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First Ascent on Snow Creek Wall - Afterburner

Original Post
Jim Jam · · Wenatchee, WA · Joined Apr 2016 · Points: 404

Spring 2020 Jake Leonard and I (Jeromy Markee) established a new route on Snow Creek Wall. We named it “Afterburner" and estimate the route to be 5.11/5.11+. It takes on six new pitches plus one old up the Left hand side of the wall and to our knowledge is the first major new route on the wall in over 30 years. Here are some ramblings & photos from the experience.

(pitches 1-5 shown.)


On every outing to Snow Creek wall I, like many, always look over toward the Mary Jane Dihedral (MJD) and big unclimbed roof looming above with beautiful stone just below. Wondering if there was potential for a new route of quality which would take on the roof.

 For such a large crag there are only three major routes (clean enough to climb) done now days in the 5.10+ and up grades. They are excellent routes and distinctly different styles once they branch off. The downside is they climb the same first 5 or so pitches if you want the climbing to be sustained. It seems like only five major routes are climbed anymore on this large, relatively easy to access wall. The rest being forgotten for some reason and/or taken back by nature. Something we became intimately familiar with was that SCW is a very dirty and lichen filled chunk of rock. Venturing into the older routes would quickly deteriorate into aid-gardening or run out filthy face climbing and 40+ year old hardware.

What I wanted to achieve was a quality and safe new option on SCW for all of us to enjoy. Ideally the route would be least 5.11- in difficulty to provide more options at the grade.The left portion between the MJD and the route Galaxy leading up to the roof seemed to hold enough unclimbed rock and features to facilitate a new route up to and hopefully through the roof. 

During the 2019 season I was getting more excited on the idea of a new route up there. Creating another route to do on the local crag seemed like something we would all appreciate.

  Spring 2020 I hiked up to go on a recon mission. First question, does that huge roof go and has it been climbed? One guidebook topo shows that the route "Chimney Sweep" 5.10b goes directly through the roof to what looked like a large crack. All other topos show this route avoiding the roof out the left side of it. Only one way to find out.

 I hiked up a 40m rope, two 70m ropes and a small rack to the top of the wall and made my way down to the roof. The steep face above the right side was very featured and looked probable for free climbing. Great. Next, swing over and look for evidence of the chimney sweep route goitng through the large crack. The large crack from above actually stops at the lip of the roof & the ceiling is mostly featureless here. No bolts in the roof or steep face below. Taking the roof this way would be much harder than 10b and would have been a complete solo. The only other weakness through the roof was a thin hands crack. This looked really good, maybe 10b? I would be surprised. The face below again offered no natural protection on the steep face. The only evidence of prior attempts was a single ancient 1/8th inch bolt with a loop of tat on it on the face below the center of the roof above. There are no weaknesses for free climbing the roof anywhere nearby and no more bolts anywhere. With what I found, I was pretty sure the roof had not been free climbed direct before. This hand crack was the obvious way through the roof  I rapped down to a small foot ledge down and left of the roof and still had a small bit of rope left so I rapped further down to what looked at first to be a fun dihedral leading to the foot ledge. After clearing out a good bit of it, I was beginning to realize it was rotten and would not be fun to climb at all. Oh well. I jumared back up my lines and headed home.

(P5 "Jimmys roof" pre-cleaning.)

Now that I knew the roof went and was sure that I was not going to alter someone else's route I was psyched. 

A few days later I contacted my friend Jake Leonard and he was stoked on the idea as well. Now, how to get to that roof. Jake mentioned the corners just right of the MJD leading to a long low angle splitter. I had noticed these last year and completely forgotten about them. It was the obvious line if it went. The next weekend we went back up with a few more ropes and rapped in. We rappelled down the splitter, it was low angle but looked plenty good enough aside from the fact it was packed with a solid two feet of dirt and a carpet of moss. We descended further and into the corners, suddenly we were hanging in space looking at them. These things were steep! The corners looked incredible and had sort of a gold patina in sections. Connecting other features to this point wouldn't be an issue from what we could tell. We rappelled to the ground after doing some scrubbing. This was for sure the line. 

(P2 takes the corners past the rock scar and through the mini roof into a hidden finger crack. then L to the aerete the into the repeating corners.)

We spent the next two months coming up to work when we could on weekends. We pieced together the missing sections and free'd the hard bits on micro trax firstly. There seemed to be three pitches somewhere in the 5.11 range (we couldn't agree on where) and a committing crux dyno move above the roof. We then got to work equipping and cleaning the line. We wanted to make sure it was as clean as possible and didn't have the caveat of “it’ll clean up with traffic”. While this was mostly uneventful labor, we did get to trundle a balanced car hood sized flake from low on pitch two. The rock scar is easily visible and one climbs through it on the pitch. Sending a chunk of rock that large down the wall was pretty fun to watch.

