Millennium Wall January 9

2011 January 15

Trying to do stuff in the winter around here involves all kinds of potential annoyances, but today, the approach seemed to proceed smoothly enough. It was only Sketchy and me so my usual tactic of inviting someone with a Subaru or SUV didn’t apply, but despite the white and shiny stuff on Highway 2 there was no annoying messing with chains or annoying driving into ditches. When we got to the Snow Creek Trail parking lot, it was just cold enough that the precipitation was falling as snow instead of annoying rain. We got to leave the annoying snowshoes in the car and boot it up a well beaten trough of a trail. The trail even went directly to the Millennium Wall, saving us from wandering through annoying rocks and bushes to get to the ice.

Supposedly there are three Millennium Walls so we tromped up the trail for another half hour looking for the other ones. We saw some ice dripping off boulders and some ice stalagmites sticking out of the creek but didn’t see anything else big enough to be a “wall”. Meanwhile the clouds blew away and the sun peeked into the valley, which made for some gorgeous views of Snow Creek Wall, but also softened up the trail. Sketchy weighs about 60 pounds more than I do so he got to be the posthole canary as we headed back to the original wall (which cc later informed me was Second Millennium).

Second Millennium Wall

Second Millennium Wall

As we were unloading and putting on all the pointy bits and nylon bits (order of operations is important…), I asked Sketchy, “Hey, how many of my screws do you want?”

“You mean, how many of my screws do you want? You’re leading,” he replied.

Uhh… Apparently when he told me the night before that his injured hand would be good enough for climbing, he didn’t mean good enough for leading. Now, I had led about a total of 20 feet of ice, ever. And followed maybe 5 pitches that actually required two tools. And I was pretty sure I’d forgotten everything in the 11 months since I did any of that. Suddenly the wall we were standing under looked a lot steeper.

To make a (seemingly) long story short I somehow cheated my way to the top, notwithstanding a couple of poorly placed screws, feeling totally unable to get my crampons to stick, some unorthodox techniques like throwing a hand jam between some icicles, and some learning as I went (eg. if the ice looks black don’t put a screw in there). I’d spent the summer doing a lot of generally being lazy and doing unchallenging things like single pitch easy trad in the sun, so it was kind of new (and secretly, a lot of fun) to be kind of in over my head. Still, it was quite a relief to reach the snow-covered low angle stuff at the top.

Finished Leading

Finished Leading

With the toprope up (off a conveniently located giant dead tree about 29m from the ground) Sketchy took his turn for shenanigans such as climbing dead trees frozen into the ice and climbing by headlamp. I just went up a couple more times on TR so I could climb without having to worry about falling.

Night Climbing

Night Climbing

  • Second Millennium Wall, WI4-5 (lead 1x, TR 2x) 4-5 is the guidebook rating. I was told it was WI3 so I could complain about being sandbagged except I don’t know what any of that means anyway

So yeah, I guess I lead ice now. Kind of.

Joshua Tree November 10-14

2010 December 25

I. Climbing paradise

It was dark when Michael and Eileen picked me up from the airport Wednesday night, so other than a few glimpses of pointy vegetation and looming rock formations in headlights, my first real view of Joshua Tree was when I woke up under the pale dawn early Thursday morning. Nobody else had emerged from their tents yet, so I decided to see how far I could get up the rock formation next to our campsites. The rock was sticky and clean under my feet, rough and featured in my hands. I depended on the kindness of the path of least resistance and soon I was at the top looking down at the small tent city surrounding the pile. Beyond that was nothing but rock — domes, buttresses, cracks, slabs — and a network of roads and trails laid out in the scrubby desert between them.

So this is what climbing paradise looks like.

Ryan Campground

Ryan Campground

When I came back down, the sun had started warming the dusty camp, and new friends and old were emerging from tents, starting up stoves, piling things on the picnic table, yawning, making coffee, eating breakfast, flipping through guidebooks.

No, this is what climbing paradise looks like.

II. The first day

I had come open minded (read, unprepared), so Eileen played tour guide for me and the other early arrivals. When I saw the size of the guidebook(s!) I really appreciated her expertise in choosing areas for the group with enough routes of the appropriate difficulty to keep us all busy. We piled into cars to Hidden Valley, where the domes and walls were crowded together with barely enough sand between to allow easy passage.

