Monday, May 14, 2012

Spring Update

Leavenworth is a land of seasons. Distinct weather patterns sweep through each spring, summer, fall, and winter. They mold the landscape into something different than it was just months before, the dynamic environment making an outdoor amusement park for those who want to ride roller coasters of granite walls and icy north faces. Each week, I study the forcast with an excited eye. A plan of attack is molded to fit the weather pattern. There is always something unique to try. 

Jessica Campbell enjoying spring on Pumpline (5.11a)

May is my favorite month in the Central Cascades. The days are long, the Icicle and Tumwater Canyons are full of dry stone, and the high peaks are bonded in ice and neve. With a big trip on the horizon, most of my time has been spent at work trying to pinch enough pennies for the upcoming mission, but I have snuck out a time or two to enjoy the variety pack of upward movement presented in this season.
The opening moves on An Exotic Affair (5.12a)

On the rock, I have been steadily rehabing my finger and hand. Volume has been my main goal and many days climbing familiar routes at Index and in the Canyons has reconstructed a base of fitness and confidence. Highlights include a flash of Shirley (5.11c) at Index and the first ascent of An Exotic Affair (5.12a) at Careno Crag.

I don't remember the last time I got excited about doing a 5.11, but Shirley, a route with a bit of a reputation for scary, tough climbing, was one I had always wanted to climb first go. As usual, the climbing was not as hard or terrifying as people made it out to be, so the real battle was just getting over the hype and starting the climb. It went fine and now I have another classic pitch to add to the Lower Town Wall circut.
An Exotic Affair

An Exotic Affair is a testy piece high on Careno Crag. It climbs the first 30 feet of Exotic Dancer (5.10a) before setting off on a thin crack pasted next to a bald arete. Commiting moves and precise gear placements fizzle into a bizarre and very technical sequence past two bolts. The final pockets and edges to the anchor are some of the coolest holds I've grabbed in L-Town! The fact that two of the Icicle Canyon's best 5.10's (Exotic Dancer and A Swinging Affair) border my new route, makes this a crag worth visiting for anyone.
Starting the bizzare arete sequence on An Exotic Affair

In the Stuart Range, a low snowpack and unusually high temps have tempered the alpine ice season a bit, but last week, over a two day cold snap, Dan Hilden, Matt Van Biene, and I climbed the NE Coulior on McClellan Peak. An obscure objective, I had tried this obvious line a few times over the years. In the past, a large cornice that often overhangs the route had turned me around, but this time, it wasn't in it's usual position, and we flew up the awesome ice. Nothing beats traveling through the mountains when they are in perfect condition. Exceptional climbing and a massive glissading descent had us back at basecamp before lunch. That things had gone so smoothly on a climb I had failed on (more than once!!) was novel, but not suprising. Conditions are everything and our recent adventure on McClellan defined a perfect day in every way.

McClellan Peak from Snow Lake
Photo by Matt Van Biene
For those who flock to the Stuart Range for the more standard spring routes, consider adding the NE Coulior of McClellan to your list. It is a beautiful alpine ice route (in the right shape) falling straight from the summit ridge on one of the highest peaks in the state. Although we have never heard of an ascent of this feature, we are definetley not claiming a first ascent. Someone had to have climbed this before! It's just so darn stunning and incredibly obvious...watch for cold temps in the next couple of weeks and give her a go!

Dan on the second pitch of Mclellan's NE Coulior

Following pitch two
Photo by Matt Van Biene
More amazing ice higher in the cooler
Photo by Dan Hilden
Dan cruising high on the route
Sunny south side plateau on the way to the summit...the tower in front of us turned out to be a false summit, forcing us back into the shade of the north side for a cool mixed section
Photo by Dan Hilden

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