Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Metaline High

Metaline Falls

Last weekend, Jessica Campbell and I trucked up to the north east corner of Washington to check out an area I used to frequent, Metaline Falls. Jess and I have a special place in our hearts for out of the loop crags and obscure backwater cliffs. Metaline Falls is defined by birds swooping across planes of rock, fresh blue limestone, hard climbing, and a small mining town that captures the imagination.

Movies show on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. Take rest days on the weekends!

Besides exploring Metaline's incredible routes in the Arena and at Sector Europa, Jess and I swam in the Pend Orielle River, hiked to Sweetwater Falls, and ran around "downtown" Metaline Falls, poking our noses into old abandoned buildings and learning about the history of the people who had mined for zinc under the surrounding tree covered hills.

Route names at the base of each route lead your way...very helpful actually!

The mine closed in 1977, leaving the local community locked in a time warp. Everything around, from the trucks in people's front yards, to the vintage picnic areas in the local parks, sat as a testament to this era. Luckily, we fit right in, as our climbing abilities on the super steep limestone seemed to be stuck in the 70's also. Jess and I rarely (once or twice a year) clip bolts so we made our way up some stellar 5.12's and eyed future 5.13 inspirations. Someday, when I tire of slogging through the mountains (never!!) I want to be a real sport climber, riding waves of tufas out concave oceans of rock.

Without a doubt, the highlight of our weekend was lowering (and hauling out!) Jessica's Akida, River (big dog!) into Sector Europa. The look on River's face as he swung up the wall on the way out was priceless. Cool and unconcerned, River has a bold head and a bright future on the rock!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Twice The Fun


Last week, Max Hasson and I climbed Liberty Bell twice in one day via Liberty Crack and Thin Red Line . The original intent was to add The Independence Route to the list, but after a few pitches of Liberty Crack, I realized we would have to "practice" the link up (which I have NO motivation to do...sorry!) to send all three in a reasonable day. No one shows up and knocks down The Nose record without some serious rehersal. The same goes for the East Face Triple. After leading Liberty Crack in 4.5 hours I realized I wasn't close to the speed I needed to be at. I had hoped to knock off the route in only 2-2.5 hours, but the heat, bugs, and general gumbiness (I haven't speed climbed in many years!) realigned our vision. Still, two routes on Liberty Bell's East Face gave plenty of fun climbing and a good day of training.

Check out for a full report and some really cool shots!

Monday, August 15, 2011

50 Years of Inspiration

Mountain Equipment, one of my supporters, has just released a very special documentary showcasing the climbs, climbers, and ideals they have supported over the last 50 years.

Mountain Equipment makes some of the most high performance and durable outerwear that money can buy. I wouldn't face the world's high places without the best gear available. I believe Moutnain Equipment provides that.

Check out the video at

Behind The Scenes

Ryan getting psyched for Tooth and Claw (III+ 5.12)

Reading blogs, watching climbing videos, and scanning climbing rags give the impression that everyday is a send fest for those pretty people in the pictures. The reality is that no one is above climbing's challenges. Some days you don't slip and some days you do. This is climbing. This is life.

Pitch one on Tooth and Claw (5.11a)

The last week saw me tromping through the cascades, bouncing from one "failure" to the next. First, Ryan Paulsness and I traveled to Washington Pass intent on making an onsight ascent of the 80's slab testpiece, Tooth and Claw. I slipped off this beautiful 6 pitch route and the "first try" ideal floated off into the summer sky. Still, Tooth and Claw is an amazing route and I plan to be back in a couple of weeks time. Let no business remain unfinished!

Finishing pitch 3 on Tooth and Claw (5.11c)

The immaculate pitch 4 (5.10) on Tooth and Claw

A few days later I was tromping towards Mt. Stuart with Sol Wertkin, intent on sending our latest proj. A late start, a new approach, and bullet proof snow ("we don't need crampons", I said...idiot!) delayed our start. By the time we had climbed to the base of our splitter, end of day colors filled the sky. Darkness was approching and we bailed back to Leavenworth instead of enjoying an open bivy with minimal gear. 16 miles of hiking and 6 pitches of climbing is a long way to go for a good view of your inspiration. Again, we'll be back soon.

Sol on "The Monkey Traverse" on GITM en route to our project

As always, it's important to relish each special day in the mountains regardless of goals reached. Just to have the health to be able to gain the high realm of the alpine is something to be thankful for. That said, each failure ratchets up passion for the next attempt. I'll be back to both routes soon enough. Dot your I's and cross your T's. Let no project go unfinished.

Sol on Stuart

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Alaska Shots

The other day, Dan Hilden, my partner in crime for all things cold and big, returned to Leavenworth from the Great White North. I left Alaska in early May, but he stayed a month longer, fishing and hiking. We rapped about future ambitions and traded photos from a our maiden voyage in the AK Range. Needless to say, we are both obsessed with returning to that wild universe of snow and ice.

