Independence Route and East Face Info

The Independence Route, along with Thin Red Line and Liberty Crack, is one of the 3 classic bigwall aid routes to breach one of the proudest faces in the Cascades, the eastern aspect of Liberty Bell.

It was first freeclimbed in the 1990s, but has seen only a few ascents, as there is not much good info out there, and the climb was not included in the most recent Washington Pass guidebook. It is an excellent route that deserves traffic and features steep and memorable positions. I am posting a topo which was emailed to me by Eli Helmuth, a guide who lives in Estes Park but formerly resided in Mazama. Eli made what he thought at the time was the FFA of the route, with Steve House and Paul Butler sending several pitches, but not the whole line. It turns out that the FFA had been done a few years prior. I edited Eli's topo - please excuse the clutter.

The next route to the left is Thin Red Line, the free ascent of which required a small rightward variation on P5, recently bolted and sent by Mike Schaefer. This is a classic of the area, with 3 or 3 pitches of 5.12 and several 5.11 pitches. It has been done by several parties in the last few years.

Liberty Crack, the most famous and leftmost line, has kinda-sorta gone free twice. The first time, Brooke Sandahl pink-pointed P2, and then lead P3 free, climbing right where the bolt ladder goes. I believe that the tiny edges and potato chip crimps used at the time have been ground down by the subsequent decades of haul-bag dragging and boot scraping. When I aided this pitch in 2013, it looked thoroughly impossible. I thought that the more reasonable free line was a very blunt, unprotectable (and un-bolted) arete a few meters to the right of the bolt ladder. Mike Schaefer, who also pinkpointed the roof on P2, likely felt the same way. He freed this arete section on TR a couple years ago. There are also 2 older free lines which mostly climb Liberty Crack, but begin to either side. Freedom Rider starts to the left, and joins after ~ 4 pitches - going free all the way at 5.10d. Freedom or Death starts just to the right of Liberty Crack and climbs two 5.11 pitches and a 5.12 bolted slab pitch, joining Liberty Crack just above the bolt ladder.

This wall gets afternoon shade and is never crowded - the perfect summer wall that sits empty on many of the best days of the year.


Red Rock Desert Linkup

A couple months ago I had the good fortune to get to do a bit of climbing in Red Rock, Nevada, with my friend Scott Bennett. Scott is generally enthusiastic and optimistic about trying big goals and with minimal faffery, minimal gear, and minimal sleep/water/food.

The plan was to up the ante of this 2007 Jeremy Collins/Ben Williams linkup and climb Rainbow Wall (Original Route 1,200' 5.12b) Cloud Tower Complete (1,000' 5.12a A0) and Levitation 29 (1,000' 5.11). We managed the linkup, starting around 6:30AM from the Pine Creek trailhead, and returning to the car roughly 16 hours later. 1 rope, 2L of Water, 12 QDs, and singles to #3 camalot, with doubles from fingers to #1.
An older photo of the Cloud Tower crux

This linkup is CLASSIC and really doesn't require very much hiking or heavy gear. Scott and I wasted hours getting lost and confused between the routes, so here's a little rundown of our day and some beta. I highly suggest this linkup for a long day of generally type-1 fun on AMAZING and well-protected stone.

Part 1: Cloud Tower

This route requires a bigger rack than anything else on the linkup. We had heard that the crux .12a corner sported a couple fixed pieces so we left a few small cams and all wires behind. I led the first half of the route and Scott rallied up the second half.

P1 - Combine both 5.8/5.9 corners, gear belay underneath thin-hands splitter ~60m
P2 - Short splitter to bolted belay under crux. Should have linked. 25m
P3 - Crux lead felt easy and secure, which it had not in the past. 30m bolted belay
P4 - Scott lead the entite hand/fist crack and chimney slot as one pitch with a single #3 camalot for big gear.
P5 - Scott lead the 35m 5.11 "final" pitch to normal cloud tower.

