I had called Graham Zimmerman from the sat phone the day before to see what he knew of routes up there. I just happened to catch him after he flew out of the Revelations with Scott and gleaned some more beta from their 2012 trip. After all, we still had a few more days of high pressure overhead so we wanted to make the most of it. As we left camp at 5:30am, our packs still felt heavy. I struggled to keep up with Ben on the initial third class scramble to the snow ramp leading to the middle section of the glacier. Could it have been that I wasn't fully recovered from McNerthney? Hmmm... We threw in the occasional wand to track our path but, this being our first go; we traversed too high and had to retrace our steps to reach the opposite end of the Stilletto Glacier. And with only a hundred feet to go, we came to a rather intimidating snow bridge requiring a narrow traverse and steep exit on soft snow. I believe Ian Nicholson had a similar obstacle in 2005 that he dubbed "Crunch Time.” After 2 short belays, we were across and at the base in 3 hours from Sunny Knob – turns out GZ was right on about approach time first go. [img:left]http://farm4.staticflickr.com/3704/9553979235_cd8a362826.jpg[/img] Serras, Stilletto, Blade, and Dentiform [img:left]http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7301/9553987657_1faed1ec9f.jpg[/img] Phantom Tower and Grand Cappaccino centered in photo Yet, bone-white granite and clean continuous cracks caught my eye on the steepest face of Bicuspid, and I soon lured Ben into my increasing frenzy to attempt a new route ground up and onsight. While much shorter, Bicuspid's splitter cracks looked more appealing than the various potential lines up Dentiform. And as if I needed any more justification, continuous cracks on clean granite were the perfect juxtaposition from McNerthney’s complex, adventure climbing. Only a tiny moat lay at the base and we found a nice ledge to switch into rock climbing mode. We left a pack, boots and crampons at the base of the climb with the plan of rapping back to the base. Bicuspid Tower sits just west of ridge line proper. If you plan on climbing Stilletto, Blade, or Dentiform from the Stilletto Glacier, it is far easier to rap down the opposite side onto the Upper Tellot. A short jaunt will take you to Plummer Hut. Ben led off the first series of 5.8 clean cracks rightward to reach a prominent ledge below the steepest part of the face. From here, it was like being in a candy store with numerous cracks to salivate over! The two furthest right led to a massive left facing corner crack, but thin unprotectable seams blocked the way and I wasn’t interested in aiding. I considered traversing high into one, but the possibility of a 40-foot sideways whip if I slipped out of a thin 5.11 corner did not sound…fun. On the far left, numerous wide cracks had their appeal too, but I had a hunch Ian may have climbed that part of the face. [img:left]http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7321/9553995917_4a85d09610.jpg[/img] Pitch 1 Instead, We opted for the center crack splitting the face with changing corners. Fortunately, narrow ledges off right and left provided options for pro and stances to suss out each section. I led up with an ice tool and a few knifeblades in case I had no other gear options. Fun 5.10 climbing, some flaring cracks, and a hand traverse with a quick heal hook led to the first crux of the route, a tricky 5.11 sequence of slopers and crimps where the crack pinched down to a thin seam. [img:left]http://farm4.staticflickr.com/3736/9556739566_e269e2603d.jpg[/img] Pitch 2 Pumped and psyched to get it clean, I set a belay after the crux in a small alcove since I was running out of gear. The third pitch only proved to be more amazing! A thin 5.10 crack with perfect pro and stems lead into amazing splitter hands on par with the middle 5.9 section of Thin Fingers at Index. And that’s no exaggeration! Ben took the 4th pitch, a 5.9 V-slot angling right. Most of the chock stones were solid yet he moved with stealth around a few loose blocks since I was right below. [img:left]http://farm6.staticflickr.com/5460/9553951403_fa7b876b87.jpg[/img] [img:left]http://farm4.staticflickr.com/3773/9556713334_8be3219efe.jpg[/img] Photos of splitters on Pitch 3! [img:left]http://farm4.staticflickr.com/3705/9556804042_1161e6a05c.jpg[/img] Pitch 4 - the V-slot We made it through the steep section of the face, but the climbing difficulty didn't subside. Directly above, we climbed a short 5.10 corner into 5.9 face cracks to a large ledge. I initially climbed further up and left but the face blanked out and I down-climbed to the base of an intimidating R-facing crack. Ben came up and I passed the remaining gear to Ben. Ben headed up the 6th pitch, but we left behind a couple finger-sized pieces at camp and the rock around the crack flaked off small chips as Ben worked his way up. Ben led through some strenuous finger locks to reach a tricky pod. After a few solid goes and proud whips, we swapped sharp ends and I climbed up to Ben’s high point. A wide stem on a small flake and mantle move brought us above the pod, but the crack above required an insecure layback. Past this 5.11 section, I continued up and around a tricky 5.10 stem to reach the top of the east summit. [img:left]http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7381/9556794352_dae9e2eda0.jpg[/img] Pitch 6 - the second crux pitch Wowie! Amazing cracks and stout cruxes on a clean continuous 6-pitch new route is dubbed “On a recky” since the best climbs are often those unplanned and not in a guidebook. [img:left]http://farm4.staticflickr.com/3794/9553939105_5747127b11.jpg[/img] Route topo with previous known routes roughly marked We slung a large block and completed three full 60-meter raps down to our packs. We radioed Tim once we were across “Crunch Time” and wandered back into camp just after dark. After 17.5 hours, we were back in camp enjoying a hot meal and taking in the stark contrast yet unreal fortune of adding this spectacular new route to our second ascent of McNerthney. The next day, day 7 of the trip, I woke up exhausted, debating whether to join Tim and Ben on a final mission to hike up to Plummer Hut that day for another climb. Tim heads off mid-day while Ben and I rest a bit more at Sunny Knob. After eating, sleeping, and wandering around aimlessly a bit, we take off around 6:30pm. I plug the headphones in and head across the lower Tiedemann to the 1000-ft moraine of loose ball bearings. With that surmised, easy snow leads up and around the Claw peaks to Plummer Hut with only a short gully of rotten orange rock in between. 2.5 hours later, we plop down next to the Hut and eat a small meal to enjoy the sunset. Tim has his eyes set on Serra One in the guidebook and we make plans to head up the next morning. [img:left]http://farm6.staticflickr.com/5494/9553971985_e089688abc.jpg[/img] [img:left]http://farm4.staticflickr.com/3731/9556734840_5bcc6e9481.jpg[/img] [img:left]http://farm6.staticflickr.com/5345/9556711448_9f91a72656.jpg[/img] [img:left]http://farm3.staticflickr.com/2834/9556751366_3bb01053a7.jpg[/img] Sunset and dusk shots from Plummer Hut A long but straightforward approach up the Tellot Glacier led us to the base. We stepped across a small schrund and traversed across ice to the base. We roped up midway, which was smart because the snow bridge eventually collapsed leaving one of us dangling our feet in the crevasse. Tim led off and we started simuling behind. Fun moderate climbing up to 5.7 brought us to the summit of Serra One. [img:left]http://farm4.staticflickr.com/3693/9556727370_45f0f0949d.jpg[/img] [img:left]http://farm4.staticflickr.com/3830/9553935431_5a5e5f2d10.jpg[/img] The ridge travels down to Stilletto Needle, Stilletto, and the Blade. Behind us, the Serras’ complex ridgelines lead into the Asperity/Tiedemann massif. We could see Sunny Knob far below as well as the upper half of McNerthney Pillar. Yet another amazing 360 degree view of the Waddington Range with bluebird skies and peaks as far as the eye could see! It’s never a dull moment tied in with Ben and Tim and they break into a Spanish conversation as we summit, capping the trip off with wild shouts of “quesadilla” and “seven layered burritos.” [img:left]http://farm6.staticflickr.com/5336/9556731716_777bf6ac85.jpg[/img] [img:left]http://farm4.staticflickr.com/3818/9556715102_5488148549.jpg[/img] We head back to the hut, repack, and charge back down to Sunny Knob, psyched with the continued fortune. We verify that weather is on its way so we opt to fly out 3 days early. We do our best to finish the booze and eat all the left-over goodies that night, prepping to fly out the next morning on day 9 of the trip. The chopper arrives on time and we enjoy our final ride out back to civilization. 5 years in Colorado with only a short trip to the Ruth Gorge back in 2011 meant I hadn't been in real mountain terrain with complex glaciers for far too long. I was lucky to have 2 great partners I'm psyched to rope up with when I return to Washington. Hope to see you out there! [img:left]http://farm4.staticflickr.com/3725/9556712888_d0daabac3c.jpg[/img] [img:left]http://farm6.staticflickr.com/5322/9553940011_1dbebb37cc.jpg[/img] [img:left]http://farm4.staticflickr.com/3690/9556727314_91b3ee69e6.jpg[/img] Map of the Waddington Range with our travel shown in blue over the course of 8 days Photos by Joe, Ben, and Tim
  3. Trip: Mt Terror, Southern Pickets - Central Buttress of South Face III 5.9 Date: 7/13/2013 Trip Report: Rolf and I climbed this (likely) new route last weekend, provisional name = Fear and Loathing. Grade III (approx 6 pitches; we did 5 1/2 with a 70m), 5.9 adventure climbing on mostly solid (and well featured) Skagit gneiss. Another objective the next day turned us back, but we'll always have Terror. And loathing. After the most enjoyable and casual 6.5 hour approach (it's an acquired taste) to our camp near the Chopping Block, we could look across lovely Crescent Creek basin at Mt Terror. Hard tellin' not knowin', a route up the face sure looked improbable. We took a casual approach, waiting for the sun to get on the rock (frosty night), and weighed a number of potential routes. The most viable options appeared to be the butresses on the left, center, and right. We agreed the most aesthetic was the buttress snaking up most directly to the summit. Our route - poorly marked in red - goes up the barely lit central buttress to the summit: I didn't take v many pics, my camera was thawing out. And sorry ladies, no butt pics of Rolf on lead--he seemed to quickly disappear from view, as befits a rat. For first lead, I won rock paper scissors, and got probably the best pitch of the route. Up a steep juggy corner (careful hold selection), then a rising, more solid and exposed ramp, that at times gave that familiar feeling of pushing you off toward the void. Some 5.9 on this pitch, an engaging exercise putting together the pieces. Looking down pitch 1. Rolf's pitch 2 took the chimney/gully, 5.8 or 5.8+?, to a nice belay and decision point: the central buttress, or east buttress of the south face? We stuck with our original plan. For p 3, I hung a left and sent an easy boulder prob to gain the ridge crest and a spate of more sustained climbing before it relented to more wandery rambling. 5.8+ again? I stuck to the buttress crest, but there are certainly variations on this ledgy gneiss. Looking down p3 from a belay on the crest, just below a prominent tower; you can see the east buttress off on the left. Rolf's pitch 4 skirted the tower on the left; more moderate climbing, but also greater loose rock management. From his belay, I climbed some steeper rock (nice corners) and then ledge systems, carefully constraining the course of the rope to avoid dislodging some slayers. Super fun pitch, with fine air and views. Top of p 5; mt despair central background. For the last pitch, Rolf ran up a steepish blocky and juggy section, which then backed off to the remaining summit scramble. Nice views both ways along the Southern Pickets. L to R: McMillan spires, Inspiration, Degenhardt Glacier. We then boogied down the West Ridge route and then the couloir back to our packs. For fun and moderate climbing on mostly good rock, in a remote setting, I recommend this climb. More pics. Gear Notes: Tri-cams useful. Brought pins but did not use. Approach Notes: Lovely walk to Crescent Creek basin. There's now a non-high-wire-walking log that takes you across Terror Creek.
  4. Trip: New route on "Peak 33" in Salmon River Range - NW prow Date: 7/2/2013 Trip Report: Once again, Pat does a great job of describing a new route we put up, possibly the first on the North side, of a delightful cliff above lake 33 in the Salmon RIver mountains near McCall. I'll just link that post on the Idaho Outdoors Forum. Peak 33 trip report. I had been waiting for the opportunity to do this for two years. The rock is solid and well featured, but the cracks above the winter snow line are full of moss. Someone with time on their hands could pick a 4 pitch line, rap from the top and clean the cracks, then have a great climb from the bottom. Gear Notes: Take a wire brush plus a smallish alpine rack. Long slings for girth hitching trees are essential. Approach Notes: Stay left on the approach to take the correct col into lake 33. It's not well marked. Once off the lake fork creek valley floor, follow the cairns to the col and down the other side to avoid cliffy spots. Great camp sites at the base of the cliff, with water, or down by the lake a 20 minute steep hike below.
