"This was an adventure I will not soon forget, at times I felt as though I was literally on the edge"
Location: Leavenworth near Icicle Creek
Who Came: Mark, Stewart, and I came on this trip
Date: April 30-May 1 (Friday Night – Late Saturday)
Mark has been wanted to get out rock climbing for the longest time. For what seemed like half a year he had been trying to get me to go on a rock climbing trip, which I had been wanting to as well but something would always come up. Most of the time it was rain or wet rock that would cancel our trip ideas, or lack of transportation. Fortunately odds were on our side when Stewart (A member of the Northwest Teenage Climbing Club) was willing to be a driver, and the weekend weather forecast seemed good.
Once we got it all established 100% on Friday which I got home from school and found out I had to start packing asap (as soon as possible). I had a hard time finding all my carribeaners because my mom recently cleaned out my closet and such (no it was not that much of a mess, but she put in extra stuff making things more difficult). "Errrrrrrrrr" I said to myself because I knew better that when ever she cleans, good luck finding it. Fortunately as I looked more I found out the carribeaner deal was not my mom’s fault, Michael had it with his harness because I let him borrow some for Eldorado Peak and such. Unfortunately he was gone and it was hidden so I had to look through his closet trying to find it. No luck. I was starting to worry, fortunatlely I still had 3-4 regular and 2 locking which would be an alright amount and Mark could spare me more. Then I realized if we were going to Leavenworth I should have my $100 check from the LLL Foundation (Live Laugh Love, which basically helps young people in the out doors with gear and classes and I won the award). I could not find it, I was outraged by this point because now I had two things missing. After doing much searching which probably lasted more than an hour, I find the check! I was so happy during this moment!
I call Mark to find out more details, "What! Your not on your way yet?" Mark exclaimed and seemed upset because I was supposed to be over at his house within 20 or so minutes which would be impossible because biking 7 miles up and down some hills I could not make it in time. So we decided on having me go to a store a mile away from my house to have Stewart pick me up to save him the trouble of going to my mouse as well. I grabbed the rest of my gear in a snappy hurry and dash out the door. It was raining out, and my shins were already hurting from running with the very heavy pack. I had to start walking, but had to make it fast because I had to make it in time. Getting to the store I waited for a while in the rain and practiced some knots while sitting.
A lot of time goes by and the worry came over me, "what if he does not know where this store is?" the store it self is slightly hidden. I eventually decide to go in the store and ask for a phone which they do not have one, but fortunately a nice lady says "oh you can use mine". I call Mark and sure enough as I had feared, Stewart could not find the store, so Mark got picked up which was 7 or so miles from me, and Stewart had to drive back south for me which he ended up going an extra 10 or so miles out of his way vs if he had driven to my house to pick me up it would have been 2 or less. But atleast the meeting up worked out and we were now heading over to Leavenworth.
In Leavenworth we head over to Kurt’s house for Mark to pay him some money he owed him. Fortunately now I was able to see if he was selling the ice tools, and sure enough to my amazement, he sold the whole set of Aztars Ice tools for $100! Secretly I wanted to shout for joy I was so excited, the ice tools was like taking another step into mountaineering, plus I could one of them for extra support on the Mount Hood trip. Kurt also told us some of his crazy stories about climb the South Face of Acancagua, and the other time his buddy swung his ice tool and the whole wall of ice shatter above them, making them have to dry tool the rest of the way up the route. After this we headed on over a few miles down Icicle Creek Road towards 8 mile camp ground. When we got there it was dark outside and we set up camp as well as made a fire. Stuart gave us some cookies to snack on, and boiled some tea for him, which he gave me some too. So far everything seemed to be going nice and smooth, until the next morning.
"Sixteen Dollars!" I wake up to a ranger waking us up at 6:40 a.m. in the morning. "Uggggggg" I thought to myself as I forced my way out side to grab $15 of my dollars. I did not have the last dollar, so we had to do some digging around, and he had his hands on his hips with a almost grumpy look. His voice was quite grumpy, but it was some how humorous the way he did it, because it was a classic ranger who collects and goes about his driving in his truck. Unfortunately it was the morning where I slept best which made it most annoying, and I could not go back to sleep after this, plus I was finally dreaming (I hardly ever do). I guess thats what happeneds when you get to camp late. At around 6:50 a.m. we have breakfast and Stewart goes into town, Mark and I go up a rock to practice some techniques for rock climbing. Once Stewart was back we were finally able to get ready to go rock climbing.