Thin Wall

Thin Wall

The first stop was Thin Wall, a grid of cracks, with convenient face holds scattered throughout. Not only that, but the rock is incredibly sticky, solid, and clean. I led a couple easy-ish routes and it seemed that the ratings weren’t as sandbagged as some people claimed. The phrase “climbing paradise” comes to mind again.

  • Thin Wall, Count on Your Fingers, 5.9 trad (lead) first climb at JTree! This place is just like Pearly Gates!
  • Thin Wall, Butterfingers Make Me Horny, 5.8 trad (lead)
  • Thin Wall, Child’s Play / Congratulations 5.10c/d (TR) fun moves, trying it with my trad rack on was… unnecessary
  • Sail Away, 5.8- trad (lead)
  • Cyclops, Spaghetti and Chili, 5.7 trad (lead) for some reason I really like easy runout

III. Headstone

I had correctly pegged David and Bill as troublemakers so the next morning the three of us abandoned breakfast and wandered off to climb Headstone (conveniently within walking distance of the campground). We were without guidebook, but knowing that there was a 5.6 on one corner and a 5.8 on another corner and they were both bolted was beta enough. I got first lead on the 5.8, and made a mockery of the “sport” climb by placing half a set of TCUs in addition to the bolts. I got to enjoy the leader’s prerogative of choosing the line, and instead of beelining to the anchor, followed slightly overhanging jugs along the top edge of the formation as the sun crept up and caught me. We lingered longer than we intended, pulling the ropes and releading. As we were finishing up under another bluebird sky, Peter and Tiffany came to drag us off to Minotaur/Atlantis where the rest of the group was climbing (thanks for not abandoning us!).

  • Headstone, Cryptic, 5.8 sport+ (lead) climbing at dawn!
  • Headstone, SW Corner, 5.6 sport (lead)
  • Minotaur Wall, Fantasy of Light, 5.10a trad (lead) cheater stone is on, right?
  • Minotaur Wall, Minotaur, 5.7 trad (lead)
  • Minotaur Wall, Wet Pigeon, 5.8 trad (lead) most of my cams seemed to be busy as anchors and directionals, good thing I had Mark’s tricams
  • Atlantis Wall, Vorpal Sword, 5.9+ trad (lead) some of these walls are shorter and less steep than they look

IV. My love hate relationship with slab climbing

I have a project at home — actually, project is too strong a word, since instead of climbing it I have every time avoided the short slab crux with some aid to reach the perfect hand crack above — perhaps we should call it an aspiration. Anyway, on said aspiration I was standing there glaring at the crux (to add insult to potential for injury, the crux is a few feet above a ledge) when one of the Index regulars offered some beta, “Have you been to Joshua Tree? It’s a Joshua Tree power slab move.” At that time I had not been to Joshua Tree, and I had no idea what he meant, so I made some sort of attempt at standing on something microscopic, promptly slipped off of it, weighted the toprope, and tripped backwards over the ledge. So my first hazy impression of Joshua Tree slab climbing was that it would involve glaring at crystals and aid climbing.

My first priorities for the day at Echo Cove were Pope’s Crack and Touch and Go, a pair of 5.9 crack climbs that seemed made for me (or the other way around). It would have been easy to spend the whole trip climbing only cracks, but it just so happened that the rappel for Pope’s Crack is draped over British Airways, a 5.11 slab. Well, if you insist, and don’t mind dragging me up to clean the anchor if I can’t actually climb it… I usually prefer leading, so when I do something on toprope sometimes I like to take advantage of the lack of consequences by trying ridiculous things. To my surprise, quite a few of those things worked, I didn’t need (too much) hauling from my belayer and by the end I was actually enjoying myself.

Michael on British Airways

Michael on British Airways

It turned out that the gracious Peter B (thanks for showing me those anchor tricks too) had also led Heart and Sole, a bolted route with a less exalted rating. It was getting late so I would have been holding up the group had I tried to lead it, so I had a good excuse to chicken out and do it on TR. The stickiness of the rock amazed me again, and I somehow got to the top without falling. I may have enjoyed leading it (though judging from the precarious spots I cleaned the draws from, there may have been a lot of sweating and muttering).

  • Echo Cove, Touch and Go, 5.9 trad (lead) as aesthetic a line as you would like, with opportunities with some fun trickery
  • Echo Cove, Pope’s Crack, 5.9 trad (lead) beautiful crack, but I had more fun on the no-hands slab traverse…
  • Echo Cove, British Airways, 5.11 trad (TR) love this sticky rock. I can jam a flare like that? really? I can stem up those barely-there edges? (too bad I can’t actually slab climb and it’s way to runout for me to lead anyway)
  • Echo Cove, Heart and Sole, 5.10a trad (TR) I could lead this one, but do I want to..