From here there are two choices:

1 - Rap the normal cloud tower (easy with two ropes, but who wants to carry a tag line?) which is possible with a single 70m if you are careful.
Reverse the final pitch, which is 35m, and then rappel from the tat/slings at the belay stance to tree 30' below big ledge. Rap to Chockstone anchor . Rap to tree at base of sheer wall. Rap from tree to other tree on ledge. Rap From Tree on ledge to top of 2nd 5.8 pitch, 90' rappel. Rap From top of 2nd 5.8 pitch to top of 1st 5.8 pitch, 50' Rap P1 - Super close to 35m, watch your ends! 
Rapping and then walking over to Rainbow Wall via the normal approach might actually be faster than what we did, and you wouldn't need to climb with tennis shoes and all the day's water.

2. Continue with "Cloud Tower Direct" which is what we did: just above the long 5.11 corner, the rock turns to chipped sandy choss, and there are several bolts on an overhanging wall. We A0d through here (5.12d? free) and belayed at bolts under a smooth OW/Chimney. With no gear suitable to protect this pitch, we simply walked 40' to the right and clambered up easy tennis shoe terrain to the broad ledge, and then veered left and climbed a long pitch up a chimney, which was mid 5.10 and much more solid and full of cracks than it appeared. From here, follow cairns and good trails (and a short bit of fixed rope) DOWN and right, crossing LOW over a gully, and bringing you to hillside several hundred feet below the Rainbow Wall. You really can't stay high or traverse at a level to maintain your hard-won elevation.

Part 2: Rainbow Wall

We had both done the route before, but I had never done the original .12b version, starting on the right. Although a cool pitch and harder technically that the left-side start, I think that the crux this way is so short-lived that it makes for an overall easier route. Our friends Nik Berry and Dave Alfrey (Dave had recently done this linkup and gave us some beta that we promptly forgot) were next door on Desert Solitaire, so we shouted back and forth from belays. Scott lead the first half of the climb, and I did the second. I recall it taking him 11 minute to lead P1+P2 and have me on belay. We left all our gear at the base of Rainbow Wall except single cams from green alien to #1 camalot. We linked every 2 pitches together and simuled the middle section in 1 block. The route took us 2:20 with no falls.

P3: Levitation 29

We then proceeded to get lost and spend what felt like hours and hours roaming around looking for the top of Levitation 29. We didn't want to knock down any rocks off the sloping summit terraces, and only managed to find the top of the route because at one point we heard voices, scrambled out to a promontory, and were able to see climbers. We asked them what route they were on, and when they said "Levitation!" we stashed our tennis shoes and rapped down and joined them for the descent. I wish I could recall more precise info as to locating the top of Lev29 but I do recall that it was in the vicinity of 1 or two very distinct, old, withered and twisted pine trees/snags. The last anchor is located 30' down a slab, below a small bulge which the pine tree grows from, so we just did a short rap from this tree, where we stashed shoes and water. Scott had never done Lev29 and lead the whole thing in 4 pitches (with maybe a short scramble for pitch 4.5) while I got to follow up the varnished patina. At one point very high on the route, Scott took a completely-by-surprise slip on some white sandy slab holds. I had been "power looping" him on this mellow terrain, and he fell a decent distance with all the slack out, but was unshaken except being moderately disappointed over ending our no-falls day.  We again got somewhat lost retracing our steps to the top of Rainbow Wall, but managed to bust out the headlamps for the rappels and be eating tacos at Roberto's on Charleston Ave just a couple hours after leaving the Rainbow Wall.


Index LWS - Guilty as charged

Living only 65 miles from Index, WA, I have become a frequent visitor in my 2.5 years of Leavenworth residency. Even with only a few hours to climb, it is a perfect sport for solo TR laps or a quick after-work stop. Often I will get asked about climbing around my home in Leavenworth, to which I will rave about the bouldering, rave about the alpine climbing, and say that for roped days, I head to Index. Sure 65 miles is a bit of a drive, but with Stevens Pass marking the halfway point, I can combine climbing with skiing or merely observe the changing seasons. And unlike driving from Seattle, I don't have to pause at a single stoplight, stop sign, interchange, or traffic jam. Unlike many of the Leavenworth crags, the longest approach is 25 minutes on a very nice trail, so even living in Leavenworth, I can get to the Upper Town Wall faster than I can make it to many of our "local" climbs. To many climbers, Index sports a 3 or 4 month climbing season. But the walls are in fact climbable 12 months out of the year.  Last winter, within a few days of climbing a 1000' lowland ice climb, I spent a sunny 17-degree afternoon cragging at the Lower Town Wall with Ben "Crusher" Gilkison, while the upper wall sported a 400' ice dagger which crashed to the ground at mid-day. In winter there are no leaves on the trees, the low southern sun beats onto the wall all day, and the friction is at its peak. I have developed an advanced case of what Ben calls "Lower Wall Syndrome". In light of the guidebook aspirations of my friend Matt Van Biene I wanted to describe a few pitches which never get climbed solely for lack of information, and provide a quick list of routes ranked by difficulty.

