Finally, a weekend without a chance of rain in the forecast. Eric and I met up with Jessica (VW climbing team) and Mike from the climbing gym on Saturday morning to beat the late day heat and climb some boulders In Gold Bar. The adjoining bouldering  areas of Sanctuary, Forest and Clearcut beneath Zeke’s Wall were once roadside. However, the timber company closed the dirt road that leads to the boulders. Thus, getting to the Clearcut, Forest and Sanctuary bouldering areas now required about a three mile walk up the hill from Reiter Road. Many folks head to boulder problems closer to the road, so the area usually has less folks. Plus, the walk allows to a built in warmup.

Our plan was to hit the boulders in Clearcut first since it has the most sun exposure. The walk took no more than an hour. We began on Clef Crack V0… that did not feel like a V0. It is a slanted crack with some jug holds. Figuring out the foot/hands holds is not difficult, but executing is! We climbed Warm Up Slab V0 in The Forest area which borders Clearcut next. This felt like a true V0.

Eric and Jessica next worked on The Razor V2 and Button V3. Mike and I played around on what was supposed to be easy routes nearby: The Catcher V0 and Shortstop V1+. I have unsuccessfully worked on these routes previously and still had no success today. Everyone agreed that the routes were sandbagged though.

We went in search of Que Luna boulder only to pass it twice. We found out from other climbers that the boulder is only accessible in early srping and early autumn when the lush greenery that engulfs it dies back. We ended up back in the shaded Sanctuary working on Chocolate V3, It’s Doo Doo Baby V3 and So it Seams V2. We wanted to do some problems that are toward the back of the Sanctuary, but they were covered in moss. We did not have brushes stiff enough to clean them unfortunately.

We ended the day at Devastation V2 in the forest. A burly roof climb with character. Like all the other problems (exception of Warm Up Slab) I was unable to complete it. But according to Eric my climbing is much smoother and stronger than the last time he saw me boulder outside. I’ll take the compliment… but it doesn’t stop the frustration. Then again, i wouldn’t boulder if I didn’t enjoy being frustrated!

 

Colleen and I decided to climb a Whutza Point in Icicle Canyon due to it selection of intermediate level climbs 5.7-5.10a. The area is located beyond Playground Point, a popular weekend area. We followed the climbers trail to behind the highest tier of Playground Point. Then the trail faded to a goat track which sometimes all but vanished. The bush whacking wasn’t too difficult as we were mostly navigated

only through grassy terraces and some boulder piles. More or less we just headed straight ahead passed the lone Block Party Route. We ran into the the separate short wall with routes “Birthday Greeting” and “Bottle of Whine” a few feet higher than the main wall of Whutza Point first. We located the main wall several yard own and left of this short wall. Mot of the route have a combination of bolts and trad gear.

We began the day on the namesake 100ft “Whutza Point” 5.7 route. The route is mostly friction slab (my favorite) with a few difficult moves mostly near the top of the wall. On the ledge 2/3 of the way through the route there is a large ledge. The rest of the route require the climbers to climb over the top of a large bush to get the the wall. A great warmup. We pulled the rope and Colleen led it as well.

Next we moved over to Zerberts another 5.7. The bottom half of this route was super blocky and I led it efficiently until reaching the last yard or so. It is a thin crack that involved me doing two things I hate: using a crack and putting all my weight on one foot while on a tiny hold. It took me quite a long time to stop procrastinating and finally do the required moves. In the end I didn’t fall and led my first true crack (even though it was short). Colleen led the same route and then set up a top-rope on the next route Indian Burn 5.8 (all routes have chain anchors).

Indian Burn is a sweet friction climb. If we had time we would have led it. But the sun was beginning to beat down on us. We decided to call it for the day as far a roped climbing and headed back down to retrieve my crash pad. I wanted to finished my project.

The Hueco Route V1 which I have written about previously has been bothering me ever since I left in unfinished late April. My first attempt at the route reawakened the moves, but I only got to where I had been last time… two moves below the finish. However, I was not completed wasted and breathing heavy getting up to that point like last month. Colleen gave it a shot and was able to Flash it. I tried again, this time making it to the two Hueco Pockets hold that is the finish. FINALLY!

