Monday, February 28, 2011

Reality Check

With over a foot of fresh snow in Leavenworth its hard to believe that we were climbing dry sunny rock just 8 days ago.

Jens warming up on Tubbing in Der Ritterhof (11a) at Rattlesnake Rock:

Kyle on the cliff classic, Rock and Rattle (11c):

3 perspectives on The Rib, a classic V4 at the Carnival Boulders.
Drew starting up:

 Jasmine looking solid:

 Geoff getting close:

For now we kill pow, but I gotta say that dry granite sure felt good...

Thursday, February 17, 2011


Coach, the man, the myth, the legend.

You can't climb in Washington for very long without running into the Seattle based character know as, "Coach."  Coach had a bad run of luck a number of years ago.  It began with a serious on the job accident (industrial window washing) which wrecked his back and his shoulder.  With no means of income, and no savings, Coach was forced out of his home and moved into his van next to the river in Index, WA.

About this time, I was living in Bellingham, and spending many a winter and spring day learning the ups and downs of wall climbing with my good friend Tyree Johnson.  We became friends with Coach, and though we may have avoided him in the AM because his crazy stories would last forever, we would often stop by after climbing and put down a cold one with Coach and try to lift his spirits.

The pinnacle of our spring training that year ended with an ambitous effort to climb Davis Holland/Loving Arms, The Green Dragon, and Town Crier in a long day. We definely surprised ourselves when we crushed the link-up one late spring day in about 14 hours.  Throughout the day, monkey calls would rise up the wall from Coach's van and we knew that down by the river Coach had our back if anything went wrong.   

Recently, a scholarship writing binge forced me deep into my files in search of past letter's of recommendation.  Though I don't think the scholarship committee would give much credibility to the letter Coach placed on the hood of my car that sunny day in Index so many year ago, I do cherish the memories it brings back.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Failure February: A New Route Attempt on CBR

Late summer I made two september attempts on  a new route on the immaculate and celebrated Colchuck Balanced Rock. 

My usual partners were currently obsessed with their own CBR creation so I reached out to see who was psyched and available. First I teamed up with guide extraordinaire Kurt Hicks, and second with long-time partner Jimbo Shokes.

I had spotted this line years ago while making the first ascent of the Tempest Wall with Blake Herrington.  I was surprised it hadn't been climbed more recently and figured it was time to give it a burn. The route starts directly to the right of the Tempest, aiming for a bizarrely angled quadruple roof feature. The orange "New Line" in the photo below (Thanks to Matt Clifton for the awesome topo, copyrighted suckas).  CBR wasn't so colorful a few years back...

For both attempts the weather was quite marginal.  Kurt and I originally tried an independent start just to the right of the Tempest start, but wet and dirty rock forced us down. We started up P1 of the Tempest for about 30 ft. before moving right up ramps and corners to the base of the quad-roofs.

Kurt on our new start attempt (roofs way to the right, almost out of view):

The quad roofs are a very cool feature that oddly enough change corners five times.  Once scrubbed, it should be a memorable pitch of airy free climbing.  Easy and awkward aid got us through the roofs in two short pitches.

Uncle Jimbo gettin some on our second attempt:

Myself on the first:

Our second roof pitch changed corners four times as it made its way upwards:

It ended with thin gear and perfect dirty rock:

Jimbo won't be smiling for long....

From a nice ledge at the top of the roof pitch, a wandery pitch of 5th class climbing brought us through a large treed ledge system and deposited us at the base of the upper face.

More moderate free-climbing with a touch of aid continued up and into the giant corner we had seen from camp.  For Kurt and I the weather was improving nicely while for Jimbo and I the clouds were beginning to thicken...

A decent belay stance started off the corner which seemed to be the dirtiest chuck of rock on the entire formation.  Clearly a drainage, I forced my way up the corner, cleaning out each placement on aid.

On the first go, a good 50 feet out from the belay, I came upon 3 decent sized belay-slayer's wedged into the corner.  I was worried about the rope unlodging them If I continued forward and more worried about killing the newlywed husband below (Kurt).

The top block seemed lightest, so with all my strength I picked it from the pile and hucked it off the mountain.  The two remaining blocks were even bigger. I tried to pick up the second slayer but it caused the third block to slide and shift and I nearly shit my pants as they began to slide downwards. I didn't know what to do so I stabilized the blocks as good as possible and got the hell out of there.  It wasn't worth getting myself or Kurt hurt, so we bailed. We were able to move over to the Tempest and quite easily rapped to the ground.

Looking down at Kurt a bit below our high point:


For Jimbo and I things were quite a bit different.  It began to sprinkle as I headed up into the corner. My plan was to set a belay at the blocks, bring Jimbo up and we would trundle them together. The sprinkle quickly turned to rain and before we knew it we were engulfed in  a complete torrential downpour while halfway up a new alpine route. Awesome.

I was soon soaked to the bone. The corner had become a torrent with each placement sending icy water up my sleeve, soaking my core.  Jimbo wasn't faring much better. The rain was coming off the top of the wall in waterfalls that were landing directly on him and his belay. He would move his belay and gear only to have the wind change the direction pounding him again.

I fought for as long as I could. But I had to finally accept the fact that we were getting SHUT DOWN, again, and we got the hell out of there.  We hadn't even reached the previous highpoint. Our bail was pretty epic. We were both nearing hypothermia, all our gear was completely soaked, it was starting to get dark, and stiff frozen fingers were beginning not to work. We got down, but not before dropping my Ipod and speakers, a Clear Alien, and due to rapping the muddy, granite covered ropes, two belay devices and biners to acute wear.  CLASSIC! The hike out was cold, sloppy, and completely miserable.

I can't wait for next season to go back for some more.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011