NWAC posted an avalanche advisory in big, red, bold letters for this past weekend. High solar radiation was expected to release copious large slides in the mountains. This prediction thwarted our plan A + B alpine objectives. Thus we decided to do something completely out of the ordinary for us: sport climb. That is we decided to climb Prime Rib of Goat 5.9 III+ in Mazama. The route is 11 pitches and 1300 feet of technical, airy sport climbing. And if that isn’t dizzying enough, there are 15 rappels to round out the day. Damien and I swung leads. The rock was extremely enjoyable and solid with fun moves that tested our limits. For both of us it was the longest route we’d ever done, the most pitches we’ve ever led and the hardest rating we’ve accomplished. A great description and topo of the route can be found in Bryan Burdo’s book Mazama Rock. I have also included some notes below:

  • Damien and I made the mistake of spiting the 2nd pitch into two due to a rap anchor being in the middle of the pitch. study the topo and note where there will be rap anchors so that you don’t end climbing only part way up a pitch. Luckily we only made this error once and probably for the better because this prevented what probably would have been bad rope drag in that area.
  • The route is pretty generous with the bolts sometimes a bit to generous. I skipped 1 or 2 of them. Mostly though I was happy to have the bolts there as they were strategically placed after difficult moves.
  • 5.9 sections feature mono-pockets
  • In general the route in very crimpy
  • Pitch 6 has some very bouldery moves
  • Pitch is the longest and is extremely sustained at 5.8+ (mostly slab face climb)
  • The scramble between pitch 6 & 7 has some spicy moves that can been intimidating to down-climb between raps
  • Start early to stay the the shade as long as possible and avoid getting behind slow groups. Also its a LONG route. We were the 2nd team on the route which worked out well. On our way down we discovered that only one team from the original 6 teams behind us were actually still climbing. The others bailed.
  • This probably goes without saying, but check yourself and your partner multiple times on the many rappels. You’ll be tired at this point and more prone to errors.

 

One of our big goals for this Yosemite Trip was to learn aid climbing, both leading and following on jumars. We were lucky enough to find two great location to practice and learn.

Housekeeping Boulders:

Oddly enough this bouldering area also had 2 practice C1 aid routes on bolts. The two routes are located on the first huge boulder to the left of the LeConte Memorial. There is on route behind the boulder on a gradual overhang and another route on the right side of the boulder under sharp overhang. There was a group on the sharp overhang on our first visit so we ended up on the gradual overhang. This route is actually harder. The bolts are very far apart and I had to get on the top ladder step to reach the clips. Often it took a few attempts to clip and I had to use a rivet hanger to reach one bolt (loaned to me by the neighboring team who offered coaching as well). We visited the wall 2 more times on the trip using the sharp overhang route which is easier… at least to lead. That route took the life out of us as we tried to figure out the best way to jumar up and clean. We tried a re-aid technique, a straightforward jug technique (most taxing) and one jumar/grigri ascension technique. Re-aiding seemed to be the best way, but overhanging jugging is a fine art we’ll need to work on for sure.

Church Bowl:

After practice on the bolts, we felt pretty good about trying to aid on trad gear on a wall. On our last day in the Valley we went to Church Bowl wall across the street from the Majestic Hotel. We had seen a good finger crack on the right side of the wall perfect for aiding at C1 on another day we were trad climbing in the area. Damien was first up the wall. The biggest difference is the uncertainty of placing gear above your head and not being able see see fully how it is seated. The other big thing was getting used to the fact that the gear doesn’t have to be good enough to take a fall. Just good enough not to pop when you step onto the ladder. I found the same thing when I led the route later. We also both agreed that jugging up a straight face with infinitely better than an overhang!

I see big walls in the future! I could definitely get more into aid climbing!

Damien and I climbed Regular Route (5.5) last time we were in Yosemite last November. It had been kind of an Odyssey for us back then since we were out of practice on rock and new to the Valley. This year we redeemed ourselves. Sunshine Beach wall is located to the right of the Lower Falls. The Route begins about 100 feet up a third call gully at a god belay tree. I lead the first pitch this time around. Last year I was glad I hadn’t led it… and now here i was leading the pitch. At first glance in looks very easy, but there are many awkward moves with questionable feet. I’d say the biggest issue is the problem solving on the committing moves on tiny numbs of granite. The pitch is about 90 feet end ends at a nice belay tree.

