- 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!
- 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!
- 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...
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
|Nate low on route, without gloves. I guess you may as well get the screaming barfies out of the way early.|
|Sol has been one of my best partners, and is all smiles amid one of WA Pass's premier 5.10 pitches|
|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.
|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.
|Forest snapped awesome photos AND packed the key rappel gear|
|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.|
|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...
|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.|