Three O'clock Rock
Silent Running (5.9+, 6 pitches)
December 1, 2002
If life gives you lemons, then make lemonade. The local weather has been giving us foggy mornings and evenings but beautiful sunny days, so Michael and I took this opportunity to climb Silent Running, a classic six pitch slab climb at Three O'Clock Rock near Darrington. We arrived at the trailhead around 8am and hiked the 1.5-2 miles up through the dark forest and past huge stumps to the base of Three O'Clock Rock. Other than Mt Pugh, I had never been to this area. I was really impressed! Across the valley was Blueberry Hill and Exfoliation Dome which the sun highlighted throughout the day.
We were really excited to be climbing in such beautiful weather in December! I had read enough about this route to know that the third pitch was the hardest, so I did some calculations and courteously offered the first lead to Michael. We expected the rock to be a little wet from frost or dew, but the slabs were almost entirely dry except for a small wet streak way off to our left. We used the topo of the route from Selected Climbs in the Cascades vol II and found it to be very accurate in identifying where the anchors were in relation to features as well as the number of bolts on each pitch. We supplemented our rack of quickdraws with a "handful" of cams up to a #2 Camalot. We used Michael's two 60m, 8.5mm ropes which worked really well.
After the first pitch the climbing difficulty was pretty sustained. While following on the third pitch (5.9+) I was very glad to have the security of a top rope. There were a few spots where the bolts were spaced farther apart, but the climbing was accordingly easier. The anchors were all modern and consisted of at least two bolts chained together with a rappel ring. We swapped leads, and took our time enjoying this fun route and the incredible spring-like weather. By the second pitch we were climbing in full on sun!
More to come....Did Michael lead the optional 5.10b 7th pitch?
By the time we reached the 6th pitch I had found my "friction legs". While the climbing was still very "balancy", it wasn't as intimidating as the third pitch was for me earlier. There were a few older bolts on this pitch in addition to shiny "happy" bolts. We were at the top of the modern route, but Michael wanted to try the optional 7th pitch, rated 5.10b. It consisted of a series of downsloping steps up to a nice undercling, then a bolted slab traverse (crux) finishing with easier slab climbing to the belay. Michael carefully negotiated the awkward steps then climbed up the steep smooth slabs, slipping once. He then cruised up to the belay. I was amazed when it was my turn to follow this pitch. The downsloping steps felt like they were always on the verge of spitting me off, and my feet were slowly slipping with each placement on the steep section. To call it tenuous climbing would be an understatement. And this was with the luxury of a top rope! I gave kudos to Michael as I climbed up to the belay. That was an impressive lead.
We rappelled the route still in awe of the great weather. Once at the bottom we took a quick look at the map and decided to head over to some fun 5.7 climbing near the Kone. This would be a fun way to finish off the day.....
More to come....Did Peter's Elvis leg shake him off The Kone? Stay tuned....
Michael's report and some photos are here.