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[TR] Concord Tower- West Face (II, 5.9) 8/27/2006


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Climb: Concord Tower-West Face (II, 5.9), SEWS, Cutthroat


Date of Climb: 8/27/2006


Trip Report:

I met Blake Herrington at the Bridge Creek trailhead at 8AM Sunday with the intent to get in as much climbing we could by dinner time Monday. We did the Southwest Rib of SEWS (5.10b P#3 variation) first on Sunday, followed by the West Face of Concord, and then Cutthroat Peak, South Buttress on Monday. The TR focuses on Concord as there's lots of Beta on the other two. If anyone wants more details, feel free to PM either of us.


We left the Blue Lake trailhead at ~8:30. After completing the Rib on SEWS and descending the South Arete, we traversed over to the Liberty Bell/Concord Gulley where after some contemplation of where the route started, we geared up. We started the first pitch ~ 5pm. According to the one route description we could find (summitpost.org), the route starts around 1/3 of the way up the gulley, so we started out on an obvious ramp/ledge system that looked to gain a broad ledge. The first pitch was about 120’ on solid cracks. Blake backed off of a direct route up (~5.9) after encountering a hornet’s nest, and continued up the left side to a belay at a tree (5.6/5.7).


P1 Ramp with P2 ending at tree on upper left



The route description we had implied that next-to-come was a right arching 140’ 5.8/5.9 flake/finger crack that transitioned to a jam crack. We didn’t see anything resembling that, but moved rightward from the tree belay and then up a large crack-protected slab. We then worked up steepening cracks past a large hollow-sounding flake, and aimed for the prominent tree growing above a long finger crack. We climbed a rightward-layback finger crack (Blake rated it 5.9 or 10a) and then jammed the crack when it widened (2-3") up to another tree. Overall, this was a great pitch. There was one ~ 20 foot section where the crack was shallow and flared, and the sharp edge was eroded. This made for a fun combination of no pro and a less-than-perfectly-bomber lie-back. The upper portion of our pitch kinda resembled the route description, but we’re still not convinced that we were on the original route as the description recommends “hexes to include a #10 for a bombproof anchor (end of P2)” - we found a tree belay. I had to pull up the belay to give Blake ~ 10 more feet on a 60 meter rope.


Me nearing the end of P2





Pitch #3 - From the tree belay, we moved up and slightly right, under-clinging a roof, and then followed the crack upwards, climbing on chicken-heads and moving back right and up upon seeing the infamous "cave". (5.6/5.7)


Pitch #4 – Up easy ground past a tunnel like feature, deemed “brackets” in our reference TR, up an easy slab to the summit – (5.6/5.7).


We arrived on the summit at 7:30, and didn’t dally as the shadows were getting long.


Blake on Summit



Me on Summit



We rapped off a tree/bolt anchor at the summit, and after a minor hang-up on the first ramp (small scramble to free rope) were back in the gulley at 8PM after three or four single rope raps. We then moved as quickly as possible to retrieve our packs and get out of the gulley as a party of 6 was preparing to rappel off of Liberty Bell and we didn’t want to be in the line of fire. We reached the car in darkness at about 9PM, and rushed down to Dinner in Winthrop to discover that nothing was open (Sunday night, 9:40 PM…Duh) Instead we got to clean out the remaining deep-fried gourmet at the mini-mart, and topped it off with chocolate milk and ice-cream sandwiches. We returned to Washington Pass, parked, and threw down our bags on pads next to the car for some much needed rest.


The following morning, we started our approach to Cutthroat a few minutes before 7AM. Once gaining the ridge by the left most gulley, we followed the path of least resistance....Sounds like we were lucky with the routefinding compared to others, and we were on the summit by noon. We both thought the "unprotected 5.8 face" out of the gulley was the scariest move on the route, and climbed the last 5.8 off-width without a #4 and without incident. The downclimb + dozen single raps went without incident (i.e. not stuck ropes) and took us a little less than 2 hours. We were back at the car a few minutes after four, and Blake was hiking home by a few minutes before 5. I thought about his body's battle to digest his cliff bars during his 15 mile hike home as I, in-turn, struggled with how to dip my jalapeno poppers in the bronco berry sauce safely at 75 mph.


Pix of all routes:




Blake - if you'd like to post a relevant Concord pic or two in a thread or if I've misstated something please chime in.


Gear Notes:

Few mid size nuts, Cams - Green BD C3, to #2/#3 C4...(can't remember if the #3 was placed or not [blake???]),

#7-#9 WC Rockcentric Hexes,

6 extendible draws, and 2 or 3 48" slings as P2 is a wandery rope-stretcher


Approach Notes:

Lib/Concord Gulley...wear your helmet.

Edited by ericb
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Good Question....I've only done the Beckey Route on Liberty Bell, and the South Arete and Southwest Rib on SEWS. Pitches 1,3, and 4 are quite easy with good pro. The 5.9 second pitch is a good bit harder than anything on the Beckey Route, so I think the audience is different.


I'm a newbie trad leader, and felt very comfortable leading the Beckey Route this year, but was glad Blake led the 5.9 pitch. It's tough, and sustained, and there's a section that's difficult to protect. There's bomber nut placement below this section, and it's not exposed, but it's a high angle slab, so a leader fall would be painful here. The first placement(s) after this section was blind Cams behind a flake - feel, know which cam to grab, place, move.


I thought the Southwest Rib had more variety, and the cruxy sections (O/W and Bear Hug) while awkward, were pretty easy to protect - didn't feel desperate. I've never lead a 5.8, but in hindsight, I would have been fine on SEWS - probably not on Concord.


I think a better comp might be the other Concord Routes. Although I haven't climbed them, I've heard the Cave Route has an unprotectable move with decking potential and moderate grade. I think if someone is a solid 5.9 leader, coming down from a route on Liberty Bell, or on their way back from SEWS, NEWS, this is a great more challenging bonus route alternative to the Cave Route or North Face.


It took us three hours, up and down, with a bit of futzing and a couple false starts.


One thing that might be obvious from the pictures, is the relative lack of exposure vs. LB and SEWS. Good or Bad....depends on the person.

Edited by ericb
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