I've been withholding opinion for a few weeks now, but I think it's safe to say that the Cascades of Central Washington has some of the most underrated climbing in America. I had heard good things over the years and this fall I decided to check it out for myself.
Along with my girlfriend Mary, I have been exploring mainly the area of Leavenworth for the past 2 weeks. The weather has been outstanding and the quality of the rock is unreal. Very similar to the texture of Swiss granite, but needs a bit more cleaning. I spent the first week getting to know the area and climbing some of the harder classics such as The Cotton Pony Low V11, The Practitioner V11, The Ram V12, and The Tea Cup V13. After gaining some fitness and thick skin I started putting some effort into "The Ladder Project". This project sits just off the road in Icicle Canyon and has been tried for more than 10 years. It's one of the more beautiful lines that I have ever seen. A series of perfectly spaced holds up a giant wall. My first few days of effort yielded quick results and it was inspiring to know that the line was possible.
My progress was put on hold with a quick trip down to Portland, OR for the Portland Boulder Rally at The Circuit Gym. Two years ago I competed in and won the first edition of the now annual competition and at the time I remember being pleasantly surprised by the high energy and overall good-natured community of climbers in the area. I was really excited to be returning for a second time.
On the whole, the competition went well for me. I made a lot of careless mistakes in the qualifying round and had to make up for in the end by exerting a whole lot more effort than necessary to ensure my position in finals. Needless to say, I was feeling pretty haggard from the get go. I qualified in 2nd Place and held onto my position through Finals, which was an extremely difficult round of competition for all the finalists. I was psyched to pull though despite not feeling my best.
On the Sunday following the competition, along with other PCI Athletes, we offered clinics at the gym for anyone looking to improve their climbing skills. It was a great opportunity to connect with the climbers of the area who had seen everyone compete the previous night. I continue to enjoy working with motivated climbers in all parts of the US. Excited for more!
After Portland, we headed back up to Leavenworth. The weather was beautiful, but a bit on the warm side. My first day back on "the ladder" was a bit rough, but I managed all the moves again. With a slightly warm forecast on the horizon I entertained the idea of heading somewhere else for a bit and returning when things cooled off. The next day I couldn't quite bring myself to leave the project behind and instead I headed back out to the boulder. An hour later and I was topping out "the ladder project" for the First Ascent of The Penrose Step V14. The name refers to the famous MC Escher drawing that features a series of stairs that impossibly lead to nowhere, an optical illusion. In a lot of ways the "Penrose Steps" are a great depiction of the pursuit of hard boulders. The journey is infinite, with the top step of one project leading directly into the bottom step of another.
There were many more things that I wanted to explore and attempt in Leavenworth, but we were ready for a change of scenery. The weather in Squamish was looking PERFECT, an extremely rare window of dry and cold in the middle of October. With such fickle weather normally haunting the region, I couldn't let this opportunity pass me by.
On our way to British Columbia, we made a stop in Seattle so that I could compete in the Northwest Boulder Rally at The Seattle Bouldering Project. I had seen some photos of the gym in the past and was interested in checking out the facility. Also, I knew that the well known setter Tonde Katiyo, had taken over the head setting position at the gym, and I was eager to practice on some of his more varied setting styles. The competition went well and I managed a 1st Place finish, sealing the deal with the only send and flash of Final #3. The problems were a good variety of technical and powerful and it was nice to mix things up a bit.
Now we are in Squamish, BC for at least the next week. I've been a bit sick since the Seattle competition so today was a bit rough on the climbing side of things, but the weather looks splitter and I think I'm on the mend now, so hopefully lots of good things on the horizon.