Thursday, July 31, 2008

No pictures!

Sorry no pictures for this update.

Done two days of squamish climbing now. its brilliant!

I got in after a rainy day tuesday hoping to find a campsite. Found one just fine, but the road had a huge landslide only an hour after i got through... so now im stuck here at least till tuesday. darn!

Did 9 pitches on wed, despite a wet start to the morning, all but one were 5 stars. perfect granite. Today i did a 6 pitch 10a called St. Vitus Dance, with the direct start which was wet 10a, started to rain at the top of pitch 3 but we got through just fine, cracks are solid even when wet.

looks like rain till friday aft or so, maybe ill go for a hike.

The scene isnt so bad now that I have been assimilated into it, ive already gotten four offers to climb the grand wall (most classic 10 pitch 11a on the planet apparently) might give it a go, as the grades are pretty soft here. 10c feels about 5.9 at Seneca, so 11a might be doable?!

updates as they happen, or at least moderately soon after they happen.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008


I finally made it to Canada, and Squamish, after years of wanting , and one other failed attempt.

Accompanied by Jeff Moss' brother Gil and his friend Dave, I would finally get my chance to experience the granitic wonder of Squamish BC.

Certainly one of the main draws of coming here was the presupposed lack of "scene" that had plagued my dreams of going to Yosemite. Although reasonably sociable in small group settings, I am terrified of larger groups.

Strangely the situations were one would think i would be most comfortable (a gather of climbers) are exactly the worst situations. The relief of anonymity given at a metal show for example, provides enough psychological cover for me that enduring moshing overweight unkempt adolescents and ear destroying decibel levels actually an enjoyable event. Likewise a small group of close friends (2-5) I feel like I have enough control to participate.

However situations where I should be comfortable are horrendous. Likewise I truly hate the cliche atmosphere, the posturing, the innumerable subaru outbacks, dreds,local beer + unkempt dog + tailgate = instant popularity that infuses a popular climbing hangout.

Agreed some of it is exposing my own way of living as being cheap, and shallow, but whatever the reason it drives me nuts.

We pull into the Chief parking lot and camping (the main camping for the climbing area) and lo and behold there it is in all its glory. the "scene"

I can barely drive through looking for, and praying not to find, an open campsite. Which luckily we dont.

We find a nicer spot down by the river in the Kalahanie campground by Shannon Falls and our proposed climbing spot the next day.

The next morning we hike up to our first route, Kalahanie crack, past droves of Asian tourists and are the first at the base of the wall. The waterfall spills loudly into the stream a couple hundred feet to our left.

Gil starts up the perfect 5.7 hand crack. His sweet climbing tights can be purchased for your own collection from Running Funky

Dave nearing the chains on Kalahanie Crack

By now the whole wall is swamped with 5 parties and only 3 popular climbs. We manage to get not too far back in line for the next crack to the right Cardu Crack. a 5.8.

Some of the Charlie Foxtrot over on the slab climb to the left "Local Boys"

Gil doing some sweet stemming on Cardu Crack

Me belaying Gil on Cardu crack

Amazingly i look to my left, and on the climb we were just on there is a guy cleaning the route, and only 15 feet behind him someone else is leading the pitch! I realize that these ethics are a little obscure to those who dont climb, but at least where i climb back east this is akin to cutting someone off AND slowing down in front of you when you are driving. Amazing! Not surprisingly this same lady was leading on our pitch before we could pull our ropes, causing them to get stuck. And then she had to "help" us get them. Serious faux pas'

All of this ruckus was confirming the worst of my fears. The climbing was brilliant and the atmosphere horrible, we moved down to the base of a friction slab that was devoid of people to see if we could salvage my respect for the climbing community.

Often on climbs the first bolt is rather high to keep out the "fluff" and usually i pride myself on keeping my head together to get to that bolt.

A polished 11c friction route is not the route to try this on. Me retreating after 50 feet off of Magic Carpet Ride.

Gil manages a bit better and gets the first few moves but in the end we are both stymied.... fluff.

A sweet tree near the parking lot.

We head over to the Smoke Bluffs a bunch of little crags near town, and amazing find a crag all to ourselves.

