Devo's Climbs

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Rock Climb: Castle Rock & February Buttress

Hunter Brown and I went to Leavenworth today with the goal to climb Castle Rock from bottom to top via The Fault, Catapult and Canary. Neither of us had done these particular routes yet, so it promised to be a fun and adventurous day.

Weather looked to be cool and windy, so we waited until 9:45am to leave Everett and arrived at Castle about noon. Along the way we stopped at the Sultan Bakery for some doughnuts and a sandwich. Yum!

The Fault (5.6)

Arriving at the base of The Fault, we noticed some climbers above on Catapult, so we leisurely sorted our gear, studied the route, and petted the chocolate lab they had tethered to a tree nearby.

Hunter led The Fault, which involved some secure but interesting maneuvers up a narrow chimney. This was his first outdoor climb of the year, and I noticed he moved carefully and took his time placing pro - perfectly understandable. I followed and quickly decided it would be easier to climb the chimney if I hauled the small pack I was carrying behind me instead of carrying it on my back. After making this adjustment, my progress was much smoother. Once I made it up to Hunter, we realized he had set his belay up too high, so I set a new anchor up on a nice ledge 15 feet below him and lowered him down. After he was anchored in and we swapped gear, I was ready to take on Catapult.

Catapult (5.8)

Catapult climbs a crack and corner system through roofs directly above The Fault. It is an enjoyable lead requiring efficient climbing. I focused on conserving energy and moving into good positions for placing my next piece of protection, doing my best to resist the urge to power up and through with brute strength and risk exhausting myself. Once above Stoner's Ledge the route eases up quite a bit but remains exposed. I thought about setting an anchor and doing a third pitch, but decided I might have enough rope to make it to Logger's Ledge in one go (we were using a 60M). In the process I used all of my draws and ran low on gear, but over the easy terrain I was able to run it out between placements and manufacture some draws with the extra slings and 'biners I had on me. I made it to Logger's Ledge with rope to spare, though drag became a major factor. For gear, I used most of my Camalots and all but the smallest of Hunters TCU's to secure the route. I didn't place any passive pro and don't think I'd want to. However, I did clip a hex firmly fixed in the crack below Stoner's Ledge.

It was very windy at Logger's Ledge, and I was a long way up and out of Hunter's sight. I berated myself for not bringing my radios. After several futile shouts down to Hunter, I started hauling the rope up as fast as I could, hoping this would signal to him that I had set the anchor and was off belay. However, the rope quickly came tight and it was apparent that he still had me on belay. So I ditched this tactic, clipped in my Reverso and put Hunter on belay - better safe than sorry! I hauled in the remaining rope and brought it tight. After a long time, several more shouts and tugs on the rope, Hunter started climbing. Next time, I won't forget the radios!

Hunter made it to the top in good fashion, but let me know he was having a problem with his big toe, so we decided to end the climb and return to the car so he could take care of the offending toe nail. Besides, climbing upper Castle Rock in those windy conditions wasn't appealing. I had a better idea anyways.

February Buttress

After a rest and snacks at the car, we drove down the road to February Buttress and climbed Groundhog Day (5.7). This is a relatively easy, but extremely enjoyable three pitch trad climb. It feels like an alpine climb without the grueling approach, partly because the route meanders and requires routefinding over blocky terrain, partly because it's not climbed often enough for the rock to be worn clean and the route made obvious. This was my second time on Groundhog Day and I wouldn't mind doing it several more. Hunter enjoyed it too.

We were back at the car by 6pm, on the road west by 6:30 and home by 9:00. Fun, fun, fun!

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