New Old Classics

This summer I've attempted two new routes on the peak Colchuck Balanced Rock in the Stuart Range. The first attempt ended after onsighting 4 new 5.10 pitches, but ripping off a dinner-plate flake and falling somewhere in the neighborhood of 60 feet. With a sprained ankle that nearly didn't fit into my boot (following a sleepless night of swelling) I spent 9 hours hobbling back down to the car. Ibuprofen (or a charged iPod) would have been nice.

But redemption came last weekend in the form of a new route and some of the best pitches I've climbed in the Cascades.

 Last year I climbed the West Face as well as Let it Burn with my friend Scott. I was convinced that the peak's best route lay in unlocking a connection between the best and hardest parts of these two routes.

Following LIB's 5.12- pitch

With Scott Bennett and Graham Zimmerman, I returned to check out this new connection.

I lead the first 3 pitches of Let it Burn, and let Scott take the lead. Scott dispatched the tough 5.11+ pitch of LIB and then we launched into new terrain.

Find your own crux beta, just don't rip the flake off.

After a traverse rightward, we encountered a gently overhanging pitch of thin cracks and tips locks. The crux involved climbing past a well-wedged flake that wasn't about to come out of the wall, but seemed to flex and wobble enough to dissuade reliable gear placements along either side. Pumpy climbing, poor feet, and a solid layer of lichen thwarted the initial attempt to free the pitch, so I sent up a tennis shoe to Scott, who aided the pitch and scraped away lichen with the extra implement of footwear. After building an anchor and lowering down, Scott worked out some great beta and pulled his gear, coming very close to sending the pitch on his redpoint attempt.

Scott cleans the pitch with my tennis shoe

Armed with Scott's beta (but ironically not able to use most of it once I remembered how short my arms are...) I lead the pitch and belayed in a small alcove just right of a razor-sharp flake. The rock is excellent but the covering of lichen falling into my eyes and throat had me gagging, gasping, and squinting to see the final holds. I think the pitch clocks in around 5.12-. [And after climbing this again in '13 I am retroactively downgrading it to 5.11c. It's amazing what beta knowledge, cooler temps, and not being out of H2O will do for you!]

I lead the next pitch which begins with bizarre body-position climbing up a tips crack in the flare, and leads to a stance beneath a 4' roof. This roof juts out where the corner switches from right-facing to left-facing, but with great gear overhead, I committed to the double-handjam campus move, pulled up into the thin-hands crack and fought my way up to the ledge. This pitch is somewhere in the mid 5.11 range.

From here we merely had to complete the crux of the West Face (graded 5.12-, but more like 5.11c) and the overhanging chimney flares (a 5.8 that feels like 5.10).

With 0 headlamps between the three of us, we slowly completed the 5.6 simulclimb to the summit and rapped down with moonlight shining off snow and alabaster granite.

We called our variation Accendo Lunae, which is latin for Burning Moon or Illuminating Moon, and named in homage to "Let it Burn" as well as the crucial moonlight that lit our final climbing and descent.

The route features the hardest lineup of climbing in the Central Cascades, weaving along a natural system up the steepest aspects of the peak.

Pitches line up like this:

  1. 5.7 (mostly easier) scramble - part of West Face
  2. 5.10+ thin hands splitter - part of West Face
  3. 5.12- unforgettable - part of LIB
  4. 5.11-   fingers and diorite knobs - part of LIB
  5. 5.11+    Leaning slot to powerful overhung corner - part of LIB
  6. 5.12-   Steep off-sizes splitters 
  7. 5.11    V-Flare to big roof
  8. 5.12-   Perfect hands to even bigger roof - part of West Face
  9. "5.8'      Overhanging 5.10 chimney slot.

The next morning we hiked over to Prusik Peak and climbed Der Sportsman, which was really fun. With 3 climbers and two ropes we decided we didn't need to bother bringing up shoes and so with 2x 70m ropes we rapped from a slung pillar just W of the summit (57m) to nut anchor, then 67m to bolts, then 40m to the ground.


  1. Super cool guys! Can't wait to give it a whirl...On your topo, you show Let it Burn go left after the golden flake pitch...it actually goes right and up. The entire route is visible in the photo...just want to make sure folks don't go left where you show it making that break...the climbing goes, but is not as good out there! Nice work again homies!

  2. Thanks Jens! For anyone interested in better info for Let it Burn (and that should be just about everyone) just click the link to Jens' topo up at the top of this blog post.