Friday, August 26, 2011

Ain't nothing better...

...than the summer in the Northwest

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Top Photo: Garrett Grove cranking the excellent corner pitch of "The West Face of Colchuck Balanced Rock" (5.11-).
This Photo: Colchuck Lake, from the route.

Blake and Garrett approaching above Colchuck Lake.

I've climbed with many Washingtonians in the past few years, and would all probably tell me that I was spoiled on my first rock climb here in the Apple State. We climbed the above pictured West Face of CBR, and the rock was amazing!
The West Face is the original route on the face, and now goes free at 5.11, but there are scads of other good lines, many of which have been FAed in the past few years. And maybe some still juss a-wayten thar...

Near the summit of CBR, both Garrett and Blake ply their respective trades: Garrett shooting, Blake doing his patented rope-flip-coil-pose.

Speaking of good rock, if you are in the area, be sure to check out the new #9 route on my personal list of"TOP TEN LONG GRANITE ROUTES (from low-mid 5.12)": LET IT BURN

Me leading on the new #9. Garrett Grove Photo.

It's also on Colchuck Balanced Rock, just left of the West Face route. It was put up last year (!) by the local rock crushing crew, and it provides many hundreds of feet of granite bliss and full-face grins.

Here's a link to Blake post about this climb with topo and description.

Hanging on a ledge on North Early Winter Spire, Washington Pass. Garrett Grove Photo.

After more climbing and cragging in the Leavenworth area, and much good eating and drinking (peach whiskey, hard apple cider, heaps of flavorful local microbrews), Blake and I needed to "harden the F up".

So, we hiked 20 miles back into the Pasayten Wilderness in north-central Washington and spent a week exploring and putting up a new route on each of the three major faces in the area. Above is Amphitheater peak.

Huge thanks to the Mazamas Club of Portland, Oregon for some generous support that helped us to make this trip happen!

We still managed to eat well.

The 300m South face of Cathedral Peak. We climbed a new route on the right side of the main face, which we called "Last Rights" (the mountain has a Catholic naming theme, and we kept traversing right to avoid seamed out cracks). Again, check out Blake's blog for more photos and info from the new routes.

Blake pulling into a perfect splitter during our onsight FA of "Finger of Fatwa" (5.11, 175m) on Amphitheater Peak. (That peak had a Islamic naming theme, and the specific buttress is called the Middle Finger.)

Much to our surprise, we met a few other climbers up there. Not so surprising, Blake knew them. So I got to make new friends and share some whiskey, and we did a bit of cragging at the base of Amphitheater. "Finger of Fatwa" is the left leaning, left facing corner and roof system near the left edge of the cliff.

Blake checking out the Deacon from our bivy.

Blake about to hit a perfect hand crack on the 400m Northeast face of the Deacon.

The Deacon definitely provided my favorite of the route of the trip; we climbed the obvious "line of strength" up the middle of the face. Even still, the mountain threw us a few curveballs and there were some exciting leads to connect incipient or flared crack systems.

We ended up aiding one pitch, which appeared to be a totally closed seam from below. In reality, though, there were small RP placements and occasional fingerlocks under a layer of dirt and moss, and once we cleaned it out we rapped back down to redpoint the pitch at 5.11.

We called this route "The Heretic" (5.11, 400m).

This monstrosity is the giant, steep, and massively chossy East face of Tower Mountain. Located just north of the popular cragging at Washington Pass, this huge face had drawn the curiosity of Blake and fellow Washingtonian Sol Wertkin for quite a while, we the three of us kitted up to make an attempt.

After hiking in and bivying, we got to the face, realized it was riddled with orange streaks of kitty-litter/oatmeal decomposing grano-diorite. Still, we picked out the path that included the most good dark-colored rock and gave it an effort. My lead lasted maybe one hour, gained about 40', and actually included chunks of solid rock. But unfortunately the solid rock did not coincide with continuous cracks, and the bleak prospects above combined to cause us to BAIL!

So, if you have lots of time on your hands, don't mind a little grainy-ness here and there (and everywhere), maybe load up your compressor and hike out to Tower Mountain. It could be the Cerro Torre of the North!

No, there ain't nothing better than the summer in the Northwest. The weather has been immaculate, the food, beer, rock and friends have been plentiful, and the swimming holes can't be beat. If you don't mind long approaches and maybe a mosquito or two, pencil in some plans for next summer!

Coming up next, a description of the new #3 on my personal list of:
TOP TEN LONG GRANITE ROUTES (from low-mid 5.12)

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

In the land of Red, White, and Granite.

My late summer roadtrip has officially commenced, I'm in Squamish, and everything is going swimmingly. The mellow feel of this self-proclaimed "Outdoor Recreation Capital of Canada" is just the sort of atmosphere into which I can immerse myself, ignoring all outside happenings.

Good friends, new and old, are in residence in this centre of granite action, and much climbing, beer drinking, scrabble, shooting-of-the-shit, and all-around chilling has been enjoyed by all.

In Canada, by law, all signs must be printed in both English and French.

The view from our camp "down by the river". Kevin gives Bronson the layout of the Chief.

Cody, who I met back in Boulder in the Spring, is joining all the cool kids in Canada at the moment. Here, Cody, Loki, and Kathleen enjoy a post-cragging snack.

This and the rest of the photos are from yesterday, when Cody and I climbed until out eyes bugged out. Here, I'm following the first pitch of the famous University Wall. Cody put in an inspiring effort leading this wet, overhanging OW slot. Good on ya, buddy!

A bug-eyed view of town, from the Chief.

The Chief, from town. Both the U-wall and the Grand Wall climb up the first two thirds of the right side (and then traverse off a ledge).

Cody leading a stemming pitch high on U-wall. Lots of stemming on that route.

Finishing U-wall. We attempted a harder "variation" (actually the original aid line), the Shadows pitch (12d). Like a bi-polar supermodel, it drew me in with it's aesthetic perfection, and then denied me with it's fickle, ungrasp-able nature. Or something like that.

I fell many times on the ridiculous stemming pitch, and ended up pulling on gear. Other than that, I didn't fall all day (the rest of the route is 5.12a).

After ambling down the descent trail (which is awesome: wooden stairs and trail-marking reflectors, Thanks Canada!), we ate lunch in the parking lot and re-stoked. Here we are on the Grand Wall, with Cody leading the Split Pillar.

Cody starting up "Perry's Lieback" on the Grand Wall, as the evening light gets good. We ended up finishing the route in daylight and not even breaking out headlamps on the descent. We sent Apron Strings to the Grand (10 pitches, 5.11a A0) in a total of 2 hrs and 40 min, with no simuling.
Hopefully there'll be much more Canadian sending to come. Earlier in the trip, my friend Brad and I climbed "Alaska Highway", and I can't wait to get back there to finish the "Northern Lights" linkup of AK Highway to the Calling. Gotta keep the onsight rolling!

But first, I'm headed briefly back to the States to once again join Blake, Garrett et al in some North Cascades adventure. More to come!