Chair Peak, NE Buttress, winter

February 26, 2016

At last!!  This was the 6th time I had blocked out a date on the calendar to climb this route in winter conditions, but it was the first time that I didn’t have to cancel it due to poor avalanche conditions or poor weather.  We finally did it, and we actually summited!  It helped that I had also done this route during the summer as a rock climb (Sept. 4, 2015) so I was already familiar with the route & approach.  This has also convinced me that if you want to do this route in the winter (or most any winter climb) scheduling it far in advance and crossing your fingers for good conditions is futile, don’t do it.  Instead, build a list of like-minded climbing partners you can call on, all of whom are interested enough in the route that they’ll take a vacation day on short notice to do it.  Wait for the good weather and safe avalanche conditions to come first, then schedule the climb opportunistically.  Personally, I wouldn’t do this climb unless NWAC predicts “Moderate” danger or lower.  If you see three consecutive days of no precipitation coming down the pipeline in the weather forecast, odds are you’ll have stable enough avy conditions to climb during that third day.  Still, confirm NWAC’s forecast before you go, and make good decisions for yourself.


Weather & Avy Forecasts
(for future trip planning)

http://forecast.weather.gov/MapClick.php?lon=-121.46658&lat=47.45741
http://www.mountain-forecast.com/peaks/Chair-Peak/forecasts/1901
http://www.nwac.us/avalanche-forecast/current/cascade-west-snoqualmie-pass/


The key points of our February 26th trip

  • party of 4 (myself and Nate as one rope team, Abby & John as the second rope team)
  • approached with snowshoes via Source Lake winter route
  • 5 pitches.  Cruxes were mixed climbing (thin snow over low 5th class rock) on our 1st pitch, and a short but very vertical 10 foot section of water ice on our 4th pitch.
  • Carried over (bringing everything but the snowshoes) and descended the rappel route south of the summit.  Just one 60m (double-rope) rap there, plus a fair bit of steep snow down-climbing.
  • To our surprise, it turns out Colin Haley and Alex Honnold climbed the route the day before us.  We quite literally walked in their footprints at times.


Elevations

  • parking lot:  3280’
  • Source Lake:  3750’
  • Thumbtack:  5100’
  • route base:  5600’
  • summit:  6238’
  • rap station:  roughly 6000’


Times

I would recommend 5:00am start at Alpental.  We intended that, but small snafus made us start closer to 6am.  Once we were going, we were fortunate to have everything go very smoothly for us, with almost zero needlessly-lost time, giving us a car-to-car time of 11h20m, broken down as follows:

  • 3 hours for approach  (50 minutes parking lot to Source Lake, 1h10m Source Lake to Thumbtack, 40min Thumbtack to route base, caching snowshoes near a tree on the way)
  • 20 minutes gearing up at the base
  • 4h10m for both of our rope teams to climb 5 pitches
  • 2h30m for descent  (30min to coil ropes and scramble down to rap station, another 30min at rap station replacing old tat, tying ropes together, and tossing them, then 40min for all 4 people to rappel, another 40min slowly plunge-stepping very steep snow to get back to our cached snowshoes)
  • 1h20m snowshoeing out from there


Gear notes

  • Snowshoes for approach  (Some kind of floatation is essential.  Skis would have been more fun for the descent, but would mean more weight, as I’d probably carry mountaineering boots in my pack, and cold toes trying to switch boots at the gear-cache point.)
  • avy beacon/probe/shovel  (as always, this philosophy:  http://avyupdates.blogspot.com/2012/03/in-case-im.html)
  • pair of ice tools  (I was glad to have two tools at the cruxes, even though a mountaineering axe would have plunged better in the snow on the rest of the climb.  I might recommend removing any finger-rests or protrusions from your ice tools’ shafts before going on this climb, if your tools allow it.)
  • crampons  (steel, very secure boot-fit, and horizontal front-points)
  • 60m rope
  • set of nuts (only used smaller to medium sizes)
  • cams: BD #1 and smaller.  The little blue BD #0.3 was especially useful for me.  Opportunities for rock pro were somewhat rare, and the few decent cracks that did exist were quite small.
  • 2 or 3 pitons:  knifeblades or bugaboos, for cracks that are too thin for nuts  (good advice on pitons: http://www.rescuedynamics.ca/articles/pdfs/Pitoncraft.pdf)
  • 3 or 4 ice screws (two for a belay anchor, plus one or two for leader-pro)
  • pickets:  we brought 4 per rope team, but the snow often wasn’t strong or deep enough to place them.  I’d bring 2 per rope team next time.
  • slings:  4 singles, 5 doubles, seemed about right
  • cordelette for rigging some anchors


GPS Track

Here’s my gps track from the day.  The GPS goes a bit crazy on the climbing/descending parts of the route, so ignore the squiggles there, and just use for info on the approach.
Chair Peak 2-26-2016 GPS track on map
Approach

Park at the very end of the Alpental Road so you can take the winter route directly to Source Lake.  No parking pass of any sort is needed here, since the ski resort owns this parking lot.  That route begins as a groomed cat track going past the ski resort’s explosive storage shed, and eventually becomes just a skier’s skin track, and stays on the west side of the valley’s bottom the whole time.  You do NOT want to park at the Snow Lake trailhead or use the Snow Lake trail for approach, it adds unnecessary distance in the winter.Chair approach 1

After passing Source Lake, head uphill, but not quite straight at Chair Peak.  Veer right and follow the path of least resistance (i.e. the least steep slope) to gain some elevation.  When it looks easy to turn left and head straight at Chair, do so (around 4500’-ish.)

Chair approach 2We passed by the Thumbtack, and picked a lonesome little “Charlie Brown” pine tree in the bowl that was roughly at the center of the Y that would be the intersection of our future paths up to the route base (looker’s right) and down from the rap route (looker’s left.)  We cached our snowshoes at that Charlie Brown tree, pulled out helmets and one axe each there, and booted up the remaining steeper snow slope.  Back in summer there had been a section of 3rd class rock to climb just before the route’s base, but this time that was entirely filled in with a big snow drift, so we could simply walk up.


The Climb

Chair NE Buttress route overviewOut of the pitches we climbed, only the 1st and 4th really required being roped up, but in my opinion it’s simplest/easiest/most-efficient here to just stay roped up and pitch the whole thing out.  You can move through the easy pitches really quickly anyway.  Taking time to transition to simul-climbing or even unroping early probably wouldn’t provide enough time-savings to be worth the hassle.

our P1:  (low 5th class mixed climbing, 60 meters, tree anchor at end)
Chair pitch 1This is the blocky S-shaped gully (aka open book) that every route description has a photo of.  It goes up, curves to the right, and straightens up again to end in a clump of trees.  For us it was mostly mixed climbing, with thin unreliable snow over low 5th class rock.  Doing it as a single pitch all the way to the trees is a rope-stretcher, a full 60m, but very doable.  Extend all your pieces with double runners.  Many other route descriptions encourage breaking this up into two 100’ pitches, so do whatever makes you happy.

our P2:  (moderate snow, 60 meters, tree or rock-horn anchor at end)
Chair pitch 2Continue up through the middle of the clump of trees, slinging at least one of them before you leave them behind.  After that, it’s an open snow slope with not really any pro, but not really any need for pro either.  End at either a lone pine tree, or the rock horn just beyond/above it.

our P3:  (moderate snow, 60 meters, use ice screws for anchor at end)
Chair pitch 3From the top of P2, above you and slightly left you’ll be able to see the rock band that adds a more vertical step to the otherwise consistently sloped snow, with a short pillar of water ice formed right in the middle of it.  Climb P3 by angling up and towards that ice step, you should be able to get fairly close to it.  Down-slope of the visible ice, I found that if I brushed away the snow I was kick-stepping up, there was thick ice buried there too, so I used a pair of screws as a belay anchor there.