Not a day goes by that my mind doesn't wander the incredible peaks of Denali National Park. The buzz of existing in such a powerful landscape is inspiring beyond words. Can't wait until next season! Until then, enjoy a few more photos from our 2011 expedition.

The journey TAT!

Tundra gives way to...

The Alaska Range!

Mt. Johnson

A misty ski tour


Room with a view

Low on the SW Ridge of 11,300

Superb climbing on 11,300

Brew stop

A colder brew stop below the summit of 11,300

Heading home: descending 11,300

Friday, August 5, 2011

GITM Direct

Mark enjoys the beautiful approach
Our laughter swirled into a cloudy breeze. "Guerrilas in the Mist, part two," I joked, sliding around Ingalls Lake on late seaon snow. Although none of us had actually checked the weather forecast (it's the Stuart Range!), we were suprised by the chilly temps and whipping fog.

Flawless stone on Pitch 1

My "part two" joke focused on a climb I had completed a few years earlier with Blake Herrington and Sol Wertkin. Our original ascent of GITM still remains one of my most memorable Stuart Range climbs. The misty weather that day erased the horizontal world, leaving us in the clouds on a spacey classic. We fought to the summit that day in a rimey storm that left us stranded for the night high on the mountain, alone with the wind, the moon, and the intense cold. To have such unique weather again on the same wall was funny and cool.
Sol finishes "the monkey traverse"
Mark Westman, Sol, and myself salivated at the base of the wall, gawking at starts to potential new routes. We almost chose a zig zagging green camelot crack in perfect rock, but caught ourselves before the rack came out. "We came to check out the headwall above 'Guerrilas'," I said. "Let's get 'er done".

Mark and I enjoy one of the range's best pitches (p4, 5.10a)

I joyfully reclimbed the intial three pitches of the original line to start us off. The first pitch splitter slices flawless stone, the second crosses a startling stretch of hangning corners, and the third makes a wild break through an improbable overhang. I handed the rack to Sol at the belay and he stretched the ropes up an unreal stretch of stemming on the purest of granite. Then it got exciting.

Sol broke left where we had once gone right. He proudly freed a new 5.10 dihedral while cleaning the crack for placements and jams. Even though the pitch had some lichen and moss, the stone hidden underneath was of the highest quality. Mark and I cleaned it more as we followed. Sol fired a rad stemming and face pitch that cut Mark loose across a slanting finger crack and into a varied 5.10 crack system that we followed to the top of the West Face Wall of Mt. Stuart.

A not so early start and a mean wind convinced us of what none would say. We kicked the sand around our feet after arriving at the West Ridge of Stuart, staring up, then down. Up then down. When one tops out the West Face Wall they must descend a trail, find the West Ridge (5.4) and climb almost its entire length to the summit. We chose to descend back to Ingalls Lake and IPA's at Sol's rig rather than tagging the top. We were happy with our climb of the wall, but undeniably know that the summit is the real finish to any climb.

Mark high on the route
In the future I see many incredible lines on this wall. I imagine most people will walk down the West Ridge to their car after an acsent as the West Face Wall is almost a seperate tower on the mountain. Taller than CBR and the steep swath of DOE, mantling the top of this amazing wall is a satisfying endeavour.

Establishing first ascents is my favorite aspect of the vertical game. The suprise of connecting features and the go for it nature of ground up climbing provides a good buzz. A true blessing is when you establish a classic for the ages. GITM Direct is surely one of those lines.

Pitch Breakdown:

Pitch 1: 5.11a splitter, one of the best on the route

Pitch 2: 5.9 hanging corners

Pitch 3: 5.10b "the monkey traverse"

Pitch 4: 5.10a stemming (one of the best pitches in the range!!!)

Pitch 5: 5.10b jamming up a beautiful dihedral

Pitch 6: 5.10d stemming leads to 5.9 face climbing

Pitch 7: 5.10b traversing finger crack

Pitch 8: 5.10b varied cracks

Pitch 9: 5.7 cracks lead to the top
*note: this route is a grade V if completed to the summit...go get it!

Thursday, August 4, 2011


While I'm working on the GITM blog I thought would post a "Chasin' Tail" route overlay. Check it out.

Photo by Max Hasson

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

GITM Direct

Myself starting the first stellar pitch of GITM Direct (5.11a)

Mark Westman, Sol Wertkin, and I just finished up a direct finish to an already incredibly classic route I established a few years ago with Sol and Blake Herrington. Our finish added 4.5 classic pitches that strike right through the heart of Mt. Stuart's West Face Wall. I plan on getting a topo up on the blog and a good story about the ascent in the next few days, but for now I thought I would post a few pics for psyche. GITM Direct is one of the best routes I've ever had the pleasure of climbing. Go get it!!!

Sol stemming bottomless corners on pitch two (5.9)

Myself on pitch 3, "The Monkey Traverse", wild 5.10

Sol, beginning the direct finish with incredible 5.10 climbing