  5. Trip: Blade Runner FA + info on 18 new routes at Shangri La, X38 ONE PAGE PRINTABLE TOPO ADDED BELOW. Date: 10/12/2012 Trip Report: Blade Runner First Ascent (Shangri La new route info follows). We like to think that our best days are ahead of us. As climbers, we believe that if we train harder, learn new techniques, and buy the right gear we’ll break through to a new level. This works for a while, but the tides of time are against us. At some point we must pass our high water mark. Most of us won’t recognize this milestone until months or years later, but sometimes you know when it happens. Mine was 8am on October 12th, 2012. For 15 years I’d been on a 5.9 to 5.10 plateau. There were always excuses. Grad school, post-doc, start-up, kids, remodel. Years of weekend warrior climbing rolled past. The tide finally turned in 2006 when I took a job across the street from the UW climbing gym. I started bouldering regularly and met new partners. Two of them, Alex and Scott, opened up my eyes to the world of new route development. Together, we put up a handful of 5.9 and 5.10 lines in the Deception area of Exit 38. That summer I climbed my first 5.11 in 15 years. 5.11 is barely a warm-up for strong climbers, but for me this was a breakthrough. For almost two decades, 5.11 had been a psychological barrier, an impenetrable ceiling through which I thought I would never pass again. This made me wonder what my potential really was. At 38, I knew I didn’t have long to find out, so I set a goal to climb my first 5.12 before I turned 40. It was a long shot, but if I tried I might bump up to a new level and be able to climb routes that had long been out of reach. There were obstacles. I was working full time, managing our home remodel, and riding the night train of two small kids with a third on the way, but I did climb. First ascents on the Shangri La cliff at Exit 38 marked a slow but steady rise in my abilities. 2007 Guillotine, 5.10. A gear-protected corner with a sharp flake in the middle. History Book, 5.10. A gear-protected crack with an ancient piton. Small Arms Fire, 5.10. A sustained route with small holds on a steep slab. 2008 Metamorphosis, 5.10+. A two-pitch line on a 300 foot face with a mix of bolts and gear. Crouching Tiger, 5.10+. A route with sloping features and rock as rough as #100 sandpaper. Forty came and went without a 5.12 redpoint, but I did climb some great 5.11s around the Northwest. The following year, I found three spectacular lines at Shangri La at my limit. To climb them, I had to learn a new process: find solutions for each crux, rehearse the moves, draw a detailed map, visualize the sequences, work to link sections, and then go for the redpoint. This type of mind/body training is not new. Tony Yaniro was one of the first US climbers to build a training wall that simulated the specific movements he needed for his project. Top climbers of the day scoffed at his approach, calling it cheating, but our bodies are remarkable machines that adapt to the challenges we present to them. If you want to get good at pull-ups you train by doing pull-ups. If you want to get good at certain climbing moves you train by doing those moves. In 1979, Yaniro’s training paid off when he established The Grand Illusion, then the hardest route in North America. On the mental side, repetition of movements creates muscle memories that allow our bodies to perform complex motor functions. Once these muscle programs, or motor engrams, are mastered they can be played back with minimal conscious input. Watch a toddler try to eat with a spoon for the first time and you’ll appreciate how complex this task really is and how much focus is required to learn new tasks. What enables us to eat our cereal without spilling while walking down stairs and talking on the phone? We’ve mastered each of these tasks through repetition. Interestingly, we can also train for complex movements through visualization, or virtual rehearsal, where we imagine ourselves performing the task. Thus, training your mind actually trains your body, and vice versa. Achieving mastery of complex motor functions allows us to focus on higher levels of control, such as managing fear, optimizing arousal levels, relaxing unnecessary muscles, and staying focused in stressful situations. Even strength can be traced back to mental training, when we consider that strength training is driven by motivation, discipline, planning, and self-assessment. Free your mind and your body will follow. I started using these tools and was able to do three 5.11 first ascents: 2009 Free Radical, 5.11-. A striking line on an exposed arête. Hidden Dragon, 5.11. Four different cruxes spread over a hundred feet. Hypertension, 5.11+. A hard opening and then several more cruxes. But I still hadn’t climbed 5.12. The few I'd tried felt impossibly hard. It didn’t help that I was spreading my energies across different sub-disciplines: bouldering indoors, setting routes in the climbing gym, climbing routes outdoors, developing new bolted routes, and climbing in the mountains a few times per year. Time was flying past. If I was going to cross the 5.12 threshold I needed to focus on that goal. In early 2010, I found my first target: Rainy Day Women at Little Si. It suited my style, with three bouldery sections separated by good rests. I found solutions that worked for me, drew a detailed map, rehearsed, and tailored my training to the three cruxes. On March 14th everything came together. The final crux, which had felt desperate on previous attempts, went smoothly and I made the redpoint. I was elated, but RDW is known to be soft for the grade, so I looked for my next target. I’d heard Lay of the Land was good, so we gave it a try. As before, I made a plan, drew my map, visualized the sequence, and trained for the crux. I planned to skip a bolt near the end that was difficult to clip and created rope drag. The second trip out I made it to the anchor but missed a key foothold and fell trying to clip the chains. I added that foothold to my mental map and sent the route on our next trip. The satisfaction of climbing a route is usually immediate and fleeting, but this was deeper and grew over time. One route might be a fluke, but not two. I’d started across the elusive 5.12 threshold. Two months later, I bolted a spectacular line at Shangri La that I knew would be in the 5.12 range: Skullduggery. It was continuously overhanging, sustained, and technical. New routes are particularly enticing for me because they represent unsolved puzzles on unexplored terrain. Maybe a few will become classics that people will climb for decades to come. Skullduggery had all the right ingredients, but I couldn’t link the moves. Psychology shows that motivation is highest when the chance of success is around 40% to 60%. Above 80%, we assume we’ll succeed and don’t bother preparing. Below 20%, we probably don’t think it’s worth the time and effort to try hard. But it’s not that simple. Creativity, visualization, rehearsal, and route-specific training can dramatically increase the odds of success on a route. Finding a solution to the crux that matches your skills and strength might increase the overall odds of success from 2% to 20%. Rehearsing sequences makes you more efficient and gives you more energy for the final cruxes, perhaps increasing the overall success rate from 20% to 60%. But you have to choose the right objectives. Skullduggery was a perfect goal for me in 2010 because it represented a possible first ascent just beyond my limit. I drew a map that detailed 68 hand and foot movements, rehearsed the moves, and trained for specific movements. Being strong enough to do the moves doesn’t guarantee success. The proper mental state is also essential. I needed to be calm but psyched to give 100%, energized but relaxed, and, perhaps most importantly, focused on the process and not on the outcome. Zen. On a cool summer morning in July of 2010, after two weeks of rehearsing and training on a fixed line, I went up with Jens to go for the first ascent of Skullduggery. Fortunately, that morning I was in the zone, that rare space where mind and body perform seamlessly as one. It was almost as if I was a detached observer watching a carefully choreographed gymnastics routine. I sent the route first go. Oddly, it was both anti-climactic and deeply satisfying. Skullduggery was the hardest route I’d ever climbed and is definitely harder than the four other 5.12a routes I climbed in 2010. As far as I know it hasn’t been repeated. Fifty feet left of Skullduggery is a clean overhanging face whose crux involves improbable moves on a protruding blade of rock. This feature inspired the route’s name: Blade Runner. The day I climbed Skullduggery, Jens and I tried Blade Runner. We could do the opening moves but were completely shut down by the crux. There were features, but we couldn’t work out how to use them. My brain wrestled with this puzzle on and off over two years. I would envision a solution, get excited, and go try it. Each time, I was shut down and went home thinking I would never climb the route. But I kept turning the puzzle over and over in my mind. In the summer of 2012, I made a close inspection of all of the features on the route and started working in earnest to find a solution. Idea #1: Grab two sloping holds and do a huge dynamic leap to an undercling and sloper that must be caught simultaneously. Fail. The slopers aren’t as positive as they look, the footholds are crappy, and the catch holds are too far away. Idea #2: Lie back up the left side of the blade. Fail. This is very strenuous, and the blade ends well below the next set of holds. Idea #3: Knee bar up the cleft left of the blade. Fail. The wall where you place your feet slopes away so this is challenging, and the knee bars end where the blade ends, well below the next set of holds. I wasn’t making any progress. Truth be told, there were times I was tempted to chip a hold. A tiny foot chip on the blade, or an incut in the arch, might allow me to get past the crux. I have a chisel and hammer. No one would know. But I would. And I would be bringing the route down to my level instead of meeting the challenge presented by nature. So I refrained, as I always have, even if it meant I would never climb the route. Instead, I started to break the problem down into smaller puzzles. Idea #4 and Solution Part 1: I figured out I needed to lie back on a vertical sidepull above the blade to reach the next set of holds. Getting to the vertical sidepull became the new crux. I tried to get my left foot up onto a high hold to set up the lie back. Fail. I can’t get my foot that high without falling because the handholds aren’t in the right positions. Idea #5 and Solution Part 2: I figured out I could get a heel/toe cam on the flat wall of the blade and use this in opposition with the sloping rail to move up to the vertical sidepull in a compression sequence. The new crux became the transition between the compression sequence and the vertical sidepull. Fail. If you compress too hard you fly off when you try to bump your hand up to the vertical sidepull. But this can be fixed. Idea #6 and Solution Part 3: I needed to work out how to move into and through the compression moves, maintaining high body tension, without pushing myself off when I made the bump to the vertical sidepull over my head. Small adjustments to foot, hand, and body positions, as well as force angles and force magnitudes, were going to be critical. After many hours on the rock I found an optimal combination and could just barely make the compression to sidepull transition. I’d solved the hardest part of the crux but still needed to move over to the next holds out left. Idea #7 and Solution Part 4: Maintain tension and pinch the blade between my feet to push out left to a crimp. This feels strange, but it works. The opening moves needed to be more efficient so I would have enough energy for the crux and the hard moves beyond it. The section after the crux would provide unexpected challenges and an amazing sequence as well, and, of course, I would need to link it all together, but I was zeroing in on my solution. I wrote a map that detailed 75 precise hand and foot movements from start to finish. After each work session I updated this choreography. Now I needed to link the sequences together, figure out where and how to clip the bolts, and train my mind and body to perform the route. To prepare for Blade Runner’s crux, I trained to compress two sloping sidepulls while maintaining high core tension and balancing on my right tiptoe. From this position, I had to bump my right hand to the vertical sidepull over my head. What had once seemed impossible was beginning to loom on the horizon as something I might just pull off. But time was running out. It was October. We’d had the longest continuous run of good weather in a decade, but the winter rains were on the way. I trained for the specific movements I needed for the route, rehearsed and refined my solution for the crux, worked out the most efficient path for sequences before and after the crux, and started to put it all together. When mind and body are primed for peak performance there is a window of opportunity to break through to a new level. I had entered that window for Blade Runner, but it wouldn’t be open for long. On October 6th, I went out with Ed to try to climb the route. Unfortunately, I had a cold and was on pseudoephedrine. Attempt #1: I moved smoothly through the opening but fell at the crux due to lack of body tension. I rested, but the pseudofed wouldn’t allow my heart rate to return to baseline. Attempt #2: I got through the crux but fell on one of the last hard moves after burning too much energy clipping the last bolt. Attempt #3: I made it through the crux but fell below my previous high point. Attempt #4: I fell at the crux, too spent to maintain enough body tension to make the bump to the vertical sidepull. I needed a little more strength, a better foot sequence after the crux, and a better strategy for clipping or skipping the last bolt. We went home. I rested on Sunday, did movement-specific training on Monday, refined my foot sequence, and planned to skip the last bolt. I felt ready, but the Fates were about to intervene. The long-range forecast showed a wall of rain coming on Friday, October 12th that would shut us down for the season. Several partners said they could go out on Saturday the 13th, but that would probably be too late. My window was about to slam shut. I was 44 and had three growing kids, a growing list of minor injuries, and a job that was growing more fun and more demanding. There was no guarantee I’d be strong enough, healthy enough, or have enough time to climb Blade Runner in 2013, or perhaps ever. I made two back-up plans. The first was duct tape. Blade Runner is steep enough that only three of its holds get wet after a light rain. I dangled from the rope and fashioned duct tape tents and drain systems for these holds in case I had to make an attempt on Saturday in the drizzle. The second plan was to call Jens and ask if he would go on a Friday dawn patrol mission. Thankfully, he knew how much I wanted this and was willing to give it a shot despite a mediocre forecast that showed rain starting around 10am. We planned to leave my house at 6am. My wife would take the kids to school. Thursday evening I ate a hearty meal, got the kids to bed, packed the gear, took a hot bath to relax the body and mind, and went to bed early. Then my wife’s pager went off. A patient in Bellingham needed emergency surgery. If the patient came down Friday morning I’d need to take the kids to school and we wouldn’t get to the crag until at least 10. By then it would probably be raining. Kids and patients come before climbing, of course, but it felt like the Fates were taunting me. The patient came to Seattle at 11pm, and my wife did surgery until 1am, so I was free to go at 6am as planned, assuming there were no more emergency calls. There weren’t. I woke at 5:20am. It was pitch dark, but I saw water running down the window and heard rain gently pattering on the roof. Everything was wet. I looked at the forecast for North Bend. 70% chance of rain for 7am and 8am, 30% for the rest of the morning, then 60% for the rest of the day. The window had slammed shut. Should I text Jens and tell him to stay in bed? I’ve worked too hard to give up now, and he was probably already on the way over. Let’s just go take a look. Jens arrived at 6am and we drove East through the rain. There was no wind. The wall of rain was marching slowly and steadily East toward Blade Runner. Was the crag wet? Would the duct tape keep the holds dry? There was no way to know until we got there. Amazingly, we emerged from the leading edge of the advancing rain when we reached North Bend. I turned the windshield wipers off. The highway was dry. We got to the trailhead just before 7am. Everything was still dry. Either the sky was about to open up or the forecast I’d seen was