You can climb Washington in January… It’s just a little on the slow side and kind of painful. Good news, indeed.
I knew that there was a reason why there weren’t going to be a ton of people out there at Index over the weekend, but I didn’t really think much of it until we got started.
We rolled in sometime around 9pm or so – two friends and I in a Volvo station wagon – and all I could think was, “Oh jesus, I didn’t plan this very well.” There was thick snow. Everywhere.
Given that I’d only packed an ultralight backpacking tent intended for Washington’s more pleasant summer months and a 20 degree sleeping bag, I knew that it was going to be a cold night… or that I was going to have to find a cuddle buddy. And I wasn’t about to third-wheel in the back of a Volvo with a couple I’d recently met.
Cuddle buddy it was.
We met up with a fellow Bellingham climber, Stamati, and even though I knew it was rude…
“Hey Stamati! How are you? Can I sleep with you tonight?”
Yeah, I went there. But he was cool with it, so it turned out okay.
The four of us clambered into his camper and waited for the light to come back so that we could get down to the granite business we came to Index for.
Stamati and I watched the sun come up over Mount Index sometime around 9am and each wrestled with the internal struggle: to begin the day and get to climbing or to stay cozy beneath two sleeping bags, two blankets and two jackets in the back of the truck. Eventually, the urge to climb motivated us to begin making breakfast. Coffee helped, too.
Layered up and ready to rock, we made our way over to Japanese Gardens where I volunteered the first belay. It was the first time I had to decide whether or not to give a gloved belay… Definitely chose the gloves because I trusted that they would provide good traction.
Stamati boldly took the first frigid lead and proceeded to run up an Index 5.9 followed by an Index 5.11c. Jesus christ, the guy’s an animal. I guess warming up in 36 degree weather isn’t much of an option.
He took one whip. Then another. And then took a fat whip that made him decide to come down for a moment to rethink his life choices.
Another friend of mine put up a rope on Godzilla, an absurdly-trying-but-worth-it 5.9 on the Lower Town Wall. Feeling cocky and cozy in my numerous layers, I said to my party, “I think I’m going to try it on top rope and then decide whether not not to lead it.”
I don’t know if you’ve ever had the pleasure of watching a praying mantis do it’s praying mantis thing, but that’s basically how climbing this crack went.
If you don’t have the patience for video nonsense: It was really stupid slow. There was no way in hell I was going to lead that beast of a crack when I felt like my body was too cold to function.
There’s a reason why you’re body says, “Nope, nope, nope,” to climbing Washington in January. But I assure you, your body doesn’t know what it’s missing out on. It’s a slow and painful but good time.