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moronbros

[TR] Colchuck Balanced Rock - West Face 8/2/2008

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Trip: Colchuck Balanced Rock - West Face

 

Date: 8/2/2008

 

Trip Report:

After assembling the ultimate franken-beta from three past TRs on CC.com and the pic from the nelson guide, we were set on climbing the route in a long day. It was clear that after doing this, we weren't as strong as we'd like to be but it WAS SO WORTH IT. The epic began when Oscar forgot the rope back in Kirkland. Our little Kirkland trip allowed us to munch some tender vittles at subway and stuff our pockets with energy bars at QFC. yay. Here's my over-sized TR.

 

In the car on the way out, I get an email from a buddy with a link to a "funny video". Oscar almost killed us driving off the road laughing while watching this. We forgot our cameras, so for those of you that need pictures, here you go. This climb has been brought to you by this video - Google "jon lajoie show me" if you're not at work or insensitive. Beware, this video is a bit strange and probably off-color, but it served a point.

 

We knew there had been others to climb the line car-to-car in 18 hrs or so. This was a lofty goal, but we gave it a shot anyway. We hauled ass up to the lake, through the slide alder, up the gulley and to the base of the route, but from there it all slowed down. It was an efficnency/alpine urgency issue at this point.

 

Our goal was to free the whole thing except for the P5 huge roof and the (5.12?) A1 roof at the top of pitch 7.

 

Left the car at 0500 on Saturday

ditched bags at colchuck lake at 0745

 

The Approach:

Make sure to scope out your line through the slide alder to the gulley by standing back at the lake for a better view. 'schwack from rock patch to rock patch and you're in the base of the gully in 20 minutes. Remember, deciding where to start walking into slide alder is like deciding where to shoot yourself. Just go. You always lose.

 

base of the climb at 0900

 

and now for a blow-by-blow analysis of the *actual rock climbing*. note: I'm using pitch numbers from the nelson/potterfield book.

 

P0 (half the parties scramble this. i'd much rather rope up.)

Oscar climbed the first pitch of easy 5th to the base of the 10+.

 

P1

It was like being woken up by falling out of a bunk bed. A total smack in the face, this 5-move, all-4-in-the-crack pitch was a real kick in the balls. 10+ is a perfect rating.

 

P2

linked this 5.7 chimney with P1. Belayed from the notch below the actual 5.9 step across. way better gear for an anchor here! When linking these two, pay attention to rope drag.

 

P3

Oscar hopped up to the 5.9 "step across" into two totally bitchin' cracks. The right crack is fingers on a face and the left crack is hands in a little corner. All stemming, totally fun. He fired it in good style.

 

P4

I ran up the easy lower 5th terrain to the base of the super-bad-ass sustained corner crack below the roof. I sat there hanging in my harness looking up at that corner, drooling, not really paying attention to my belaying.

 

P5

This is why we came here. It's a beautiful, steep, fingers to hands sized corner running up to a massive roof. Oscar freed it and followed. We hung a few times, but it was marvelous. We had doubles of BD .3-#3 but Oscar lamented the fact that we didn't triple up on .75 pieces for this pitch. It would have made freeing it mo' bettah. The last 15 feet is wet in the crack. We freed it anyway, but it was pretty damn slimy.

 

P6

There are fixed pins with a bunch of mank hanging off of them at the belay under the huge roof. Someone tied knots down a 1-inch sling hanging about 6 feet above the belay, so you can aid right off this to get up to the crack under the roof. I suppose you could belay from right below the roof, but you'd have less of the insane view of Stuart and the rest of the scenery. I aided through the roof and switched to free after the roof. about 4 free moves to the base of P7. Note: beware of the notch in the roof when you pull around it. Set a directional piece to avoid rope drag here.

 

P7

This was spectacular as well. 5.9 hands on an arching right-facing dihedral. Not as steep as the .11 below but SO FUN. Sequences of jamming, then laybacks, then switching to aiding at the top. I plugged my handy #4 into the roof here, noted that I could have hung a cadillac from it, then aided past it. I stopped below the "5.9+" chimney, hanging the whole shit-show from a couple aliens and an equalette.

