We had a bite to eat then quickly roped up. The standard start did not look very interesting to me, so I headed up the Opus 5.10A variation. This was a really nice thin balancy slab pitch using very small features in the rock. The chains arrived all too soon, so I linked up the next pitch. This pitch was even better, fun routefinding moving accross the arete mixed in with a steep traverse and some balancy moves. I brought Bruce up and he commented how much he liked it so far.
The view out into the Stuart Range was beautiful from our perch.
Bruce lead up the next section combining pitches 3 and 4 as the buttress approached the steeper section. The first pitch was lower angle 4th class and low 5th class slabs on clean solid granite.
The 4th pitch was steeper and thinner slab with nice climbing in the 5.6 to 5.8 range.
Bruce belayed me up as I ran up the easy third pitch then enjoyed the fourth pitch slabs.
I glanced up at the steep part of the buttress looming overhead. It was my lead and I got both 5.10B crux sections in one long 185 foot pitch. The first part was steep thin slab sustained around 5.9 with 2 or 3 10B sections. I made quick work of this and moved on to the second section. More steep thin slab increasing to near vertical climbing. A couple moves of 5.10A brought me to a blank section. I tried several different techniques backing off each time. I worked a stem with my left leg then pulled on the small edges but fell about 5 feet unto the bolt. I tried again using small edges gradually moving me feet up, and pulled the move. A couple more 5.10A moves and I brought Bruce up. Bruce took quite a bit longer of this section (as did I). The part I had difficulty with, he got cleanly on his first try.
Bruce finished off the route by breezing up the easy last pitch.
The summit was nice and the views into the Stuart Range beautiful. We EDKed the ropes and started our rappel.
The wind and slabs made throwing the rope straight down a futile effort, but the raps went quickly. I was happy to see that the third rappel just barely reached the ground.
My original plan was to do a rock climb in Leavenworth on Sunday. Dan and I talked it over, but after hearing about good ice conditions on Cutthroat, we decided to try the North Face of Graybeard instead. I dropped off Bruce in Bellevue then picked up Dan in Issaquah. We began the long drive up to the Early Winters Campground just east of Washington Pass.
We awoke at 5:00 Sunday morning and started from Easy Pass shortly after 6:00. We met up with our friends Matt and Kurt who got stymied on the approach to the East Couloir on Cutthroat. We all checked out Graybeard from the road and marveled at it's beauty. The upper half looked really hard. I was starting to feel the adrenaline buzz at this point, a buzz I have rarely encountered rock climbing, but get all the time on alpine ice climbs.
We made it to the first clearing and looked up in awe at Graybeard. Such a beautiful mountain!
After another 30 minutes of nice firm snow we were on the snowslopes at the base of the face. I kept looking up at it and getting really pysched. Very impressive. My adrenaline levels were rising. This is the kind of climbing I was made for, my strong legs and beefy frame making rockclimbing more difficult for me.
We stopped for a drink and put on gear. I looked up at the face again, wondering how it would go. I knew this would be far harder than any climb I had ever attempted.
We approached the base of the sweet looking waterfall. It was about 125 feet high averaging about 75 degrees with some steeper bulges, solid WI3.
I racked up and lead the waterfall placing three screws in the thick bomber ice. Above that it relented to 45 degree alpine ice, so I ran it out until at the belay at the base on the snowfield. I brought Dan up on a picket buried in hard neve.
We unroped and started up the long snowfield on solid 35 degree neve which steepened to 55 degree snow near the base of the mixed band. The view out to the east towards Mount Hardy was beautiful.
There was supposed to be a key ice runnel pitch left of center to get through this band. We found nothing but sugar snow and featureless slab, impossible to get through. We noticed a small couloir on the far west side of the band that looked promising though. We roped up and Dan lead up some 55 to 60 degree ice and snow to the base of a rock band.
Dan tried to traverse accross but found wicked hard conditions on featureless rock. He came down then I tried.
It was too hard to the left and up, so I went right up a 70 degree snow and alpine ice couloir to a belay under a big rock band. From here, it was another impossible traverse or a 5.10 squeeze chimney that was wet and had no pro. We bailed from here doing raps off of pins back to the snowfield. We turned face in and 2 tool downclimbed the steep snow back into the center part of the snowfield.
We avoided a rappel at the base by contouring over to the east and 2 tool downclimbed some 60 degree snow and ice back into the basin. The hike out was smooth and uneventful.
We didn't summit, but I had a great time anyways. The weather was perfect and the climbing wonderful. I get the sense that this type of climbing is what I was meant to do. It seams completely natural. I have a feeling that I will be attempting many more routes like this.