The first climb was down the road, which was a 5.8-5.9? crack, at this time I did not know much about hand jams, we decided it would be best to top rope this one. As I looked over to the side I could see the landscape around me was quite nice and scenic, it was so nice to be away from city life, or should I say school life. Once it was my turn to get climbing, I was unable to complete the climb because my arm strength was not good enough, I gave it another whirl, but fell and hurt my shin as I slammed against the rock. Then we decided to go to the next climb which was a short distance drive. Unlike the last climb, this one was a slab climb which now would only be safe if top roped which we set up. The first slab was tough for me, I found out real quick in rock climbing how desperate it can be, I would ask Mark below me "where is the nearest hand hold?" and he would yell back "right below your left hand!", then I would see a small spot that had texture just enough to be able to barely grip. "Oh boy, this is getting a little edgy" I thought to myself. After spending some time figuring out my hand holds I was finally able to go up the rest of the slab. I was excited to get done with the first climb of the day. After this we turned to a slab 5.9 which I thought I would be incapbible of doing, Mark said I should give it a try which I did. As I went up this rock was even more desperate for getting up. The weather from above seemed like it was taking a turn, it started to rain a little which worried me, not only about finishing the slab, but I also did not want it to ruin our trip! When I got to the crux I thought it would be impossible for me to get up it, but again I managed, put my best effort and climbed over it. Once past this part I was able to finish the route, this was my first 5.9 I’ve ever done, although the fact that it was slab might have made it easier.
Stewart Belaying Mark
The Sun through the Trees
Unjamming the Rope
Mark climbing the Crack
As we look for another climb we see a guy who appeared to possibly be Marc Leclerc. (For those who do not know who Marc is, he is the guy who created the facebook page on the teenage climbing group which helped associate some teenagers get together and go climbing, he is also a friend of Mark, and is an expert rock climber who is around our age). When we came to the parking lot it was not him, but his friend (or photographer) and his girl friend, plus the fact that the license plate said Canada on it made it easier for us to find. Marc’s friend offered us to join camp grounds so that way we would not have to pay more money the next day (nor wake up to "16 Dollars!") and we would have good company. At camp Mark and I grabbed a crash pad and went bouldering on a big rock. It took Mark many tries to get up it, but eventually he succeeded. I only got up one of the routes, the others were too difficult, one of them I almost got to the top, but slipped and my arms became to weak, the rock itself was probably only 15 or so feet, but it was a tough one. After practicing rock climbing moves we headed back to camp where we met Marc and they cooked some mac and cheese which was wonderful and appreciated. It was fun listening to Marc’s girl friend "Hooray! Marc’s Alive! I’m soo happy!", Marc soloed 5.9 a few pitches which his girl friend worried for him, I don’t blame her.
Banged up Shin
After this we headed over to our next pitch which I did not have my gear together and had to hurry to catch up which I did atfirst bear foot, but Mark told me to put some shoes on. At the place we made perfect timing, we beat the crowd that was just about to take it. Marc was the one leading this route, which as always he climbed up expertly up it without much trouble. Mark then went to go climb it, and then Stewart. Now it was my turn, I was nervious at this point because I knew I could not climb this, and Marc would be witness me failing the route which might look bad for a first meeting.
"Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat." -Theodore Roosevelt
The very start of the route was difficult from the beginning, I got up a little bit, but then was stuck at the lay back part. Not only did I not have good technique, but also my arms were not strong enough to go up this crack. As I pushed myself furiously to get up it, my arms started to fail, even after putting all my might into it, I could not do it, and soon fell, and was forced to give up. As I went to sit down I felt bad for not being able to do it, but Mark told me to cheer up which I was glad he respected that I tried.
Marc Kidnapping his girl fiend
Marc and the Mountain
The Climbing Wall
When we came back to camp we wanted to climb a route called R&D which we had been wanting to climb all day, but was previously crowded, but now there was a chance. Supposedly it is rated 5.6 which I thought "probably tough for me, but not too bad" but unfortunately I underestimated the route. Stewart told us he was not feeling well so he would not join on this one. He drove us to the trailhead and he headed off towards Leavenworth to get some food and such. Getting up to the first pitch was a scramble, there were a few people on the route, but fortunately they were high up which by the time we would get there they would be off the route. Mark started to lead on the rock, which things started out casual, but soon things got slowly less and less casual. When Mark was as far as he could go, I could hardly see him, there was some wind in the air which made it difficult to hear what he was saying, I was unsure wether to take him off of belay or not. Pretty soon I figured out that he could not make an anchor because he was in a bad spot, so I had to get as close to the climb as I could while belaying him, without having myself to climb incase he calls I could catch him.
