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[TR] Exfoliation Dome (Darrington) - Rainman 5.10C *** 11P, Sunday Cruise 5.9 8P 7/9/2010

David Yount

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Trip: Exfoliation Dome (Darrington) - Rainman 5.10C *** 11P, Sunday Cruise 5.9 8P


Date: 7/9/2010


Trip Report:



Alex and I left Tacoma 1:30am to meet up with Lee in U-District 2:15am to begin hiking about 5:00am up the Granite Sidewalk. Mark Hanna (and others) have done so much work on the parking area at the base of the Granite Sidewalk approach I didn’t recognize it. The insane logjam has been cut and removed.


Lee had never been on the ‘Sidewalk before, he was in constant awe and enjoyment. We geared up at the 15-foot snag, maybe 100-feet shy from the top of the ‘Sidewalk. The route isn’t so easy to locate, but I had done it a few times so we slung a rope around a tree and rapped off the edge of the ‘Sidewalk down to the base of the slabs. Heading up toward a large bush got us to the smallish and awkwardish belay stance. I slung some bushes to steady my stance. Alex got the first pitch, which, provides a bolt for the immediate cruxy 5.10A move.




Quickly a second bolt appears for a slightly more difficult move. Evidently there’s a mellow 5.5 variation for the crux 2 bolt start.


Lee started up Pitch 2 which features a nice left facing corner. Four bolts protect the delicate smears. We all found the crux on this pitch near that 4th bolt. Lee took an unsuspecting fall on lead. Alex took a fall while following and I felt a little precarious, at the same spot. Here’s Alex at the crux of P2.




After the 4th bolt the crack in the right face of the corner provides great pro as well as hand holds. After placing a solid cam, Lee wasn’t sure whether to continue up the corner or pull over onto the face. He tried the corner, but found it awkward, so he investigated the face. Then he moved right 10-feet, out of the corner and over an overlap.




He either found a bolt out on the face or he found pro, I can’t recall. He danced up that face and finally found a brown bolt near the top left corner of that face. I can now share that both solutions go, safely. Alex and I both enjoyed Lee’s move right, onto the face and then delicate smears up the face to that brown bolt.


And in reviewing my photos I now see a silver / gray bolt that Lee did not use. This bolt is on the right face of the corner, and it patiently waits about 10-feet above his nice cam in that side crack. You can see this hard to see bolt in the middle left of this photo




This bolt that Lee missed is just past the next overlap in the corner, past the pod in the side crack.




I took Pitch 3 which begins with a vertical crack that can be jammed or laybacked. Then, some smears up to an excellent flake edge.




That leads up to an even more excellent flake edge. You begin with an undercling, working out right, then layback, then monkey across the hand traverse up top. But don’t think about putting pro behind this flake ‘cuz it’s nothing more than a potato chip!


Smear up to an overlap and relax after making the 2 clips. Now consider the 5.10B crux staring you in the face. I chose to stand up high on the face and use the edge of the overlap as an undercling, move feet left then reach left for another hand, move foot way left then reach maximally to latch the finish jug. Sweet!


Alex chose to remain purely on smears on the face below the overlap.




I considered this, I began to try this, I wanted to make this go. And……. an undercling traverse crux is a rare opportunity, so I went with the gusto.


As Lee began Pitch 4 which is a merry romp up steep slabs with a dozen bolts or more, Alex pulled out his Bosun Seat and got comfortable.




Lee glided up this pitch.




As Alex and I climbed we saw that the sun had finally found us.




Lee had difficulty with the last many moves because the sun was peaking over the sumit, directly in his eyes. But his belay stance on top of Pitch 4 looked comfortable.




I fired off Pitch 5 but I don’t recall anything; must have been the sun, I do much better in cool temps. At this belay we had joined with the route to the right, Dark Rhythm 5.10C. Dark Rhythm is another great long route on Exfoliation Dome, and though it is rated the same as Rainman 5.10C it only has a single 10C move and the remainder is much easier. Rainman has a much more sustained nature. Alex took Pitch 6 and we all thought it was going to be a gimme. At 5.8 we thought we’d all just merrily skip along. Nope. This 5.8 pitch is interesting and great quality.


Baking in the sun I took the ropes and sped up Pitch 7, skipping bolts as I jogged up 5.7 to shade on Blueberry Terrace. Lee and Alex jogged as well, making my duty as belayer quite taxing.


Last year when I climbed from the Blueberry Terrace up to the summit of Exfoliation Dome I remember a vertical jungle, pulling on slender tree limbs, pulling on fistfuls of heather. I kind of enjoyed it, but didn’t look forward to a repeat. Well, I got beta from Matt Perkins about a few bolts and bolted belays he’s established to make this final 3 pitches of climbing far more enjoyable. Here’s his beta amended with my experience:


Head left and somewhat downward to the far end of the Terrace where it drops down. You will pass the chains at the top of Jacobs Ladder, which are about 10 feet from where the Terrace ends in a corner.


Climb up and left on small blocky ledges to the highest good belay, which is about 1-foot by 4-foot and covered in green lichen. Here it is:




You’ll see a bolt 25-feet above:




Climb up, pass that bolt, climb over the overlap and then left above bushes. Then climb right to a chain belay at 30 meters.


