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Trip Report    

Seattle Basic Climbing Refresher Clinic - Alpine Rock Climbing Skills - Exit 38/Far Side Crags

Challenging weather situation provided extra learning opportunities.

  • Road suitable for all vehicles

This afternoon Basic refresher clinic was intended to give participants an opportunity to review and practice outdoor rock climbing skills as preparation for summer alpine climbs.  It was held at the Exit 38 Farside Crag.

The day before the trip the weather forecast was for very pleasant conditions: partial sunshine and afternoon temperature around 70F.  This changed by the time that we reached the trailhead to a 30% chance of  thunderstorms.  We discussed the updated forecast during our pre-trip briefing where we reviewed options and associated risks.  We decided to limit  our agenda to single pitch climbs in a sheltered area where we could easily retreat if the stormy weather materialized.   We hiked to the climbing area where we observed dark rain clouds covering the hills to our east.   

The rain held off long enough to set up two routes on lead and for the most of the participants to top rope a route on dry rock.  Shortly after that, the rain started.  Sprinkles soon progressed to a deluge with water running down the rock.  Next we heard thunder rumbling in the distance, though we did not see any lightning flashes.  Although our climbing wall was in the middle of a forested hillside, we agreed that any flashes would be enough to send us packing.

At this point, everyone and everything was soaking wet.  One participant did not  have any warm clothes and was loaned a jacket.  No one wanted to continue climbing in the rain even on top rope. Since the rock was likely to be wet for several hours even after the rain stopped, we decided to return to the cars.  I was belayed up each of the two routes and cleaned the anchors.  The climbing was blocky enough to do this in approach shoes despite the very wet rock.

On the 30 minute descent, we stayed together until we reached the main trail and then split into two groups.  The Assistant leaders hiked down with the first (faster) group that included the poorly clothed participant who was getting cold.  Two other participants stayed with me and descended more slowly.  Once everyone was at the cars, we had a debrief. By then, the rain had mostly stopped.  Each person shared observations and lessons learned.  Everyone agreed that the trip was an excellent reminder of importance of the 10 essentials  and how quickly the weather can change.  Although we would have liked to climb more, the weather challenges provided some bonus lessons that helped prepare us all for alpine environments so we declared the clinic a success.