Ah, Washington...

Like most stories meant to frighten kids, climbers, and other scare-able sorts, tales from the northwest have more fairy tale than fact. In truth, the Cascade Range is diverse enough to defy description. It houses big wall granite free climbs and snowy skyline ridge scrambles. Fertile valleys grow bright fruit and bitter hops, producing unique meals and microbrews. Strong espresso and stronger beers bookend quintessentially Cascadian car-to-car pushes. And everywhere, amid every climb, the landscape itself will grab you. The mountains' complexities tell of the region's history and ongoing geologic turmoil. The rugged nature of this range has shaped its culture and climbing, both now tangled stoutly together. The landscape lurks as a character, figuring into the region's stories and experiences. And despite disparate views of politics, economics, religion, and probably even sport vs trad, the residents scattered throughout these sleepy mountain towns all revel in a pride of place and an eagerness to share their connection to the Cascades.

I'm moving back to Washington from Colorado at the end of October.

First a quick trip to the Sierra, and maybe Zion as well!


Summer Slideshow

Scott and Lauryn, checking the box scores (?) before climbing

Multi-use pack frame insert

Ginnie, Jonesing on the evening light at the North Early Winter Spire

Beer has food value, but food has no beer value

A crack climb in Rocky Mtn. N.P.    -   Forest Woodward shot

Tom the Kiwi - Index, WA - Zoom  5.10+

Heart of the Country  5.10- Index, WA

Flipping and Flopping my way to Liberty Bell

Following Scott's onsite of Thin Red Line's first 5.12 pitch


Silver Star and environs

Getting "all up amongst it" on the double roofs pitch

Big Kangaroo, North Cascades

Loaded for bear on Big Kangaroo



The turning of gears: Part 1

Camera accounted for atop the summit - but not for long
Or maybe this should be called the returning of the gears. This summer I've witnessed three instances of astounding and unlikely gear returns, and the stories are almost as interesting as reading about the newest  8aNu bouldering extreme radness. These are actually the human interactions which (in a well-written form) make any "climbing story" worth reading (and hence not really about climbing).


Choss Dogging and FA Failure

Psyched for the choss, or whatever we'd find.

"Nice Dogging Bro!"

"I'm freeclimbing!" replied Sol, the stress evident in his reply.

Of course I hadn't meant to imply he was hanging on the rope. Sol was definitely going for it, onsight and free. Halfway through Sol's 45 minute lead up a pitch on our new route in the North Cascades, we had gone through elaborate contortions to fetch and tag him up our #6 camalot, and he was finally and safely offwidthing into what we hoped would be a belay cave. It was sweet vindication of our FA dreams after our earlier project was revealed as a festering, yet vertical, heap of orange gravel. On this lead I hadn't meant to imply that Sol was "dogging" or hanging on the rope, but rather that he was being an enthusiastic "Choss Dog", an alpinist happy to embrace the occasional creaky, crunchy, and crumbling stone. Today we were sending, and on varnished golden granite, but the day before we had bailed off an unarguably chossy alpine project.

After several years of looking at the vertical wall of Tower Mountain's NE Face, and one climb of the peak's SE Ridge, I was joined by Sol Wertkin and Scott Bennett for a serious attempt on the wall. "Tower Mountain" is English for "Cerro Torre" and we hadn't brought our compressor. I think that spelled trouble from the start. Despite an appearance and scale eerily similar Long's Peak's "Diamond", Tower turned out to be an amazing, isolated, BASE-jumpable wall of crackless garbage and horizontal bands.

Upon realizing how close we were to the vertical kitty litter of Mt. Hardy, Sol started laughing and groaning. He knew we'd have to do some serious choss dogging to get up this thing.

Note Sol's groan of non-thusiasm at the end of the video. That basically sums up the face.

After walking under the face on the North Cascades' version of Broadway Ledge, we picked one general line where the rock was somewhat less "cereal-esque". But after 40 minutes and 40' of gain, Scott hit the dead end. Sol and I hadn't even been willing to step off the ledge. And recon from left and right showed that even this best rock was still largely blank, and largely overhanging.

The August ski run on the hike back to our bivy was among the trip's highlights.

We gave up and hiked the 9ish miles back to Hwy 20. This made something like 38 miles and .5 pitches of climbing in the prior 3 days for each Scott and I, but that is just part of the mystery of checking out these hidden corners of the Cascades. Back at Washington Pass, we busted out the food, maps, and guidebooks, and started planning the next day's adventure, confident that splitter stone awaited those who endured a little choss to find it.


Published - Frey

Check out the September 2011 issue of Climbing for an article I wrote about Argentina's granite spires. My friend Forest Woodward took the killer photos down in Frey.