Fall is for Sending, Not Falling

As usual, fall has provided a great mix of climbing
opportunities in Leavenworth and around the northwest, with everything from excellent roped rock climbing to bouldering and skiing along with waterfall ice. I took a quick visit to the sandstone and limestone of Mt. Charleston and Red Rock, NV, doing some short sport climbing, a 4-person party ascent of Epinephrine, and a ego-deflating non send of Texas Tower Direct. I also made a few short trips to central Oregon, where the amazing walls of Trout Creek and Smith Rock beckoned. At the American Alpine Club Craggin' Classic, I teamed up with Ben Rueck for the 10-hour "Crushfest" climbing competition. We came in second place, having onsighted and redpointed 67 pitches along the front side at Smith, an even mix of sport and trad routes.

At Trout Creek I "succeeded" in linking all the moves and cleanly TRing the open project left of Gateway. This line is going to be the hardest thing yet at the wall, with a couple boulder problems requiring some serious power and steel finger tips. It will be well protected with small cams and RPs. Trout's at-one-point hardest route, May Fly, put up by my friend Cody Scarpella and repeated by Tommy Caldwell, was repeated this fall by myself, Max Tepfer, and impressively flashed by Mikey Schaefer. It takes a narrowing 5.11/5.12 finger crack which ends at the same height that a nearby finger crack begins, requiring a ~V4 crux and amazing lower 5.11 climbing to the chains. Check out Cody working (and whipping) before the FA (starts at 3:40).

An hour west across the pass from Leavenworth, in Index, a couple days of climbing and working out beta with Jens Holsten and Ben Gilkison resulted in redpointing Narrow Arrow Direct, a gymnastic 5.12c pitch with the crux just below the ledge atop the pitch. I'd like to send every pitch on the "Narrow Arrow" by next spring, and now I've done the two (by far) most difficult lines.

The bouldering this fall was also excellent, with many pleasant, dry, but mid-temperature sunny days. I continued to fall off what might be the closest boulder problem to my house, "Fridge Left" (V8).  But I did manage to complete the classic "WAS" (V8) on my first visit to the problem with a big rowdy crew of locals.

Late fall saw a big early snowfall and then a prolonged clear cold snap. I teamed up with old buddy Kurt Hicks and his friend Dustin to climb the rarely-in-condition Drury Falls above Leavenworth. Drury is one of the iconic ice climbs of the northwest, with an often-dangerous approach, a mandatory river crossing, and a little less than 1,000' of water ice. The early cold stretch with low snow made the approach perfect, and we avoided the sketchy rapids and pre-dawn boat shenanigans by simply rowing across Lake Jolanda below the whitewater, then hiking the opposite bank. The descent is generally mellow and made via tree rappels to the left of the route.
There are 2 ~55m approach pitches below, out of view.

Finally, I headed out to the Entiat Valley for some obscure local ice with Chad "(peak)crusher" Kellogg and Jens "(grape)crusher" Holsten. There are AT LEAST  twice as many major flows which form up during a cold snap than you would expect from the guidebook. Jens sent the WI5 column "What do Ardenvoirs Eat?" and we then ramblied up the CLASSIC second pitch (much easier). To end the day Chad and I lead the 2-pitch "Tyee Falls" - which was similar to climbing slushy snice beneath the gutter of a house, the only difference being that one could not simply traverse or move out from beneath this gutter, because it was the entire route (except the classy cave belay).


Spain Story - Climbing Magazine

I had a story published in the October 2013 issue of Climbing Magazine about a trip last Feb/March to Spain.  Here is a snippet, the entire article has now been posted online by Climbing Magazine.