The obscure-for-no-good-reason routes (and how to get to them)

Each of these is a three or four star classic:

1. P3 of Japanese Gardens 5.11a - Everyone and their mom has climbed the classic Godzilla-P2City Park-Slow Children linkup. Next time you are standing at the base of Slow Children, simply do a belayed walk about 35' to the left, and you will find yourself beneath another stellar finger crack, similar to Slow Children, which pulls an awesome roof and uses the same rack you've already got. This is called P3 of Japanese Gardens. It is just as good as Slow Children. It gets 1% the traffic, and needs more.

2. Leaping Lizards 5.10 - Ever want to go hang a rope on Natural Log Cabin or Narrow Arrow Overhang? How about access 2 awesome 5.10 crack pitches that nobody ever does? (NAD P2, P3) Simply looking for a another warmup?(easily linked through Godzilla in a 50m pitch) - From Godzilla step immediately right, clip a bolt, and then follow the crack and corner up and right, passing a couple more bolts and some gear placements, leading to a memorable final move. This belay ledge allows one to scramble a few meters right and reach the belay between the next two routes.

3/4. Pitch 2 and Pitch 3 of Narrow Arrow Direct 5.10b, 5.10d - Although the first pitch of NAD is 5.12c with a powerful bit of climbing up top, the next two pitches are splitter moderates that take perfect gear the whole way. They are never climbed. Access via: Climbing Shirley and stepping left, climbing Leaping Lizards and belayed scrambling right, or climbing Thin Fingers and belayed scrambling left.

5. Batskins P2 - 5.11d - Some bolts and some gear, some crack climbing and some face moves, some steep bits and a touch of slab, this pitch has the goods. Get to the base of it by rapping 35' down and hard left from atop Godzilla. Or lead all of P1 (5.12b)

6. Sagi-Horse 5.10+/5.11- Climb Sagittarius to the second anchor, then climb out the Iron Horse roof, on the left. This is labeled 5.11+ or 5.12a depending on the guidebook, but it's not that hard. Finishing via the left side of the roof also makes for a straighter rope line and less zig-zaggery.

Grades: Index should stay uniformly sandbagged. It should just be internally-consistently-sandbagged. That is to say, a 5.12b ought to be a touch easier to redpoint than a 5.12c, which is a touch easier than a 5.12d. They can still all be harder than a 5.13 in Indian Creek or a 5.14 in Tensleep, and that's ok. Ben Gilkison, one of the most accomplished LTW climbers ever, had this to say in regards to the grades after putting up a new route over the winter:

Regarding its grade, it felt around 12d to me, give or take.  Who knows though, perhaps it is only like 11d, like everything else at Index -wink.  Officially, I'm calling it 5.12, so nobody thinks I'm a fluffer.  In comparison, I thought it harder than routes like Numbah Ten, Narrow Arrow Direct, Stern Farmer, and Power Horse.  Please, take all this information with a grain of salt, or a heaping spoonful if you prefer.
And similar sentiment has been written by Mikey Schaefer, another of Index's most accomplished climbers:

 I can't really figured what to grade the pitch so I'm going to say Index,11d which in my opinion has ZERO correlation to Yosemite Decimal System. IF it were in Yosemite, it would probably be somewhere closer to 12/12+

So here's my personal ranking of some famous LTW testpieces. I'm 5'8" with no power, short arms, and a propensity to kneebar. Your mileage WILL vary. No Grades given except as bookends. I'll only list routes I've sent, so ideally the list will fill in over time.

Sagi-Horse. December 8th. 17 Degrees.
Shirley 5.11c - Less-than-stellar rock and easier moves lead to a classic stem finish above your gear.