V. My love hate relationship with bouldering

When I climb, I care too much and I try too hard. When leading trad, I have an excuse. If I don’t get to the top, I lose my gear. If I don’t place gear well, I could hit the ground. If I get myself into something challenging (secretly, fun), I didn’t know what I was getting myself into. Sometimes I even get to pretend I’m doing a service by putting up a route that others don’t want to lead. But really, I like caring too much and trying too hard.

With bouldering, there is no pretending. There is no commitment (at least not on a traverse never leaving 5 feet above the ground). There’s really no reason for me to get on the rock, and no reason to not step off at any point. Definitely no reason to get on it again after falling off. So why start? Why keep going? Why do I care? Why do I try? You could really ask these questions about anything I do. Why climb at all? Why go to Joshua Tree? And I know my wouldn’t be able to convince anyone else with any of my rationalizations. But my answer for myself is good enough for me: “same reason I do everything else”.

  • Ryan Mountain thanks for inviting me along for another fun early morning, Dave, David, and Bill!
  • Gunsmoke, V2 (attempt)


Want the other side of the story? Other trip reports from:

(if you blogged or posted your photos and I missed you, please let me know in comments or DM, if only so I can keep track of everyone else’s memories too, thanks!)

Leavenworth October 31

2010 November 22

This time, the weekly “hey, what’s going on this weekend?” email resulted in a day trip to Leavenworth to climb among the turning leaves with Michael, Leah, Mark, and Tony. As usual, the blue sky made an appearance just on the east side of Stevens Pass. The presence of blue sky is not directly correlated to the absence of precipitation so we started the day with standard Leavenworth delaying tactics (Der Safeway, The Alps candy store, etc).

Soon enough we decided that it was “dry” and that we should “climb”. Nobody wanted to do “dry” slabs and “dry” chimneys or endure a “dry” pine-needle covered approach, so by process of elimination we ended up in the Classic Crack area. We threw a TR on Deception Crack and all did some slipping and sliding off it. The TR-setting party encountered an impassable slippery moss above the anchor for Classic Crack. Whatever, I wanted to lead it anyway, a little moisture doesn’t matter for hand and fist jams, does it? I made it look like so much fun that Mark led it on my gear and everyone else TR’d it.

Tony on Classic Crack

Tony on Classic Crack

Classic Crack may not be the best route for showing that crack climbing is fun and easy. A better idea was going across the street to X-Y, a set of similar cracks at a much friendlier angle (if you have to rake leaves off it before climbing it can’t be that hard). Tony did his first trad lead here and Mark did a nice lead on the 10a slab climb next to it.

We still had a bit of daylight left after this. Just a bit — but the cool temperatures, fall colors, and the snow line creeping down the peaks across the valley were making the point that this could be the last Leavenworth trip of the year. We couldn’t just leave! The closest crag was J-Y and there would be time for just one more route for each of us. I picked Armed Forces, a nice (IMNSHO) thin crack to a not so nice (IMNSHO) slab, and Mark led Dirtbag Direct, a slab route that turned out to be better than I remembered. Armed Forces already needed a bit of nut-tool action to clean out the crack for gear, but there were two good surprises at the top — the slab wasn’t wet and there were shiny new chains instead of the webbing/rap ring set up that was there last year.

Winter and Autumn

Winter and Autumn

I wasn’t quite ready for the trip (and the entire Leavenworth rock climbing season) to be over, but we had to pack up and hurry down in the fading light. I was glad to have concluded the season with Armed Forces, since I’d done it on TR a few times but had never gotten around to leading it.

  • 8-Mile Rock, Deception Crack, 5.9 trad (TR) more difficult when wet
  • 8-Mile Rock, Classic Crack, 5.8+ trad (lead) not too much more difficult when wet
  • X-Y Cracks, X Crack, 5.7 trad (lead) recon so I could give Tony gear beta for his first trad lead (oops, I told him it was 5.5)
  • X-Y Cracks, Unnamed Slab, 5.10a sport (TR) I have problems with slab climbing, good thing Mark does not
  • J-Y Crag, Armed Forces Crack, 5.10b trad (lead) new chains at the top, nice surprise
  • J-Y Crag, Dirtbag Direct, 5.9 trad (TR) this is the kind of slab I like

Tieton, August 6-8

2010 August 19

Julia, Dakota (her new puppy), and I had been planning a long weekend at Squamish for a few weeks. When the weekend got closer the forecast for Squamish included this lovely icon: so after some indecision we reluctantly redirected our attentions to Tieton. I shouldn’t be so reluctant though — the climbing is so varied and I’ve loved almost every route I’ve done there (excluding the ones with stinging insects), the views are great, and there are so many places I haven’t explored.