our P4:  (10 feet of vertical water ice, roughly 40 meters overall, challenging to find a good anchor to end at)
Chair pitch 4Ah, the crux ice step at last!  Having just come back from 4 days of top-rope ice practice in Ouray, it was up to me to lead this, and even then I still freaked out a bit.  Stupidly, I had only brought two screws total in my rack, since I knew the ice step would be short.  I had not foreseen that the belay anchor before it would be in ice, using up both screws and leaving no pro for myself as the leader.  Lacking other options, I tried to place a bugaboo piton in the rock to the right of the ice pillar’s top.  It was an awkward position, and the piton placement ended up being just slightly less than terrible.  Pulling myself up over the top of the ice pillar was the hardest part for me, but I took it slowly and carefully, and managed to get through it.  Above that, I kicked steps up moderate snow for probably 35 meters until I found a place in the rock on my left that wasn’t complete shit, and built a 3-piece anchor consisting of 1 micro-cam, 1 better-placed piton of mine, and 1 vertical picket in nearby snow.  I belayed off my harness instead of the anchor, with my butt firmly in a bucket of snow, in an attempt to protect the anchor from ever having to hold load.  This worked out just fine.  An alternative way to end this pitch might have been to turn left immediately after getting over the ice, there’s a gnarly tree buried under the snow somewhere over there.  If you can find it, slinging it would make for a better anchor, and leave P5 to be 60m of moderate snow.

our P5:  (moderate snow, roughly 40 meters, tree anchor at end)
Chair pitch 5Simply kick steps up whatever’s left of the snow slope above you.  End the pitch at a tree just below the false summit.  Once you’re both up, you can unrope, leave the rope at that tree, and scramble the remainder to the summit.  You’ll come back to where you unroped when you descend.  Be mindful of significant cornicing on the summit!Chair summit scramble


Descent

Chair rappel approach

Chair rappel anchor location

When you’re done enjoying the views from the summit, return to where pitch 5 ended, and look south.  At the risk of writing like Fred Beckey, I’d say there’s an “obvious” gully descending due south, passing between high rock walls.  Scramble down this.  As soon as the rock walls let you out, the rap station should be in sight.  (In other words, take the very first left the gully allows you to.)  I’ve heard of other parties having trouble by descending too far/too right when the gully opens up, but it must have been a low-visibility day for them to not notice the rap anchor they passed there.  The rap anchor is three old rusty pitons with a rainbow of webbing rigging it all together with a pair of aluminum rappel rings.  If you’re feeling generous, bring a knife and 20ft+ of 7mm cord; you could cut away all that webbing and rig it more like a cordelette anchor.

From the rap anchor (the three old pitons) one 60 meter rappel (so one double-rope rappel) will get you over the initial cornice at the top of the rap gulley, and deposit you where the rap gully opens up and ends, allowing you to take shelter off to the side of the gully’s mouth, just incase the next rappeller kicks down anything.  There’s still a lot of steep snow below you once you’re off rappel, but it is reasonable to either plunge step it gingerly, or down-climb facing in if that makes you more comfortable.  Grab your snowshoes, and hike on out.

East Ridge of Forbidden

We planned a two-day climb of Forbidden’s East Ridge Direct for August 22nd & 23rd.  The idea was to bivy high Saturday night, close to the Solitary Gendarme, then run up the East Ridge Sunday morning, descend via the East Ledges, pack up and head home Sunday night.  We had a very strong four person team:  Scott McAmis, David Wittstock, Sherrie Trecker, and myself (Rob Busack.)  Scott had very kindly gone up a day ahead of time to get a Boston Basin camping permit for us. Continue reading

The Tooth

I’ve been up The Tooth twice so far, first on Oct 10, 2013, and second on May 16, 2015.   In October 2013 we had clear blue skies, but it had freshly snowed on the route.  In May 2015 we were socked in with fog all day, but luckily the rock was bone dry.  Happily, both were successful summits.  As it’s probably the most popular alpine rock climb in Washington state, there’s no shortage of information out there.  That makes this overkill information on a pretty easy route, but here’s my notes on how to climb it, using a mix of pictures from both of my trips.

Overview

5.4, 4 short pitches
Trailhead at 3100′, leave trail at ~4100′, rope up at 5280′, summit at 5604′.
~3 hour approach at a moderate pace from Alpental
Early start highly recommended to beat the crowds.
Every belay anchor is either a tree or rock horn.
To descend, rappel the climbing route.  There are more established rap stations than necessary.
12 hours car-to-car is a pretty typical time if you’re doing this climb to give experience to new climbers.  Stay sharp on efficiency, for your sake and others.
Continue reading

SW Rib of SEWS

The Southwest Rib of South Early Winters Spire is supposedly at 10-pitch 5.8 rock climb. Erik Turner & I swung leads on it on Sunday, August 10, 2014. The climbing-specific parts of this trip report will make the most sense if you have Ian Nicholson’s “Washington Pass Climbing” book open to this route’s topo as you read this.

Super Moon setting at dawn

Super Moon setting at dawn

Blue Lake TH parking lot bivy. Asleep by 10pm, 3am alarm, hiking by 3:20, at the base of the climbing route by 5:20. With a super-moon up almost exactly opposite the hours of the sun, our approach was well-lit, and we didn’t even need headlamps for some of the more open parts. (Also, a sleep-mask & ear plugs were important since there were around 8 other vehicles of people camped in that same small parking lot.) You’ll be fine if you go when there’s no moon, just time it so that you’re identifying the route at dawn, which we did as well. A tall larch that forks at the top marks the entrance to the route. That’s a great place to don harness & rock shoes, gear up, hang your pack, but keep the rope coiled & carry it. We took our time, forced down extra fluids & calories to keep our climbing pack light, and tried to photograph the amazing moon through the strongly-scented smokey haze drifting from the Central Washington wildfires.

Continue reading

The Bugaboos

In researching the Bugaboos I read that it is notoriously rainy, so when deciding to stay at the hut versus the Applebee campground, I chose the hut, so if it rained we would have somewhere to dry gear and chill out. We got super lucky and on our 4 day trip it only sprinkled on us briefly on our hike in and out. We still really enjoyed the hut, but when deciding where to stay one should take into account that the hut adds about 1,000 extra feet of gain needed for all the climbs than from the campground.

Day 1 – Hike to the Kain Hut (3 miles, 2300ft)

The first thing that differentiates this area from any other area I have been to is the necessity to surround your car with chicken wire before leaving. Apparently there are animals in the area that like to chew the rubber hoses. Ekk.

Chicken wire around the car

Chicken wire around the car

So after meticulously wrapping Ralph (that’s my car) Ben and I set off around 5:15PM. We had planned on starting around 1 or 2, but between construction and a long boarder wait we got in way later than planned. The sign at the trail head warned of dangerous trail, but it turned out to be just fine. Actually it was the best trail I had been on in Canada, it even had switch backs! (I was starting to think Canadians did not believe in switchbacks). The trail starts off flat and then leads to switchbacks that are pretty steep. There are two sections of trail that are slightly exposed and have chains, probably necessary if it is icy, but not in the good weather we had, and one short ladder.

Chains

Chains

Trailhead warning

Trailhead warning

Up the ladder

Up the ladder

We got great views of the Bugaboo glacier going up the trail, and there were lots fo beautiful wildflowers. We eventually spotted the hut and arrived around 8PM. The hut is really nice, with a fully equipped kitchen (running water, gas stove, pots, pans, plates).