Mt. Bute - West Face Free & Coast Range Adventures

'86 Foweraker-Serl 5.10 A2 
 '13 Herrington-Sorkin 5.12-
The Coast Mountains of British Columbia hold many of North America's most spectacular granite walls and peaks, and are often ignored by alpinists heading (farther) north into Southeast or South-Central Alaska. These peaks are hard and expensive to reach, and seldom very glamorous. I first became aware of one of the range's outstanding peaks, Mt. Bute, several years ago, when a team of three climbers from Squamish won a Mugs Stump Grant to travel there, then succeeded in establishing a monstrous ridge climb gaining roughly 6,000 (School of Rock 2009 Martinello-Kay-Sinnes 5.11 A2). The trio describe Bute's West Face in their Mugs Stump report as "certainly one of the finest pure rock features in the Coast Range; it deserves a free ascent."  


Bugaboos Pictures

In July I made my first trip to BC's Bugaboo Provincial Park with old friend Nate Farr. We didn't venture onto the Howser Towers or the more remote East Creek Basin, as nearly every day's weather called for some amount of precip. I was impressed with how well-organized and managed the scene at Applebee Campground has become, thanks mostly to BC parks' upkeep and climbers' good wilderness practices. The camping had spots to hang food, metal lockers, posted weather forecasts, well-kept outhouses, and easy access to the big East Face of Snowpatch Spire and the South Face of Bugaboo Spire. For climbs on these features, you only need tennis shoes and a light axe or trekking poles. I never put on my crampons. If you are only doing routes that you'll rappel, bringing big clunky boots will keep your feet dry, but will obviously be a pain-in-the-arch for the steep 3hr hike in.


Stuart Range Quadruple Header

The immaculate West Face of Colchuck Balanced Rock - climb #1 of the day.
Garrett Grove Photo

I always try a big car-to-car day around the time of the summer solstice, and this year I lured my friend Max Tepfer to come up from central Oregon and join me for a 4-climb linkup in the Stuart Range, close to my home in Leavenworth.

Max is a Smith Rock and Trout Creek crusher who stays in cardio shape guding clients around the Oregon Volcanoes. He had 1 day off work between guiding at Smith, so he was psyched to try for a big crazy day. He was literally in the area for 30 hours, 22 of which were spent climbing. He commuted 6 hours each way to make the day happen, and was onsighting nearly every route.


Washington Pass Freedom

I've made a couple early-season visits to Washington Pass this Spring, combining some skiing with climbs of some routes I hadn't done before. I was also able to team up with Graham Zimmerman to establish a new direct freeclimbing start to the left of the aid pitches on Mojo Rising, South Early Winter Spire.


Sending the Seven Cs

Tom Moulin crushing Velvet Tongue.
Pic from Jerry Handren's excellent guidebook.
7c is the French/Spanish rock grade that translates to about 5.12d on the Yosemite system used in North America. About a year ago I invented a challenge for myself, which was to climb the classic "7c" long route in all of the great climbing areas of North America. The idea began as a discussion with a friend about all of the amazing routes in this grade range (give or take a letter) and the best part about inventing this goal myself, is that I can tweak things (within reason) to make sure that a stellar .13a or .12c is not ignored just because, strictly speaking, it is not one of the "7c"s. But more than just the individual pitches that make up these climbs, I want this ongoing challenge to focus on climbing partners and amazing areas I have yet to see. Ideally it will result in me seeing new ranges and parks (The Incredible Hulk, for example) and climbing more with a far-flung crew of partners.  I made progress this spring, with the Neo-Classic Red Rock climb Velvet Tongue in Black Velvet Canyon.


Catalonia Climbing

Allison in Riglos
It really is THAT good in Catalonia.

But you probably already imagined as much, so here is some info that you may not have known.

Catalonia/Catalunya is a semi-autonomous region of NE Spain where business signs and streets signs feature their own spelling of common words, so don't assume you will understand everything just because you understand Spanish.