 

Time was an issue at this point. We had been on route for WAY too long. I fixed the line and Oscar jugged this pitch. The sun was going down in the next 20 minutes. We dug around in our pockets for headlamps. oh bother.

 

P8

It was Oscar's lead. We knew all about this pitch. Everything they say is true. This is one of the most heinous offwidth chimneys we had ever seen in the Cascades. He cursed and yelled and bled all over this pitch, but he got up it in good time using mostly #2-#4 pieces, his bleeding extremities, and his helmet. Instead of hollering "good job!" or "you're kicking ass!" it was "knock knock" and then I'd get a "who's there?" from Oscar (see video link above). This brought our spirits up a bit. We laughed, we cried. We decided I'd jumar this pitch to save time. yeah, that really helped..

 

The last section to the summit:

Once up, he pulled all the slack up to me, fixed it, I jugged, then he soloed up as far as he could go above the top of the chimneys (easy terrain) while I jugged. He built an anchor, fixed that section of rope and batmanned back down that line to me. I showed up, we sobbed tears of joy, and then I led off into the darkness toward the balanced rock. I ran out of rope, he came up to me and climbed past to the balanced rock. If there were still daylight, we would have simul-climbed this section.

 

Summited at 2030 - gettin' ready for an EPIC!

 

The sun was long gone, headlamps moved around down at Colchuck Lake, we shivered and ate and drank and laughed at our silly little adventure to this point.

 

The De-Proach:

There's a bunch of tat hanging off the East side of the balanced rock. This is the top of the 30m rap that goes to the sandy ledges. DO NOT rap toward the edge you can't see over. You can look East toward Cashmere and Wenatchee at night and see the lights. This is the direction you go. We found that out the hard way.

 

When going to the ledges, you literally fall off the end of the 30m rappel and go about 1 foot onto the sand. perfect distance.

 

um. yeah. we had a bit of an epic from this point onward. All I'm going to say is that we didn't descend the right way, we got cliffed out, and we had to shiver all night on a small patch of moss in the trees. So much for the "easiest descent in the Cascades" hah!

 

We ended up doing some 1:30 AM scree-surfing down toward colchuck lake. Luckily I have a headlamp that I could cook food with, so I could see a couple hundred feet in front of us. At least I could see that we were *absolutely screwed* and that we needed to wait until first light.

 

We got up with the sun and noticed we were looking at the route from below. We were about 200 feet below the route and out to the West on the scree slopes. We ended up traversing back to the last col you climb to right before the base of the route. two raps off trees got us down to the col and it was smooth sailing from there. This climb is quite nice indeed.

 

Back to the car at 1100 on Sunday - that's about 30 hours. ouch.

 

Other Notes:

- if you have to do any gardening, you're off route.

- get good descent beta before you climb.

- do not bring a backpack. stuff your headlamp and food in your jacket pockets.

- clip shoes and water bottles to your harness.

- get good descent beta before you climb.

- there is no water on route...well except for the inside of the top of of the .11 crack =)

- Gear: a double rack is ideal for this route.

- bring aiders, stuff them in your pockets

- clip some jumars to your harness.

- get good descent beta before you climb.

- not only does the bacon at Kristal's in 11worth look like a dog toy, it tastes like one too.

 

And that is the story of my first unplanned night in the woods.

 

Gear Notes:

Doubles in camalot sizes .3 - #3, bring a #4 for the second small roof. jumars/aiders helpful for both leader/follower. cams/nuts sufficient for all aiding, no hook moves

 

Approach Notes:

Watch out for fanny-pack tourists on the trail. One of the biggest hazards on this trip.

Edited by moronbros

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Awesome work dudes! I bet that was a cold night. Not even a LED headlamp that cooks food can keep dehydrated climbers warm.

