NorthWet, I mean NorthWest - Fall 2010

Jeff Russell is always telling me about how great the rock is out in Washington state. The huge drive to Seattle has always held me back, but when he agreed to include a visit to Squamish during the visit - I had to go.
Although the fall weather can be spotty in the NorthWest, I rolled the dice, found a sweet deal on a flight and committed. It's been a little while since my last fall roadtrip and Kim was super-supportive.

Once I got into town, we checked the weather and thought that Leavenworth was our best bet for Thursday.

Leavenworth was sprinkling the entire day. Fortunately, there were periods where it would let up and we could also find enough to climb sheltered by the tall trees.

The layout for Leavenworth reminded me a lot of Joe's Valley, Utah, where many boulders were off a canyon road, most with a non-existent approach. We drove from area to area, hitting some high points, and climbing where it was dry.

First Jeff took me to a warm-up area and then to a sweet problem called Slingblade. I'd promised myself no more than 3 tries on a problem, so that I wouldn't burn out skin or energy too quickly on this trip - there was a lot to see. But I broke that promise right away. Slingblade took a few tries, but was awesome, and a great introduction to the quality of problems on the Leavenworth granite.

Then Jeff took me to one of the highlights of the trip: Sleeping Lady. This climb, where he got the FA a few years ago, overhangs right above the Icicle Creek with big holds and big moves. We both ran a few laps on it - Excellent!
I'd watched a problem called "Was" the night before at Jeff's house and really wanted to try it. Sadly, I had horrible tree coverage and when I tried it, I slipped off the arete, slamming my left heel into the ground on my fall. Next!

The Sword Area. I did some more warm-ups and a problem called Off The Couch, with some great crimps. I had felt a little twinge in my arm on that problem, so I was worried that I did the usual, and climbed too much too fast and would be done for the rest of the day.

Jeff was psyched to try a line called Prism, which had caught my eye on the way in. Super-cool slopers going up an arete, whose top was just dry enough to work. After watching Jeff immediately break his barriers and climb to a high point, I saw that there was a micro-edge on each of the large slopers that could be used. Stealing Jeff's beta, I was able to start throwing at the lip for the final big move - excited about maybe getting this beautiful line. I hit my right heel pretty hard on a fall onto a rock, barely missing the pad - which I'm still feeling almost a week later. After consistent progress (which counts if I feel that I'm touching the lip hold better each time), I had enough strength to send it! One of the proudest sends of the trip for me.

The rain had started up again and we ran around, looking at a few more areas. We crossed the creek since the water was pretty low and did a little exploring on the other side for a while, but without any luck in finding new boulders. The aqueduct was sweet though.

As we were thinking of heading home, we thought it looked a little drier up on the hill, where the Pasture and other areas were. Hopeful, we drove above town and looked at few other sets of boulders. Just as we were getting ready to climb, the clouds opened up again and we had to wait them out. I snapped this great shot of Jeff in between showers - I loved the setting for these boulders:
All in all, it was a great day, making the very most of the weather we were given.
DISCLAIMER: I have been using performance enhancing drugs on this trip. Jeff hooked me up with a substance that isn't available in the US, but I think helped me survive the onslaught of granite on my hands. I applied Antihydral to my fingertips at night and washed it off after 30 minutes or so - I don't know if it's mental, but I felt like my skin held up a LOT longer than usual... It's supposed to be good for stopping sweat, but Jeff praised it for helping his calluses. I might need to look into making a purchase...

Squamish weather had finally settled on "crappy" (80-100% chance of rain) but I had a passport and we were going to go up there and check it out at the very least. If it had a chance of drying out, we'd camp and climb Saturday too.

On the way, Jeff got pulled over and received a nice $175 speeding ticket. It reminded me of a conversation Ryan Sayers and I had one time on a roadtrip. He wanted to establish rules about who pays for speeding tickets on a roadtrip - and argued that if we both wanted to get to an area fast, then the responsibility of the ticket is on both climbers, not just the one who happened to be driving at the time. We debated back and forth, but the onus still ended up on the driver (it didn't help Ryan's case that he had just gotten pulled over in Utah a few minutes earlier...).

