After a discouraging, yet inspiring and educational trip to the Alaska Range (more on this in a few days!), I am back in the Pacific Northwest. Most of my time has been taken up by "real world" activities (making wine!), but I have snuck out on a couple of alpine missions. One was not like the other, yet both delivered good days out.
The NE Buttress of J-berg = Classic
First up was The Valkyrie, a new 6 pitch 5.10 established less than two weeks ago by Blake Herrington, Scott Bennet, and Graham Zimmerman. Cole Allen and I squeezed the second ascent in before work one day, finding wet, but classy crack climbing. The route is sustained and splitter with diorite knobs connecting solid crack systems. As I jammed and smeared up the route I marveled at how climbable the rock of the Stuart Range is. There are very few venues in the Northwest where one can climb classic, technically demanding rock routes ground up without any cleaning. The Stuart Range is special and deserves the attention it has been recieving as of late (The Valkyrie already has four ascents and Dragons of Eden was repeated last week too!!).
A week later I teamed up with Shaun Johnson to make a one day ascent of the NE Buttress of Johannesburg, a huge line exemplifying what I like to call "the dark side" of Cascade climbing. And I love "the dark side"! Maybe even more than clean, pretty rock in the Stuart Range...
How are we gonna start this monster?
Although Shaun is new to the alpine, he has enough excitment, passion, and talent for big routes. I wouldn't have asked him to come if I didn't think he was up for it, but I knew the ascent would blow his mind (and mine!).
Getting on the buttress is the only place we used our rope and was perhaps the spiciest part of the day. We began up one weakness, but bailed without hesitation when ice and rock fall started threatning our position. After a few tense moments we found a better alternative. Soon we had put the cord away and were scrambling through vertical brush, a key element of "the dark side".
The highlight of the route: knife edge snow climbing way off the deck!
The brush didn't last forever and the rest of our climb was on steep snow fingers, slippery heather, and suprisingly solid, lichen peppered rock.
The valley is far, far below
Lot's of steep snow!
It was really fun to show Shaun the rugged, raw beauty of the Cascade Range. The summit views were breathtaking and we enjoyed the highpoint for a half an hour before beginning our descent to the car. Loose scrambling down the east ridge gained a col and then easy snow fields. We contoured around several peaks before wrapping back around the north side and following a well worn trail to our car.
Climbing in Washington is so varied and enjoying the different styles keeps me inspired. What will the next week hold??
The name of my blog is a direct reference to my life as a climber and mountain lover. The combination of grace, athleticism, and adventure in high places is what drives my burning passion for moving up mountains big and small.