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dave schultz

[TR] Spontaneous WA Pass and Leavenworth 9/11-9/13

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Trip: Spontaneous WA Pass (West Face, SW Rib, South Buttress) and Pearly Gates


Date: 11-13 Sept 2015


Trip Report:

I currently live in Upstate New York, but was visiting friends in VA Beach and had plans for the weekend to climb in Seneca Rocks, WV. The forecasted weather was off and on for the weekend, and when it looked immanent that I was not going to get lucky with the forecast I started looked at any and all options for something to salvage my five days off from work.


I sent feelers to all of my previous consistent partners (NC, SoCal, and PNW) and had one possibility but he needed to iron something out before he could commit. Fortunately, another cc.com user had posted looking for a partner for the same time frame and I sent him an email. He responded quickly and on Wednesday night at 8pm (EST) I bought my ticket for 645am Thursday out of DC, which was also a four hour drive away.


I arrived at the airport and packed at the drop off curb with stuff I happen to have with me based on the assumption I would be climbing at Seneca Rocks. The airport security went without a problem, though it took nearly 20 minutes to get through. I arrived at SEATAC and John picked me up and off we went. We stopped for food and water, and got to deal with some great bumper-bumper traffic; which gave us time to go back-and-forth with what route and what combination for our three days. We arrived at Blue Lake in time for about seven hours of sleep.


Friday we got up at 5am and at 6am were headed up to NEWS. We started up the West Face at about 745am and went pretty smooth and fast. John took the first two pitches to the beginning of the 5.9 traverse, and I took the next three pitches to the summit slab area where John topped us out around noon. We took our obligatory pictures and made quick work of the rappels to reset for the SW Rib of SEWS. I started us up at around 130pm and we took the third pitch 5.10b variation (which I thought was the 5.6 variation, and that it would climb easier than it looked); John took the final pitch to summit and we topped out around 5pm. We took our pictures, scoped the descent, and headed down after a few minutes. We caught up with a group of three guys who had come up the South Arete and shared our ropes to make fast work of the final three raps – thanks guys! John and I got to our cached gear around 620pm and started back down to the parking lot around 640pm. We got to the car around 8pm with just enough light to not need headlamps.


We debated what route to do Saturday, either the East Face of Lexington or the South Buttress of Cutthroat. We ended up going for Cutthroat and it was a blast. After a little back on forth on the start – the Supertopo description says the east end of the long guardrail when I think they mean the west end of the long guardrail – we finally located the cairns, and at 615am we set off. We made fast work down to and across the stream, then up the meadows to the left-most approach gully and were at the notch and started climbing at 815am. John led and we simuled the first six or seven pitches to where you “crawl under the chockstone,” around this point a soloist showed up and we chatted for a bit and let him pass on through. John then led us to the 5.7 boulder problem in the notch, I took the boulder problem and the next section to just below the summit, and John took the last section to the summit and we topped out around 2pm. We easily found the first rappel station, but the second was a little more skiers left than expected so we lost some time searching for it, we eventually found it. The second rappel seemed to come up just short of the north side ledge system (with a 60m rope) and we opted to stop on top of the crest and add a length of cord around a boulder and make a third rappel onto the north side ledge system. We chose to pitch out some of the third and fourth class scrambling and found the next section of rappel anchors without too much trouble. Again, the second station proved to be in a different location than what the topo showed, but this time it was much farther skiers right. The last two rappels we fast and we bottomed out around 5pm and were back at the car around 630pm.


We knew the forecast called for dropping temps Saturday night and on Sunday, so we drove into Winthrop to confirm the forecast. With my lack of warmer clothing we opted to head south to Icicle Creek to check out the Pearly Gates. The easy approach allowed for flip flops and a leisurely few routes before heading back to Seattle to catch up with some other friends and finally a drop off at the airport around 1030pm for my 1245am flight. No problems getting my carry-on baggage through the SEATAC security – almost like they have seen it before.


After climbing lots of single and short multipitch in NY and NH it was great to get back to the PNW to get on some longer alpine routes, and am looking forward to my next trip back to the Cascades.


Thanks a ton to John for picking me up at the airport and doing all the driving, another John for feeding me dinner and giving me a shower Sunday night, and Alex for taking me back to the airport!


Adams, Little Tahoma, Rainier, St Helens from the plane.



John taking apart the anchor before the 11a pitch.



John working his was up.



Glacier Peak in the distance, fantastic visibility and views.



Looking down on the bear hug.



Riding the Camel Hump.



Baby (?) squirrel with a giant (relative) acorn.



Cutthroat on the approach.



Cutthroat on the approach.



Great views.



Liberty Bell Group.



John at the summit.



Double photo op.



Strange looking marmot, later identified as a "hoary" marmot.



Liberty Bell group.



Liberty Bell group.


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That is some serious dedication to rock climbing, awesome that worked out with a last minute flight across the country. Can't beat the west coast for climbing!

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