With that we headed up to the next overhung “room”. Eric had finished a route called Barnacles V1 here. It is a sit start that requires the feet to traverse along the bottoms of the wall in huecos before launching for a high reach crimp. We launched at the crimp for about a hour before finally being able to stick it. Then we discovered that the launch wasn’t even the crux! We did eventually follow the rippling seams and stem to the top out. Fun route. We joined up with a boulderer from Alaska to working out Flounder V2, a very short roof problem starting on slopers Colleen managed to finish it, but at that point my body was done for the day, although I was happen that the sloper holds didn’t give me problems, just the dead point to the jug.

Climbers are a small community and finding a partner can be a difficult feat. Even more difficult is located a partner that you not only climb well with, but also get along with off the rock. So when you find a person who might have this potential we tend take a gamble. That’s what Colleen and I did anyway. We met each other over a year ago while climbing in Leavenworth with our husbands and have a 15 minute conversation. Afterwards we only communicated on Facebook due to them living in Canada (and then traveling to Turkey for several months). When they returned from Turkey, Colleen and I decided to randomly meet up and go climbing in the Central Cascades for two days based on the 15 minute meeting over a year ago!

We began the day mid-afternoon and headed over to Index Town Wall. Our plan was the climb the classic route Great Northern Slab, 5.6. Instead of scrambling up to the start of the route Colleen tried to lead Lizard Crack, 5.8. It’s a gnarly fist crack and since this is Index the rating is heavily sandbagged. There is a silver fixed cam jammed at the crux toward the top. As it turned out after a 30 minutes of unsuccessful jamming and smearing I lowered Colleen and also gave it an unsuccessful attempt. The rock was bit damp due to the earlier rain, so I found that even though my fist jam was solid I could not do the required smear off the already low friction left wall. We decided to call it out the crack and scrambled (class 4) to the base of three pitch Great Northern Slab.

Colleen led the first pitch which is short and blocky. It is probably rated about a 5.3-4. There are giant railroad chains at the end that can be girth hitched with runners and clipped into as an anchor.

I lead the second pitch. I’ve climbed this route twice before, but have never led this pitch. It is definitely the longer and more difficult. First the you must navigate over an awkward bulge featuring an off-width crack. It is well protected though making it easier on the mind. There is a tree to sling almost directly afterward. A nearly vertical double crack system protected well with nut placement leads normal chain anchors. It’s a pretty uncomfortable belay stance though. We swung leads and Colleen led up the final pitch which is more difficult to protect. It is most friction with some horizontal cracks before topping out in the trees with chain anchors.

We did three rappels to the very bottom of the wall avoiding the scramble down. By now it was early evening and time to hit the road for Leavenworth.

Note that since it had rained earlier in the morning some routes that were stems or chimneys that we passed where still wet. These features dry more slowly.

 

Many folks climb Mt Defiance (4,920ft)  in preparation to climb Mount Hood. Eric and I decided to do things a bit backwards. We climbed Mt Defiance the day after climbing Hood. We used the loop variation beginning practically at sea level. We climbed up Starvation Ridge and then descending the Mt Defiance Trail totaling 12.9 miles. There are other easier way to climb to the summit beginning at trail heads that start at higher elevations. But that’s cheating!

We began at 6:00am. We confused and turned left on the paved path along Highway 84. We realized after a half-mile and not coming to the Starvation Cutoff Junction that we must be going the wrong way. So we turned back and found a paved path on the other side of the parking lot paralleling 84 west. The cutoff was at .4 miles. The Starvation Ridge Trail is pretty steep for a day hike and levels out only for short stretches. We quickly rose high above the Columbia River Gorge staying left at another junction. We were granted with open views of the Gorge before disappearing into the forest.

We followed the ridge for quite some time happy to be the the shade as the sun was beginning to break through the clouds. We got some views of Mt Adams on the open scree slopes before reaching another junction in the forest was a faded signs. We turned right here heading to Warren Lake (don’t get confused and go left on the Warren Lake Trail…you will not end up at Warren Lake… its confusing). Warren Lake is full of campsites. We skirts the side of the lake and across some large scree and talus piles.

Every now and then we were afforded with views of Adams and The base of Helens (the top was covered by clouds), but we soon entered the forest again. We made a left at the next two junctions before the final 500ft push to the summit crossing two service roads.