Damien led the 2nd pitch. It pretty long angle and going right around a hump by the tree and out onto the exposed wall. There is are a few fun moves onto the ledge to a boulder problem moved leading to the next tree belay. Last year I had an issue getting up the unprotected boulder problem so I had gone around to the right on onto the unprotected but less reachy face. This time when i followed I got up the boulder problem with no issue using a slopper. I guess I’m stronger? I think this pitch was also about 90-100ft.

The third pitch was our nemesis last year. The 5.4 variation seemed way to exposed on unprotected (to the right), so Damien had lead up the 5.5 direct route. Some committing exposed moved and the whole ordeal of trying to get onto the 5.4 route psyched him out and I went up to finish the pitch lead. But I was terrified the whole time and it took forever. Thus year he flew up the pitch and when i followed I could not understand what my problem had been. This was supposed to be the final pitch, but we split it in two since there is horrible rope drag when the rope is extended the full 60 meters which is how long the pitch is. Damien and I switched leads just above the crux on the gear anchor. I followed the low angle cracks up to a big shady tree about 100feet up. We then opted to switch leads again and pitch out the low angle but exposed slabs to the true top of the ledge.

The climb is a walk off and we followed the climbers trail to the right along the forested ledge to a talus field above the valley where we descended to the trail following carins. This route proved our progress over the past year and was a big accomplishment for us. Our mental aptitudes have grown vastly since almost a year ago!

 

Damien and I spent our first full day in Yosemite getting a feel for the granite and valley climbing style at Swan Slabs. This area has a fair amount of good top-ropes and “easy” leads. I put easy in quote because Yosemite rating are very stiff compared to WA. We found that we had to add 2-3 grades to the rating.

We started the day out a bit rocky. We walked around the back of the crag on the left set to set up a top rope for West Slabs (5.6-5.8). We walked a bit to far and found that what appeared to be s simple scramble to the top of the crag was more like a few 5.5 moves. I retrieved our trad gear and Damien led to the top of the ledge. It turned out that we ended up way too high and were several ledges above the slab. We rappelled and found that we simply had to walk to the top of the slab… I guess we like it complicated. We built a gear anchor and walked down (there is a tree but its rotten).

We climbs a few variations of the slab which was not all that fascinating, but a good warm up. Damien led the 5.1 Unnamed Gully to get a feel for leading again.We moved the top rope to the next wall by climbing up a short 5.3 to a large tree where we set up the rope. From here we had access to three fun routes. Unnamed Flare Crack 5.8 is usually climbed at a V0 boulder. It is more like a modern 5.10 a-b with polished foot smearing and bumping hand movements on a  a lieback diagonal crack. We then moved to the 5.7 Unnamed Crack which was a general study is good jamming technique. This was my favorite. The final Unnamed Crack 5.9 featured a horrendous start to a stiff lieback.

After briefly discussing the possibility of getting in a final weekend climbing on the east side before the freezing temperatures crept in Cody, Michael and I took advantage of a nice weekend weather window and headed out to Vantage for Halloween weekend. We were treated to brisk, dry weather and fewer crowds than usual. Cody got in some awesome leads at high grades… not bad for a gym climber whose only been outside once. Michael worked on endurance. I worked on climbing and leading in general. We arrived Friday night and tentatively drove through the campground road with my car in search of a campsite. The roads are in better condition, though still rocky. The toilet paper problem had definitely improved. We put up Michael massive four person tent… and explained to Cody which way to orient himself as he had never been camping before!

We began the next morning at Sunshine Wall and warmed up on Solar Therapy 5.7… we all found that route uninspiring. Plus the Sunshine Wall routes that we wanted to do afterwards were taken. So instead Michael led us over to the little climbed Moonshine Wall. We had the area to ourselves. We climbed XXX and White Lightning… both excellent 5.9 routes worthy of repeating. Cody also Led of Yo Mario 5.10A… I was unable to get over the crux move in the beginning. I was told that after that the grade eases dramatically though.

