Last Ascent

Some Excess Wandering on SEWS

With only a few weeks left in the season I’ve been trying to cram in more alpine adventures. Having yet to make it out to Washington Pass, I was stoked to find good weather coincided with my day off. Plans were laid for a Concorde Tower/Liberty Bell double feature.

At the trailhead, I found my packing job wanting. Spending the last few weekends cragging at sea level had me complacent, and I forgot my puffy, toque, and gloves. With nightime lows in the twenties, my plan to cowboy camp and enjoy a starscape free of light pollution was abandoned for a chilly night in the car.

We woke to frosted glass and cold hands and mutually decided that a route with morning sun sounded more appealing than stashing hand warmers in our chalk bags. South Early Winter Spire’s South Arête (III, 5.6) seemed ideal; if we moved quickly it would only take a few hours and allow us plenty of time to attempt a shorter climb of its northern sister.

Predictably, we summited neither NEWS nor SEWS.

Read On…

Tieton-ic Fun

Took a hiatus from aggravating my patellar tendonitis and my physical therapist over Labour Day weekend and headed to Tieton for some trad climbing with Peter.

We’d done Sahale together earlier this year and had a great time, but wanted to crag together before attempting high commitment alpine routes later this season (Weather Gods permitting 🙏). Though our sport and bouldering grades are a ways apart, throw us both on hand crack and you’d pick him as the stronger climber every time!

Illness forced an early return on day two, but we managed to lead a nice variety of routes before then.

  • Unfit (5.6): Flaring portions are all wide hands or worse for me. Mantle at the end is the sort of fun that got me hooked on trad.
  • Wild Beast (5.7): One of my favourite climbs at Tieton. Wide section spices up an otherwise unremarkable hand crack.
  • People, Places, and Things (5.8): Redpointed this on my my last trip to the area but ended up having to take after psyching myself out 20’ above my last piece. Finally recognised waiting ‘til you’re scared might not be the best strategy for placing pro…
  • Eat a Peach (5.7): Peter shot up this one so we could try TR'ing the next route on the list. Splitter hand and fists, way more fun than Royal Column’s sandbagged Mushmaker (5.7+).
  • Living for the City (5.10c): I’d previously been under the impression finger crack meant ringlock size and smaller and been keen to avoid it. This line set me straight! Fingerlocking felt far more natural than hand jamming, and I’m now stoked to try harder trad routes having onsightied this.
  • Alar (5.8): Skipped this on the last few trips due to the bush that’s sprouted on the first quarter of the climb. Decided to give it a go as we were standing under it at the end of the day. A touch harder harder than Vantage’s Party In Your Pants, since the left crack is well into offwidth territory and difficult to protect.

All in all, a fun weekend and a nice respite for my knees.

Kaput on the Kautz

Rainier from Panorama Pt

The Kautz was the perfect objective to end my first season of mountaineering. Though neither as remarkable a wildnerness experience as Tahoma Glacier nor as technically challenging as Ptarmigan Ridge, its two ice pitches and steep snow still ward off the hordes that ascend Rainier’s most popular routes, the Emmons and Disappointment Cleaver.

Once an equally crazy partner was convinced to join me, planning commenced in earnest. Mid-August promised good weather and better climbing – TRs from the end of July indicated the Kautz chute was still snow-laden and didn’t have much in the way of ice, and those pitches were half my motivation for climbing the route. Prayers for good temps were met in a manner befitting Grecian tragedy: the car’s thermometer read 84º as we rolled into the Paradise parking lot.

We ambled into the CIC around nine for permits and last minute beta. The climbing ranger on duty had been in the 7/24 party and encouraged us to approach from Comet Falls rather than attempt navigating the crevassed mess of the lower Nisqually. Scenic compared to the traverse across the featureless lower slopes of the mountain, it would also add some 3,000’ of gain to our approach. How fun!

Read On…

Yak Shaving

Yak

With another weekend of bad weather in the North Cascades, we turned our eyes north, to BC, for some lengthy, moderate multi-pitch. Squamish was out of the question – too many people, too many lines.

Instead, we’d travel a few hours east towards the Coquihalla Range, enticed by its excellent rock quality and relative obscurity. Our objective? Seven One Move Wonders of the World (5.8-/PG-13, III), an infrequently climbed fifteen pitch friction slab bonanza that meanders up Yak Peak’s SW face.

Read On…

Escape Velocity

Snow Creek Wall from the Enchantments Trail Descending from the Mt. Baker trailhead, I turned my phone on with reluctance. Four days without signal guaranteed a cacophony of alerts once connectivity was restored. As the week’s clutter scrolled across the screen, one message stood out:

Clear Saturday! Snow Creek Wall?

We’d been hankering to climb Outer Space (III, 5.9) in Leavenworth for months, but the weather had been uncooperative. Gorgeous, sun-drenched weeks were repeatedly tainted by weekend downpours. Despite the fatigue from Baker, Peter’s notice of a weather window was too much to resist. Stopping at home just long enough to swap crampons for climbing shoes, I left for Leavenworth, rack in hand and visions of pristine alpine granite in mind.

Arriving past midnight, I scored a fitful night’s sleep at the Snow Creek Trailhead. At dawn, we set off for the Wall. An hour’s approach to the climbers’ trail, a spate of log crossings, and a few routefinding mishaps brought us to the base of our objective.

Read On…