The top of Mt Defiance is disheartening in my opinion because there are radio towers and small building located on the summit. This makes sense since it is the highest point in the Columbia River Gorge.. however, see this infrastructure after climbing for 6.6 miles takes the wilderness right out of things. The view of Mt Hood was quite grand though. We didn’t linger long, but descended about 100ft to open area of scree that afforded an even better view of Hood without the towers buzzing behind us. We rested here before turning right at the junction and heading down the Mount Defiance Trail.

We took lefts at two junctions as the trail wasted no time in dropping elevation. At one point we there were switchback no more than one yard in length making us wonder why they even bothered. The grad evened a bit the the switched back lengthened as the Columbia River Came Back into view. The sun was hot by now as we were excited to be mostly in the shade with a nice breeze every now and then. Even more refreshing was Lancaster Falls… the spray was wonderful and putting our heads under the flow exceptional!

We arrived back at the trail head just as the clouds rolled in and raindrops fell from the sky. Eric and I cooked dinner in a picnic area by Starvation Falls. Then it was time to get some rest before our long drive back to WA at 2am to beat the Memorial Day traffic.

Mount Hood (11,250 ft) is the most climbed mountain in America for good reason. The South Side Route begins at the Timberline Ski Lodge at 5,800 Feet allowing folks to climb to the summit of the volcano right from their vehicle as opposed to an overnight base camp. This is the route most commonly used to the mountain and it sees hundreds of climbers each day. The unfortunate consequences to the mountain accessibility is the attraction of ill-prepared people who treat the technical and dangerous ascent as if it was a day-hike. Thus, the death toll on the mountain huge. I was going to count the fatalities, but the list was too long. Mt Hood is known for ice & rock fall and quickly changing weather. No to mention the bergschrund, avalanches, fumaroles, cornices and high winds. It is not a place for trekking poles.

With that being said, Eric and I came prepared to deal with the hazards of Mt Hood’s S. Side Route. We were elated since last year high avalanche danger prevented us from attempting the ascent. The weather looked great. It was supposed to be rainy and cloudy right up until 11:00pm which is when we intending to start the climb. Most folks begin the climb between 12am-3am due to the ice fall that occurs after the sun has been shining for a few hours. However, Eric and I knew that many accidents occurred on Mt Hood due to inexperienced climbers falling on other parties or kicking down ice from above. We wanted to be first teams in the long line of climbers heading for the summit to avoid danger and ensure that we arrived before the sun began to melt the ice.

When we arrived at Timberline we went straight the climber’s registration cave beside the Ski Lift Ticket Sales. A screen indicates the avalanche danger and weather predictions. There is also a diagram of the infamous Mt Hood Triangle. In bad weather folks tend to descend the fall line (route a ball will take if allowed to roll down a slope). However, this leads to the rocky cliffs of Zig Zag Canyon. The diagram stresses that when one cannot see the ski lifts to use a compass and descend South as opposed to just guessing. Blue bags are provided for free in the cave. There is also a free permit to fill out for the Forest Service and an option climbers register. The register document is optional, but is recommended in case you never return. It details the names of folks in your party, emergency contact, route taken and even has a checklist for all the gear they recommend you have (in other words there is no excuse to be unprepared. They tell you what you need!).

The signed climbers trail begins in the overflow lot. We parked there and after a dinner of couscous turned in for a very short rest in the front seats of my car.

Three hours later my alarm went off at 10pm. Rubbing out eyes we stretched and began our preparations. We had hydrated and carb loaded the previously day, but somehow managed to consume some more food. The sky was clearing as we clicked on our headlamps and headed to the trail. We were the first climbers to leave the parking lot at 11pm. We used our trekking pole to ascend the cat track up the right side of the mountain. Groomers were already out smoothing out the surface for skiers. Our first landmark was Silcox Hut. We never saw it in the dark. We were then supposed to follow the Palmer Ski Lift. We never saw that either. However, the cat track is a very obvious trail and made for a easy ascent up to 8,500 feet. The weather shifted from clear to rainy, to clear again with varying wind. It was a bit annoying to mange our layers, but that was all the trouble we had.

At the top of Palmer Ski Lift the cat track traverses left. This is the end of the easy walk. We put away our poles and took our of crampons and ice axe. Get to get technical. We climbed straight up following boot tracks under the stary clear sky. The smell of sulfur and various other volcanic fumes drifted in the winds. The going was steep, but using the rest step and french technique was move efficiently and constantly up the slopes.  We noticed some folks had set up a base camp on these slopes and we ahead of us. Setting up camps on Mt Hood’s South Side is frowned upon since it is an unneeded impact on the environment. Our next landmark was Crater Rock.