Me leading up Baby Lizard 5.9

Time for a shave... belaying on Baby Lizard

From the same setup we were able to do a combination of Centre Street 10c, and Reptilian 10d as a topRope. Not too bad thin tips locks to the super technical finish on small feet to a slopey dike.

We then went over and did Easter Island, a fun 5.8 through a short roof.
Dave makes it look easy.

For the last pitch of the day, Gil went over and did Payanoia 5.9 maybe the silliest route any of us had ever done. A decent short 5.9 crack leads to a ledge that you could walk off of, and then for no reason an unprotected boulder move, above said ledge.

Gil pulling down hard on the contrived finish.

Me pulling the same move, you can see the ground below me, about 12 inches.

We feasted on hot dogs, beans, coconut and chocolate.

Chipmunk Dave and I gaping at the Chief the next morning.

This is about 3% of the Chief, I didnt feel like putting on a lens to capture it all, and this is showing maybe 300 feet tall of rock!

We headed over to a cliff called the Upper Malamute which drops almost directly into Howe Sound near squamish. After some "dacks-like" shwacking to get the base of our route Gil led up a nice 5.8 called Jacobs Other Ladder, in a light sprinkle.

Gil demonstrating some of the moves enroute.

The sound is this amazing color, not blue not green, but a grey version of both and quite beautiful. I believe from the silt in the glacial runoff. Here is a photo of it doubling as both log storage facility and run-way.

We found a fun slab to play on. I led a 10a friction climb in the rain (scary!) and then from the bottom we would run up and see how far we could get. I believe the two routes we did on the slab were called. You gonna do something or just stand there and bleed 10a, and With friends like that who needs enemas 5.8

Dave concentrating hard on making his feet stick.

Dave preparing to be animal like and Gil in slack-taking position.

For the rest of the day we hung out at the Seal Cove. Up in the top 5 of most beautiful places i have ever climbed. And the climbing was good too!

You rappel in next to and below a train tunnel and the cliff is over the sound. The climbs are reached via a 5.9 traverse out over the waves to the appropriate point before launching upwards to the top of the slab.

Gil leading out the traverse to the base of our route Soul Mate 10b.

The really were seals here too! we saw bunches playing in the cove behind us, apparently they were as amused by Gils pants as the climbers were.

Gil sets off on 10b friction slab which as you can see has a plethora of holds.

He was encouraged by a strange man with a mohawk in a strange "Greenland Kayak" who happened upon us and then disappeared back into the future, which was the only probable place he could have come from.

Gil takes a rather striking picture of Dave

And the view out across the Sound isnt bad either.

We end the day, lowering back down and TR-ing Swept Away a 5.9 on the far end of the slab.

Hard not to enjoy the location.

Too finish it all off we drive back to Vancouver for all you can eat sushi!

In the end it was a fantastic weekend. The climbing scene didnt turn out to be as bad as i had thought (it never is) so i will give squamish another try by myself.... once the rain stops that is.


Nathan and I spend the morning doing a couple climbs in Leavenworth at Icicle Creek, but quickly realize that even if we want to climb, or bodies are dead tired from the epic yesterday, still we get in two good pitches (i think?) before succumbing to Heidelburger, in Leavenworth.

Greatly replenished we head back over the hill to Index, and after even more lounging manage to get in 4 more pitches before dark.

Bomber doing his part in the lounging.

On the far left of the popular Lower Main Wall is the Great Northern Slab, the only place at Index with moderates. Since we werent terribly gung-ho this afternoon we did a 4 pitch meandering up this nice slab to get a feel for the rock.

I led a short 5.8 fist crack to a ledge. Nathan leads up a tricky 8 tips crack, and decides that the flared offwidth chimney above is not to his liking. I step around left and viola! a perfect easy handcrack appears. Above this Nathan leads on easy ground to the top of the slab.

It is rather heavily forested in Index, and you dont really realize where you are until you get high enough off the ground to get a look around.

Atop the 3rd pitch I finally turned around and noticed the vista. Mt. Index, and Mt Persies rise strikingly from the valley with the glacier blue/green Skykomish river running below.

Mt Index is only 6000 feet tall, but considering the valley where we were in Index is only at 500 feet it is certainly precipitous.