After having lunch beside Powerhouse Wall  which features gnarly routes (I left some of Eric’s ashes there so he could check them out and begin projecting) we walked over to the Feathers. Cody led up Arterial Bypass 5.8 and the classic Hardening of the Arteries 5.10A (apparently its has a massive pump factor!). I was over-gripping at this point due to memory flashbacks of Eric so I only did the 5.8 and called it good for the day.

The next day Michael led up Don Coyote 5.8… a awesome route with fun moves that is slightly overhung. Next I led one of my favorite sport routes Updrafts to Heaven 5.5 which begin as a fun chimney and finished on the face. A tight squeeze rappel though! Michael and Cody climbed Satan’s Wagon 5.10B (fun, but hard classic) and Blood Blister 5.10A on Satan’s Pillar. With them tired from the tough routes I took my turn and led up Feather in My Cap 5.5 (like a staircase and not much fun) and Ruffled Feathers 5.7 (much more fun). We finished the day on Desert Shield 5.9 led my Cody. He didn’t find it inspiring, but I loved the touch moves over the bulge. Content we packed up and headed home… driving right into the rain as we crossed onto the west side!

 

 

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!

 

 

 

Well it wasn’t Feburary, but on September 27 Jeff and I headed out to February Buttress in Leavenworth to climb Groundhog Day. The wall sits just outside of Leavenworth in Tumwater Canyon. There is an obvious, but steep trail that leads up to the base of the three pitch route. Jeff had done the c;limb before, but had taken a not so fun variation on the third pitch last time and wanted to re-do it the right way. I just wanted to climb… I hadn’t climbed since Eric’s accident and though many people cautioned me about returning to technical rock so soon i felt it was something I needed to do.

Jeff led the route as I was hesitant to lead in case i have some kind of breakdown on the sharp end. Everything went well though and I was happy to be back on the rope. A standard rack with about 5 cams and a nut set will do on this wall. The the third pitch is the most fun, but make sure you head left from the chain anchors and head up  the steeper terrain… its actually safer and easier than the deceivingly easier looking path to the left (Jeff took this last time).

The route is rappelled from three chain anchors which were in good condition. I did not have any issues with rappeling… but to be safe Jeff had me hook up my rappel device before he took off and gave me a fireman belay even with my autoblock. The only problem I had was watching Jeff rappel. I got much more nervous than usual and would not take my eyes off him. But this does not put anyone in danger.

So in short it was a fun route without any heart stopping moves and major adrenaline rushes. The whole thing top to bottom took about three hours.

We headed over to Peek-a-boo tower in Icicle Canyon and attempted Yard Art… a three pitch mixed sport/trad route. I led the first half of pitch 1 before deciding to set up an anchor on a ledge and let Jeff finish some sketchy looking moves. Jeff finsihed the pitch… the second pitch features only two bolts and had no features for trad gear. The first bolt was up high and the rock looked unsafe. We decided to bail on it and play it safe.

 

 

After spending much of July in the front country due to the east side fires and Eric’s sudden illness it was a relief to be back outside on the rock this weekend. Jeff and I drove to Exit 38Friday morning, arriving at the trail head for Far Side at about 7:45am. After some wandering within the intertwining maze of trails we finally made it to Interstate Park…named to the view of I-90 below. There are copious sport climbs in the area, both long and short routes. Most route at in the 5.6-5.10b range.

The day was forecasted to be hot, bright and sunny. All bad things in my book. Luckily and good amount fo routes were shaded by trees. We began on some easy short pitches In the “Swerve” 5.7, “Midnight Scrambler” (5.7) and “Nocturnal Remission” (5.8). We both led the routes to get in an much lead practice as possible, plus we were in no hurry. Next e climbed “Swarm” (5.7) which shares and anchor with a 5.10b “Carnage Before Bedtime”. We left the rope up and top roped the 5.10b which included a cruxy diagonal finger crack with a secret hold. I struggled and ended up doing and heel hook boulder move which i would never do on lead. Jeff  repeated the route on lead!