Barcelona is beautiful and VERY walkable, with a compact feel to the town, and numerous fun sights to keep your pedestrian days entertaining. On Sunday many of the museums and attractions are free but long lines develop - plan accordingly.
Cooking class in Barcelona

One of the many famous buildings designed by Gaudi - Casa Batlo

The crew gearing up in Riglos.
Numerous crags feature world-class lineups of walls and climbs. We hardly scratched the surface. We based out of the rental house of Greg Collum, hardman of alpine FAs around the world, and former local of Index, WA. His house is in the picturesque village of Cornudella de Montstant, a short drive from Siurana, Montsant, Arboli, Oliana, and Margalef. This area is best climbed from fall to spring, with the summer generally being too hot. One of my favorite routes in Siurana was called "Bistec de Biceps" - a .12c that was featured in the 1980s climbing movie "Masters of Stone IV."Overall Siurana is a bit like the Smith Rock of Spain, and old-school area with a well-deserved reputation for solid grades and real climbing.

Stolen pic of perhaps my favorite route of
the trip, Montsantrrat, a long .12c I onsighted at
the stellar Roca de La Misa Sector, Montsant.
After climbing and travelling in this area, our trip concluded with a 2-day visit to the "mallets" that comprise the famous area of Riglos. Riglos was charming and the routes were great as long as we were not climbing below other parties trundling rocks on us. Scott Bennett and I climbed the world's most enjoyable sport route, a famous line called "Fiesta de los Biceps, which was even more of a fiesta because it was pouring rain for much of the climb, yet only about the last 20 feet of the 800' climb are not overhanging and perma-dry. I lead the first two pitches (and the crux .11d thin move) and Scott lead the last two. We were originally planning on rappeling the route, but it is SO STEEPLY OVERHANGING that we opted for the rock-shoe walk off.

We ended our trip with a few days along the Atlantic coast/ French border in Basque country, where the new language, street signage, cuisine, and people all contributed to a feeling of having gone to a different country entirely. We didn't climb there, but good cragging and alpine adventures are rumored to exist, if you can make sense of the road signs and find the peaks and crags.

You can see two climbers following a chalk line on the large wall on the right,
that is Scott and I on Fiesta de los Biceps.
                               Dani Andrada's "Lleida Climbs" - areas around Tremp, Lleida, Terradets

  • Stay - In the Siurana area - free camping atop the cliffs in Siurana, or email Greg Collum about his rental house if you have a large group. There is also a climber hostel in Siurana. In Riglos, DEFINITELY stay with the couple who own the local restaurant/bar/climber-viewing hangout area called El Puro. The owner's name is Jose Ramon, his wife (forgot her name...) is from the Dominican Republic, and for 20EU you get a nice room, shower, and amazing home-cooked breakfast.
  • Getting there - Fly in and out of Barcelona and rent a car, or better yet, fly in and out of the the town of Reus, which is 40 mins SW of Barcelona. Many of the cheap Euro airlines' flights to/from Barcelona (RyanAir, for example) actually use the Reus airport, which is closer to the climbing and doesn't involve big-city headaches.


Costa Blanca Climbing

Wild Side Wall at Sella
The second major area we visited in Spain was Costa Blanca, which is Spain's eastern inland coast. We were all amazed at the variety of climbing in the area, with excellent tufa-strewn overhangs and multi pitch formations with routes from 5-10 pitches.

The local "culture" along the coast itself is very non-Spanish, as many northern Euros come to the Costa Blanca every summer. This has had two nice results for climbers:

  1. There is a huge amount of empty lodging during fall, winter, and spring.
  2. There will likely be folks nearby who speak something other than Spanish, and who are used to lost visitors in need of help.
As long as you explore some of the towns, winery areas, valleys, etc just up off the coast, you can definitely be surrounded again by real Spanish culture.

