Finally practicing rock
Gimpilator took me to Mt. Erie for some rock climbing practice on this ridiculously warm October day. The last time I did a technical climb was the Tooth in June so I thought I could use it and boy what an outing! Of course we usually expect more than what we can muster however I was very satisfied with what we accomplished. I'm grateful to get out and get this mentor experience from such a competent partner and in such a scenic place. Thanks for putting this together! The day started with a beautiful sunrise while I was walking the dog.
Sunrise before Erie
Cascades from Erie
Gimpilator had sent an email the previous night warning me not to still be cooking breakfast when he arrived (an offense that I am very often guilty of). Well of course I made my hash, bacon and pancakes quickly but then came the matter of lunch which had to be burritos due to a lack of other nutritious ingredients. Thus I still caused problems in the name of food. Well worth the growing thorn in our friendship. The drive to Fidalgo Island went well but upon arriving at the summit of Erie I was a little worried that the wind could make for a bad day. Our bail out never became necessary as it became evident throughout the morning the winds were warm and non-intrusive to our climbs. There were a few other groups on the walls today so it almost felt social. Almost. For me this would mark the first time on a non-alpine route with plenty of possible routes to choose from. We had so many choices that picking our first climb took a little while so I had to snap some pics.
South from Erie
So many options!
Eventually we decided on Madrone Wall which has several easier climbs that I could do and seemed like a good warm up. We started off on the very easy "Cocoa Crack" (5.2) which had great holds but an awkward start (maybe I just need to do this more often). It was a nice "rappel" (we lowered each other to keep the anchor) and started out with a great view of the Salish Sea. Every once-in-a-while the wind would pick up and send a cloud of dirt into our eyes which did take a little away from the moment. Another annoyance was that because of the unseasonal heat, wasps were gathering around my head while I belayed gimpilator. Lucky for us both nothing happened but since this was my first climb in a while he had me use a grigri initially.
Pro dont Grow on Trees
Since our first climb was juxtaposed parallel with "Total Control" (5.9) we thought we'd leave the rope anchored and try to top rope a harder route. Of course it was probably not the best practice but I was curious about the feel of 5.9 rock. Watching gimpilator struggle while I belayed did not instill much confidence for when it was my turn. I was confident I was going to fall. But once I got started, it was just slow progress. Every step I would announce, "Okay I'm probably going to fall now." and it was like that all the way to the top. There were moments where I felt like I shouldn't be able to hang on to the rock and yet somehow I stayed. I'd like to think that perhaps climbing in actual rock shoes (borrowed from my brother Josh Lewis) helped immensely: my previous forays have all been in boots. It was really something else with the half-finger holds and negligible toe nubs. I wasn't scared since I knew gimpilator had the rope taught and I wasn't going to fall any distance but I was laughing at myself the whole way for the foolishness of the attempt. Still, we both agree it was a cool achievement to start the day with.
Gimpilator on rappel
San Juan Islands from Erie
Getting back on track with what's reasonable, we moved on to "Rumble Crack" (5.5) which provided very comfortable crack climbing and bomber foot placements. Following was fun pulling out pro on occasion. I almost flung myself off the wall pulling one particular tiny nut out. Higher up the route darted right then switched left again. It traversed a sketchy class 2 ramp covered in dirt and pocked with a couple bushes that made travel a nuisance. I was surprised at the end of the ramp to see a giant quick-draw from gimpilator's rack spanned between a tree and the next piece of pro. From there it finished steep and we decided to leave the anchor here to top rope some of the other routes.
I wanted to try "Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others" (5.7+) but after watching gimpilator's lead it looked too hard to follow. After belaying him and looking at the first step I had to sit and take a break. I could not figure out how to get past the first step and the crack looked too small to fit human hands into. We figured we'd shoot the breeze a while and enjoy the scenery. It is an immense view of the sound up there and I was again wishing my camera could capture it. Someday I'll learn.
Not to be too deterred, He thought we'd try a route parallel and similar in rating, "Shady Character" (5.7R) since we were still top roped above. Gimpilator gave me first dibs this time and I struggled after the first half. Hand holds were okay but the crack was annoying and foot holds were not obvious to me. It was here that I slipped a few times and made painfully slow progress. My burning muscles had my calves shaking whenever I took too long to find a good foot placement and the funny movements reminded gimpilator of what he called, "Dog's Leg". I had to push real hard at one point and amused myself by announcing an exaggerated muscle tremor that I called, "the Elvis Shake" then proceeded to do a poor impersonation. After a while I realized the only way for me to proceed was a weak yet painful foot jam and lie-back to a friction slope that spat me out onto the ramp and through the dreaded bush. I was relieved to get that one over with, feeling it was much more difficult than the 5.9 from earlier. At the bottom I watched gimpilator fly up three times faster not without some jealousy. My forearms were beginning to cramp and I knew I might have to call it a day. Should I trash myself, knowing it might be a while before this opportunity reappears?
The Shady Character
Finding one last climb for the day
The Crack Wall
But there was this one sport route on the way out called Double Trouble (5.5). Four easy bolts and he offered me to do my first lead. My body was saying no, but the distance between each placement was so short that I felt the risk was low and the need to learn was high. At the wall where the route began there were these guys sending up other stuff adjacent. They didn't know the names but recommended the routes. That kind of convinced me to give it one last shot. A little slime oozing out of the crack from recent rain offered some challenge as my burning arms tried to figure out how to clip quick-draws without getting them twisted. I may have taken a good while on this short route but by golly, I made it and just in time for a phone call from my brother Josh to boast of the deed. Well, gimpilator had to do it for me since I was thoroughly spent and he was the recipient of the call. Some congratulations later and it was his turn. Again he flies quickly up and down but by now it is sunset. We took the scenic route back up some minor class 2/3 ledges and the burritos were still delicious upon returning to the car.
West from Erie
Scenic way back
On The Madrone Wall:
Cocoa Crack 5.2
Total Control 5.9
Rubble Crack 5.5
Some girls Are Bigger Than Others 5.7+
Shady Character 5.7R
On The Crack Wall:
Double Trouble 5.5