Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Spring Flows and Multi Pitch Ascents

After a prolonged period of rain, sunshine prevailed for 3 days allowing the fine grained Index granite to dry. Just as the forecast predicted we would have 3 days of good weather. With this in mind I contacted many Washington climbers to line up a day of climbing. I first contacted Hun who I met at a rock rescue clinic held at the Vital Climbing Gym in Bellingham. In short order Hun put me in contact with Stephen. The next day we sent 9 pitches on 4 routes providing Stephen with a great introduction to Index climbing. First was a four pitch link up on Aires (5.8+). This route has a short hand to fist crack into an angled finger jam dihedral, a chimney that requires general off width climbing technique and an under cling traverse left turning a corner over wonderful exposure leading to skewed hand cracks.

Hillside above the Wenatchee River
After this we headed to the GM Route (5.9) on the Country Wall. This classic line takes a class III ledge to short face moves, jamming and lay backing a flake, a roof under cling out right into a widening crack that starts with hands and ends in arm widths. The last pitch starts with an right side in off width to mantle out, a long reach into the finishing hand to fist crack.

Our next route was Princely Ambitions (5.9). The first pitch of this route starts with a bolt protected face move to gain a flake, up to the crux of a side pull match then a balanced reach right to a jug. Next is an awesome leftward traverse with a matching mantle to gain the next corner. This section uses finger jamming, lay backing and smearing to gain the bolted anchors at nearly 130' up!

Index and Mount Baring 
With the weather quickly changing in the coming weekend I changed my focus back to the river. Fortunately I have been paddling with experienced guides from Washington and surprisingly many from Colorado. This has provided a great transition from my home turf on the Arkansas River guiding with The Adventure Company. Through out the week we R-2'd the North Fork and the Main Skykomish and eventually I had the opportunity to guide my first trips on the Sky. This was an incredible experience considering this river was a determining factor for working with The Outdoor Adventure Center. Here is another reason to come to the Skykomish and raft with us. We were voted best in Washington. The North Fork was flowing at 2,800 cubic feet per second while the Main Skykomish was at 8,500 cfs. After a successful warm up run on the N. Fork we headed to the Main in the afternoon. My crew was friends with a second year guide, Brendan, and he insisted that I guide his group down the Main through Boulder Drop. With one apprehensive person on the crew we managed to run a clean line through the center. In the end we had a wonderful run avoiding the sticky holes and crushing the unavoidable ones. Namely at the picket fence, house rock and ledge hole in Boulder Drop. At these flows the constriction between the house rocks is an impressive 9 foot tongue of water into an overhead breaking wave. So Much Fun!

Foggy Boulder Drop on the Skykomish River with House Rock barely exposed
At the same time Ryan from Portland contacted me to find out about climbing opportunities. I met Ryan randomly in April at camp in Icicle Canyon. Like many climbers there he was bouldering. However after a few beers around the campfire he decided to come climb Givlers Crack (5.7) with me. Nearly a month later he was on his way back to Washington to climb Index. On the first day we climbed the 4 pitch Aires (5.8) and the 3 pitch G.M. route (5.9). During this time we established multi pitch protocol including transitions, communication and rappelling. The next day we climbed Senior Citizens in Space (5.8) an awesome twin crack dihedral that doglegs left. After that was Magic Fern (5.9). This climb has a sequenced start leading to a corner over a bulging block and through a hand to fist sized crack. The final climb of the day is one of Index's best, Rattletale (5.10 a/b). This excellent route starts up a broken face to a soft corner with a few finger sized lay backs and corner toe wedges. The second of three pitches is the best with a right facing right leaning hand to fist sized crack for about 50'. This pitch requires good jamming for the first half and solid lay backing for the second half. While there is an excellent third pitch we opted out due to water seeping out and soaking the rock.

The last day was a great opportunity for Ryan to put his new found trad leading skills to work. Ryan and I started out on the Great Northern Slab (5.7+). A blocky first pitch leads to the twin right slanting cracks of the second pitch known as Pisces (5.6). Eventually we topped out on bolt protected slab. Since Ryan was headed back to Portland that day we decided on one more climb, namely Princely Ambitions (5.9). I led the wonderful first pitch and encouraged Ryan to lead the second 5.8 pitch. He led the pitch with solid gear placements and appropriate intervals. Great job Ryan!

What a great conclusion to Ryan's trip to Index. When we parted ways Ryan was stoked later telling me that I ruined sport climbing for him. Which is a good thing because now he is stoked on multi pitch traditional climbing!

Meanwhile I was publishing the first entry to Guided Exposure and Chris from Seattle came walking into the cafe at The Outdoor Adventure Center. Chris was in search of a climbing partner and coincidentally I was about to go scout routes for a climbing trip I am developing for Outdoor Adventures. Just as we were about to head out Whitney from Gig Harbor came walking into the River House and decided to join us on our adventure climb. By adventure I mean we were linking up routes on different walls that are stacked upon each other. In this way we would ascend the most vertical possible without descending to the bottom each time we wanted to start another route. Subsequently Chris and I climbed the next two days culminating with Chris successfully on sighting Rattletale (5.10 a/b)!

Balsam Root Flower
After a couple weeks of amazing adventure in the Cascades we were drinking cold beers on the patio of the River House taking in the views of the Upper Town Wall when one of the most legendary mountaineering figures in North America came walking by. This man has put up hundreds of first ascents. He has put up routes from Alaska to Arizona. Subsequently he wrote the book on Washington mountaineering namely Fred Beckey. This icon came strolling back to his car. An unsuspecting character who is 91 years old! Check out this video on Fred. This reinforces the fact that Index and the central Washington Cascades are a destination for any outdoor adventure enthusiast.