October 10-11, 1998

By 10 am Saturday Steve and I were top-roping on Duty Dome in Leavenworth. The first route was Bohemian Blowfish (5.8). It was a good warm-up, although the rock was so cold our fingers were numb at the top. I belayed Steve while my fingers tingled and slowly came back to life. We tried a few variations, one far to the left where I experienced a sudden pendulum fall, bruising my ankle. Enough of that!

Virgin Sturgeon (5.8+) off to the right had some interesting fixed pitons. Steve really enjoyed the climbing and noticed an improvement in technique.

I was eager for some mid-5th class multipitch work, so we headed down to the R & D Route on Icicle Buttress. Rated at 5.6, this climb is done in three or four pitches. I took the first lead.

I placed gear rather sparsely, but was concerned to see my rack diminish greatly in size. Suddenly, I was out of rope. I had never been on a pitch longer than 80 feet, so to have gone 160 feet shocked me! I strained to place an anchor, 2 cams in a crack, and was not very happy with it. It felt solid, but 2 pieces is not a belay anchor.

Steve came up. We had been unable to hear or see each other for a long time, and I was a little worried. He was having tons of fun however, so no problems. We moved the belay to a much better spot, tied a good unidirectional block, then Steve took the lead.

He made good progress until taking a wrong turn at 2 chimneys. The one on the right was mossy and overhanging. Downclimbing a bit got him into the left chimney, and soon he had a belay set up. The air was cold and windy, and I was glad to get moving from my shivering perch. We could see rain and dark clouds up the valley.
The view was excellent however, with snow-dusted spires across the river and up in the Enchantments. I climbed the route and cleaned the protection.

At the next belay (2 slung boulders) I started up a fun hand crack. Placing protection had to be done by feel in one case, since I couldn’t stand directly in front of the crack. I moved on up to lower angle slabs where a woman stood anchored to a tiny dead tree. She climbed up the route and told me of a belay station above. There was no way I was going to belay from the dead tree, so I continued.

I got some bomber protection in as the crack snaked up the rock, but the rope drag became intense. Soon I was hauling the rope up, fighting it’s attempts to pull me back. It was my own fault…I had gone ahead and clipped the tree, but needed a much longer sling. The rope was zig-zagging over to the tree, then back to me, adding lots of friction. Just a few more feet to a good belay!

But I never made it. I heard loud shouting from Steve although the wind made it impossible to understand what he was saying. I thought I must have run the whole rope again, so I built an anchor right there in the middle of a pitch. The anchor was good though: a large hex, a medium stopper and a small tri-cam. When Steve got up I placed a large stopper below for a directional. It looked like an anchor from John Long’s book, so that was fun!

It was getting dark and the wind was blowing very cold. After many years, Steve’s helmeted head appeared, and he was soon up to the crack I was suspended from. When he came up, I got a directional nut in below me, and he continued up. The end of the climb was only 12 feet up on easy ground. While cleaning the anchor, one of the stoppers fell into the crack and I was about to give up on retrieving it. A really nice brother/sister team had been climbing right behind us, and helped with the stopper. We all finished the climb and rappelled into the growing darkness. After some scrambling down a steep, sandy trail in the dark, we decided to all go for pizza together.

We had an excellent meal in Cashmere, then stayed at our new friends place for the night. We played guitar and mandolin, and talked about all kinds of stuff. Leaving late the next morning, Steve and I felt incredibly lucky to have met these awesome people.

I think all the hospitality ruined me for climbing that day, though! All I could think of was going home to Kris, and resting in our nice bed and sitting by the fire. I was just full of complaints. We tried two routes on the Pillar de Cowboy Boot, and I only got up one of them by hurling profanities at the rock and generally being a bad sport. Steve pioneered a crack on the other side of the boot with a strenuous layback all the way up. We fell up and down this feature all afternoon, then did some bouldering/scrambling on the nearby rocks.

We also climbed on Orchard Rock at Peshastin for a while. I wasn’t really “there” but I know Steve liked it. He’ll have to provide a mini-report. Basically, I had climbed every day for the last 5 days and was actually tired of it. Now, of course, I’m ready for more…

A funny sight was a guy “cleaning” some boulders for new route development. He had a broom, and was sweeping dust off the rock fastidiously. He also sent rocks crashing down through the trees now and then. This was near Trundle Dome, where we top-roped April Mayhem (5.9). Difficult hand jams repelled us from an amazing feature - the “Piller de Cowboy Boot,” that looked just like the name.

Cragging School II had ended quietly, but we had still made big strides. We also had two new friends to show for it.