Slippery Slab Tower - July 26, 2003
Ed hadn't hooked into a rope since last September during the "Royal Traverse", so he didn't want to go up anything harder than 5.5. A few options were thrown around, with Ed strongly pushing Guye Peak. Eventually we settled on Slippery Slab Tower.
Ed, his dogs and I hiked in the light breeze up to Hope Lake, then along the PCT to Trap Pass. We passed through a gentle meadow that screamed for us to film a tampon tv commercial. Alas we had no video camera, and no subject.
I had to endure Maya farts, to which Ed was apparently immune. I also detected this other repulsive smell which, although un-fart-like, I deduced to be Zak farts.
The dark tower soon came into view, and Ed pronounced it impossible.
"It's impossible. It's too steep.", he said.
Then he remembered it was a Mountaineers basic climb, realized his folly, and we kept going.
We passed above Trap Lake, where we could see a lone camper was packing up his tent (and hear his tarp flapping in the wind). What a beautiful lake... I was overcome with a desire to inflate a rubber raft and float around in the lake all day, taking a nap. Alas, I had no rubber raft.
We arrived at the pass and followed a sub-path up towards the tower. So then, where do we climb it? We gradually walked around the east side from the north, trying to imagine the climbing routes, until we arrived at a large scrambly section that looked like it led high up to a tree patch. This must be it.
Fortunately, the scrambly section started with a 10 foot 4th class step that the dogs couldn't climb, so they stayed at the base of the peak, away from any dangerous terrain.
The only problem with this, was the slight confusion that resulted from Ed shouting encouragement and praise to his dogs (to reward them for not freaking out while their master was far away from them). Normally, when you're climbing something with one other person, and that person is talking, they're talking to you. Not in this case though. In the breeze, "Good boy, Zack!" sounds a lot like "Off belay!"
At the tree ledge, we "flipped" for the lead by grabbing a hidden section of rope from the rope bag. It was the non-striped side of the rope, so it was my lead. A big deal, since there is only one pitch!
I ascended a shallow corner and face up on medium-quality rock, putting lots of pieces in since there was plenty of time, and the pieces weren't too trustworthy. Ed said the description in Beckey said something like "4 runners have been used to sling trees and horns". Well, this obviously didn't pertain to this route, as there were no horns, and no trees till the top of the pitch.
I then headed slightly left (slabbier and smooth, rather than blockier and steep) and up an arete consisting of chunks of rock that didn't really seem too attached to the arete, and small footholds. There was a dirty gully to the left that looked easy, but I didn't come here to scrumble up a dirty gully. Above, it was easier climbing to a rappel tree which I slung. And finally another 20 easy feet to the ridgetop. Supposedly, careful rope management was necessary to avoid rope drag on this pitch... uh whatever, the rope just came straight up and there was no rope drag, and I didn't manage anything carefully. ? Best to ignore all beta.
I set up a belay at block, and Ed started to come up. At one section, he seemed to be taking a long time. I figured he was having trouble getting one of my pieces out. When he finally reached me, he said he had gotten sketched! He was feeling pretty lame about that, afraid to commit to a move on a straight-up top rope. He wore his mountaineering boots, and said they had a hard time on the little edges.
With a comment about "I need to get out more!", he continued up to the summit.
He shouted down that it was easy, so I unroped and scrambled up. We relaxed and took in the views.
Ed's watch had a heart-rate monitor built in, and he wondered what his heart rate was on the arete. We thought it would be interesting if rock climbing topos, instead of showing the number grade, showed heart rates.
We downclimbed to the upper tree, and rapped (single rope) to the tree ledge, and scrambled back down to the dogs.
We considered doing more climbing, since there hadn't been much so far! I told Ed it would give him a chance to redeem himself! However, this could not overcome the inertia of already having packed away the rope and gear. There looked like some nice climbing alternatives to the scramble gully on an outside corner leading up to the tree ledge. Nice white rock, very textured.
We passed by the "Iron Crotch" route climbed by Michael Stanton (but could not see the namesake rock), headed over to the col north of the tower, to check out the west face (supposedly 3 pitches, all 5.7, solid rock, good pro). We followed Beckey's description of dropping down a gully. The dogs were kicking down lots of rocks, so they and Ed returned to the notch, while I continued on.
The gully looked like it cliffed out, and a dirty tree and dirt scrambling traverse finally led to some heather ledges with a good view of the west face. The face looked steep, and not very broken, but the rock looked good - with the exception of a collapsed overhanging section that had large flakes stacked precariously under it. No route was immediately apparent, although the tall steep smooth slab right above me had some intriguing weaknesses/cracks running across it - looked harder than 5.7 though. Perhaps the route is futher to the right, where I could not entirely see.
To get back to the notch, I tried doing a level traverse on the heather slopes, and walked easily right to the notch in a few minutes. Way easier than the way I came!
Which leads me to believe that Beckey is completely mistaken in his route descriptions on Slippery Slab Tower. None of them seem to have anything to do with reality! Did he get it mixed up with some other peak? Are we just blind idiots?
We scrambled up the outcrop to the north for a view of the tower, hung out for a bit more, and then returned to Trap Pass. For the way out, we took the Suprise Lake trail instead. Somewhere on the way down, I began to experience the smell that I had assumed was Zak farts, except it went on for entire switchbacks at a time. Was it some plant? I will perhaps never know.
The Suprise Lake trail is not as scenic as the Tunnel Creek trail we took on the approach, although it has a nice "babbling brook in a shady glady glen".