The temperatures climbed into the 90’s as we descended from Snoqualmie Pass (2 hour delay, vehicle fire) Friday morning to the hot, dry side of the Cascades. As we passed the fruit stands and convenience stores of Naches and Tieton I started scanning the guidebook for somewhere cool. 5000 feet up and with promised 2PM shade, South Fork fit the bill. Julia’s truck made the zigzag up logging roads a lot more comfortable (if not in a high clearance vehicle, it’s mostly fine, just bumpy, but be careful dodging the washout low down, and consider parking at “turn left at the last fork” instead of driving the last 0.7 mi).

One unique feature of South Fork is that one of the walls there is composed of tiled hexagons. If you think of the usual vertically arranged hexagonal columns at Vantage, Tieton’s Royal Columns, or even Devil’s Tower, these are sideways and you climb on the column “tops”!



I’ve eyed the hexagon walls in the guidebook for a while but have never made it to one (the other one is mostly 5.12s, so this is probably the more realistic one). We did two easy routes on the hexagons (there are also several more listed as “Project” that we didn’t try), but I was most impressed by the neighboring Astral Wall. It’s blocky, steep, surprisingly clean, and the 10a and 10b we did (the easiest routes on the wall) were really fun. It continues with an 11 and some intriguing overhanging projects with fixed draws (this forum post seems to have the most up to date information on new routes). We didn’t have time for me to fall my way up a 200 foot long 5.11 so I’ll have to leave those for next trip…

Astral Wall

Astral Wall

  • South Fork, Hexagonal Satellites, Hexavalent, 5.7 sport (lead) low angle, mossy, the climbing isn’t so amazing, but it’s cool looking rock
  • South Fork, Hexagonal Satellites, Hexagonal Crack, 5.8 trad (lead) same as above, but trad
  • South Fork, Astral Wall, West Arete, 5.10a sport (lead) long moderate overhanging sport route
  • South Fork, Astral Wall, Thanks Andy, 5.10b sport (lead) similar to and not much harder than West Arete, maybe a bit more sustained

Saturday morning was cool and cloudy at our campsite on top of Lava Point, so when I failed to locate the “obvious rock cairn atop a stump” leading to Dream Wall in a timely manner, we went down to the Bend to enjoy some columns. We started on the left, with Julia leading a nice crack. Next I made a mockery of a slabby bolted route (clipped two bolts on it, decided I was not up for this slab stuff, went around back and climbed a dirty crack instead). I decided to stick to crack climbs for the rest of the day. The only other misadventure was throwing the rope into the wind and getting it stuck in a broken pillar about 6 routes over, necessitating 1 rap to an anchor halfway down, a tension traverse to another anchor 2 columns over, and finally a rap to the stuck rope (lesson for the day: no knots at the end of the rope when rappelling a half-rope-length route). The whole operation was definitely tedious. We were both at the top and had plenty of gear and plenty of cracks to put it in, so we weren’t that worried, but Dakota was — fortunately she was anchored in or she would have came up after us.

Cracks and more cracks at The Bend

Cracks and more cracks at The Bend

Despite all the shenanigans we got quite a few good crack climbs in on lead and TR. The clouds made for nice temperatures all day, dramatic views across the valley, and even held off on precipitating until almost sunset.

  • The Bend, People, Places, and Things, 5.8 trad (TR) led by Julia
  • The Bend, Cherry Bomb, 5.10a sport (TR) tagging it TR even though I “led” it. Led it by corkscrewing around the whole column on easy cracks because it was too slabby for me. On TR it was fine, but it would have had some moments on lead…
  • The Bend, Dancing Bear, 5.10b trad (lead) climb was fine, rap anchor is a little annoying to get to, descent was a little epic
  • The Bend, Heartbreak of Psoriasis, 5.10c trad (TR) similar to above
  • The Bend, Hallowed Ground, 5.9 trad (lead)
  • The Bend, Reckoning, 5.10b trad (TR) may have been the best route of the day… should have led Pure Joy, a 10c that shares the same start, but it started raining

Sunday started out cool again, and we both had routes we wanted to get on at Royal Columns (Inca Road for Julia and Orange Sunshine for me), so we went to try our luck there. It turned out to be clear and sunny, so the conditions weren’t as great as Saturday, but we got there early enough that the wall was still shading itself. We got on Inca Road right away, then Little Known Wonder.

