In 1989, Wayne Wallace and Bob McGowan spent two days working their way up a set of cracks on Dragontail Peak that were more reminiscent of the soaring splitters in Yosemite and Squamish. Although they were not able to make a completely free ascent, their effort was solid, each climbing into the hard 11 range as they surfed steep seas of lichen.
Twenty-five years later Sol Werkin and I were at the base of DOE, totally oblivious to the hole of obsession we were about to throw ourselves into. That effort produced the first alpine style ascent of DOE. Although there was a ton of lichen on route, we knew that out of all the lines we had been playing on the last few years, this was the one. The splitters, the position, the seriousness, the 2000 foot ridge to a real summit...this was the big daddy.
Since that day, both Sol and I have been mentally concious of this line as one of our driving inspirations and goals. No matter where I was over the last year or what climbs I was on, my mind inevitibly drifted towards DOE at some point each day. For me, climbing is a form of self expression and DOE represents every reason why I climb. I couldn't wait to finish the piece.
In life and in climbing I have always felt it is not what you do, but how you do it that matters. It's all about style. In an era rife with bolting debates, bolts next to cracks, and an unsetteling modernizing of our sport, DOE sticks out like a sore thumb. There are no bolts and no fixed gear besides one pin placed by Wayne and Bob long ago. The climbing is steep, sustained, and while never too difficult technically, requires a cool head and total control of the grade.
Sol and I spent July 20 and 21 climbing and cleaning the core of DOE. We spent the night of the 21st at Colchuck Lake with our amazing friends Ginnie (Sol's wife), Keri, Max, and Ryan. The ladies had prepared a feast of indian food and encouragement for us...they knew how bad we wanted this one.
A liesurley morning on the 22nd had us climbing by about 11am. We fired the first 5.10 pitch and then enjoyed the steep mid 5.11 fingers and thin hands of pitch two. This placed us at the crux, a thin bouldery face to a steep, leaning tight fingers corner. I felt strong on the pitch, but almost fell when a tiny foot chip I was standing on broke, leaving me to do a one arm on a fingerlock. Back in the crack I punched upwards, really going for it, gear not a concern. Soon I was at the belay.
Sol followed and we scrambled over some easy ground to the headwall. I pitch of 5.9, 5.11a, and 5.11c/d awaited. Normally, these grades are fairly casual for me, but I couldn't help but wonder what the climbing would be like. I had actually never tried the moves on the last pitch, opting to only scrub the previous days (my body can only handle so much!). We moved efficiently through the first few pitches and before long I was feeling my way up the absurdley steep last headwall pitch. The pitch was awesome and went very well. I had to dig deep at a few points and made tough moves quite far out from my gear. The intensity of this pitch will be tamed by repeat ascents...it needs to be cleaned more.
Pulling onto the ledge that marks the junction with the NE buttress I let out a loud monkey call...the climb of my life was in the bag. The moderate 2000 foot finish seemed to take as long as it usually does (longest route on the 'tail!) and was very enjoyable as always.
DOE is not one of the hardest climbs I've ever done, but it is the most special. It is a climb made to be, shaped by a knowing hand. The fact that it is in a beautiful mountain environment and a true alpine route combine to produce a certain hybrid. Here, Yosemite and the Cascades meet for the first time and I have a feeling they will become old freinds in the next few years as more lines like DOE pop up.
So there you have it. DOE is there, awaiting suitors. As I write this two freinds are jamming those cracks, giving the route the traffic it deserves and needs. A few years from now this line will be as smooth as the West Face of CBR or Der Sportsman if people continue to climb on it. At that point, it will no doubt be one of the most special climbs of the grade in the states. Go get some!!
Pitch line up:
Pitch 1: 5.10a/b: nice hands and liebacking, along with a bit of funk.
Pitch 2: 5.11b: Siick!! Butterballs to Gripper...fingers and thin hands, so beautiful.
Pitch 3: Short, 5.7 to the base of the crux
Pitch 4: 5.12a R: Climb up the left side of a small pillar, before placing tiny gear and launching into an amazing boulder problem. Don't fall here or you might get to know the pillar a little more than you might like. After the boulder problem punch it up a very steep, thin corner, using body scumming and stemming to avoid the pump and gobies that trying to straight in this section will produce. Gear is good, but hard to place...keep the pillar in mind.
Pitch 5: Scrambly to the base of the headwall
Pitch 6: 5.9: Once very dirty, this pitch is now very fun. Cracks, body slots...where am I, the Valley??
Pitch 7: 5.11a: Hands out a roof in a spectacular postion.
Pitch 8: 5.11c/d: Climb the flat, steep wall. Flairing jams, a midway boulder problem and a dramatic roof near the end. Fall off this one and it's all air baby...
After pitch 8 set off on the last section that will most definetely make you wonder "will it ever end???"...I sure hope not.
Note: This ascent was shot by Max Hasson. The pictures are amazing and represent a feeling to lost in climbing these days, the intensity of the real moment, not the posed down day after photos...the point is, they are going to be ready to be viewed in the next few days, but for now, words are all I have. It's something to look foward to. Cheers!