Although I had climbed at various Leavenworth crags many times, I had not ventured out to the Peshastin Pinnacles. Terror tales of long runouts on manky bolts precariously sunk in loose sandstone had made me very wary of this area, and the tales of the toppling of Trigger Finger one winter just reinforced my idea that the area was a mass of crumbling spires, only climbed by people with a total disregard for their own safety! Well, I guess even I can be wrong! Andrew invited me along on this Sunday outing, with a promise of leading the tricky stuff and getting me on some fun moderates, and fun they were! There may be runout routes out there, but the routes we did were enjoyable, and the distance between bolts rarely exceeded 10 feet. I didn't take any lead falls on the soft sandstone, and am still leery of that, but I was very pleasantly surprised the climbing at Peshastin, and with it's reputation as a dry weather magnet when all else is drippy, I imagine I'll return for more!
We started out on Martian Slab with a pleasant 5.7 called "Serpent". This route meanders for quite a ways, and a 60m rope won't quite get you back down to the start of the climb, but if you rap off uphill you'll touch down on dirt before running out of rope, and it's only a minute or two walk back to the start of the climb. The second climb we did starts quite near "Serpent" - "Nutty Buddy" is rated 5.9+, but quite honestly I couldn't' feel much difference between the two routes. They were both pleasant, frictiony climbs, with enough bolts to keep things from feeling serious. The rap from "Nutty Buddy" is simple and straight down. After these two climbs, we headed up to Dinosaur Tower where I lead the first pitch of "Potholes" (5.7+). With one interesting move at a bulge to ponder over (where reach doesn't hurt!), it was a pleasant enough climb, and I felt quite secure. We pulled the rope and dropped down below the belay station, and Andrew lead Potholes Direct Direct, a really fun 10a that has two cruxes - one technical and one mental. I muscled through the first crux with a definite lack of style, but the mental crux had me completely stumped. I found several moves I thought might go, but all of them would be much harder than 10a. Andrew finally took pity on me, gave me the key piece of beta, and, viola, and easy move had me standing next to him at the belay bolts. this turned out to be my favorite climb of the day.
We wandered around a bit and looked at some of the other slabs, but ended up below the west face of the Grand Central Tower. Andrew thought this would make a good confidence building lead for me, so I tied into the sharp end and headed up. The first couple of bolts were easy, and then Andrew mentioned to me that the route goes up to the right, not straight up where I was trying to find a way. I was relieved - the terrain looked way harder than the 5.8 the route is rated, and the old bolts above looked like old, manky 1/4 inchers - I was starting to doubt if I was going to have fun! I got over to the right and started working my way up - although the route goes at 5.8, it's very consistent, and I didn't find any good rest spots until I clipped the bolts at the top. In particular the final friction traverse was setting my nerves on edge. When Andrew joined my at the bolts he commented that he'd never seen anyone successfully reach out to the bolt at the end of the traverse and clip it, and finish the traverse on top rope - hey, if you're motivated enough and have a good wingspan, it's amazing what you can figure out to do!
Neither one of us had wanted a long day, so we agreed that one more route would finish things for us that day. Andrew settled on "Fakin' It", a 5.10a on Austrian Slab. Although the same rating as "Potholes Direct Direct", "Fakin' It' is much more sustained, and I found it quite a bit more difficult - I was glad Andrew was leading the route so I could have the security of a top rope. The route is very thin and steep, and you really have to depend on your feet and your balance - there's only a few moves where your hands actually have something to hang on to as you're stepping up. The crux for me came at a move where I had almost nothing to stand up on, and nothing for my hands. I was pretty sure I could move up, but I saw nothing to move up to. Andrew called down that there was one blind faith move, and figuring I must be at it I stepped up and was rewarded with more than I could see from below. Still, the final few feet to the bolts weren't trivial, and I had a bit of work to do before I was safely off belay. This was another climb where a straight down rappel would leave you stranded, so we rapped off towards the left as we faced in, and got down to solid ground 20 feet above where "Fakin' It" started.
So, Peshastin isn't nearly as scary as I'd been lead to believe. The routes are mostly friction, so variety isn't the key attraction here, but there are many more climbs in the easy to moderate range than at most of the crags around Icicle Creek. A large rack is certainly not needed - we never did anything but clip bolts all day, so a set of quickdraws will get you a long ways here. I had a fun time, and am looking forward to my next trip here!