By the time we were done with this, Orange Sunshine had been baking in the direct sun and was hot to the touch. There was still a short window to find shade in cracks shaded by neighboring columns, but the sun was coming around fast so I had to pick one quick. We set up (including moving the puppy anchor to a nice shady cave) and I got on Jam Exam, a straightforward 5.9, which I kind of rushed through because I could feel the sun creeping up. It actually felt good to stop at each rest just long enough to place gear and not completely think through the whole route. I watched the sliver of shade disappear as Julia cleaned it, and by the time she was done the brick oven was in effect. We could have driven to a shaded area, but we bailed on that in favor of getting home at a reasonable hour and picking up some peaches on the way back.

  • Royal Columns, Inca Road, 5.9 trad (lead)
  • Royal Columns, Little Known Wonder, 5.7 trad (TR)
  • Royal Columns, Jam Exam, 5.9 trad (lead) racing the sun :)
Dakota likes Miuras too

Dakota likes Miuras too

I always have fun climbing with Julia, especially since we share some favorite crack sizes. And, puppy!

One other highlight of the trip was sleeping in my new hammock. Though since it was not a fancy camping hammock with a rainfly my stuff got half wet while we were racing back in the rain on Saturday night. So I turned my pillow over and my sleeping bag inside out and joined Julia and Dakota in their tent (where Dakota thought it would be fun to chew on my hair).

Looking back on the trip, everything was very enjoyable, but I feel like I missed a few opportunities to do more challenging routes, even though I was trying mid 10’s (which I think of as my limit). I should probably be working on leading faster though, since there were a few fun routes that I did on TR instead of leading to save time. I secretly enjoyed getting the rope stuck and unstuck (not enough to do it on purpose of course!). I did discover two new favorite areas: South Fork which was brand new to me, and The Bend, where I’ve been once before (but never got to lead anything).

[all photos]

Smith Rocks, June 24-27

2010 July 9

This was a tough trip for me. Not because of any climbing or anything — my climbing partner seemed determined not to have a good time. I tried to let him pick where we climbed, decide when we left every day, asked him if he wanted to go home, but it didn’t work. I tried to do what I usually do and get on a route and leave it on the ground, but it didn’t work. I tried to have fun anyway, not care about having fun, not care about climbing, not care.

Maybe it wouldn’t have been so bad if Smith wasn’t one of my favorite places, if it wasn’t one of the most friendly, most beautiful climbing areas I’ve been to. If I hadn’t arrived with a list of routes to try and new areas to explore. If this wasn’t supposed to be fun. Everyone else seemed to be enjoying themselves. And why should they not?

Maybe it wouldn’t have been so bad if he wasn’t my boyfriend. Maybe it wouldn’t have been so bad if this hadn’t been happening almost every trip for a year or more. Maybe it’s supposed to be enough that he’s willing to climb with me at all. But I’m selfish. Sometimes I want him to want to be there too. I’m lazy. Sometimes I want to have fun because of who I’m with instead of in spite of. After a trip I want to talk about the amazing things we’re going to do on the next trip, or relive the amazing things we did on the last trip, instead of hearing about what I did wrong, why we should have never went.

Sunset Over Smith

Sunset Over Smith

  • Dihedrals, Moonshine Dihedral, 5.9 trad (lead)
  • Dihedrals, Heinous Cling start, 5.12a sport (lead attempt)
  • Dihedrals, Wedding Day, 5.10b sport (lead)
  • Spiderman Buttress, A Desperate Man, 5.9 trad (lead)
  • Spiderman Buttress, Iguanas on Elm Street, 5.10c sport (lead w/falls)
  • Christian Brothers, Testament Slab, Revelation 5.9 mixed (lead) listed as a sport climb but I placed 4 “optional” pieces before the first bolt
  • Christian Brothers, Testament Slab, New Testament 5.10a trad (lead) unexpectedly good
  • Christian Brothers, Testament Slab, Barbecue the Pope 5.10b sport (TR)
  • Northern Point, Burn Baby Burn 5.10a trad (lead)
  • Northern Point, Playing With Fire 5.7 trad (TR)
  • Northern Point, If I Ran The Circus 5.10b trad (lead w/falls)
  • Monkey Face West Face Variation/Panic Point 5.8 A0 (lead p2, p4) don’t do Panic Point. Do Monkey Off My Back — it’s very similar, not that much harder, and you don’t have to do the awkward unprotected walk/scramble around the boulder

