This weekend I took advantage of my time in Leavenworth and my local friends' Easter absences to solo on Friday and Sunday. Friday I hiked up to Lower Eight Mile Buttress to climb The Tree Route (II 5.6, 3 pitches) and then hiked a couple hundred feet from the to link it up with The Stump Route (II 5.6, 3 pitches) on the Middle Eight Mile Buttress. Sitting on top after 6 pitches and 600+ feet of climbing was deeply satisfying, but the climbs have little to recommend them and I don't think I'll be heading back there anytime soon. Sunday I took my morning sussing out the crags closer to the highway, climbing a total of 9 pitches on Domestic Dome and Playground Point before taking the approach hikes to Duty Dome and Careno Crag to re-acquaint myself with those two trails.
|Day One | Looking down +700' to the Icicle from the top of The Stump Route.|
|Now I just need to find the descent trail.|
|Day Two | A little flesh wound on Domestic Dome.|
|Close up | Ouch. I've lost a fair bit of skin from my knuckles after a knuckle-headed move.|
Solo climbing - especially to the majority of our society that does not climb - is unacceptably dangerous. But I think that its all a bit relative. The same non-climbing majority are willing to jaywalk across a street without the use of a crosswalk or stoplight, right? I just did that this morning on my way to meet a friend for breakfast!
I believe soloing at any level makes a climber a better climber - the key is to solo relative to one's own abilities, not by measuring someone else's accomplishments. I solo because while I'm climbing without a rope I become totally focused on the movement, the terrain, the character of my breath, and the deep satisfaction when I finish. I don't solo because my friends asked me too, or because I watched this video. And I think that every climber does solo without even realizing. Even if its just a 5.6 climber moving unroped over 4th class terrain - they're making the same commitment to their climb as an elite athlete who commits to soloing a 5.11. And they feel the same elation and satisfaction when they stand at the end.