SuperCave, Thin Red Line, and Southern Man

With the Stuart Range closed due to fires, I've put a few local plans on hold and spent an idyllic couple weekends at Washington Pass. One trip involved climbing a new route or variation to the East Buttress of South Early Winter Spire - the line is called Southern Man, established by my friends Joel Kauffman and Mark Allen. It leaves the East Buttress where one would begin the short bolt ladder.

  1. Scramble or walk 30' left and then follow a rampy corner past two small trees to a piton belay in an alcove (40m 5.9)
  2. Take the excellent finger crack, past a low fixed-wire, and to a belay ledge on the left of the crack, just past a piton (130' 5.11+)
  3. An amazing hand and finger crack leads to the summit (200' 5.10)
Southern Man follows the right skyline, then tackles the next system left of the skyline, a corner that divides lighter and darker granite.

Ben on the last pitch of Southern Man

Ben and I both had a no-falls outing on Thin Red Line, despite the removal of a key moss-jug by a certain anonymous Twisp-based climber. I got to lead the pitches I had followed last year and found the route to be as good as I recalled. 

Finally, I got to check out the classic East Face of Lexington, as well as the SuperCave, with my friends Grant, Jon, and Sol. Here are a few photos of a party on the SuperCave's 2nd and 3rd pitches.


Mt. Baring - Vanishing Point

Bryan Burdo is responsible for putting up excellent alpine routes throughout the Cascades, from Slesse to Stevens Pass. Bryan has also created many new sport climbs. I got the chance to tackle something of a hybrid of the two, after Ben "Crusher" Gilkison convinced me to head with him to Mt. Baring (actually a sub-summit called Dolomite Tower) for a climb of Vanishing Point.



I wrote what amounted to an ode to Seam Grip for the Alpinist website - LINK

Here's an excerpt:

My grasp of contemporary fashion, music and even basic social trends is tenuous, at best. 
Yet one of 2012's hallmarks, of which I am fully-informed, is the obsession with all things pickled. The hipster-and-home-garden-inspired craze was even skewered in a recent episode of Portlandia, with the main characters cruising Cascadia's streets on fixies, adamantly proclaiming, "we can pickle that." And although I appreciate the potential cost and food savings from a well-pickled veggie, my preferred method of chemical salvage revolves around a magical tube of glue, and the supremely confident proclamation, "I can Seam Grip that!"

It is said, that upon holding a hammer, everything suddenly seems like a nail. For me, when holding an open tube of Seam Grip, everything seems to be leaking, tattered, crampon-torn, in too-many pieces, insufficiently waterproof or potentially in danger of achieving any of these states. I attribute this to Seam Grip's incredible effectiveness, as well as its alacritous tendency to harden inside the tube, rendering your $6 glue into a 3/4oz. rubber-filled sleeve. In addition to the normal uses, such as sleeping pad repair and shoe reinforcement, I've Seam Gripped my car (clutch pedal and broken tail light), apartment plumbing (loose shower knob) and iPod (which now doesn't slide off a dusty dashboard). I have also cut away a thin triangle of fabric from the back of a size large jacket, and Seam Gripped the left and right halves together. It'd been a gift, so who was I to let a detail like proper sizing prevent the use of a much-needed coat? Amid various crusades to utilize every drop of adhesive from a partially-used, hence soon-to-harden tube, I've also found a number of seriously beneficial applications for climbers.


Waddington Range - Stiletto Peak, The Blade

While in the Waddington Range we'd hoped to try a new route on the South Face of Asperity, well to the right of the 2011 Elson/McClane route. However, after getting forced onto the rock on a buttress toe below the face proper, we spent 7 pitches and 7 hours in getting dead-ended on plan #2, and we did eventually reach a spot below our original destination, the South face. By this time we'd already dealt with the glacier and ice of the lower Tiedemann/Asperity Couloir in the pre-dawn hours, but a narrow snow couloir we'd have to cross was running with slush-a-lanches and big blocks. We stayed on a shaded rock ledge and watched the evening pass, deciding what to do. Not only did we think that the rock on the South Face was loose and sharp, but also quite blank. Our best options seemed to be the major fractured weaknesses, some of which ran with water. I think that a few thousand years of active glacial scouring along these steep upper couloirs had scraped the wall clean and left few open cracks or holds. Other faces which were higher on the peaks (or not exposed to such active snow/ice scouring) were more climbable. We bailed back to Sunny Knob and had an awesome rest day as the mountains continued collapsing around us.

(We had each placed bets on which bit of the ice fall was next to fall off)

The two new routes that we did climb on the trip were not particularly long (450-500m each on rock above our wandering, mostly non-technical approach via the lower Stiletto Glacier) but they did tackle two of the steepest sections of stone in the area and were done onsight and free with one point of aid. [edit: the above makes more sense if written "onsight and free, apart from one point of aid". ]
Here are a few photos:


Mazama, WA - The Fire Wall

Firestarter (.12c) and the heart of the Fire Wall
There are a number of excellent "sleeper" sport crags scattered around WA, and the Fire Wall of Mazama is one of them. In fact, 4 of Washington's 5 best sport climbing walls are located away from any major towns, often accessed via private land, and not included in any guidebooks.

 (My top 5 would be WWI, Nason Ridge, Newhalem, Equinox, and Fire Wall - the limestone out in the NE doesn't count only because I haven't visited it.  I know I'm probably missing several more!)

I got the chance to visit the Fire Wall yesterday morning with a few Leavenworth buddies. This wall has seen the area's two hardest single pitches established this summer, when Ben Gilkison climb a long-standing project, following a blue streak of pockets above the anchors on Firestarter. (5.13c) Shortly after that, Joe Kinder bolted a route just to the right which rides a right-trending "wave" of stone, and goes at 5.14a. Nice work guys!

We had a fun few hours on the left side of the wall, climbing and being pleasantly cold. The wall sports very little sun (none until 2:30 at this time of year) and a beautiful waterfall along the crag's left end. I managed to onsight the area classic, Firestarter, but didn't venture above onto Ben's new route. However, knowing how to get here and being aware of the aspect and quality of the routes, I'm definitely keen to return.

The Approach:

Drive ~4.7 miles up the valley from the Mazama Store on Lost River Road. After the Goat Wall parking/climbing, but well before the airstrip or the snow-park, you'll cross an unmarked creek that flows under the road year-round. This is Gate Creek. Park before this creek on the down-valley side of the creek crossing. A well-used trail leaves the road 40 yards  down-valley from where Gate Creek flows under the road. Follow this trail, going straight (ie DO NOT take the one possible hard right turn) for 30 minutes through the woods, and then up talus immediately to the right of the creek bed. The wall is just right of the creek.

All routes are closely bolted or sport fixed draws, so even without the guidebook you wont have much trouble just climbing yourself into oblivion. We consistently had more fun on routes than we thought we would, and enjoyed the movement and holds more than we may move guessed from the ground.