Technical climbing info
Mountain: Chair Peak
Route: Voie de Chaise
Grade: II, 5.9 (fully bolted alpine route)
Towards the end of last season, this new route got put up that really caught our eye. We hadn’t really spent any time climbing in the Snoqualmie area, with most of the lines looking kind of uninspiring. But the 2022 route up Chair Peak, Voie de Chaise, put up by a few of our hometown heroes, Ian Nicholson and Tino Villanueva, looked really interesting. By the time we saw it, it was too late for 2022, and we knew we’d have to wait for the next summer.
Fast forward to June 2023, we had been chasing micro-windows in macro-crap-weather conditions. We managed to squeeze in a Baker North Ridge climb in fattest conditions I had ever seen (here’s our 2019 NR climb), a jaunt up the Liberty Bell’s Becky Route, a 1.5x laps on a new Mazama route called Earl Gray, and a few days in Leavenworth. Every week, the weather directed us where to go, and this week, it directed us to Snoqualmie. Voie de Chaise was at the top of our list there.
The approach to the route “felt” long, but by North Cascades standards, it is a walk in the park. We gunned to get to the base of the route by 12pm, figuring that would be neither early nor late. We planned for the approach to be 3 hours, which was nearly spot on. The snow had us wishing we brought our mountain boots, and I ended up having to chop steps with my ice tool to get to the first bolt of the route. I felt like a real Conrad Kain.
The climbing itself was spectacular, with amazing exposure as we worked our way up and up from the snow patch we started on. Clipping nicely spaced bolts in the alpine was a taste we had become accustomed to during our winter in El Potrero Chico, making route navigation a breeze. The work done by the first ascensionismts to develop this route really showed in its quality.
As Jess led past the 5.9 crux, the weather started forming in the mountains behind us, and we could hear the claps of thunder coming in over the North Cascades. The dramatic ambiance hurried us up a bit, and we made our way over the final few pitches carefully not to knock any of the loose rocks on each other. I only got hit once- a slow-ish moving grapefruit size rocked to my ribs. Not too bad!
We made it to the top of the route, considered the scramble to the summit, and opted against it. The weather was not looking favorable, and we could feel the humidity in the air. It was forecasted to rain later in the day too. After a smooth set of raps to the base, we hiked out, and made the 45 minute drive back home.
The Cascades can definitely stand to have more high-quality close-to-home routes like this. Big props to the folks putting them up!
The home of bolted Alpine Routes!
January 2023, just like every January, the climbing withdrawals set in and I start going crazy. It’s like clockwork. They say the horrible grey and wetness it’s perfect for skiing, but I feel like climbing. So there I am in Smith, frozen numb fingers, gripped out on some random route, trying to warm my hands…