The Magic Flute - Bernia
  • Climb- Multipitch bolted routes directly above the Mediterranean  Calpe's "Penon d'Ifach" is a  1000' limestone tower that looms above the sea, and hosts routes from 5.9 to 5.13. There is a casual walkoff complete with gatos de cumbre. Multipitch routes near the town of Guadalest and on the Pared de Rosalia look great as well. The best single-pitch zones we visited were Bernia (for Tufa Groove and it's inverse twin Magic flute) as well as Gandia (short climbs, but wild tufas down low) and the best crag in the region, the truly amazing Wild Side at Sella for climbs from 5.12- to 5.14.
  • Stay - We rented a super cheap apartment 2 blocks from the beach in Calpe. We could walk to the Penon D'Ifach and it was easy to drive to hundreds of nearby walls - Ours was $200/week and had one bedroom, one futon, and a kitchen. Other friends stayed in the small town of Finestrat, inland from the beach and near Sella.
  • Eat - Lots of the cafes and bakeries along the coast are more influenced by northern europe, even the grocery stores have loads of German, British, Scandanavian foods, etc.
  • Wild Wide Wall - Sella
      - When in doubt, opt to take the AP-7 expressway over the alternative roads that are all much slower and wander through many slow towns.
    • Book - The brand new (Spring '13) Rockfax Guide to Costa Blanca is excellent.
    • Season- Any time except June-September, both because the area is much more crowded and expensive with summer tourists, and because it would be very hot. Certain walls (inland and North-facing) would be too cold or much of winter.


    Spain: Andalucia, El Chorro, and the South

    I just returned home to Leavenworth following 6 weeks in Spain. Rather than go into various details about all the 8a routes I didn't quite send, and the boring minutiae of describing an individual sport climb, I'll just provide some information that will help everyone else who is thinking of going there. Which should be everyone who climbs. Spain is amazing, and pretty cheap. Check out DoYouSpain for cheap car rentals.

    • El Chorro
    In mid-winter, and for climbers who wont have a car, El Chorro is a great place to go. It's located about 40mins (by car or by train) from Malaga, on the southern coast of Spain. We arrived via a ~5hr drive after renting a car in Madrid. There is a RENFE (Spain's rail system) station stop IN the tiny village of El Chorro, just a 5-20 minute walk from camping, hostels, and hundreds of pitches of limestone. Here are a few things to keep in mind about El Chorro.


    Seattle Times Feature Story

    I collaborated with friend and neighbor Garrett Grove for a story published on the front of last sunday's Seattle Times travel section about our home of Leavenworth, WA.

    Check out a copy of the paper for more of Garrett's photos, or read the entire story online here.


    Climbing Magazine - Better Ice Rappels

    I recently had an article published in Climbing Magazine about long ice rappels with minimal gear. Check out the piece and the comments posted online:


    Mark Twight is Wrong.

    There's No Crying in Baseball & No Cheating in Climbing

    One of the most influential alpinists in the English-speaking world is Mark Twight. He has authored two of the most popular and highly-regarded books about mountain climbing, Extreme Alpinism and Kiss or Kill. Now he owns a gym Salt Lake City and focuses mostly on bicycling. Twight wrote widely-read statement in light of Lance Armstrong's admissions that Lance had knowingly violated explicitly-written rules of his sport, and had repeatedly lied about it.

    This news compelled Twight to publicizing an attack on people who use bottled oxygen or Diamox while climbing. Twight tells us that these people are cheaters who must be opposed. He never describes how one should manifest this opposition, but perhaps an oxygen-bottle embargo or public excoriation are due. The important thing is that Twight is 100% right. But he just didn't go far enough. 

    His argument:

    the use of oxygen has no place, is cheating and overrules all other claim to achievement. Supplemental O2 is doping - without question. It is not a medical necessity, which is proven by many, many ascents of 8000m peaks without supplemental O2. 

    If O2 allows one to accomplish a task that he or she otherwise could not do or was not willing to do then O2 is a performance-enhancing drug and should be treated as such. 