Leavenworth, June 20

2010 July 2

The Purina Crag is not hard to find if you read the detailed description in the guidebook. If you just look at the map it’s a little confusing though (it looks like the trail is between the parking lot and the houses, but it’s really the 3rd-or-so driveway). You do have to walk up a private driveway (the correct one has a sign saying “Climbers and Hikers Enter At Your Own Risk” and another sign saying “Cabin and Campsite For Rent”). Needless to say we did not read the detailed description in the guidebook (or rather, the one of us who did read the detailed description was ignored because others saw an “obvious trail”, etc…). So first we found Madsen’s Buttress and a cute cabin made out of rocks and skis, then went back down and and found the driveway and the real approach.

It’s all part of the charm of the domes of Leavenworth — crashing through tick-infested brush, slipping on pine needles, rereading approach descriptions (the new book has better maps and directions, but this seems to only make me feel sillier after getting lost). All in pursuit of unfamiliar rock to climb — squinting up to catch the flash of sunlight off the anchor bolts, figuring out the sequence for the route, and maybe discovering a new favorite spot.

Soon enough we were up at Planet of the Eights. It’s kind of typical Leavenworth foldy-bulgy slab, protected by a couple tricky gear placements and a couple bolts. I kind of like slab climbing but I don’t think Sketchy and Denny were in the mood for more after their leads. Anyway, it was easy to lure me away by offering me the first lead on Poison Ivy Crack, a clean curving finger-to-hands dihedral (which we passed on the way up).

Poison Ivy Crack turned out to be as fun as it looked (too bad it was so short). And yes, there is poison ivy at the bottom (leaves of three, let it be…). After we all had our turn (and I did some TR flailing on the 11b slab next to it — note to self, helmet cams and featureless vertical slab climbing do not go well together) we wandered over to explore the rest of Purina Crag.

El Caliente, 5.9

El Caliente, 5.9

We only did one route. There was definitely more that looked good, including a bolt-protected 11 that looked a bit exciting but not too hard. Careno Crag is just a little further and looks way better on paper — multiple-starred multipitch routes in the 10- range, and lots of starred single pitch stuff in the 9s 10s and 11s.

  • Planet of the Eights, Surveillance of Assailants, 5.8 mixed (TR) kind of dirty, fun slab
  • Planet of the Eights, Make Mine a Bold One, 5.8+ mixed (TR) more of the above
  • Purina Crag, Poison Ivy Crack, 5.9 trad (lead) fun!
  • Purina Crag, El Caliente 5.9, trad (lead) seemed easier than 5.9

Index, June 18

2010 June 28

We started on the Great Northern Slab. It’s the easiest route at Index and the only thing I’ve done there. I started the day well by stepping on some algae and almost falling out of the slimy 5.2 ramp at the start, but soon enough (after a couple slug sightings), we climbed out of the deep forest into the sun and got views of snowy Index and Persis under a blue sky. It’s always nice when a questionable weather forecast turns into a great day. Especially when it’s a sunny Friday, there’s some dry rock, and I’ve got a great climbing partner, Chris, who’s willing to drive to Index despite its reputation for being too hard, etc.

After the easy and familiar was done with, it was time to look for a bit more of a challenge. I was a little confused because of a missing bolt and my inability to tell the difference between a 5.8 “difficult mantel” and a 5.11, but I did manage to find Princely Ambitions without any actual 5.11-attempting. The first pitch was super fun (even with treating myself to some classic rope drag and having to fix it with some downclimbing and backcleaning), with lots of I-hope-this-works and there’s-got-to-be-some-texture-on-that-blank-looking-slab. I even got to see a little snake retreating into a finger crack I was going to use! It’s also nice and long (40m if you count the easy block scramble between the ground and the first bolt). Because the route makes a sharp turn at the crux, it’s just as exciting for the second, but Chris cruised it despite not having done much multipitch climbing recently.