Japanese Gardens P1  - I have done this one too many times to count, but would do it again today. I remember being so psyched and scared leading it for my first time, finding the highest possible pro to place beneath each crux, and clipping the highest wire with a single locker to minimize the fear and fall distance.
Iron Horse (short or long, the cruxes are both before anchor #1)
Ten Percent Meteorological Vinculation P1  - Stellar, keeps you on your toes
Stern Farmer - This seems to be harder for everyone else. Kneebar the crux. Tight hipster jeans help.
Batskins P1 - Being taller would help, but so would being a better climber. Really demanding of good composure up high and a good test of core strength and open-handed power.
Narrow Arrow Direct (right) - 5.11- on steep and big features for 80', to a V5 with the right beta (though refining this beta took Jens Holsten and myself 2 or 3 sessions to get just right) - I could see this being easier than the above last couple routes for a powerful climber good at slopey crimps.
Numbah Ten - This one gets a .12b in the guidebook. When I was working on it, Andrew Philbin remarked that the hardest move of the Full Amandla (.13d) is possibly at bolt #2 of Numbah Ten. Andrew has sent nearly every pitch at the LTW. You do the math...
Power Horse - Climb Iron Horse to the first anchor, but use it merely to clip off all the leftover widgets you wont need for the bolted section above, as you span left and finish via the 2nd half of Amandla. Both guides show (or even describe) a mid 5.13 crux somewhere on the arete, but it is not that hard.
Narrow Arrow Overhang 5.13-  A wild line with a strange history. The climbing to the first anchor was freed by someone long ago, and is 5.10c or so. The climbing from anchor #1 to #2 is a very shallow inset, which is insecure pressing and chimneying protected by RPs behind your butt. This is brilliant 5.11c (ish) - and the top part of the climb is when things get interesting. The next 20', above anchor #2, is a vertical arete which was first toproped cleanly by Chris Schlotfeldt, and he rated these moves 5.12d on TR. Sometime later, two bolts were added as lead protection by someone else. The roof "boulder problem" above this arete had climbed via traversing in from a ledge on the right (sent by roof crackspecialist Dick Cilley, and rated 5.12b, which seems an absurd rating, even for just 15' of climbing. Although LTW .12b has a bit of a mystic about it) - In 2008 Gilkison added an anchor above the roof at the 35m mark (where the climbing changes to 5.9), and sent the whole thing grading it low 5.13.
The roof on NAOverhang between anchors #2 and #3

It sounds like Ben's new route Nobody Tosses A Dwarf! will fall someone in the upper part of that lineup. And after TRing P2 of Stern Farmer, I think it would end up between Batskins and NAD. P2 of Ten PErcent, City Park and Amandla are the only routes harder than these listed, and nobody who has sent one of those has also sent the others. They must both be rated 5.11d.


Alpine Girth Hitch

Here is a Tech Tip article I wrote for Climbing Magazine. It generated a slew of comments and concerns, some well-founded and other off base.


Aguja De l'S and Mojon Rojo

After spending a few stormy weeks in the Torres Del Paine, Scott Bennett and I learned that the next 7 days were looking even more stormy! This was bad news as we had only about 10 days left in the trip. Armed with this info and running somewhat low on the tastier food products of our supply, we hiked out of the Torres Del Paine under gigantic loads consisting of packs-strapped-to-packs-strapped-to-packs. We caught the bus back into Puerto Natales and stayed with awesome friends there who run a trakking and kayaking company called Fortaleza Patagonia. They are the most amazing and nicest, most knowledgable guides one could ask for. In addition, both are bilingual. I highly suggest chatting with them if you visit the Paine or Puerto Natales and need local info or want to go kayaking or hiking in the park.

With our friends and a rented Toyota Yaris, we loaded up all our gear and drove (~3hrs) from Natales to El Chalten, where Scott and I thought we would just be bouldering and sport climbing for a week before leaving.

