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Spokane - First Ascents! - Alex Fritz

Spokane - First Ascents! - Alex Fritz
Spokane - First Ascents! - Alex Fritz
Spokane - First Ascents! - Alex Fritz
Spokane - First Ascents! - Alex Fritz
April 24, 2013 - 

My mom and I headed out to Spokane for a weekend trip of climbing with some of our good local friends from the area! Ever since I was little I always wanted to climb outside in the Spokane area and last November I finally got my first taste of the cool basalt and gritty granite in the area, so I was pretty psyched to be heading back over there for more.

Saturday was spent on Deep Creek's funky basalt edges, starting out at the Main Wall and eventually hitting up The Pit on the way out. My initial goal for the weekend was to climb the iconic Motley Crux (5.13d) at The Pit, but I quickly decided to get in just as much climbing as possible on all the classics. The theme for the day quickly became onsighting routes to the last move or bolt, only to be stopped by something silly. On Mental Warfare (5.12d), the last four bolts were missing even though the rest of the route was fixed gear. Next, on Russian Arete (5.13b), the second to last draw was stuck shut and I didn't think of running it out until I was too pumped to hold on any more. Luckily before moving onto The Pit, I finished off 21 Run (5.13a), an extremely fun yet bouldery route - along with Zak Silver, 14, who had his first send of the 5.13 range! Finally, to take the cake, on the classic Pit Boss (5.13b), I fully recovered and was prepared to power through the final few moves to the chains only the find out that I couldn't possibly hold onto the final two holds before the finish jug. Like literally could not hold onto the holds they were so bad. A few more attempts led to no prevail but I was psyched to have the fitness to get through all of the rest of the pumpy moves.

On Sunday, George Hughbanks, the local establisher-of-everything-awesome showed us around McClellan, an area that boasts both granite sport climbs and boulder problems. The granite here is weird because on the same rock you can find totally polished greasiness next to the sharpest crimp you've ever held. It makes for very interesting movement and levels of try-hard. We started out the day at the 69 Year Old Traverse Wall, which was by far the longest boulder I've ever seen. Over 300+ horizontal feet, the Old Traverse tops out at roughly 23 feet with it's tallest direct line. Almost none of the "direct" lines had been established besides George and maybe a few other locals playing around over the years, so with the Graham's, George, and both Bryan's, we all quickly went to work finding some direct lines that looked cool to us.

B. Franklin and I warmed up with traversing until failure, which quickly showed us the hardest, most-direct lines up the wall. The first problem we worked through was a short 5 move power problem (not including the top out). Starting on a really good jug shelf, you pulled through some heinous, polished crimps until you could throw to the lip, readjusting your feet, and then finding a way to hit the final jug to roll over the top out. Our initial beta was too hard, but Franklin quickly figured out the movement and we dispatched the first direct line, Terrestrial Terrorist (V8).

The next line was an obvious mid-range climb right up the tallest part of the wall, topping out at about the 23 foot level. The main line started with a jug rail, left hand on a huge side-pull block, hiking your feet up on the shelf and reaching up tall to a small crimp rail. You reach right hand to the furthest left slopey spot, and cross under left hand to the furthest most right incut spot. Bringing your feet up onto the face, trusting them on small glossy-smears, you reach up into an undercling-jug. From there, slap to the lip, find the hidden crimp over the top, and roll out for a sketch high-ball mantle to finish it up. Myself, B. Franklin, B. Connally, and Cierra Graham all quickly dispatched this fun V4, and then Franklin and I noticed a potential lower start. From the obvious side pull and sloper in the sit down start position, you slap through a few polished-slopers to find the hidden crimp in the back, making a desperate throw to the start jug of the original climb. After a few goes of slipping off the slopers, we both finishedUnderstory SDS (V6).

