My friend and Leavenworth compatriot Sol just launched a climbing blog.  One of his first posts is a story about our attempt on a new line on Colchuck Balanced Rock (CBR) in the Stuart Range from last summer. We bailed when we found a stacked pile of “belayer slayer” blocks that would have killed me if they fell.  Maybe next time…

A couple of stolen photos:

Starting up the new line

Sol sending the aid crux of the line

Me hanging at our last belay.

More here:

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Below is basically a re-posting of a trip report I posted on the northwest climbing forum  I’ll add more details shortly.


Given that the mid-winter’s high pressure had settled in and I heard that snow conditions in the Stuart Range were great, my friend Rodney and I climbed the elusive Cotter-Bebie route on the NW Face of Dragontail Peak on January 26 . I’ve been wanting to climb this route for many years, having peered down into it from Backbone and Serpentine a number of times. We found the route to be in fantastic shape overall, except for half of one pitch to the right of the Fin (requiring scary aid moves off ice tools). Gear was a challenge to find at times and we had to simulclimb on some serious terrain in order to find decent protection and anchors.

The route is excellent and I highly recommend it. We counted 20 roped pitches (though we simuled about 8 of them), and would rate the route (as we did it) in its current condition grade IV, WI4, 5.7, A2.  The route took us about 12 hours on the face, about three of which were spent on the aforementioned aid pitch and cornice chopping.

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We were a bit confused as to where the route finishes. According to Beckey (CAG, v1, p 285), we followed the Northwest Face route. Washington Ice says to finish in the corner to the right of the Fin, but that wasn’t reasonable given the snow conditions. The gully we took proved to be the technical crux of the climb. I would consider finishing the route via the Third Couloir (by turning left at the Fin, and dropping onto the Gerber-Sink, then up into the Third Couloir) for a faster and more reasonable adventure.

Gear:  8 screws, set of stoppers, 2 bugaboos, .5-3″ camalots, 4″ hex, 10 slings. 2 tools. I would recommend two ropes in case of retreat, although we only took one.

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I recently took an Instructor Training course to become an avalanche instructor.  Last weekend I shadowed a Level 1 course run by the American Alpine Institute in the backcountry near the Mt. Baker Ski Area.  The course is one in a three part series developed by American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education (AIARE); the Level 1 course is 24 hours long and includes one classroom day and two field days developing and utilizing skills in real avalanche terrain.

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Look for more photos and information about avalanche education in the coming weeks.  Right now, we could really use some snow instead of all this rain!

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‘Tis the year for Leavenworth ice climbing.

I spent the day with a couple friends climbing some fantastic ice in Tumwater and Icicle Canyons.  An overcast sky kept the temperatures cool and the ice continues to grow.  All told, we did 6 pitches on three routes.

Up first was a three pitch undocumented route (perhaps a first ascent) in the Tumwater.  We don’t have a name for it yet, but that will come soon.  Anyways, the climb is across the Wenatchee River from Castle Rock, just upstream from the ice climb Comic Book Hero.  The approach is one of the easiest in Leavenworth too–just follow the trail across the bridge and take a right on the old road.  Follos the snowshoe packed trail for twenty minutes of flat walking, put crampons on, and start climbing.  Zero approach slogging on this route.  Anyways, the route begins with a 20’ WI3 step followed by a two rope lengths of ice up to WI2, topped off by an incredible WI4 flow in a tight slot. At the top, we did one 60 meter rappel then downclimbed off to climber’s left back to the base.

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Up next was a closer inspection of a rare testpiece–The Drip.  It is a rare year when The Drip’s free hanging pillar even touches the ground;  right now it’s about 6′ in diameter at the base and well formed all the way to the top.  Unfortunately for me, The Drip lived up to its name today and was dripping heavily.  Due to that fact and that I didn’t have an adze on my ice tools to chop away poor quality ice, I only made it a little ways up before deciding it prudent to try again another day (tomorrow).

Attempting The Drip (WI6)

Me starting up “The Drip,” a rare WI6 in Tumwater Canyon.

Another day of great ice awaits us tomorrow before a big storm will deposit feet of snow in the valley and turn to rain as it is so fond of doing nowadays.  Hopefully all the ice won’t fall down in the warm spell.

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2010 was the year of Red Rock Canyon National Conservation area for me.  Between February and October, I spent a total of almost three months climbing in its magnificent canyons and crags.  In the spring, when the summits were still snow covered and canyon’s creeks were flowing high, I was training for, then taking, the AMGA Rock Guide Course.  We did some excellent climbing including Olive Oil (III, 5.7), Dream of Wild Turkeys (III, 5.10a), Nightcrawler (II, 5.10c), The Walker Spur (II, 5.10b), and the full Geronimo (III+, 5.8).

Mike cruisin' up Olive Oil

Mike cruisin’ up Olive Oil

Art climbing on The Walker Spur

Art climbing The Walker Spur

The crux pitch of Nightcrawler

The crux pitch of Nightcrawler

In the warm and sweaty days of fall, I got in a little more training before taking my AMGA Rock Guide exam.  My friend and AAI co-worker Danny Uhlmann was also taking the exam and we completed a number of excellent climbs prior to its start.  We made the most of our prep time, climbing Risky Business into Dark Shadows (III+, 5.10c R) in Pine Creek Canyon, Rock Warrior in Black Velvet Canyon (III, 5.10b R), Community Pillar (III, 5.8) in Pine Creek, Gin Ricky (I, 5.10c) and Birthday Party (II, 5.6) in First Creek Canyon, and Solar Slab to Eagle Dance (IV, 5.10) in Oak Creek Canyon.

Danny find the first bolt on The Rock Warrior

Danny at the first bolt on Rock Warrior (60′ up!)

Hurting from the hanging belays of Rock Warrior.

Loving the belays of Rock Warrior.  The first five belays are all fully hanging.

During the exam, we climbed some more classic routes including Beulah’s Book to Arch Enemy (III, 5.9) in Oak Creek, cragging at the Trophy Wall/Wall of Confusion, Myster Z (III, 5.7) to Armatron (II, 5.9) in Juniper Canyon, The Gobbler to Dream of Wild Turkeys in Black Velvet Canyon (III+, 5.10), and There and Back Again (II, 5.8) to Eagle Dance (IV, 5.10c) in Oak Creek Canyon.

Great edge climbing on Dream of Wild Turkeys

Great edge climbing on Dream of Wild Turkeys

Ron aiding the bolt ladder of Eagle Dance

Ron finishing up the Eagle Dance bolt ladder.

I am proud to announce that I passed my exam with excellent marks.  I am available for guiding in Red Rock Canyon through the American Alpine Institute, an authorized concessionaire, from September to May each year.

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