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first ascent [TR] Colchuck Balanced Crag - Milk n' Honey 5.11 8/24/2010

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Trip: Colchuck Balanced Crag - Milk n' Honey 5.11


Date: 8/24/2010


Trip Report:

Over the last three months Craig Rankin, Abe Traven and myself made three quick trips to CBR to explore the rock on the right side of the West Face. During the first trip back in June, after warming up on the Scoop(awsome!) we esablished Leche la Vaca on the far right side of the massif.


Leche was climbed ground up with minimal cleaning and required and no fixed gear. All the belays were from comfortable ledges with excellent protection. The climbing was amazingly fun, and varied from perfect cracks to knobby corners, huge solid flakes and a tricky little roof at the top. With four pitches ranging from 5.8-5.10 it seemed the perfect compliment to the more difficult free routes already established on CBR at that point. We were stoked and immediately began planning another trip to go back for more!


The next two trips yielded two more full length routes up the steep West Face(Rikki Tikki Tavi .11 and Milk'n Honey .11) and a growing handful of variations and stand alone pitches scattered along the way. Everything was climbed free, ground up without the need of pre-cleaning. The few loose blocks that we encountered were able to be tossed off safely by the second.


Since June we have free climbed at least 18 new pitches on the face. At this point there are seven full length free routes and over 30 pitches of outstanding trad climbing. Including the Tempest and the Scoop from last summer, and the recent addition of Scarface up the far left side of the wall, CBR is without a doubt the premier alpine crag of Washington. The climbing is on near perfect Index quality granite but much more sustained and Yosemite like in character. There are number of long splitter cracks that rival the enduro classics of the valley.


Perhaps the most interesting development does not so much involve the climbing as it does the new approach. Paranoid Edit By literally burrowing through the mountainside via a hidden, long forgotten fissure we were able to reach the col in a causal sub three hour hike from the parking lot. This new approach has already drawn more climbers to the area. Please be respectful and conscientious.


[soapbox Alert]

Pack it out! Camp on the rocks out of the meadow. Don't shit near the water. DON'T burry your shit. Use the desert method. Shit on a flat sunny rock and spread it out with a stick. Pack out your papers. The sun and air will take care of the rest. Don't believe me? Look it up. http://humanurehandbook.com/


Gear Notes:

double rack'o widgets


Approach Notes:

Milk N' Honey .11


It starts to the right of the start of The Scoop and left of Rikki Tikki Tavi.


Climbs an easy corner up to blocky roofs then pulls through a

strenuous flare(.10 akward) belays above in a good corner. P2 5.9-

fingers layback then easy up to bushy ledge right of Scoop pitch. P3

climb large L facing corner up to cracks in slab. P4 is the real

money. Climb up slabs from belay into corner with two cracks. Climb

up cracks arching left until a thin crack that cuts out right through

an overlap(.11). Pull through that onto face above and more easy

climbing to ledge just left of the cobra head. Awsome.



Edited by inacan

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Agreed that CBR is one of the highest-quality pieces of rock in the Cascades, and with a short, bushwack-free approach. Nice work on the new routes - all look excellent from the photos.


How 'bout a photo of the face with lines drawn in, showing both established routes and your new routes? And yeah, new approach beta? Do you mean that you went around the east side of the lake? I've done that a couple times and concluded it wasn't as good. But with a bit of a trail it would certainly be much shorter than going around the west side of the lake.


By the way, Scarface, which climbs the rock scar, does not climb where the NW Buttress used to be (as reported in the TR) - it climbs where the "West Face, left side" used to be. The confusion is caused by the photo in the brown Beckey guide, which shows the line of the "West Face, left side" very close to the year date (1984 I think? don't have the book in front of me) that marks the Northwest Buttress. By the same confusion I climbed the "West Face, left side" (now "Scarface") several years ago, when I intended to climb the Northwest Buttress. From the description of Scarface, it sounds like the first few pitches are the same as they used to be - warm-up on an awesome 10a handcrack that goes almost a full pitch!

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Luckily someone recently put together just such a topo: http://cascadeclimbers.com/forum/ubbthreads.php/topics/975043/Colchuck_Balanced_Rock#Post975043


Thanks for clearing up the N Buttress/1984 line confusion. I found the Beckey guide very confusing (go figure). So the '84 line went into the scar, but then that portion of the route fell off? There are so many quality cracks on that face there is probably another 10 high quality routes to be done.

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beckey says theirs a x-country route that turns off

the main trail at the bridge to hel basin? is that it? pg 243

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New approach cuts around the other side of the like (i.e. the near side). Cross @ the log jam and look for cairns. It will save an hour easy.

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Yeah, the "West Face, left side" (I'd refer to it by the FA party, but I don't have my Beckey guide here), went straight up into where the rockscar now is. Based on your line, it looks like "Scarface" is not really a new route at all, but merely a few new pitches through the rock scar. I don't mean to belittle your climb at all, because I think it's super cool that you guys climbed through the rock scar, but I don't think it's really a new route since the terrain above and below looks to be exactly the same.


Indeed, that handcrack down low is awesome, eh?


Agreed that there is still lots of room for more routes on variations on that quality face. Our own mini version of the Incredible Hulk!

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