View from the hut

View from the hut

Kitchen

Kitchen

View on the hike up

View of the Bugaboo Glacier on the hike up

Day 2 – Eastpost Spire (Scramble)

After getting in way later than expected the previous night we scrapped our plans for an early start and woke up at the late hour of 8am. Since most of the climbs require an early start this put them off limits for our first full day. I asked the hut caretaker what could be done with a late start and she suggested scrambling Eastpost Spire, so that is what we did. While prepping that morning we made a new friend, Noelle, and she joined us on the scramble.

The approach to Eastpost goes through Applebee campground, which is about a 45min hike up from the hut. We poked around the campground for a bit and then continued our way. The trail up to the col was obvious and well marked with cairns. From the col we got views of the Rockies in the far distance.

Andrea approaching Eastpost Spire

Andrea approaching Eastpost Spire

Andrea and Ben at the Col

Andrea and Ben at the Col

View of the Rockies in the distance

View of the Rockies in the distance

Snowpatch Spire and Bugaboo Spire from the Col

Snowpatch Spire and Bugaboo Spire from the Col

From the col the scramble started and we followed the cairns up the ridgeline. We stopped right below the summit for some pictures. We then did the last 100 feet to the summit, which featured 1 or 2 low 5th class moves. From there we snapped some pictures and then down climbed back to the larger, less exposed, area to eat lunch. The down climb was a little scary, and there were rap rings, so most people must rappel that pitch.

From the top of Eastpost

From the top of Eastpost

Looking down on Applebee camp

Looking down on Applebee camp

After lunch we scrambled/hiked down to the lake just above Applebee camp. We stopped, soaked our feet, and napped for a while taking in the view. Then after an hour or so we headed back to the Kain hut to make dinner and go to bed early.

View from the lake

View from the lake of Bugaboo Spire and Crescent Towers

Day 3 – Lion’s Way on Crescent Towers (5.6)

We left the hut around 8am and headed up through Applebee, around the sides of the lakes and over the side of the Crescent glacier to get to the base of the Crescent towers. Lion’s Way tops out on the summit of the central tower, which wasn’t visible until we were on the glacier. We marched up a snowfield and then transitioned onto boulders to get to the base of the climb (which was luckily pretty obvious.) After snacking, gearing up and poking around the base Ben started the first pitch at 11:15.

Ben on the approach

Ben on the approach

Andrea on the edge of the Crescent Glacier about to transition onto the boulder feild

Andrea on the edge of the Crescent Glacier about to transition onto the boulder feild

Boulder field with the Crescent Glacier in the distance

Boulder field with the Crescent Glacier in the distance

We had been warned that this climb was notoriously hard to navigate, and that proved true. We thought we had totally done the climb correctly until we looked at a blog 2 days later and saw that our 5.6 corner was different than the one on route. The climb was supposed to be 6 pitches, but we ended up making it 8. We were on route for some of the pitches at least, but Ben ended up leading two 5.6+ cracks🙂 All in all the climbing was super awesome though, the granite there was sticky with plenty of tiny features. Makes me want to go back and climb more! Here is the breakdown of the pitches we did:

Pitch 1: Easy 4th class blocky moves.

Pitch 2: 5.3, meandered right then straight up. Obviously I did this wrong as we didn’t end up in the right corner for the 3rd pitch. We did end up at an obviously much climbed crack/slight corner that looked 5.6-ish

Andrea leading up the 2nd pitch

Andrea leading up the 2nd pitch

 

Pitch 3: 5.6+ crack/ kind of a corner. This had obviously been climbed many times as the crack was clean. If climbed like a crack it was closer to a 5.8, but apparently if you reached in far enough there was good fingers. I was just glad Ben lead this pitch and not me!

Pitch 4: 5.6 at the top. Blocky moves then finished with a crack to a ledge then a flake.

On the top of the 4th pitch

On the top of the 4th pitch

Pitch 5: 5.6, slab that transitioned to a crack

Pitch 6: Easy low 5th slab (I love slab!!). Lots of horizontal cracks for gear

Pitch 7. 5.5-ish. An arête with a crack to the right that took gear well. Finsh was very blocky, 4th class.

Pitch 8: Easy 4th class to low 5th with one hard move to gain the summit at the end.

Climbers on the Donkey Ears

Climbers on the Donkey Ears

Andrea on the last pitch

Andrea on the last pitch

North tower in the background

North tower in the background

Andrea and Ben with Snowpatch in the background

Andrea and Ben with Snowpatch in the background

All in all we had a great time. We chilled out on the summit, ate lunch and took in the views. After we descended down via the gully trail, with one rap at the only rap station (obvious from the trail). The rap wasn’t entirely necessary, the party in front of us just went down  the trail, but we were not in a rush so why not just rap down?

Ben rapping down

Ben rapping down

On the way back to the hut we decided to make the trip a loop, so we crossed the Crescent Glacier, and made our way to under the Bugaboo-Snowpatch Col since we wanted to get a look. This Col gives access to some of the Bugaboo Spire climbs (including the very popular Kain route) and Pigeon Spire (which is supposed to be one of the best 5.4 routes in the world.) The Col looked scary, we were very glad we decided to do Lion’s Way and not Pigeon (which had been our earlier plan.) We got back to the hut around 8pm, making it a 12 hour day. (To put this in context the book says Lions Way, hut to hut, should take 6-7 hours. We moved slow and took lots of breaks to enjoy the beautiful landscape since we were in no rush.)

Looking back across the Crescent Glacier at the Crescent Towers. Lion's way is on the central tower, the 2nd from the left.

Looking back across the Crescent Glacier at the Crescent Towers. Lion’s way is on the central tower, the 2nd from the left.

Close-up of the Bugaboo-Snowpatch Col

Close-up of the Bugaboo-Snowpatch Col

Day 4 – Hike out

Self explanatory. It took us 2 hours, and sprinkled a bit on the way down. We then drove north to Golden and had some much deserved pizza and beer🙂

Skywalker

Andrea on the "Skywalker" Pitch

Andrea on the “Skywalker” Pitch

This past weekend Ben and I headed to Squamish, BC to do some climbing in the least hot place in the Pacific NW (and by least hot, I mean the only place that wasn’t triple digits!) Saturday we stuck to shady singly pitch routes, but on Sunday we climbed a route I’ve had my eye on for the past year, Skywalker! And it was brilliant.

At 5am on Sunday our alarms went off and we begrudgingly got out of bed. We had 2 motives to get up at this un-Godly hour. The first was we knew this is a super popular and busy route (last year we did Klahani crack, which is on the hike up to Skywalker, and saw several parties headed up there) so we wanted to be first on the route and be able to take our time. The second was that it was supposed to be in the mid-90s so we wanted to make sure we were on the route while it was still relatively cool and shaded. Well, we were the early birds who got the worms, and our early start ensured we were the first people on the route and were in the shade the whole time.

We got to Shannon Falls a little past 5:30 am and found the gate closed (it doesn’t open until 7am) so we had to park in the overflow lot across the street. We racked up in the lot and were on the approach trail a few minutes after 6. The approach took us about 15 min (would have been much faster, but I had to stop several times to throw up… because that’s what happens when I wake up early.) After some shuffling of gear, flaking of rope, and eating of snacks we were ready to start the first pitch shortly after 6:30.