We could barely make out the outline of Crater Rock as we came to the base. We roped up here on the steep slope and pressed on. We passed to the right of Crater Rock and left of Devil’s Kitchen & Steel Cliffs. We found ourselves in a flat crater in the under a slowly brightening sky. Roping up in this area would have been easier. The teams ahead of up were resting or roping up here. We passed the area. Ahead I could see The Hogsback, (an obviously snow ridge) rising up to our right. I lead up the slope breaking the trail to the ridge crest. From the top i could see massive holes in the snow that looked like crevasses, but they were really melted out cave vents formed by fumaroles. The rocky towers also released smoke… more fumarole vents. I followed the Hogsback. Ahead of me right in the middle of the Hogsback was the famous bergschrund. The classic route is to go around the right of the bergschrund and then up the narrow Pearly Gates Chute known for ice fall and rotten rock. Many folks do not take the route anymore due to its deteriorating condition. Eric and I had decided prior to take the Old Chute Variation.

Halfway up the Hogsback I turned left and descended a bit before heading straight for the first wide snow chute between the icy rock towers on the mountain ridge-crest. I soon discovered though that the chute was not snow, it was ice… steep alpine ice. Easily the chute was 55 degrees and I would have really enjoyed having a second ice tool. However, I am a confident ice climber and seeing this as something similar to a W1 climb i stopped using French technique. Instead I held the middle of the ice axe shaft and swung the pick into the ice with my right hand. I place my left hand on the ice for balance and front pointed up the chute. Eric followed suit behind me. I was confident that I would not fall, but I could have easily hammered in a picket or two here.  Ice screws, which i also had, would not that worked as the ice was pretty rotten. In the chute a large chuck of ice from above hit Eric’s knee. The sun had barely been fully out for 45 minutes.

At the ridgecrest and stayed away from the thin edge as a peaked over the North Side to see Mt St. Helens, Rainier and Adams fearing a cornice. I then belayed Eric up. The final section to the summit was to our right along the ridge on a “catwalk” that was about 1 foot across in sections. Eric belayed me out as far as he could before following in case of a cornice.

We topped out at 6:30am. The summit is a broader area and the clear day granted us 360 degree views of Jefferson, Three Sisters, Rainier, Helens and Adams. We were the first to reach the summit that morning! Looking down we could see hundreds of climbers at Crater Rock and along the Hogsback. The summit was extremely windy so we didn’t linger too long. Plus we wanted to avoid ice fall on the way down from the sun. We headed back along the catwalk. Several climbers were making there way up the narrow Mazama Chute beside Old Chute. We opted to take the wider Old Chute even though it was steeper so we could keep a safe distance away from other teams.

However, we soon noticed as we descending backwards on Old Chute that there were many folks that were not in teams! There were several solo climbers. Then there were the teams that were not roped up. I saw some people with just trekking poles. Many did not have helmets. I saw teams that were roped up but with just over the yard of rope between them. Pointless! My favorite sighting, however, was a man ascending in snowshoes (no crampons!)… and to top that off he had a helmet attached to his pack, not his head! I actually stopped and suggested that he put his brain bucket on his brain due to the ice fall. I was surprised that he took my advice.

We reached Crater Rock at about 8:00pm. Surrounded by other climbers who had apparently slept in and were just roping up, we removed our harnesses and untied. We attempted to take off our crampons, but quickly realized that it was too icy to plunge step and put them back on.. We attempted to take off our crampons and glissade when the slope angle easied, but quickly discover that with so much ice glissading was more like self arresting every several feet. So the crampons went back on and were not removed up we reached the top of the Palmer Ski Lift. At this point I also removed a massive chunk of layers and plastered on more sunblock. The sun was ridiculous strong and blazing hot.

I was able to get in some pretty whimpy glissades beside the cat-track. However, I was way ahead of eric. I could see him delayering further up the mountain so I laid in the snow to keep cool. When he finally reached me he was suffering from heat exhaustion… why do we always get so hot when we’re playing on ice! We stopped so he could drink and to rest.  I rubbed snow on his face and hands to cool him down.

