<-- Map of summer 2018
     climbing roadtrip 
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AUG
18-19
2018

EXFOLIATION Dome 
Route 1: Ancient Melodies (5.11- or 5.10 A0, 7p)
Route 2: Snake Charmer (5.11- 6p)

Category: Washington      Trip Report #313
Partner: Jess K
Rock Type: Granite
Summit Elev: 
4,280 ft

A nice 2-day link-up of two routes on opposite sides of Exfoliation Dome.


INTRO

Exfoliation Dome is a fin-like granite peak rising south of Darrington, Washington. The broad and slabby west face hosts a number of good 5.8-5.11 routes of 7-10 pitches and the steep and hidden east face was home to some steeper and more adventurous routes including some of the first climbs in the Clear Creek Area. The approach is short by North Cascades standards: ~1-1.5 hours to the base of the west-side routes and ~2 hours* to the base of the east-side routes. (*if you don't get off route)

(Photo to the right is of Exfoliation Dome as viewed from the NW, taken from Three O'Clock Rock in May 2016).

Jess and I decided to climb for the weekend at Exfoliation Dome. On Saturday, we climbed Ancient Melodies (on Proxima Wall on the popular west side of the dome) and on Sunday we climbed Snake Charmer (on Witch Doctor Wall on the adventurous and steeper east side of the dome). This was a great weekend link-up of two routes of very different character: Ancient Melodoes: absolutely grunge-free well-trafficked climb, well-protected, lots of slabby climbing and very little crack climbing, pretty mellow vibe; Snake Charmer: some grunginess due to lack of traffic, well-protected, and mostly steep crack/flake/corner climbing and very little slab climbing, more adventurous vibe. I had a blast climbing with Jess and hope for more climbs together in the future!


CLIMB 1 - AUG 18
Ancient Melodies on Proxima Wall (5.11- or 5.10 A0, 7 pitches)

Ancient Melodies climbs Proxima Wall, the steep west-facing wall of granite on the southern flank of Exfoliation Dome. The route is fairly new (2012 by Coltrane, Hanna, Packard, Storms). Climbing is characteristic of Darrington-area climbs: slabby faces and slabby corners. The protection is a mix of bolts and gear (we found a single rack sufficient). The route is a bit less runnout than less recent Darrington-area climbs, with a bit tighter spacing between protection bolts. The route is rated 11-, but there is only a short section of 11-, and the route can be climbed at 5.10 A0.

Jess and I are both more comfortable in cracks than on slab, so we weren't sure how we would like this route. But we ended up having a lot of fun. The rock was solid, the protection was good, the climbing interesting; plus, the Granite Sidewalk approach was pretty unique (and un-schwacky!) and the rappel descent made getting down quick and easy. All in all, a fun day out!

The following gives an overlay and some photos from the climb.


TIME STATS

Car to base of West Slabs: 1 hour
Base of West Slabs to base of route via Approach Gully: 20 minutes
Climb: 4.5 hours
Rappel route: 1 hour 45 minutes (45 min of this was rappelling the West Slabs)
Base of West Slabs to car: 1 hour
Total car-to-car (includes breaks): 10 hours


ROUTE OVERLAY



PITCH BY PITCH PHOTOS

Photos:
Photo descriptions:
Approach
Up the "Granite sidewalk" (2nd-3rd-4th) to the base of the route, ~1.5 hours.
1.    
2.    
 
 
  
  
 
 
 
1. Looking up the Granite Sidewalk towards Exfoliation Dome above. No shwacking on this approach!
2. The approach gully to the base of the route (we opted not to climb the 3-pitch approach pitches on the West Slabs, since we had heard that they are a bit runnout).


Pitch 
1
5.9+, 35m. Bolted prow and over a small overlap.
3.    
4.   
3. Looking up Pitch 1.
4. A large metolius bolt marks the start of the route.


Pitch 
2
5.8, 35m. Small parallel cracks to slab.
5.    
6.   
5. Looking up Pitch 2.
6. Looking down Pitch 2.


Pitch 
3
5.10+, 50m. Small face holds, slab, mantles, and side-pulls.
7.    
8.  
7. Jess starting up Pitch 3.
8. Me following Pitch 3.


Pitch 
4
5.10, 40m. Fun and aesthetic right-facing corner system.
9.    
10.    
11.  
9. The fun corner on Pitch 4. This is not bolted so bring a single rack for this climb!
10. Looking down the corner.
11. Looking down Pitch 4 from the belay.



Pitch 
5
5.10+, 30m. Foot traverse to a techy left-facing corner. 
12.    
13.    
14.   
12. Jess starting off Pitch 5.
13. The foot traverse on Pitch 5.
14. The slabby corner on Pitch 5. The corner is bolted since its too thin for pro.


