October 26, 2009

Course #3 - Smith Rock

I just returned from instructing my third NOLS course, which happened to be a 2.5-week climbing camp at Smith Rock State Park in Oregon! Better yet, I got to work with Dane! Along with a third instructor, Todd, we had a great time tromping around the area where we both learned to climb but hadn't been back to in several years (about 6 for me). The 10 students we had were at various experience levels prior to the course, and it was fun to watch all of them improve as the course progressed.

Annie climbing Lion's Jaw

Jesse on the final pitch of Round River Direct

Kris on a 5.9 near Asterisk Pass

The last time I was at Smith, I had not yet begun trad climbing. Now that I do, the place seems even bigger than it did before, with way more routes than I can shake a stick at. I got to climb many of the routes I remembered from the past as well as several new ones. I can't wait to go back for a personal trip and climb a bunch of new routes without having to worry about catering to students! And yes, I still love my new job/lifestyle.

October 04, 2009

Kone Route - Three O'Clock Rock - Darrington

I'd heard about a climbing area in Washington called Exit 38 and always wondered where it was (i.e., which freeway it was off of, assuming it was very near an "Exit 38"). Turns out it's about 9 miles off of Highway 530, which doesn't even have exits. However, the trailhead to our climb was nearly exactly 38 miles from I-5, so that's my guess as to why it is named so.
At any rate, Ava and I selected a route out of the guidebook and went today to climb a 5-pitch 5.9 named the Kone Route on Three O'Clock Rock. I found the story of how this route was named quite interesting, so I will paraphrase it here. At the time this route was first put up, a young climber was planning a solo attempt of a new route on the notoriously dangerous Willis Wall on Mt. Rainier. His friends suggested he wear a Kone shaped helmet reminiscent of the then popular SNL Kone Heads to protect against the wall's ever-present rock fall, deflecting the rocks that were sure to strike him from above. Convinced the young climber would meet his demise on Mt. Rainier's Willis Wall later that year, his friends named this new route after him as sort of a pre-memorial. Said young climber never attempted the aforementioned Willis Wall climb.

I digress. We had a spectacular climb on wonderful rock, most of which was friction climbing with the occasional small jug. We were frequently forced to pretend we were Spiderman and simply stick to the rock as holds became nonexistent.

Ava on the second pitch

Spiderwoman styling the crux traverse move on the 4th pitch

The crux of the climb came on the descent. Following the guidebook recommendation and the only real option, we rappelled the route. The difficulty lie in the fact that the rappel stations were spaced about 32 meters apart. Our climbing rope, typical in length, was 60 meters long. When doubled over for rappelling, one can abseil up to 30 meters. Some creative shenanigans allowed us to safely get back to solid ground. I recommend using a 70-meter rope on this climb.