Walking back to Camp
There was a tug on the rope which I know now it was my turn to go up. At the beginning there was already an over hang spot which I started to think "mabe this could be more than I expected". After getting over it, the second piece of protection was harder for me to remove because I had to go downwards on slab rock, which made me feel a little uncomfortable. I managed not to fall and keep on going to the top of the pitch. "More climbing and less sucking!" Mark told me as I was getting ready for the next belay because I guess I did not climb at a good enough speed or perhaps it was the fact that I delayed weather to take him off of belay, but after all I could not see nor hear him at that time. He made his anchor out of protection rather than slings, which I was not used to but found it interesting. The second pitch is where things started getting harder for me. Once I belayed Mark until he got to the top, I did the same thing, waited until I believed he was anchored and off belay, plus he tugged at the rope. Once I started climbing I thought I was safe, but as I was climbing I realized that the rope above was caught. "Oh boy" I said because I realized I was in a pinch climbing class 5 unroped (roped but the rope would be less effective), or at the very least if I fell it would have been a ways before the rope would catch me, so I had to be very cautios, and not be nervous about the fact, in a sense I tried not to think of it, or of what could happen in this situation to help keep calm. Once I got higher, I came to the next piece of protection which was a cam. I was catious on this one because getting it out looked tricky, I could move it around in the inside, as I was sliding it towards me it was near the end almost escaped from the rock and then suddenly there was a part of the rock sticking out that caught it. "Flaming L!" I thought because now the cam was jammed! I tried techniques to remove it, but it would just not budge, it was barely caught, yet totally caught at the same time. I spend 10 or so minutes trying to remove it, one of my feet were slanted upwards due to only having one good foot hold. I started to get a bit of a cramp in my left leg (the one that was not holding me) which now I was worried that the cam was truly jammed.
Mark decided to come down because I had yelled to him that the cam was jammed. He was not happy. When he came to me, I had to downclimb 10 feet which there was a cliff behind that, and to get to the edge I belayed off of I would have to jump a few feet down, fortunatlely I made a good landing. Mark placed another piece of protection so that he had an anchor while he would attempt to unjam the cam. He kept trying to get it out, which felt like a long time, I started to worry, not just about the fact that I might now owe my friend $35, but also if we would be able to finish the route ok. I took some photos to get my mind off of the cam situation while waiting. I could see the river below from this view was very beautiful, although not quite as mountainous as some of my other trips, it had a unique quality. Mark eventually gave up, so I gave it another try, I was able to get the cam to budge a little, but after that it would not move, at the very least it might take hours to get out! If only I had a drill I wondered to myself. This probably took between 40 minutes to an hour of time trying to get the cam out. So Mark decided we were going to leave it, I would have to pay him the money, and we would finish the route. When we got to the top of the pitch Mark asked me "We could repell down, making you leave a sling or two behind, or we could keep going and then take the scramble down". I decided to keep going because I did not want to have to leave any of my slings behind. I remember seeing some jammed cams in the rock which made me even more nervious about removing protection and cams.
I again belayed Mark to climb the next pitch which I should have paid more attention to how he was going about climbing this route. He later got up to the top, and I was now unsure if he was tugging the rope or not because the wind was now blowing the rope, so every moment the wind blew the rope felt like it was being tugged. Eventually he pulled really hard which is finally when I knew he was off belay. As I started to climb I started to feel like I was on the edge, every step of the way. When a big gust of wind blew I could see clouds coming over as well as on the mountains near by, some moisure came off from the clouds to us, which I know feared that it would start raining soon. I tried to climb up as fast as I could, and thought "how could you have been such a cheap skate to not take the repel just to save a few bucks worth of webbing?" and then I got to the crux of the climb. The rope in front of me went straight up an over hanging chemney that had water in it. "Just my luck" I said in worry that I might not be able to climb it, I knew I would have to get past this part or else Mark would have to come down which would be dangerous. I attempted going up the crack but it just seemed undoable. Then I decided to look for an alternative route to the side which at the time seemed also like it was off route and too hard. Then I attempted the chemney again putting all of my effort into it. Not only did I do hand jams, feet jams, but I also did a body jam, and was pushing myself into the slope. As I did this, my hands began to get wet from the wet cracks in the chemney, and kept pushing and said "Come on, you have to do this, you have to!". I became furiously tired quite fast trying this method of climbing, and it was not working, when I kept trying and kept falling time and time again I was to the point of tears trying to get up this thing. It was so amazingly difficult, I thought "how did Mark get up this?!". The next camplacement was right above it, but I had to figure a way up. I tried one of the sides again, which after trying really hard I had managed to get up it, I was so over joyed that I wasnow able to get past the crack, but the fear still ran through me. Suddenly a horrible thought came through my head. I week ealier when I went to Mount Baker Kurt was telling me the story of when he climbed the North Face of Mount Baker which on the way down things for him and the others became quite desparate, and they lied to him telling him he was on belay, when he was not, if Kurt had fallen, he quite well could have died he was describing to me, he was was ticked when he found out. I worried "what if Mark was doing the same thing here?" Then I kept telling myself "Mark would never do such a thing, thats crazy talk!" although I later found out the anchor he had set up was not a full anchor making it risky if I had acually taken a fall. A moment later I could faintly hear Mark through the wind yell "ARE YOU EVEN TRYING?" He could not acually see me, but assumed I was not trying because I made little progress when stuck at the chemney, I yelled back "YESSS! I made it past the hard part, I’m coming!".
