Wayout Wall!

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It has been a long time since I last climbed rock at the Wayout Wall. Two years ago, I managed a day of ice climbing out there, but as far as I can recall, my last rock climbing day out there was during the FA of Bulwark and Stepping Stone. It was time to make the pilgrimage once more.

A handy bit of luck has put me in the vicinity of the cliff over the past few days, with easier than normal access. I figured it would be quite a lot faster getting to the cliff from the luxury of this unusual launching point: I was wrong. The approach reinforced once again just how way, way out the Wayout Wall is. This cliff is guarded by a hillside of giant boulders, outcrops, and thick woods, and it sits high on Crane’s flank, so just getting to the base is like doing a long route. One could think of the cliff itself as the final pitch of a bushwhack-style ascent.

The good side is, once there, the view is tremedous, particularly at this time of year. 

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Looking down from the top of Bulwark.

Once I reached the real stuff, I walked from the top of Bulwark, past the bottom of Sun Dogs, to untrammeled cliff, looking for likely candidates. Alone, with a skinny, short rope and an anemic rack, I couldn’t press my luck on anything truly hard. But that is what the Wayout Wall offers: I passed several tempting lines, all appearing far too difficult for rope-soloing. Finally, I came upon a chimney that looked realistic. The angle above the slot looked easy, so I pulled out the gear and roped up.

As I tied the rope to a nearby tree, I noticed a wide crack next to the chimney didn’t look all that hard. It was also closer to the belay point, so I decided to give it a try first. It looked like I could sling a horn 20′ up if I needed to back down; at worst I would have to leave a bit of gear.

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The first FA at the Wayout Wall in 15 years?

I had discounted this crack on first sight, assuming it would need a lot of large gear, and I didn’t have any; a single #3 Camalot was my largest piece. But looking again at the line, I saw alternative cracks, that might accept smaller gear, and here and there a chockstone that might provide good pro. Even better, a decent-sized pine tree stood above, what looked like maybe 70′ up, which would provide a perfect rappel for my 160′ rope, so I headed up.

The main crack was fist to arm-bar wide, but as the difficulties increased, a crack paralleling it yielded good nesting sights for smaller cams. Fortunate, since the chockstones proved far less promising. Each and every one tumbled out as I tested it. I spent a few minutes hurling rocks and the skeletal remains of a birch tree out of my way so I could get past this steep bulge onto a large, sloping ledge. Good toe holds, a little lieback move, a jam or two, and I was over the difficulty.

For the time being. The wide crack disappeared for the next fifteen feet, buried under a pile of rubble, rubble that began as chunks of rock lying on that tilted ledge, but quickly piled into an overhanging mass of unconsilidated, frighteningly large boulders in front of me. It was obvious what had killed the birch tree: rockfall. No way was I testing that passage! I scanned the surroundings, hoping for an alternative. I was in an alcove of sorts, the backwall composed of that deadly pile, but I noted that the lowest boulders looked pretty solidly situated, and the wall to my left had an excellent horn on the outside corner, less than ten feet up. I toyed around with a cam in the gap between the left wall and one of those mostly-firm boulders, then began chimneying upward, a wide, stem-style maneuver with poor footing but fair friction. The horn was good, and a scalloped bit of rock below it provided footing. I stepped over left, onto the outside corner, and climbed up to a stance below a gnarly overhang, where I could assess my new situation.

A bush I thought might offer protection turned out to be far too slim for the job. The going above was both dirty and overhanging. I spent some time brushing moss and loose grit off the holds here, and more time digging out cam placements, tiny cam placements, in the righthand wall. The next few moves looked downright hard. I surely hated the thought of leaving two shiny-new C3’s retreating. But I didn’t like the looks of that overhang either. Hmmm.

Finally, I decided to at least give the moves a go and see what they were like. With the cleaning, they weren’t all that bad; one move on smallish holds led to a bucket for my left hand, and the wide crack returned to greet my right side: I grasped it firmly in hand, and plugged my knee securely in, as well. The next bit was still overhanging, but with this welcome crack at hand, it wasn’t too hard liebacking up a tad, then stepping right onto a spacious sloping ledge. Ah, life! October Crack, an easy 5.8, is I believe the first first ascent at the Wayout Wall in fifteen years.

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View from the perch at the top of my first route.

I took some time resting, soaking in the view, before heading down. The route looked too long for my rope, so I had to descend on a single strand to clean, then untie the end of the rope, check the length (a bit short), and decide how best to recover my rope. In the end, I climbed up that original chimney, tacking yet another new route on the Wayout list, then spent some time trying to send a ridiculous connection from the top of the chimney to the pine tree that my rope was tied to before settling for the more natural, much easier line and walking around. Once there, I spent more time untangling my rope and taking pictures before timidly rappelling into the abyss and using that oak tree at the bottom to get me down the last eight feet or so. The route is closer to 90′ than 70.

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Wayout Chimney, 5.5

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Looking west, toward Garnet Lake

So the Wayout Wall had at least one visit in 2011, and two new routes now grace its slopes. Neither will win any beauty contests: the wide crack’s midsection of death will turn away most climbers, and the chimney, while being easy enough, has a low-angle, wet top-out.

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