Start of the first pitch

Start of the first pitch

Pitch 1 (5.7):

I lead this pitch and it was hard! Or maybe just hard for me, since the beginning of the climb is a crack, and cracks are not my strong point. It starts out with a slabby moves to a bolt (fun!) then you have to do a nice little step over to a crack. There wasn’t really a lot of places for gear between the bolt and the step-over so that was a but scary, but not too bad since once I stepped over I got some gear in ASAP. Then it was straight up an obvious hand crack. My style of climbing cracks is place 1-2 pieces of gear and then take, so it took me some time to get up it. The crack peters out and then you traverse right to a slab with 2 bolts. I could reach out and clip the first bolt before transitioning onto the slab, which was very reassuring. The second bolt was only about 2 moves past the first then there was 10-15 ft of unprotectable slab before another obvious diagonal crack. I went slightly up on the slab traverse, moving slowly and balancing. I noted that the next party went slightly down on the traverse to a ramp… so seems like you could do this multiple ways there. Following the traverse there was an easy crack (maybe 5.4) that lead straight up to the bolted belay station.

Pitch 2 (5.8): The Flume

This is the hardest pitch on the route, and somehow I convinced Ben to lead it (in all honesty I probably could not have lead it even if I tried). While we were exchanging gear we heard another party starting the 1st pitch and knew we no longer had the whole route to ourselves. The second pitch is a very hard finger crack, and its only saving grace is that it eats gear. The right side of the crack is about a 1.5 ft arête and the left is a more or less featureless steep slab. The arête really made this crack hard, as I could not center my weight over the crack and was forced to smear on the left slab for balance. Watching Ben do this on lead was scary, especially the one time his foot blew on the slab (which he was able to recover from without falling!) Ben, who usually climbs pretty cleanly, had to resort to the “Andrea” method of crack climbing, ie place a piece or 2 and then taking to recover. From the belay station it looked like the crack gave way to some more gentle angled terrain, but unfortunately that was not the case, it was a sustained 5.8. This was by far our most time consuming pitch, and took Ben about 45 min to lead up it. By the time Ben reached the top the next party was exchanging gear at the belay station I was at.

Looking up at the second pitch

Looking up at the second pitch

This pitch was still an ass-kicker on top-rope, and I had to take several times to be able to get gear out. By the time I reached the top I was super impressed by Ben’s lead. It took me about 20 minutes to follow.

Pitch 3 (5.7): The Fork

After watching Ben make his way up the hard second pitch, the third pitch was on me. I’m not sure if it was because the climb was more suited to my strengths or because I had just come off the 5.8, but the this pitch seemed slightly easier than the first 5.7 pitch. The first few moves were rather scrambly and then I was able to clip a bolt. From there I was on what is called a “technical ramp”, which wasn’t that bad since I could treat it a bit like slab. There was a short easy section between the ramp and the next crack that went straight up to the anchors. The last few moves were the hardest of the pitch, and it was hard to find good gear placements in the crack. With some luck and Gumby like stretching I was able to place a piece high up in the crack and mostly protect the crux move. Even with my piece in it took me several tries to build up enough courage to do the last move! I couldn’t see the anchors until over the move, and sighed with relief when I got over and saw them 2 feet away.

Looking up at the 3rd pitch

Looking up at the 3rd pitch

Ben followed up, and when he got there he exclaimed that the pitch was much harder than it had looked below… I agreed.

Lukas (from the party behind us) coming up the crux of the 3rd pitch

Lukas (from the party behind us) coming up the crux of the 3rd pitch

Pitch 4 (5.4-5.6, depending on which book/website you look at): Skywalker

Skywalker Belay

Skywalker Belay

First things first, the belay station for Skywalker is awesome, mostly because of a plaque that reads “May The Force Be With You.” This route is a traverse with an amazing view, looking out from the belay station it looks like the climber is going to “walk” out into the sky. Ben had the honor of leading this pitch, and while he noted it was not technically hard it might be rated as a 5.6 in the book because it is fairly heady. He seemed to stay a bit higher on the slab and had to bend down to place his gear in the cracks and under-cling. Following him I went a little lower on the slab, so the crack was more at eye level when removing gear. Staying a bit lower was probably the way to go, I barely had to use my hands for the a majority of the traverse.

While belaying Ben across Skywalker the party behind us arrived, and they mentioned that some people actually do this pitch on their knees to get a better view for placing gear. I think that it might also be slabby enough to sit down and scoot across the whole traverse (not that I tried that).

Pitch 5 (5.4):

So, there are sections of the climbers trail that are probably harder than this pitch, I would say it is a really easy 5.4. The hardest move is getting from the belay station up to the slab, on what is basically a tree stump ladder. I got one move up and placed a piece, though I didn’t really need it, but that was one less piece to carry up. One 5- move over onto the slab and I exclaimed “Beautiful Slab!” An easy slab climb protected with 4 bolts and I was at the anchors. Ben was up to the top in less than 5 minutes (I could barely take up rope fast enough, that’s how easy this pitch was) and we stood back for a minute, high-fived and took in the amazing view. We looked down at the slab we just climbed and seeing it was just starting to get sun exclaimed how happy we were to have started early and have done the whole climb in the shade. Looking at our watch the time was 10:30, it had taken us just short of 4 hours to finish the route at a very leisurely pace.

 

Ben at the top of the walkoff

Ben at the top of the walkoff

There was an obvious trail off the route that meet back up with the main hiking trail. At the intersection of the main trail you go right (downhill) to leave or you can go left (uphill) for 5 minutes to reach some small pools and a stunning view of Shannon falls. We chose the later and it was worth the extra 5 minutes, we got some pictures and a the breeze coming off the falls was heavenly. We opted not to go in the pools as we just weren’t that hot and were ready to get down and eat some brunch, but they looked very inviting.

Waterfall Mist

Waterfall Mist

Following the steep trail down (I’m convinced Canadians don’t believe in switchbacks) we made it back to the car about an hour after finishing the route. By the time we reached the car the overflow lot, that had been empty in the morning, was full. There was a girl with a lemonade stand at the end of the lot and we each treated ourselves to a glass, which was probably the most perfect way to end a good climb.

Our Rack:

We took a double rack up (even thought he book only calls for a standard rack with doubles of 1-0.75) replacing 1 set of 1’s and 0.75 with our link cams of those sizes and we also brought our C3s. If I was to do this again we could probably leave the C3s at home, as well as the number 3’s. The route could easily be done as the book suggests, though if it were me I would bring the doubles at link cams, as I defiantly used doubles of some of the smaller cams, If I didn’t have link cams I would bring doubles of #1-0.4.

Resources:

If you plan on climbing this route then just print this description, that’s all you need to take with you.

Camp Muir Ski

(Does the world really need another trip report for the hike to Muir? Not really… but here is one anyway🙂 )

This past Sunday, June 29th, 2014, Eric, Gerry, Jarred, Jon, Ben and I skinned up to Camp Muir on Mt Rainier and then skied down. We had originally planned on doing it on Saturday but weather reports on Friday were calling for rain/snow on Sat and cloudy skies on Sunday so we moved our date. Turns out it was a big mistake to listed to the weather report, as Sat ended up having no rain and Sunday turned out to by foggy and misty mixed with patches of rain. We left Seattle at 6am and started from Paradise (elevation 5,400 ft) around 9:30 am.

Setting Out at Paradise

Setting Out at Paradise

Since the snow reached the parking lot we were able to start out skinning from the very start and we were able to make some pretty good time until we reached Panorama Point (elevation 6,700 ft, distance from paradise 2.5 mi). At this point there were a series of 3 short ski carries, but each transition took some time. Once we were over all 3 transitions it was about noon and we were fully on the Muir Snowfeild. We were also very much ready for lunch. We were also a little over half way up at this point, so refueling was a good idea. Eric and Gerry found a good rock pile and we sat down to nom away. Lunch didn’t last too long, since it was misty and oh so cold, and we got moving after only 20 min. But not too soon for Gerry to not take a short nap🙂 While eating lunch we saw one of the guided groups (which we had been leap-frogging with all day) slogging up.