We finally made it down at 12:30pm. We would have been faster is it hadn’t been for the heating and the taking on and off of crampons numerous times. Mountain Rescue was in the parking lot. At 8:45pm an unroped climber descending the mountain slipped and fell. He was unable to self arrest and left go of his ice axe as he fell about 800ft and was sucked into a fumerole hole in the glacier. He was 20feet down in a tunnel of poisonous gas. We overheard a rescue working mention that he was wearing snowshoes…. was this the man I had met earlier? I’ll never know. Luckily, I later learned that mountain rescue was on the mountain practicing when the accident happened. They were able to pull him out and airlift his to a hospital. He suffered 14 broken bones. He’s lucky to be alive.

As for Eric and I, we were exhausted. We registered ourselves as returned in the Climber’s Cave and changed our clothes. Then we headed to Government Camp for lunch at the Mt Hood Brewery… and then we fell asleep in my car… while parked. Two hours later we headed to the Columbia River Gorge for our next adventure!

Eric and I headed to Oregon for the long Memorial Day Weekend. Our main objective was to climb the South Side Route of Oregon’s highest peak: Mount Hood… but first we needed a warmup hike to stretch our legs after being int he car for 6 hours! Eric and I left Friday morning at 8:30am avoiding most traffic except for a accident holdup in Olympia. We were approaching Mt Hood on Route 26 around 2:00pm with plans to hike the short Castle Canyon Trail on the west side of the town of Rhododendron. Our guidebook indicated that we should turn left of Airlie Mitchell Road. We drove through the town without seeing anything remotely resembling the road name. Double backing we noticed a road labeled Arlie Mitchell Road… only the street sign was on the other side of the road barrier. Again we made a U-turn and then turned left on the Little Brook Lane which turns into Arlie Mitchell as it bears left. The confusion was not over though. We were supposed to turn left after.25 miles on FS 1819… alas we only saw a road called FS 19 so we didn’t turn. We pulled over in the residential area and asked for directions only to discover that the Trail head was down FS 19! Another U-turn and we finally arrived at Castle Canyon Trailhead. There are about three shoulder pullouts to park in. Do not park in the driveway of the secluded homes.

Eric and I began to hike the trail happy to be able to do something other than sit in my car. It follows a ridge through the forest passing rock towers that would make great climbing routes if someone came out to clean the moss. The trail was steep and after about 1/2 mile we discovered that there was a network of intertwining trails. Our guidebook said that in .9 miles we would reach a knife edge ridge that led to a lookout. Beyond was unmaintained trail. We passed beneath rocky ridges staying on what appeared to be the main trail. I did not have my GPS so I am not sure how far we traveled before be deducted that we had gone further than the .9 miles. We turned back and took a social trail to up to one of the ridges just for fun. As it turned out we ended up on the ridge top we’d been trying to get to all along. The ridge leading to the lookout was indeed narrow. There are good foot and handhold and the climbing is not difficult. I would only rate in a class 3 scramble due to the exposure. Falling would mean tumbling down 100ft.

We returned to the trail head and continued our journey to the base of Mt Hood with legs tat no longer felt wretched.

The forecast for Saturday seemed to be rather indecisive as we examined the possibly of attempting our first alpine climb earlier last week. Rain was projected for the entire day, then rain with lightning, then rain only in the afternoon… and then finally, on Friday evening rain was absent all together. Excited with our luck, Eric and I packed our gear!

The Tooth is a rock peak near Snoqualmie Pass. It can easily be completed (only a 3 mile approach) and great early season summit. The South Face is rated 5.4, easy but very popular. In fact, it is so poular that chances are there will be at least five other parties on the wall! The route is also infamous for rock fall. With these two things in mind, Eric and I woke up at 2am! We arrived at the Lower Alpental/Snow Lake Parking area (NW Forest pass Required)  a little before 5:00am. It was drizzling (the mist was very moist) and clouds hung low concealing the peaks. We gathered our gear and were on the trail by 5am, ahead of all the other parties we hoped.

We appraoched via the Snow Lake Trail, just across the street. The track was still covered in snow with the exception of a few bare spots in the first quarter mile. Many folks had previously been on the trail before and the snow was nicely packed down. There are several area were snow melt in running beneath the snow pack making for very unstable footing. Listen carefully for the sound of running water and snow cracking. Cross one person at a time. There are several areas where there are snow bridges over creeks as well. I suggest just crossing over the water. Eric attempted to cross a bridge and it broke. Luckily he didn’t get too wet as his gore-tex boots did its job!

