One of my first ever alpine rock climbs was in the Enchantments, an area of the Cascade Mountains in Washington State. I was 20 years old, the climb was the West Ridge of Prusik Peak. My sister Steph and I climbed on one rope, my mom and dad on another. We had won the Enchantments lottery on a sunny August morning and were so excited to camp and climb in the beautiful granite wonderland. I was captivated by the beauty, only a few years past the “just buy the postcard” phase of my life. My dad had gone out and bought a pair of shoes and a brand new helmet just a few days before, hoping, at the age of 55, to get back into a hobby that used to be his passion. My mom climbed in tennis shoes, following my dad on each pitch, who led by clipping the gear that my sister placed on her leads. My sister was no stranger to alpine rock by this point, and was psyched. And me, I was freaked out. I became even more nervous when my dad fell while climbing behind me, losing his wedding ring and almost de-gloving a finger. Definitely not a TFA (Tear Free Ascent). Though my sister and I completed the route, my parents never made it to the summit, and while rappeling my mom must have mistook at least 10 sparkling rocks for my dad’s ring. “Marty – there it is! I see it!” Yet the ring is still up there, buried in the choss beneath Prusik, guarding the peak that my parents once climbed twice in one day just because “it was so much fun – why not do it again!”
I have been back to the Enchantments many times since, but never as a climber. Throughout the past year, as I have taken ownership over my climbing and started leading and making stuff happen, the Stuart Range (of which the Enchantments is a part) has grown large on my radar. The amount of beautiful, high quality alpine granite in this area is really incredible, and having rambled in these areas throughout my childhood and youth, it feels like home. So this past weekend on Enchantments rock was long overdue.
My good bud Dan and I climbed Solid Gold on Prusik Peak (III, 5.11a), and Acid Baby (III, 10d) on Aasgard Sentinal (otherwise known as Enchantment Peak, or perhaps Jabberwocky Tower too). My friend Blake is writing a guidebook for alpine rock routes in Washington and British Columbia, and generously let me take along his accounts of these two in exchange for my feedback as a [very amateur] beta tester. And let me tell you, these climbs are amazing!!! I want to put some stoke out on the interwebs for Solid Gold and Acid Baby (and all the other routes in the area), as from what I hear they don’t get climbed often enough. Memorial Day weekend, a decent forecast, and we were the only party on both routes! Both routes are incredibly stellar, boast amazing, steep rock, with quality pitch after quality pitch, are surprisingly immaculate given the amount of traffic they get, and have really stellar summits. Go climb them!!! And if you don’t live in Washington, the caliber of these routes combined with the beautiful surrounding wilderness makes them undoubtedly worth travelling to.
I want to ramble around a lot above the treeline in Washington this summer. I have my silly fears: that I might not find psyched partners, or that I might get lured into cragging at Index by the comfort of a boyfriend, short approaches, and ice cream at the end of the day. I just need to keep reminding myself of why I love the alpine: the complexity of the adventure, long days, summits, the game of efficiency and packing light and moving quickly, starry nights, JetBoil meals, no distractions from having good, connecting times with partners, getting deep into the wild places. And the climbing. The climbing is so, so enchanting.
Here’s a list of climbs, specifically in the Stuart Range, that I’d like to get on this summer. If you’re psyched too – let’s climb! Anyone got any other recommendations?
South Face, Prusik Peak
Der Sportsmen, Prusik Peak
West Face, Colchuck Balanced Rock
Backbone Ridge w/ Fin Direct, Dragontail Peak
Dragons of Eden, Dragontail Peak
The Valkyrie, Aasgard Sentinal
Gorillas in the Mist, Mt. Stuart