Ben going though the first snow to rock transition

Ben going though the first snow to rock transition

Jarred in the fog

Jarred in the fog

Guided group chugging up the mountain

Guided group chugging up the mountain while we eat lunch

After lunch it was a pretty straight shot of about 2000 vertical feet up to Muir. We started running into the early birds who were already descending and kept hearing promises of blue skies at Muir, this was definitely the motivation we needed! Since it was easy going up from our lunch point the group broke up into the fast and slower folks, Gerry, Eric and Jarred reach Camp Muir (elevation 10080 ft) around 2:30, while Jon, Ben and I reach it around 3 (to find Gerry taking his 3rd? nap of the day). The clouds broke maybe 100ft before the camp and we got a few glorious views.

Andrea with Muir in the background

Andrea with Muir in the background

Gerry already napping as Ben arrives at Muir

Gerry already napping as Ben arrives at Muir

View from Muir

View from Muir

Eric had scouted out an additional add-on that that provided some steep skiing above Muir, and Gerry was up for scoping it out with him. They skinned up the side of the glacier and then dropped back down right below Muir, giving the rest of us about 30 extra minutes to take in the view, chat with climbers milling about, and have a rest. We were ready to roll once they got back down, the clouds were rolling in and the wind was picking up.

Heading down right below Camp Muir

Heading down right below Camp Muir

The first 200ft of skiing were fantastic, we were able to ski in some untouched snow before descending into the clouds and fog. The next 2000ft were near whiteout conditions, and we had to stop and regroup about every 100ft, sometimes calling out to one another when we could no longer see. We followed the flags down pretty closely, not wanting to get off route knowing there was a glacier to our right side. By this point the rain had really started to pick up and we stopped and put on rain pants and extra rain gear.

Shortly after while regrouping for maybe the 15th time we heard a voice calling out from the rocks to our left (the ones that are the barrier between the Muir snowfield and yet another glacier) but with the visibility so low we could not see the source of the voice. When we first heard his calls through the fog and rain we thought we heard him calling out that he had broken his leg. We stopped and Jarred and I took off our skis to boot back up to the rocks, then fortunately we heard the voice coming towards us. It turned out to be a solo hiker who had gotten off route and was very lost. We got him back onto the route, pointing out the flags and boot path to follow. We also took his name, details and cellphone number and agreed that we would turn this info over to the ranger station at Paradise and he would check in there when he got down (so they would know a solo hiker was out there.) He wasn’t disoriented and was carry emergency gear (from the size of his pack probably a lot of emergency gear) so we felt o.k. leaving him to hike down alone.

Shorty thereafter we hit the 3 rocky areas with the ski-boot-ski transitions, and at the end of the 3rd the lost hiker had caught up to us. We were all very relived to see him, and at this point the fog had lifted and visibility was much better. There was only about 1000ft to go, so we talked to him and agreed we would not stop at the ranger station.

The last 1000 feet of skiing was super fun, and to make it even more fun Eric broke out his GPS and we split from the trail to ski through the trees and all the way down to the lower parking lot (much more preferable that booting it down from the upper lot!) Once in the lot we changed into dry clothes and we headed to Copper Creek Inn for some dinner, beer, and pie. All in all it was a pretty awesome day with great snow conditions, the only thing that would have made it better was increased visibility… guess we will just have to do it again soon🙂

Ride the Lightning

If you’re just reading this for the fun bit of the story (or if you want to avoid hearing too much beta about the route) skip ahead to “Going down.”

May 3, 2014

A plan falls into place.
A Mountaineers Crag field trip was happening in Tieton. Jarred was signed up as a student for Sunday, and suggested that I join him during his free Saturday to do some other climbing just for fun. He & I would drive out together, and I’d drive back alone Saturday night while he got a ride with Ben & Andrea at the end of Sunday. But what exactly should we climb out there? Having never been to Tieton before, and lacking the guidebook for the area, I turned to mountainproject.com. There’s a pie-chart of types of climbing with a sliver of color that supercharged my curiosity and desire. 131 rock routes, and 1 alpine route. What exactly do they mean by an alpine route in an area that’s mostly single-pitch cragging?? I had to find out. The answer is Ride the Lightning, a 7-pitch route with a mix of bolts and trad placements, 5.9 at the hardest, with most pitches being 5.8. There’s no way I could resist. There’s a fantastic route description & topo by the first ascensionist here: http://www.cascadeimages.com/cr/tieton/rtl/rtl.htm. It’s on Goose Egg Mountain, which is a mountain in the sense that Tiger Mountain is a mountain, not like Mt Stuart or anything. I’d probably have to lead every pitch since Jarred is not quiet yet leading trad, but I was okay with that. I believe there’s other big multipitch routes in Tieton, but RTL is all mountainproject.com lists at the moment.

I knew this route would be pushing my abilities a bit. After more than a year of being comfortable leading at-most 5.7 routes on trad gear, I had just begun to believe in myself as a 5.8 trad leader within the last month, after ticking off both Party In Your Pants and Crossing The Threshold back at Vantage, amongst some shorter routes. A couple of factors gave me confidence though: (1) The first ascent was in 2001, so that 5.9 rating is probably on a more sane scale than some 1950’s Fred Beckey first ascent. (2) Jarred had just bought twin-ropes, making full 60m rappels a possibility, and all the belays promised to be bolted, so in theory it would be easy give up and go back the way we came at any point if it proved too challenging. In fact, I’d rather intentionally climb only the first 6 pitches and rappel them rather than deal with the loose 7th pitch and the fourth class gully downclimb described by the guide. I really hate fourth class. (3) The 5.9 pitch wasn’t until the 5th pitch, so even if it was unclimbable for me, we could still feel like we made a solid accomplishment by climbing four challenging pitches.

Gearing up.

  • Two 60m Petzl Salsa 8.2mm ropes, orange & brown, used as twin-ropes.
  • 6 sport quickdraws
  • 10 alpine draws
  • 3 double runners
  • Black Diamond C4s #0.3 through #4, with doubles of #1, #2, & #3
  • set of stoppers
  • Crack gloves. (Singing Rock rubber ones for me, tape gloves for Jarred. Our hands would have been very bloody without these.)
  • Helmets. (As always, but especially here because occasionally a hold would flake off and fly away.)
  • Walkie-talkies, which were unnecessary because we were always in shouting distance on the way up, but they crapped out during the long rappels where they actually would have helped.
  • small backpack carried by Jarred with each of our sandwiches & water (REI Flash 18 pack)
  • a light rain shell (Jarred) and a light wind-breaker (me), which was meant as an emergency layer, but we ended up wearing them all day since you climb into an area of higher winds, making it chillier than it was on the ground

I know that’s a lot of draws, but we used every last one of them, I wouldn’t bring any less. I probably could have done without the stoppers, I only placed a single one all day (BD stopper #10, the silver one, for the first piece on pitch 3, where there’s no risk of zippering.) For the cams, I probably didn’t need anything smaller than the #0.75 after all, unless I wanted to use a #0.4 cam instead of the #10 stopper on pitch 3. Doubles of the #1, #2, & #3 were a good call. It’s not really necessary, but a third #1 cam (red) would have allowed me to overprotect the dihedral in pitch 2. The big silver #4 was only placed once (in the off-width in pitch 5,) and it was totally worth carrying it the whole day.

The twin-rope setup was new to both of us, but it was straight forward and worked out well. We both brought a Reverso 4, which gripped the skinny rope just enough with it’s breaking grooves, but since it was just-enough, we were keen to always use belay gloves, and maintain good autoblock habits when rappelling. Those ropes are also rated as half-ropes, but I didn’t want to add the complication of moving separate strands through the belay device at different rates. I intentionally brought the Reverso instead of my beloved Mammut Smart Alpine, because the Smart says it’s only meant for ropes 8.9mm and wider. Someday I’ll buy the other Smart model that’s specced for skinnier ropes so I have both options.

