Devo's Climbs

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Recent climbin'-goin's-on

Since the collapse of my Denali trip I've been filling my free time with some personal trips.

June 28-29: South Early Winters Spire

First was an attempt on the Direct East Buttress of South Early Winters Spire at Washington Pass in the North Cascades. I'd been eyeing this line for some time and though neither of us was in top rock climbing form, Dave H and I decided to give it a go. We drove up Sat and did a little re-con hike to scope out the best approach, then camped at Lone Fir campground for the night.

SOUTH & NORTH EARLY WINTERS SPIRES FROM HAIRPIN
DEB of SEWS 06.29.09

A 2:30-am wake-up assured we were leaving our car at the hairpin turn by 4-am, hopefully putting us at the base of the DEB at daylight. However, the best laid plans are always subject to revision and during our approach we ended up bypassing a sketchy looking fourth class gully with some low fifth class climbing and a rappel - doh! Still, our early departure meant we had plenty of daylight to continue our attempt.

SUNRISE ON SEWS - WE APPROACHED VIA THE GULLY IN THE CENTER
DEB of SEWS 06.29.09

DAVE RAPPELLING ON OUR APPROACH
DEB of SEWS 06.29.09

FINALLY! AT THE BASE OF THE D.E.B.
DEB of SEWS 06.29.09

We'd decided to swap leads and I started off on the first of two easy pitches. Pitch 3 is where the real climbing began: a 165-ft. pitch up some steep, loose 5.8 flakes into a traverse of a 5.9+ roof. We'd taken double Camalots to #2 and one #3 but even with a fairly full rack I still found it necessary to run it out between placements. With a lot of grumbling, cursing and grunting I managed to free the roof, but just barely - definitely the most difficult crux I'd pulled in a month of mostly glacier slogging! After an extended rest consisting of several deep, loud moans (which must have made Dave wonder just what was going on up there), I finished the remaining bit o' crack and set up a belay. Dave wasted no time at the roof - just sized it up and pulled on the cam I'd placed - much easier that way!

DAVE NEGOTIATES THE ROOF, PITCH 3
DEB of SEWS 06.29.09

SOAKING IN THE EXPOSURE ON THE D.E.B.
DEB of SEWS 06.29.09

Pitch 4 was his - more steep 5.8 crack around a smaller roof with big jugs to a large ledge.

DAVE LEADS PITCH 4
DEB of SEWS 06.29.09

Once securely ensconced on the top of pitch four we had a decision to make. From there a bolt ladder traversed out right onto the East Buttress proper, meaning retreat would be problematic, maybe impossible. Upon a frank assessment of our abilities, and given the effort required thus far, we decided retreat was the best decision, treated ourselves to a consolation prize of Starbucks Doubleshots and began the lengthy rappel process, which was facilitated by several handy trees and the chopping of our two cordelettes into rappel slings.

CONSOLATION PRIZE
DEB of SEWS 06.29.09

The only snag we ran into was the rap from the top of pitch 3 to a tree in the middle of the 165-foot pitch: our single 60m rope came up 7 feet short and we had to reverse-aid to gain a secure belay: a tad sketchy, though we protected ourselves appropriately. Things would have been simpler and safer if we'd had a single 70m or two 60m half ropes. Back at the base, we rappelled the (correct) approach gully that we'd avoided on the ascent, noting that it was very loose but not as treacherous as it appeared from afar and even had some fixed lines in place. Definitely the way to go next time...

Things we learned:
  • Crampons would have been helpful on the early morning snow
  • Go up the scary looking 4th class gully
  • Maybe bring two 60m ropes or a 70m for retreat
  • Bring only one small pack for water and food
  • No matter the desire for light & fast, descending in rock shoes sucks - carry approach shoes!
More pic's of our climb on the DEB ยป

July 6: Castle Rock

Jason and I were originally headed for Index, but the scorching weather of the past few days turned to rain as we drove into the mountains, so we followed US 2 until sun and blue skies appeared over us in the Tumwater. Jason had never been on Castle, so we decided to climb it from bottom to top. Taking the lessons I learned on SEWS, I informed Jason that he would be leading any pitches over 5.8 and the fool accepted! ;-)

After the short hike to the base of lower Castle, Jason started up what I recalled to be a "5.10-ish" pitch I'd never climbed. It definitely was the hardest pitch of the day: Leavenworth Rock identifies it as Mr. Clean, 5.10c. Jason asked for a take once, but freed it in its entirety; I was not so able, taking several falls at the first crux and pulling on a piece through the second. Just as I thought: I am no longer in 5.10 shape - glad to be done with that! Then it was up Catapult (5.8) to Stoners Ledge and up The Bone - an airy, exposed 5.9 roof stem/mantle move. First time on that too - cool! I led the remaining easy ground to a windy belay at Loggers Ledge. As Jason joined me the wind died down and we continued up via Canary (5.9) where Jason had the privilege of leading both the strenuous 5.9 mantel and the exposed 5.7 step-across - fun! I then scrambled up the easy 5.4 pitch to the summit. Back at the car, we drove into town for burgers and beer at Uncle Uli's. Good times!

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