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Jimmy Webb: Gettin Giddy in Washington

Saturday, November 30th, 2013

Jimmy Webb: Leavenworth, Washington
I always love traveling to new places. Seeing new types of rock, meeting new people, and experiencing the diversity our country has to offer. The last couple weeks I spent my time sampling some of the best granite I have climbed on in the USA. Leavenworth is a beautifully amazing place located just 2 hours south of Seattle Washington. It’s a quaint town with a somewhat strange Bavarian theme. It’s like they tried to replicate a scene from Switzerland. Which honestly makes sense when you take a step back and see where you’re at. Leavenworth sits below massive snow covered peaks and the majority of the climbing settled in a very narrow canyon. The seemingly endless amounts of road side boulders just litter the hillsides in a somewhat sneaky fashion. The forests in this area are dense and the trees are massive. I’ve never experienced the scene in Squamish but I have a feeling this is somewhat similar. Beautiful forest setting and gigantic granite boulders!
I made the trip with good friends Taylor Mcneill and Tyler Weiss. Both guys are from Raleigh, NC and it felt amazing to have that southern vibe! We arrived in Leavenworth to absolutely perfect weather. The locals were saying it was the longest stint of no rain that they had seen in years. So with this in mind I knew I had to take advantage. Most of our days were spent climbing some amazing classics and searching out the rarely repeated or undone lines. The first hard line that I had my eyes set on was an unrepeated Johnny G bloc called The Tornado. It climbs up a perfect tornado style feature compressing terrible crimps for the left hand and good slopers for the right. I was able to hook it up fairly quickly and it was really a perfect start to the trip. After climbing this thing I had the realization that a lot of problems here are going to be my style. Somewhat decent holds but far apart. Perfect!
Next on the list was to check out The Tea Cup. This is Leaveworth’s one and only established V13. Looking at the boulder prior to my trip I knew that It would be a good candidate for a flash attempt. The style seemed to suite me and I was really inspired by the line. When I arrived to the problem I remember thinking that It looked harder then I had imagined. Which is usually not a very good outlook to have before going for it flash. Either way I cleared my head of doubt and expectations and sat down with my beta firmly locked and just went for it. I climbed the boulder perfectly. Without a mistake and without hesitation I found myself on top of the boulder smiling. This is why I love flashing. You know all the variables and you know the possibilities to succeed are low. Yet in the end something crazy happens and everything comes together. A strange moment for sure and you’re always left wondering “How did that happen..?”. I still don’t know the answer to that question but that doesn’t matter. All in all I’m just happy to have been there climbing with my friends and enjoying another day in the mountains.

The last and final problem that was on my list was Carlo Traversi’s new V14 he had just established called The Penrose Step. This line is mega and certainly one of the more beautiful problems I had ever seen. The line follows a very thin amount of holds up a perfect 40 degree overhanging wall. This one proved from the very beginning that it wasn’t going to go down easy. Unlike all the other lines in Leavenworth this one was definitely A-typical and not my style. The boulder could be broken down into two crux sections. The first revolves around an awkwardly placed right hand edge, an incredibly bunchy right foot and a very tenuous lock off to a decent sloper. The move was all about tension and if for some reason your foot was to pick, you were off the wall. This move took me around 2 days to figure out but once I got it I never fell on it. The second crux was different and I think for me was the hardest. You have to take a decent sloppy edge for the left hand and do yet another incredible bunchy move with your right heel to gain a wafer thin edge for your right hand. Every time I grabbed that hold I either thought I was going to pop my pulley or rip it completely off the wall. On my 3rd day trying the boulder I took a really weird fall off the top and sprung my ankle pretty bad. I was so bummed and really doubted that I would get the opportunity to try the boulder before we had to leave. So with that in mind I decided to try and stay closer to the deck for a couple days. I visited a small zone called Mad Meadows and noticed a really cool looking project they were calling The Peephole Direct. A very powerful and strenuous problem revolving all around a decent undercling crimp. You have to grab this thing, build your feet up, put a ridiculous amount of force on your tendons and do a massive swoop up to a good edge. A perfect boulder for me and I was able to take it down for the First Ascent!
After a rest day and a lot of icing the ankle I decided to go back to the Penrose Step. My ankle was still feeling a bit sprained but I just had to go for it anyways. I gave it 4 really good attempts falling off the last moves every try. By this point the rain started to come in and it began to get dark. I knew I had to do it this try and I gave it everything. I arrived at the top section again and felt my skin sliding. I bit down hard, grabbed the tiny crimper, pulled it to my chest, and snagged the jug on the lip. I topped out and it felt like a wave of relief rolled over me. This thing was basically at the top of my list and it felt so good to complete it. After everything it just felt like the perfect ending to a perfect trip. I had such an amazing time climbing with my friends, experiencing new stone, and being able to complete my goals. You can’t ask for much more than that!
I feel so grateful to have climbing in my life because without it trips like this wouldn’t happen. Climbing gives me the opportunity to see amazing places like Leavenworth and it really opens my eyes and reminds me how fortunate I am to be living this lifestyle. I gotta give a huge thanks to Prana for supporting me in my passion and standing behind me through all of my adventures. On to the next!
~ Jimmy Webb, prAna Ambassador
Photos by Aaron Matheson
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