On my way to Canada!

2011 July 19
by Laurel

My friend Alex (who is just back from a successful summit of Denali — which fact I may or may not use to convince him to carry my stuff) and I are leaving today on a road trip through Western Canada, stopping at Washington Pass and the Bugaboos and whatever else looks good on the way to Lotus Flower Tower. Eee!

View Seattle – WA Pass – Bugaboos – Banff/Jasper – Finlayson Lake – Squamish – Seattle in a larger map

We’re flying in to LFT with Mark and Janelle Smiley, who are in the process of an even bigger project. Their vidoes are great for climbing inspiration…

Squamish, June 24-26

2011 July 19

I’ve been doing a lot in the mountains so my last weekend cragging trip was the annual Women Climbers Northwest Squamish trip. Paulina wrote an excellent trip report on the WCN site, so you should go read that. Especially if you are a woman in the Northwest looking for other women to climb with. This report is just a quick and dirty (and the ever-present tick list).

WCN at Neat and Cool

WCN at Neat and Cool

Friday was a the short and wet day (I like to allow 3 days for a Squamish weekend, since during the ‘dry’ season (July through September) it rains an average of 30% of the time). Most of us went for the ever popular rainy day activity of hiking the Chief trail, but this time a few of us switched it up and went to go poke Cobra Crack (yes, it looks hard, and is steep enough that we could have a picnic in the dry spot under it) instead of going to the top. The rain did stop and we did some roadside cragging at Burgers and Fries. The quick-drying rock at Squish almost makes up for the rain.

  • Burgers and Fries, Movin on Over, 5.9 trad (lead)
  • Burgers and Fries, Wise Crack, 5.7 trad (TR)
  • Burgers and Fries, Burgers and Fries, 5.7 trad (lead) I had a little slab problem at the end of this (standing there forever, making a move, downclimbing, standing there forever some more, etc…)
  • Burgers and Fries, Peaches and Cream, 5.10b trad (TR)

The weather forecast was not amazing for Saturday, but we got in a full day of cragging at Neat and Cool. There were a few guided groups, including one guide herding 20 kids (it may have been more like 6 but they were running around and looked bigger) but we were mostly going for different routes (and one large group was just sitting there looking at gear placements), so hopefully we didn’t get in each other’s way. I guess the weather was too “bad” for everyone else.

  • Neat and Cool, Corner Crack, 5.7 trad (lead)
  • Neat and Cool, Flying Circus, 5.10a trad (lead)
  • Neat and Cool, Neat and Cool, 5.10a trad (lead 2x, TR 1x) on first attempt, fell, popped a marginal TCU, fell on the one below it, and crashed into a bush. Much better after McKinley gave me the gear beta (use the good crack not the crappy one). fuuun route
  • Neat and Cool, Layback Flake, 5.9R trad (TR)

On the last day, I got to introduce Paulina and Leah to the tree pitches. The tree pitches are two pitches of full on tree, dirt, and root climbing (oh, and the occasional short, wet hand crack) that are currently the standard approach to Baseline Ledge, where the classics Calculus, South Arête, Vector, and St Vitus start. I, personally, like this sort of thing and think it is part of the Squamish experience, but I guess most people (possibly including Leah and Paulina), do not. There is a recently cleaned 5.9 no-trees start so this may fall out of favor soon. Fortunately Leah and Paulina enjoyed the three 5.9 crux pitches (before I introduced them to the “classic” Broadway Ledge descent).

  • St Vitus Dance, 5.9 6p (lead)

The Tooth (at night) June 17 2011

2011 June 21
by Laurel

I’ve been getting kind of bored with single pitch cragging and not motivated to organize a big trip, so I decided to celebrate the summer solstice and an almost full moon by soloing the Tooth in the evening. A few days before I saw that Paulina wanted to get out too. She was into the night climbing thing but was not into the soloing thing, so I added a partner, rope, and rack to the trip. I was happy to have the company and we brought the alpine-don’t-try-this-at-home rope and rack which probably only weighed about 3 pounds anyway.