wrong. We would soon find out. We hiked up to the Shangri-La cliff. Temps were cool. The rock was dry. All was calm. We didn’t know how much time we’d have before the wall of rain was upon us, but I needed a warm-up so we quickly climbed Crouching Tiger. Then it was time for Blade Runner. I knew I wouldn’t have enough strength for a lot of attempts, and the rain could start falling any minute, but I stayed calm. I was ready. I’d climbed the route many times in my head. It was time to climb it in real life. I tied into the rope, put my shoes on, climbed up to clip the first bolt, and then climbed back down again. I closed my eyes and breathed slowly in and out, in and out, to get my heart rate down. After a few minutes, I opened my eyes and cast off: crossover from the undercling into the first lieback, twist my left leg as I move into the second undercling (the opening flowed smoothly) clip the bolt at the crux, set my heel-toe cam on the blade, move smoothly into the compression sequence, tense the core, bump to the vertical sidepull (my mind was empty but focused) pinch my feet on the blade, press to reach the small crimp out left (I was now through the crux but had fallen past here before) keep weight on small footholds, skip the last bolt, deadpoint to a good hold (just a few more hard moves) reach left to the pinch, pop to the undercling (almost done now - breathe) cross through with the feet, balance on two slopers, lock a heel hook down, and move to the final sloping sidepull...Clip. Clip. It was done. The impossible dream had been realized. It was 8am on October 12th, 2012. I’d reached my high water mark. Jens tried the route, and then we removed the quick draws and pulled the rope. By the time we reached the car the rain had started. It wouldn’t stop for over a month, and the whole cliff would be soaked until spring. Blade Runner was one of the most rewarding experiences in my 22 years of climbing not because it was the hardest route I’ve ever climbed, but because it required a huge mental and physical investment that pushed me beyond my perceived limits. I’ll probably never climb a harder route. I’m OK with that. But twenty feet right of Blade Runner is an even steeper, more intimidating line that looks amazing. I’m sure it’s way too hard for me, but maybe I’ll just go take a look... ……………………. Shangri La Details on 18 new routes in the Shangri La area of X38 -Please pack out all trash. Obvious pathways away from the crag are on the lower approach so please don't soil them with human waste. Please leave carabiners on anchors for lowering a la Nason ridge. Enjoy! ………………………… Most of these routes get good sun exposure and dry fast. The start of History Book and one section of Guillotine are prone to seepage after a lot of rain, but most other routes dry quickly. Blade Runner and Skullduggery face South and are best climbed in the early morning or on a cloudy day. Metamorphosis faces East and can be hot on a summer morning. Route distribution*: 5.8 3 5.9 1 5.10 7 5.11 5 5.12 2 * - Ratings are subjective. Proposed ratings are suggestions based on how the routes might compare to similar routes at the Lower Town wall at Index. I will enter these on Mountain Project. Feel free to suggest your own ratings so we can arrive at a consensus. …………………………………….. Printable topo Approach notes: Orientation: The Far Side area of X38 has several East-facing crags in a line: Interstate Park, Eastern Block, Squishy Bell, and Headlight Point crags. Ellie's Sweet Kiss is a very popular route in the middle of Interstate Park. Shangri-La is on the Eastern and Southern faces of the large rock formation across the giant talus field East of these crags. A few Far Side maps: Driving map Roads and topo for X38 Far Side Crags map Far Side trails The trails map is not to scale. Winter Block is almost directly above Shangri La. Hiking directions: Go to the Far Side parking lot. Start up the trail that starts just N of the bridge over the SnoQ river. When the trail forks go left, then an immediate right/straight, cross a wet area on a tiny boardwalk, then go left. Gritscone is in front of you at this point. Follow the wide trail, avoiding turnoffs to the right. When the trail steepens turn left into the forest at a small saddle. Follow the trail up steeply to the where it flattens out. Turn right on one of the side trails and make your way to the line of cliffs that includes Interstate Park, Eastern Block, Squishy Bell, and Headlight Point. Shangri La is East of the obvious talus field East of these cliffs. There are two ways to approach Shangri-La from the talus field: 1 - Aim for an obvious dead snag on the buttress that is about the same level as Ellie's Sweet Kiss. To get there, follow a series of easy but exposed ledges that start below some brush on the E edge of the talus. Pass below a large pine and head to the dead snag. From the snag, scramble down about 25ft of 4th class to the East. This brings you to the base of the wall. The first obvious feature is History Book, a left-leaning dihedral. You may notice some chains at the top of the face near the dead snag. This is the anchor on Small Arms Fire, which is a rap in and climb out route. 2 - Follow the talus down to the bottom of the buttress, cross under the bottom of the buttress on a faint trail that passes a giant tree with a cable on it. When you get to a smaller talus field, go straight up hill. When the talus ends at the forest go straight up to the base of the Shangri-La crag with History Book and Guillotine and Skullduggery. You'll know you're in the right place when you see a giant corner with a huge flake about 40 feet up (Guillotine), and several bolted lines. To get to Metamorphosis and Magic Carpet Ride, go right at the top of the little talus field mentioned above. View of the talus and upper and lower approaches from the top of Ellie's Sweet Kiss. Looking back past Shangri-La with Ellie's Sweet Kiss in the background. Looking up at the 4th class scramble. It's easier than it looks. ……………………………………… The following routes are on a wall on the left side of the guillotine corner. From left to right: Science Friction = 5.10d bolted face with two friction cruxes. Left of History Book. 5 bolts. 15 meters. FA Roberts, August, 2012. History Book = 5.10a trad crack in a left-leaning dihedral. Follow the crack to chains at the top of the cliff. DO NOT trust the ancient rusty aid piton! A standard rack will suffice. 20 meters. FA (ground-up onsight) Roberts, August, 2007. Crouching Tiger = 5.10c bolted roof and face climbing. Start 10 feet left of History Book, head up and right to the first bolt, and then go straight up over a series of small roofs. 8 bolts. 20 meters. FA Roberts, October, 2008. Hidden Dragon = 5.11c (11+ if shorter than 5’9”) bolted face and roofs. Start 8 feet right of History Book. This route has four different cruxes, multiple roofs, and a clean upper dihedral. 12 bolts. 29 meters. FA Roberts, July, 2009. Hypertension = 5.11+/12- bolted face and roofs. A stick clip might be wise as the bouldery crux is off the ground. Requiring power, balance, and body tension, this route will test your versatility. 13 bolts. 28 meters. FA Roberts, September, 2009. Guillotine = 5.10b trad crack and flake in a giant corner. Enter the corner near the first bolt of Free Radical (a solid cam can be placed at the lip if you’re a purist). Climb up to and past the namesake flake on the right wall and follow the corner to its end. Then clip a fixed nut and make some airy moves up and right to the chains. A standard rack is fine. 22 meters. FA Roberts, August, 2007. Free Radical = 5.11a bolted route on the arête right of Guillotine. Outstanding moves in a great position. Shares an anchor with Guillotine. 9 bolts. 22 meters. FA Roberts, August, 2009. Hangman = 5.10a bolted face and roof with fun friction moves at the top. This starts at the Guillotine/Free Radical anchor and goes a full 30m to chains. You can link Free Radical and Hangman for a 52 meter pitch. You'll need about 23 quickdraws to get up and a 60m rope to get down. 13 bolts. 30 meters. FA Roberts, June, 2007. The following routes are on the overhanging face right of Guillotine: Bladerunner = 5.12c? (5.11 to V6 to 5.11) overhanging bolted face on pristine rock. Unrepeated. This route takes a striking line up the super-clean, overhanging face right of Free Radical. It has a devious crux that requires core strength and creativity. Easy to top rope after climbing Guillotine or Free Radical, but be sure to use the Bladerunner anchor as there is a sharp roof above that could damage the rope if you TR from the Guillotine/Free Radical anchor. Overhanging, South-facing exposure keeps this route dry most of the year. 4 bolts. 10 meters. FA Roberts, October, 2012. Skullduggery= 5.12b? Unrepeated. A bit of skullduggery (an act of trickery or deception) may be needed to get up this steep, technical, and sustained line Overhangs 17 feet in its 40 foot length. Starts fifty feet right of Free Radical. A worthy test piece. Use the hand line to ascend the slab. Belay/start at the bolt and fixed cam that anchor the hand line. 5 bolts. 13 meters. FA Roberts, July, 2010. Open Project = 5.12+ or harder route on an overhanging face right of Skullduggery. Bolted. The following routes are on walls around to the right from Shangri-La. To get there, descend a trail about 100 feet and then veer left into the next amphitheater. Three routes are ready for climbers: Meta Cliff: Metamorphosis = 5.10d adventurous two pitch line up the center of a 300ft face. If you stand at the giant tree, look up and left at a big face. Metamorphosis p1 (10+) climbs up the center of this. The first pitch starts at a small roof at the ground, gear goes in a small crack, two bolts lead past a bulge, gear protects moves up higher, and there is one final bolt before the belay just below a large ledge (5.10+). The second pitch starts up a flake and vertical crack, moves up and left and then back right past bolts and gear, follows three bolts up thin and exposed face climbing, passes a short crack before a ledge, and ends with a bouldery finish past a bolt (5.10+). You could continue up 4th class terrain to a bolted anchor at an airy perch atop the Shangri-La cliff. Rap with one or two 60m ropes. Ropedrag might be bad if you try to link the two pitches. Note: it is best to belay for the first pitch very low at a divot in the vegetation. Start climbing in tennis shoes and change to rock shoes at the small roof. Needs an approach trail. Gear from small cams to #2 camalot. 50 meters total. FA Roberts, May, 2008. Metaphysics = 5.11R? (5.10R to a well-protected V3 crux at the roof to a 5.10 upper section). Unrepeated. This trad line follows the start of Metamorphosis to the flake below the first bolt. Place cams in a diagonal crack on the face 6ft below this flake and then traverse straight right 6 feet. Follow holds straight up and over the obvious roof. There is good protection in cracks on the slanting roof section. Climb up to the second roof, place gear, and zag up and left to the anchor at the top of the first pitch of Metamorphosis. Microcams to a single #4 camalot for the last placement. FA Roberts, November, 2011. Magic Carpet Ride = 5.8ish trad crack up a series of corners. This is on the large slabby face about a hundred feet right of Metamorphosis. Head up to a large tree. Pass this and continue up to the higher of two left-traversing cracks. Follow a series of corner cracks/dihedrals to the top of the buttress. You’ll see the scrub line. Turn the last roof on the right and follow a mossy ramp to anchors up and left. This route is about 40 meters and will get better with more traffic. You can rappel with two ropes, just barely get down with a single 70 meter rope, or rap to the tree with a single 60 and rap again or down climb. Standard rack. 40 meters. FA Roberts, April, 2008. Unnamed = 5.9ish bolted line. This starts about fifty feet right of Magic Carpet Ride. Follow a scrub line up and right toward a small roof and a bolt. Follow a line of bolts up nice but slightly dirty climbing. Bolts are in a line but some zigzagging is needed to climb past the roof. It’s about 35m to the anchors so bring two ropes. Nice moves all the way to the end. 10 bolts? FA Krawarik, 2009. The following climb is on a face above the giant tree below the buttress with the dead snag. This can be approached by rapping in from chains at the top of the buttress next to the dead snag. Direct approach from the bottom may be developed. The following climb starts at the base of a large pine just uphill from the dead snag. Drive By = 5.8 bolted arête and face in a great position with excellent views. Clip one chain, skip the next chains. Put a long runner on a bolt 15 or so feet higher, and then aim for the slab/arête feature above you. There are several bolts on the slab leading to a final mantle. Rap the route. Be careful not to drop things on parties below. 25 meters. 8 bolts. FA Roberts, Krawarik, Anderson, May, 2007. Unnamed = 5.8 trad corner above Drive By that needs some gardening but is still fun. 27 meters? Standard rack. FA Krawarik, Locke, June, 2007. The following climb is on a face above the giant tree below the buttress with the dead snag. This can be approached by rapping in from chains at the top of the buttress next to the dead snag. Small Arms Fire = 5.10c bolted face with thin, balancy moves in a great position. Rap down to the starting anchor from chains near the dead snag. Lead out or do a top belay. 6 bolts. 20 meters. FA Roberts, August, 2007. The following route is quite close to Headlight Point, on the way to the lower approach to Shangri-La. Approach: Headlight Point is the first cliff you get to when coming from the Gunshow area. It is the Southern-most crag of easy (5.6ish) climbs on the trail. Right behind those climbs, is a tree and a dirt ramp that leads a few meters down into the forest. Follow the ramp a few feet. Skirt a bush, drop a few feet along a tiny talus field, and head across to the obvious cliff. A large flat rock at the base of a tree marks the start of Third Stone from the Sun. To continue to Shangri La, follow the small cliff to its end at the giant talus field. Cross that and head for the approach that goes below the bottom of the large buttress as described above. Third Stone from the Sun = 5.11c bolted overhanging face. Lots of action in a small package. 5 bolts. 11 meters. FA Roberts, June, 2011. Photos: History Book Crouching Tiger low Crouching Tiger middle Crouching Tiger high - McClellan Butte in the background. Hidden Dragon Red line is Hidden Dragon. Green is Hypertension. Both continue out of sight above. Guillotine Free Radical is the arete right of Guillotine, which Ian is climbing here. The Guillotine flake is visible on the left. Free Radical is the arete left center. Blade Runner is right center and ends at the visible chains. Duct tape engineering on Blade Runner Skullduggery Skullduggery Yellow is Metamorphosis. Red is Metaphysics. Metamorphosis is the yellow line. I'm approaching the top of Metaphysics. Both routes share a belay. Metaphysics Metaphysics Small Arms Fire Gopro shot from the top of Small Arms Fire. The dead snag is 10 feet behind me. Third Stone from the Sun Don't forget to hit the swimming hole! stay tuned for more... THANKS TO MANY GREAT PARTNERS AND HELPERS OVER THE YEARS: Alex, Scott, Jens, Matt, David, Ed, Michael, Mike, Blake, Leland, Frank, Scott, Ryland, and others. Gear Notes: See route descriptions above. Approach Notes: X38 Far Side trails. See details and links above.
  6. Trip: Strobach - FA: Adrenalepherine WI 5 & Others Date: 1/11/2013 Trip Report: Sorry it has taken me so long to get this up. I have wanted to share a few photos from a trip Craig Pope, Tim Stabio and I had to Strobach over the Janurary 10th weekend. My 28th birfday was the previous wednesday and the excitement was high for a camp out at strobach. The temps were fabulous, air clean and crisp and the fire warm. I won't bore you with anymore boring details on how fun it was to camp at the base and just get to some photos Day 1: Tower of Power Tim doing the needful Craig following... This route was in great shape, technical to start and beautiful one swings to finish, smiles all the way. 2nd up I took Craig over to the base of Hate Pony and Ponderosa Pillar. Craig took a liking to the center line that climbs the narrow pillar and traverses the thin plate of glass to the top shield of Ponderosa. What resulted was a five star classic with good gear throughout. FA: Adrenalepherine WI 5 50m Craig Pope, Tim Stabio, Bryan Schmitz 1/12/13. Route takes pillar and corner left of Ponderosa and exits right shortly before the roof. Craig Pope getting closer In his element Day 2: Unholy Baptism Craig leading a very thin first pitch Tim styling the second pitch crux section Thanks for a great birthday weekend fellas, it was one to remember. ice is for drinks Gear Notes: the usual ice stuff Approach Notes: sloe shoes for us without a snowmachine...