On the way back down we notice Breakfast of Champions, a perfect 10a handcrack approached on the wall to the right of the slab. Unfortunately we would never get back to climb this, but it makes me happy knowing such a perfect handcrack is there waiting for me.

The next morning we go over to do GM (which stands for General Maintenance) over at the right side of the Lower Wall called The Country.

Clearly we have too much gear, but the rock feels like we are in Yosemite, so we might as well have the rack to match!

The first pitch is either a 3rd class scramble or a 10c slab. Since the slab is unprotected to the belay but looks fun Nathan goes around to set up a toprope on the slab.

Turns out neither of the ratings are very accurate. The 3rd Class scramble feels more like 5.5, and the 10c ends up feeling like 11+

Nathan at the P1 belay.

The second pitch leads up an ok 5.8 corner past a scary move protected by a pin, then left to a bolted belay below a monster wide flake.

Off the belay you go up some blocks and try and get established underclinging the flake. Me just getting to the goods.

Me struggling (loudly if i remember correctly) through the 9 flake and up onto the belay ledge.

Nathan took some neat shots from below the flake looking up all the way through to the belay. Those are some big cams! glad i brought the 4.5

From the belay our route GM continued up and right along a wide flake, but an incredible 10 handcrack continued above, P3 of Heart of the Country. It looked too good so we had to do it.

Nathan just off the belay on Heart of the Country.

Nathan milks the rest and points out the view before the crux section over a bulge.

A nice ledge at the top of the pitch and I am trying to remember what the topo says about this next bit. Oh yes, 10a to the ledge and 11a all the way to the top. Its my lead and the crack looks to be the right size, just through a bulge.

Do it with one hang, but i could have, should have punched through. Neat 11a trad! at Index which is supposedly sandbagged!

We rap off with one double rappel! When we did Outer Space it felt short, but was 1200 feet of climbing, and this felt huge and was only 200 feet tall!

At the bottom Nathan tries the "10c" slab again, and eventually gets it clean, at the expense of much finger skin.

We go back around and up into a gully with a cliff called the inner lump. At the top of the gully is a clean wall amongst all the moss, and a climb called Toxic Shock.

Not a great shot, but Toxic Shock either takes the 9 lieback or the 5.8 double cracks to the midpoint, and then the crack in the left wall at 5.9 to the top. The double thin cracks up top are Even Steven, an 11b.

My lead up the double cracks on P1

Starting up the perfect hands on P2

Perfect hands will put a smile on anyones face!

At the top it was trivial to go set up a TR on Even Steven, which we both got with one fall. A super line up thin twin finger locks. This actually felt like 11b, technical and pretty sustained. a super line.

Friday nite I had to be in Vancouver to meet Gil, but we had time to do one more line at Index before heading out. Tried to find RacerX, supposedly a nice slab climb, but the approach pitches at 5.8R/X had overgrown and looked horrible and nasty.

Did get a neat picture crossing the tracks through.

The last line we ended up doing we thought was Princely Ambitions, but looking at the topo now, and it was definitely Japanese Gardens 10a.

Either way a great climb, with a variety of moves, from a balancy transition low on the route to a powerful jam flake up higher.

All in all a great couple days, and the best pure climbing so far. Maybe i can convince Nathan to come back up to Squamish and do the Grand Wall

Out of this World

It was late a night, a very star one
And the sky was so very blue
Something caught my eye
Shot across the sky, as a gleaming white contraption
Clearly very new

These funny looking creatures
Lulling in my backyard
Who were here from out of a hatch
They waved to me
Form down below
With their funny heads
Holding their hats

So come on stay, stay with me
Please don't go away
Come on and talk to me, please feel free
Do you speak english?
'Cause i want to talk to you
Where do you come from?

-Aliens by Imogen Heap

I was feeling pretty worn out after the hot day in the sun on my ledge, and that the feeling persisted post drinking 32 Oz of sweetened iced coffee it was time for a change of pace.

Still hopped up on caffeine I didnt leave Wenatchee till nearly midnight, but the drive flowed easily up an over Stevens Pass and eventually down in the town of Index. Despite a number of sketchy Rvs, I promptly fell asleep in a pullout by the river.

