Several years ago I attempted to climb Dreamer on Green Giant Buttress with my climbing buddy Will, but when Will said he was dehydrated and was feeling dizzy at the top of the blue crack pitch, we decided it would be in our best interest to descend back to our water at the base of the climb and leave it for another day. This was also before the 2004 presidential election, and Will had stated that “if Bush is re-elected, I am moving to Thailand!” Well, Bush was elected and I have not heard from him since, so Dreamer ended up falling off the radar for a while.
Lately I had been thinking about it again, and was able to convince my friend Andy that 10 pitches of clean granite was much more pertinent than anything else he needed to get done on his day off work. We planned on leaving his house in Seattle at six in the morning, which is really on the late side, and head up to Darrington for a day of spectacular slab climbing. Well, as usual, I was operating on what I call “lazy climber time” and got out of bed around the time I should have been driving. Needless to say we got going sometime around 7:15 instead. A quick coffee stop and a couple hours later, we were at the end of the road and ready to start hiking. Luckily we had driven my dune buggy, which got us to the very end of the road, reducing the hiking time by quite a bit.
Having been up to the climb before, we made it to the base of the climb in fairly short order. We weren’t sure if we were going to do the easier Safe Sex start which is 5.8, or just go for the classic 5.10b Urban Bypass variation. Last time I had done the Safe Sex start, so we decided to go for the Urban Bypass option. There was one party ahead of us; they were starting up the second pitch about the time we reached the base of the climb, so we figured they would be well ahead of us for the duration of the climb.
I was stoked to get started on the climb, so I quickly got my gear on and “accidentally” roped up without asking Andy if he wanted the lead.
“So, Andy, mind if I take the first pitch since I have the rope on?”
I started up the first pitch, which was some fun easy friction moves up a low angle dihedral mixed with some small cracks here and there. The pro was the standard rusty quarter inch bolts with nice long run-outs. The climbing was relatively easy and I was just happy to be on the rock, so I wasn’t too worried about it. We brought along my 70 meter rope and spoke about linking some pitches together. I told Andy I was going to run it out to the top of the second pitch, which he was fine with. The second pitch involved a thin traverse over to a thin finger crack that arched up to the anchors on a nice ledge.
“umm, Adam, your running short on rope….” I heard from below.
“uh, ok, how short?”
“well, umm..” *fiddles with rope* “not much”
“Feel like simul-climbing?”
“sure, I guess we’ll have too”
Andy broke down the anchor while I climbed a few more feet to take up the slack. Then we simul-climbed the last fifty or so feet to the anchors. I guess low angle slabs are a lot longer than they look from below. Linking these pitches together quickly brought us up to the belay that the party in front of us was still using, so we shared the belay and I brought Andy up the rest of the way. When I got up there, the guy belaying said “so were a little lost, it looks a lot harder than it’s supposed to be”. “Well, you are on Urban Bypass, it’s a 10b” I told him. “Oh” was his reply, then yells up to his leader “so this guy said you’re on a 10b!” Apparently they just wanted to do the regular dreamer route which isn’t any harder than 5.9. That must have been some interesting news for the guy on the sharp end halfway through the pitch! But they both got through it in great style with no falls.
We hung out at that belay for a little bit to let them get ahead on the next pitch so we wouldn’t have to deal with sharing the anchors. They were moving a bit slower than we expected but eventually Andy started up the classic Urban Bypass pitch. I was more than happy to let him take the lead on this one; but then I realized I would be following with our pack containing our second rope, three liters of water and other miscellaneous gear. Andy did a great job on the lead, he took a couple of falls at the step up over the roof, but gave it a couple of tries and finally got it, then made the sketchy traverse over to the anchors. I followed up, and fell in the same spot, but grabbed the draw before I took the swing. Oh well, 5.10b or A0, same thing right?
My lead was next on our third pitch (actual fourth). The first bit was similar to the last pitch, and I quickly got to the next anchors. We could obviously link this and the next pitch together with the 70 meter rope, so I just clipped the anchors with a draw and ran it up to the next set. This time the rope reached without any issues. I had to wait for a while on a ledge below the anchors for the party in front to clear the belay since it is a small stance. That wasn’t their fault, we were just moving quickly since we were linking pitches. They offered to let us pass, but not seeing any good place to get that done, I told them no thanks, and let them keep going. The crack just before these anchors is a fun 5.9 layback with great pro. I was loving the clean granite and aesthetic climbing, much better than the Exit 38 choss that I usually only have time for. I brought Andy up to the belay where we hung out for a while to take off our shoes off and get a bit to eat and drink.
The next pitch was Andy’s lead again going up some thin cracks to an awesome under cling and then onto the spectacular Blue Crack. This pitch is quite sustained, and a bit harder than the previous pitch, but incredibly fun climbing. Andy really sewed up this pitch, making sure I would have fun cleaning it all. He even left the entire rack of hexes hanging on a sling to keep it in place. I think he just wanted to get rid of the weight so he could enjoy the Blue Crack to the greatest extent. He just laughed when I demanded “what the hell is this!” as I was loading all the gear onto my harness, and carrying the damn pack again. Nonetheless, it was definitely one of the best pitches of climbing I have done.
My next lead looked a bit spicy with another under cling, only this time the crack looked more like finger tips instead of hands. The top of the Blue Crack was my high point last time, so this was going to be new terrain for me. I was a little nervous at first starting the lead on this section, but soon found it wasn’t anywhere near as tough as it looked. My foot slipped a few times while placing gear, but I was able to hold on and move through the climbing. I accidentally went to far left before moving up, which created a tremendous amount of rope drag, but I found the anchors and put Andy on belay. He followed this pitch nicely and when he got up to me we knew we were through the hard parts, and it would be smooth sailing to the top.
Andy took off on the 5.8 chicken heads and made quick work of the short pitch, I followed up and grabbed the draws to lead the next pitch. As we were done with the trad pitches and were just on bolts, the lead changes went quickly, and we were cruising towards the top. Before long we had topped out and sat down to enjoy the views and get some much needed food and water. The party in front of us was nowhere to be seen. At the time we didn’t know there was a walk off, so we were a bit perplexed, but figured they had found someway down.
It was getting late in the day, so our time on top was limited, and soon we started the rappelling.
Three hours and ten raps later we were back at our packs. We wasted a bit of time freeing our ropes from the flakes and chicken heads, which was maddening work some of the time. So by the time we got to the bottom it was just about dark, but thinking ahead, we had our headlamps waiting for us in the packs.
We bushwacked our way down, missing the slide alder tunnel completely, but soon made it down to the river, were we got some water, and then hoofed it back to the car. Overall, this was hands down one of my favorite climbs I have done considering the quality of climbing, minimal crowds, and great views.
Overall time car to car: 13.5 hours including wait time for the party in front of us
Gear: Two ropes (one 70m allowed us to link a couple pitches)
Several cams up to a #3 Camelot, but mostly small.
One set of nuts and half a set of hexes (smaller half)
15 quickdraws/runners (we had four double runners, but could have easily used more)