    Sadly, our skeptical reaction further imprisons us within the limitations we set for ourselves or accept from others who set limits for us. If we greet every great performance with suspicion what becomes of its potential to inspire? What means will we use to unlock our own potential? Who will plant the guideposts along the trail? What new level of performance by one or two individuals will free the hundreds struggling just beneath them? 

    This is what the cheaters have done to us. It is why we must expose and oppose them whenever it is possible.
    The closest Twight comes to explaining why supplement O2 is "cheating" is stating the fact that it is not a medical necessity for climbing. It also makes climbing easier, and in some cases allows one to accomplish what they could not have done without it. So we have: The use of a substance that makes climbing easier, but has been proven not necessary for everyone, equals cheating. 
     He adds a further condition in which O2 is cheating.
    "If O2 allows one to accomplish a task that he or she otherwise could not do or was not willing to do then O2 is a performance-enhancing drug and should be treated as such."
    So if you were willing and able to do something without a substance, then using that substance wouldn't be cheating. Tank-up, Ueli, you've earned it! 

    I initially found this justification awfully thin. But as my brain came to life over a morning cup of coffee during my last alpine start, I began to see the wisdom in Twight's words. After all, he's Mark Twight! He was writting climbing manifestos before I was born. And then it hit me! I was cheating at that very moment by fueling up for a 2AM drive and pre-dawn snow slog with a thermos of hot coffee. The impossible had been murdered, no mystery about it. It was Blake, in the driver's seat, with a double Americano. Surely others had done this climb without caffeine to speed their reaction times and make them more alert. I hung my head low in recognition of my own performance-enhancing shame. I had failed before I'd even stepped out of the car. But my cheating didn't stop there. I had brought along a vitamin-c tablet for my water bottle, since I'd been fighting off a head cold. But by adding this foreign supplement to the water in my pristine (though seldom-washed) nalgene, I was really just stealing from the future. If I was unable to handle this climb without coughing up a lung, then my body was just not ready and I should have dealt with getting sick and going home. Instead, I was making a deplorable attempt at bringing the climb down to my (phlegm-filled) level. I'm sure that this climb had been done  without supplement vitamins, echinacea tea, or other immune-boosting cheater pills. Surely this, too was desecrating the climb.
    As the sun finally rose and glare from snow and ice burned my eyes, I cheated once again by donning my fancy photo-chromatic sunglasses. These served to alter my body's perception of reality, facilitating my travel through an environment for which my body would have performed very poorly. In fact, I am 100% certain that I would have been unable or unwilling to continue if I'd been snow-blinded and suffering headaches, so I stooped even lower, and kept on my shades. But surely some team of hardmen, climbing at night or amid only dense clouds, will embrace the mountain on its own terms and make a sunglass-free ascent, exposing all others as cheaters.
    As I retreated from the mountain in contempt of my own ethical depravity, I recalled a 10-year-old I'd seen out climbing the other day, hangdogging in sneakers and having a blast swinging back and forth on a tensioned top-rope. I wondered, at the time, if anyone had told him about free climbing, or tried to explain any of the "rules" of an ascent to him. But 10-year olds generally aren't interested in rules, and to be honest, climbing doesn't have any to offer. Its difficulties are self-imposed contrivances, and we "fail" or "succeed" each time based solely upon the parameters we create for each climb we attempt. As long as we're not lying (and even 10-year-old non-climbers already know that rule) we should construct and pursue our climbs however we see fit. After about 20 minutes of frantic clawing, panting, hanging, rope-pulling, and 5th-grade ferocity, he reached the anchor, peered past the rope to his belayer,and shouted "Dad, I climbed it." He had. And without cheating one bit.


    Winter, Spring, Spain

    P3 of the Goat Beard - about to get sunny and start melting!