After a hot sunny day in Seattle, things were looking good for the evening (20% chance of rain at night? that’s practically 0). We did made the mistake of taking the ’summer’ trail on the way in. I guess it’s not summer for another 4 days or so. Switchbacking along the Snow Lake trail on the ‘wrong’ side of Source Lake probably cost us about half an hour, but it did make it easier to find the nice uphill boot track (climber’s right side of the gully from Source Lake) instead of thrashing around in the stomped out downhill side of the gully.

It was sunset as we started ascending out of Source Lake (just missing three descending climbers who were probably wondering what we were doing), and just about headlamp time when we got to the start of the traverse around to Pineapple Pass. I was glad to have made the last minute decision to bring a larger pack to accommodate the rope and rack, which left plenty of room to throw in my puffy. My thermometer read 41 degrees, my usual summer climbing outfit would not have worked!

The View

The View

The ‘full moon’ idea didn’t quite work out as planned, as after about half an hour of seeing it rising orange on the horizon, the moon was well hidden behind a thick cloud layer. The views of the snowy surrounding peaks when I turned off my headlamp at the belay were still pretty amazing! Not at all capturable with my point and shoot camera though, even though it’s got some mode with an icon with mountains and stars.

Despite the clouds and 41 degrees the weather was pretty much perfect (ie. it was not raining and it was not windy). The Tooth is well suited for antics such as night climbing with straightforward routefinding, easy climbing, obvious webbing encrusted 3-rap-ring fixed belay/rappel stations (with fresh webbing from the WAC Basic Class about a month ago) on nice ledges. I was actually surprised that I remembered some of the route from 4 years ago as a student in said Basic Class, but it’s not that difficult: go up, follow the incut jugs and flakes, traverse a bit if it looks like it’s harder than 5.4…



About an hour and a half after tying in we were at the top. I know I should be working on moving faster if I want to climb stuff that’s more than 2 pitches this summer, but it was just so beautiful, and this was the first time I’ve climbed in the dark on purpose, so I wanted to enjoy it. And Paulina is Russian so she was not complaining about freezing at the belay. After looking around for the summit register (is there one? I remember there not being one, and Paulina remembers that there was one, and we were both last up there 4 years ago).



Another thing that makes the Tooth conducive to night climbing is that the descent is relatively easy. Well-situated rappels to get back to the snow, and then from that point there’s only one narrow drainage out of there (which contains a cat track, ski resort, road, condos, etc), so even if we lost the trail in the dark it would take an extreme amount of effort to actually get lost (we did briefly wander in a circle looking for the exit from the upper Alpental parking lot, but that doesn’t even count as off route). We did take the winter trail down, which worked much better.

A nice conclusion to the night was that the WAC cabin at the pass was open for a work party the next day, so there was no 3 am drive back to Seattle or bivy in the rain (it started drizzling on the way down), we got to descend to warm beds, real bathrooms, and coffee makers! (and then wake up 6 hours later and help install a door in the room that we were sleeping in… the womens’ dorm is going to be nice this winter).

  • The Tooth (5604ft), South Face, 5.easy 2p

Exit 38, June 14, 2011

2011 June 16

A quick after work run to Exit 38 with Tony and Rachel. Even quicker because it started raining at about 7. The excitement of the day was finding a slug in my climbing shoe before putting it on. I’m glad I saw it before shoving my foot in! That would be gross!

  • We Did Rock, Some Drugs, 5.9 sport (lead)
  • We Did Rock, Absolutely Nothing, 5.9 sport (lead)
  • We Did Rock, Unnamed, 5.10b sport (lead)I think this is the best route at We Did. I just went and voted it up on MountainProject (I think this is the one listed as Project, 5.10+ in the book? Well, it’s for sure not a project, everyone has done it)
  • We Did Rock, Sobriety, 5.9 sport (lead) This thing is getting polished. Reminds me of the slate quarries, except on the slate there would be maybe one bolt on the thing

Exit 38, June 10 2011

2011 June 11

Despite some moisture in the air (there was some debate over whether it was raining or if it was just mist dripping off the trees) and a series of routefinding errors:

Theres supposed to be a 30m high wall somewhere here...

There's supposed to be a 30m high wall somewhere here...

