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[TR] Colchuck Balanced Rock- West Face 8/6/2006


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Climb: Colchuck Balanced Rock-West Face


Date of Climb: 8/6/2006


Trip Report:

"One Hansel for Safety"


I've been looking to up the ante in my alpine rock climbing recently, and the West Face of Colchuck Balanced Rock seemed a logical choice. This "route for the modern hard man ... who is prepared for the five star 5.11 crack pitch and its wildly exposed belay" has captured my imagination for years. I remember when I first read the route description years ago in Jim Nelson's "Selected Climbs in the Cascades" and thought, "Holy shit, there is no way I could ever climb that, but it looks SO FUCKING COOL!". Years of cragging and more modest alpine rock experience later and I was ready to give out a hearty "FUCK YEAH!" when Jeff said, "hey, wanna climb Colchuck Balanced Rock next weekend?"


So the plan was hatched.


Hansel and I approached the West Face of CBR last weekend (July 29-30th), but it started snowing when we got to the base. We hung around about an hour waiting for it to clear, but it never did, so we bailed.


Here is a video I shot at the base while we were waiting to see if the weather would change and Hansel was "taking a growler". You'll have to tilt your head to the left for the first 10 seconds or so. Sorry. I'm a moron.



Shot of storm and rainbow over Colchuck Lake:



It seems the locals enjoy the view of the lake too:



We headed up there again last Saturday with my lovely girlfriend coming along as basecamp manager and Colchuck Lake swimabilty tester.


We got up at 6:30am and were at the base of the route by about 8:15 or so. Unfortunately, this was about 20 minutes after a group of two arrived at the base. They had camped in the basin below the face whereas we had camped by Colchuck Lake, so they got the jump on us. We had to wait for them in a couple spots, but they were fairly quick overall, and never successfully hit us with any of the several rocks they knocked loose.


I managed to get us off route on the third pitch (missed the "5.9 step across move onto main face") which committed Hansel to the 1980 route 4th pitch variation (see Beckey Guide if you are curious) which had some sweet cracks, but a short section of "5.9" squeeze chimney that was harder than the 1983 exit chimney that people always talk about on this route.


Stellar corner. 3rd pitch, 1980 variation:



Hansel getting squeezed:



Fortunately that section was short, and a quick traverse to the right brought us back on route just below the money pitch:


The dog's nuts:



This pitch is five stars. It's solid 5.10 fingers and hands, sustained, and mind-blowingly fun. Best pitch on the route. I was proud of myself for being able to free it, but then again, I didn't lead it.


The belay and traverse below the roof are extremely airy and exposed. I think I said, "Wow, this is a crazy place to be" to Hansel about 4 times, but he was suffering from chew withdrawl, so I'm not sure he ever heard me.


The crack pitch above the great roof is also spectacular.



Flawless rock with a 5.9 tight hands to perfect hands corner crack arching up to the 5.12-/C1 roof. The edge of the crack is extremely sharp there; it would not be fun to fall with your hand stuffed in there. Might shear the sucker off.


Hansel aided through the roof and left an aider hanging for me. I considered trying to free the roof, but Jeff had sewn it up pretty well there and the hanging aider flapping gently in the breeze was just too tempting, so I grabbed it and hauled myself over the lip.





The fearsome chimney waited above.


We had to wait a bit for Jonah and ??? to get out of the way as they broke the chimney up into two pitches for some reason, but it was fun listening to the grunting noises emmanating from above. I was really psyched for this pitch as I had added a 5.75' Hansel to my rack specifically for this pitch. It proved to be invaluable.


Chimney of doom:



The Hansel fought his way up the monster in good style with a bit of aid mixed in until he crapped his pants.






[...unintelligable muttering from above...]


"Oh. Nevermind, it was just a Gu in my back pocket".


"Uh.... OK. Way to send dude!"


Once safely secured on toprope, I lurched and twisted, and fought, and wished I had taken my helmet off, and then somehow I was done. It wasn't nearly as hard as all the horror stories I had heard "THE CHIMNEY WILL DESTROY YOU!", but I was sure glad I had that Hansel on my rack.


Thanks to Jens for rack advice and encouragement. thumbs_up.gif


Gear Notes:

Doubles up to 3.5 camalot.

We brought triples of .75-3 camalot. Probably would have been OK without those.

We left our shoes at the base and walked off in rock shoes. Not too bad. Probably preferable to thrutching in chimney with shoes on harness.

Two aiders (one would probably work)

A 5.75' Hansel w/60m keeper cord is a handy piece to have for the chimney and scary traverse under the roof.


Approach Notes:

Obvious gully.

No snow travel necessary.

~1:15 from the lake.

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this is a very nice trip report and you seem like very nice young men. i am sorry to hear about your pants.


i would like to do this route, but worry that i am too weak and timid. can you assure me about the chimney pitch and the traverse under the roof? are these very, very run out? will they make me feel even more insecure?

thank you for your help.

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Nice TR. Sorry about the rocks. We were trying not to trundle too many pebbles, but there are plenty there. When I saw Lincoln grab that loose block and pull it off manteling onto the belay under the roof, I thought that was going to tag you for sure.


Yeah, we split the last chimney into two. Lincoln wanted to share the joy and give me a chance to lead some of that fun, fun, chimney lovin.


Do you have any more pics? We both forgot a camera.

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this is a very nice trip report and you seem like very nice young men. i am sorry to hear about your pants.


i would like to do this route, but worry that i am too weak and timid. can you assure me about the chimney pitch and the traverse under the roof? are these very, very run out? will they make me feel even more insecure?

thank you for your help.

scott, you can send this route...cheers, Ben bigdrink.gif

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No but Sky should be back with a TR on Sunday. Good luck out there!


Free the 5.12? I think the fact that Ross was burly enough to link the two 5.10 corner pitches is enough. He ran out of gear 3/4 up the pitch but he managed to lower off, back clean and finish it for a full 200' pitch. Damn boy!


13 hours C2C.

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How many times has the .12 bit been freed?


Probably never. No one can really climb 5.12. rolleyes.gif


There is a section on the Wilderness Pass that you are required to tear off, note details of all 5.12 ascents and return to the Forest Service. However, since this route is not 5.12, the FS has no records concerning it.

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