It wouldn't be a complete Seattle experience without a couple days of rain and dreary weather, and in the spirit of soaking (no pun intended) up the local scene we've enjoyed almost a week of it. Something of a unique pattern for this time of year, we've felt rain drops everyday of our of visit. However, it's not to say that we didn't have a ball out here, and thankfully we made do and got some rock climbing done. Our friends and generous hosts Dylan and Jenna Johnson have been bending over backwards to help us find dry stone as well as rainy day activities- it worked! Thanks guys.
Apparently two young climber-types with neon bright colored rain parkas and approach shoes stand out like a traffic cone on the 358 bus to downtown, 'cause we seemed to catch the attention of every strange person in Seattle- and as we delightfully found out, there are quite a few! In full tourist mode over multiple days of downpours, we had a chance to check out some key features of the city like Pike's Market, China Town, the amazing Seattle Public Library, the endearingly classic Feathered Friends retail shop, the always welcoming Whole Foods (x2) and of course the unforgettable Cupcake Royal (x3). Jenna, who is the Marketing Manager of Cascade Design, also gave us a tour of the Cascade headquarters, just south of the city, where your trusty ThermaRest is carefully crafted.
Seattle Public Library
Mid-week we headed back for our second day at Little Si. I was feeling some pressure from the incoming storm system and given the previous days / nights of rain I was a bit skeptical of the conditions we could find up there. Immediately upon arrival, optimism was waning, in large part due to streams of water ripping off the cliff.. but to my surprise, it seemed that among the few routes potentially dry enough to climb were the warm up and 'Extended Evil' 5.14b. Psyched, I rehearsed the cryptic beta a few times in my head and fired for a redpoint. After managing the initial, heinous crimp crux, I found some wet resting underclings but knowing the route wasn't getting any dryer, I kept chugging. I encountered a few more slightly moist grips through the business on my way to the finishing 5.12 slab, but the real difficulty came at the final few moves, where smeary feet and damp slopers induced a healthy pump and a stressful period of resting-contemplating-chalking-resting-contemplating-cursing-etc. Finally, forearms bulging, I fired the final foot smear dynamic to the summit- tarzan scream and all. Stoked. Super Stoked.
We finished off the day with a lap on a super cool 13a called 'Californicator', that adds some interesting fresh climbing between two classic routes. We hiked out, still ever-impressed with the quality at Seattle's home crag, Little Si. The following day I caught up with some friends and got my mini-session on at the Nation's original indoor climbing center, Vertical World. Paige and I have been discussing the history of climbing quite a bit as we tour some of America's oldest crags. It's incredible how much impact indoor climbing has had on our sport and it's progression. It's nothing short of a fact that the existence of indoor climbing and climbing specific training centers in America are directly responsible for the new generation of burl- and it's not hard to grasp. Imagine how difficult it would be to train at an indoor intensity, but only outside (as the previous generation did).. gyms offer a consistent climate, a wide variety of climbing angles, an almost limitless potential for movement and hold types and a density of routes 10x that of your local crag. Gyms have made any dedicated individuals' potential to grow skyrocket- the amount of growth a climber can achieve in one year, indoors, is paramount. Regardless of the advantages of gyms, we've both agreed that it takes way more than plastic to meet your true potential.. but the gym certainly supplements the growth period. Anyways, rant aside, we were eager to get back out cragging a few times before heading north to Canada.
Dylan crushing at Newhalem
Saturday we hooked up with alpine legend Steve Swenson and a few of Dylan's buddies, Patrick and James for a tour of New Halem, which we'd heard would be safe from the rain. After a grueling 2 hour drive (sorry, we're spoiled by the Front Range) we arrived at this tall, roadside, granite crag high in the North Cascades. Much of the development here has been done recently, with new additions going in frequently. It turned out to be miraculously dry and surprisingly fun. It was definitely a bit shocking to sport climb on course, blocky granite after the sheer faces of Smith and Si, but we warmed up to it quickly. We climbed quite a bit, with favorites including 'Cinnamon Groove' 12c, a cool wandering route with a ton of variety, 'Vanhalem' 13b, a stout route with a successive, razor sharp crux and a burly finish, 'The Hurt Locker' 13a, a monster 40+ meter pitch that climbs mostly through jugs but somehow induces a sizable pump and '12c for a Day' 12b that consistently crimps and edges up pretty stone. It was a good day out and we're super thankful for the tour- a worthy little crag for rainy days!
'Fifth Force' is SILLY hard
Yesterday we made a journey to one of the North-West's most coveted walls, Index. Steve, Dylan and Jenna were stoked to give us the tour of this much-hyped cliff. I had stood below the lower wall last summer on my road trip with Andy Mann, but the record-setting heat wave kept us close to the ground. Unfortunately, this visit to the crag was still not ideal- much of the wall was seeping and wet. However, we did find refuge at the Country Wall and got a couple awesome climbs done before it started raining again. Index is truly incredible- some of the best quality granite I've ever climbed in such a beautiful setting. The routes tend to be bold, engaging and sandbagged- it's not for the weak hearted. I was STOKED to do a 12b there called 'Fifth Force' - and no I did not onsight. Maybe it was the conditions, or being short, or simply that it's sick hard, but this climb felt like 5.13 to me- and hard at that!
After parting ways with our good friends in SeaTown, we hit the road North earlier this morning. Now we're in lovely Squamish, B.C. enjoying the company of buddies Scott Milton and Sandra Studer over some box wine and Chocolate Eclairs with views of towering granite in the background.. wicked.