After 4 days staycationing with Colin, we drove home from Washington Pass on Friday evening and I geared up to join forces with Will up at Colchuck Balanced Rock. I'd been up in the area many times before, but had never headed up for CBR itself. With a very strong partner in Will and some friends with a permit to camp at Colchuck Lake, it was the perfect opportunity to give it a shot.
We left Seattle at 6:30am on Saturday and were starting the approach by 10am or so. We left camping gear at the Lake and proceeded up the well-cairned trail from the outlet of the lake at the recommendation of some friends we ran into—good advice! The trail gained elevation quickly and eventually deposited us on the talus field below The West Face at about 1:15pm. We left our packs there and racked up for the climb, scampering up to a ledge and quickly dispatching the first pitch. The second pitch started with some tricky thin hands but subsided after a few moves and ran up to a belay behind a large boulder. The cool spot in the shade was welcome as it was a very hot day and our late start meant the face was turning into a solar cooker.
The third pitch was awesome. Really fun jamming with the left hand, stemming with the feet, and gastoning with the right hand. I reached the large belay ledge below the crux pitch just shy of 2pm. We met up with our friends Matt and Sam and waited as they worked through the classic corner. When it was our turn, Will cruised it. I nearly made it to the belay, but my lack of rock fitness came back to bite me as I slipped off a foothold with grass on it while quite pumped. I finished up the pitch and we waited a bit more for the party ahead of us, but this time in the shade of the huge roof. What an amazing pitch and position. The corner never felt harder than 10b or so, but was just super sustained, clean, and fun.
The roof traverse pitch was hard and intimidating. It was tough for Will to see the crack and figure out what gear to place, but he did an awesome job of battling through it to the belay on the other side. I waited for a bit for the party ahead to clear and then followed, hanging on by the skin of my teeth.
The crux pitch started with more fun corner climbing in a big rightward-arching feature. Will and I were both feeling the effects of the sun at this point pretty heavily, having slowed considerably for the past two pitches, and both found the crux boulder problem to be very hard. We each aided through it, which was decently physical on its own.
After hanging out some more on the sunny, sloping ledge at the base of the "5.8 chimney" pitch, we got our turn. It was hard. We both pulled on gear to get our lanky selves into the feature and I banged up a finger pretty well in the process. By the time we topped out that pitch, the daylight was wasting and we decided to call it good, traverse off, and descend. The light was awesome in that moment as we backpacked the rope and put on our approach shoes, which felt so incredibly nice compared to the prior hot hours in our rock shoes. The descent went quickly back to our bags, but was not very pleasant due to a huge swarm of mosquitos. We grabbed our bags and got out of there fast, hiking about half the trail before needing headlamps to finish it off. We refilled water at the lake outlet and just sat and drank for a while. We were pretty bushed.
We arrived at camp in the dark, ate a quick dinner, and passed out. What a day and what a route!