 

Next time, I'd just bring one of these:

 

57352-thumb2.jpg

 

Edited by LinHiNun

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Cool TR :D. Although just a quick fact check, I did french free the wet part of the 5.11a. The other thing is the offwidth/chimmeney pitch was done by french freeing certain sections.

 

And I don't remember driving off the road while watching the video. I will agree that the video is very stupid, I consider it being something like Borat except take the foreign aspect away from it. Although the knock knock did cheer me up on the last pitch of the route.

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Hahahahahhahahaaaa!

 

Awesome TR.

 

Good work fellas. We were wondering if you were still around as we tromped around on Sunday. I guess you were.

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deciding where to start walking into slide alder is like deciding where to shoot yourself. Just go. You always lose

 

May I humbly suggest that this is the best line of the season?

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Luckily, us cascade climbers have the proper bushwhack training to take us all over the world. According to this guide , we were on a route rated at about Grade 1, BW3+. Compared to other routes this was tame, but it still sucks no matter how long you're in it.

Edited by moronbros

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Ha! Great TR guys! Pretty funny...

 

Funny too that we were going up the trail on Sunday, when we saw you! We told each other it was strange that two climbers were coming down with little in the way of gear at 10AM! Now I know why... Hope you didn't freeze your asses too badly.

 

We climbed the route on Monday (Aug 4), after a camp at the lake (that approach in one day is just too much, thank you). Found the route all dry as you did, except from some slime in the last 2 moves on the crack pitch. Good hand jams though so no problem.

 

The 12a roof seemed over-rated... best proof of that is that I freed it with just one hang. Managed to on-sight the whole route except for that move :cool:. Overall a good line, although I thought the "approach" pitches to the base of the corner were not very good. The top pitch or two of easier climbing to the summit were also very licheny and had scary loose blocks.

 

The chimney was painful, but I don't think it is as bad as reported by many. Lucie followed this free with a pack on (though she took it off for the second section). Clearly harder than 5.8 but maybe not 5.10 either. I remember the chimney on Prusik, for example, as harder than this (and it is rated 5.9). Just don't want people to fear this route because of that pitch.

 

We toproped to the top of the balanced rock by lassoing the rope over it. If you stand at the rap anchors and manage to get the rope behind the nose on the right, it is quite secure. The two moves from the rap to the top are quite stiff...

 

Took us about 15 hours round trip from the lake, with a very leisurely pace on the approach (wanted to save our energy for the climbing), and a ~1 hr wait at the base (we were hoping it would get warmer... it didn't).

 

Some clarifications / Stuff I wish we had known before going:

- the route is sort of a long alpine crag route: the descent goes right by the base. Bring whatever you want/need, leave it at the base, and grab it on the way out. Good boots would be nice to have for the approach gully. As would some extra water to leave at the base for the way down. There is some snow left near the base of the route, but no flowing water that we could see.

- the descent IS the easiest, most direct, and quickest I have seen in the cascades. It is also very obvious (with daylight... :) ). I went down in my rock shoes, Lucie had lightweight approach shoes. At the very end, stay pretty close to the wall. The last 15 ft are easiest right next to the rock. This will drop you onto your packs, at the top of the boulder field.

- there is a permanent stream in the first third of the approach gully. You cannot miss it. Good place to re-supply. No need to carry water from the lake (as we did...)

- there is a beautiful place for a camp at the bottom of the boulderfield (at the top of the approach gully), directly below the route. Flat sand and trees. Only problem is the lack of water, although I guess you could melt snow if you brought enough fuel. Carrying an overnight pack through the alders and up the steep gully may be a deterrent... If I had to do the route again, I wouldn't do this. I'd still camp at the lake (assuming you can get a damned permit).

- I'll second the rack beta: doubles from tiny cam to #3 camalot, one #4, and one set of nuts. This was more than I needed, the pro is quite varied on all pitches.

- counting the summit block as a pitch, we did 12 pitches in all: first pitch to access the 10+ crack, then 8 pitches exactly as shown in Nelson (all short pitches), then 2 pitches to the rap anchors, then a 15' pitch to the top of the block.