  • walking past the “stump” marking the side trail to Valley View West (wouldn’t they put this “Great Wall TR” sign in the book)
  • ending up at the top of VVW instead of the bottom (hey, there’s chains down there)
  • not looking behind a tree when looking for the easiest rightmost line on Chainsaw Wall (shouldn’t the holds be bigger on a 5.8 roof?)
  • almost walking past the side trail to VVW again (hey, who put this pile of rocks in the middle of the trail? oh, us, a hour ago)

and chickening out on most of the routes at Valley View West (Stairway to Heavin’ turned out to be one of those “you must be this tall to reach the first bolt” routes. Ataxi Crack, the 4 star trad line, was seeping [convenient excuse, it looked hard anyway]), we still got to try the 3 star trad route, Cascadian Crack.

Cascadian Crack

Cascadian Crack

In theory we now know how to get there so we can go back when it’s dry and try more of the routes at VVW.  Ataxi does look prettty…

  • Chainsaw Wall, Texas Chainsaw Cheerleaders, 5.10b sport (lead) this is not the rightmost 5.8. The rightmost 5.8 is behind a tree. This route was fun after I stopped expecting it to be easy
  • Chainsaw Wall, Stihl Fingers, 5.12a sport (TR) crux is pretty short if you don’t fall off it 6 times like I did
  • Chainsaw Wall, Crack One With Me, 5.7 trad (TR) Tony’s lead
  • Valley View West, Cascadian Crack, 5.11a trad (lead w/falls) yeah that was worth hauling the rack up 2000 ft at a sport crag!

Index, May 20 2011

2011 June 7

A sunny and warm Friday, perfect for a day at Index! I’ve met Sherri on a few Women Climbers Northwest trips, but she’s always arrived with a climbing partner and agenda set up so I’ve never climbed with her. And she’s done everything at Index which is both intimidating and inspiring. She was already planning to meet Diana at Index in the evening, and Leah and I were also looking to get out (and were lucky enough to have the whole day free), so we joined her for the morning.

Despite the number of cars in the parking lot, we strolled up to Godzilla and found it empty. This never happens! Score! Sherri kindly let me have the first lead. It’s been seven long months since I’ve climbed at Index, but it only took less than seven feet of Godzilla to remember why I love it. Ledges, (solid) sharp flakes, splitter cracks, granite friction, finger cracks that swallow nuts, hand traverses, 35 meter topropable routes, climbing above the trees to a great view of the peaks across the river…

Leah working the direct start to Godzilla

Leah took on the direct start to Godzilla with some impressive laybacking when it was her turn to toprope it.

Next up was a new-to-me route. I’d had Breakfast of Champions recommended to me by Jay (a former Washingtonian now living in Michigan who I met in North Wales — small/convoluted world!). It starts a pitch (or two, depending on how you count it) off the ground, so Sherri got us all up there via Roger’s Corner, and let me have the first lead on Breakfast (she’s already done it). It was fun, but I wish it was longer! I wonder if Roger’s Corner can be linked up with Breakfast of Champions for one giant pitch?

As we were rappelling, Sherri’s internet-hookup-new-climbing-partner Diana showed up. So she cruised the first pitch of Roger’s Corner while the rope was still there. And I mean cruised! There’s another 5.10+ route called Sugar Bear that can be toproped from the same anchor so we shifted over there. It took a while to do Roger/Breakfast as a party of three, and I’d taken forever on Sugar Bear (finally pulling out my nut tool to aid past the crux — the other members of our party had no need of such shenanigans) so we only had time for one more route. While Sherri and Diane stayed at Sugar Bear, Leah and I walked down the wall to see if we could find something else to do.

Japanese Gardens and Tatoosh were occupied, “time for one more route” was not enough time to be messing with Sagittarius (a handy excuse…), so the most likely candidate was Thin Fingers. I had no problem with that since it’s one of my favorites (well, one problem, we ended up with the 60m rope instead of the 70). Of course I haven’t figured out the actual 11a crux part (the rest of the route is easy 5.9-.10-) so I’ve always aided past it, including this time, to get to the nice second half pitch. One great thing about Index is that nobody seems to mind such cheating tactics. Astonishingly, Leah, Sherri, and Diana weren’t into trying the second half enough to deal with the complexities of toproping with a slightly short rope (I probably took too long and made it look harder than it is, too).