Chris on Princely Ambitions 5.9

Chris on Princely Ambitions 5.9

After this assurance that 5.9 at Index is challenging, but not toooo haaard, we went looking for some more 5.9s. The classic Godzilla was occupied, of course. Some Index regulars saw me flipping through the book, and suggested a 5.9 offwidth called the Quarry Crack. We never made it there because someone else suggested a semi-secret moderate pitch — starting up Shirley (listed as a 5.11c in the book, so I flipped right past it) and escaping to another set of anchors before the hard part. The crux of the abbreviated version is a pretty arch feature marked as a 10a on the topo (or maybe the “exciting” traverse to the escape anchors). A nice bonus was the view of the crux of Thin Fingers (who wants to set up a TR for me on that?).

As I was putting away my rope, someone yelled “Rock!” I looked at them, saw the rock coming straight at me, and barely had time to stop looking at it as it hit me on the side of the head. I think I was literally the only person at the base wearing a helmet. All it did was make a loud noise, but if I wasn’t wearing a helmet it could have been a bad time. I’m not sure if I would call that bad luck or good luck! I climb at famous choss factories like Vantage and Exit 38 all the time, and the first time I get hit is at Index!

Slug and purple-stemmed monkeyflower

Slug and purple-stemmed monkeyflower

I definitely want to do a lot more at Index, especially if the rest of the 3 and 4 star 9s and 10as are anything like the two I got to try this time…

  • Lower Town Wall, Great Northern Slab, 5.7 trad 3p (lead) Woo, easiest route at Index!
  • Lower Town Wall, Princely Ambitions, 5.9 trad 2p (lead) Fun!
  • Lower Town Wall, Little Shirley, 5.10a trad (lead) The first pitch of Shirley, escaping right to another anchor before the hard part. Fun little arch feature.

Exit 32, May 14

2010 May 28

Sara posted on facebook that she wanted to go climbing on Friday. Um, YES I do. It looked like it was going to be a huge trip, but it ended up being just Sara and Mike. Climbing with new partners is always interesting. This time it was refreshing to talk to people that don’t think it’s annoying that I want to climb more. Sometimes I feel like everyone else thinks a fun day of climbing is getting there late, doing easy routes, and leaving early to get some beers. There’s nothing wrong with that, but I personally would sometimes like to climb hard and stay out all day. This time we did have to leave a little early because people had to be somewhere, but I can’t complain — it’s Friday and I’m outside climbing!



This is also the first time I’ve been at Exit 32 in the morning. The angle of the sun makes such a difference. In the afternoon the sun is behind the wall so it looks kind of dark and menacing, but in the morning it’s all beautiful grays and whites.

Salal and Sara

Salal and Sara

The highlight of the day was Sara’s redpoint of Son of Jesus. I got to lead it twice, too! I was surprised how easy it felt (except for a moment when I stuck my whole hand in a jug full of mud) since it took me a few tries to get it last year. I would like to claim that it was because got better but I’m afraid that I’ll have to credit buying new shoes, or maybe just having done it so many times. BLM-6 was really fun climbing, but it didn’t feel as good because I felt like I was cheating. I could just barely reach a pre-placed draw to protect a hard move at the 2nd clip (so I wouldn’t have been able to reach the bolt), so I may have backed off the lead if Mike hadn’t left the draw.

Mike, Dairy Freeze 5.12b


I also got to watch Mike work on a tricky looking 12b (this might be the only route I’ve tried that I haven’t even been able to fall my way up on TR…).

  • World Wall, Reptiles and Amphetamines, 5.9 sport (TR)
  • World Wall, Son of Jesus, 5.10c sport (lead) Sara and Mike let me lead this twice! thanks!
  • World Wall, BLM-6, 5.10d sport (lead) note to self, bolts are positioned for a much taller person, much easier if the draws are there
  • World Wall, Dairy Freeze, 5.12b sport (TR, didn’t finish)

Vantage, May 9

2010 May 15

I was really looking forward to the annual WCN trip to Mt St Helens — I like rock climbing but I actually like doing long hikes and scrambles better. I aspire to actually be a good enough climber and fit enough to lead stuff in the mountains, but I’m not, so I’m happy to class 3/class 4 it. St Helens is of course not technical, not even a scramble, but it’s got the snow, the setting, and a really cool summit (it’s a volcano! that is currently actively volcanoing!). When I did it a few years ago at the same time of year there was even a low cloud layer to pass through (~30F snow flurries below, sun above). Getting above the clouds really makes me feel like I’ve accomplished something even if St Helens is only about 8000 ft.

