WA Pass Lemonade: the Direct East Buttress of SEWS- June 2018




It started with a deer. Or more accurately, it started with the deer sprinting out into my lane, then trampolining off the hood in series of slow motion loops en route to the ditch. And when the body shop messed up the the timing for parts, the plan to drive out to Washington went up like the steam from the smashed radiator.

Our idea had been simple: drive out from Montana, meet Emily and Joel, then climb and camp for five days in the Enchantments. Perhaps hit Index. And if the window appeared, go for the complete North Ridge of Mt. Stuart.


Yet, sitting in the hotel in Leavenworth, tent hung between the room door and a coat rack, piles of gear drying out everywhere, it was time for some choices. I couldn’t miss work on the 19th; lots of other folks were gone from the shop. A single day push on the North Ridge seemed possible. However, Drew and I hadn’t climbed together before, and it was old memories of skiing together that made me want to tie in with him in the first place. Neither of us knew the route from experience. The weather looked nearly perfect, nearly.

So I found myself imagining a scenario like this: a long push up terrain we didn’t know, running late, clouds coming in, trying to hustle down the rappels on the Sherpa Glacier, frantically racing through traffic back to Seatac to catch the flight I’d snagged, all because of that deer.


It wasn’t gonna work. We’d be cutting it thinner than the hairs that got stuck between the body panels and the edges of my headlights.



So when the “we probably shouldn’t go” phone call turned into “what about WA Pass?”, Drew suggested the DEB. It’d be fast, done in a day. Weather looked great. Simple access. He’d be happy to drive.

If you’re a climber, and you’re lucky, you know the kind of day that it was: wandering up the approach, one pack between us. That great moment where approach shoes come off, and it’s TC Pro time. Stretching the rope, building belays. Great company and silly banter at the stance, yo-yo’d with the silence, introspection of being 40m alone, questing a little, finding placements and pulling through.



Drew one-hung the 11a crux; I followed shamelessly yarding on draws, standing on the bolts that Beckey (probably) had drilled. Climbing up and right into the shadow; made an etrier out of a cordalette for the next bolt ladder. Passing the typo’s belay to wring all the wandering from the 70m pooled down with Drew. Watching him climb away at speed, following up the final rollover, fully tuned in. Moving fast, easy, loose.

I said lucky: lucky is a chance to feel effortlessness when nothing about the task is simple. Lucky is teaming up with an acquaintance and coming away friends. Lucky is the long stretch of the rope, the long stretch of the day. The evening winding itself down the hills on the drive back to Bellingham, a faint taste of lemonade on my tongue.