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KaskadskyjKozak

[TR] Snow Creek Wall - Champagne 5/2/2010

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Trip: Snow Creek Wall - Champagne

 

Date: 5/2/2010

 

Trip Report:

 

My friend CF and I had planned to climb the Ice Cliff Glacier this weekend but were scared off by a storm system coming in on Sunday evening which could have made for a long, long epic summit day (oh, the irony!). So we opted to climb Champagne as a one-day trip and consolation prize. We chose the route because 1) it's got two stars in the Leavenworth Rock book, 2) is less crowded and easier than Orbit or Outer Space, and 3) I like doing stuff off the beaten path.

 

We hit the trail at 9:30 am and were at the base of the route at 11:30. After a quick lunch, we headed up the chock gulley pitch to the base of the route. I led this pitch. The moves around the first stone are supposedly 5.8. Don't know if that's true or not, but with some water, mud, and moss maybe it's justified.

 

CF on the approach:

Champagne_-_May_2010_003.JPG

 

Snow Creek Wall. Easter Tower is 2/3 of the way across the wall towards the right.

Champagne_-_May_2010_005.JPG

 

Easter Tower and the gully leading up to it:

Champagne_-_May_2010_011.JPG

 

The first pitch of the route itself starts off at the notch between SCW and Easter Tower. Our route description indicated you go up a broken up section of the rock after a leftwards traverse. There were two broken sections - the first, on the right of a bolt, seemed way too mossy and dirty, with a thin crack that seemed sketchy. So CF went left to the other option. This was a right-slanting, wider crack which was moderately hard to protect, and full of mud and a small bush right where you needed to go. It took a long time to lead this pitch, and ate up a good chunk of the afternoon. More time was eaten up during the ensuing cluster fuck. The route zigs and zags with rope drag, and, the rope caught dead in a flake. Oh, and did I mention CF dropped two of my large hexes that rolled partway down the hill? So, when CF yelled "off belay", I scrambled to get the hexes, kiwi-coiled the rope, and prusiked up half the pitch to clear the rope from the flake. Then I swore and grunted up the crack. At the annoying bush I slipped twice, enjoying the stabbing of branches into my crotch. It sucked donkey balls, and ate even more time - two hours on this pitch, at least.

 

By now we were both offput to say the least. I led the next pitch up the crack and chickenheads. It took a little nerve to get off the deck. The pitch is very dirty, and the crack for pro needed cleaning as did the tops of some chicken heads. I was worried I would run out of rope, so I set up an awkward gear anchor short of a fine ledge 20-30 feet higher.

 

This is when the raptor began to dive bomb me. I also found about 4 ticks crawling on my arm during the day. And some goats followed us up the approach to lick our pee. A great day with the alpine fauna!

 

Goats preparing to lick up pee:

Champagne_-_May_2010_010.JPG

 

CF followed up and led to the ledge above. He also got dive-bombed. Turns out the raptor had a nest right on that ledge.

 

CF then led left. This turned out to be a long scramble pitch, and it's where we got of route. CF led way left (a full rope length) where he should have gone up a chimney.

 

CF leading too far left:

Champagne_-_May_2010_016.JPG

 

For the next pitch I started up and didn't like the terrain/dirtiness of the route, so I dropped down and continued the scrambling/low 5 climbing left. This involved one sketchy frictioning traverse half a rope-length out, followed by a second, even worse one a few feet farther. I started left on the second traverse but did not have a #3 cam on me (I had used it earlier) and had to backtrack and set up a hanging belay off gear.

 

CF followed, then tried the traverse with a #3 for pro. He got fairly sketched and almost pendulumed, but cleared the friction part. Nice work!

 

It was now 6 pm, and we were realizing we needed to summit fast or start rapping. In either case we would be hiking out in the dark. CF said the last pitch looked like a go, so I followed his pitch and took a look up. Yeah, a "go" with some more manky terrain, moss and shit culminating in a vertical chimney, and I could not see how it looked inside the chimney from below. Fuck it. I started up. I had to use my chock pick to clear cracks for pro and some footholds. The chimney itself was not bad at all. It had good protection and some awkward moves (5.7+ I would guess). This put us on the ridge - finally!

 

View down from the ridge (note location of Easter Tower on the left):

Champagne_-_May_2010_024.JPG

 

CF followed. It was now 6:45, and we could see the shitty weather coming in from the Stuart range that had scared us off of the Ice Cliff Glacier. It was cold and windy on the ridge.