  7. Trip: Entiat, WA - FA Frigus Manus WI5+ 60M Date: 1/22/2013 Trip Report: Wayne Wallace and I spent two days up the Entiat this weekend. Friday we climbed What do Aredenvoirs Eat? and Tyee Falls. We scoped some new lines at about the 20.5 mile marker I believe and headed up to them Monday morning. Wayne took a crack at a sketchy looking mixed line but there is not natural pro on worse than shitty rock. He wise-fully made the choice to bail. We moved over to the left and climbed what we believe to be a FA which we called Frigus Manus. This named seemed fitting after my hands got so cold I had to have Wayne send up my thicker gloves. We rated it WI 5+. It was a full 60M to the belay. It is worth doing and should be in for awhile! Things up the Entiat are looking really good and should be in this weekend. Seems like the only place around with really good ice. Park right past Tyee Falls ranch at the first little pull out on the left hand side of the road and find the boot pack over the bank. River is frozen well enough. Sorry no time to write an in-depth narrative of the climb like for Goat's Beard. Too busy right now with other things. Approach Notes: Snowshoes needed. Walk up hill. We had horrible snow conditions took about 1.5-2 hours.
  8. Trip: Strobach - Hate Pony (FA) Date: 1/6/2013 Summary: First Ascent of Hate Pony WI4 M4 Katie Mills Todd Eddie and John Frieh January 6 2013 Details: Took FIVE others into Strobach on Sunday... new record for most people at Strobach on a given day? We split into two teams of three: Brad, Rebecca and Nate fired out Sad Cebu (currently in crap conditions) followed by Sudden Change of Plans (excellent conditions) while Katie, Todd and I ran laps on Ice Dreams (excellent conditions) followed by the first ascent of what is listed as Unclimbed A in the book. I've had my eye on Unclimbed A for a few seasons now; even though the hanger hadn't touched down it was the most filled in I had ever seen it including just enough ice to negotiate the roof on it's left side. Excited to get up the remaining "Unclimbed" route from Alex's excellent guidebook. Shout out to Todd for leading Ice Dreams for his very first time climbing water ice. Ever. And of course one for Katie for making sure we all were "appropriately hydrated." Until next time Todd. First time climbing Water ice. On his very first lead. Bona fide Oh hey! HATE PONY Gear Notes: Gear to #1 camalot for Hate Pony + 1-2 10 cm screws 0.5 camalot key piece IMO Petzl Darts for dealing with the super thin ice on Hate Pony Approach Notes: Likely the best snowshoe track ever. You're welcome
  9. My wife and I decided to enjoy the first day of the year doing some exploratory climbing. We made what we believe to be the first ascent of what we are calling Alta Falls. Alta Lake is a beautiful little lake surrounded by surprisingly large cliffs. Perhaps this area may support rock climbing in the future. Approach took about 40 minutes. Exactly 35 meters of climbing. One rappel with a 70 meter rope left no room to spare. Off of the N. Cascades Highway, follow signs to Alta Lake State Park. (Located approximately 4 miles from the City of Pateros.) The climb is visible from the road due west of the first camping area.
  10. Trip: Squire Creek Wall - Skeena26 III, 5.9, FA Date: 9/17/2012 Trip Report: SKEENA 26 III, 5.9 (12 pitches) Bill Enger, David Whitelaw, Yale Lewis A couple of months back, my buddy Bill and I completed our third line on Squire Creek Wall. It's located way around to the south, past the Illusion Wall, Chickenshit Gulley and all that. We picked the last big chunk on the left and turned up a real jewel at a fairly relaxed standard. Its not like these things are a mystery. The features are more or less in plain sight from the trail. A short, fairly flat three miles and its all obvious. A pair of binoculars and its almost indecent. Its been right there all along, soaking up the famous northwest sunshine. Every once in awhile, basking on our bivy ledges we'd get to talking, passing the bourbon eh? " Well ya know," somebody would begin. "There's that stuff around to the south. We talked about it for years but with no real sense of urgency. Finally one autumn the Rodeo had been completed and we had to stare at each other and blink. Two buttonheads without a cause. At odds with the rest of the world since day-one D-Town has rambled on with the barest minimum of love for just over forty years. Too far, too weird, too low angle, too obscure, too wet. Two-thousand feet tall?? Two ropes?? Two hours from Seattle? Fuck that! Sometime last century, in a sort of cedar-smeared socialist epiphany we peasants smashed our machines and marched into the forest naked save for the hand-drill, and a crown of devil's club. Now the hammer has taken us full circle and despite the cold sweat of watching the tool so arthritically pound out the dust it is indeed the wilderness we have come for. Like Heidi's grumpy grampa, sequestered. By degrees we have been forgetting our old ways; road trips, guidebooks, beta?, campgrounds, this climb or that. No trails, no rangers, no fees, no pools, no pets. You just pay up front and place your bets. The not knowing isnt mearly a part of it, it's the heart of it. So we went around the corner to the south. We had no idea how to even get there. It was after all, the remote side of Squire Creek Wall; fabled for being unreachable. One November we walked up the trail and took pics of the southern ramparts with a dusting of new snow on them. Later,in spring we skiied up the road and attempted to snowshoe up the big hillside beneath the Illusion Wall. We didnt get very far but we learned a few things. The hillside is steep, but the forest provides sufficient cover so that there is little underbrush. It's only as you approach higher elevations that the lowland giants give way to the famous hundred-acre tangles of matted, down-sloping cedars and broken logs. While the sane played at Vantage this last spring, Bill and I thrashed around in the forest and the flies and the melting snowbridges until we found a workable path. It was getting to be a bit over the top! We were many many weekends into it before we even got an unobstructed look at our mail-order bride. In June we cramponed up snow gullies and tiptoed around huge psuedo-seracs and tilted snowblocks until we found a camp fairly near the base of the wall. There was snow everywhere. Cornices along the summit periodically cut loose and sent thousand foot cascades of shaved ice down the rock. The sun came out, the snow blocks fell over, waterfalls spewed out of big corners hundreds of feet above us, and the whole place sparkled. In all fairness we didn't know what to think. At least I didn't. It was different. It wasn't what I had imagined. We gaped for hours and wondered if it would play. The cirque arched around us in the sun like a collosal necklace with waterfalls for jewels and we agreed that the prize was worth the walk. Now with a light load and some solid prior knowledge the approach can be sent in around three hours. There would be no high-ledge bivys this time. Just a shady base-camp with prayer flags and our ubiquitous water cubes. From camp, a ten-minute hike across boulders, grass and wildflowers brings one to the start of the route with only minimal aggravations. What a summer we had! While the rest of the nation struggled with heat waves and forest fires Darrington became our always-sunny summer camp in the Sierras. We baked in the sun and it never rained. As usual, occasional guests and girlfriends joined us in the dirt and the heat and in particular Yale Lewis' hard work packing gear, jugging lines and shooting video helped us immeasurably. The route steadily advanced by a pitch or two per weekend. To our good fortune, the gully below camp held snow until late August, which in turn provided water for cooking and slush for our margaritas. Nobody said this pioneering shit had to hurt ALL the time! Bill on Pitch 1 Pitch 1 Drilling on Pitch 5 Dave on Pitch 5 Bill on Pitch 7 Photos by David Whitelaw, Bill Enger Squire Creek Wall, South Face Skeena26 in blue photo by John Scurlock The south side of Squire Creek Wall isn't as steep as the Illusion Wall or even Slab Daddy it's just that the rock is so exceptional and the setting so perfect. The stone is brilliant white and peppered with textures, bumps and knobs. When it gets a little steeper, the knobs get a little bigger and there are good places for gear on many of the pitches. This is a friendly route of high quality and though the first pitch touches 5.9 at a couple of polished spots most of the rest of the route is 5.4- 5.6 with sporadic freak-outs of up to 5.8. We tried to make a route that a 5.8 leader would find reasonable. We just went with the flow, and followed the knobs for a dozen pitches. Gear Notes: Standard rack to 3 1/2"
  11. Normandy 5.12 (a/b?) 10-12 quick draws w/Chain Anchor. #1 Camalot optional after 5th or 6th draw Starts off obvious block on left side of the Beach ledge just to the left of Between the Cheeks and Heavens Rear Entry Vehicle. Follow bolts. Steep, bouldery face climbing and two roofs lead to an airy, narrow, stemming finish.
  12. Trip: Colchuck Balanced Rock - Accendo Lunae Date: 9/5/2012 Soapbox Alert Climbers are basically the only user group to visit the cirque at CBR. Any garbage is ours. Any tape, piles of wood, campfires, and human waste is ours. Any rangers that visit the area go to police us. Lets keep this place pristine and set a great leave-no-trace precedent. I'd love to go up there is 20 years and have it look like it did 20 years ago. -------------- Earlier this summer I was up at Colchuck Balanced Rock for the day to try and climb a route we hoped would incorporate the best and hardest climbing on Let it Burn with some new pitches and the crux of the West Face. Scott Bennett, Graham Zimmerman and I began via the 5.7 and clean 5.10 pitches on the West Face, then followed Let it Burn for 3 pitches (which are each really amazing, thanks again Max and Jens for the work on that route!) Scott following Let it Burn's crux pitch From here we started up our new pitch #1. From the belay between Let it Burn's two 5.11+ pitches, we moved right and into a thin splitter. My friend Scott began to free climb, but neon lichen and a bit of grainy rock shut him down. We tagged him up a spare tennis shoe to use for scraping, scrubbing, and cleaning up the pitch, and he aided up to a ledge. He worked out a few sequences on TR and then pulled his gear and pulled the rope. Scott came very close to sending on his first go, but slipped out of a thin hand jam near the top. (Scott, lichen my tennis shoe) The three of us were sharing a single liter of water on the route, which gets about 3x as much sun as anything else up there, yet Scott donated his water ration to me as I strapped on shoes for a lead go. Using the gear beta he'd worked out, but putting together my short-guy sequence on the go, I flashed the pitch, but it was a fight until the end. Even though this pitch wasn't long, it felt harder than the crux of Let it Burn and much harder than anything on the West Face, so I think 5.12- is about right, but it might clean up a bit and be easier. Although I could have kept leading, I didn't have much of the gear I'd need to continue and the next stretch of stone had the leader moving right over a sharp, clean flake, not where I wanted my 8.4mm ropes running. I belayed up Scott and Graham and got the rest of the gear. New pitch #2 began with some really creative and memorable flare climbing on immaculate white stone, with a good crack for wires and thin cams. After a rest in an alcove, I got some great gear above my head in the roof, and did the double-handjam pull-up to turn the lip. I'd been hoping that the crack continued above the roof, and was really happy to find good thin hands jams for quite a ways. The roof is a rope-eating feature, but a blue alien sized cam can be slotted into a horizontal once you've pulled the crux, to direct the rope out of the pinch. I mantled up after the corner, and then face climbed slightly right to the belay which folks normally reach climbing straight left from under the roof on the West Face. From here we joined the crux pitch of the West Face, and finished up the chimneys. By the time we did the "5.8" chimneys, it was fully dark, but it actually got brighter as we simulclimbed to the summit, as the moon was nearly full and very welcome for our summit and descent. I joked about calling our variant "Let it Face West" but in honor of the moonlight and in homage to the route "Let it Burn" we decided to name it "Accendo Lunae" which is latin for burning, or ascending moon. Naming a 2-pitch variation to two existing routes is perhaps a little silly, but at least it should make route discussion and differentiation a little easier. With steep splitter climbing, excellent protection, good belay ledges, and sustained pitches at the 5.10+ to 5.12- grade, "Accendo" is probably my new favorite rock climb in the area. Gear Notes: Double set of cams to #2, with one #3 and one #4. Standard set of wires. 60m rope is fine.