Index is one of my favorite summer cragging areas, especially since the relatively short drive from Seattle (an hour in my head, about an hour and half in real life including carpooling transitions, sorry I was late..) keeps it in range for a day trip. I only regret that it took me so long to actually go climb there, partly because everyone told me it was soooo hard (one of my pet rants…). It’s glad to be back!

  • Lower Town Wall, Godzilla, 5.9 trad (lead) I have done this one before but apparently I have a bad memory and completely forgot the crux so it’s just as fun the second time
  • Lower Town Wall, Roger’s Corner, 5.9 trad (follow) cool moves
  • Lower Town Wall, Breakfast of Champions, 5.10a trad (lead) so fun, too bad it’s so short
  • Lower Town Wall, Sugar Bear, 5.10c/d trad (TR) you may laugh at my sit-on-the-ledge backwards beta, but it works. required one point of aid, a torqued nut tool…
  • Lower Town Wall, Thin Fingers, 5.11a trad (lead, the 5.10/A1 way) I have fantasies of getting there and suddenly knowing what to do, but it never quite works out that way.

WCN Vantage, April 16-17 2011

2011 April 22

I took off from the WAC class Spire field trip on Saturday afternoon to join an already in progress WCN trip to Vantage (most of them were there Friday through Sunday). Since I was joining a 3 day trip on the last day I figured it would be more of a camping and social trip than a climbing trip for me. Saturday night was definitely full value car camping — 30 mph winds were blowing tumbleweeds, paper bags, stoves, and tent groundsheets all over the place so Heather invited all 7 of us into the back of her truck for cooking and dinner. I threw in a package of chorizo and a spork and ended up eating chorizo spaghetti with my nut tool accompanied by a nice Malbec. Miraculous! For some reason I really like camping in wind and building rock wall nests. The Vantage “campground” does not offer many amenities but it does contain lots of shattered basalt for building things. So, awesome camping with awesome people (and one awesome puppy), check!

Dakota vs. the Pink Flamingo

Dakota vs. the Pink Flamingo

Sunday came up with pretty much perfect weather, clear sky, warm sun, no more wind. Some of the group started the morning at the Feathers. I am kind of on an anti-Feathers kick (especially when there are more people up there than routes), so Julia, Ingrid, and I waited at the campsite and played with Dakota the dog. I repeated my mantra for the weekend, “this is a social trip, not a climbing trip”, threw some desiccated tennis balls and a chewed up foam frisbee for Dakota and ran between the campsite and the Feathers a few times (I am not bugging you to go climbing, I am playing with the dog!). Eventually things organized themselves enough for a leisurely noon start to a leisurely climbing day, and Julia, Ingrid, and I set off over the mesa with Michelle and Clare joining us later. The plan was to walk along the Sunshine Wall until there was something open that we wanted to do. As Julia predicted there was nobody on Steel Grill. Not sure why, maybe there is too much crack climbing for the sport climbers and too many jugs for the crack purists. Sometimes I like things as complicated as possible and this is about as complicated as it gets for 5.9 single pitch cragging. Anyway, this section of Sunshine Wall has a good selection of routes that I like.

Dakota at the Sunshine Wall

Dakota at the Sunshine Wall

It was a fun, relaxed trip. I know it’s the beginning of the season for most people but I have been climbing since January (even though apparently it’s been the coldest spring ever), so I am feeling a little antsy for a less relaxed trip…

  • Sunshine Wall, Steel Grill, 5.9 trad (lead) one of my favorites. Maybe my favorite 5.9 anywhere.
  • Sunshine Wall, Bob’s Your Uncle, 5.11a trad (lead, TR) I’ve TR’d this several times, I don’t think I’ve led this before. Kind of feels like cheating, it’s a one move wonder and the one move isn’t that hard with small fingers. I still almost messed it up with my typical stalling and placing too much gear.
  • Sunshine Wall, Hakuna Matata, 5.10b sport (lead) I have been doing lots of trad over the winter season, need to remember how to sport climb. Expected to fall once or twice because I am not that good at the bolted aretes, but not this time.

Marble Canyon (Lillooet) Ice, February 11-12 2011

2011 March 13

Right after getting back from Ouray, I got an email from Lukic asking if I’d like to go ice climbing. Yes, I’d like to go ice climbing. A small obstacle was that I had made other plans in town that weekend (I had been assuming that after a week plus in Ouray I would be tired of climbing. I assumed wrong). Since you’re reading this trip report it would be obvious that I flaked out on everything else and went ice climbing.