We traveled further up the trail to do the Multipitch which combines the lower :” Eating Dust” (5.6) with the long (10 bolts) upper pitch “Insomniac” 5.8. I led the first pitch which began with a gigantic high step boulder move to get onto the bulge to access open book pitch. The belay station chain were, of course, located in full sunshine. I baked there while belayed Jeff up the second pitch which is great fun. One must be certain to make a right turn and the small pillar (there is a bolt on it) and not follow the grassy ledge. Some heart pumping fun moves on top, but really textured rock.

There was one route we both really wanted to do, a 4 star 5.7 called “Kiss of the Crowbar”. There was a group in front of us so we waited. It shouldn’t have taken long, but the neighboring group was climbing a 5.8 that shared an anchor with “Kiss of the Crowbar” and they believed it was unsafe to have two people on the chains for some reason…they were very inexperienced and refused to believe Jeff when we explained it was safe. So we had to wait until everyone was done with both routes which results in us sitting around for over an hour. But it was the hottest part of the day, so we didn’t mind so much. Finally we both led up the route. The first clip was about 15-20 feet off the ground (maybe more) and the most difficult section. Most clips were a bit hidden since the blocky route was slightly overhung. The holds were solid though the the route definitely deserved it 4 start rating, great fun! We packed up and headed out after we both completed the route at 4:00pm. Great day and we avoided most of the sun!

Eric and I didn’t have much time to climb on Sunday after the self-rescue course in Squamish, BC. We wanted to get on the road by noon since crossing the border back to America is always a massive undertaking. We didn;t have trad gear with us so we headed over to climb at Smoke Bluffs where there is easy access to set up top ropes.

Smoke Bluffs is a park  is right in the town of Squamish with a network of walls. Some routes top out on people’s backyards! The trails and walls are well labeled and the trail maintained with hand lines, ladders and steps. A bit too accessible for me. We hiked to a little out of the way crag called Lumberland which features a handful of climbs from 5.6 to 5.11d. Eric led up the only sport pitch there: Birthday Girl 5.6. There were supposed to be 3 bolts, but the first one was missing. Not that exciting a route. We moved the rope over to the next anchor left to climb Birthday Boy 5.7 which has a nice crux section. We did the 5.6 and 5.7 variations

of Check Mark (cracks). Eric then climbed Erica 5.10b and thus completed his very first outdoor 10b! I was about to get on this route with a downpour began. We were forced to pack things up and head out. Glad we got in some good routes though before the rain!

Lumberland Wall

Lumberland Wall

Our original plan was to climb ” Prime Rib” a famous 11-14 pitch route on Goat Wall in Mazama. However, after climbing Liberty Bell and South Early Winter Spire  (and waking up at at 3am for two days) we decided to do some more chill climbs. We headed over to Fun Rock Sector (or Mazama Rocks). The parking lot of clearly labeled as the “Climbers Parking Lot” along Lost River Road. Everything else is also fully labeled. Each rock Wall along the very well maintained trail is labeled with a nice sign. It felt kind of wrong to us after climbing in cragging/sport areas that features lots of route finding.

Our objective was to climb at Sun Rock which is up the hill from Fun Rocks and a bit out of the way (though it had a clear trail). There are a nice range of routes here. They are all bolted and on very features, clean rock. Unfortunately, it is called sun rock for a reason. It got very hot very fast on this crag.

I led up Gobbledygook 5.6 first to warm up. It was a good route and should have been easier, but i was mentally spent from alpine climbing. Eric was exhausted period. We decided to just do some top ropes. The top of the routes all have chains at are easily access by walking around the right side of the wall. We did Smoove 5.7and Prometheus The Giggolo 5.8. All the routes required lots of edges and the use of pocket and finger holds. Then we moved to the other side of the wall and climbed Plexus 5.9. This was my favorite route, but also the most scary since the route begins way right of the anchor before traversing over on a large ledge. Thus if you fall before the ledge you will pendulum swing wide.  I’m not sure I would recommend top roping this one.

By then it was noon and the sun was blazing. It was agreat into to climbing at Mazama. But not it was hot and time to head home.