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Sean Maher

[TR] Green Giant Buttress, Darrington - Dreamer/Urban Bypass 4/9/2016

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Trip: Green Giant Buttress, Darrington - Dreamer/Urban Bypass

 

Date: 4/9/2016

 

Trip Report:

This is my first trip report, so any feedback (too much beta/not enough conditions info, etc) would be appreciated. The report with photos can be found on my blog: http://craggingabroad.blogspot.com/2016/04/dreamerurban-bypass-510b-darrington-wa.html

 

In the depths of my Friday-evening climbing despair ("no one wants to climb with me waaaahhhhh") came a return text from the darkness: an acquaintance from school was down not only to go climbing but to do a big trad route on my WA tick list! An hour later we were on our way out of Tacoma, careening towards a huge granite dome looming above the forests behind the small town of Darrington.

 

The final nine miles of rocky road were never meant to be passed by a Honda Civic and it took us nearly an hour before we could go no further due to down trees. After a quick sorting of gear and eating of pizza we settled down for a short nap.

 

Here is a breakdown of our day:

3:45 am- got up, ate breakfast, packed up camp

4:30 am- started hiking

7:20 am- reached top of approach slabs and started climb

1:20 pm- started rappelling at top of pitch 8

3:00 pm- packed up at base of 8 rappels and hiked out

5:30 pm- back at the car

6:30 pm- back on the highway

 

The approach was adventurous to say the least- four miles of dilapidated forest trail, a river crossing, scrambling up a stream beneath tunnel of brush, kicking steps up steep snow, and smearing up blank slabs in hiking boots sums it up. Oh yes, and it was in the dark!

 

We reached the first set of anchors as the sun poked from behind a distant ridge. Eric lead off on the easy 5.5 slab, which was deceptively long! The next anchors looked to be only 70-80 feet away but Eric stretched the rope out a full 60 m to get there.

 

We swung leads and I cruised up more of the same slab, but slightly steeper and with a gear-protected layback. The length of the pitch was another optical illusion, with 100 feet suddenly turning to 200 by the time i reached the bolted belay. It was hard to get a sense of scale on this ocean of granite!

 

Next it was Eric's turn to lead the crux of our chosen start to the route: the Urban Bypass at 5.10b. The innocent-looking slab became steeper and blanker, culminating in full smears with no hands to reach a pocket just below the next anchor. Eric took a few falls at the top before finishing the pitch and I managed to follow it clean, but only by the skin of my teeth!

 

Above Urban Bypass, I got slightly off-route on a mess of bolt lines decorating a slighly less-blank slab. This resulted in Eric having to lead a fifth pitch that turned out to be harder than expected, with hard slab moves directly above a roof threatening a bad fall. He ended up about 40 feet right of the intended line and had to belay with a bolt-supplemented gear anchor.

 

My turn. To get us back on route I had to go up on thin edges with microcams for pro, swing out across a blank slab using ripped-up slings on a dead tree for a handrail, and make a long under-clinging roof traverse. This turned out not be the most technically challenging thing in the world, but the exposure and the unknown were freaky! Above this, more undercling moves and an exposed step brought me to the "blue crack"- a fun ~60 ft lay-back flake to anchors.

 

All of this adventuring started to get to Eric, who is more experienced with sport climbing. He bemoaned the emotional strain of the route but agreed to go at least a bit further provided I do the leading. To be honest I was looking forward to the security of a toprope on the next pitch, but the call of the summit pushed me onwards. This climb was definitely the hardest and longest of my multipitch experiences so far and I was determined to finish it one way or another.

 

Unfortunately these ambitions started to crumble when Eric got to the next belay, seriously freaked out and pushing me to descend. Pitch 7 involved more insecure slab moves and another undercling roof-traverse which wasn't friendly to the exposure-adverse! I argued that I wanted to at least get one pitch higher since I'd never climbed higher than 7 pitches before. Eric conceded to this and belayed me on another wild pitch of run-out face climbing on knobs and edges.

