September 26, 2011

Back to Climbing

We had but one nice day this weekend, so Ava and I decided climb the famous/infamous Improbable Traverse on Guye Peak.  Guye (pronounced "guy", but I like to say "goo-yay") is situated immediately adjacent to I-90 at the top of Snoqualmie Pass.  As such, I had been eyeing this route for pretty much as long as I've lived in Seattle.

Guye is notoriously chossy with the namesake traverse being of much higher quality rock than the rest of the route.  Nonetheless, the easy access and striking nature of the face make the Improbable Traverse a much sought after and frequently climbed route.

Guye Peak and the Improbable Traverse Route
For the most part, the route follows a series of zigzagging ledges.  While on the ledges, most of the route is class 3/4 with a few short steps of easy 5th class climbing.

After ascending the talus field at the bottom of the face, a short dirty gully leads to a large left leaning ledge.  We followed this ledge most of the way across before roping up and climbing two short, easy 5th class pitches up and right to Lunch Ledge, the start of the traverse that is so improbable looking.  Shortly before reaching lunch ledge, Ava dropped a climbing shoe.  Luckily it stopped, and the party behind us was able to retrieve it and bring it up to us.

The traverse is the one difficult section as it takes you from one left-leaning ledge, across a nearly vertical face, to another left-leaning ledge.  I led this part and was pleasantly surprised at the amount of pro I was able to place in the reasonably solid rock.  I set a belay about 3/4 of the way across the traverse and ended up leading it in two short pitches.  There were some really fun balancy moves in a couple places to skirt across the steep face with great exposure below.  After the traverse, a large choss-ledge scramble to the left led to more choss-ledge scrambling . . . right, left, right, left.  Near the top, we came to one final pitch of climbing.  We roped up and Ava took the lead, ascending rock that didn't suck for about 50 meters until an easy scramble to the top revealed itself.

Ava had been to the top previously via a different route, so she knew how to attack the less-than-straightforward descent.  I can see how friends of mine couldn't figure it out in the dark and ended up spending the night up there.  There are basically three summits.  We topped out on the south summit and a nice trail leads down from the north summit.  To get from the south to the north summit, you have to scramble to the middle summit, descend a short way toward the north summit, rappel from a tree into a steep gully (about 30 meters), and ascend back out of the gully directly toward the north summit.

We descended the steep but obvious trail down to the Guye-Snoqualmie saddle and then down to the Alpental parking lot before walking the roads back to where we started at the base of the talus field.  I thought this was a super fun day out despite the substandard rock quality that exists for most of the route.  There's definitely something to be said for alpine climbing next to the freeway with almost no approach.

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