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[TR] WA Pass and Mazama - West Face of NEWS 6/22/2013

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Trip: WA Pass and Mazama - West Face of NEWS


Date: 6/22/2013


Trip Report:

Solstice weekend began with a 3 pm pickup from Redmond and a tedious journey in traffic up I-5 N. Tedious for Kevin that is, as I took a much needed nap, waking up just in time for a coffee stop in Tulalip. The rest of the drive went without a hitch besides circumnavigating some slow RVs. Highway 20 is always a beautiful drive so we tried to focus on that instead of the fact we'd been in the car for four hours. Shortly after 7 we pulled off to look at Spontaneity Arete with high, but unrealistic hopes of climbing on dry rock before nightfall. Quickly snapping a few pictures and decided that our solstice ascent would indubitably not occur at pass level we hopped back into the car and crossed our fingers Goat Wall would be dry.

Luckily the weather gods were one step behind us (where they would stay for the rest of the weekend) and we arrived to overcast, but dry conditions. We played rock, paper, scissors for first lead, racked up and with beer and camera in backpack leisurely ambled up to the base of the Methow Inspiration Route. 5 pitches of fun 5.9 with a few sporty run outs brought us to the finish just as darkness set in. It was the perfect place to sit and enjoy the end of the longest day of the year with some Juniper IPAs we had picked up in Yosemite two falls prior. We had been saving them for a special occasion and decided 2 years might be a little too long to age beer. We were pleasantly surprised at how nicely the juniper berries had mellowed and fully enjoyed each and every drop before rapping in the dark.


We set up camp after midnight and went to bed with bellies full of chicken sandwiches and bourbon. According to the forecast Saturday was supposed to be the money weather day and because we weren't worried about beating any storms we felt ok sleeping in just a little bit. To our dismay when we awoke Saturday morning the chance of rain and thunderstorms for the day had gone up significantly. We made coffee and breakfast in denial and as we got our gear together we couldn't help but ignore plan B might have to be enacted (Blackhawks vs. Bruins in the Stanley Cup at 5pm).

Stepping out of the car at pass level we were pleasantly surprised by partly cloudy but apparently stable conditions. We donned our boots after seeing how much snow remained on the East side of the Liberty Bell group and began our approach, remaining wary of what the rest of the day might bring. There wasn't nearly as much snow as we expected but the snow was continuous above the approach slabs. We skirted around our first of many mountain goats of the day and could see a party of 3 below the crux pitch on the West face of NEWS, which is where we were headed.


After a snack we scampered up to the base of the climb, reaching it around 2pm. No Rock Paper Scissors today as we had already decided I would take the crux pitch (Kevin had already previously climbed the route) and I started up first. We planned on linking 1 and 2, as well as 3 and 4. I opted to take the wider 5.7 corner to start more directly into the chimney and avoid rope drag. The climbing was on friable rock and was easy, but slightly awkward. Scant gear was placed to avoid drag on easy terrain and I slung a tree or two on the second pitch before setting up a belay at a tree at the top of the second pitch.

Kevin followed up and we walked to the base of the 3rd pitch which starts in a blocky broken corner. The rock looks a bit sketchy but is actually quite solid. Kevin placed gear scarcely at the start of the pitch, but ran into some rope drag on the pitch 4 traverse (fun sustained 5.9!). He conserved small gear for the belay as the topo suggested that was what you would want, although slightly higher a better belay existed with gear 1-3".

I felt intimidated looking up at the thin start to pitch 5, and was a little shaky starting. I had never led 5.11 trad and definitely let the grade get into my head. I got a couple moves into the thinnest section and feeling off balance took on a red C3. After allowing myself the break and a couple deep breaths I started again, much more confident, but still stitched up the crack and by the top of the pitch was left wishing it went on longer (it is only about 50 feet long, with the crux lasting about 10 feet). Kevin followed me up cleanly with only a bit of grunting and cursing.


Until that point of the day we had experienced a mix of sun and clouds, but as Kevin started up pitch 6 a consistent light drizzle set in. The clouds were building and a particularly ominous gray cloud sat to our NW. It was definitely the money pitch, beginning with fun 5.10 locks and then becoming cruiser 5.9 fingers to hands. The whole pitch ate up medium to large nuts.


Summiting we realized how lucky we had been weather wise. Looking out towards Mazama there were sheets of rain coming down over the highway. We congratulated ourselves on a fun successful climb and began rapping, resigned to the fact we would very likely be experiencing a wet descent. The rap into the gully was straightforward on good bolts. On a 70 m rope the last rappel took us to within 50 feet of the chockstone boulder. We carefully downclimbed the snow. We then had a conversation with another goat that ignored us as he munched on bushes a few feet away from where we set up one more mini rappel. Below us on the snowfield a momma and baby goat watched us curiously until we threw our ropes sending them running over low class 5th slabs on SEWS.


Reaching the snowfield we were once again surprised to be almost uncomfortably warm as the sun shone down on us. We briefly chatted with the party that had been in front of us as we packed up back at the base and then started our hike out. We fumbled along uneventfully, but as we neared the car we got word from someone running to call for help that a climber had been hurt high on Liberty Bell. He indicated that others were headed up with gear and sleeping bags. It was about 8:45 pm and after asking if there was anything we could do to help we decided to head back to town, having no overnight gear or first aid equipment. We did learn the next morning that they had spent the night but a rescue was underway- we hope everything worked out and it turns into a great bar story in retrospect.

It rained all Saturday night in Mazama (we are hoping it didn't at the pass) but we woke up to a beautiful Sunday morning. After breakfast at the general store we rounded out the weekend with some cragging at the 'climbing rock' before heading back over a rainy pass to Seattle. All in all a great weekend, with some great luck with weather.



Gear Notes:

Took recommended rack, doubles to 2", one 3" cam


Approach Notes:

Snow above the slabs on approach

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How does the Inspiration Route compare to Prime Rib? I was on PR on Friday afternoon and only got a bit of light drizzle around p8 but it dried up for the top pitch. We had talked about climbing the Inspiration Route but the guide book doesn't sell it so well.


We also looked longingly at Spontaneity Arete but went for a trail run near Maple Pass instead.

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Nice job you two! Sounds like you scored weather-wise up there last weekend. Way to sneak in some great climbs between the storms.



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