Davis-Holland & Lovin' Arms, Index, WA

July 23, 2008 / 5.10c, 6p, trad.

Today, after a false start, we finally get to climb the Davis-Holland - Lovin' Arms (DH-LA) combo on the Upper Town Wall. We get up early, to try and avoid crowds and heat. At the trailhead a little before 8AM. It's drizzling… We hesitate for a while but give up and go back to the bus. Good thing the bus is parked right down the road. I go back to sleep, while Lucie does a bit of work on the website!

We get moving again around 11AM. The clouds remain, but the air is getting drier. Looks promising. The trail up to the upper wall, which was muddy and soaked during our first attempt at the climb last summer, is completely dry. There is nobody else at the base of the wall! The ground and the bushes near the base are still humid, but the climb looks completely dry, including the first pitch!

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The Upper Town Wall from the road. The DH-LA combo is shown in red (P1 is hidden behind trees).
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Hiking up the steep trail to the base of the wall.
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Looking up at Davis- Holland.
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Gearing up at the base.
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Eric starting up pitch 1 of the Davis-Holland (5.9).

We take our time gearing up. It's past noon when we get started. No rush though. The route is 6 pitches in total, and they are rather short. The first pitch is a good warm up. A steep crack, a couple of slightly tricky moves, then some ledges to a great flat ledge and a bolted anchor at the base of the 5.10a dihedral.

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Higher on pitch 1.
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Looking down at Lucie, following pitch 1.
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Traversing back into the corner (the only dirty section of DH).
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Starting the best pitch (p2, 10a)
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...and up the very clean dihedral.

The next pitch is gorgeous: a shallow, well travelled, super-clean dihedral with a fingers to thin-hands crack. A bit sustained, with very thin foot work on the left. The crack is mostly .75 Camalot size. I quickly run out of that size (had two) and continue with marginal nuts and hexes. Would be good to carry 3 (or even 4) cams of that size. Fun pitch on flawless rock, which will probably feel harder than the crux pitch because of its sustained nature. This pitch ends at a beefy bolted anchor.

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Looking back at Lucie following the gorgeous dihedral.
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Great jamming on super-clean rock.
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Clipping into the beefy bolted anchor atop pitch 2.
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The committing start of pitch 3 (5.10c).
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Moving up and back into the main corner.

The third pitch starts with a committing move past a flake/roof, underclinging to the right right above the belay. A #5 Camalot might be large enough to protect the move near the lip but we have nothing larger than a #3. A bit scary because of the ledge just below. Fortunately, the holds are quite positive and the climbing gets much easier immediately past the lip. Slightly easier cracks above this lead to the obvious crux: a short sequence of two or three thin moves, in a very shallow dihedral with a seam and a few small finger pockets. More face than crack climbing, with some stemming. Terrific pro on small nuts. Exit hold is a jug on the left, then a gymnastic move or two and you're done. Felt pretty mellow for 10c. Maybe we're finally in shape? Above the crux, a fun section of corner with occasional bomber finger lock leads to easier, wider cracks and the large ledge at the base of Lovin' Arms.

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Higher on pitch 3 - just below the crux section.
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Following pitch 3.
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Views of the sleepy town of Index.
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Starting pitch 1 (5.10b) of Lovin' Arms.
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Not the cleanest rock, but it climbs well.

The rock here suddenly goes from very clean (tons of traffic) to very mossy. Looks questionable… but fortunately climbs really well. From the ledge, go right into a double crack of sorts that turns into a finger crack then a sustained, leaning hand crack higher up, before getting into a fun wide chimney. Really fun pitch actually. Quite technical, and also a bit physical in the hand section. There is a beefy bolted belay on the left wall at the top of the wide chimney.

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Finishes with a fun chimney.
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Eric at the bolted belay at the top of the chimney.
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Looking back at Lucie starting the pitch.
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The leaning hand crack section.
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Lucie in the fun chimney.

Next comes the crux. According to the topos, there are two options: traverse straight right from the belay, past a bolt and an A0 move, into a shallow corner, or climb higher up the chimney and traverse above at 10c. I choose the 10c option. Climbing up the narrow chimney from the belay is not too much fun: some loose flakes and awkward squeezing. The only unpleasant section on the routes. About 15 feet above the belay, one reaches two good holds on the right (left edge of the face), at the start of a diagonal seam. I start hand traversing here. Things get interesting when, after placing a yellow Alien in a wider section of the seam, I have to move up on very thin holds to stand in the seam, before being able to move right into a great flake and the shallow corner above.

Once at the flake, I realize that this is probably where I should have traversed: another 10 feet up the chimney, at a beautiful, incut flake crack that goes right and slightly down straight into the corner. It takes .75" Camalots and is heavily chalked. Seems hard to believe that this could be 10c… looks more like a stiff 5.9 hand traverse, although the wall below is smooth and steep. Above the traverse, the climbing starts feeling a lot more like a face climb, with just enough holds to go at easy 5.10. Most of the holds are small and not that positive. Good gear throughout. This eventually leads to a great ledge at the base of a short but steep headwall.

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Getting to the belay.
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Just above the narrow chimney that starts pitch 3 (5.10a/b).
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Traversing right to the flake (probably should have traversed higher up).
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Lucie following the traverse.
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One of the many trains that pass through Index.

There are obviously many options up the next pitch. The easiest - which is probably the 5.9 shown on the topo - is a discontinuous crack system near the left edge of the wall. A tempting alternative is to go straight up, past a horizontal crack and a bolt, to what appears to be a finger crack, and straight to the top. This is where I go. It immediately turns out to be much steeper than I expected, and quite strenous. Above the bolt is a large flake. I stand on this, contemplating the last 20 feet to the top. The finger crack I thought I had seen from the belay is really just some plates facing one another. A lot like Red Rocks face climbing, only steeper. I start up. No options for pro. I am now fully committed, getting too high above my last placement to risk a fall. I am also getting fully pumped. At the last minute, I spot a short horizontal crack further left on the wall, and manage to slot and clip a green Alien… I am completely out of juice. A fall seems inevitable. I make a desperate move to the right, trying to escape the last 10 feet to a lower ledge. Big mistake. What looked like a decent foothold is a patch of moss... and no hand holds at all. Just the rounded rocks at the top of the wall. I warn Lucie to expect a fall, then convince myself to try a move anyway. The moss breaks off as soon as I load it and I fly. I catch my foot in the flake below and continue swinging left in a wide arc. "Are you OK?", asks Lucie. I am. I guess this fall looked pretty dramatic from below.

We are obviously on some stiff variation… maybe the last pitch of the steep bolted route to our right? I am so pumped, I need several minutes to recover, standing on the flake. I consider going back straight up above the green Alien, but am too pumped and decide to traverse left into the hand crack. Smooth sailing here, and I get to the flat ledge and the chains at the very top. Lucie follows with some difficulty. We agree that this steep wall must be something like 10b/c face climbing…

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Starting the last pitch (straight up variation, 5.10b/c?), which turned out to be quite an adventure.
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Lucie below the green alien that stopped my fall.
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Views from the top of the Upper Wall.
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Rapping down.
 

Since there are chains right here, we decide to rap straight down. We make it to the base of "Lovin' Arms" in one long rap (double 60m, fully stretched). From here, one rap takes us to one of the many bolted anchors on the steep wall left of the base of the Davis-Holland route. A third rap drops us on the ground, 30m left of the start. Cleanest rap descent I've ever seen!

Note: The wall is South facing and can be horribly hot (and humid) during the summer. A cloudy day is best.