After several creek crossing we began to pass across several large gulleys. They were full of avalanche debris. None looked fresh though. NWAC had issued a statement the previous evening that there were no special warning, but to keep an eye out of avy signs (pinwheels, whomping, etc). We saw no signs of danger, but crossed these fields quickly.

There was supposed to be a signed junction on the trail after 2 miles, but of course the sign was covered with snow. We examined our topo map and decided that the tracks were indeed heading in the direction of the Source Lake Trail. There were no track going toward Snow Lake. We arrived at the edge of a large basin. Snow Creek laid still mostly frozen at the bottom of the steep slopes. We decided the slope angle warranted a change in gear. We strapped on our crampons and switch from poles to our ice axes. We traversed the upper slopes of the basin and then stayed beneath the rockly cliffs. we then followed the second chute after the cliffs steeply up. The Rest step and french techniques came in handy in this area. It was tiresome, but much better that grappling with the talus and scree that laid beneath the snow (this is a benefit of climbing early season here).

After the hill fooled up with several false top outs we found ourselves in another basin. Before us on the right stood The Tooth… or the base of it. We couldn’t see the top due to the mist. We continued climbing up the basin. We saw a group of three ahead of us heading up Pineapple Pass in the far distance. We assumed they had taken the shorter, but less popular approach through the valley.

The Tooth’s South Face is accessed via Pineapple Pass, the second notch to the left of the climb.It was easy to locate, but of course it was also very steep. As we neared the final portion of the approach we noticed a group of about ten folks about .25-.5 miles behind us. We front pointed up keeping an eye on the party and moving efficiently. We didn’t want ten people kicking rocks down on us!

At the Pineapple Pass we removed our crampons and slightly descended about one yard or so and followed the trickly scramble across base of a small tower. It looked like it was a rock scramble, but it ended up being mostly on steep snow, so i would recommend leaving on the crampons. However, there was such a well defined kicked our staircase on the steep sections downward that it would not be bad judgement go without the spikes. After traversing the scramble we climbed up again to some rock and to the base of the South Face,

A gentleman with a radio was there by what ended up being a very long top rope setup. He informed up that the group of ten behind us was the Washington Alpine Club Basic Climbing Students. They were going to climb the Tooth via the top ropes they had set up. He informed the instructors of our presence and, as was polite, told us to set up and go first. They would wait for us to finish the first pitch before sending up students and stay behind us.

Eric and I began our gearing up process. There are two rap option on the route, it is polite to rappel off the North Face when there is another party instead of the climbing route, but they instructors told us not to worry and rap the South Face. We gladly accepted, happy to be able to leave our heavy packs at the base and ascend with our summit packs.

Eric pondered out loud “I think i can leave some food at the base. I mean, there aren’t going to be any chipmunks up here this early season.”

Not 2 seconds after this statement a chipmunk ran by, happily anticipating his next meal! Eric glared at the little critter and pull all his food in his summit pack!

We headed to the base just as the students arrived. I led this first pitch. It is about 100 ft. I admit that I ran out most of the route. I Placed about three nuts, one cam (DMM Dragon 0) and slung a horn & tree. There are a few sections where you can make the climb harder than 5.4 by going slightly left or right. But mostly it was blocky, easy climbing with one small crack section (which I detoured around and did a friction variation instead). Along the way I passed a tree with rap webbing on a ledge. This is not the first belay spot. The end of the first pitch is at the second tree with rap slings on a larger ledge. I planned to skip the first belay and climb the 60ft second pitch. However, the budging ledge just above the belay spot started to cause some rope drag. Looking up at the next section, I predicted that it was the crux section. I did not want to be dragging rope ont he crux and my rack was looking sparse. I put two slings on a solid horn and called off belay.

I belayed Eric up facing outward, a rare treat. Eric and I swapped gear and he began pitch 2. He was in mountaineering boot (I had on my rock shoes)  and the delicate crux moves resulted in some ungraceful climbing techniques as a result. However, he soon found his rythem and disappeared behind a bulge. I belayed out more than 60ft and was informed by the instructor just below me that he’s heard on the radio that Eric was combining the 2 & 3rd pitches. I got over the crux much with much more grace with my rock shoes. Eric placed 2 hexes, a # 3 DMM cam and about 3 nuts on the second pitch. Pitch 3 is actually a 3rd class scramble so no gear was placed. I did have to cross a snow pile in the rock shoes which was chilly!