Pitch 
6
5.11-/5.10 A0, 25m. The crux comes right off the belay. After that, 5.10 face and slab climbing along a slippery dike and over a small roof. It's well-bolted so the cruxy stuff can be A0'ed....
15.    
16.   
15. Looking up Pitch 6 from the belay. The 11- (or A0) crux is a few moves at the start of the pitch.
16. Looking down Pitch 6.


Pitch 
7
5.8, 25m. A large left-facing corner that ends on the ridge.
17.    
18.    
19.   
17. The Pitch 7 corner. Pretty easy and fun corner and crack climbing.
18. Me a few moves from the top of the route.
19. Jess a few moves from the top of the route.


Top!
The route reaches the top of Proxima Wall. The summit of Exfoliation Dome is to the north.
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21.    
  
20. The top of Exfoliation Dome to the north (Ancient Melodies is on Proxima Wall, which tops out a bit south of the top of Exfoliation Dome). You can get to the top of Exfoliation by some 4th and low 5th, but we felt no great desire to do this, so we just rappelled from the top anchors.
21. Looking down at Blueberry Buttress. This is the most popular route on the wall, since it is pretty moderate (5.8+) and takes a nice line. There were about 5 parties on this route the day we climbed Ancient Melodies. 

Descent
Rap the route (bolted anchors) with double ropes as follows:
(1) Top of P7 (single rope)
(2) Top of P6
(3) Top of P4 (skip P5)
(4) Top of P3
(5) Top of P2
(6) Top of P1
(7-9) Three double-rope raps down West Slabs or downscramble Approach Gully. Probably quicker to downscramble Approach Gully.
22.    
23.    
24.    
25.    
26.  
22. This is a photo of the top rap anchor on the West Slabs. You can rappel the West Slabs (3 double rope raps) or downscramble the Approach Gully. It took us quite a long time to rappel the West Slabs (double ropes on low angle terrain....), so I think downscrambling the Approach Gully would actually be quicker.
23. Rappelling the West Slabs.
24. The third and final rap anchor on the West Slabs. This one was a bit hard to find but it's there! In general, rappel to climber's left down the West Slabs.
25. Hiking down the Granite Sidewalk.
26. My office at the trailhead. (We planned to climb the next day on the other side of the dome, so we just slept at the trailhead.)





CLIMB 2 - AUG 19
Snake Charmer on Witch Doctor Wall (5.11-, 6 pitches)

Snake Charmer climbs the hidden east-facing aspect of Exfoliation Dome known as Witch Doctor Wall. This wall is on the opposite side of the dome from Ancient Melodies, and requires a different approach. Unlike most of the climbing in the Darrington area, Witch Doctor Wall is steep; the climbing is up steep flakes and cracks rather than slabs. Snake Charmer is a relatively recent route (2012 by Burdick, Bodenner, Cahall, Siadak, Waldon, West). The route is included in Herrington's Cascades Rock guidebook. All other routes I've climbed out of this guidebook have been excellent, so Jess and I figured Snake Charmer would be a worthy objective.

The climbing on Snake Charmer was indeed a worthy climb, with a lot of sections of quality 5.10 climbing. Jess and I enjoyed the route. The main drawback to the route is that it has not been climbed much, so it has some grunge and looseness; with increased traffic on the route, the climb could become excellent. In general, we found the rock quality to be fairly good by Cascades standards. All of the belays (except the very last) were bolted at comfortable ledges and the descent was a quick and straightforward rappel  of the route. The FA'ers did a great job of putting protection bolts for some of sections without good gear or where the flakes are somewhat suspect. We brought a #4 and while at no point it was absolutely necessary, we did place it a few times; a bigger cam feels like it can bite through a thin layer of dirt better than a small cam. Jess and I led 3 pitches each.

The following gives an overlay and some pitch-by-pitch photos from the climb. 


TIME STATS

Car to base of route: 3 hours (we got off route on the approach and lost about 1 hour)
Climb: 5 hours 15 minutes
Rappel route: 50 minutes
Hike to car: 1 hour 50 minutes
Total car-to-car (includes breaks): 12.5 hours