Unfortuantely this year the WCN group called it off because of the avalanche forecast. I’m sure plenty of people did it and had no issues, but most of us decided we’d rather not have to worry about it anyway, especially since the danger would inevitably disappear after a few weeks anyway.

There was also the temptation of Plan B at Vantage. It seems I’ve been there a lot this year, but in the spring the scenery is changing weekly. The pink phlox-looking stuff is not in bloom anymore but these were:

Puffy Flowers

Puffy Flowers

And of course it’s great to spend time with friends in such a beautiful setting!

Dawn and Traisa

Dawn and Traisa

  • Sunshine Wall, Air Guitar, 5.10a trad (lead) one of my favorites, and easy for a 10a, but I need to get used to people watching/talking about me when I’m climbing…
  • Sunshine Wall, Clip ‘em or Skip ‘em, 5.8 sport (lead)
  • Tomato Wall, Hamhocks 5.9 trad (lead w/falls) proximal cause of falling was getting a cam hooked in a loop on my shoe, but if I had chosen better gear placements (ie. placed nuts from the good rests and saved the cams for the awkward layback stuff), I may have been able to untangle myself without freaking out. Or if I had just borrowed everyone else’s .75s. Or if I hadn’t climbed over-conservatively because everyone told me the route was a sandbag (I don’t think it is; if I can almost do it it shouldn’t be more than 5.9)
  • Tomato Wall, Go Cat Go 5.10c sport (lead w/falls) just couldn’t figure out this one (or I’m too short), a lot of climbing up to reach a clip, then downclimbing to get back on my line

Leavenworth, May 2

2010 May 8

This weekend was supposed to be my first time climbing at Index (except for the Great Northern Slab). We ran in to Jack at the gym during the week and invited him along; it was going to be his first time ever at Index! Of course, the weather wasn’t really cooperating so we kept on driving east until we found the sun in Leavenworth.

We started at Fish Wall, a bunch of moderates with some bolted routes with “optional” gear and some gear routes with couple of bolts (making full use of the color coding in the new guidebook). At Leavenworth that usually means nicely textured slabs with some short cracks of unknown funkiness.

Jack on the Fish Wall

Jack on the Fish Wall

We started out on a slightly mossy 5.8. The one moment of excitement was when Sketchy was leading, Jack was belaying, and I was laying in the sun a bit away from the rock. I saw a round dark shape come over the edge right above us. I yelled “Rock!”, Jack tried to get out of the way, I sat up and grabbed my helmet/pillow to actually put it on my head… and the wind carried the pine cone a few feet over us. Apparently the top of the crag consists of huecos completely filled with pine cones.

One thing I like about less traveled mixed gear/bolts routes at Leavenworth is that they aren’t completely covered in chalk marks, so I get to actually think about how to climb them. What I don’t like as much is that sometimes the difficulty and protection are kind of inconsistent, so it seems like arbitrary wandering around rather than a logical route.

Sketchy saw a chimney that he wanted to TR around the corner. It was right next to a bolted slab, Bottom Feeder, so I managed to convince him to let me lead the slab. I was glad that I did; it was my favorite route that day. The chimney was pretty uneventful climbing because I only did it on TR. Sketchy wanted to lead it, so I set myself up at the anchor so I could take pictures from above.

Sketchy leading out of the unnamed chimney

Sketchy leading out of the unnamed chimney

One unexpected treat was the brilliant yellow monkeyflowers and other plants growing in the moss cushions formed around seeps in the wall. Many climbers may only think of the granite in Icicle canyon in the cleaned and playable state, but I think the micro-ecosystems formed by rock and water are fascinating (and sometimes delicious — try the wild onions and miner’s lettuce).



After leading a couple easy slab routes, I finally felt like I’d (almost, maybe) gotten used to the Leavenworth style of climbing again. There were a couple of possibly more difficult routes at the Fish Wall that I wanted to try since we were there anyway, but somehow we ended up having to leave. Leavenworth is kind of an odd place to climb for me because I love climbing there so much, but it seems like usually we leave as soon as it’s starting to get fun.

  • Fish Wall, Bohemian Blowfish, 5.8 trad (TR) kind of wandering and mossy.
  • Fish Wall, Sardine Routine, 5.9 trad (lead) also wandering, less mossy.
  • Fish Wall, Bottom Feeder, 5.9+ sport (lead) book says “a small piece can be placed before the first bolt”, I’m short so I needed two
  • Fish Wall, Unnamed chimney right of Bottom Feeder (TR) led by Sketchy. He had two #4 Big Bros which were just barely big enough