Thursday, July 3, 2014

The Mystery and Surprise of Adventure

We have been happily floating through the first weeks of summer. Trip after trip of friendly adventurous rafters have left impressed and pleased to have rafted with Outdoor Adventures. Families from around Washington to corporate groups from Outdoor Research, Eddie Bauer, and Amazon have come to the Skykomish to raft but have left totally in love with Index. Climbers from all over the nation migrate to climb the town walls and some of the best dark horse paddlers reside here. Some of these paddlers have sent first descents all over the area. These kayakers I can proudly say are our safety boaters for our Main Skykomish adventure.
Ahh the Flowers of Index
Another couple weeks of sending great routes started with another new climbing partner from somewhere south of here. Mystery girl and I met up and climbed five pitches at Castle Rock in Tumwater Canyon including a three pitch route named Saints (5.8). This climb was a bit vague after the first pitch. Perhaps we were off route a bit and in this fashion I wouldn't give it the 3 star consensus that Mountain Project gives it. After that we found ourselves climbing the first pitch of Canary (5.8). This route starts with either  unprotected 5.7 face climbing or protected 5.8 moves under a small roof and turning a corner to gain ledges leading into a short corner with a finger crack. This leads into the crux that I mantled onto the Saber ledge. On our second pitch we stuck to a 5.5 corner with broken block climbing onto the top of Castle Rock.

The next morning I guided a morning Main Skykomish (IV-V) trip and met with my mystery partner in the afternoon. We climbed Rogers Corner (5.9) into Breakfast of Champions (5.10a) creating an awesome 2 pitch link up. Rogers starts with a short hand size dihedral into broken blocks up slabs to another corner with a crux pulling out of the corner and onto a block hanging off the side of the cliff. Then mystery girl led up BOC (5.10a) in style placing great pro and generally making it look easy. This pitch starts with an airy move to gain the hand crack. From there its jamming for the next 50'.

On the descent we simul rappelled. This is when both climbers rappel simultaneously on a single strand of rope in order to save time. This ended up with a pleasantly awkward rappel where I was rappelling in the lap of my partner. Then we switched and she rappelled in my lap. Needless to say we got to know each other a little better. Next we headed over to the ever crowded Godzilla (5.9). A pair was just starting up so we decided to climb Princely Ambitions (5.9).

The next day we started on the first two pitches of G.M. Route (5.9) and into Heart of the Country (5.10a) for the third. This third pitch is another lofty move from the belay into a beautiful hand crack, onto a ledge then an obtuse hand crack onto slabs. I preferred HOC over Breakfast of Champions because it was more consistent in hand size. Where as my mystery partner preferred BOC over Heart of the Country because of the slightly narrower crack.
Heart of the Country (5.10a) 
Following this great line we headed to Godzilla (5.9) and found not a soul waiting or climbing this ever crowded route. We quickly jumped on it and led up the first 30 feet of 5.7 run out to a sustained dihedral with varied crack jamming, lay backing, and an interesting traverse at the top to gain the belay anchor. Subsequently we climbed the second pitch of City Park (5.10b). This starts with a bolt protected move to a reachy finger out right and a bold mantle onto a ledge. This leads into a fun finger crack in a corner up to a slightly bulging bolt protected move. Eventually we were faced with the difficult proposition of continuing up for a third pitch on Slow Children (5.10d). Thankfully we made friends on the previous belay ledge and one of the climbers offered to be a "rope gun". He generously put our rope up so we could top rope this awesome 5.10d pitch. Another difficult move from the belay anchors into a balanced reach of just finger tips for me and fingers for mystery girl. Thin finger tips lead to a blind reach right, up more finger tips to an arete to gain the last fingers to tips in a flaring corner cruxing at the top. Totally awesome and one of the best 3 pitch routes I've ever done! Moreover these were the hardest routes I've climbed all season. What a great feeling to progress!  

After another great weekend of guiding on the Main Skykomish (IV-V) I met a couple new climbing friends and we headed up for a nonchalant couple pitches on K Cliff. We climbed Special K (5.8) a low angle dihedral leads to a pull out right and over a bulge on fingers. We also climbed Rise Pumpkin Rise (5.9+). This route climbs face moves up to a stretch out left to gain a corner to the top.

To my surprise we headed out to Snow Creek Wall the next day and climbed Orbit (5.8+). This wall is still one of my favorites. With 6 pitches of continuous climbing within the Alpine Lakes Wilderness Area it doesn't get much better.
Icicle Creek
After meeting up with some friends in Leavenworth we made quick time on the 45 minute approach to the wall. Surprise girl and I soloed low 5th class to our first pitch. To start is a chimney with a crack in the back or it can be stemmed. Next is one of the classic long 150' pitches that starts with 5.6 climbing into a short traverse that leads into an amazing finger crack dihedral. The third pitch is another long pitch that comes off the belay into an airy exposed move into a low angle dihedral. The increasing angle of the pitch leads into a reach out right turning a corner and starting up a finger to hands crack. Eventually this leads into face climbing into another corner and lay backs onto the belay ledge nearly 180' from the start of the pitch!
Surprise on the Third Pitch of Orbit (5.8+)
Then another great corner turns an edge onto another face then pulls over a slight bulge onto a face that finishes the fourth pitch. The fifth pitch traverses right into whats referred to as a sea of chicken heads. These features are little protrusions of rock that climb like a ladder up the cliff. This easy but extremely fun pitch stretches the rope at nearly 200' of climbing. Finally the sixth pitch gains the top of the wall nearly 800' up.

Welcome to the Top of Snow Creek Wall