For some reason, we were flagged at the border and had to park and go into the office. We only had to wait a few minutes before they let us go. On the way out to the car, I checked and my passport wasn't stamped for Canada. I was kind of bummed since this the first time I'd been out of the country (except for an uplifting visit to Juarez with Ryan on a Hueco trip) and wanted some proof! Jeff convinced me to go back in and ask for it, completely against my nature, but I agreed. I ran back in, to the same two guys who had taken our paperwork originally, and said "I don't want to be the goober, but do you guys still do stamps on passports?" Pretty sure there was an eye-roll and one said "Get the goober stamp!" He even had to update the date on the rubber stamp for me, who knows how long it's been since they've had someone ask... I should have pressed my luck and asked if they could say something and end it with "eh?" for me...
Here's my goober stamp:
If it was wet, to make the trip worthwhile (4+ hour drive), we were going to do a session at the new Vancouver Temple, just dedicated in May 2010. Jeff got 5 Canuck points for seeing it first. We pulled into a pretty empty parking lot and changed into our church clothes, psyched about seeing the new temple. As we approached the entrance, we noted a flooring truck and joked for a second about it being closed for maintenance... No way... Yes way... They were closed. 4 months open and they were closed for maintenance... C for effort. I snapped some shots and we headed towards Squamish.
As we traveled I looked for Canadian "things." We wouldn't get a chance to talk to too many people, so I couldn't get my "eh?" but we saw red fire hydrants and acres of greenhouses.
We saw lots of metric signs - flustering Jeff even more post-ticket to not speed across the border. We definitely needed Ryan there to do some mental conversions for us. He was the poster-boy for metric, usually annoying us with quoting the temperature in Celsius.

I had to get some Canadian currency for the kids and was impressed by a grocery store in Vancouver, which took US dollars, converted it with an exchange rate (not sure how up-to-date it was) and gave change in Canadian dollars. Check it:

Of course, the weather actually got worse the closer we got to Squamish. This is what the Chief looked like as Jeff got 5 more Canuck points for seeing it first...
Wet, but willing to explore, we ran around the base of the Chief's main wall seeing AMAZING blocks - all soaking wet. The forest is unreal. So beautiful. Moss covered rocks, trees, green everywhere.I was psyched on this huge slug I found, but these NorthWesterners, like is Jeff now, see them all the time... He wasn't impressed by the big blackberry patch I found at Gold Bar either...

Note how many cars are in the parking lot at this WORLD CLASS CLIMBING AREA... One. That's right, we're special.

Dreamcatcher looked much more compressed than the movie, but still gorgeous and inspiring.

Aside from the weather, I did find one downside to Squamish... Noise. Infringing on this amazing setting are the sounds of the highway, which is right behind you - as well as a lumberyard on the bay. Bummer.

After checking out Shannon Falls and immediately dismissing the idea of hiking up to the top of the Chief, we had two options: Stay there, study probability (Jeff brought his Actuary study materials) and camp, hoping for a miracle tomorrow... or drive all the way back and find sun for the last day of climbing. Back to the US - Canada had spit us out, wet and disappointed, but psyched to come back someday.
I woke up to the SUN shining through the windows at Jeff's place! YES! Although there was plenty still to show me at Leavenworth, Gold Bar was a new area and closer. So excited to climb today!
Gold Bar starts with a solid hike up switchbacks that used to be 4-wheeler trails. We did a bunch of exploring at the Five Star Boulder, a warmup area, Clearcut and Forest areas. It was actually too hot to climb out in the Clearcut area (I got smacked around on a V4 called Water) but the forest was PERFECT! It reminded me a lot of what we saw in Squamish - just less concentrated. Here's a shot of the forest from the Clearcut zone:

I was psyched to flash Doja, a climb whose first move felt like I was climbing "down" before some beautiful moves on slopers to a huge jug. We then went and worked Lighten Up for a while - amazing line. Jeff will bag it the next time he's there.

On our way out, we hit the Five Star Boulder and I got my dose of highball problems with Five Star Arete and the adrenaline-pounding Kombucha. Topping out those problems on little patches of clean rock among a green moss covered face was so much fun. I wish I had video of these last two sends to relive that feeling...

I realized how having a guide show me around was HUGE for making this trip a success. If I just had the guidebook, it could have been rough. Without Jeff's experience and generosity with beta, I know I wouldn't have been able to see such classic lines or climb them as quickly. Jeff rules.

I also noticed how much Jeff climbs like Ryan. Jeff's strong, thick strong and thuggy when he climbs. That's Ryan-style and it's sweet.

Great Trip. Thanks Jeff and Cherish. Thanks Kim, Brandon, Zoey, Ryan and Zac.