The Approach.
I picked up Jarred at his apartment in Seattle at 4am. We didn’t rush much, we made a stop for gas & gas-station food, another bathroom stop, and a stop very near Tieton to say “Hi” when we spotted Ben & Andrea’s car at a campsite off Hwy 12. They were helping teach at the Mountaineers Crag field trip both Saturday & Sunday, and were getting ready to head to the Royal Columns.  I ran into my friend Doug there too.  After hanging out for a bit, Jarred & I continued on our way and eventually parked at the pull-off clearly described here http://www.cascadeimages.com/cr/tieton/rtl/rtl.htm at 8am. We put on harnesses, gear, and sunscreen at the car, and did the 15 minute approach hike in tennis shoes while carrying our ropes & rock shoes. The weather called for temps just below 70°, sunny, and a 10% chance of rain. Given the south-facing aspect of our route and the fact that we were in Eastern Washington, I had expected to get completely baked, so I had worked during the entire drive to drink a whopping 3.5 liters of water by this point so I’d be okay carrying a single liter of water on the actual climb. (That day I peed from a semi-hanging belay, and later while on lead from a ledge above my last clip, both for the first time in my life. Don’t worry, I kept it off the route!) By 9am we were finally tied in, checked out, and ready for me to get off the ground.

Going up.
I started up the first pitch at 9am. Even though it’s reachable by some easy 3rd class terrain then one friction move, I didn’t like how high off the deck that first bolt was. I think the first ascensionists did a stellar job putting together an amazing route in Ride the Lightning, and I understand the desire to not over-protect the hell out of things with too many bolts, but I do think a bolt before that first friction move would be a responsible safety addition given that the leader has 30 or 40 feet of 3rd class terrain to tumble down if they don’t get that first move right. Anyway, the rest of the pitch is fun, with small but plentiful crimps for hands and tiny-but-good nubs for rock shoes to stick to. It’s stuff that you can keep moving up slowly but surely, and I’d say the 5.8+ rating is about right. Since that first pitch is entirely bolted, I made Jarred carry all the heavier cams so that I’d get to warm up my lead-head without the full rack weight on my harness. It’s a solid full rope length too, with the chains not quite 60 meters above the ground. It’s a lot windier up here on the wall than it was down amongst the trees, so even though it felt like a jacket-free day before climbing, I needed to put my windbreaker on to keep from shivering while belaying, and I kept it on the rest of the day.

The 2nd pitch starts out very much like more of the first pitch, climbing the face and feeling pretty good about it. Eventually it gets over to that big dihedral that’s the hallmark of the route, and the climbing there is really interesting! The crack eats up red & yellow cams and provides a number of awesome hand jams while you stem between the two faces. I reached the roof, and traversed under the roof by continuing to get solid hand-jams in the crack at the back of the roof. There’s a pair of chains below the left edge of the roof, thus ending the 2nd pitch.

The 3rd pitch goes up the corner around left of the roof, then turns right out-of-sight onto the first comfortable-to-stand-on ledge in a while. It turns out this is the end of the pitch, it’s surprisingly short compared to the first two we just did. I couldn’t figure out the mixed-pro anchor that the guide described, but the rap-chains that are there worked really well as a belay anchor. After Jarred was up on the ledge too, we extended the lengths of our rope tie-ins to the anchor so we could sit around on the ledge and take a lunch break without disconnecting from the rope. By this time it was around 12:45pm, which indicated we had been moving a bit slowly, but that was expected since the pitches were long and the climbing moves so close to our skill limits.

The 4th pitch starts out really easy, up a few bolts on small face holds that you’re very used to by now on this route. After the last bolt you have to make a step around an edge and into another corner. I found that step to be quite challenging on lead, even though a fall there probably wouldn’t have been that bad. I somehow managed to pull through it, with some colorful vocals. After that step the next belay anchor is easily reached. This is the first belay anchor we’ve reached that had just bolts, no chains. Some crispy bleached-white webbing indicated someone had rapped from here in the past, as we planned to do, but not before trying the 5th pitch!

The 5th pitch is described as having a scary runout to the first bolt. Once I got to actually see the terrain from the 4th pitch belay anchor, I thought it didn’t look that bad, and I wanted to give it a try. Here’s another place where I think one more bolt would be a responsible addition to the climb. An added bolt 10 feet above the belay anchor would at least prevent a fall from being factor-2. Since there were three bolts at the belay, I clipped one of them as my first piece, and gained some modicum of comfort knowing I was now looking at a factor-1.9 fall. With careful balance, I was able to get that distant bolt without falling, and had no shame about pulling on the draw while I clipped the rope. One more bolt, and then I was faced with a tiny overhang (the crux that makes the darn thing a 5.9) followed by an off-width crack. I tried and backed off a bunch of times. I finally reached up and plugged in a #2 yellow cam, grabbed the cam sling, and French-freed my way up over that overhang. I guess I’m still not a 5.9 trad leader🙂 After that, I found myself with my left side wedged into the off-width crack. I badly wanted to get more pro in it, but I had hung all of medium to large cams from my left gear loop. I wiggled like a worm in that crack for a while, barely balancing & hanging on, and somehow managed to retrieve a necessary cam from my left side. After that, I made good progress up the off-width. Yellows, blues, and one silver cam where handy up this section, and then you start getting some bolts to follow again. It’s a long pitch, but it continues in a straight line, and eventually you get a pair of bolts (again no chains) to your left as a belay anchor.

After bringing Jarred up to the top of this 5th pitch, it was 2:45pm. I felt great about everything we had accomplished, and figured it was about time to turn around to make sure we could rappel the entire 610 feet of vertical we had just gained before getting close to the dinner hour. The 6th pitch didn’t sound that interesting compared to everything else we’d climbed so far, and I had never intended the climb the 7th pitch anyway since it was described as an awful & dangerous hanging pile of loose boulders. Here at the top of pitch 5 was a great place to call it day and turn around.

Going down.
There’s a diagram of the route on this page, it might help you follow what happens next: http://www.cascadeimages.com/cr/tieton/rtl/rtl.htm

At the chainless 5th pitch belay bolts, Jarred provided a rappel ring, and I provided 10ft of 7mm cord, and with a few fancy knots we had perfectly SERENE rap anchor hanging from those two bolts. We threaded through a rope end, then tied the ropes together with my preferred flemish-bend with double-fisherman’s backup knots. It’s a mighty burly way to connect two ropes, which I feel better about than the alternative Euro-Death-Knot, even one with over a foot of tails. I’d be especially uneasy about the EDK in these brand new super-slippery and skinny ropes. We stacked the rope for a saddle-bag rappel, but that proved to be a waste of time since the slippery rope was quick to fall out of my saddlebags. I rapped first, making sure to traverse climber’s-right so I’d hit the belay bolts at the top of the 4th pitch. Along this rappel, on two occasions I clipped an alpine draw to a bolt so the ropes would continue to be held in the direction I had been angling so far. That would prevent me from penduluming too far left if I slipped, and I would tie the bottoms of the rope to the next anchor so Jarred could retrieve those draws without having major pendulum concerns himself. Just before reaching the 4th pitch belay bolts, I passed the middle-markers on the twin ropes. Knowing that the 4th pitch was only 50 feet, I was sure I could skip it and make it to the chains at the top of pitch #3. I did so, got off the rappel, and though it was nearly impossible to yell back and forth with Jarred at that point, managed to explain the situation and tell him he could safely rappel now. (The radios had crapped out, even though their batteries weren’t dead, and we had successfully tested them earlier in the day. Weird.) Jarred paused his rappel by the 4th pitch belay bolts, and told me that during his rappel he saw the ropes above him fall into that off-width crack just above the small overhang. I told him don’t worry about it, keep coming down to me and get off the rappel. (In hind sight, I still can’t think of anything safe for him to do to fix this without first finishing his rappel.)

