Skip to content

Should Icicle Buttress have its own blog category?

Sara Lingafelter
Sara Lingafelter
6 min read

This post was going to be, I had an uneventful weekend, the end… but, you know I could never write a blog post that short, right? I had tentative climbing plans for Friday afternoon, to be followed by a weekend of housework. When the Friday plans fell through, I realized I was armed with a free afternoon, beautiful weather, and a relatively unscheduled weekend (since housework can always wait). After my work thing was over, I thought to myself… Leavenworth sounds good.

I just happened to have everything I’d need for a weekend in my car… climbing clothes, climbing gear, sleeping stuff… and some folks from the local gym planned to be up there, so I figured I’d either crash their party, con one of my climbing girls to come up and join me, or make some new friends. Turns out, all three were on the menu for the weekend.

Friday was a lovely drive up, in time to snag a great little campsite at eightmile (which was still half empty by bedtime) and then enjoy a burger and beer at Gustav’s which fit the description of a beergarden and german sausage place that I’d heard about but not previously found. The burgers, and the redhead waitress, were fantastic.

The rest of my new Kitsap friends rolled in after I’d gotten back from dinner: Blonde Katie, Candace, Other Alex and Richard. It was Other Alex’s first time outside, and Richard and Candace’s first time outside in Washington… only Blonde Katie and I had been to Leavenworth before. After a nice evening and leisurely morning — during which, the guys earned point after point for their gender by such tasks as fire building and cooking meals — we hit a very hot, dusty and empty Clamshell Cave for a day of toproping. Did I mention we had four (yes, four) dogs with us? Katie’s, Candace’s, and Richard’s two. I am not typically a believer in dogs at the crag, but this little pack were champs.

We each climbed several routes, and then my dearest Sarah P and her boy Jeff made it up in the very hot afternoon. They treated me to a trip up a bolted 10a that I’d wanted to try since the last time I was up there last year, that I had hoped to lead this trip, but my head wasn’t in quite the right place. It was fun on toprope (but not clean, so I’ll come back to it for sure).

Saturday evening found us back at Gustav’s, celebrating Richard’s quarter century on the planet while Sarah and Jeff babysat Agnes, Blonde Katie’s adorable (but special needs) dog at camp. Let’s just say, Sarah and Jeff were relieved when we finally returned to camp… as always, Sarah and Jeff got the “above and beyond” award for the weekend.

The plan was to sleep out under the stars and then buzz down to Exit 38 in North Bend to climb somewhere a little bit less hot-as-hell. When we all started to stir, Jeff and Sarah suggested a pre-Wafflehaus “jaunt” and Other Alex and I were in. Jeff had in mind that little multipitch on Icicle Buttress and I chuckled to myself… let’s just say that I have a little bit of history with Icicle Buttress and specifically the R&D route he was referring to. On the other hand, Jeff and Sarah are fast, efficient, and highly competent, and I’ve learned a ton since my last long day on that buttress, so after discussing some logistics we set off. When we got to the base, there was another party on the route, moving VEEEEEEERY slowly. Now — I don’t quite know how to describe just how slowly they were moving. I do not believe I have ever *seen* a party move so slowly — and I’m slow-moving when left to my own devices. Jeff lead up the cracks to the climber’s left of the bolted slab, and then brought Other Alex up. Sarah set off on her lead, and I followed. We met up at a lovely belay ledge, with plenty of room to lounge, where I worked on my photo series of Sarah P in Repose (on Other Alex’s camera, so no pics yet). Since the party ahead of us was still on the next belay and it wasn’t nearly as roomy and comfortable, we chilled on the ledge for awhile (a long, long while) before continuing up. Jeff and Other Alex finally set off, and Sarah and I visited with a variety of friendly folks who joined us on the ledge so that I could time my arrival at the next belay at the point when Other Alex cleaned his anchor and headed up since the next belay was not nearly as roomy or comfortable. I took the lead and had a fun time placing oodles and oodles of gear, and then built an anchor (which left something to be desired – I’m going to pull out the John Long Anchors book and figure out a way to get some more practice since I definitely need it). I’m finally feeling like my gear placements are good, but I need to seriously work on anchor building. I belayed Sarah up, at which point she pointed out a perfect alien placement I’d missed to back up the anchor and since there was now a veritable traffic jam on the route due to the slow party ahead of us Sarah took the lead since she’s faster than I am on gear.

I just kept paying out and paying out rope, until finally there was no more. Between the wind and the river, we knew we wouldn’t be able to hear each other, so I kept waiting for the “two tugs” to mean “off belay” and then a following “two tugs” to tell me my belay was on. The tugs never came. The rope was taut for a good few minutes, before I figured that I was either on belay or Sarah had run out of rope. I knew Sarah would have placed abundant gear, so very cautiously disassembled my anchor and climbed very carefully up a few feet to see if the rope pulled tight. It didn’t, right away, so I stayed put, not wanting to outclimb my rope in case Sarah neither had me on belay nor knew telepathically that I was prepared for a short simulclimb if she had indeed run out of rope. Eventually the rope went taut and I started on very slowly to make sure the rope stayed taut, which it did. The last pitch was great fun… the rest of the route is a whole lot of work for that fun and fantastic finish but I look forward to doing it again and leading the last pitch when there aren’t fifty people in line behind me on the route. I met Sarah and the guys at the top… sure enough, the guys’ 70 meter was long enough to finish the route; our 60 meter ran out about 10 feet from the top, so the guys came to the rescue to reiterate my “two ropes are mandatory” rule for Icicle Buttress. We had a brief hoot and holler and enjoyed the view before packing up to descend so that we could get Other Alex to work, very, very late as it was.

In retrospect, despite my skepticism based on my previous experience with the approach slabs to R&D, that outing could have been a pre-Wafflehaus jaunt even with our party of four — with the exception of my anchor building and subsequent rope mis-management, we were efficient and moved quickly. As it was, because of the delay ahead of us, we were on route by about 8:30 am I think, and made it to the Wafflehaus at 1:30 pm. Even by multipitch standards, that was SLOW. But, the climbing was really fun, Other Alex learned a ton from Sarah and Jeff (who are excellent teachers, speaking from personal experience) and I got to experience the entire route which had been a bit of a nemesis for me since my last go at it. I got more good feedback from Sarah on my gear placements, and identified that I still need serious work on anchor building and rope management. Our descent was not bad at all following the cairns off to the left of the crag, and by the time we got back to the base where we’d left some extra gear, there was a veritable traffic jam on the Buttress. I didn’t stop to count climbers but if you’ve ever seen those horrible pictures of Everest with climbers all piled up waiting in line … that’s what the Buttress looked like. There were climbers everywhere. At the belays, in mid-pitch on their way to crowded belay ledges … it was a zoo. We high-tailed it out of there and wh
ile waiting for Der Waffles saw an aid car speed down highway 2… my first thought was that I hope all of those many, many climbers are okay out there.

Anyway, it was another great climbing weekend. Some new friends, some old friends, and as always, an adventure.

Sara Lingafelter

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