- we had double 60m ropes as we always do, but I would take double 50's if I did it again.

- as you mentioned: watch out for the pinch at the end of the 11a roof traverse. I had to place two medium nuts upside down at the lip to keep the ropes from jamming.

 

If we get around to it, we'll post a TR (yet another CBR TR...) sometime soon. Don't hold your breath though... I got about 50 tax forms to take care of first :crazy:

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The chimney was painful, but I don't think it is as bad as reported by many. Lucie followed this free with a pack on (though she took it off for the second section). Clearly harder than 5.8 but maybe not 5.10 either. I remember the chimney on Prusik, for example, as harder than this (and it is rated 5.9). Just don't want people to fear this route because of that pitch.

 

 

Sounds like you either you found a secret way to get established in the CBR chimney (or you're 8 feet tall? :confused:), or you went the wrong way in on the Prusik chimney. I've done both routes twice (Prusik three times actually) and for me it's no contest, that Prusik chimney is a cruise by comparison. I do think once established in the CBR chimney that it really is 5.8. But I've always wondered if something at the entrance to it broke off, because that start move has felt like solid 5.10 both times, and awkward to boot. Anyway, nice work and thanks for the report :tup:

 

 

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Maybe my memory is failing me on the Prusik chimney... I don't remember much trouble getting established into the CBR chimney. I think I used a hand jam in the flake, then grabbed the top edge of the flake, then probably jammed the crack in the back? I am tall (6'4"), which may make it easier for me to reach in to the jams...

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I haven't been in the chimney on Prusik. I hear it's bad in its own way. WTF is the deal with "5.9+" or "5.9 chimney"? It drives me nuts to see these numbers. I don't trust ratings one bit once they obtain a + or a "offwidth" classification. We need to switch to the euro (severity) scale! Here are my ratings, in order of difficulty from easiest to hardest.

 

1. lower fifth

2. 5.7

3. 5.9 handcrack

4. 5.7 chimney

5. 5.11

6. 5.10+

7. 5.9+ and 5.9 offwidth

8. slide alder

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Wow. I have to agree. I have done the Prusik chimney and it was easier to get established on that thing than it was for CBR. Getting into the chimney was really hard. But just my opinion :P

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I don't trust ratings one bit once they obtain a + or a "offwidth" classification. We need to switch to the euro (severity) scale!

 

In Yosemite the words to fear are "squeeze" and "slot"

 

Ericandlucie thanks for the beta/report. Were the bugs bad?

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Maybe my memory is failing me on the Prusik chimney... I don't remember much trouble getting established into the CBR chimney. I think I used a hand jam in the flake, then grabbed the top edge of the flake, then probably jammed the crack in the back? I am tall (6'4"), which may make it easier for me to reach in to the jams...

 

The handjam does help, but not as much as you expect it to, as it's still ridiculously awkward trying to get your foot onto the projecting flake. I do remember thinking a tall person would have an advantage. I think it feels harder and more insecure than trying to get established inside the "Narrows" on the Steck Salathe in Yosemite.

 

The Prusik chimney is not bad if you stay left side in, and don't go too high. Right when it seems to be getting too tight, moving to the outside of the chimney and using a stemming maneuver that allows you to turn to right side in enables you to reach big face holds out left- more intimidating than difficult.

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I don't trust ratings one bit once they obtain a + or a "offwidth" classification. We need to switch to the euro (severity) scale!

 

In Yosemite the words to fear are "squeeze" and "slot"

 

Ericandlucie thanks for the beta/report. Were the bugs bad?

 

And in the Sierras, for anything that says "4th class", you might do well to expect climbing up to 5.9! And in the Rockies, the new "5.9/A2" is "WI5/M6", or, anything that says "interesting mixed climbing". :)

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huh weird, I have to agree with "W" (hey dude). I had no trouble at all on prussik and getting to the CBR chimney was a total bitch...not to mention the upper OW being challenging to get in as well if your under 5'10"

 

I'd like to hop on it again, bet it's a lot easier now.

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