    The only good climb on Goat Wall
    This winter provided a good (though brief) ice cragging season in Washington. I was able to climb several of the Leavenworth-area classics, make an attempt on "The Pencil" (it was fractured at 80' up, so we did 2 other nearby climbs at the head of the drainage) and I climbed a rarely-formed 1,000' ice route on Goat Wall of Mazama, WA, called Goat's Beard.  The Goat's Beard had supposedly not been fully repeated for 20-odd years after the FA. Local ice gurus Craig Gyselinck and Vern Nelson had kept their eyes on the wall, and after they managed the second ascent, their online pictures inspired other local climbers ready for low-hanging fruit. This year it was fatter than ever, allowing continuous ice climbing where the original climbers had used a move or two of aid out a roof of classic Cascades mega-choss. My partner was Nate "ice-crusher" Farr, who had just returned from Canmore and  quickly ran up his pitches, which consisted of 4/5ths of the climb! The highlights were two freehanging WI5 pillars, an overhanging corner that was turning into a waterfall as we climbed it, and pulling our last rappel rope 5 minutes before a major chunk of the upper route exploded down the climb. We did the route in 5 pitches, with a touch of simulclimbing on a couple of them. I highly suggest a 70m rope for those climbers in the year 2035 who will read this during the next winter that this route comes into condition. And I hope for your sake that the Mazama store still sells day-old sandwiches for half-price in the year 2035 as well.

    Leavenworth bouldering is GREAT right now. I've been out 3 of the past 4 days and also recently been able to roped climb a few days in preparation for an upcoming trip to Spain, followed by some April time in the desert southwest! A week ago I got off work in Leavenworth at 2:30PM
     and drove the 1:10 to the parking lot at Index, WA where I met with perpetually-motivated local Shaun Johnson for a half-headlamp and half-running-with-water free ascent of Davis-Holland to Lovin' Arms on the ~600' Upper Town Wall. Despite forgetting the belay devices, we munter-hitched our way up and down the route in 2.5 hours and felt lucky to sneak in an early-February climb of this classic route.

    I leave for Spain later this week, and will be there for a month and a half sampling the world-famous limestone. Everything I know about Spain is based upon the following video. I expect to enjoy much religious art and many anchovies!


    Gear Mods, AKA How to Instantly void that Factory Warranty

    Do you want to hack up your gear or drill holes in it or use a backpack strap to secure your crampons?

    Me too!

    The following modifications and similar changes will probably result in forfeiting your product's warranty, having a greater chance of other gear problems arising, going lactose intolerant, developing mumps, and sacrificing your first-born. Proceed with care.

    8.something ounce crampons which are ideal for most summer alpine rock routes with glacier approachs (Bugaboos, North Cascades, pre-dawn starts on the Diamond, etc). 

    optional heel-loop attachment glue
    1. These began weighing 12.3 ounces but I removed the heel bindings and "narrowed" the toe binding with athletic tape.
    2. I reinforced the heel loops with lots of Seam Grip, but if you have the models of approach shoes that actually have strong cord/laces running around the back of the heel, that would be even better and super secure. 
    3. I take a short "simple strap" off a Cilogear pack for when it's crampon time, if you don't have one and you've made it this far, you'll figure something out.

    $1.29 for an adjustable pinky rest

    1. Buy a hose clamp from a hardware store, I suggest the flathead rather than phillips model, so you can adjust it with a knife or crampon or nut tool, etc
    2. The "J" shaped piece is some kind of electric cable hold-in-place gizmo. I just wandered around the store until I saw something that looked about right. I then bent it into shape with some burly pliers.
    3. You can loosen this just a little and move it up to the top of the ice axe if you are going to be walking with it, then slide it down and tighten it for the part of the climb where you are "swinging" and it only takes a minute.