APPROACH MAP



ROUTE OVERLAY



PITCH BY PITCH PHOTOS

Photos:
Photo descriptions:
Approach
See map. 2 hours if you don't get off route.
Note: Although in general the Cascades Rock guidebook is spot on for its beta, in this case we found that the approach description in the guidebook has some errors that can be a bit confusing/misleading when you are in the midst of the approach. Here's a transcription of the approach info form Cascades Rock with
revisions/clarifications/additions in red:
"Hike in a clockwise arc around the north and east sides of Exfoliation Dome via the following: Walk back north
south up the road from the parking area for a few meters to an old logging grade heading back NE into the forest. Hike the brushy road grade NE for a quarter mile until near the creek at a switchback. Climb up off the road grade into large timber via a faint climber trail going SE. Hike 30 minutes uphill SE, with the creek to your left, and the north end of the dome to the right. A boulder field will become visible, with the dome's NE wall looming above. Hike uphill and access the boulder field. (The previous 3 sentences could be condensed to: Hike uphill through timber just right of the major creek until you get to the boulderfield below the north side of the dome.) Traverse up and left through boulders, cross a short tree band then climb to the top of the boulders. Traverse left through ferns 50 meters to a narrow wash. Ascend the wash to the wall. (The previous 3 sentences could be re-written as: Follow cairns up and left through the boulderfield, crossing a thin band of brush midway up. From the top of the boulder field, head left and up a narrow wash (there are a couple to choose from); make your way to the left toe of the wall at a polished watercourse system running along the left side of the toe.) Follow the base of the wall south and uphill for a few minutes several hundred feet, until just before a major gully located left of the route."
1.    
2.    
3.    
4.    
5.    
6.    
  
  
  
 
   
 
 
 
1. Park at a small pullout on west side of road about 0.4 miles after the fork in the road. Enough room for 2 cars.
2. Follow the faint climbers trail through the forest. 
3. A deflated balloon marking the way.
4. We got a bit off-route on the approach and ended up in about an hour of shwacking. The thing is, the approach is very simple: Follow the main creek until the terrain opens up in the boulderfield below the north side of Exfoliation Dome. This is the way we came down and only entails about 5 min of shwacking. The approach map shows the correct approach, which is the way we came down.
5. The boulderfield below the north side of Exfoliation Dome.
6. To get to Snake Charmer, ascend the gully along the left walls of the Dome. 


Pitch 
1
5.9, 30m. Left-arching crack/flake/corner system.
7.    
8.  
7. Pitch 1 follows the obvious left-arching crack/flake.
8. Looking down while climbing Pitch 1.

Pitch 
2
5.10-, 35m. A large flared corner, up and left to roofs, and a final layback section before the anchor. 
9.    
10.  
9. Pitch 2 goes up the weaknesses  on the left.
10. Looking down from the top of Pitch 2. The pitch ends with a powerful layback (protected by a bolt, and a #4 can fit too after the bolt).


Pitch 
3
5.10, 26m. Climb up through a flake system, doing some laybacking along the way.
11.    
12.  
11. Jess starting up Pitch 3. She is just before a strenuous (but fun and completely protectable) layabcking section.
12. Looking down midway up Pitch 3.


Pitch 
4
5.11-, 33m. Techy hand traverse (bolted) to some left-facing layback flakes and features. 
13.    
14.    
15.   
13. Jess staring up Pitch 4. The pitch begins with the crux of the route: 5.11- hand traverse with slabby feet. It is protected by three bolts and the fall is safe and short. It's a good sequence of climbing. Awesome job on this section Jess, especially with the thin layer of grit on the crux sloper handhold!
14. Further up on Pitch 4.
15. The corner/crack at the end of Pitch 4. Excellent climbing, just a tad untrafficked. 


Pitch 
5
5.10, 34m. Climb flakes upward to a bolted slab/face/corner/flake section. 
16.    
17.    
18.    
19. 
16. Looking up the base of Pitch 5.
17. The initial corner and belay stance below.
18. Next, climb the flake.
19. Then, climb the bolted slab, using the flake and the corner to avoid any real slab moves. The bolts occur at perfect locations on this section - whoever did the bolting on this route did a great job.


Pitch 
6
5.10, 18m. Climb steep tracks through the pegmatite to the arete and top of the wall. 
20.    
21.   
20. Jess leading the steep cracks on Pitch 6.
21. This final part is on a featured pegmatite.The lichen and dirt make the climbing feel a bit insecure though. More traffic would make the climbing even better.



Top!
The route tops out on Witch Doctor Wall on a subsummit north of the summit of Exfoliation Dome.
22.    
23.   
22. On top!
23. The views, through a layer of haze/smoke from forest fires in BC.


Descent
Rap the route with a single 70. Raps are pretty much directly down and the pulls are easy. If nothing goes wrong, can be back to the base in under an hour.
24.    
25.    
26.    
27.    
28.    
29.    
30.   
24. The top rap anchors are at the top of this vertical gully, about 50 feet left of the top of the route.
25. The top rap anchors.
26. One of the belay/rap anchors on the route.
27. Another one of the belay/rap anchors on the route. 
28. The final rap.
29. Rockfall damage on granite slabs at base of the dome on the hike out.
30. Dike on granite slabs at base of the dome on the hike out.