(Johnathan Roatch placing the last bolt of the route when he came out to help)

Finally, in mid June the route was ready to go. Just as the summer-time temperatures were coming on. I contacted another good friend Matthew Tangeman to take some photos. He agreed, hiking up several hours ahead of us on send day with 170m of rope and his camera equipment in the heat. Matthew is the man! Jake and I had stashed a rack and rope near the base a few days prior and started hiking at 1pm. We got to the base and lounged around waiting for the shade to come into the wall and for Matthew to get in position. 

We racked up and set off feeling good at 3:30pm. Jake would lead pitches 1,2,6,7 and I'd lead 3,4,5. Jake set off on P1 which neither of us had climbed yet.I honestly expected it to be a throw=away pitch. It turned out to be a fun adn quite varied pitch going at 10- or so. This pitch felt tense in a strange way. After so many days of working on this route we were climbing it at last. By the end of the pitch we had loosened up and the psych was high for what was to come.

(Jake on P1. the start of this pitch is a bit dirty but isnt a problem. the rest of the route is very clean.)

 P2 is one of the crux pitches and an incredible bit of climbing. Jake dispatched P2, climbing the sealed corner to a finger crack, up an arete and into the steep repeating corners. The crux involves a big reach through a corner to a bad hold. Then pulling up on the hold and gaining a jug flake rail and continuing up the corners until able to transition into an awkward layback crack. He made it look almost easy! Shortly after we were at the anchor. We whooped and hollered, we were sending. 

(P2 goodness)

(Jake on p2. Matthew Tangeman photos)

P3 is a varied 5.9 leading up to where the wall kicks back again below the roof. 

On to P4, "the glass pitch" the second crux. It turned out that the face left of the rotten dihedral made for an awesome techy sport pitch on sometimes slippery small holds. I forgot a key foot hold at the crux and fell. I lowered, pulled the rope and sent next go. Jake also got spit off here and got it next go. These were the only falls of the day. 

(P4, Matthew Tangeman photos)

P5, "Jimmy's Roof" climbs a beautiful face, cranks the roof on jugs then hand jams and wildly pulls over the lip onto the underling traverse. The final challenge of the pitch (and route) is an all out dyno once stood at the lip of the roof at the end of the traverse. I contemplated the dyno for several minutes and went for it. I stuck it and let out a big whoop. Jake followed, sticking the dyno as well. Finally the pressure was off and we dispatched the last two pitches.

(P5, Matthew Tangeman photos)

P6 is a mellow, mostly unprotected romp up chicken heads on a slab. Who doesn't love some easy chicken heads?!

 P7, the final pitch, is shared with a route called Galaxy, turned out to be much better than expected and makes for an enjoyable final pitch. It's a large Right facing corner that starts out with some steep moves through large wedged blocks in the corner and then continues up the corner crack.

(p7, Galaxy)

Jake and I topped out just after sunset. The three of us made our way back to our packs. Once back at the log crossing to the trail we met with my girlfriend Scout, who was waiting for us with cold beer. Expired PBR no less. The four of us celebrated and hiked out in high spirits.  

Jim B Phillips · · Leavenworth WA · Joined May 2013 · Points: 0

Nice report !!

clint helander · · anchorage, alaska · Joined Dec 2007 · Points: 582

Rad! great work! I'll give it a go next time i'm down there!

Jim Jam · · Wenatchee, WA · Joined Apr 2016 · Points: 404

Thanks Clint, Enjoy!

J Roatch · · Leavenworth, WA · Joined Oct 2010 · Points: 152

Its a good route! Highly recommend.

Dan Bookless · · Portland, OR · Joined Oct 2015 · Points: 1,015

while climbing hyperspace this summer, we watched another party climb this line.  Looks mega! 

Casey Talbot · · Anacortes · Joined Jul 2019 · Points: 10

Incredible work guys. I can’t wait to give it a go. I could be wrong, but to the best of my knowledge, Tyler Karrow, along with Nat Afonina bagged the second ascent of your route!

Jim Jam · · Wenatchee, WA · Joined Apr 2016 · Points: 404

Thanks Casey, hope you enjoy it! Some friends repeated the route in early July just before Natalie and Tyler. Tyler got the second free ascent, onsight. Stoked to see more folks get on it next season!

Jens 1 · · . · Joined May 2009 · Points: 416

Awesome! I reconned a few Stallone cliffhanger lines through that roof before I moved to San Diego.  

Carson M · · _ · Joined Jan 2020 · Points: 45

Great job guys. Sweet report

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

Pacific Northwest
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