The final climb on the Traverse Wall is something that I stared at for a while and was psyched to try, but wasn't really sure how to go about doing it. The bottom was clean enough to attempt, but the top of the bulge was really dirty and hard to tell if it was even climbable. Andy, Cierra, Bryan and George were all nice enough to help myself and Bryan scrub off bits and pieces of moss and dirt until the secret holds revealed themselves. Starting on a shallow slopey jug, you crossed up big into a small left hand crimp in the side of the bulge. After an intermediate undercling to readjust your feet, you slap up big right hand to a polished sloper just under the lip. A hard left toe, bump up the left hand to a slightly better sloper, and then go big again to a small gritty crimp right on the edge of the lip. Keeping a hard left toe, you fall in left hand to a cool little left hand pinch just left of your right hand. The coolest part of the route is bringing your feet out of the left toe, requiring you to right foot toe hook under the bulge in order to bring your left foot closer. Once readjusted, flip your left hand to the adjacent side pull / undercling and pull yourself up over the lip to a hard slap with the right hand to a patina crimp half way up and over the lip. If you stick the crimp, bring your left hand up to a good undercling rail, hike your feet up and rock over to the jug top out. After a long time of sussing out the beta, I finished off the hardest direct line on the 69 Year Old Traverse Wall, Bonyenne (V10). 

The final climb of the day was a stop out at the far edges of the park, to a boulder that has been known as the "arete project" since George found and cleaned it around 8 years ago. Since then, quite a few strong locals have tried it to no prevail, including George and Franklin. I remember George posting a picture of this last year and just thinking "Man, I really want to climb that!" The boulder is actually a split off chunk of a larger boulder which gives the left side of the arete an extremely slick and ridge-like surface making all of it heinous to hold onto. The bottom half of the right side is also extremely polished, with the top half being extremely gritty. I've never seen rock be like that before, but all I knew is it definitely needed to be climbed. Besides the fact that it is relatively aesthetic, compression lines are always really fun. Starting off at the bottom with a very obvious block jug and no feet, you attempt to throw your heel around the right arete to the start hold to the adjacent face climb. If your heel stays, you can bring your left hand up to a fatty pinch and crank on the heel, slapping through a polished intermediate dimple to a decent polished crimp for your right hand. Once you are established on the crimp, you can bump your left hand along the left arete and bring your left foot up onto the start hold. From here there was virtually no more good left hand holds, so figuring out a comfortable spot to hold onto every attempt was random and rather in-the-moment. If you found a good spot, you could bump your right hand up to small sloper crimp rail and begin squeezing with both feet on either side of the arete. After about 4 more desperate slaps along the left side and bumping your right hand up further on more bad crimps, you make an extremely committing last move to the rounded lip.

My mom and I needed to be on the road by 2 and since we only had roughly an hour to try the climb, every time I fell meant less energy and time to climb again. The theme for this problem was me constantly asking my mom how much time I had left until we needed to leave. I continued to progress up the thin arete line, but I could not figure out how to sequence through the last few moves because either side of the arete was so bad. Eventually on my last attempt, I managed to hold on through one more move until I finally found myself making the last scary move to the less-than-ideal lip jug. Once I rolled over the top out and stood on top of the boulder, I realized that I was taller than the adjacent tree. I did it! With just ten minutes to spare! After much consideration, The Deadline (V11), seemed extremely fitting. 

Sending The Deadline was a really cool experience for me because it's a relatively long project in the area that has spit off a lot of strong local climbers. Getting the "First Ascent" of something is really inspiring because that means that you kind of get to be a little part of history, and hopefully is the problems are good, then more people will climb them and will experience what you experienced. George Hughbanks had the vision of this arete being climbed 8 years ago, and as his friend, it was really cool to help him see that vision come true. A huge thanks to George for letting me help continue his work in the area, helping make McClellan more established and giving some really cool lines more traffic. A huge thanks to the Graham family for letting us stay with them for the weekend. Also, thanks to Joshua Jackman, Billy Ward, Zak Silver, Bryan Franklin, Bryan Connally, Michael Voss, and Brett Jessen for all the beta and support climbing on some new terrain this weekend! Thanks to my mom for taking time out of her schedule to still support my climbing adventures after so many years! And lastly, thanks to Asana for catching my falls this weekend, Five Ten for providing me with some sticky rubber on the polished granite, and Marmot for making my adventures a lot more comfortable. :)

Check out more photos at my official blog:

Photo credit: George Hughbanks

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