While we were both attached via PA (personal anchor) to the chains atop the 3rd pitch, we began pulling the orange end of the rope. It had a lot of resistance, but as we pulled, we could see our effort translated into the brown rope moving upward, and it eventually went out of sight. Shortly afterward, our pulls on the orange rope stopped making progress. We could see it’s middle-mark above us, we’d pull together, then let go and watched that middle mark travel right back up to the same spot it had been hanging at before, indicating our pulls were doing nothing but stretching the rope. We tried wrapping the rope around our feet and standing on it. We attached prusiks to it, clipped our belay loops to it, and bounced our full combined body weights on the rope. No progress. At that point, the worst thing I could imagine happened. It started raining.

Let me reiterate our situation when it started raining. It’s 4pm. We were hanging by our PA’s from a pair of chains 395 feet above the ground. It had been windy and a tad chillier all day than we expected, so we both were already wearing our emergency layers. Jarred’s was at least a rain shell, but mine was just a windbreaker. Getting wet would pose a very real risk of hypothermia. It’s not realistic to carry the weight of more than one emergency layer on a rock climb, and the chance of rain that day was 10%, which really is as low as you could hope for. We needed to get down off that route, right now. We had warm jackets and my car waiting for us not far from the bottom, so if we could at least keep moving down the wall we’d have ways of warming back up and be just fine. The only sane way down was to rappel, but nearly all of our rope was above us, out of reach, and not responding to our pulls. We could be stranded & immobile here for hours, slowly having our body heat sapped away by rain. I got legitimately scared at this point.

My mind raced with problem-solving attempts. What resources did we have to change our situation? I thought about building a 3-to-1 pulley system, and Jarred suggested other ways of increasing our pull on the rope, but I didn’t really believe this would be any more effective than the pulling we had already done, so I didn’t want to waste time on it. We had our cell phones, but there was no signal. In the bottom of the pack I made Jarred carry was my DeLorme InReach (which is like a Spot beacon, only better because it lets you type & send short text messages via satellite.) We could push the SOS button on that, but I’d be so intensely embarrassed about having needed official SAR help I was unwilling to cross that bridge yet. Since the InReach lets you send free-form text messages to anyone, we could text Ben & Andrea! Since they were nearby and had all the necessary equipment to reach us, having their help plus Loni and the rest of the Crag class would be quite the calvary to call in, probably mounting a more effective rescue for our needs than an official SAR response! Still, it’s far better to solve your own problems, especially if you can do so safely. They were probably outside of cell phone signal, like us. Even if they got our message, if it kept raining the rock would eventually get too slippery for them to climb to us anyway. We had one more resource: The roughly 60 feet of the orange half-rope we had successfully pulled down before the rope got stuck.

God took pity on us, and the rain stopped before it ever was more than just a sprinkle. Neither us nor the rock was really wet. I am so incredibly thankful for this. It had only sprayed us enough to create some fear. Still, I was afraid it would start again at any moment. I was going to make damn sure I got our rope back before that happened. I hastily grabbed some quickdraws and cams from Jarred, who still was still carrying everything from cleaning the 5th pitch. I tied into the end of that single orange half-rope, and had Jarred tie it to the chains and put me on belay. I slapped a prusik onto the orange rope on the untrustworthy side, and clipped my PA to that prusik. I re-led the 5th pitch, protecting it exactly as I had done before, but knowing that if I took a leader-fall it would be on a single half-rope strand rather than a rope system fully rated for leader-falls. I made sure a leader-fall didn’t happen by continuing to push the prusik higher on the untrustworthy strand. I also used that prusik as an extra hand-hold at times, greatly assisting with my balance on the harder moves so I didn’t waste time trying to free-climb them. I reached the belay bolts at the top of the 4th pitch. The off-width crack with the stuck ropes was within sight, but I was nearly out of rope to lead with, so I stopped and set up a belay.

I told Jarred to get ready to climb, and I put both strands of orange rope through my Reverso. Since he had a big U-shaped section of orange rope instead of a free end, he couldn’t do a rewoven figure-8 tie in, so I had him do a figure-8 on a bight to a locker on his belay loop. Looking back I suppose a bowline on a bight would have worked too, but I knew Jarred knew the figure-8 better, and I was in a hurry. As he reached that crux step-around move, he warned me that he’d need to hang on the rope to get through, which was no problem given the solid top-rope he was on. Instead he pulled through the move successfully, and happily exclaimed “I didn’t weight the rope!” With perfect timing after that his footing slipped and he fell, and the humor of it broke the tension a little. Shortly afterward he reached the anchor, put me on belay instead, and we now had over 100 feet of free orange rope for me to keep leading on, more than enough to reach the nearby off-width.

I led up the two bolts to the small overhang and off-width. I could see the rope wedged not in the off-width exactly, but in a small horizontal flake on it’s right side. It was not my bulky knot that had gotten stuck, I could see that hanging freely farther above. The two rope strands were crossed on top of each other, like when you cross your index and middle fingers for luck. The more we had pulled on orange, the more it had wedged brown into place. I didn’t have to go over the little overhang, I just had to switch our direction of pull from the right side of the crack to the left side of the crack, and I was able to yank the ropes free. I then gave them a flip so they landed outside of the off-width entirely. Awesome. Our ropes are free! Now, how do I get down?

I’m on lead, above the 2nd bolt. Both the orange and brown ends of the rope hanging from our top rappel anchor are within reach, but the brown rope ends before it would reach the anchor Jarred is at. We go with the first plan that comes to mind: Jarred keeps me on belay, and I rappel a short distance until I’m below that 2nd bolt, but careful not to go too far since there’s no stopper at the end of brown (we took out the stopper earlier when we first tried to pull it.) While on rappel, I replaced the quickdraw on that bolt with the oldest single carabiner currently on my harness. Then, I had Jarred “take,” and hold my weight. I got off rappel, and he lowered me back to him, which fortunately wasn’t far because I’m committing the faux-pas of lowering off a single bolt. I clipped into the anchor, and together we pulled the rope, which much to our relief comes down to us completely.

I produced a rap ring and a 10’ piece of water-knotted webbing, and got to work creating my cheap-yet-completely-SERENE rap anchor. Haste makes waste, and I forgot to tie one of the knots that would have made it fully redundant. Rather than undo it and fix it, I want to get on with the descent right away before the rain gets a chance to come back, so I make it redundant by sloppily adding a dyneema runner and carabiner, taping the carabiner gate closed so it now counts as a locker. It looked kinda dumb since it was unnecessarily wasteful with gear, but it was SERENE! I rappel first, going from these 4th pitch anchors all the way down to the anchors at the top of the 2nd pitch. I am happy to report that are no major cracks anywhere near the rope during this rappel. Jarred joins me at the 2nd pitch anchors, and we pull the rope. It moves a little, and then… resistance. No F’ing way.

