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my first leads at Index

Sara Lingafelter
Sara Lingafelter
5 min read

I ran out to Index on Friday night to meet my dear climbing partner Kari and her two Rottweilers (I had been cautioned, by a few friends, about camping at Index being sketchy… which I already knew, having camped there once before… but figured, with Jas and Mia standing guard, we would be Just Fine). Kari and I had a lovely evening of standing by her Forerunner in the climbers parking lot drinking Honey Moon, and then I crashed in my new bivy (which I completely love, thank you, Matt at Second Ascent). The sun came up, and I tried to avoid getting up… I woke up a few times and it was sunny each time, so I figured… time to get up and rock climb.

We took a leisurely trip in to the best coffee shop in the world (Chad, you were right) , Vinaccio Coffee in Sultan. Alex and Kelly were coming up too, but we didn’t want to wait around so headed for Ultrabrutal, an easy 5.7 that I’d done before on toprope. We arrived at Ultrabrutal and it was running with water… so, we inventoried. We didn’t have enough gear without borrowing from the boys to do anything longer than a pitch, so we couldn’t run off and get on something less sopping wet. I didn’t feel like sitting around, so I racked up and did a slippery but fun lead on Ultrabrutal (which was not that brutal). I actually placed gear this time (instead of chronically running it out like I have been the last few outings) and had fun despite the dripping from above, and certain key footholds being running with water. Soon after we cleaned the route, Alex and Kelly showed up and we all made our way for G-M. The typical slab approach was running water; the walk up to the right was slippery horribleness and not terribly protectable; so we took the walk in from the left to the base of G-M, and Alex set up a belay to bring Kelly to the base. Kari belayed me across without incident and then I belayed Kari across (good thing!) and we had a little bit of an adventure (which turned out with no injuries). Alex lead the first pitch, Kelly followed trailing our rope, and Kari and I toproped the first pitch. I actually took a fall on toprope, but even so, I’d still like to go back and lead it once I get just a tiny bit more confident on gear (the route was awesome). The guys kept going but we missed our opportunity for a toprope since we didn’t keep up… so Kari and I had some lunch while the guys kept climbing.

From there, Alex and Kelly had their eyes on Sagittarius, and Alex goaded me into taking a set of camalots to round out my rack and Kari and I headed to Great Northern Slab. Again, the approach was an adventure… there were several parties ahead of us and it was a bit of a mob scene… the 5.8 crack approach was occupied, the dirty/wet/mossy cornery thing to the right was occupied, but the descent chimney far to the right was open. I took the rack and rope with me and bouldered up, then had to find another way to belay Kari up because she would have KILLED me if I’d brought her up the descent chimney and she’d seen what I just soloed. I built a gear anchor and brought Kari up to the base of the Slab, and we waited our turn for the route.

The climb was fantastic despite it being a mob scene with varying levels of experience and skill among the parties. We did have to wait at belays, but the climbing itself was great, and I had a lovely time leading. We made lots of new friends chatting with folks at belays. The second “real” pitch (third for us because of belaying the approach) featured not-textbook pro at the start (at least, above the Railroad Bolts, which could probably hold a few trucks) and then a cruxy slopey mantel-y move to get to the base of the ultrafantastic twin 5.6 cracks that are the reason to do the route. After getting a couple of pieces including a high point of the best blue camalot I could given the conditions (the best placement I could get, I would rate as “marginal”), and wishing I had a size bigger camalot to place just a bit higher, I decided to move up. I reached up and hit a sloper, and thought, well… there’s got to be a jug here somewhere. I moved my feet up and reached and for another sloper. I repositioned my feet and kept my body tension, and thought, if I don’t hit a jug I’m going to peel on that marginal blue camalot. I actually was so sure I was going to peel that I looked down at the camalot, to make sure it hadn’t walked. I kept working my way up… didn’t peel… and finally got back on solid ground. It was AWESOME. I said something like “I can’t believe I just did that” several times, and then started plugging in gear up the super fun 5.6 crack up to the belay. I placed some pieces that even *I* thought were bomber, and then brought Kari up. I befriended one party at the belay… then up came Winston, the Texan, who was less than amused at the number of distractions he faced on his climb up the 5.10 Libra Crack (parties dropping ropes on him and rappelling over him; a free soloist running up and down laps over us… he had a lot to content with). While he brought up his partner and I brought Kari up, we had a nice chat. It was getting late in the day so we decided to team up for the rap down. Winston and his partner cleaned a nut for me that Kari couldn’t get (which was awesome — they were simul-rappelling and it took both of them hurking and pounding on the nut for a good few minutes so it would have taken me even longer… instead, they cleaned while I belayed Kari, so it saved us some time). Kari topped out and I lowered her back to the Railroad Bolts then dropped our rope to her and rapped down Winston’s. We didn’t do the final pitch; it was late in the day and my hope/goal was to climb the second pitch, so our objectives were met and hamburgers were calling.

We had an uneventful descent and then Kari and I had a nice drive together to meet Alex, Kelly and Josh for burgers in Monroe. I was totally blissed out the whole way to dinner… I was a bit nervous beforehand, when considering the route because this was my first time, I think, really leading, bottom to top, a trad multipitch route with a less-experienced-than-me follower. But Kari is a very capable, very fun, very calm partner, and I knew that we’d have a blast as long as I didn’t melt down (so I couldn’t melt down because rock climbing is supposed to be fun). The whole thing felt like a big accomplishment… in the past, I’ve reserved Index for climbing days when I could just follow, and it’s really exciting to know, now, that I can go there and do some leading.

I did, however, wake up the next morning wondering if I’d rock climbed the day before, or been run over by a truck. I didn’t do that many pitches, and I’m still (two days later) more sore than I’ve been in a long time. But oh, it’s so worth it… I’m still hanging on to the bliss, and looking forward to getting back outside again for at least a day this weekend.

Trip Reports

Sara Lingafelter

Sara (Grace) Lingafelter takes steps forward and backward toward a right-sized life on a daily basis.