By now my arms were pumped and tired, my hands were all cut up and bleeding with blisters on my hands. Then there was the acual chemney of the route which was not to bad. I had to do some crawling and it was hard for me at the time because I was tired. When I had caught up to Mark I explained myself and was gladded he seemed to understand. He said "perhaps one pitch to go". It was now too late to back down anything, we were now in this all the way. Mark went up again and lead, and then he gave a sharp tug which is when I had to start climbing. Climbing at this point was hard every step of the way, I almost felt like I was hugging the mountain trying to get up it, although a lot of what I was climbing were cracks which obviously I would not hug, but there was a feeling of being desparate. As I went up more a song I once heard on the radio was rolling through my head. Crazy -By Seal
In a sense when dealing with so much drama you sorta become accostume to it, and when ever there was a difficult situation ahead, it would come as no suprise. For some reason this quote comes to mind that I made up while climbing "I trade the thrill of climbing for the fear of reality". There were some times for a short amount of time I would say a quick prayer hoping I would be capible of doing the next pitch or hoping that it would not rain. For me this was anything but casual. The winds now were really picking up, Mark predicted the wind had picked up to 50 miles an hour. When I got to the top, we had another pitch to go, at the time I was worried there would be a lot more. Doing this required required quite a deal of endurance, although I did not gain nearly as much elevation as some of my other trips, this was a bit on the high scale, perhaps one of the hardest trips I have ever endured. After forcing my way using foot jams I made it to the top of the pitch. Fortunately it was the last pitch. I had survived the climb! When I got to the top I finally caught interest in photography again, and was finally able to layer up, eat, drink, and rest. It felt so good to know that you would make it home safe and alive.
Mark Excited we made it!
Mark on the Edge
Me on the Edge
We scrambled down the side route which was great that it existed, but only if you made it to the very top of all the pitches. The rock shoes worked awesome for gripping the rock on the way down. Unfortunately rocks would slip into my rock shoes which would poke at me as I walked, I removed them once but then more would come in. At the bottom we picked up our shoes, and headed over to the bottom which Stewart was waiting at the bottom. It was around 7 in the evening by the time we got down. It had taken us around 4 hours to climb the pitches. Stewart offered to take us to McDonalds which was wonderful. He was really not feeling good by this point and told us he threw up twice since we last saw him. Even at the McDonalds he ran to go throw up in the rest room, which concerned us. When he came back he told us about the bad weather coming in. Not only this, but he was feeling very ill and asked us if it was alright for us to go home. We told him that would be fine, considering we would not be able to climb if it were raining the next day, plus if our friend was sick, we would not want it getting worse while camping.
On the way to the camp ground we walked up to another quick rock climb which Mark top roped, it was almost dark by this point, my arms were way to tired to go up, I could only get a few feet up, and then fall. We then decided to call it a day and head back to camp. From there we packed up, told Marc good bye, and headed home. Special Thanks to Stewart from driving us to Leavenworth, thanks to Mark as well for leading the routes and being great company. After this trip I owed Mark $35 for the cam that was jammed which Mark got it on sale for that much. Fortunately within this week a guy from cascadeclimbers found it, and some how was able to remove it from the rock and now is planning to ship it to Mark which relieves me from the dept. Big thanks to him too! Then next day I went on a multiple peak trip, but fortunately they were easy peaks. This was an outragous weekend! Many lessons were learned from this trip.