Overview of Squire Creek Wall © Matt Perkins
  Hammer Hammer  
  Addendum by David Whitelaw  

Who’d Ya Do It With?

I’m forever grateful to a whole boatload of people who contributed the time and muscle and skill and experience required to keep this project in motion from one year to the next. People like Dave Wolfe, Leland Windham, Bill Enger, Zack Krup, Dan Dingle, Jake Larsen, Chris Greyell, and John Medosch spent multiple days hauling gear, jugging loads of water, offering needed opinions and doing hard labor for free. The route never would have happened without their help and friendship.

Ultimately the upward progress was made by me and a few friends who are crazy enough to try and lead at their limit with a hand-drill. Actually a few of the first pitches were done on rappel mostly because we could. In the beginning, scrambling around the sides and rapping down gave us a chance to examine the route and see if it was worth the effort.  Once the scrambling became too scary, we knew we’d have several years of hammering on the lead.

Of all the people who helped make this project happen the following is a list of my main conspirators. Without them I’d have been left at home staring at photographs.

Bill Enger
We were a dozen pitches up before I met Bill and probably none of my partners has spent as much time on the wall now as he has. Bill’s an accomplished alpinist with ascents of Waddington, the South Houser, Slesse, the Index traverse, El Cap and on and on. Bill brought a lot of brand-new enthusiasm with him at a time when the project seemed almost too big to complete. He and I spent over 20 days on the project last year before we finally topped out.

Dan Dingle
Dan’s a California boy, not blonde but totally laid back and relaxed. He grew up in southern Cal and a study of the Joshua Tree guide will reveal a few routes done by him and the likes of John Long. These days he’s probably best known for having put up the popular valley classic Crest Jewel on the polished gold rock of Yosemite’s North Dome. Dan’s had just about as long a friendship with the hand-drill as I have and so we were bound to hit it off. Dan helped out with a ton of work but he really put it all out there when he led the twelfth and fourteenth pitches.

Chris Greyell
Chris Greyell needs no introduction in the Pacific Northwest. Known to many as one of the guys who, back in the day, put up the Dreamer in Darrington, he’s been an active climber and new-route guy for all the thirty-plus years I’ve known him. It was a real treat to bring him out for a sample weekend and see if I could squeeze a pitch or two out of him. As it turned out we got the second half of the fifteenth, the sixteenth and seventeenth pitches all in one 85-degree afternoon of glory.

Leland Windham
Leland’s discovered and developed a number of popular Washington sport climbing areas and judging by the people waiting for a turn to redpoint them the climbs remain as well-traveled today as when he put them up. Leland was the only guy I knew who’d ever actually established a climb with 20-plus pitches, and while the boundaries were different this time, I was eager to see if the Slab Daddy would strike his fancy. He always maintained that he wasn’t a slab-master but he had a lot of outstanding advice and his support and suggestions during the first third of the project were instrumental in getting me off to a solid start.

How’d Ya Do It?

I’d learned from Dan that the hand-drills made by Pika were much superior to the little Rocpec things produced by Petzl. If you just have to drill a few 1/4-inch emergency bolts somewhere, then the Petzl is fine. The slightly greater mass of the Pika drill makes hand-drilling 3/8-inch anchors a little more efficient. Since Pika is no longer in business these drills are hard to find.. With a decent stance one can get a 3-inch hole for a 3/8-inch bolt in six to ten minutes. Typically we would lead with two drills: a 1/4-incher with a Rocpec for quick temporary anchors and the Pika drill with 3/8-inch bits for more permanent ones. We used 3/8-inch x 3-inch stainless steel wedge anchors on most of the placements and every belay has some kind of descending rig.

After a masochistic thrash through steep trees next to the route, one can emerge onto the ledges that mark the top of the fifth pitch. At this point, we got our first real glimpse of the project’s true nature. Some hair-ball scrambling way out left and back again can yield a couple hundred more feet. The highest tat we found on the route corresponded to the highest place reachable by scrambling back and forth on sloping ledge systems.

The bottom seven pitches were done from the top down, as most modern Darrington routes have been. First two guys toprope various possibilities, carefully mark the protection locations with dabs of chalk and argue about the results for an indeterminate period of time. Once consensus is reached, in a fairly simple and anticlimactic effort, two or three guys place a half dozen anchors and then go for the lead.

In the spring of 2006, Dan and I discovered the Cookie Sheet down in the Merced Canyon and began to develop the Tuolumne-style climbs we found there. Down there, ya gotta do ’em on the lead to be taken seriously — so with that sort of requirement I’d gone full circle. I was back hand-drilling on the sharp end again, just like the seventies, only with a bigger hammer, a carbide drill-tip and fat herkin’ stainless steel bolts.

The moment was a granite epiphany of sorts and we came home from the valley after honing up the only skills that were gonna see us through. I dusted off some 30-year-old bat hooks and a few thin pins and that old retro-seventies feeling was back again! 

We’d set out on a new pitch with two sizes of hand-drills, five or six bolt and hanger assemblies, a pocket full of 1/4-inch button-head bolts, 2 or three pitons, 4-5 small cams and some wireds, a big hammer, extra bits, assorted allen wrenches for the drill tool, and a larger wrench for the bolts. Various hooks and bathooks and maybe a set of ultra-light aiders made from cleverly-tied half-inch material. Added to that were helmet, chalkbag, sunglasses, a short piece of straw from yesterdays Starbuck’s to blow dust outta the hole and you’re ready to start your pitch.

In the end we had to go up for three days to get anywhere. We’d climb to the Balcony the first day and maybe fix another pitch if strength allowed. Then the second day we’d fix all our old ropes up to the seventeenth or eighteenth pitches and leave some hardware hanging there. Finally, if we were lucky and it didn’t rain, we’d start the third morning with our packs full of iron and jumars in our faces. An hour or so later we’d be at the frontlines, nervously racking up, nervously watching the sky, the wind, and the time. Then late in September of 2008, late in the day, and late in my climbing career, Bill shouted off belay from the umbrella tree and 40-feet later we were standing in summit heather.

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