Now climb up, passing a bolt, and look for an exit to the left. Another chain belay is way up there, slightly left at about 30 meters. The second belay anchor is just up there:




Note, you cannot combine these 2 pitches with a 60m rope. But, there is a nice mid-sized crack just 20-feet below the upper anchor, in which we built an anchor. Here’s Lee finishing up:




Now scramble or climb, left and down into a rock slab bowl. If you’re rapping Jacob’s Ladder or Rainman then leave your gear here. If you’re rapping from the summit down Westward Ho, then bring all your gear up to the summit. Looking down the backside from the summit ridge:




With a very early start we had avoided the sun until the last 3 pitches of Rainman and now we would seek continual shade by climbing on the backside of Exfoliation Dome. I rapped from the summit anchors, down the shady backside. At about 55m I found a nice large tree. I built a rap anchor, rapped down and then found a gnarled, but sturdy, twisted tree about 45m down. I built a rap anchor, rapped down and then found a very large chunky horn. Built a rap anchor and then my ropes reached the ground.


Lee crossed the talus slope to the headwaters of some creek, filling all our water containers with cold cold water. Next time I want Lee to find a beer creek. We were seeking Sunday Cruise 5.9 P8 and quickly determined we needed to loose tons of elevation, hiking way down to climber’s right.


As we’re hiking we come across an improved bivy site atop a huge flat boulder. There’s also a couple 5-gallon buckets cached.


When we got down to the slabs at the base of Witchdoctor Wall we were amazed at the gorgeous sight.




Checkered Demon 5.7 A3 Grade V is in the center of the face, the right facing corner which has a white section at mid-height. Sunday Cruise 5.9 lies just to the left. Somewhere.


Left side of Witchdoctor Wall:




Right side of Witchdoctor Wall:




I began up the first pitch of Sunday Cruise. Every horizontal ledge was littered with decomposed kitty litter granite. Every vertical crack was filled with fallen kitty litter or jammed with dirt and vegetation. Every flake creaked and moved. Most blocks were not fixed to the face, they could be easily trundled with a small crowbar. The first pitch is very short and I don’t like to stop climbing before my rope is taught. I began up the second pitch. Unbelievably, it got worse. I still had rope so I continued. Pitch 3 was more of the same. This was not what I feared. It was far far worse. Lee hollered I had no rope, so I found a crack that would take BD Nuts #10 and #11. I have bootied many of these large size over the years, so I remember to bail from that size since I have multiple backups.


I holler to Lee and Alex that the climb is not promising, that I’ve seen the first 3 pitches and might not want to see the next 5 pitches, that I’ve set a bail anchor and that I’d really appreciate somebody to climb up to clean the gear. By combining nearly 3 pitches together the pro was scattered across a broad swath which also featured many stout bushes. To clean the extended pitch on rappel would be more than annoying.


Alex wasn’t having any part of it, he was already scrambling down the slabs to the creek. Lee wasn’t interested either. I asked again, earnestly and Lee obliged. But he declined to climb, instead asked me to fix the orange rope and he tied into purple. He batman’d up the orange rope while I took in slack on purple. He never once put his hand on the climb. I was disappointed; I wanted somebody to recognize the horror I had just endured.


Maybe “Sunday Cruise” is a sarcastic route name. What I suffered was anything but a Sunday cruise. Or, maybe it’s relative. Since the route next door is a Grade V A3 perhaps a 5.9 free climb is certainly a Sunday cruise? I dunno.


But I would be mighty interested to hear from others that have topped out on Sunday Cruise. I think all the kitty litter comes from the white spot in that huge dihedral of Checkered Demon. I didn’t think the rock on Sunday Cruise was decomposing like that, there was just this thick carpet of kitty litter, everywhere. But the rock on Sunday Cruise was poor, even if not decomposing like that. Most of the flakes were useless to put pro behind. Most of the blocks were similar. Both features were scary to use for climbing upward.


When Lee reached my stance he found a horn with some very old slings, so I removed my bail nuts and we rapped from the slings. Another rap down slabs brought us to Alex. We then hiked the creek, down to the road. It is a long ways. I could give gory details of the ensuing hour or two, but since we were headed downhill I don’t’ think we have much to complain about. We reached a spur road from the main road, followed the spur until it joined the main road. The spur is so overgrown with alder and salmonberry you cannot see it as you drive by on the main road.


We walked back up the main road about 1 mile to our car. Done.


Oh, but wait! We each left our big packs at the top of the Granite Sidewalk. We were intending to climb Sunday Cruise up to the summit of Exfoliation Dome then rap off the front, down to our packs. Nobody wanted to make that ascent. Nobody wanted to make the subsequent descent. We all agree that it needed to be one person. One of us could easily Sherpa the group of packs, solo. So we played Rock Paper Scissors between the 3 of us.


Alex challenged me. I lost. But we had agreed to play Best Out of 3. So Alex and I did it again. I lost.


I challenged Lee. I lost. Great. If I lost again then I was the Big Loser.


I won! There was hope.


Until I lost. So I sweated up the Granite Sidewalk for the second time that day, and then sped down in fading light.


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