R&D: The Ultimate Ego Boost

What with Rockfest going on this weekend in Leavenworth, I was nervous about being able to teach a group of new climbers thoroughly and quickly while having enough energy to later do my own climb.  It turns out the turnout was not as crazy as last year (thank God) and the event was mostly held away from the areas we needed.

R&D.  It’s an easier climb, rated 5.6 overall and some really nice crack climbing at the end.  I was excited the way David and I had split it up, with him doing the harder crack at the top and me tackling the chimney on the third pitch.


The description of the route can be found here and videos can be found on Youtube.  We had attempted this climb last summer but had difficulty finding the start due to confusing beta on mountain project (the beta on MP includes the Cocaine Connection start, which involves some weird slab climbing and clipping bolts to begin.  We decided to forgo this start.)


You can see this climb from the road, about 6.5 miles down icicle creek, past Barney’s Rubble and Bruce’s Boulder, but before 8 Mile Campground.  If you get to 8 Mile, turn around and it will be the first major boulder by the road on the left (opposite Icicle Creek).  Getting to the base of the climb is pretty simple.  Head up the narrow trail, past a tall evergreen at the base of the Cocaine Connection start, until the trail splits to the right and heads back to the rock.  There is a large bush sticking out of the rock; the startt is downhill from there.  I’d recommend watching this video to see what the beginning looks like.  You can get the beta for the whole climb by watching these videos, but I wouldn’t recommend it. I found them pretty boring and the climb is pretty easy to figure out.

The Climb:

1. You’ll find a dirt-filled crack, with slopey holds on either side.  Stick to this crack. Although it is unprotected, it is easy and there are good spots for placement just above it.  From there, I followed the cracks up the ramp and ended up running into a few small bushes (stay to the left of these) that probably wouldn’t be good to sling for pro.

I ended pitch one after going over 30 meters and topping out over a pretty big boulder.  I believe the beta says to go to the right of it, but it was more fun to go over.  There is a nice crack with good vertical and horizontal placements just after this, which was a perfect spot for the anchor.

2.  David led pitch 2, which started off with the crack and then ended on a boulder just before the chimney.  Beta says to end before this but do whatever you want as long as you can build a safe anchor.  I thought this pitch was significantly harder than the first, but I have small hands and David’s discovered that he loves fist-palm jambs when climbing.

3.  Getting up to the chimney is easy but not very well protected climbing.  I didn’t place any pro until I was at the base of the chimney, where the protection is actually pretty nice.  It should be noted that the rock is pretty slick here, and from what I am told, is wet almost all year.  There was a moment where I almost fell which rattled me slightly.  Thank God the chimney was easy (probably the easiest section of the climb).  There was a spot for my #4, which was totally unnecessary but I like to bring it because why the hell not.

The chimney tops out on a spacious ledge area (nice place to take off the harness and have a pee, if need be) with plenty of spots for an anchor.  There were two other parties that made their anchors here after waiting for us to *finally* finish P4 (see below).

4.  The crux of the climb, though it’s pretty obvious where to go.  Head up to the small ledge below the three cracks any way you can.  Getting to the rightmost crack, which is the deepest and the best for placement, was the most difficult part, as I had to do a sort of compression-swing to get my left foot onto the ledge.  Super happy David led this–I would have been freaking out in front of strangers.  Your only protection is the horizontal crack at your feet, since the other cracks are too shallow to place anything.

The crack itself was pretty easy.  It helps to be somewhat confident with foot jambs, but there are plenty of spots on the face where you can put your feet to help you up.  Top out onto another nice (large) ledge.  David had actually anchored into the rap rings which were found to the right of the large tree to the left of the climb (we chose not to do the final pitch, which was not mentioned on MP though I am told it is a 5.7.  The two can actually be linked, but rope drag and communication are hell at this point).

Where We Went Wrong:

On pitch four there is some serious difficulty with communication.  It is hard to hear, what with the river and the wind and a huge chunk of rock in between the leader and the follower.  One group brought radios, which we will definitely be doing in the future.

Thankfully, we were prepared.  After climbing Napsack Crack last Memorial Day, we had developed a rope tug system.  Unfortunately, we were not prepared for what had happened next.

Somehow, the rope got jammed under a lobe of a #2 cam and got stuck.  David had pulled in the slack, gave it two tugs, and I was all set to break down my anchor and climb (kept the belay device on, because what the hell).  Except he wasn’t taking in slack… and no matter how much I yelled, he couldn’t take in slack.

Thankfully, because David is smart and safe and cunning and wonderful, he clove-hitched himself to some slack in the rope and headed down to the edge of the cliff, where someone in another party (did I mention there were two waiting for us?–kind of embarrassing) could shout at him.  I let him know the rope was stuck.  Thankfully, he’s also super strong, because he was still able to take in slack even with the crappy situation.  My poor rope though.

The Descent:

The descent was shitty, but would probably have been better if I were doing it in something other than my trusty Tevas.  After tying knots on the end of the rope, we rappelled to the bottom of the rope, keeping to the right (perks of having a bi-colored rope!) and downclimbed the rest of the way.  There were some hairy parts, like downclimbing a wet rock with only moss for handholds, but it was also pretty neat.

David pointed out a few sections of moss which he estimates to be pretty fucking old.  It’s super spongy, super deep, and the “hairs” on it are pretty long.  It takes a while for moss to get like that.

I’d recommend doing the walk-off, since I’m pretty sure it’s much easier than this bullshit.

I’ll let you know when we do it, though.   We’ve already decided to come back and switch pitches, although I think David will be pretty bored at the pitches I led.


As MP and pretty much anyone who has done the climb will tell you, it is pretty easy, and perfect for a new trad climber.  In terms of excitement and overall climbing flow, I’d rank it up there with The Great Northern Slab out of Index, though that holds a special place in my heart.  This one is definitely better in terms of views, photo ops, and variability, but those small cracks on TGNS will always get me.

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