Infinite Bliss: Not the infinite choss I expected (4 Star)

This, my friends, is my first Mountain Yelp Review. Over the course of 23 pitches up and 25 rappels down, I had a lot of time for rumination. I think the best joke I came up with on route was when Tim and I were on pitch 22, totally engulfed in a cloud and I asked Tim: “Hey Tim, is that backpack full of shit that you’re backing up to the cloud?” I gave myself a good chuckle with that one. I am the queen of bad jokes.

I found myself on this route rather unexpectedly. Originally, the plan had been to climb Clean Break on Juno Tower in Washington Pass but those plans fell through. Given that this route was infinitely more accessible: 1/3 of the driving, less than 1/3 of the approach, and a limited number of bolts instead of tedious trad climbing at the “start” of my worst climbing season in 6 years… It seemed like the move.

Crux pitch: 5.10c slab climb at pitch 19.

This route gets 4 stars because it’s a notorious classic. I came away from this climb feeling like I’d just ticked a rite of passage, since it was an opportunity to prove to my skittish brain (even when I’m climbing strong and regularly) that I still knew what I was doing despite an unwanted hiatus thanks to COVID-19, necessary time for reflection on America’s racial injustice problems and a mandatory desk job that seemed to eat up all of my sunny early season days.

It’s not very often that you get to clip bolts in an alpine setting for 23 consecutive pitches with very few B.S. walking pitches to link up the route. And yes, I’ve climbed Timewave Zero (5 star – YES) and Flyboys (2 star – MEH.) I guess you could say that I consider myself a connoisseur of alpine bolts (or a lazy alpinist.) However, I agree with the Mountain Project description and disclaimer that “this is not a sport climb.” I don’t think I would have fared as well on this route even a year ago, if I’m really honest with myself.

Why? This route is an absolute trip. You have bolts where you need and want them, but definitely not in the same way that you would climb a bolted route at a crag. Where the climbing is easier, the bolts are scarce. Where the climbing ups the ante, the bolts make themselves available again. This is truly one of those climbs where you’re at the mercy of the person responsible for bolting the route. I suspect they have a unique sense of humor.

45 meters of 5.2 climbing with zero bolts. Weird. Kinda cool.

I lead one of the two low-fifth pitches with zero bolts. Tim took the first and miraculously found the anchor. I took the second lead and quested upward and into uncertainty until the anchor revealed itself to me. While I was creeping along, I was begging the notoriously chossy climb not to fail me at one of my hand or footholds. Knowing that the individual motions were well within my physical capabilities, I had to wrestle with my mind to will myself further and further from the safety of the anchor that Tim was clipped to… 3 meters… 5 meters… 10 meters… 20 meters below. Initially, I thought: if I fall, this slab is low-angle enough that if I just lie belly down my feet will probably find holds and stop me there. Twenty meters above the anchor and in increasingly steeper terrain, I focused on footholds instead of picturing myself tomahawking 20 meters back to Tim and another 20 meters beneath him. Oh, the adventure!

The crux pitch was a slabby good time. Nothing to write home about, though.

Determining factors for my 4 star review: notoriety, confirmed choss, easy approach, short drive, long pitches, alpine setting, TWENTY-THREE PITCHES!, twenty-five rappels :(, never felt like I was actually going to get wrecked by the route but did have to consider it a few times. Would recommend to my crazy friends. Would not recommend to someone that 1) doesn’t like slab climbing and 2) doesn’t like it when shit gets weird. Memorably weird alpine climbing.

Published by mallorie estenson

Mallorie is an alpine guide, writer and climber based in Seattle, WA.

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