Peter and I had a day to go climbing, and due to the recent incredible weather, our thoughts strayed to rock climbing. We’d always wanted to go climbing in Darrington. Apart from a visit to Green Giant Buttress with Aidan in June, I hadn’t been to these fabled granite domes. The idea that we could climb there in December was also appealing!

We picked out Silent Running as a good route. It offered 7 pitches of bolted slab climbing. (See Matt Perkin’s excellent topo at http://www.seanet.com/~mattp/Darr/norbut.htm) We made the drive which seemed unexpectedly long to Peter, who thought Darrington was a similar distance to Granite Falls. The trail up through the woods was pleasant, and after a mile or so we reached the base of our route. I was breaking in some new rock shoes - the rubber seemed alarmingly slick and polished. Oh well, here goes!

I climbed a long meandering pitch with a few cam placements and one bolt to an incorrect anchor to the left of and above the proper anchor. Peter simul-climbed with me for a moment as I traversed to the bolt above the anchor. Some more shenanigans got me there for the belay. Peter led the next pitch, rated 5.8, and very enjoyable. The third pitch is rated 5.9+, and is really interesting, the rock being smoother and a little bit steeper. Like everything else, it was well protected.

Blueberry Hill across the valley. Michael following a nice pitch Peter rappelling from the top Michael attempting to traverse to the Kone Evening light on Blueberry Hill

Two more pitches of 5.8 led us to another 5.9+ pitch, Peter’s lead this time. It followed a corridor of rock between bushy gullies, I called it the runway. Peter climbed delicately to the belay. The final pitch went over several “overlaps,” but I definitely knew when I’d reached the 5.10b crux moves, because I fell off of them! Above some enjoyable finger jamming/layback moves I clipped a bolt and moved onto a steep friction face on a gradual rightward traverse. Pop - I was hanging 10 feet below! No big deal, try again. This time I made it to the next bolt, but fell after placing the draw, I don’t think I’d clipped it yet. Anyway, I hung onto it and aided my way past it to a small ledge. I blame my shoes of course! After this there was a long easy but unprotected section to the belay station. Whew, that was a nice sting in the tail. Peter climbed the pitch with no falls, and we admired the surroundings for a few minutes and began the rappels.

Once back on the ground, we decided to look for more climbing on the South Buttress of the rock. We didn’t have a topo for anything, so we just went over there. Peter led Cornercopia via a tricky slab variation start, then a nice long layback crack. He was really happy to reach some anchors, as he’d used all of our cams by that point. I followed, then looked wistfully up some kind of dirty looking terrain. I didn’t see anything encouraging, so we decided to traverse left to the upper portion of the first pitch of The Kone. I did this, clipped a bolt, then got scared moving to the next bolt far to the left. I was picturing myself falling before clipping it and slamming into a prominent corner I had come around on the right. After some hemming and hawing I unhappily climbed down and back to our belay ledge. The hour was getting late too. But Peter was feeling good, so he gave it a try. He had some tense moments before the second bolt, but he clipped it and continued to the anchor not far away. Peter is a really good climber! I followed it without problems, now that the bad fall danger was removed for me. At the anchor I wanted to climb another pitch, but Peter wisely reckoned that we should head down before full dark.

One double rope rappel got us to the ground. We packed up and hiked to the car, amazed at how dark the forest was already. As we zoomed away, Peter tried to reach Kim on the cell phone, as we were coming back much later than he expected. Finally we got a signal and followed the sun down from the heights. (Peter has a great write-up of this trip too; he remembered more details: http://www.alpenthyme.org/alp/threeoclockrock/threeoclockrock.htm)