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    Return to the Goldmine


    By Sam Eastman

    Castle Mountain is a rock climber’s goldmine. Yes the approach is long and somewhat tedious, yet a day spent climbing the solid golden dolomite is worth the price of admission. This year, Sam Lambert and myself returned to the lower buttress, below Eisenhower tower, to look at and eventually climb a line both of us had been thinking about all year. We had spotted a line from the top of Castles in the Sky, a sun kissed slightly overhung wall that seemed to drop for more than a few pitches!

    Although the rock seems solid on Castle the dreaded top down approach is a far less stylish and seemingly medieval, although effective, method of equipping choss. Loaded up with six ropes, a drill, and bags of bolts, we made most of the approach dry, which was surprising as the brewing clouds overhead seemed ready to pounce. As we began the final 4th class scramble clouds opened and scrambling in the rain with heavy packs began to be quite the task. It seemed like a pattern started to set in. Each time we would get off the couch to get to work, a storm would set in. When a storm wasn't crackling around, loose rock would cut a rope, packrats would destroy fixed ropes or a gear stash.  All said and done, Sam and I could tell the climbing was worth dealing with some rats and very manky ropes. Each time I would rap the lip, a yellow abyss would span out in front of me. Sequences would unlock, holds appeared.  Every time down the fixed lines, Sam and I  would get more and more exited to try and free climb the bad boy!

    When the time came to free the line I almost couldn't believe it. Setting off on the first pitch fueled by Mars bars and Redbull bought from the gas station, It seemed like the beginning of the end. Laying in to a 12+ crux on dirty holds, I wondered why I didn’t put another bolt in, and just like that, dreading a long and slightly sideways fall a foothold broke and I was off. I hauled the bag up; Sam flew up the pitch, grabbed some gear and was of on a very exciting dihedral roof pitch.  Stemming wide with a sloping under cling, Sam pulled hard to a jug in a roof crack. Without much trouble, he finished the 45 meter 5.12+ pitch like a champ.

    As the weather continued to get worse, we carried on, up a 5.13a pitch a 5.11, a 5.12c and the top. Alpine cragging never gets old!

    The send eventually came, although It seemed like a part of me was still up there above some clouds, taping core shots, laughing as Sam pounds Monster’s and burns out drillbits.  I guess the process is more important than the finish line. I think so anyways!!!!

    Here is the breakdown.

    1st 5.12+ 35M. Slightly overhung and cryptic.

    2nd. 5.12+ 45M. Dihedral to Burly roof!

    3rd.  5.13. 52M. Overhung corner/face to savage boulder problem.

    4th. 5.11. 22M. Sidepulls on some of the best rock..ever.

    5th. 5.12. 35M. The best pitch on the route, possibly the best pitch ever, perfect crimps to a very very exposed Arête feature! 

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    Guest Blogging- Nate Tack on Squamish Climbing

    So we're implementing a new guest blogging program. We're asking some of our favorite people to blog about anything that's on their minds, the only caveat being that it has to be at least tangentially related to climbing. If you have something to say and are interested in being a guest blogger, please shoot an e-mail to us at info@nwalpine.com Our first post comes from our good friend Nate Tack. Nate is a Portland local who enjoys sailing his boat and climbing hard cracks.

    Squamish has always been a special place for me. A really unique combination where perfect granite walls meet the Ocean with the Coast Range looking over it all. I've spent two summers in Squamish and made several other road trips there and never seem to get bored: bolts, big walls, slabs, bouldering and lots of crack climbing, every style of rock climbing is well represented. As an added bonus you can start your day with some Timbits from Tim Hortons. (Yeah, yeah I know in the rest of the world "Timbits" are doughnut holes or "Munchkins". Canadians are proud though, call a Timbit by any other name and you might get punched in the nose.)

    The only downside with such good climbing to be had is that everyone and their neighbor wants to climb their as well. Squamish is a regular part of the annual migration for climbing bums and weekend warriors alike. Trying to climb classic crack pitches like the Split Pillar or Penny Lane on a sunny day feels a bit like a trip to the DMV. That's the nature of classic climbing, the routes are popular for a reason, because they are so damn good. I'm not unique, I like to climb clean, esthetic lines like everyone else, however I'd much rather do it without a huge group of French Canadians clambering all over me. Here's a few routes in Squamish that in my mind are super classic, but don't see that much traffic. If you're tired of the wait on Exasperator check out these routes:

    Milk Run- Tantalus Wall, The Chief. 5.11D or 5.10, AO 8 Pitches

    An interesting route that combines the best and worst of Squamish. The first two pitches are a bit whacky and often wet as you wander around a slab moving left. However the awkward nature of pitch one and pitch two is a small price to pay for the insanely good corner that make up pitch three and pitch four. The fourth pitch is one of the better corner pitches I've ever done and goes at 5.10D. It's one of those pitches that looks burly from the belay, fingers and laybacking in a steep corner. However like many Squamish corners, every ten feet or so a small edge will appear for your feet giving you a chance to shake out and place some gear. Conserve gear and pace yourself on this one, the pitch is fifty meters and rather sustained. Triples or quads of finger (yellow and orange Metolius master cams) would be a good idea, but save a single hand size piece for the small roof below the belay.

    Rutabaga- Base of the Chief- 5.11, 2 pitches

    This little gem would a great afternoon outing when combined with other more well know classics in the area such as Seasoned in the Sun or Apron Strings. P1 is short and fun, twenty meters of double cracks (5.10B) takes you to a bolted belay. The real treat is the second pitch, forty five meters of sustained laybacking and finger jamming in a corner. Every so often the crack will pinch down and you'll start thinking thinking that this isn't 5.11, but as always a nice crimper or foothold will appear on the wall away from the corner. Near the end of the pitch switch into bouldering mode as you're forced to slap out right on an arete feature! to gain the belay. Exciting moves above a purple Master cam. Tough guys take note, with some long slings and a seventy meter rope this route can be done in one very long pitch. Yikes!

    High Plains Drifter- 5.11 Sherifs Badge

    The guidebook touts this route as being, "The best hand crack in the known universe." That's a bold statement, but having just spent a month at Indian Creek climbing a LOT of hand cracks, I can confirm that this is not hyperbole. If this pitch were near the ground it would still be top ten for sure, but put it 2,000 above the valley after climbing 14 approach pitches (Angle's Crest) with the sea in front of you and Mount Garibaldi framing the background and you have something special. Hand cracks don't normally intimidate me, it is one of the few types of climbing that I feel completely secure on, my hands feel like portable anchors when slammed into a two inch crack. However, when I looked up at High Plains Drifter from the fourth class approach ledge I was nervous. Not sure what it is. Maybe it's the exposed position, or the slightly overhanging nature of it, but from the belay High Plains Drifter just looks burly! We had gotten delayed behind slow parties coming up Angles Crest, so by the time we made it over to High Plains Drifter the sun was setting. Climbing such a great pitch with the sun setting over Howe Sound with my good friend Dan, truly a special monument.

    The crack itself is actually a detached flake, the whole feature rings when smacked with a fist. Starts out hands and big hands keeps on going for a glorious thirty meters. At about the twenty five meter mark, a slight crux is encountered where the crack widens to four inches. Mercifully the wide stuff gives way to a "Thank God" jug and a rest before some thin crack work to the chains. Triples of #2 BD, Doubles #3 BD, and a single #4 will be enough gear if you're solid with big hands, although if I had a few extra hand sizes pieces with me I certainly would have placed them. It takes a bit of effort to get up to High Plains Drifter, but well worth it. If I only got to do one more pitch of climbing before I died, I would climb High Plains Drifter.

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