  13. Trip: Exfo Dome- Proxima Wall - Ancient Melodies (of the Future)III, 5.11- Date: 8/19/2012 Trip Report: Danny Coltrane and I finally finished a new route on Exfoliation Dome in Darrington last weekend. This route is situated on the southern flank of Blueberry Hill, and provides a unique view of the buttress route and summit massif, along with some really exciting climbing on great features. In 2001 or so, good buddy S. Packard and I did an exploratory foray up the right hand margin of this wall, getting a long 3 pitches up and blanking out completely on a vertical smooth headwall before resorting to a few desperate bathooks to a ledge. The new route shares the first pitch of our 2001 effort and the previous high point anchors situated at the bottom of P4. Fast forward 2 kids, 2 dogs, a goldfish, a dozen years, lots of beer, a few pounds of penalty weight, and several new routes in between; I was drawn to the place once again in 2011. A big thanks to good friend JR Storms for humping loads on several occasions! Upper right flank of BBH P2 View from Blueberry rt Workin the veggies Frog pond on the sidewalk P4 Part way up P3 Route tops out at the gendarme straight up from my sexy head Danny on P3 crux traverse Pronounced rib at P1, top of approach gully
  14. Trip: Black Peak's West Peak - NW ridge (and N Buttress) IV 5.7ish - FLA Date: 7/21/2012 Trip Report: Rolf Larson and I climbed this route on Saturday. We are not aware of previous ascents—and speculate this could be a first and last ascent, aka FLA. This 3,000' ridge/buttress climb impressed me when Dan Helmstadter and I were en route to a ski of Black Peak's (East and main summit) NW Face. Pic from my May ski trip with Dan: Pic from a climb/ski of Arriva a week before, early May. W Peak is on right, and the long buttress/ridge extending toward the viewer is what we climbed: It looked so classic, the long ridge with steep walls falling off to a glacier, ending in a high and scenic N Cascades summit. And it was. Classic. Uber-mega-meta-classic. Much better than any Internet meme. Sorta like the N. Ridge of Stuart (only longer) combined with the Torment-Forbidden Traverse (only steeper), and a High-Priest-like blockheaded finish. Purity of line, quality of rock, a graceful climbing partner: these are things devoutly to be wished. The pictures don’t do it justice, one must experience the climb for one’s self; a tonic for the soul, as Rolf might say. But probably not. Looking at the limited pics, we thought there could be some steep, more-difficult climbing. We were loaded for bear and a bivy—rope, a medium rack, light bivy gear, a stove, climbing shoes, and too much food. All but the rope ended up training weight—we made 2 raps, but otherwise the stuff stayed in the packs while we rambled up the scenic ridge, with lots of 3rd and 4th class scrambling, and difficulties up to 5.7 or so. As is often the case, the most difficult climbing usually occurred on the best rock. The approach was made over the northern col between Black and its 8395’ point to the north. Spicy downclimbing ensued to snow, then finally to the base c. 5800’ after running under looming seracs. The pics tell the rest of the story; this thing was long. Our first look during the approach, from the col: Near the start (from these humble beginnings), poor pic: Looking down initial stretch; photo doesn’t show considerable exposure here: Still much to do: We passed this gendarme on its right, but in retrospect would’ve enjoyed going over it On the torment-forbidden-esqe section (Rolf’s photo): Still more to go: Gramps hikes up his britches Rappin’ The rock quality suffers no comparison. And gets even better: final summit block Hard to believe this was a ski slope a couple months ago Some more scenics and action shots are here. We enjoyed this route, but as subtly hinted, were hoping for more difficult lines along the way. Still, motoring up a long climb is always a splendid way to spend a day.
  15. Trip: WA Pass - FA Southern Man 5.9+ C1 (5.11d) ;Recently Reported Date: 8/8/2008 Trip Report: NORTH CASCADES: WASHINGTON PASS South Early Winter Spire (S.E.W.S) F.A. SE Corner “Southern Man ” IV 5.11d (C1 5.9+) Mark Allen, Leighan Falley, Joel Kauffman Aug-24h 2008 Trip Report By Mark Allen Index Photo showing Southeast face of South Early Winter Spire (S.E.W.S.) at Washington Pass in the North Cascades. The South Arête on the left and East Buttress on the right. ~ Photo Tom Smith A. Beckey-Leen 1968 “Direct East Buttress” IV (5.9 C1) or 5.11 B. Allen-Falley- Kauffman 2008 “Southern Man IV 5.9+ C1 C. Anderson-Myher-Richardson-Young 1965 “Lower East Buttress to Southeast Face” IV 5.8 A2 D. Marts-McPherson 1966 “Inferno Route” III 5.9 A2 E. Briody-Yoder 1984 “Inferno~ Direct Finish” IV 5.10c F. Windom - Co. 2000 “Escargot” IV+ (5.11 Ao) 5.12 G. Burdo-Johnston 2007 “Hitch Hiker” IV+ (5.10+ C1) or 5.11 H. Burdo-Doorish-White 1991 “Passenger” V (5.11b Ao) or 5.12 I. Coultrip-Sanford 1977 “the Midnight Ride” IV 5.9 A4 (There is little known of this route. Recent explorations have suggested that it might not have been established as previously once thought) After we put this line up, Burdo cleaned it a few rounds and pulled the free ascent with a partner (rope-gun) the next summer. Its seen 4 free ascents since. All parties are impressed with the classic quality and position. If your looking for a new free climb at a high grade go check it out. This southern face holds a very striking steep and direct line. I planted a photo of this feature in Joel’s mind in 2006 and he was been line-drunk ever since. Leighan was on vacation from Talkeetna Alaska fresh off the “Ruth Gorge-Eye Tooth” and was up for some goose chasing. Background Activity on the Southeast Corner of South Early Winter Spires By 1965 all sub summits of the Liberty Bell group had seen ascents, but the steepest and tallest faces still lay untouched. This fact was exactly what Donald Anderson, Paul Myhre, Jim Richardson, and Margeret Young knew when they hitched a ride from Fred Beckey and Dave Beckstead on the bumpy dirt road leading to Early Winters Creek in June 1965. This was the first year the groomed, but primitive, access road was open leading to the trail head for the Early Winter Creek Trail heading to the East side of the Liberty Bell Group. This road eventually opened completely and soon become the North Cascades Highway. Paul Myhre described hanging off the side of an over crowded Volkswagen filled with gear, his three partners, and the Becky party (Myhre, 2008). The two parties had hopes to pioneer climbs on steeper aspects of the alpine spires at Washington Pass. Many climbers shared this hope beginning the second but most influential surge of climbing history at Washington Pass in 1965. The first visiting climbers in 1937 had a much longer trek from the Twisp River trail over Kangaroo Pass before reaching the group of granite domes and spires know to them as ‘The Towers’ named by naturalist Martin Gorman in 1897 (Beckey, 2000). Kangaroo Pass would be the standard approach for all routes climbed until the new access of 1965. During the first ascent of any of the Liberty Bell Towers the 1937 party climbed South Early Winter Spire (S.E.W.S.) via the Southwest Couloir. They renamed the Massif ‘Mount Liberty Bell.’ It is unclear if they intended to name the entire row (three major peaks and two minor) or just the highest point known today as South Early Winters Spire. North Early Winter Spire (N.E.W.S.) was referred to as ‘Middle Peak of Liberty Bell Mountain’ after its first ascent in 1950 also inferred to the entire massif as being the ‘Liberty Bell’ (Beckey, 2000). Fred Becky and his brother Helmy climbed the first ascent of the South Arête on the recently named ‘Mount Liberty Bell’ in 1942. With increasing popularity and route activity Jim Crooks and Fred Beckey would later see the “need for the classic bell [shaped tower] to be separated from its southern counter part” (Beckey, 2000) and named the proximal twin spires North and South Early Winters Spires as a tribute to the mechanical weathering process that he suspected sculpted them. The Liberty Bell Group was no secret to the aspiring Washington climbing community. In 1965 the improvement of access now made the steeper aspects attainable by a few miles on trail. Climbers would kick of this milestone surge by establishing Liberty Crack, the East Buttress Direct, and West Face if N.E.W.S, the Southeast Corner of S.E.W.S. and make the first attempt at the Independence Route (Beckey, 2000). In June of 1965 the Beckey and Myhre groups walked the trail parallel to the highway construction and beheld the East faces of the enchained Liberty Bell Group. This was the first time most of the climbers had been to the Liberty Bell Massif. The teams climbed up to the spires out of the glacial carved Washington Pass where small surveyor and logging teams continued to clear the swath for the highway. Beckey and Beckstead circumnavigated the massif to pioneer the West Face Route on N.E.W.S. later to become one of the best free-climbs in the Liberty Bell group at grade II 5.10d. Anderson, Myhre, Richardson, and Young found themselves with bivi gear and racking heavily with pitons at the base of the East Buttress of S.E.W.S. They would be attempting to gain the crest via any route possible (Myhre, 2008) and would be the first team to attempt any of the steep East faces of the Liberty Bell group and first route with an on route bivi. The Myhre party later found themselves 500ft up and two-days out on the Southeast Corner. At their high point new Lost Arrows fixed a pendulum for the four climbers to cross the Southeast face. These artifacts left behind would be of the 50 pitons placed during the rather circuitous but groundbreaking ascent on any of the ‘Mount Liberty Bell’ spires steep East aspect. Only weeks following the exploration of Myhre’s party, several parties were also inspired to explore the area after seeing a photograph in a local Seattle newspaper showing two engineers leaning against a bulldozer in the proximity of Washington Pass. The striking skyline of the Liberty Bell group in the background captivated Steve Marts and Don McPherson (Marts, 2008). Don McPherson would have remembered this aspect having seen these towers during several of his ascents in the 1950’s on the Silver Star Massif prior to climbing with Marts in 1965. The two were prompted to achieve the same goal, establise new routes on the abundance of rock newly accessible in the North Cascades. Marts and McPherson invited Fred Stanley to join them come up Early Winters Creek. The trio had much larger ambitions than any party to date. They had visions of the much bolder plumb line on the East Face of Liberty Bell Mountain. They were successful and appropriately dubbed the new line ‘Liberty Crack’. McPherson and Marts came back the following year and naturally gravitated towards the weakness centrally located in the Southeast wall of S.E.W.S. This route would most famously become known in 1984 for the Off-Width crux above a skewer-shaped snag that Jim Yoder would free and directly finish out the headwall at IV 5.10c known as the “Inferno Route” (See Index Photo Line D). Joel Kauffman stepping of the Trianlge Ledge on to what we thought was new ground~Photo Mark Allen Concept of the Line Standing from the hairpin we pieced together the line of objective. I spotted three pitches of the East Buttress via the 1965 Lower East Buttress-Southeast Face variation and up to the major ledge called the Triangular Ledge. Here our reconnaissance would need to step off and continue up a 450ft dihedral system running continuously to the top of the Southeast Corner Buttress of S.E.W.S. (Beckey occasionally describes the arête feature making the left flank of the East Buttress of S.E.W.S as the Southeast Corner). I envisioned this potential line to the summit free of bolts and in a single push. Few routes IV and higher that share this statistic like 1985 Child-Goldie Silver Star-East Ridge IV 5.9, 1987 Burdo-Reeses’ Freedom Rider IV 5.10d, 1985 Child-Goldie Silver Star-East Ridge IV 5.9, 1991 Grossman-White Stellar Eclipse IV 5.11a on the west face of Silver Star, and 2005 Goldie-Johnston Gato Negro IV 5.10d. Further; these routes first ascents were done clean, all-free, on-sight, with out bivi gear, fixing, or use of hammers. Savage Clean This new route would need to be aided yet would not receive bolts in contrasts the route just proximal; the 1968 Direct East Buttress, with two pitches of hand drilled bolt ladders (which is core-town in its own right). This line disserved a visit. Forty-three years after the 1965 quartet established the inaugural bivi on the Triangular Ledge, Joel Kauffman racked up and took our first two exploratory pitches off that same ledge. I would read later the 1965 party last had climbed this pitch in a mixed-free-and-aid style (See photo above). The rock Joel climbed was excellent granite. The slightly left leaning 5.9+ crack had a classic nature with untraveled spice. Finger cracks, grooves, LB cracks, and face on a very protectable pitch of increasing difficulty. Joel found two more pins circa 1960 near the top of his pitch. Not up to date on the details of 1965 ascent we were not sure how far the artifacts would go. (See Index Photo line C and Photo above and photo bellow) Joel snaps a photo from the Alcove of Leighan Falley and Mark Allen following the 5.9+ pitch. Here the climbers approach the LA pitons the 1965 “Lower East Buttress-Southeast Face” party used in a two-pitch pendulum to a landing bellow. In 1966 this landing became the top of the Inferno off-width established by the 1966 Marts-McPherson “Inferno Route” on Pitch 5 (See Topo). ~Photo Joel Kauffman Once back at home I began to piece it all together. I learned the rather traversing 1965 Lower East Buttress-Southeast Face route begins on the northeast side of the East Buttress of S.E.W.S. They climbed a few pitches of the East Buttress then ran a high traverse on the Southeast face. During the wide cracks on the Lower East Buttress the party hand drilled two ¼ inch bolts for the 5”off-width too wide for bongs to protect (still spotted today sans-hanger). Reaching the triangular ledge the party bivied for one night. In the morning the quartet climbed a left-leaning crack for 130ft onto Southeast face (see both photos above). Myhre recalls the climb being busy with four climbers and that their line reflected interest of getting off the face with limited time. At the high point of the alcove they placed two pins for a pendulum and headed southwest escaping the steep crack system. This involved a two-pitch pendulum before the party gained the ramp system now better known to lead off the 1966 Inferno route. (See Index photo Line C and Topo). They continued to the summit via the South Arete. FA Account On August 24, 2008 8:00am the three of us rack up at the hairpin-turn on the North Cascades Highway thirty-six years after its inception. It’s first time our comrades Dan Otter and Andy Polocheck have been to the pass and prep for the Becky-Leen Direct East Buttress. The five of us ramble up to the S.E.W.S East aspect. The two teams simul-seage the mid-5th lower pitches and each take our own corners on the lower East Buttress. Our party coincidently takes the 1965 variation to the right while Andy and Dan take the 1968 Beckey-Leen corner to the left. Taken the variations we did that day added a fantastic historical reflection to the climb. I foundmyself at the belays wondering what it would be like to discover these lines. What it might have been like two decades ago to be aiding up the 5.9 crack in boots pounding in pins. Did they vision hundreds of climbers float these pitches free in hand-crack bliss with racks of cams. While inspecting the old bolts I applauded the contemporary bloke who removed the hangers seeing that a 5” cam is a cleaner and safer to way protect the crack. Our parties topped out on the triangular ledge. Getting there was like intermission. From our box seats of the Southeast Corner we could scope across the Southeast