Jump to content

[TR] Colchuck Balanced Rock - The Scoop III+ 5.11c (FA) 8/9/2009


Recommended Posts

Trip: Colchuck Balanced Rock - The Scoop III+ 5.11c (FA)


Date: 8/9/2009


Trip Report:

During a trip to climb the west face (III 5.12a) on Colchuck Balanced Rock (CBR) last year, Evan and I were amazed at the lack of development of lines to the right. We decided on the spot that we had to try and find a new route next year. We took a large number of high-resolution photos and trudged our way back down the gulley to Colchuck lake. Over the winter, we spent time studying the photos, drooling over several possible lines, but one particular feature kept catching our eye: a large dihedral carved out of the rock about halfway up the face. It almost appeared as if a giant had used an oversized ice cream scoop to dig it out, creating a sharp dihedral at the bottom and slowly “scooping” out into an overhang. Not knowing what was in store for us, we knew we would need another strong climber along, so we contacted our friend Stewart, and put in for two separate four-day permits.


Our first trip began on an early morning in June, with three of us slugging heavy packs up the loose gully to CBR. We set up camp amongst the white bus-sized boulders at the bottom of the route, and started setting up for the unknown. Although dirty, the first three pitches were dispatched onsight and free (9, 10a, 10a) leading us to a large ledge that seemed to be the launch point for a wide variety of lines up the second half of the face.


We were now finally face to face with scooped dihedral that we had been dreaming of during the rainy Seattle winter. Even though we were now directly below the pitch, it was impossible to tell if there was a crack in the dihedral or whether it was simply a copperhead seam. Stewart set off aiding the pitch and we held our breath in anticipation. With every foot of progress came questions from below, “Is there still crack above you? Does it pinch off? What size is it?” As he continued to climb and remove the thick lichen, we were simply amazed that it continued to dish up a beautiful finger crack that widened into occasional hand jams near the final overhanging 20-foot section. It looked like the line might go free, but the major concern was the lack of good foot holds most of the way, and lack of rests for over 120 feet of the full 200-foot pitch. If it would go, it was going to be one hard pitch for sure.


On the third day, we started late in the cold spring temperatures and wind and soon found ourselves sitting on a spacious ledge at the top of the scoop pitch. Across a slab twenty feet to our left started yet another long dihedral, angling up into two large ominous roofs. It was our luck that there was a small sloping ledge that allowed us to traverse across into the thin crack and up to a very dirty corner. The crack was filled with decades of accumulated dirt, moss, and plants and at this point we knew we had to go back into aiding and try to return and eventually free the pitch. A couple of hours and twenty pounds of dirt later, we came to the first of the roofs. It was almost as by design that a small knob appeared for a foot below with a hand crack under the roof allowing us to traverse to yet another ledge.


The second roof appeared to be even harder than the first, requiring climbing up, traversing, and down climbing again to get back out and left to the end and into the final dihedral. The edge of the roof provided a unique “fang” feature that allowed for a nice rest following the delicate traverse. Again due to the dirtiness of the cracks, we aided through this section to gain a large ledge system several hundred feet below the summit. We knew from climbing the west face route the year before that we were about four easy 5th class pitches from the top, but due to weather we proceed to rappel down the route.


On the last day, we headed up to give our first try at the scoop pitch to see what it would require to eventually lead it. After several runs on top rope, we knew we might be able to eventually lead it, but it would take everything we had to get it. We rappelled to the ground and headed back to the car in a mid-June snowstorm. So far we had everything that we were hoping for: a new route on CBR that was completed ground up, and never required a single piton or a bolt. Now the question was, would the line go free?


Six weeks later, we found ourselves on the long hike back up to CBR, this time leaving most of the aid gear at home with the hopes of going into full free mode. We had two major goals: top out the route and free the three pitches that were previously aided. The first goal was fairly easy, after topping out on pitch 6, the three of us roped up and simul-climbed to the summit. The second goal was a little harder. On the summit day, each one of us tackled one of the remaining aid pitches, with only pitch 5 going free at 5.10b on the first go. After some additional cleaning, pitch 6 eventually went free at 5.10a, making it an excellent final pitch to the route.