 

KK on the summit ridge:

Champagne_-_May_2010_023.JPG

 

We had planned all along to rap down the opposite side of SCW and walk off using the Pearly Gates trail. We did a full rope rappel, then a 30 foot rappel off a tree onto some snow on steep hillsides. Good fun in rock shoes. We then began to stumble and slide down the steep hillsides looking for a climber's trail.

 

It got dark. CF did not have a headlamp, so we shared mine. Pace cut in half. After an hour or so, we found the climber's trail below the Pearly Gates. It was now drizzling. We started going a bit faster but it still took a long ass time. The rain intensified. At around 11:30 the trail petered out near a small stream. We searched around for it and got stuck in some marshy terrain, so we backtracked. We still could not find a different way to follow the trail, so we opted to cross a small stream.

 

Our plan was to go DOWN and hit the road. We saw lights nearby. But ended up going in circles, blocked by unfordable, fast-moving, rain-engorged streams. We were so close! Shwack, shwack, shwack. The slide Alder was totally wet and soaked us while moving through. Temps were in the 40's - classic hypothermia conditions. I had on my climber's pants and a hard-shell top. CF had shorts over polypro (LOL!) and a fleece jacket. We were both shivering. It felt like we were going in circles.

 

A view burned into my mind forever:

Champagne_-_May_2010_028.JPG

 

Finally I got my compass out, found due N and we headed in - THE EXACT OPPOSITE DIRECTION we thought we should go. Within 5 minutes we ran into a stream. A weird stream. Fuck, it's man-made and looks like those little aquaducts near the Snow Creek TH! Shwack, shwack downstream. Some kind of pump/valves! We crossed here and ran up a walk way over the aquaduct. Barbed-wire gate. Fuck. And you could not go around - on either side was a 30 foot drop to a waterfall. Only one fucking choice. We climbed over the fence. Don't fall.

 

Finally, we are on the trail to the car again. Time of arrival - 1:00 am. Crank the car heater to 85, and start home. The entire drive was in pouring rain, except for 10 miles over Steven's Pass, which was snow with several inches of slush on the roadway. I had to slow to 20-25 mph.

 

Time of arrival home: 3:50 am.

 

When is the next trip?

 

Gear Notes:

Mid-size rack up to 3".

Metal brush to clean manky shit off the route!

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My wife and I were up on Easter Tower two weeks ago. Didn't see any birds over there, but we pulled 20 ticks between the two of us off our clothing. Including three small deer ticks that I could barely see with my eye. In 6 years of climbing in Leavenworth area I've never encountered these little ones and I hope they aren't going to be the new thing.

 

Looks like an interesting climb.

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Very entertaining (in retrospect, of course). Between the raptor, the ticks, and the barbed wire, you guys sure had your work cut out for you!

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sheesh! for an epic like that, you SHOULD have been on stuart! ;)

looks like fun!

 

Now I'll be in better shape for my upcoming Stuart epic.

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Sounds similar to our adventure a week back, except we missed out on the barbed wire part (luckily).

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AlpineMonkey - the very small ticks you found are just a variation on the life stage. "These ticks have four stages in their life cycle: egg, larva, nymph, and adult. After the eggs hatch, each stage of tick must feed once to develop into the next stage. Ticks become infected while feeding on blood from an infected animal. After the tick develops into the next stage, the infection may be transmitted to humans or other animals during the feeding process. Both male and female ticks may bite humans but it is the females that are responsible for most transmission."

 

These websites have more information:

http://www.cdc.gov/ticks/transmission.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ixodes_scapularis

 

The CDC site refers to them as blacklegged ticks, around here we call them deer ticks, same species.

 

Deer_tick_Ixodes_scapularis.jpg

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Good one KK. I will say, I climb that route with CBS and remember it litterally raining ticks as we rapped down off the ridge, so I can empathize ; )

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sheesh! for an epic like that, you SHOULD have been on stuart! ;)

looks like fun!

 

Now I'll be in better shape for my upcoming Stuart epic.

 

Although Robert Frost is not my fav poet, I can appreciate embarking upon a figurate path that is less mainstream and finding it somewhat rewarding :)

But then again I have a supernatural sense of wrong direction.

 

Good on you guys you did not spend the night by the barbed wire :tup:

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