“Acid Baby”. What a great name for a climb! I want to do it. And so we did last weekend.
This climb is fairly sustained. Nothing rated under 5.9 (that grade at Leavenworth is no joke to me still!), and two of the three 5.9 pitches certainly got they own challenges.
We slept at the trailhead parking lot on Friday, which means we didn’t get much sleep: too many people speaking loudly during the night, in my opinion. Since this route was a push for Aaron and I, we got an early start, hiking towards Aasgard pass in the dark. After a breakfast break at Colchuck lake, we started the hike up the pass. No pressure. We started early enough not to be rushed on the approach. After 3:40 hours or hiking we made it to the base of the climb. The second corner pitch is really easy to spot from the trail, no troubles here.
Aaron lead the first pitch while I was freezing at the base. It’s a nice 5.9 climb, a good warm up for the next one. We had decided to switch leads on this climb, so that was my turn up the overhanging wide corner (5.10). The first moves were strenuous. I was leading with two layers and a backpack, so I got quickly warmed up. This pitch was pretty straightforward, just strenuous for a first lead of the day. At the end of the corner, there is a good standing rest before jumping on a 5.8 handcrack.
I followed Aaron the next pitch (5.9). It goes straight up a loose rock section (be careful there!), then a traverse on easier terrain, but harder to protect. The traverse was really cool. It was nice to follow, easy walking at the end. I was getting a rest there.
My turn to lead on a 5.10 pitch. It starts with a wide crack. Another one… Wide cracks are not my forte, even if this section was rated 5.8. I do not feel confident bumping up a #4. Oh well. You can’t get better at things if you don’t do them. After the wide crack, I traversed left to a corner finger crack. Ouch, this traverse move is heady. Not easy to do either. It looked like I had to do a few moves before being able to place pro. I stood some time here, trying to decide how to approach this. The party behind us was catching up with us. I had to keep moving. Finally I went for it, pulling some weird moves up the corner until I finally got a decent stance to place pro.
After the corner the topo said to traverse left on some unprotected 5.7 slab. Mmh, no thank you. I chose to keep going up the tiny crack, and traverse, aiming straight left for the ledge. That variation made the pitch harder, probably more 5.10d ish. But at least I was protected, and I didn’t fall. I would do the same next time. And now I know I can lead some 5.10D finger cracks with a backpack and socks on.
The next pitch started with an “open book” and was rated 5.10+. When Aaron got there I asked if he wanted me to do it. He returned the question: ” well, do you want to do it?”. I wanted to, but also needed a mental rest. So he went for it. It was interesting for sure. There was a green BD cam stuck in that pitch, we thought we could bootie it. But instead, we ended up getting another green camelot stuck. Some people are going to be happy. Aaron was belaying me on a good ledge.
The following pitch looked and was easier. Finally. It started with a corner fingercrack (5.10), then up a 5.9 ish crack (the description said wide crack but I didn’t use any of the #3 or #4). I found the pro to be hard the first few meters, but maybe I was being blind. This pitch ends with a fun 5.7 protectable slab. Awesome, finally something easy.
Aaron got the last pitch. We were eager to get to the top! He started up the corner, to then realize he should have traversed right two meters up the belay, and then go up. The way he took was certainly harder than 5.9, and a little dirty. It was taking a long time, and we could not communicate. The party behind us caught up with us. They started leading a little bit after I started following Aaron. I knew this pitch was exposed on both sides, so I was making my best not to look down. It’s a shame, but I also don’t know how I react to so much exposure. Am I afraid of heights after all?
Aaron did not make it to the end of the pitch because of rope drag. He was belaying me on the ridge, behind a big “boulder”. I was having a hard time to follow, thinking if I’d fall, I’d swing and would have to prussic up? The guy leading behind me (who was a mountain guide) helped me to gain back confidence.
I then lead us to the end of the climb, doing a few more moves on the ridge, followed by a downclimb. Done! But we still had to go down. I had printed two descent options. We opted for the one that seemed the fastest. Scramble down the second gully, then walk/ scramble skier’s left until joining a meadow.
Back to our pack at night, I finally ate… my lunch. I am still so bad about eating while climbing. Which is probably why I “crash”. What’s the point of carrying a sandwich if I don’t eat it?
The walk down Aasgard Pass and back to the car took us longer than expected. We stopped to get some water, eat again, rest… Until we thought that if we rest more, we might sleep.