Index is one of the places that one never really hears about, when you search for classic climbing areas. Clearly in any pursuit there are a whole subset of attractions that dont make the “Best Of” but are of equal and sometimes greater quality than the more popular destinations. Somehow Index had made my short list of places I wanted to really check out. In the morning (nearly noon by the time I got moving!) I went up and checked out the cliff to see what I could find that might be doable.

This is by the nicest stone I have ever seen. Absolutely perfect diamond hard granite with a ton of features (cracks flakes corners etc etc) and steep! I can imagine this being John Kelbel's dream crag. Grades starting in the 5.8 range with most everything being 9+ to mid 11. Almost all lines follow a crack (from thin seams to burly 8 inch offwidth laybacks) steep vertical lines, pumpy, and up to 6 pitches tall. John if you are reading this, put it on your to-do list.

The rock here is so perfect the apparently University of Washington drilled a 4000 foot deep tunnel into the mountain to figure out some unknown properties of gravity. Thats the urban legend anyway, and I can at least vouch for a big (10 feet in diameter) locked door on the cliff. Adding to the legend the hole was supposedly drilled by the same machine that created the Chunnel connecting France and England.

But I still has some time before I got to sample this fine rock snack.

Back at the parking lot it is about 1 ish in the afternoon, and I run into Nathan another solo road-tripper, from Asheville. East Coast represent! Seemed we has similar goals, and we both at the same time mentioned this route Outer Space, a 6 pitch 5.9 back in Icicle Creek. Which is near Leavenworth the town I just left.

Not wanting to do the math... (8 hours of sunlight left – 1.5 hour drive back – 1.5 approach hike – .75 descent scramble – 1.5 hour descent hike leaves how long to climb over 1000 feet of rock???) we gather some gear and hop in my car with Bomber his corgi mix dog and head back over the pass.

The hike itself gains 1500 feet in about 2 miles to the base of the wall, which we reach a little after 4 pm.

Looking out to town from the base of the wall.

The money pitches up high are obvious from the ground, a striking 400 foot crack runs from the top of a pedestal to the summit, and the pedestal itself has a nice looking diagonal crack splitting the large front face.

Getting there however is not as obvious. You start on a ramp system, 200 feet right of the fall line of the obvious features above.

Silently worried about time, I fly up the first pitch, passing at 30 feet a belay spot that could be used by those with shorter ropes. I belay when I run out of rope at the top of the ramp.

Nathan quickly follows and only 30 seconds after reaching the belay is gone and on lead again. This pitch traverses a full 200 feet to the base of the pillar. It appears I had gone a bit too far in the ramp system, missing a nice corner/crack and belaying about 20 lower and more out on the face. Made the traverse a bit more spicy but not terrible. Nathan milked it, finding a really fun 15 foot vertical crack along the way.

I followed and we were quickly at the base of the pillar. I never checked the time while we were climbing, but I felt better having reached this point quickly.

Nathan lead up the crux pitch, with a few complaints on the beginning section of loose blocks etc. We found out later that a better variation starts around the corner. From the top of a steep 5.8 crack the crack shoots out almost straight right across the exposed tower. Nathan took a while negotiating this stretch, explaining later that it was a little loose, a little scary and a little hard. But he did it in great style, I would have been sketched on that lead.

I moved up the next pitch supposedly 4th class but ended up feeling around 5.6 -7ish. Pull over an easy roof from the belay, and then diagonal up and left to a runout sea of knobs to a great corner. The belay is on a great ledge and the perfect crack draws a line from the sky to my feet directly above.

The last two pitches are gift to climbers. Perfect hands that go on forever, the only ledge conveniently placed at a ropes length to make for a comfy belay changeover. As if the crack werent good enough it is surrounded by dozens of beautiful black knobs that look like they have landed from outer space. Interestingly the crack splits the a few knobs directly in half, giving some weight to the idea that the knobs predate the crack.

Me following pitch 5

Nearing the belay.... I love the slung knob for protection.

Me starting up pitch 6.

Looking up from the belay on pitch 6, I am already out of sight on perfect jams.

We have climbed quickly enough to savor the last pitches a bit, and we gain the summit with not a lot but at least some light left.

