Jadwiga and I headed to Washington Pass this weekend with this route as major goal. This was the first time we climbed together. Picking a 5.11A was maybe ambitious, but the crux on this route is very short, and the climbing is 5.8-5.9 for the most part.
This hike to NEWS took us about 1.5 hours from the Blue lake trailhead. We started hiking late, around 9:30 am, to get more sleep, which put us doing half of the approach under the very very hot sun. It is unusually hot in Washington, and we are suffering from it! From the trail, we could see a party already rapping down. The line was still in the shade but not for long!
The West Face shares the first two pitches with the Northwest corner route. A party was just starting we when got to the base of the climb. Two parties came up while Jadwiga started leading the first pitch. She combined the first two pitches and ended up on a gigantic ledge.
We moved the belay to the bottom of the second pitch (pitch 3 on the topo). It’s a steep 5.8 crack that Jadwiga lead as well.It was so hot that I was breathing heavy following this 5.8 pitch. I was getting worried I could lead afterwards! Jadwiga was belaying me up a slung horn.
The beginning of the third pitch looked intimidating to me. An offwidth 5.8 with no protection for a long time. I tried a few moves but couldn’t bring myself to move up. I decided to climb a hidden crack to my left and then traverse below a horizontal crack to bypass the offwidth / no pro section. The traverse felt harder than 5.8, but I was protected!
Back on the route. The 5.9+ section is really fun. As the description of the climb says, there is a good handjam / jug when you need it. It was cool to see Jadwiga doing the traverse from the belay. I wish I would have had a camera then.
The fourth pitch is a very short 5.11A / 5.10+ finger crack. I was super excited to lead it, also wishing it would be longer. There is a very old bolt to clip on the face traverse to the next belay. I clipped it but it seemed loose, and very rusty. It didn’t feel needed anyways. This pitch is technical, but I felt more comfortable on it than trying the 5.8 offwitdh before that.
Jadwiga wanted to lead the next pitch. I wanted to as well, but I’ll do it next time! She did really well on this very long section that starts hard (5.10b), then eases to the last anchors. I whish I would have enjoyed following it, but it was too hot! And my feet started swelling. It was good anyways.
We them scrambled up to get safe, take pictures, and rest a little. The party following us suggested we leap-frogged rappel. They were nice and funny so we accepted. I believe we made 5 rappels down to the base, rapping the west face of NEWS (but not the climb).