Friday, July 27, 2012

Summer Climbing in the Pacific Northwest

View from the top of South Early Winter Spire, WA Pass

Summer in the PNW conveniently arrived when I finally finished nursing school, passed the boards and secured an awesome job!  I definitely couldn’t complain about that!  At the same time, my injured ring finger started to show some signs of healing and I began to slowly re-establish my climbing fitness.   I have spent most of the month of July enjoying the variety of climbing that Washington and British Columbia offer.

First up was a trip to Sqaumish with Jonathon.  My goal was to get back in shape mentally and physically.  On our first day we explored the amazing crack climbs on the lower malamute.  Highlights included climbing Caboose, named because its literally right next to the railroad tracks.  In the afternoon we moved to the base of the Grand Wall and I finally got a chance to climb the classic 5.10 finger crack, Exasperator in 1 long 50 meter pitch! It was pretty great.  Over the next couple days we did another day of cragging at Murrin Park and ascent of the Squamish Buttress.   I convinced Jonathon to climb the Squamish Buttress with me since I had never climbed it, even though he had climbed it many, many times. We did “The Snake” to connect into the Buttress.  The 5.10 pitch on the buttress is pretty classic!

Leading the 5.10 crux pitch on the Squamish Buttress

Summit of The Chief

Jonathon and I also got a chance to climb one of our favorite routes on the Upper Town Wall at Index called Heaven’s Gate (5.11b).  It consists of four great pitches.  Pitch 1 is the first pitch of the Lamplighter and is the most burly 5.10 I have ever climbed!   This pitch is typically linked into the short 5.8 traversing pitch to set the belay up below the 5.11a crux.  The rack can be left here as the rest of the climb is bolted.  Pitch 2 starts out with a powerful and reachy move and then continues up for about 100 feet on amazing edges and crimps.  Pitch 3 is a short 5.10 pitch with a bit of an awkward move about 2/3 of the way through the pitch.  The final pitch is the crux and it climbs through two big roofs.  It is pretty amazing! We still need to go back and get the redpoint on this climb!  The climb can be rappelled with one 70 m rope.

Pitch 1 of Heavens Gate

Jonathon starting up pitch 2 of Heaven's Gate

Pitch 2

Pitch 2

Pitch 3

Jonathon entering the first roof on pitch 4 of Heaven's Gate

I also spent a couple days in Mazama in hopes of climbing at Washington Pass.  Unfortunately the weather wasn’t ideal and thunderstorms were forecasted limiting any big objectives.  I still managed to experience some of Mazama’s ‘unique’ sport climbing at both Prospect and Euro crag.  On my drive home, with no sight of thunderheads building I decided to solo the South Arete of South Early Morning Spire.  I’m not too psyched on soloing but this was totally within my comfort zone with only a few low 5th class moves and terrain that was generally not too exposed.  My favorite part was the exposed but short 5.2 ridge that gained the summit.  Having not been to WA Pass in several years, I had forgotten about the excellent quality of the rock and beautiful terrain.  I managed to down climb the route and didn’t end up using the rope I had had in my backpack.

Summers in the PNW are some of the best for alpine rock climbing and overall fun.  There is an endless amount of terrain to explore and so many more climbs that I can’t wait to do.

Michelle leading the first pitch of Lovin'Arms on the upper town wall at Index

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