We only had two days, so the destination was Lillooet, BC. This is “only” about a 6 hour drive (each way) so it qualifies as “local” for a Seattle based ice climber. As we drove alongside the Fraser River, through evocatively named gas-food-lodging towns like Hope and Hells Gate, the wet, warm, and moss-draped canyons yielded to sagebrush studded hills dusted with snow, and the temperature dropped to freezing.

It was Lukic’s first time to the area too, but he had the beta and the guidebook and decided we’d try Marble Canyon first. It was surprisingly easy to find — road signs as described, frozen waterfalls visible from parking lot, easy walk across a lake (no bushes, postholing, or falling in creeks!). There were already a few climbers toproping The Dihedral, but the plum 3 pitch Icy BC was open. I was glad to take advantage of climbing with a more experienced partner, so Lukic led the first and second pitches. We declined the third pitch because of a combination of thin, steep chandelierness and closeness to sunset.

Lukic contemplating the third pitch of Icy BC

Lukic contemplating the third pitch of Icy BC

Next day, we left our motel room at sunrise to see temperatures in the 40s in Lillooet. Hm. We drove back out towards Marble Canyon anyway (other alternatives seemed likely to be even warmer), and when we got within a few kms, the snowflake icon blinked on, and it dropped into the twenties.

Crossing Crown Lake on Saturday morning

Crossing Crown Lake on Saturday morning

Another group was just starting up Icy BC when we got there, so we started on The Dihedral. Lukic led it then we repeatedly TR’d it until the Icy BC party were done and wanted to switch. In the meantime another team had arrived to toprope a mixed roof line, filling the three apparently doable routes to capacity (I would have guessed that there were only two doable routes before the mixed climbers arrived). One might complain about “crowds” at this point, but we got to climb what we wanted, and I really enjoyed watching the other climbers. Ouray is great, but many climbers there are newbies (including myself in that group of course) so are not that interesting to watch after learning the basics of what not to do (which I have to proceed to learn from experience anyway). I got to admire the confidence and efficiency of the other pair climbing ice, and learned that figure fours happen in real life, not just in climbing videos.

So, at this point we are flaking the ropes out under a route my partner had already led and I already knew I could get up without much problem. It is also afternoon, and we have a 6 hour return drive, so not only is this a good opportunity to lead, but it may be my last chance for the trip (and this is February, so it may be my last chance this season). Lukic graciously gave me the lead and even more graciously let me borrow his ice tools and screws. I don’t know if it was the Nomics, the softer ice, or what, but it actually seemed easier on lead than when I followed it the day before. Whatever it was, I’ll take it!

Icy BC

Icy BC

  • Marble Canyon, Icy BC (follow p1 and p2, lead p1)
  • Marble Canyon, The Dihedral (TR x3)

Vantage, January 23

2011 February 16

We didn’t get enough sun here last week so Tony and I went again. He wanted to practice leading gear a bit more, and I will say yes to climbing about 95% (or maybe 99%?) of the time so he knew I’d be up for it (and would bring my rack…). Tony led Crossing The Threshold last week, so this week he got Party In Your Pants (which at 5.8 is the natural next step up). We’re going to be ready for Indian Creek in no time!

Vantage Sky

Vantage Sky

  • Sunshine Wall, Under Duress, 5.8 sport (TR)
  • Sunshine Wall, The Manxome Foe, 5.10a sport (lead) oh wait there are two bolted lines going up from this belay?
  • Sunshine Wall, Duress, 5.9 sport (lead) oh, I guess this one is the 9
  • Sunshine Wall, Crackmaster Lambada, 5.10b trad (lead) new-to-me route for this time
  • Sunshine Wall, Chossmaster, 5.7 sport (lead) I can see why they call this thing chossmaster!
  • Sunshine Wall, Party in Your Pants, 5.8 trad (TR) there was a stuck #3 Camalot! and I couldn’t get it out, argh! (and then I got the rope stuck and had to walk around to the top to get it, argh some more!)

