Soggy Holiday in the Icicle
Updated: Dec 10, 2019
We are in the heart of dirtbag season here in the PNW. Since March, I've spent a good chunk of my weekends in the mountains with many sleeps in a tent. The weather has been on my side for most of my adventures so far. But that was not the case for my Memorial Day Weekend. My climbing plans were foiled by the rain and on Sunday morning, I woke up in a swamp. What was supposed to be a weekend at Rock Fest, an annual bouldering event in Leavenworth, WA, was really more about chopping fire wood and making s'mores. The soggy weekend was still a blast with good company and a cooler full of good food. And I discovered that cooking bacon in a cast iron pan over hot coals is my preferred type of fine dining.
My plans to hit Rock Fest this year started an extra day early, which allowed some dry time to get in one climb over the weekend. On Friday morning, my adventure buddy Derek and I drove to Leavenworth. Our plan was to climb our first trad-multipitch. We were given beta for a climb called Saber, a modest 5.6, two-pitch trad climb on Castle Tower in the Tumwater Canyon. Knowing the forecast, I was happy to see that the route was dry when we arrived. Both of us were extremely stoked to be climbing trad. We'd just learned some technique a few weekends back (read last blog here) and we'd be using our shiny new racks to place our own protection. Derek took the sharp end first and lead his way up the pitch with deft. Aside from a few burly moves off the ground, the route was perfect for beginners with obvious placement for our cams. I took the lead up the last pitch, which was more like a grade-4 scramble. I'd probably be comfortable climbing it without a rope. But I still practiced placing my cams into cracks and building a trad anchor. The skies were moody as we hit the top. We took some pics and enjoyed a nice moment of achievement together while soaking in the views.
Derek and I polished off the night in Leavenworth with flight of bratwurst and a beer while waiting for our other friends to arrive. Traditional steins lined the walls and a man played the accordion while we ate. We then headed into Icicle Canyon to a well known climber's camp site. Much to my surprise, the site was practically empty. I think the weather forecast scared off the bulk of climbers and we nearly had the site to ourselves.
Elise had brainstormed a fantastic menu for the weekend, per usual. We seared up McDonald's-level hash browns, sausage, and eggs on her portable hibachi grill and set off to the boulders soon after. The canyon was still dry at breakfast. But as soon as we pulled into the parking lot of the boulder area, it had started to pour. We found our friends climbing inside of a massive cave and were able to squeeze about 20 of us inside to stay dry and climb. It was good to see familiar faces again and give the V5 project a wrestle (see pic below). The route was tough, but likely doable with some patience and work. Within 30 minutes of climbing, another group of 20 kids and instructors pilled into the cave and commandeered the space. Our crew gave up trying to climb after that. The rain had not let up and all of Leavenworth was soaked. We called it a day and went into town to pick up some tarp for our campsite.
The rain let up for dinner as we grilled up gluten-free quesadillas. We set up a slack line in between two towering pine trees and played toss with the pups. The clouds started to break and we could see the craggy peaks of the Icicle beneath the blue sky. Our crew chatted the evening away by firelight and headed to bed, hopeful that Sunday would stay dry. It turns out the rain never let up overnight and our tents were fully saturated by morning. Rain drops fell on my forehead every now and again as water pooled on the tent's roof. That morning was a reminder that some of the most unpleasant moments can come from soggy conditions. But the thud of heavy rain drops paired with my cozy bag next to Derek's brought all the comfort I needed through the downpour.
Everyone was slow to rise that morning and we figured we wouldn't be able to bust out the grill for breakfast. Thankfully, we had a cast iron skillet and threw it on a newly stoked fire. We huddled around the heat to dry out our jackets and cooked a mean meal of breakfast burritos via hot coals. We may have also snuck in a few more s'mores to go along with the bacon. Thinking back to it now, I should have put bacon in my s'more.
Rain or shine, my heart is full from my weekend among the mountains. An adventure with my climbing crew always does the trick. I have a good chunk of my weekends already booked out through the rest of spring and summer. I'm hoping to climb more trad, cap a summit of Mt. Olympus, birthday sky dive with Elise, and do some hunting practice for Fall turkey season. I'm stoked!
Elise and I have launched an Instagram & YouTube page for our adventure vlog. You can follow us @AdventuresOffAir and check out our videos here.
More photos from the Icicle