    The world's lightest boots for automatic crampons

    1. This would probably work with most similar boots as well, but I started out with the "Scarpa Rebel".
    2. Take a hack saw and remove some material from the front of the boot. Use Freesole (a thicker version of Seam Grip) to create a little "shelf" beneath the groove you've cut into the toe, and/or glue on a small bit of hard rubber (the sole of any old junker shoe should work) just below this shelf.
    3. Since a well-fitting crampon front bail is pressing mostly "in" on the boot and not "down" you should have yourself a boot that can take a fairly harsh beating using automatic-binding crampons. I did this before going to the Waddington Range last summer, because we knew that it wouldn't be cold and I wouldn't want a heavy and insulated boot, but I still may want something for climbing "real" ice/mixed using an automatic crampon. I've worn this setup for a 
        little local ice and alpine mixed climbing as well, with good results.
      1. However, I just read that the new version of this boot has been made with this minor change built  into the boot itself - Which seems like a no-brainer and makes me feel a bit like Kramer, with someone else again profiting from my foresight. In an effort to consistently reference Seinfeld, here's where the similarity lies. And as in Kramer's case, the only thing stopping me from  implementing my agenda in the world of boot manufacturing was "... no resources, no skill, no ability, no talent, no brains..."


      2012 in 11 photos

      The best of the year's climbing took me from the desert southwest to the frozen north (well, Canada at least) and from sport climbing to tool-swinging. Here are a few good moments I wont forget from climbing with really great partners, presented in 11 moments with 11 photos. Sometimes a top-10 list doesn't cut it.

      1. The year began with a first winter ascent, as my friend Nate Farr and I climbed the West Face of Colchuck Balanced Rock in January. We had low snow but very cold temps, and you could have played hockey on the windswept Colchuck Lake, which may, in fact, have been more fun than going winter climbing. Of course it was actually really fun, with the cruxier pitches being the usually mellow spots between the cracks, low on the route. The ski back down the Mountaineers Creek Road is climbing boots was icy and terrifying. Nate put his skins back on, and he was a ski patroller for goodness sake!
      2. Nate low on route, without gloves. I guess you may as well get the screaming barfies out of the way early.
      3. Chris Weidner and I climbed for a few days in Red Rock, including establishing a new route on Cactus Flower Tower and then onto Mt. Wilson, both onsight. Most of the climbing was pretty casual, but we had an awesome time together and it was fun to finally climb Mt. Wilson even if there were Patagonia-style winds up top that kept us from enjoying the view.
        Chris, I think I've got an idea where to go!
        1. Nason Ridge - I sent all the climbs at the main wall/cave of Nason Ridge, including the 5.13a called Heart Transplant. I repeatedly did the crux boulder problem after sending the pitch, as I belayed my friend Sol Wertkin, who soon sent as well. But this non-stop repetition of a dynamic move onto a small hold badly weakened my finger just before the...
        2. Sol has been one of my best partners, and is all smiles amid one of WA Pass's premier 5.10 pitches
        3. Moderate Marathon! Jens Holsten and I planned on climbing Triple Couloirs on Dragontail, Der Sportsman on Prusik, and Hyperspace on Snow Creek Wall, along with completing the 20-mile Enchantments loop. We were on top of Dragontail only 3 or 4 hours after leaving the car, and actually got to Prusik when it was still really cold out.  
        4. Jens, always smiling, here on another snowy day in the Stuart Range

          On the 5.11 finger crack of p1 of Der Sportsman, I ripped a tendon in my hand! We bailed and I taped my finger to a stick so I wouldn't bend it. We did the West Ridge of Prusik and Outer Space. Soon my friends Scott Bennett and Graham Zimmerman came to town.
        5. Graham, Scott, and myself had fun climbing around the Stuart Range and at Index, including a new route on Aasgard Sentinel which was about 1,000' of rock and quickly saw a few repeats. We also combined the "money pitches" of Let it Burn with the top 2 pitches of the West Face, and added 2 new pitches in between, up on Colchuck Balanced Rock. 
        6. Scott, Graham, and myself. Ninja turtle style with green helmets.

