Regular Route, Careno Crag, Leavenworth, WA

August 1st, 2008 / 5.10, 4p, trad.

The original plan was to get up early to go climb Hyperspace on the Snow Creek Wall. We leave the bus around 6:30AM and drive straight to the trailhead. Even before we park the Jeep, it becomes clear that the weather isn't cooperating: we can see the wall from the road, and it is already in full sun. The clouds were supposed to stick around until 11AM according to yesterday's forecast… but they're clearing up way too soon. It doesn't take us long to give up on that idea. It is simply going to be too hot up there. A few years ago, we had to bail after climbing RPM because of the heat… don't want to do that again.

Lucie suggests we try climbing on Careno Crag, right across the road. We walk down the road a few hundred feet to get a look: not that great! Looks very broken and a bit bushy. But what the hell, we're here, so we might as well hike up to go get a closer look. We are not at all enthused but we go up the trail anyway. Even in the shade on this side, the heat is getting to us. The trail is steep and we are sweating like dogs. Fortunately the approach is pretty short. When we reach the base of the routes, our level of enthusiasm does not improve… the first pitch of the regular route looks OK, but very short, and ends at a tree! The other route further left looks worse yet…

Lucie doesn't want to climb. I do. After a bit of sitting around, we go for it. The first pitch turns out much harder than it looks from the base. Just looking at it beforehand, I doubted it would be any harder than 5.9 (it is rated 5.10). Well, it is 5.10 all right, and the pro at the first crux in the crack is pretty bad indeed (ground fall potential). Then onto the bolted face, which feels really steep. The holds are small and there are only just enough of them to get through. Quite sequency. We both get nicely pumped, but make it through. Vast ledge and chain anchors at the top.

The next pitch looks quite good, though a bit short again (90 feet). It is a clean, classic dihedral with a hand and finger crack. It is rated 5.7, so I convince Lucie to lead it. She's not too confident at first, but the climbing is good, sustained but with great rests. She grows into it. Huge ledge again and chain anchors at the top.

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Eric just above the crux on pitch 1 (5.10).
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Higher on pitch 1.
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Lucie leading pitch 2 (5.7).
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A sweet and clean dihedral.
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The third pitch is 5.8. Lucie stemming the twin cracks at the crux.

The third pitch is rated 5.8 and looks good too. Not as clean as the second but there is a fun-looking 5.8 lieback/stem section half way up. Lucie's lead again. She's a bit more confident now. She does very well through the crux section. Higher up, just before reaching the huge pine tree on the next palatial ledge, she freaks out at a risky move above a ledge. Probably about 5.8 (mantle and slab moves out of a finger crack), but with ground fall potential. She gives it a shot but not seeing any pro above the crux move, decides to bail, taking a short fall onto a medium nut. She sets a belay in the crack and brings me up.

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The last pitch goes up a thin fingery crack/seam (5.10b).
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Following the last pitch.
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Views from the top.
   

I finish the pitch to the gigantic ledge and build a trad anchor. The last pitch goes up a thin fingery crack/seam straight up from the ledge. The initial moves pass an overhang at the undercut bottom of the wall. Pro is available but must be placed while sidepulling an insecure edge. One tough pull and things get easier, with good pro at intervals. The crack ends at a horizontal break (good pro here), then reappears through a steep 5.10 bulge. The moves are quite committing and strenous, and protection at the crux is really poor (the fixed pin is no longer there; instead you get a really bad medium nut placement in a flare, and a half-engaged Alien). I am convinced the pro won't hold a fall, so I am pretty gripped through the moves above. Two thin moves before the crack opens up again and you get an insecure rattly finger jam and some flared weirdness above. At least you can get a decent Alien in the finger section. Not really unsafe, thanks to the good cam in the horizontal below the crux, but still pretty scary. Bolted anchors at the top (two sets... !?).

I belay Lucie up, then lower her back down to the ledge, before rapping on one rope, after dropping the other. I thought there were bolted anchors further left on the ledge, but this is not the case, so we end up rapping off the huge tree. I don't want to leave slingage, so we run the rope around the tree (I know... but it's big and with thick bark). I am worried about the friction while pulling the rope but that goes fine. The 60m rope is a bit short reaching the next ledge so we have to downclimb a couple of moves. We should have done a double-rope rap from the top anchors all the way to the ledge at the top of p2. Two more 30m raps and we're on the ground.

It's pretty damn hot and sunny by now. We pack the gear and leave. Not a very worthwhile climb IMHO, mostly because of the very broken line (large ledges) and short pitches, though the climbing is actually not bad. P1 and P4 are potentially dangerous, due to poor pro at the cruxes and the proximity of the ground/ledge below.