face from the Direct East Buttress to the Berdo-Johnston 07’ “Hitch Hiker.” Gaping off the ledge we spotted Tom Smith and Kevin Newell on the Leland Windham route affectionately known to the Methow valley locals as The Slug Trail (striking similarity) or Escargot (because most parties thus far pull on draws). Just around the corner Joel’s acquaintance Cole and partner were climbing the Passenger and audible whooping would drift to our ledge. Our friends are all over the place. This made a good day to be exploring. The moral was highly influenced by the partnerships, good weather, and good souls on the wall. Joel quickly led our pitch 4 off the ledge. Leighan and I seconded the pitch. We were surprised to confirm the climbing was good and the rock sound. Inspecting the 1965 knife blades they were in fantastic shape. I pulled the bail sling from the old iron and continued into the hanging alcove belay. The three of us hung like bats out of the roof crack. We were cramped. The leader needed to leave and soon. We reracked and Joel continued his block head on. Looking down at our progress we observed the yellow and orange lichen painted crack leave the triangular ledge and run continuously though the roof belay then strait up the Southeast Face. The dihedral was continuous all the way to the top. Steep. So much for 5.8 hand cracks to the summit. The dihedral was a left facing corner for 100ft to a small roof where the dihedral changes to right facing for the remaining 300ft. The rock was good and steep. Joel reported good climbing and let us know of his status with a raven call. The line was clean having no hint of previous passage. Off Belay. Lines fixed. Mark Allen cleaning pitch 5. The team was always reminded of the steepness by plum lines and hanging belays ~Photo by Joel Kauffman The upper headwall is surprisingly vertical. Loose rock cleaned from the route almost leaves your attention before audibly striking the lower face hundreds of feet down. The dihedral yields its slight overhanging nature and allows for clean jugging to the next piece without touching the wall. Relieved to get to Joel’s belay I regret to find it is hanging. I am comforted by the two 1- inch cams and half-sunk peton that stuborly would not drive or yield to cleaning The aid climbing is dragging out the day and the next pitch is dirtier than the last. Contrary to our aim for fast climbing the chance to free-climb off the anchor is lost. With our remaining rope I begin to short fix the steep dihedral while Leighan jugs the back of my line. The crack runs the face beautifully and the aid is straightforward. This is the first time I feel the burden of failure lift and the line fall to our efforts. Finishing the line simply means stretching out the rope as far as I can. Near the top I am able to free-climb and scamper up the final jams and mantels to a ledge. I excitedly engineer an anchor and fix the line after a 195ft pitch. After several minutes I nervously watch our light fade to gray. I take this time to pick the lichen out of my hair and teeth. Joel pops up and we quickly rack him. 50ft left to the crest. We top out and now it’s very dark. During the descent of the South Arête I think about our luxury of this 2008 alpine crag. Being benighted simply brings a different experience. The well-rehearsed descent will take the same amount of time regardless. Contrary to the 1960’s ascent we can run the Blue Lake trailhead back to the car and beer. If it were only that straight forward. We did not leave a car in the upper-lot but at the hairpin-turn on Highway 20. With zero traffic on the road at 11:00pm and a 1-½ miles of the pavement between the car and us we attempt to see the positive in the situation. We all want to be done. “Stars are nice.” No reply. A few cars did pass us but the American fear of cereal killer hitchhikers has penetrated the psyche. We did not receive assistance, not even brake lights. The August 24, 2008 climbing team. Mark Allen, Joel Kauffman, and Leighan Falley from leftto right. The decision to attempt “Southern Man” was made shortly after this photo was taken the day prior on the summit of the North Early Winter Spire’s “West Face Route”. ~Photo Mark Allen As a 2008 climbing party we wondered about the pins found on the route. What was the full story? The adventure for us did not begin stepping off the triangular ledge but after I started digging into decades of Washington Pass History. I was surprised to find my time travel take me back to the beginning. The Historical significance of our 2008 climb was not because of any boldness or style but because it’s resurrects old storys of Cascade masters. Currently the route Southernman has seen a hand full of free ascents first projected by Bryan Burdo and (?) in 2009. The grade of the route has been changed to IV 5.11d after several days of cleaning and climbing. This route by several climbers is reviered as on of the more classic hard free routes currently at the pass. LINK TO HIGHER RES TOPO Sources 1. Beckey, Fred W. Cascades Alpine Guide. 2nd ed. Vol. 3. Seattle, WA: Mountaineers, 2000. 2. Burdo, Bryan, and Brooks White. North Cascades Rock. 1st ed. Vol. 1. Seattle, WA: Rhinotopia. 4. Marts, Steve. "Your Washington Pass History." Telephone interview. Sept. 2008. 5. Paul, Myher. "Your Washington Pass History." Telephone interview. Oct. 2008. 6. "Original Activity at WA Pass." Beckey, Fred, E-mail to the author. Sept. 2008. 7. Burdo, Bryan. "Known Washington Pass History." Telephone interview. Oct. 2008 8. Copyright WSDOT © 2008. "Birth of a Highway." Washington Department of Trasportation. Aug. 2008. Gear Notes: See Topo Approach Notes: Park at the hairpin. Approach as per East Butt Direct
  16. Trip: Aasgard Pass - The Valkyrie Date: 6/26/2012 Trip Report: I was joined by a couple buddies in an attempt to climb Acid Baby the other day. But when I realized I had forgotten a lot about the route and I'd rather be lost on something new than a climb I'd done, we made the last-minute decision to try a new route just to the left, on the same tower. This tower is probably called Aasgard Sentinal or Spineless Prow (although it sure has a "spine" up top) but either way it is a rampart of Enchantment Peak, on the east side of the trail up Aasgard Pass. P1 P2 (The orange rock where we belayed is a good landmark) P2 higher up Scott Bennett lead the first 2 pitches, I took the middle block, and Graham Zimmerman got us to the summit, joining Acid Baby on the last pitch. Every pitch was 5.10 and the rock was generally stellar. Along with the stemming corners and splitters, the route featured a an amazing face of knobs and blobs, overhanging just a touch and with enough gear to make it exciting but not really dangerous. P3 starts with a hidden traverse on jugs, straight right for 25' P5 knobs before joining Acid Baby's hand traverse to the summit Best topout around: Despite trying to find a solstice-themed name, we settled on "The Valkyrie" in deference to the area's Norse naming convention. (Aasgard Pass, Lake Brunhilde, Dragontail, Lady Godiva) It should be nice to have another mid-grade climb in the area, as there are very few alpine rock routes between 5.9 and 5.11+. It felt like a similar difficulty and quality as Acid Baby, a route one friend of mine has climb SIX! times, including 4x in one summer. Gear Notes: Double set to 3" - 60m rope - no need for boots or snow gear Approach Notes: 60 Left of Acid Baby, 2/3 of the way up Aasgard Pass
  17. Trip: Mt Rexford - FA - North Couloir Date: 5/27/2012 Trip Report: Shaun Neufeld, Maxim de Jong, and I climbed this route on Sunday. We crossed Centre Creek below the route at 7 AM, summitted at 2 PM and were back at Shaun's truck in Centre Creek by 5:45 PM. Conditions were great except for some icefall due to the warm day and occasional small wet slush avalanches off the sunny aspects of Nesakwatch Spire. The route forks left about 100m up the Priest-Coupe Couloir leading to the Rex-S Nesak col and climbs to high on the NE Ridge of Rexford, topping out about 50m from the summit. Climbing consisted of snow to 65 degrees. We used a small rock rack to protect the roped pitches, mostly due to sporadic icefall. This was my 4th? and Shaun's second try attempt on the route, and Maxim's first. He was our good luck charm, I guess. We descended the normal west ridge route, making two rappels: one 15m one off the summit to the first notch and one 60m one off the false summit to the west side ledges. Nearing the schrund at the bottom of the Priest-Coupe Crossing the schrund The 3rd belay The line as seen from John Scurlock's plane in Jan 2008. Gear Notes: Few nuts, four cams 0.5 Friend to 2 Camalot sized, couple slings, a couple Tricams. Picket and a few screws taken but not used. Approach Notes: Two cars or long logging road walk. Even with a quad we had to hike the last 4km of the Centre Creek road due to snow-broken alders. Centre Creek gate is locked as of May 24 but you can get the key from the hatchery as per usual.
  18. Trip: Strobach - Nosebleed Seats (FA) Date: 3/10/2012 Trip Report: Summary: First Ascent of Nosebleed Seats WI2 ~60 meters Daniel Harro and John Frieh March 10 2012 Details: Spotted a few lines I had never seen before on the approach. Daniel and I set our eyes on the best looking one and headed in that direction. Climbed the first and second pitches of First on the Left. From the top of the second pitch of First on the Left we traversed up and left (see below photo) to reach Nosebleed Seats Not as steep as we hoped but nonetheless crusier hero ice. In March. In Washington. In the sun. Can't complain about that. Location. Taken on the approach. Nosebleed Seats from below First on the Left from below Daniel on the first pitch of First on the Left First on the Left second pitch Nosebleed Seats Gear Notes: Nothing longer than 16 cm Approach Notes: GREAT conditions if you start early enough. Will likely want snowshoes on the way out as things soften up in the heat of the day. 2.5 for us in; 1.5 out.
  19. Trip: chair peak - north groove area Date: 1/13/2012 Trip Report: the right hand side of chair peak's north face doesn't seem to garner much attention. here is one option: 1. start up chimney just left of the toe of the buttress mentioned in "washington ice." a short ways above the chimney, take a right trending ramp to a left facing corner capped by a roof on the buttress crest. hook up corner with good pro, pull left around roof, belay around 40m in frozen blocks. (alternatively, instead of the ramp traverse, climb directly up chimney/squeeze and up snice slope to intersect our second pitch.) 2. pull left into narrow ice "groove" and climb it for 20-30' then trend up and right on poorly protected snice for full 60m to the lone tree on right side of buttress. 3. here one could make a rising traverse to the northwest ridge. we opted to climb straight up from the tree to the obvious offwidth/chimney located just right of the buttress. hooks, jams and snice/turf lead to the northwest ridge in 60m. 4. one easy pitch along ridge to summit. cruxes on pitches 1 and 3. in the conditions we found it, i thought it was harder than pineapple express, maybe m5/m6. lunger's first time out...the twisted soul seemed to enjoy it. a couple other nice looking systems lie immediately right of the buttress toe. all would logically lead to the area of our first belay. Gear Notes: rock gear to 3.5" including a couple kb's. a warthog, snarg or spectre could come in handy but screws were not useful.
  20. Over the summer Bruce Miller, Steve Su and Doug Chabot headed to Pakistan and made the first ascent of 6,400m Hispar Sar. We've got a write up and some pictures from Bruce on our blog if you want to check it out. Pretty sweet!
  21. Trip: Squire Creek Wall - Oso Rodeo Date: 9/5/2011 Trip Report: Climb: Oso Rodeo, V 5.10 FA Date of Climb: 9/3-5/2011 On Labor Day weekend Bill Enger, Jim Shokes and I completed a new line at the northern end of Squire Creek Wall. It took two seasons; back and forth, nobody there except us, the hummingbirds and the frogs. A couple years back we had thrashed our way over from the base of the Daddy and there it was, our new beginning. It starts in a kind of hollow grotto, a narrow swan's neck of granite, twisting its way down from way the hell up there, curving and white. Here we could start. The line is plenty obvious; a twenty-five hundred foot twisting, bucking grand tour. Wet winter daydreams convinced us we could pull it off in two seasons rather than four so as soon as the darkness dried out we were on it. A half mile of sweaty, Squire Creek stone. One day at a time. One move at a time. One bullet at a time. The first season got us half way. Ten pitches. Eighteen days of working it every way we could. No daze off for sport climbs. No crisp alpine wire-gate weekends. Hammer hammer, twist twist, tendons stretched and the girlfriend is pissed. September came and went. Then in October, late in the day, with all the leaves on fire we tagged the ledges that became the Pool Hall. A comfy bivy spot half-way up the route had been our fantasy, and this one had all of that and a pool of water; a shitload of water! Hundreds of glistening liquid gallons and my elbows were laughing in silly delight; no more jugging with heavy sloshing loads! Fast forward ten long months. In July this year a sloping ice field of accumulated avalanches survives massively deep across the bottom of the wall. We bring crampons and ice axes to get across. The upper half of the climb takes two and three day outings to be productive. The problem is getting way up there with enough time left to put something together. Usually we were stoked to finish a pitch per day but sometimes it all clicked more easily. It seemed easiest on the nerves to not fantasize about what might lay ahead. We'd just get ourselves up there and attempt to climb the best thing we thought we could actually pull off. Definitely keeping' it real! One fine day Bill, Jimbo and I climbed the fifteenth, sixteenth and seventeenth pitches. The following day saw us up the eighteenth. We wuz onna roll! And it was time to get down. Contrary to local norms this season's labor day promised believable goodness and so we were back. Still in the sunshine, still two hundred feet to go. Two pitches. Two seasons. Too good to be true! The eighteenth had been a big choice; we'd gone straight up where we could see it and the rock was perfect. We picked the song we liked best and hoped we could dance the tune. There wouldn't be many more choices to make! The nineteenth turned into an elegant rising traverse across slippery, sloping ramps. Eventually it leads to a scary-looking flake system with underclings, fat cracks and laybacks. Another set of anchors placed and suddenly it's just one pitch to go. The last hoo-rah; a yellow brick escalator of bubbly textures and sweet little edges. A hundred feet of perfect stone and then the trees. Down-dangling arms of hanging cedars waited for us. The smell of rotting cedar duff groped for us from beneath the ridge-crest's dark mossy blocks. On the left, six feet below the mess a little ledge answered the question. We were there. Overview The cool restorative waters of Squire Creek Pitch Five: Bill trying out his brand new 9.8mm Edelweiss Curve Pitch Seven: Smoothness at the start of the Black Overhang pitch Pitch Ten: Whitelaw on the cool quartz sills above the Pool Hall Pitch Thirteen: There’s still a long way to go Pitch Fourteen: It’s not always sunny! Yale Lewis juggin’ loads. Pitch Sixteen: Easy slabs lead up to some cool cracks on this pitch Pitch Eighteen: Fine slab dancin’ way up there Pitch Twenty: Some gentle flakes to start the last great pitch Route topo and approach topo to follow. We’d like to extend our special thanks to Francis McGrody, Jimbo Shokes, Yale Lewis, and John Medosch for two years of hard labor humping loads, digging cracks and helping us get it done. photos by David Whitelaw and Bill Enger Gear Notes: Standard rack to gold Camalot. A cruxy spot on the first pitch protects well with a #5 Camalot, not needed higher up.