          But unable to use my fingers on "normal" holds, I learned about v-flare climbing and sent the bizarre and amazing "Numbah Ten", a true Index testpiece of weird climbing in the 5.12 range. 
        7. With a semi-healing finger, I talked my wife Allison into climbing Liberty Crack on the stellar East Face of Liberty Bell. We slept through the alarm and left Leavenworth at 7:15 or so, but re-feuled at the Cinnamon Twisp Bakery and managed to do great on the climb. 
        8. Allison is all smiles on Liberty Crack

           Allison did well jugging the first two pitch pithes, especially considering her prior jugging experience was the afternoon before on a neighborhood boulder 15' high.
        9. Scott Bennett, Graham Zimmerman, Forest Woodward and myself then flew into the Waddington Range in British Columbia. We were thwarted from an attempt on our primary goal of Mt. Asperity, but all 4 of us climbed Skywalk Buttress together, to the W summit of Mt. Combatant. Despite almost no climbing experience, and literally no knowledge of what an ice screw even IS, Forest made the MVP decision to sneak it into the pack, which came in very handy as we v-threaded our rappel descent during the night. 
        10. Forest snapped awesome photos AND packed the key rappel gear
        11. During the second new route that Graham, Scott and I established in the area, we learned from our prior mistake/all-night-rappel-o-rama and did a carry-over of Stilleto Peak with a descent to the upper Tellot Glacier and return via a much longer but much safer route. This took us to Plummer hut where Forest had met us with  food and a large wooden spoon he had whittled from timber scraps. Having forgotten the stove fuel, Forest built a fire amid some rocks and boiled water using old rotten floorboards that had fallen beneath the hut, which was truly was more creative and impressive than any other camp meal I've experienced. If he hadn't done that, we'd have gone to bed hungry after a 20-hour alpine day, so you know there was a lot of pressure to perform culinarily. 
        12. Scott would only pose for the photo because he was cooked dinner by Forest after Forest Macgyvered a fire and a wooden spoon from old timber scraps.
        13. Back home in the Cascades, wildfires erupted throughout the range during a weekend spent with Ben "Crusher" Gilkison at Washington Pass. We both had no-falls days on South Early Winter Spire's "Southern Man (5.11+)" and Liberty Bell's "Thin Red Line(5.12c)" but the most memorable of our climbs together was the next weekend. Despite smoke hanging throughout the area, Ben and I climbed the much-discussed and seldom-attempted "Vanishing Point" on Mt. Baring's BASE-jumpable north face. 
        14. Ben took this shot, and all the good ones from Vanishing Point

           Ben only had to repeat one pitch to tick a clean send of the route (V 5.12) and I didn't send, but still had a lot of fun, including navigating the entire descent using only an iPod Mini for illumination. Ben kept talking up one of his favorite pitches at Index, so I had to try it...
        15. On either side of a bike trip to Lopez Island, my wife and I climbed at Index, the best crag in the world. After a few days I was able to lead Narrow Arrow Overhang (Full P1, 5.13a) but only after repairing my badly-torn pants by using dental floss to sew a soft rubber cellphone-don't-slide-away pad over the growing hole in my jeans where the kneebars were defeating the denim. 
        16. The send-pants. That rubber mat is now back in our station wagon.

          After having my share of fiddly RPs and ballnuts at Index, I turned my attention to the vertical cracks and bomber pro of the PNW's crack mecca...
        17. Trout Creek in December! Where, following numerous visits to this amazing fall destination, I scrapped out a redpoint lead of one of the few open projects at the crag, a tips and thin-finger crack that is relentless at the purple and blue metolius sizes, with a few key spots that open up to fit yellows. I named the route Fall Line, and the grade is either 5.11+ or 5.13- depending upon if one prefers to decide these things based upon the hardest move or the overall difficulty of a lead.
        18. Kathleen, whom I had met that morning, was en encouraging and patient belayer. Trout Creek climbers are a classy bunch. I think the sunsets imbibe them with charm.