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.

We ended up climbing the West Face of Colchuck Balanced Rock (1000' 5.11+) Acid Baby (1,000' 5.10+) Solid Gold (600' 5.11-) and Hyperspace (800' 5.11-) in 21 or 22 hours car to car. The logistics and gear were similar to a quadruple linkup I'd done a couple summers before in Rocky Mountain National Park.

We had a warm day, so we pared our rack and gear down to some basic hardware, minimal clothing, one small bag, and just a nalgene and a tiny little juice bottle (we said, only half-jokingly, that a dixie cup would have been ideal.)

Here was our kit:

  • Single #2 camalot for our largest piece, then doubles from tips to #1
  • 1x 70m rope
  • 1x wires
  • 10x slings various lengths (including draws)
  • 4 lockers total
  • 1 grigri II
  • 1 OVO belay plate 
  • tiny sunblock unit
  • 20x snack units
  • Light running shoes
  • light pants and a t-shirt each, with each of us bringing but mostly not using a light windbreaker
  • 20L Cilogear Bag
  • 2x foam helmets

  • Water filter stuff
  • 'pons
  • 'axes
  • bulk webbing
  • cordelletes
  • nut tool
  • camera
We both had a great time geeking out over strategy for the peaks, but here were some of our take-home lessons and experiences.

  • We did the first half of CBR as 1 "pitch" just 100' apart. Max led the short 5.10+ crack then placed a good piece and clipped into it above himself at a stance. I self belayed this on a grigri and we then simuled all the way up through the long corner - so we had reached the belay beneath the roof in only 25 mins or so. We were on top of CBR less than 5 hours from the car.
  • Using the new CBR approach to get up to the peak, and the old one to get down, it was fast and quick to get over toward Dragontail, and Aasgard Pass.
  • Stay high-ish and left-ish if linking up Aasgard Sentinel (Acid Baby, Valkyrie) with Prusik - it's easy and quick. If you take the right hand pitch option (steep hands) on the 2nd to last pitch of Acid Baby, there are still a few questionable yellowish blocks to pass carefully.
  • You can link P2 and P3 of Solid Gold with a 70m.
  • The Pressure Chamber on Hyperspace is even more disorienting and bizarre as a capper to the loop climbed via headlamp. It got fully dark on us as Max graciously lead up into this pitch, and it was there where he took our only/fall hang of the route. Considering we were 20 hours in, and he was onsighting a pitch-black pressure chamber pitch, it was definitely a mega effort to preserve our no-falls day as lon as he did. For Hyperspace, we belayed atop the Psychopath, and then on the small light-colored slab about 55m above, just below where the wall and corner overhang for a few meters. This allowed us to tread (VERY) lightly on the huge detached rockfall block which is visible from below and sits precariously on the route roughly 35m above the top of the Psychopath.  From this slab belay, a 67m pitch links through the 2 "Iconoclast" corners and into the slung tree belay, 2 pitches from the top.
  • We RAN back to the car in the dark at 1AM so Max could immediately begin a 6-hour drive to work at Smith Rock - which was his crux #5 and he sent it without a hitch.
Linkups in the Stuart Range have been a bit of a local obsession for the past few years, but obviously folks have been doing them for a long time. Peter's Croft famous linkup in the area comprised a ton of moderate ridge climbing, but also some classic granite routes up to 5.9 or so. The true ridge crest of the range is often chossy and features long sections of walking or sandy scrambling. I don't think the high-crest traverse compares to the Sierra ridges that Croft would later help make famous. A few folks have solo climbed Dragontail (Serpentine or Backbone maybe) Prusik (West Ridge) and Snow Creek Wall (Outer Space) in a day. A more recent inspiring linkup was when Mikey Schaefer and Jens Holsten did the West Face of CBR and Dragons of Eden on Dragontail in a day. Last year Jens Holsten and I tried Triple Couloirs->Der Sportsman->Hyperspace in late May, but I tore a tendon on p1 of "Der", so we settled for Prusik's West Ridge and Outer Space. This year Matt Van Biene and Jens Holsten did Acid Baby -> Solid Gold -> Hyperspace, so by adding in the West Face on CBR, I think Max and I have temporarily set the bar for in-a-day climbing in the range. That bar will certainly get moved higher as people continue to realize how much you can do with sufficient motivation and good tactics. It will be fun to see where it goes. GITM, DOE, DER anyone?

1 comment:

  1. Solid work Blake and Max...I wasn't even thinking of doing four...now I'm thinking of doing five!! Inspiring.