The scoop pitch evaded us for three days and we were worried that we may not be able to send it at all on this trip. On the last day, we got a late start and headed back up to launch ledge and Evan’s last go at the lead. The cold temperatures were perfect for friction, but unfortunately were also good for creating numb fingers and toes, not great for the sharp crack and featureless dihedral. To warm up, Evan lowered down pitch 3 and took a warm up lap to get the blood flowing. After a 5 minute rest and a few deep breaths, he launched off the ledge and sent it on his first go of the day. The last remaining pitch now went free at 5.11c. There was little discussion or argument about the name of the route; due to the dominance of the feature on pitch 4, we all agreed to name the route “The Scoop”, III+ 5.11c, 10 pitches.


Stewart and Matt figuring out where to start the route:



Stewart leading p2 (in the v-slot):



Stewart belaying Evan up p2:



Matt leading p3:



Stewart finds a hidden crack below all the lichen:



Evan starting the Scoop:





Below the first roof on p4:








Start of the overhang on p4:



Evan on the Scoop p4:



I'm not sure the tape helped here:



Stewart coming across the groove:



Stewart leading p5:



Evan and Matt coming up p5:



Matt on p5:



Matt leading p6:



Simul-climbing to the top:



Evan and Stewart at the top of CBR:



Matt, Evan, and Stewart after the clean send:



Our river beers were waiting at the car:



Topo (PM me for a higher res image):



Routes on CBR:


Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Replies 30
  • Created
  • Last Reply

Top Posters In This Topic

It was such a good trip and a bonus finding a great line. The Scoop is one of the best pure crack pitches I've ever done. Camping below the face around the boulders has to be one of my favorite places in the enchantments as well.


I think this picture sums up what our trip was really about. Teamwork!



Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks guys! It was a great trip and a really fun line. I felt many of the pitches up there could be classic with a little more traffic and it was amazing how such nice steep cracks were broken up by great belay ledges.


For more pictures and Matt's topo check out my picasa web albums.

Trip One, cleaning and aiding: http://picasaweb.google.com/matthiesen/ColchuckBalancedRockTheScoop#


Trip Two, Cleaning and freeing: http://picasaweb.google.com/matthiesen/ColchuckBalancedRockTheScoop02#

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Evan and I were amazed at the lack of development of lines to the right.


Nice looking route! I've always thought the whole area was under-developed although it may not stay that way very much longer.


That's what I would have thought when I first went up there with another buddy about five years ago, but it's a really long slog to take enough ropes, aid and cleaning gear to get something done. I think that's kept people away. We took pictures of the Tempest roof and the Scoop pitches way back when hoping some day we might head back up to get something new.


Last year when Matt and I headed up there we brought a good amount of gear with plans to get on something new and even scoped out what turned into the first two pitches but ran out of go juice after doing The West Face and hiking the gulley two days in a row. Instead we bummed it around the lake and put up Sunchips which is a micro nut in comparison to this one :)


There are definitely more pitches up there. Stewart did a bit of exploring on the last day but I've got to say I'm pretty burnt out after all the cleaning and slogging we did with big packs to want to go back up there. It's going to take some time for the lichen to work its way out of my eyes before I can see straight again.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks everyone! It was definitely a great time with good friends. Some of the days spent digging out cracks were not as fun, but once we got them clean, we found some spectacular climbing under there, and that made it all worthwhile. The route is pretty clean now, but a little traffic will definitely help finish it off.


As for other routes up there, you would be hard pressed not to find additional lines if you spend an hour at the bottom of the boulders with some binoculars. Not to mention all the rock you walk past on the walk off. You might avoid the left side where the large rock fall came off a few years ago though ;)


I also forgot to mention a big thanks to Matthew Hall from exposureimagery.com He just happened to be hiking up there to take pictures of Colchuck, Dragontail, and Stuart and took a few great shots for us. He also got to see Evan send the scoop pitch on the last day (as well as hear Stewart and I yell at the top of our lungs at Evan).


Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Create New...