Vantage, January 16 and 17

2011 January 19

When the weather forecast for this weekend in the mountains was looking like rain and high freezing levels, I looked east and saw a Vantage shaped hole in the precipitation map. Hmmm…. I started sending out texts, emails, and facebook messages and managed to get three companions for both Sunday and Monday (two completely different groups, and I needed to go back to town because I needed to drive on Monday, pushing total car time to 10 hours for the weekend, but I can’t complain about dry rock in January!). Mark graciously drove on Sunday (though now he probably wishes he didn’t).

On Sunday, Tony and Mark wanted to practice some crack climbing to prepare for our trip to Indian Creek this spring, so we did some of the nice long trad routes like Crossing the Threshold, Pony Keg and Air Guitar. I like those routes but they get kind of old. I’ve done (well, attempted) most of the routes at the Sunshine Wall, so an obvious project to make things interesting is to try all of them. Sketchy owns a full set of Big Bros and an old #5 (new #6 sized) camalot — I asked him to bring these along because that’s exactly what I would need for the intriguing four star 10b offwidth Blue Autumn. I’d looked at it last time, but decided not to mess with it since on that trip I only had a single #4 and #5 for big gear. And of course after asking him to haul 10 pounds of aluminum to the crag for me I had to give it a try. I don’t know if I really did any actual offwidth climbing but there was opportunity for plenty of tricky and devious stuff, and I feel a little better about placing Big Bros (though I only placed two, being able to get away with slinging chockstones, placing big cams, and running it out). For some reason nobody wanted to follow after I was done.

Blue Autumn Rack

Blue Autumn Rack

  • Sunshine Wall, Crossing The Threshold, 5.7 trad (lead)
  • Sunshine Wall, Pony Keg, 5.9 trad (lead)
  • Sunshine Wall, Air Guitar, 5.10a trad (lead)
  • Sunshine Wall, Clip ‘em or Skip ‘em, 5.8 sport (lead)
  • Sunshine Wall, Peaceful Warrior, 5.6 sport (lead) it is possible that I haven’t done this before, since it’s only a 5.6 and usually there are enough people around who actually want to lead easy stuff. This time there was a bail draw on it (there must be a good story behind that one) so I went up and got it.
  • Sunshine Wall, Blue Autumn, 5.10b trad (lead) new-to-me route for the day. It has multiple stars, which I think are deserved, but I think most people are discouraged by the “multiple 6in gear” in the description

On Monday I came back with Lace, Koko, and Erin. The wind was even stronger than the day before (blowing Fugs Falls backwards in a much more dramatic way), so we got to practice some high wind rope management. It was Lace’s birthday so she treated us to some leftover birthday cake (which also tried to blow away).

Kokos Rope Tricks

Koko's Rope Tricks

To continue the doing-routes-I-haven’t-done-yet project, I got on Welcome To Vantage, a typical varied Sunshine Wall crack with the full range of jamming, stemming, and face holds. I attempted another new-to-me-route, Mix It Up. At Vantage it seems most of the 5.11s are 90% 5.9 climbing with one or two crux moves (for example, Bob’s Your Uncle, Weep Holes on a Sill), so when my attempts to actually climb one of the face climbing cruxes failed I resorted to my usual merciless cheating, but only managed to get “stuck” in the adjacent crack, so I downclimbed/fell my way back down to retrieve my draws. Someone else started up it after me, and I was hoping I’d be able to ask for a run on his toprope, but he bailed off the 5th and final bolt (before turning into trad). I guess I’m saving that one for next time, especially if I can find someone interested in working on it with me.

  • Sunshine Wall, Party in Your Pants, 5.8 trad (lead)
  • Sunshine Wall, Easy Off, 5.10c sport (lead) one of my favorites, I think it’s easy for a 10c, but maybe only because the bolts are in line instead of way off to the side, which makes leading a lot easier since you have more choice of where to clip from
  • Sunshine Wall, Welcome To Vantage, 5.10c trad (lead) my new route for the day. perfectly nice climb, only problem with it is that you have to scramble up a chossy pillar to start
  • Sunshine Wall, Hakuna Matada, 5.10b sport (lead) I always fall off this one at the same place! and I always forget where!
  • Sunshine Wall, Mix It Up, 5.11a sport/trad (bailed) bailed at second bolt. Next time…
Did I mention how sunny it was?

Did I mention how sunny it was?