Jarred & I are having none of this. We both yank hard together. At first the rope doesn’t move, then suddenly it pops and lunges at us, and we chuckle with relief like crazy people. I am pretty sure my bulky flemish bend got a little hung up pulling over an edge until we pulled hard enough for it to bump up and over, and a fresh bit of sheath abrasion at the knot supported that theory. Happily using chains now, we thread the rope, and both rap to the 1st pitch anchors. The rock is entirely face now, no crack to get stuck in, and I’m sure we both want to feel relieved, but we’re holding our breath until we’re really back on the ground. The rope pulls just fine, we set up the last rappel, do the rappel, pull the rope one last time (remembering to take out a stopper-knot just before it left the ground.) Finally, we are both on the ground, and so is the rope. It’s 6:30pm. That’s 9h30m after we first left the ground. We are very happy to be here, and very happy to get our feet out of rock shoes and back in sneakers. The rain never came back, but I’m still glad we didn’t dilly-dally at any point after it first threatened us.

Ending the day.
Back at the car, I don’t put my gear away in an organized fashion like I usually do. I throw down a reusable shopping bag and tell Jarred to throw anything with my signature green & white tape in there, while I unload my harness in the same manner. We drive back to where we had seen Ben & Andrea that morning, pretty much exactly 12 hours ago. They had been back from the Royal Columns a while now, and had just begun to wonder where we were. I joined them and some other Mountaineers hanging out in camp just long enough for me to tell our story and have one can of cheap beer with them. Then, we moved Jarred’s gear from my car to theirs, and I hit the road back to Seattle so I can spend Sunday with my girlfriend.

Huge kudos to Jarred for keeping a level head through all of this, thinking resourcefully, and and being an excellent partner at both the normal climbing, and the bit of self-rescue we had to pull off near the end. I want Jarred around anytime the going gets tough! Also, a sincere big thanks to the first ascensionists who put up this route, I had a great time climbing it! On a five star system, I’d give it 4 stars. (The only downsides being some occasional loose rock, and my desire for an extra safety bolt here and there.)

My pictures:  https://www.dropbox.com/sh/xuowki6f4kwh5yd/rJ5KPLcvnh
Jarred’s pictures:  http://1drv.ms/1mwzHuU

P.S.  An old cashmere sweater, a mylar blanket, and an emergency rain poncho have been permanently added to what I put in the little backpack the follower carries on my multipitch climbs.

Baring Mountain

Here’s someone elses trip report that gives a pretty good description of the route: http://cascadeclimbers.com/forum/ubbthreads.php?ubb=showflat&Number=666909

I set out with Andrea, Ben, Alex, & Gerry; and all five of us squeezed snuggly into my Forester at 5am on April 26th.  Unfortunately, it seemed unlikely that we would summit, as it rained heavily on us during the drive out there, and as we began the hike.  When we arrived at the trailhead parking lot at 6:30am, there was a group of 9 BoeAlps already there gearing up as well.  (In Seattle, the Mountaineers is the largest organized mountaineering club, but there are many smaller ones as well, one of which is BoeAlps, which is specifically for Boeing employees.)  I wasn’t expecting anyone else to be doing the same mountain as us since April is an unpopular time for mountaineering, but I was really glad when I realized they’d be ahead of us because I knew a lot of the way would be on snow, and we’d get some free steps kicked for us.

The BoeAlps were ahead of us just enough that we went hours without seeing them after they left the parking lot.  We started hiking at 7:05.  Before the snow, the route started out briefly along an abandoned road, then turned uphill walking in a creek for a few feet, then following a very rough bootpath through the woods gaining 2000′ by going nearly straight up the ridge-side.  The rain let up, leaving us with just a heavy fog.  We hit continuous snow, and were happy to follow in the recent footsteps of the BoeAlps group.  It takes a while, but eventually the slope ends with a ridgeline, still in trees, that you turn left and walk along.  Eventually the gradually rising ridgeline is interrupted by a sudden increase in steepness with a cliffy rock face visible on the left side, at which point you go right and follow your current topo line, traversing the south slope amongst the trees.  When there are no cliffs above you, you make a 90° left turn and ascend a very consistent slope until you break out of the trees at the edge of a snow bowl, with views of the big gully that runs to the notch between the north & south peaks.  When we reached this point, the cloud ceiling cut off both the north & south peaks, but we could see the big gully across the bowl from us, and we spotted the BoeAlps group halfway up it.  They must have been moving fast, because that was the first time we caught sight of them since the parking lot.  We noticed that if we stepped out of their tracks, we’d quickly sink into the snow up to our waist, and it was a bit of a swimming battle to get something solid to stand on again.  Even within their tracks, occasionally stepping down hard would cause us to posthole.

There was old avalanche debris in the gully as we ascended, but it was clearly old and had refrozen solidly into place.  As we ascended it, the clouds began to break, giving us occasional patches of blue sky, some views far down the Highway 2 valley, and some teasing glimpses of other nearby mountains.  We caught up with the BoeAlps group at the notch where the gully ended.  Other route descriptions describe one pitch of very steep snow that must be climbed in order to go higher than the notch, and we had brought a 50-meter rope, three pickets, and one secondary ice axe so that I’d have two when leading the pitch.  We ended up not using any of it.  The BoeAlps leader had been concerned about snow stability on that pitch, so rather than go up it, he went sidewise to the left, setting his own fixed line to a tree over there.  After their entire group had used the fixed line to get to the next easy section, I heard them say that they were going to leave it in place while they tagged the summit, and use it on the descent as well.  I yelled to them, asking if they would mind if we clipped in and used their fixed line after them on the ascent.  He said yes, which saved us even more time, since we didn’t have to set up our own fixed line, as we had originally planned.  I thanked them, and told them we’d use our own rope to rappel back into the gully when it was time to descend so we wouldn’t delay them, but that later proved to be unnecessary too.  Our groups combined as we worked up the final alpine slope to the summit.

The rocky summit partially stuck out of the snow, and had quite of bit of rime-ice plastered to it.  We circled clockwise around it to find an easier side to scramble up, summiting at 1:00pm.  With 14 people up there total, we perched on every inch of rock that was showing, because we knew the snowier parts were probably hiding dangerous cornices.  We faced west and enjoyed some beautiful views through the cloud breaks, and everyone broke out some food that they had carried up and generously shared.  I got some delicious Swedish Fish and a maple-creme cookie from the BoeAlps people in exchange for some chocolate bits.  Index & Mt Persis were hazily visible on one side of our view, while Merchant and Gunn Peak came and went through the fog on the other side.  At 1:20pm we started our descent.  We were hiking along side the BoeAlps group, and got back to their fixed line at roughly the same time.  They said we were welcome to use their fixed line again, even though we hadn’t wanted to slow them down, so we accepted their generous offer.  It was almost unnecessary at that point because so many boots had made very solid, comfortable steps at the steep snow traverse.  We happily glissaded the entire gully, even though it was a tad bumpy.  We exited the snow bowl, and the BoeAlps group pulled ahead of us as we worked our way back down the ridgeline.  Our group really slowed down once got low enough to be off snow entirely, and back to the muddy bootpath on the lower slope.  It was a long day and we were tired.  It was a relief to finally break out on to the abandoned road at the bottom.  We hung out there for a little bit to regroup and wash our muddy boots/gaitors/pants in the small stream.  By then, the difference in weather was amazing.  Blue skies everywhere, and a stunning view of Baring’s summit through the thin tree branches above us.  Once we were all there, we walked the tiny remaining distance back to the parking lot, finishing out hike at 5:45pm.  It was a fantastic, full-value day!

If it hadn’t been for the BoeAlps, I’m sure it would have taken us much, much longer; probably requiring us to turn around before reaching the summit in order to get back at a reasonable hour.  We intentionally went to the same bar & grill as them on the way home, and bought them a token pitch of beer as thanks.

Here are just my pictures:  https://www.dropbox.com/sh/ct8i9j2ksnmvxsh/IYleHf6Amj

Pictures from everyone in the group our on facebook (need to add a link to that.)