Doing a bit of math I mentioned to Nathan that we had climbed 1000 feet of rock only knowing each other for less than 8 hours.

Someone I had talked to about this route had mentioned that if you get the top and it is dark, bivouac on top rather than attempting the walk-off which apparently is rather tricky. Still we had at least a half hour of light left.

The “walk-off” was not east but not bad. A bit of downclimbing a lot of scrambling and one rappel. When we got back to the packs at the base of the route, it really was dark. However Bomber seemed to be in a good mood and led the way most of the way down talus slope to get back to the main trail. Even he lost the trail near the river crossing, and it took us the better part of an hour to get these last couple hundred feet to the main trail.

Then just a steep mile and a half slog back to the car.

I wondered what time it was when we got back to the car, 12:37 am. Not a bad way to bring in my birthday at all.

Route Summary

P1 200 ft of easy corner/ramp. Exit a touch earlier to have better climbing, and bolts for the belay.
P2 200 ft of traversing straight left to gain the base of the pinnacle.
P3 150 feet of 5.9 first up a steep crack to a hard thin traverse, better start around corner?
P4 150 feet a sea of knobs and then a sweet corner maybe 5.7
P5 200 ft the start of the money.... literally 200 feet, end to end of 5.7 hand crack with a sea of knobs
P6 210 ft. can it possibly keep going?? even more hand crack to the top

This is the best moderate hand crack anywhere. The position 500 feet off the deck, perfect hands, and a sea of moon knobs in case you get tired of the crack. Slightly detracted by the approach pitches, but incredible nonetheless.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Wenatchee Reprise

Need to fill in the gaps between my arrival in WA and these more recent expeditions to mountain in the last few days.

In short I have been abducted, taken in, and cared for by some of the most gracious people I have ever met.

Woke up in the parking lot at Vantage, to the sound of a car pulling in. Usually means I have slept to long and some authority is going to kick me out. Luckily it was a few climbers who quickly were up and climbing at the cliff.

Took my time and drank some ovaltine, Yum! Since they were a group of three I went up and introduced myself to see if i could join up and make two teams of two. The happily agreed.

So it was that I met Ty and his younger brother Jon. Within an hour of climbing, I was offered food and shelter, two things a roadtripper does not pass up. Besides that the climbing was great on short basalt pinnacles in the desert!

The Feathers area of Vantage

In the half day that we were there we climbed 10 routes thanks to the frequency of bolts and quick descents.

Over the next few days I stayed at Ty's place and they nearly literally made me family. Gave me a place to stay, fed me, took me to the pool, played some great tennis matches and stayed through a house party!

They have my most sincere gratitude, not only for their actual acts of generosity but also helping to restore my faith that not all humans are without care for others.

After a few days I changed locales to Jonathon's house. Not at all because I was tired of Ty's but with a family, I didnt want to impose more than I already had. Jon being a bit younger still leads a house life, not too dis-similar from the ones all young 20-somethings I know lead.

I guess I really needed to be taken in for a while, and the month by myself and given me a desire to actually be around others for awhile. Has felt great to make some friends and be part of a group for awhile.

Not to mention that I have been climbing every day! Did 3 more days at Vantage. Sometimes with Jon sometimes with Ty and even took a friend of theirs Laura out for a day, new to the sport, showing her some of the basics.

Me on a classic 5.8 at Vantage

Laura working her way up the crux of the same route.

Jon even showed me the joys of Geocaching (finding little hidden boxes with a GPS)

Me excited after finding my first. And also somehow looking like I have no teeth?!

Also did a bunch of days in Leavenworth, this strange faux bavarian village nearby that just happens to have some of the best granite climbing anywhere.

Even went tandem kayaking with a guys wife I met!

Quite amazing the generosity, everyone has offered me a place to stay and a meal. Maybe i look thinner than i feel.

Future Plans...

Might do the North Ridge of Stuart tomorrow! one of the 50 classics. more to come on that.

Definitely going up to squamish next weekend to climb with Gil (Jeffs brother)

Might have a partner for the Bugs in the first week of August.

Still a few things to do around here...

Outer Space a 6 pitch 5.9 with 300 feet of 5.8 hand crack... sounds like a tasty rock snack.

More to come as it happens.