Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Leavenworth Bouldering

Having celebrated the departure of winter the weekend prior with our final backcountry ski adventure of the year, this past weekend Fras and I decided to usher in summer with a weekend of bouldering in Leavenworth. I was plagued with elbow problems throughout the winter that prevented me from logging much gym time, but those have subsided recently and I have been getting into the gym regularly for the past month so I was eager to test my fitness with some real climbing. Fras has been climbing all winter and is crushing V10s as per usual, so he was also eager to do a tour of L-dub rock.

Fras drove down to Seattle on Friday after work, so it was fun to hang out for the night even though we had to speak in hushed undertones to avoid infuriating the newt who was deep in the throes of a work-related crisis. We hit the sack at a reasonable hour and then rose early the next morning to load up PT and hit the road. The weather was nasty on the ascent up to Stevens Pass with a mix of snow and rain, but as soon as we began dropping down the backside the sun shone through and we quickly emerged from the fog onto dry roads and clear blue skies. You've got to love rain shadows, faux-Bavarian village here we come!

Upon arriving in Leavenworth we headed up Icicle Canyon, having decided to start our day off at an area called the Clamshell Boulders. After a 15 minute hike in we dropped the pads and began warming up on some V0s, V1s, and V2s. Our warm-up culminated with a really good V3 called “Crimp, Crimp, Slap, Throw”, highly recommended. We then moved on to one of the more challenging area classics, a V7 called “Octopus”, or maybe it was called “Mr. Octopus”? This proved too difficult for me, but the young Wolf was able to call in the send after a few tries, here is a shot of Fras on the problem:

From here we moved on to another area called Mad Meadows, which was set in a pleasant part of the forest that was alive with vivid green grass and blooming yellow grass.

After arriving at the boulders we started on a couple of V3s then moved on to a V5 called “Hairy Spotter”. This problem received 0 out of 3 stars in the book, however, we both really liked it. We noticed a general trend of disagreeing with the guidebook's star ratings, with problems that we liked not getting many stars, and problems that had serious shortcomings in our view receiving the full 3 out of 3 star. Some examples of shortcomings were problems that didn't top out, problems that used more than one boulder, and problems that didn't fulfill the “proud line” requirement. Anyways, the point of this is just to say that you should take star ratings with a grain of salt, especially if you are bouldering in Leavenworth. Here is a shot of Fras giving it some gusto to latch the crux hold on the V5 “Hairy Spotter”:

We then moved on to another V3 and V4 that were not that memorable, then to a high V4 which was pretty soft for the grade. Apologies for the lack of problem names, I am writing this entry a week later on a plane without access to the guidebook. We then moved on to an interesting V6 called “The Hole”, I wasn't able to send but Fras made short work of it and we then moved on to our next area Forestland.

We started with a V4 and V5 that were vertical and fun, before Fras hopped on a V7 called “The Shield” that he had been really excited to try. One funny thing about going on a climbing trip with Fras is that even if it is to an area that I have been to before and feel like I know pretty well, despite his not having climbed there before he usually spends enough time the week before watching youtube videos of people climbing at the area that he gets to know it better than I do and ends up showing me around instead of vice versa. This had happened when I was living in Utah and Fras came out to climb at Joes Vallehy, and Leavenworth was more of the same. We would be walking around an area I had climbed at a few times before, I would see a problem I had never tried and wonder out loud what it was, and Fras would then nonchalantly rhyme off the name of the problem, the grade, the first ascentionist, and then offer up move-by-move beta. All the youtube research paid off was Fras was able to dispatch “The Shield” on his 2nd attempt, here are two shots of him climbing this spectacular line:

We then moved on to the Upper Forestland where Fras had a few tries on a really nice looking V10 called “The Coffee Cup” and came pretty close before deciding that the batteries were starting to run down a bit. We then did a really nice V2 and V4 called “Sunny and Steep” (presumably named after the crag at Red Rocks that it bore resemblance to) and “Funny and Cheap”, both excellent problems. By this time it was starting to get a little dark and we were feeling a little tired, but there was one more problem that had caught our eyes during our tour, a V7 called “Dangle”. This moved out a steep face with big moved on positive holds before pressing out a difficult mantle on sloping holds. Fras had a go first and managed to flash it, which gave me some hope, and on my first effort I came pretty close. By this time it was getting quite dark but I decided to rest up and have one more burn, here is a shot of me under the problem getting ready for another attempt:

The next go was a great success, as I was able to punch out the send for my first V7 of the year (albeit a very soft one). By this time it was 8:30pm, and having started climbing at noon, we had now completed our 8 hour shift plus 30 minutes of overtime so we decided to clock out and head to Gustav's for burgers and beer. When we had been packing up that morning we had foolishly decided to pack camp chairs and books to occupy us during down time, I hadn't been climbing with Fras for a while and I had forgotten that on our trips there is no such thing as down time, if it is still light out and we still have skin on our fingertips then we are still climbing! Maybe that is why we can't always find others to accompany us on these trips, I guess not everyone likes climbing until it is dark and then having dinner at 10:30pm before going to sleep on a crashpad because you are too tired to set up the tent.

We enjoyed our delicious burgers and ales courtesy of Gustav and then walked around Leavenworth a bit being tourists (although it was 11pm and everything was closed) before driving back up Icicle Canyon to find some camping. We turned off at one of the Forest Service campgrounds and managed to find a dirt road that continued on from there and led us to a pull out where we could drop our crash pads in the forest and drift off to sleep.

We awoke the next morning to more blue skies and the sun just peeking over the mountains. I was feeling refreshed, but Fras told me he hadn't slept too well because he had been nervous that a branch was going to fall on him (maybe we should have used the tent after all). PT was very happy to be spending a night out in the forest again after way too many boring nights parked out in front of our house in Seattle. Here is a shot of him nestled in the trees enjoying the fresh mountain air:

And here is a shot of our comfortable (though hazardous due to the overhead branches, as Fras informed me that morning) sleeping area:

After loading up PT we headed into town for some breakfast at Safeway, which consisted of one Americano each and a dozen fresh pastries split between us. Oh man is that ever a good breakfast! It didn't hurt either that the sun was shining and the only thing on the agenda for the day was running around the forest throwing ourselves at new (to us) boulder problems. After enjoying the wares of the talented Safeway bakers we headed off to the Mountain Home boulders, an area that I had not been to but had been meaning to check out for a while.

We warmed up on some easier problems, then climbed a bunch of other stuff. Jesse, Kimberly, Morgan, and Hess showed up around noon and it was fun to climb with them for a few hours before we had to hit the road. Some of the highlights were a V4 called “Barn Door” that Fras is shown on below:

As well as a V8 called “Cattle Guard Arete” that Fras was able to dispatch in a few tries:

We had decided we wanted to be on the road by 4pm since the trip back to Seattle would take 2.5 hours and then Fras would have to make the 3 hour trip back to Vancouver (though it would only be 2 hours and 15 minutes if Roanne were driving). After a few tries on a great looking V4 called Darth Maul (unsuccessful largely due to the scary mantel) we packed up the truck and were pulling away from the Mountain Home boulders just after 4, exactly according to our plan. The only part of the situation that wasn't according to plan was that we had actually decided to go do some more bouldering at another area, since for Fras the desire to climb more new problems turns out to burn hotter than the desire to be back in Vancouver before midnight on a Sunday.

So, we detoured to the Swiftwater Picnic Area for some burns on a nice V7 called “Premium Coffee”, which I have climbed in the past but Fras was quite keen to try. We made some progress but no send, and finally at 5:15pm we decided that we we had better head back to Seattle (for real this time), and off we went. The trip back went well, and despite being caught behind some slow drivers on highway 2 we made it back to the Emerald City in good time. After grabbing a bite to eat and paying his respects to the newt Fras headed off to Vancouver, wrapping up another installment of the Adventure Club of the Greater PNW. Good times!

1 comment:

  1. Wow, great write-up Maxy! I can't wait to go there (or anywhere) again together...bring on the classics!!!