However, after a few days of reacquainting ourselves with actual climbing, a small blip of decent weather showed itself on the forecast for the day or two before I was to take off. We teamed up with a partnerless Steve Swenson, who would have to leave when we did for his return to the states. Steve is a true climbing guru and fount of Himalayan knowledge, and it was great to go climbing with him in the big mountains, not just at a crag in Squamish or Index. The three of us kicked around all kinds of ideas. Given that several accidents had already occurred in Chalten this year, owing (at least in part) to a very limited selection of snow and ice routes climbable between storms, we didn't want to find ourselves queued up behind other parties or climbing a peak we had all done multiple times. We settled on heading (via an approach which was new to all three of us) up to the southern end of the Fitz Roy range.

Scott and Steve - Fitz Roy and Poincenot on the left

We hiked in and left our overnight gear at an amazing bivy boulder/cave a couple thousand feet above Laguna Sucia and ~500' below the edge of the glacier. Nobody was around, which was exactly what we had wanted. The wind was still blowing fairly hard and it was already mid day, so we roped up and brought just a few pieces of gear, eventually rambling up the eastern aspect of Mojon Rojo, which was snow and rock scrambling to a 20' V0 finish. The views over the summit to the Torre Valley were amazing, with wind ripping the clouds through the strainer of the Torres' jagged summits. Armed with knowledge of the glacier and a high camp, we decided to try to climb something early the next morning which we reasonably could manage in gloves and boots.

A few other parties arrived at the bivy cave that evening, but we were the first ones up in the morning and tried to make a b-line for Aguja Saint Exupery. However, we kept running into dead ends in the glacier. After a few attempts at end-running crevasses in the pre-dawn light, we decided that our options were to: A - wait until it was light, and try to re-navigate while probably getting dead-ended. B - try to climbing something on Aguja De l'S which we could reach more easily.
Scott and Steve at the first belay. Aguja Saint Exupery is behind them.
Still following

We settled on option B, and generally followed a combination of the Austrian route (to start) and the Baby Face route for the remainder of the way. After some crotch-deep snow wallowing, I lead up ~100m of steep snow/snice over the bergschrund to build a rock anchor and bring up Steve and Scott. From there I just kept leading, as Scott and Steve quickly followed, often making soup or hot broth or tea at the belays. It snowed lightly all day, but the route was very fun, with interesting and easy ramps and narrow little corners covered in styrofoam snow, but with ample rock pro for both leader and follower. Our line basically traversed the entire east face of the peak from north-to-south, then angled up to the summit pyramid on much easier terrain, before taking 2 final steep pitches to the cumbre. I lead the final 2 pitches with no crampons and 1 ice tool, which, in retrospect, was a bad choice. I had expected more freeclimbable rock but things were very much covered in snow and a thick layer of water ice filled in the cracks. I aided, grunted, and free climbed very slowly as Steve and Scott huddled at the belays and made soup. Highlights included a committing mantle onto a snowy slab with no pro, and a small surprise aid fall, caught with aplomb by the ever-vigilant Mr. Swenson. We took turns standing on the tiny summit being ROCKED by winds from off the ice cap and over the Torre valley, and then downclimbed and rappelled the standard East Face.

Scott and Aguja St. Exupery

We were back in camp before dark and spent a nice night relaxing and asking Steven questions abut his upcoming Karakoram book and his numerous trips to central Asia, and the presence of the abominable snowman claimed to have been seen by Reinhold Messner, et al. For the record, Steve does not, even under intense scrutiny, admit to ever being a yeti.

The next day we hiked out, made pizza in Chalten (dough pre-made and rising during our trip to the mountains) and I caught the bus out of town, with Scott and Steve leaving the next day.


Torres Del Paine

I spent most of January 2014 in the Torres Del Paine of Chilean Patagonia. It was my first time to this range of Patagonia, and the area has some of the world's most amazing peaks. The three "towers" (north, central, south) are well-known and famous, but the Paine also holds other amazing peaks that are not so visible from the trailhead. These mountains are only about 90 or 100 miles from the vastly more popular (among climbers) peaks of the Fitz Roy and Chalten ranges, so the weather is generally the same in both parks. (very bad) Unlike Fitz Roy and the nearby peaks, accessed by an ever-growing international crowd living in a booming city, the climbing in the Paine almost certainly requires an expedition-style approach, with a backcountry camp, or camps, and no quick access to the outside world.

