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|Mailed to WacList||07/09/2007|
Doug and I made it out to climb the West Buttress of Exfoliation Dome in Darrington Sunday. This was Doug’s second visit to Exfoliation dome this weekend after his first attempt was aborted due to his partner’s gastrointestinal distress (sorry Aaron).|
After driving through the bustling metropolis of Darrington we took gravel roads for many miles (by my odometer) where my new truck finally paid off allowing us to drive about a half mile further down the road than mere Subaru.
From there we spent 25 feet on level ground before we hopped on the granite. The first 1500 feet of this climb is the “Granite Sidewalk” which is just amazing smooth class 2-3 granite slab. We proceeded up this slowly adjusting to burning calves and learning to avoid moss, lichen, and rivulets of water like the black plague. Deliberate and careful steps allowed us to avoid donating any skin to the rock this early in the game.
When we reached the start of the climb a party of 4 graciously allowed us to go first and Doug started up the first pitch (5.5). We swung leads for the second pitch (5.7) which involved some slabby-ness and a little less pro than I’d like. Doug took the crux pitch (5.9) which followed a rightward sloping corner past a huge scar from where a large flake elected to remove itself from the dome proper. The pitch looked quite challenging from below and Doug was definitely thankful for the 2 bolts which protected the crux although he mentioned wished the second one was before the move and not afterward.
Doug set a gear belay and reset to make the 5.8 move over the roof. I was glad Doug took the pitch over the roof, but the next pitch was just as challenging in a different way. After a bit of slab climbing the climb came to a nasty off width which accepted my right leg to above the knee. I managed to gracefully (yeah right) gaston the edges of the crack and use the slab for feet. I worked my way up to a crack that’d accept some gear and set a belay to let Doug finish the pitch. At the time I thought I had unnecessarily shortened the pitch, but it would have been tricky to make the full 60m pitch given rope drag and gear.
I spent plenty of time sitting at my hanging belay with both of my feet numb thinking about how I had no one to blame except myself for putting the belay there. Doug got up top of a large flake and felt it necessary to inform me that it was pretty sketchy and filled with large loose boulders behind it. I managed to respond with “okay, keep going!” rather than telling Doug more emphatically that I definitely didn’t need to hear that info.
I lead a 5.5 pitch after that and Doug took the lead for the “last” pitch (5.6). Crushing rope drag forced Doug to traverse right to a tree and set a belay. I finished up our 9th pitch on easy but dirty slab by traversing back left in search of pro and finding a little. More than once I actively scrubbed dirt off portions where I planned on putting my feet. A bushwack at the end of the pitch led to trees suitable for a belay.
We topped out at the Blueberry Ledge and given the late hour elected to head down after a break and some food rather than take the 3 dirty, run-out pitches to the top proper. 6 full length raps took us back to the start where we watched the party of 4 behind us get their rope stuck and (thankfully!) unstuck on the first rappel. The quads got a solid workout on the way down and we made excellent time back to the car.
Altogether it was just shy of 12 hours car to car, and ALL of it on granite! This was a challenging and interesting climb that’s well worth doing. The approach alone is so unique its worth checking out. Trip pics are here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/andrewjohnsullivan/sets/72157600734494698/
Two ropes are essential (we drug one behind us)
Nuts and Tricams
Larger TCUs (came in handy protecting some of the slabby stuff)
Hexes which served only to get tangled with the rest of our gear