 

Eric seemed to enjoy the pitch despite his vertigo/tiredness, but he was also pretty adamant about not venturing the last two pitches to the top (more 5.9 knobs and 5.6 scrambling). I really wanted to continue, but didn't want to provoke a confrontation or melt-down either and so agreed to rap off from there. I wonder if I did the right thing by practicing some humility to assuage his discomfort, or if it would have been better for both us to push through the difficulties and experience the joy of finishing the route? Who can say. Eight rappels straight down the climb got us back to my pack, and 2.5 hours of walking got us back to the security of the car.

 

Waterfall and Green Giant Buttress in the afternoon light

Despite not quite reaching the summit it was still a spectacular outing with good climbing and beautiful scenery. Knowing that only maybe two more hours of climbing and rappelling would have brought us back with plenty of daylight also gives me confidence that I can do big routes at technical grades. I can't wait for the next adventure!

 

Gear Notes:

a single set of nuts, a couple microcams and c4s through #3 with doubles in #2 did us fine. There are lots of bolts, but pitches 5 and 6 are mostly on gear.

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Cool, sounds like a good adventure. At least you didn't get your rope stuff on the rap off as there is a rope swallowing flake or two in there.

 

I've turned around a couple pitches from the top on longer D-town routes too either due to partners or time. It's always good if you get back down safe so that's never the wrong answer for me. Sometimes though a 10 minute break with some food and water if you have it, and THEN a thoughtful discussion about your descent, daylight remaining, conditions, etc can do wonders to get someone to push that one or two more pitches. Especially something you are going to rap. Sometimes it's best just to head down to the beer though and go back again next time with a new or newly psyched partner!

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You are lucky just to be on that thing this time of year, it's usually wet this early.

 

There's a certain physcology to getting someone to keep climbing to the top when they want to go down. The best thing to mention is if you are past the major cruxes. It may also help to identify and analyze exactly what is bothering your partner. It also helps to be confident returning on a climbing trail in the dark which takes some experience.

 

Big climbs like this are usually more fun on the 2nd go round anyway. Some of the mental pressure is off because you at least know where you are going.

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Cool, sounds like a good adventure. At least you didn't get your rope stuff on the rap off as there is a rope swallowing flake or two in there.

 

Yeah to climbers left of the urban bypass. I can tell a story about that one.

 

It was our first time summiting the route and it was getting late. We were a little aprehensive on the raps so we tied knots in the end of the ropes. We threw the ropes (twins) on the urban bypass pitch rap and let them hang straight down from the anchor which puts them right in the flakes. I rapped down and the ends were stuck so I couldn't get to the next station which is a little to the side. So I rapped down to where they were stuck and looked down in the crack, my heart sank. Down inside the crack, right were our ropes went in there were no less than five cut off ropes.

 

And there were knots in the ends so it was assumed to be pretty hopeless. I gave them a tug and they wouldn't budge at all. Tugged harder, nothing, thinking about cutting because it's getting late. Pull as hard as possible not worried about damage if they are going to be cut anyway..... and they suddenly popped out of the crack. Unbelievable

 

Sigh of relief, it was then a fine day.

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Wow that's a very successful first trip to the Green Giant, I'd say! The respectful alpine start clearly pleased the karma gods mightily. My first visit departed Seattle at 8 am with predictable results...

 

Cool, sounds like a good adventure. At least you didn't get your rope stuff on the rap off as there is a rope swallowing flake or two in there.

The hot tip is to rappel Safe Sex, which is climbers right of Dreamer. Not only will you keep your rope, but discover another great line for your next visit.

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Thanks- judging by the responses it seems early starts are not the norm on Green Giant, but I don't know how we would've finished before dark without one! I guess more daylight in high season would help.

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The early start is a good idea, and I don't think atypical of climbers who are successful on that route. In fact, I believe an early start is essential.

 

It is a fairly long climb, route finding can be an issue, and it is not roadside: many parties wander around on the approach hike, which is not on a maintained trail and is pretty long even if you know the way.

 

The route faces southeast. On a sunny day it heats up before you even get started. Cool days or cloudy days where rain is not predicted are preferable.

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