I was climbing with Scott Bennett, and we had big plans to try and freeclimb routes on the west face of the central tower, such as Wild Wild West (Cosgrove-Smith) or Via Delle Mamme. Unfortunately, the longest decent weather span we had during three weeks was about a day, and things usually take at least that long simply to clear of the ice and snow that accumulates. It was cold and blustery, even snowing in our low camp on a couple of days. We ended up climbing a free variation to the "Vuelo Del Condor" ((Pennings-Tague) on the east wall of the Cuerno Este, but this rock climb, like many on the Cuernos, does not summit. Cuerno is Spanish for 'horn' and the cuernos are peaks which are topped by striking caps of (sometimes very overhanging) horrendously compact and friable shale. There is essentially no snow and ice or gully climbing in the Paine, just steep walls and towers. Unlike the climbing in the Chalten/Fitz Roy area, you can't really go swing tools and wear gloves and boots to climb in marginal days. It's rock climbing or no climbing at all, so the range is less forgiving during very bad weather.

We based out of a low camp in the highest stand of trees the Bader Valley, reached via a ~10-12 mile hike from the trailhead at the Hosteleria de los Torres. This was a remote and beautiful locale, but if you are ever headed to the Paine, we found that the rock quality and freeclimbing options in the Bader Valley, despite being in the center of the range, were generally sub-standard relative to the rock quality in either direction. We wanted to climb a super chossy line somewhere else, and name it "I can't believe it's not Bader." However, this is probably also the most sheltered valley in the Paine, so it could be a good option for very marginal weather windows. The head of this valley is glaciated and has a beautiful alpine lake and a dirty moraine lake, as well as easy access to the peak such as the Cuernos (Este, Principal, Norte) the Mascara, Hoja, Espada, and the South Tower of Paine.

Here are a few good points of beta for climbing in the area:

  • There is no grocery or supply seller anywhere near the park. Buy everything you need in Puerto Natales, and then take a bus to the park with your provisions. The bus ride is ~2hrs.
  • Apply online in advance for a free climbing permit at least a week before you go. You'll need proof of rescue insurance, such as with an AAC membership. 
  • As a climber, you will ride the bus PAST the park entrance, on to the official administration building, then enter and have the park officials sign off that you can go climbing, then re-board the bus, return to the park entrance, and then catch a bus transfer for the final ~15min ride to the trailhead/camping/Hosteria de los Torres. We never saw any rangers or were asked about our climbing gear, so we certainly could have gone without a permit, but if you were to encounter a ranger and not have one, they might turn you back. 
  • Depending on your base camp of choice and climbing area of choice, you may be wise to hire a pack horse (Pinchero) or a porter or to for load-carrying assistance. Most of the climbing is done from the French Valley (Cerro Catedral, Cota 2000, Aleta de Tiburon) or the Silencio Valley or Ascencio Valley (Torres Del Paine). 
  • For help arranging a porter, pack horse, navigating the park rules, or finding a place to stay in Puerto Natales, your best bet is to go see Cristian, the owner of Fortaleza Patagonia in Puerto Natales. He has climbed in the parked and seemingly knows everyone and everything important in the region. The company office is located in downtown Puerto Natales.


The Unstoppable Smile

It was a gray Washington winter day, tromping around looking for frozen cascades that had survived the end of our week-long "ice season". Chad Kellogg, Jens Holsten and I had just climbed the two wettest pitches any one of us had done. I lead the easy first pitch, a slurpee beneath a waterfall to a cave with water pouring all around us and puddled at our feet. Chad probably pulled out both screws by just wiggly them out from the slush. Chad then stepped out of the cave on lead and we could hear the 33-degree water pounding onto his head from hundreds of feet above. We thought he would be able to step out from beneath the shower, but it covered the entire width of the ice flow so he just clawed his way up. Chad didn't bother shouting down to us, partly because if he'd open his mouth it would fill with ice water. Whenever he'd raise a tool, water would run down his arms inside his jacket, soaking him from the inside-out. 

Shivering in the cave, Jens even admitted that he could at least "understand why some people don't like ice climbing." 

When Jens and I reached a soaking-wet Chad after he'd been standing immobile at the belay for the past 10 minutes, his smile was ear-to-ear and there was nowhere you could imagine him rather being.


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."