There are two 4th pitch variations. The top rope for the Washington Alpine Club was on the flake leading straight up to the summit. An instructor on the summit asked if we’d mind taking the other variation known as “The Catwalk” over to the left so they could belay students up. We didn’t care either way.

I led the final pitch slightly up the wall and then mantled onto a six inch ledge. There is pretty much no gear on the “Catwalk” traverse. But it is easy climbing as the wall had good slots for handholds as you inch across the ledge. Little chance of falling. I placed gear at the end of the traverse before climbing the final blocky section. There is was appears to be a cam and tricam wedge into the rock near the summit. I climbed into the slings, there is no chance of removing them!

The sky that had been clearing in tiny, short lived patches suddenly began to clear. When Eric arrived at the top the views expanded. We could not make out Rainier as the clouds were still low, but views of the nearby ranges were clear and gorgeous! We took some photos had lunch and identified surrounding summits with our map. The it was time to rap.

All the rap station on the South Face are on slung trees. The webbing was acceptable for us upon examination. We rapped the 4th pitch. Down climbed the scramble 3rd pitch and then did two more raps to the base. After chatting with the instructors on the bottom and sharing some jokes, we scrambled back to Pineapple Pass.

Perhaps the best part about snow climbing in the glissade descent. We glissade down Pineapple Pass and then most oc the way back to the Source Lake Basin. Instead of returning the way we had come we followed the valley to the right toward Guye Peak. We were curious about the alternate approach.  There were footprints here from the students so it was easy to find our way. We arrived at the upper Alpental Parking area at around 5:15 and followed the road to the lower lot to our car…. exhausted by exhilarated! Let the alpine climbing season begin!

Rack: Full BD nut set, DMM Cam 0,2&3, WC Hex 4,5,6

 

 

 

Eric and I had time to climb for a half day on Sunday… well we could have left later but that would have guaranteed massive traffic on Route 2. We decided to climb at Hobo Gulch, the closest crag tot he town of Leavenworth in Tumwater Canyon. It sits directly beside February Buttress, but it accessed by a different trail. Our book indicted that we were supposed to follow an obvious trail that led directly to the crag just after a rocky outcrop near town. The three routes we wanted to climb were supposed to located right and slightly downhill of the main wall. We found the trail and followed it. But after several yard more trails appeared, butt hey were faint. We took the clearest trail carefully stepping around the copious poison oak.  We did indeed end up at the rock wall. The trail turn right so we followed it thinking we were following the book’s instructions and passed many routes. However, the wall ended with no sign of the routes we were looking for and the trail head steeply UP hill. Confused we went up hil for a bit and the trail disappeared. We went back to the wall and tried to traverse across some talus to a distant wall on the to her side, but turned back at the poison oak thickened. Frustrated, we headed back down the trailing thinking we’d climb at Castle Rock instead. As we turned away from the wall toward the road I looked back for some reason for a final look. The wall that we thought was the left portion of the main wall looked just like the wall we were looking for… and to the left of it were more routes. Apparently, more routes had been created since the books publication.

Eric and roped up  at “Mulligan Stew” 5.7. The belay area is a uneven rocky platform above the ground and rotue begins with an awkward step down. I lead the route which was a fun slab with lots of friction moves making me happy. I belayed Eric from chain anchors above. The route is 100ft long, thus we knew our 60 meter rope did not make it town the bottom. However, we noted a platform with a grassy gully leading to the rock platform that was easy to down climb before we began the route. I lowered Eric so he could monitor the rope from below. Then I tossed the rope and  easily rappelled to the grassy gulley.

We walked to the left to some bolts we thought belonged to ” Slowpoke” 5.7. I tried to the route, but asked to be lowered on my gear 1/3 of the way up. There was a tough move on fingertips that I had a hard time believing were on a 5.7 Eric finished the lead and agreed with me. When he rappelled down he noticed that there would bolts on the slab beside him. As it turns out “Slowpoke” had no lower bolts which is why we missed it. It seemed like Eric had climbed either a 5.10c or, more likely, a new route since the rote description didn’t exactly fit. I quickly made an attempt at “Slowpoke” which begin block, but then has a very vertical move before reaching the upper slab. I couldn’t get over the vertical spot in a reasonable amount of time (another weakness of mine) so Eric lowered me. He climbed up to my last piece and them back cleaned by down climbing (I took in rope as he did so).

