Eric had a long list of crack climbs on his list of must do cragging route. I’ve struggled with crack climbing ever since I began climbing.  I always preferred friction and face style… so when Seth invited me to spend a weekend at Tieton River Rocks, a crack climbing mecca, I gladly accepted in the hopes that I’d finally come to love jamming the way Eric did.

This was a laid back trip as we were joined by Seth’s four month old Bernese Mountain Dog puppy named Hans who had never been camping before. Ed, Seth friend who climbs mostly indoors also came as well Melissa (Hans’s mommy/Seth’s girlfriend). We left Saturday morning at 6:15am. I promptly fell asleep for most of the long journey. We sent up camp on Oak Creek Road near Rpyal Columns… Seth and Melissa’s new REI Hobitat tent made Ed’s half Doe look like a doghouse.

By the time we get to the base of Royal Columns it was noon. The wind whipped around up blasting dust particles under our sunglasses. Winds was in the forecast, but we hadn’t expected this. But it was time to climb!

Seth would lead most of the routes since he was best versed in crack climbing. I needed to get crack mileage in and Ed needed to learn outdoor climbing skills. We began on a 5.5 called Double Trouble… after climbing it Seth dubbed that it was really a 5.6 double crack system. We would find that everything in Tieton was graded about a grade lower than it really was. I cleaned the route and was surprised at how simple fist and hand jamming came to me… jamming used to scare me half to death as I feared that if i feel my foot would remain jammed at get ripped off. Irrational I know… but I had always been haunted by the thought. But now things were different… somehow I found that I actually liked crack climbing and wasn’t half bad at it too boot! Ed get halfway up the route before asking to be lowered… crack climbing after climbing in a gym can be a huge shock… the style is so different, as is the pain. Seth re-climbed to clean the anchor and rapped.

Next we hit up Twin Cracks, a step up at 5.6… but it was really 5.7 according to us. Again… I loved the jams… especially fist jams. At some point the sky got dark and we caught the edge of a rain storm as the sky spit on us… but it wasn’t bad enough to stop climbing and the half sun created a double rainbow. Feeling confident, I decided to lead an easy crack called The Western Front (5.3) rated three stars. Indeed it was a fun route (5.4 I would say). There was a mixtures of jamming and face climbing. Beware that this route shares an anchors with the pitch beside it so it can get crowded at the top.

By then it was getting late in the day so we headed back to the car where we were greeted by Melissa and a very excited Hans. We drove back to camp to find our mansion of a tent had been ripped partially out of the ground in the wind, while the half dome was still anchored to the ground. We fixed the situation easily though and settled in for dinner and a night playing Bananagrams.

The following morning we got up at 7:30am, but it was took cold (at least for Seth to climb) until (;30 when the temperature finally crested 55 degrees. We headed back to the columns. It was on my list to climb Mush Maker (5.7) as Eric had told me all about it and wanted me to climb it when i got better at cracks. I was better and I wanted to do it for him. Seth led the gnarly single crack which turned his hands promptly into mush breaking open his skin. He was surprised at the low rating and gave it a 5.8+ as he was lowers with bleeding knuckles. The route was as awesome to climb as Eric had described. I found lots of Seth’s blood in the cracks, but by hands managed to stay intact as i shimmied up the hand and fist crack. There were sections of pure crack climbing in one where all four limbs were jammed in the single crack making for some awkward, but fun moves. I rappelled off the top… There are no chains on this one, but a ton of slings are up there on a huge block.

Seth wanted to get in  the Cutting Edge (5.7). This was double crack so it was easier than Mush Maker. But there is a small overhung move at the top that provides a heart pounding moment! Even more fun to climb was 5.8 next to it called X Factor. This route has a double crack fist and hand jam crack that turn into a single crack halfway up. The guidebook says gear to three inches, but Seth reported that he wished he’d brought gear to 4 inches. Without it the pitch was run-out. After climbing the route, I would definitely agree that some bigger cams would have come in handy.

I attempted to lead Nimrod’s Nemesis (5.5) which followed double cracks to a roof where the guide described the path going left around the roof. The roof looked daunting and it could not see a way around the roof… it looked like you when over a left of it afterwards. I figured that maybe things just looked worst than they were from the bottom. After all, it was rated 5.5 (which meant it was probably more like 5.6) so the roof couldn’t be tat bad. I began to climb the double cracks, but the closer I got to the roof the more convinced I was that there wasn’t an easy way around the roof. I stuck in a bomber cam and asked to be lowered. I’d left Seth take this lead. I was feeling frustrated on the ground until I watched Seth pull the roof an holler “watch me!” as he did so… I’d never heard Seth say that. It was definitely an airy move. I followed afterwards and found that the holds were there, but the feet were just pasted on the wall smearing the the move just plain scary. Fun to follow… but I wasn’t ready to lead that. I need more crack mileage first. We’d rate the roof section as a 5.7.

It was 4:00 by then so we packed up and headed back… time for the long drive home. But now I love cracks!

 

 

 

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