Thursday, November 21, 2013

Mainsail: A New Route in the Icicle

If my writing seems like a bunch of senseless dribble, scroll down for a video link of Mainsail!!

Fall in Leavenworth is a busy time of year. In my line of work, it's one long day after the next as we process tens of thousands of pounds of grapes each week and then nurture the young wines as they begin their life journey. Precious time not spent in the cellar ticks by in a frantic rush to get the ski kit together, plan the next winter in Chalten, and climb in the beautiful crisp weather that makes fall in central Washington so pleasant.

The past few years I have been struggling with my rock game. A weird mass of scar tissue in my right hand causes tightness and as a result, reoccurring finger injuries. Finally healthy enough to start progressing towards harder routes, I joined Blake Herrington at Trout Creek in late September. Blake is an absolute animal and I can barely keep up with him at the crag. He ran my out of shape ass ragged on that first weekend and with each pumping pitch and torqueing finger lock that we did, I felt the weakness leaving my body. At that point, inspired to the max, I chose to do whatever it took to regain some of my fitness and confidence on the stone.

Filling my free time with trips to Trout Creek, Smith Rocks, and Index instead of only mountain climbs (there were some of those too!), I felt some of my strength return. In the back of my mind, I decided to continue building my fitness with the goal of finishing an old project I had bolted down the Icicle. It was a beautiful arĂȘte with an amazing position, a cool series of movements, and an inspiring backdrop. I spent the month of October getting on the rock as much as possible knowing I would need the pre-winter conditions of November to tick the proj.

When the good conditions rolled around, Jessica Campbell gave me a top rope catch on the arĂȘte. I hadn't been on it for two years, but was quickly able to remember the movements, although I wasn't able to link many of the moves. A few more bouldering sessions and I returned. Temps were 10 degrees colder and I made my first lead attempt of the route, falling once and linking moves I hadn't been able to before.

At this point I stopped buying beer (well, as much beer), did a few more sit ups each night, climbed on some plastic for raw power, and returned with my longtime friend, Max Hasson, to try and capture the ascent on film. I was not at all nervous about climbing in front of the camera. What I was nervous about was the fact that soon deep snows would overtake the route and my life. At this point in the season it was hard not to only think about skiing!!

That day I was able to complete Mainsail, my given name to the route. As often occurs on a line you've put a lot of effort into, it suddenly felt quite easy, and I wondered why it took so much time and effort to get it done. All these years I thought it was 5.13 for sure, but I couldn't help but peg it at 5.12d that day. Big numbers are hard to come by on the cliffs of the Icicle. The routes are just too slabby and even insanely hard routes have sandbagged ratings(Never Never Crack, Gutbuster, Rainshadow, etc...). So to be safe, 5.12d it is. I would love to see some of the local folks give it a go and to give me an idea of it's difficulty. The resulting film shows every move of the sequence, so watch it twice and flash the hell out of it!

Check it:

I want to thank Max Hasson for capturing the moment. Not only is a Max an incredible climber (5.12+ flashes, 5.13 redpoints, new routes from Alaska to Patagonia), he is an artist with a unique eye on the world of climbing. Check out for more inspiring trip reports, videos, and photography.