Hobo Gulch

Hobo Gulch

 

Finding crags in Icicle Canyon usually proves to be quite an adventure and route finding extravaganza. Eric and I were heading to Bob’s Wall known for it’s short but worthwhile crack climbs. I pretty much am pitiful on cracks (I’m more of a slab/friction climbers) and the goal was for me to practice and build confidence. Bob’s Wall is located on the top of Icicle Buttress (a roadside wall). Our book indicated that we had to either climb to the top of Icicle Buttress or climb the climbers trail to Duty Dome Area off to the right and then traverse over to Bob’s Wall.

The trail to Duty Dome is a few yards to the right of Icicle Buttress and is marked by a cairn. It steeping and quickly gain elevation before delivers you to a junction. We turned left toward Fish Wall and passed the crag. The trail grows faint and crosses a wide gulley below Duty Dome. Then it kind of disappears all together more or less. We traversed along an unknown wall with distinctive reddish rock rock. We turned a corner and discovered we were now beside the rock face of Bob’s Wall and on top of Icicle Buttress at last! The approach took about 60 minutes, but probably would have taken about 30-40 minutes if we actually knew where the wall was!

As promised, the Bob’s Wall is full Crack climbs all creatively named “Bob’s # Crack”. I attempted to Lead “Bob’s Forth Crack” 5.7, which is not a ure crack climb. I ended up getting sketched halfway up and had Eric’s lowered me. He lead the route and set up a top rope with the two bolted anchors on the top. The crack is rippley and features some lieback moves. Fun line. Of course I was able to climb it then. The anchors also served two other route so we left the top rope up for me to climb “Bob’s Sixth Crack” 5.6, a doable off-width. Eric top roped “Bob’s Fifth Crack” 5.8+ successfully but with some trouble on the 3-4 feet section of overhung cruxy crack near the top. I was able to make up until the  downhill slopping platform just before the crux crack. Eric mentioned that those moves were harder than any of the 5.10a’s he’s climbed outside thus far. Stiff rating?

By them the sun was shinney with insane intensity. We pulled the rope and headed back down to the car. Time to play in the shade.

Carnival Boulders are located almost directly across the road from 8 Mile Rock at mile 7.4 on Icicle Road. The trail steeply leads up a hill to a cluster of large boulders. I tried to climb “Fen Fin” V0, but kept getting sketched out on the third big move, a high reach Eric completed it without much difficulty. We then moved to “The Stem” V0, a open book problem which we both found to be entertaining. Eric worked on “Butt Surfing” V1 (he said it was more like a V2) and “Heeler” V2. He then sent “Against the Wall” V1+ which features a very tricky start before mellowing out at the then. He also topped out “The Campus Problem” V0.

 

There was a 40% chance of rain on Friday in Leavenworth, so Eric and I decided to go white water rafting for a few hours. Of course it did not rain. Thus, after paddling through the rapids we headed over to The Sword Boulders down Icicle Road. It is at mile 8.8 near a large dirt pullout. The area is crowded on weekends, but om Friday evening we had the area to ourselves. Eric’s arms were still week from intense climbing a few days earlier at the Gym and Vantage and I’m not that great outdoors yet, so we stuck to easy problems.

Underwear Rock is the first boulder encountered in this area and offers some fun problems, great for high level boulders as a warmup and for beginners to hone technique. We started out on “Boxers” V0 and “The Crack” V0-, both with good holds and technical footwork.

We moved on to the next boulder which has varied problems. On one side there is a low roof making the routes more challenging. I climbed “X1” V0 which begins on and solid holds and turns into a scary friction climb for the final 3 moves. Excellent problem. I also attempted “Cubicle Gangster” V0, but with no luck. Eric completed “Played like a Poop Butt” V0+ and “X2” V2.

Even further back Eric and I worked on “I <3 Jugs” V2… even though our arms were not behaving. It’s a great problems that definitely deserved its 3 start rating. Hopefully we can work on it again soon. I was able to top out on “Sofa King” V0 beside it.