  22. Trip: X38 Far Side - Trad headpoint: Metaphysics (FA) Date: 11/1/2011 Trip Report: People usually think of X38 as the land of short, bolted routes under 5.11, and for the most part it is. But there is a growing set outside those boundaries. This is a tale of two new routes that hold both mental and physical challenges for trad leaders. At the Eastern edge of the Far Side of X38 lies a 300 foot, East-facing, diamond-shaped cliff that can be seen as you drive West on I-90. When we first walked under it, I was captivated by a striking crack/flake that leads to a roof half way up the wall. Upon closer inspection, it became clear that a stellar two-pitch route, protected by a mix of bolts and gear, could go straight up the middle of this face. In the photo below, the second pitch starts on a ledge up and left from where I am, goes up and over the obvious flake/roof just left of center, and ends out of sight just above the highest point of rock visible in the photo. I knew that in order to climb the route I'd have to bump up my meager abilities and become a different climber. This concept gave rise to the route's name: Metamorphosis. In May of 2008, Michael and I did the first ascent of this adventurous two-pitch line. A number of people have repeated Metamorphosis, but it deserves more traffic than it gets. Here's an old topo that lists the gear and sections (cam = camalot). Ever since those early days, I've been admiring a line right of Metamorphosis that follows cracks in a slanting roof feature below a blank-looking face. We continued the "meta" theme with Metaphysics: a branch of philosophy that explores the intersections between reality and fiction, determinism and free will, and poetry and quantum mechanics. This line was obviously well-beyond my abilities in 2008, so I filed it away for "someday". A few years passed, more FAs followed, and I gradually got a little stronger. I went up this fall to take a closer look at the line and scrub the lichen off the upper face. Two things became clear: 1 - The line would involve excellent movement on impeccable stone (there was no loose rock to remove), and 2 - The route could be adequately protected without any bolts, although it would have a couple of spicy runouts. I worked out the moves and gear placements, scrubbed off the lichen, and prepared to headpoint Metaphysics. For routes at or just beyond my limits, I draw detailed maps marking every feature, foothold, and handhold. These help me memorize and visualize every detail of the sequence, like a choreographer's map of a dance routine. I expected the weather would shut down and Metaphysics would have to wait until next year, but there was a convergence of weather, fitness, and partners on November 1st. So we went for it on a gorgeous, sunny afternoon. It was great to share the experience with two climbers who are avid explorers and route developers. Unlike most of my first ascents, this one was captured on film. Side note: don't be deterred by some moss you'll see in photos of the bottom of the line. You don't have to climb on or through it. The hand and foot holds are all clean. I'll do more cleaning when I can... Preparing to commit. Shaking out before making one last move to a protectable crack in the slanting roof. Five feet higher, I started doing the sewing machine while holding a gaston and trying to place the protection. A fall there would not be good. I forced myself to relax, stay in control, place the critical protection, and make the moves to a good hold below the crux roof. The crux requires a leap of faith. You're getting pumped and you think, "there's no way I'll be able to hold onto that", but then you do. Fortunately, you're protected by multiple pieces of bomber gear at this point. Thin face moves above the roof get your attention. The foot holds I'd planned to use worked fine on TR but felt too small on lead, so I improvised a new sequence through this thin and balancy section. At this point you're committed because the gear is below the lip of the roof. It was only after I saw the photos that I noticed the rope was running over a protruding foothold. I don't think it's sharp enough to cut the rope, but I'm glad I didn't have to find out! Gear under the upper roof is not obvious and must placed carefully so it won't rip out in the event of a fall. See topo. At this point there are a few more tenuous moves left. They shouldn't be too hard, but I was mentally and physically fried from the lower parts of the route. I set a solid heel hook and prepared for the final moves to the anchor, which is shared with Metamorphosis. And for a few seconds I got sketched out. If the upper gear holds, a fall here would be safe. If it rips out you'd be in trouble. Sometimes we have to rely on the force of will to carry us through when our minds and bodies are convinced we're going to fail. Mind over matter. Metaphysics. I think of a scene late in Finding Nemo, where Nemo's dad Marlin is scooped up and swallowed by a pelican. His amazing and improbable adventure is about to end in the belly of a lazy seabird. But something snaps in Marlin, who has been grumpy, skeptical, and negative up to this point. He stops himself in the middle of the pelican's throat and screams, "NO!!! I DID NOT COME THIS FAR TO END IT ALL HERE". Through force of will, he stops himself mid-esophagus, reverses, and escapes from the gull's gullet with Dory in tow. And that's what I had to do....without the aid of Pixar's brilliant graphics team. I willed myself through the key heel hook/mantle and stayed focused to the end, clipping the chains with a whoop of delight that was probably heard back in Bellevue. The most satisfying and memorable climbs for me are the ones where the outcome is in doubt. They require hard work and test the limits of both mind and body. The FA of Metaphysics is right up there for me, and that's part of why I'm telling the story here. The other reason is that I want other people to go out and experience their own adventures on it. ................... I'm not a purist. I've placed my share of bolts, generally believing that the quality of a route should drive decisions about how it is developed more than the ego of the first ascentionist. Another rationalization is that I don't want to create a route that kills or seriously injures someone. I'd expected to have to bolt Metaphysics to climb it, and even when I found some gear placements I thought that I might still bolt it, otherwise no one would ever climb it. But it felt right to leave the line in its natural state, to preserve the raw challenge presented by nature, even if it meant there is the potential for serious consequences if you make a mistake. That's ok. Part of climbing is overcoming fear, controlling your mind, and using every skill you have to safely ascend a line without falling or hanging. Life has consequences. Why should climbing be different? ..................... It's hard to be objective about a route's grade when you have it wired. Perhaps 5.10R to V2/V3 to 5.10R. So maybe 5.11R? I don't know. It is what it is. Climb it and let us know what you think. THE NEXT IMAGE CONTAINS DETAILED BETA THAT WILL RUIN YOUR ONSIGHT IF.... you can decipher my solution from the cryptic hieroglyphics below. Gear Notes: Trad gear as noted in the topos Approach Notes: Orientation: The Far Side area of X38 has several East-facing crags in a line: Interstate Park, Eastern Block, Squishy Bell, and Headlight Point crags. There is a giant talus field East of this line of cliffs. Drop down to the talus and cross it to pass under the bottom of the large, scraggly buttress. Follow an indistinct path, pass a giant tree, and pop out onto a second, smaller talus field. Go straight up. Where the talus ends at the forest go right to the Meta amphitheater. Shangri-La is to the left. The Meta cliff pictured above is on your left as you enter the Meta amphitheater. It's best to belay very low at a divot in the vegetation. Start climbing in tennis shoes and change to rock shoes at the bottom of the two obvious cracks where the climbing starts. I'll try to develop a less dirty, less erosion-prone approach by springtime.
  23. Trip: Sloan Peak, Southwest Face - Diamond in the Rough (FA) Date: 9/11/2011 Trip Report: Diamond in the Rough: a new route on the Southwest Face of Sloan Peak. 1100 feet, Nine pitches, 5.10, Grade III. Brandon Workman and Rad Roberts. The route had some greenery and loose rock in a few spots, but it’s much cleaner and safer now. Should be good to go. The image below is a Scurlock shot of Sloan in winter. The cliff was snow-free when we climbed it. Diamond in the Rough is blue. Fire on the Mountain is red. The unroped summit scramble is green. There are many dimensions in climbing to explore, but I’m pretty much a one trick pony: Rock climbing. Actually, I’m an aging, day-job-holding, 3-kid-parent, weak-sauce, weekend-warrior pony who should’ve been sent to the glue factory years ago. Blake and I had a perfect day in the mountains in 2009 on the first ascent of Fire on the Mountain, a stellar eight pitch 1100 foot 5.10+ route on the unclimbed Southwest Face of Sloan peak. The rock and movement were fabulous and the line flowed naturally. Sol and Rob repeated the route last year. In a world inundated by a deluge of digital information, it’s refreshing to know that our local mountains still hold amazing new adventures. Since that day, I’ve been itching to explore more new routes on Sloan. Time and weather conspired against in 2010, but the stars aligned this year on September 11th, the 10th anniversary of THE September 11th. It seemed fitting to spend that day trying to forge a new route up a pristine cliff in our wilderness. Brandon has pioneered a variety of new rock routes in Darrington and the foothills around Highway 20, but this would be his first time going ground-up on a first ascent. I’m still a new to the game, but I love the uncertainty and adventure of these outings. We decided to leave his hand drill at home. We met in Sedro Wooley at 4am and drove past Darrington toward the Bedal Creek trailhead, spinning tires and bumping my oil pan on the final gravel road. Two other climbers were crashed out in the parking lot, catching some ZZZs before their own adventure. We departed as quickly and quietly as we could, starting by headlamp. The first waves of daylight brought us to the meadows below the immense West Face of Sloan. We left the trail, gained a notch in the ridge, and soon found ourselves below the Southwest Face. The lupine bloomed like it was mid-July instead of mid-September, no doubt due to the giant snow pack last winter. Fire on the Mountain starts at the right edge of the photo. We scoped out a few possibilities and settled on the striking giant diamond feature seen on the left side of this photo from 2006. This cliff has amazing dike features reminiscent of Lover’s Leap in Tahoe. We considered soloing the 4th class section below the first pitch but roped up instead. It was a good decision. Brandon found himself leading loose, vegetated, unprotected, and steeper-than-expected terrain to gain the target hand crack (Side note: it may be possible to traverse in from the right and avoid this). Brandon climbed up the crack and set up a belay at a small ledge. Looking down at the first pitch. I followed, and then Brandon continued past a crux to a fun corner leading to the base of the diamond. The sun peered around the mountain as I cast off on the much-anticipated diamond pitch. At this moment, the climbers from the trailhead passed underneath us. From a few shouts, we learned they were headed up the South ledges scramble route to the top of Sloan. We bid each other good luck and got back to our separate adventures. But the diamond pitch would not easily give up her treasures. We could see a small section of finger crack above us that seemed to lead over a bulge and up into the target dihedral, but it was guarded by 20+ feet of vertical, unprotected, and difficult face climbing, with a loose flake just before the crack as a bonus. It didn’t look promising. I traversed across a small ledge to take a look. The face climbing started with an airy traverse out right to a bizarre tooth of rock the size and shape of an ancient book protruded vertically out of a shallow scoop in the cliff. I climbed over to check it out, half expecting it to levitate out of the rock, glow white, and unfold its unearthly pages. It seemed solid. I slung this bizarre feature, but it was smooth and had no constrictions. I was concerned the sling would slip off as I climbed past it, leaving me with a possible long fall and pendulum back toward Brandon. Nope. This pony wasn’t going to stick his neck out on this section. Maybe another day. So I returned to the belay and headed up a beautiful finger crack on a buttress that led to the left side of the diamond. Around the corner, the angle eased a bit and I considered my options. The left side of the diamond was low-angle for forty feet before a vertical section that didn’t look very protectable. Shoot. I traversed left to a vegetated crack and was able to get a better view of the steep diamond corner. It did have some cracks and features and might go after all. So I traversed back and started up the steep corner. The moves involved improbable combinations of high steps, stemming, palming, liebacking and other opposition moves between decent features. They were strenuous and devious. The gear was decent, but it didn’t come easily. In a few spots I had to scrape dirt out of the crack with my fingers while locked off on a lower hold with the other hand. I wished I'd had the nut tool to clean out the crack, but I’d left it with Brandon. Fingers would have to do. Sunblock plus dirt is not the best combo. The resulting gear placements didn’t always inspire confidence. One was a cam in a flaring, smooth, and dirty crack. I’ve never zippered out gear, where multiple pieces of protection pull out of the rock when the rope comes tight in a fall. The prospect of a zipper fall above a ledge several hundred feet up a cliff, miles from a remote trailhead, motivated me to spend precious energy placing extra gear and setting it well. I got a good green camalot and made tricky moves to a large flat edge. Unfortunately, I couldn’t rest there because it was still vertical and the footholds were crappy. The pump clock was ticking. Brandon at the same spot: Lactic acid demanded a quick decision. I reached down and grabbed the sling on the camalot below my waist, gingerly lowered my weight onto it, and clipped myself to it. And that was it. No more “onsight”. No more “all free”. No more instant classic route for the guidebooks. No more perfect story for the internet. What? Neil Young warns us against such folly: “Media image slaves live by random selection”. When experience fails to meet expectations do we toss in our cards and head for the bar? It can be tempting. I traded a few shouts with Brandon, asking if he wanted to rap down and climb Fire on the Mountain. Perhaps I was searching for an excuse to bail. Brandon reminded me that we’d come for the experience of climbing a new route ground up. He felt we should continue, even if the line wasn’t perfect. I’m really thankful he didn’t let me back off. Sometimes you just have to play the hand you’ve been dealt. Oddly, I felt relief when my dream of a ground-up, onsight free climb on flawless rock was dashed. I had been released from the weight of expectations. I was reminded of a Zen realization hammered home for me in the Pickets: let go of the past, let go of the future, and allow yourself to fully experience the present moment. I looked at the moves above me again. Could I climb them without falling? Maybe. Were they protectable? Probably. Should I go for it? Definitely. I placed another piece of protection, equalized it with the camalot, and started up again. But the difficulty didn’t ease. I made some more moves and placed a few pieces of gear, including a micro-cam in a tiny crack in a small lip above me. The climbing got harder, the gear got more tenuous, and my muscles started to burn with lactic acid again. I might be able to punch it and climb past the lip, but it looked like the difficulty would not ease up, there might not be any more places for protection, and it might not be possible to reverse the moves above me without falling. I hung on the tiny cam and looked at my options. A series of small edges led left. I followed them to a small ledge with a crack behind a block. It looked solid. Mostly. There was a small ramp leading back up to the diamond dihedral. I started up that and found a flaring cam placement. A hard move guarded the traverse to the dihedral, and there didn’t seem to be opportunities for protection above that. No crack at least. So I reversed the moves, cleaned the piece, and went back to the little ledge. It was not an optimal belay, so I traversed left to a shallow corner with a couple of cracks. Upon inspection, one “crack” was behind a large block that looked detached. The other was behind a flake that rang like the liberty bell. So once again, I headed back to the little ledge. I slung the top of the block, locked it in with a directional nut, and placed a couple of small cams. This anchor would have to do. I’d mentally assigned the probability that the key the block would fail as less than 10% and then put that thought out of my mind. No sense dwelling on it. OFF BELAY! I hauled up the remaining rope and put Brandon on belay. If it seemed like a long time to read about this one pitch, at least you didn’t have to hang in slings and belay me! Brandon did it with a smile. Brandon followed. Despite carrying the pack, he fought through the section where I’d rested on gear and followed the pitch without falling or hanging on the gear. He climbed the last 25 feet with a long sling dangling by his ankle because it was too strenuous to stop to remove it. Finally, he found a decent stem. I brought him over to the belay, gave him the gear, and sent him off up the next crack. It was the only game in town. Brandon floated up the corner. He paused to contemplate the giant roof, found a line around its right edge, and zipped up out of sight. I felt the rope come tight, waited for the telltale tugs, and started up the pitch. Sure enough, the large block at the start was detached. I checked to make sure there was no one below us and then did a leg press on its upper edge and launched it into the void. It fell clean for sixty feet and smashed into three pieces that hurtled several hundred feet to the slopes below. Boom! Boom! Boom! The rest of the pitch was quite nice. The crack took gear and the rock around it was covered in small dikes. The moves around the right end of the roof proved engaging and interesting, with good sidepulls and poor footholds. Tenuous opposition moves led to pumpy fingerlocks in a solid crack before the difficulty eased. Nice onsight Brandon! And then we were at the halfway ledge. We unroped, soaked in the sunshine, and scoped out possible lines up the next section of the wall. I chose a “changing corners” pitch that starts in a rock scar, goes over a roof, ascends a dihedral, changes corners, and goes over a second roof into a final dihedral. It was a stellar pitch with a really fun changing corners crux. I cruised past some crispy lichen at the second roof, and danced up the arête above that. Brandon scowled upon hearing the time and started off on the next pitch. He climbed up to and over the top of a pillar reminiscent of the Finger of Fate on Cannon’s famous Moby Grape. Twilight was fast approaching, and we still had a long way to go. I zipped up a short cliff to another ledge and looked at the next section of cliff. It didn’t look too hard, but this pitch would turn into another epic. Here’s the short version: tenuous moves to a mediocre cam placement to a steep face with few holds – deadend #1. Reverse. Traverse left to a corner with stacks of loose blocks – deadend #2. Reverse, downclimb to main ledge. Go left. Weave up, find gear, zag left to a crack below an unprotected face – deadend #3. Partial reverse, traverse right, find ok gear, traverse further, belay at a decent crack. It took 45 minutes to gain 50 feet of elevation! Brandon 50 feet below me with a rock band between us: The traverse end of the pitch: The sun was heading down into the smoky haze of the horizon, and the guys who’d slept in the parking lot were heading back down to their car. They shouted up at us, but we were too far to hear anything. I waved once and gave them the thumbs up so they wouldn’t think we needed a rescue. Go time. It’s funny how it can take 45 minutes to climb 50 feet, and 20 minutes for the next 300 feet. Brandon cruised up 5.fun terrain. I cast off on what we hoped would be the final pitch. There was one 5.8 move and then the rest was a romp. Looking back. We unroped as the sun turned fiery red in the haze of smoke on the Olympic peninsula. The ancient orb was reflected in the waters of the distant Puget Sound. We ditched our gear on the corkscrew trail and soloed directly to the summit. You can see the full moon in our summit shot. I’d done the descent a twice before and wasn’t worried about doing it in the dark again. We zipped down to our packs and headed off down the corkscrew trail to the South descent. Melting snow blocks on the lower ramp provided some much needed drinking water. We made a fun moat leap onto the snow. Thankfully, it was quite soft. The air was still. The moon was high. It was late, very late, and we had lots of terrain left to cover, but we didn’t care. The Diamond in the Rough was in the bag. When we reached the car there was a note on my windshield from the guys we saw during the day. They expressed concern that we were still on the wall at sunset and asked us to call them when we got down, or they would “send help otherwise”. It was pretty cool that they were looking out for a few strangers they'd never met. At 2am we reached Sedro Wooley and made the call: Ring. Ring. You out? Yep. Get to the top? Yep. ………………. p1 5.9. Hand crack and face holds to a small ledge. This could easily be linked with p2. p2 5.9+ Vertical crack to a stemming groove to a belay on small ledges 25 feet below the point of the diamond. p3 5.10 Finger crack on a buttress, 5.easy, a strenuous and tricky corner, and a traverse left to a belay. It is possible to bypass the 5.10 corner by making a 50 foot, 5.easy, unprotected, left-ward traverse to the obvious crack followed on p4. p4 5.10- Follow a crack up and right past a large roof. End at the mid-way ledge. p5 5.10 Changing corners pitch to an arête above that. p6 5.7 Rambling face to the top of a small tower and then up to a large ledge. p7 5.7 Meandering madness. p8 5.6 Blink and you missed it. p9 5.8 One 5.8 move and then a romp to the end of the technicalities. I hung on gear on the third pitch, but I didn’t pull on protection to ascend. Lowering back down to the belay for a redpoint attempt didn’t make sense at the time. Brandon freed the pitch. What does it all mean? I don’t know. Maybe it's a two-hang, follower-freed, non-aid, two-dad ascent. We did what we did. Nothing more and nothing less. Gear Notes: Gear: We took one ice axe, a rack of double cams to #3 camalot, a single #4 camalot, and a set of stoppers. We took my 70m rope, but a 60m rope would have been better. Sadly, I left my helmet (dark gray) on the corkscrew trail above the SW Face. It’s probably still sitting there, covered in the first winter snows. Approach Notes: WTA Bedal Creek trailhead directions: Take exit 208 off I-5 and drive 4 miles east on SR 530 to Arlington. Continue on SR 530 for 28 miles more to Darrington. At a three way stop turn right (south) onto Mountain Loop Highway, and continue 17.2 miles (not sure how accurate this mileage is as we were not looking at the odometer) turning left on FR 4096 which is about a mile past Bedal campground. Continue on FR 4096 for 3 more miles to the trailhead! Maps (Google and my old Gazetteer) suggest you'd take fS4080 and then bear left on 4081 to get to the Bedal Creek trailhead. This is wrong. 4081 is blocked off and you can't drive there from 4080. 4096 is not on either of those maps. FS49 wraps around to the backside of Sloan. Basically take the road that heads East that is between 4080 and 49. There is one 'road-looking thing' that deadends at a redneck gun range in 50 yds. The other is 4096. From the end of the trail, head for the lowest notch marked in the photo below (traveling close to the West face of Sloan is rather loose and unpleasant). Traverse the spine of the ridge on an obvious climber’s trail and drop down into the basin below the SW face of Sloan. Traverse straight across to an obvious gully and ascend this directly to the SW face.
  24. Trip: Mix-up Peak - The Misunderstanding (FA) Date: 10/25/2011 Trip Report: Yesterday Forest McBrian, Dave Jordan, and I established a new line on Mixup Peak in North Cascades National Park. The route climbs the northeast face of the north summit and is partially visible from Cascade Pass. We had spotted the seasonal line last week while climbing on Sahale Peak and hoped that the weather would hold out long enough so we could sneak in an ascent. Fortunately the weather was with us and we had clear and cold temperatures immediately following a brief warm spell that included rain up high--this created perfect conditions on the climb. The line climbs the center of the North Face. Approaching the route (in upper right corner) The route begins in a narrow gully that sits about 60 meters east of the obvious couloir that splits the face ( 2004 TR for that line). The first pitch set the tone for the route with excellent sticks in perfect snice, but a dearth of protection opportunities. Each of the following eight pitches were all rope stretching pitches, totaling almost 1800’ of climbing on the face. This route was both longer and more difficult than we had anticipated and is unusually sustained for a Cascades line--only two pitches didn’t have 55 degree or steeper terrain and all of them went straight up without any side-to-side deviation (except pitch two which moves about 15 meters right at mid-height). The belays were all sheltered from icefall, but close enough for good photos! Pitch one Pitch three (one of the easy pitches) Pitch four We found the crux to be surmounting a roof draped with icicles on pitch five and agreed that the pitch was undoubtedly the best pitch any of us had ever climbed in the mountains. Forest led it in impeccable style. Above the crux was an incredible ice chimney that led to yet another ice pitch and, finally, a short snow slope to the crest. Pitch 5 crux Following pitch 5 (Cascade Pass trail in upper left) Following pitch 5's ice chimney Pitch 7 Following pitch 7 The technical climbing ended at a small notch in the summit ridge where we took in an incredible view of Johannesberg and Formidable in amazing evening alpenglow. It was a perfect day in the mountains. Gear Notes: Knifeblades (4-6) Cams (purple TCU to 3”), doubles to 1” 2-6 short screws 70m ropes, two ropes recommended in case of retreat. Approach Notes: Hike to Cascade Pass. Follow the trail onto Mixup Arm. The route starts about 60M east of the prominent couloir. It lies above a remnant snowfield that is obvious on the USGS map. An easy 2.5 hours to the base. Descent Notes: From the crest of the ridge at the notch, traverse on the west side of the ridge southwards towards the south/true summit for about two rope-lengths on shattered rock. Gain the first obvious notch and continue past it to the second notch. The rock quality in the second notch is noticeably better than along the crest. From here, we down-climbed the East Face to the Cache Glacier on steep snow to 55 degrees. Rappelling may be necessary in other conditions. From the Cache Glacier, traverse north and west around Mixup Arm and back to Cascade Pass. Here is a modified Scurlock photo ( original) showing the east face. We downclimbed just west/left of the ridge that lies just right of the center of the photo. Special Notes: We found that the route gets a tiny bit of sun until about eleven in the morning. Small amounts of spindrift and ice chunks came down during that time, but after the sun moved further south the debris stopped. Due to the exceedingly compact nature of the rock, anchoring options were extremely limited and much time was spent finding anchors that frequently (and unfortunately) verged on being inadequate. Although we managed with 60m ropes, we strongly recommend bringing 70m ropes to potentially give more options for finding belay anchors. Mix-up Peak, The Misunderstanding IV, AI4R, M4 2200’ of climbing Kurt Hicks, Dave Jordan, Forest McBrian October 25, 2011
  25. Trip: Valhalla Range, South Selkirks - FA:Étoile Filante IV 5.11c, 300m, S face of Asgard Date: 7/23/2011 Trip Report: A new route put up this summer by David Lussier and Cam Shute. full trip report here with photos . Étoile Filante IV 5.11c, 300m, South Face of Asgard Peak F.A. David Lussier and Cam Shute, July 2011 The story behind the line The South Face of Asgard has attracted climbers for almost 40 years. The first route up this sheer featured wall, the “Center Route IV 5.8”, was climbed by Valhalla pioneers Peter Koedt, Peter Rowat along with Greg Shannon in 1973. Peter Koedt returned to Asgard a few years later, in 1975, to climb the “Left-Center Route IV 5.8” with James Hamelin and Jara Popelkova. These two traditional routes follow the most dominant features on the face and continue to challenge climbers to this day. They offer varied climbing (cracks, flakes & chicken heads) with interesting route finding along with sustained difficulty. Up until now these where the only established routes on the south face. The vision of a new route on this face has been shared by many over the years. From various trips in Mulvey Basin over the years, I had always been interested by the complexity of the upper right side of the wall. It wasn’t until July 2010 that Cam Shute and I ventured into Mulvey with the intention of exploring that potential. Due to the disconnected nature of the crack systems, some blank looking section and the steepness of the wall, we decided to bring a hammer drill along with some bolts. This exploratory trip, culminating with a high point somewhere half way up the steep upper right wall, revealed the potential for a great line on featured but compact rock. We were already planing our return. Our vision evolved some more before we returned in July 2011. With a greater knowledge about the nature of the rock and the various line options we decided to bring the drill again. We were considering bolting an interesting looking blank arête to help straighten the lower part of the route and also using bolts for adequate protection on the upper compact wall. If the route turned out to be good quality, we also contemplated bolting the belays to facilitate rappelling. All of this would of course be done while climbing from the bottom. We were very excited about possibly finishing the route. The end result was greater than anticipated. The vision, our skills and luck combined with our commitment allowed us to complete a new modern mixed (bolts/trad) route up the beautiful right side of the South Face. A lot of the visioning and actual route location decisions beautifully came together over the 4 days Cam and I were working on the wall. The climbing on the direct arête lower down (pitch 2) was challenging and quality while providing a more direct line. The intricacies of the steep upper wall revealed themselves after a few days of committing route finding on the sharp end. In someways the route revealed itself and we basically connected the dots. Completing it was very satisfying but putting the puzzle together was the best part. We really hope that others get to enjoy this quality and modern alpine rock route, feel free to download the topo and route description just below. Access and Description topo Name background “Étoile Filante” is french for “Shooting Star”. The name choice comes as a tribute to Valhalla pioneer Peter Koedt who sadly passed away in the fall of 2010. The inspiration for the name comes from the song “Étoile Filante” by “Les Cowboy Fringant”. This beautiful song compares each human’s life existence, turmoils, successes and absurdity to the passage of a shooting star. We feel Peter was a visionary climber who put lots of skills and creativity amongst the Valhalla peaks. We will remember his passage and contribution as a brilliant shooting star.