The latter part of the title, of course, refers to the fact that I finally made my pilgrimage to New Halem to rock climb. An arduous approach, countless ticks, bad weather, seeping, chossy rock, a thicket of poison oak guarding the cliff; these are only a few of the drawbacks of climbing at New Halem. No one in their right mind would ever go...
Or, I could be telling a fib or two to keep the crowds at bay...who knows?
It's hard to describe the joy of climbing on new routes, being a somewhat traveled Washington climber. The fickle weather seems to mire us in strange, obsessive loops. The 'climbing community' is extremely fractious: there are the real enthusiasts, of course, who fly under the radar with their efforts and accomplishments; but the most obvious voice, sticking out somewhat like a sore thumb, is that of the internet 'armchair climbers/critics', who accomplish little save the production of a prodigious amount of predictable and repetitive invective against the various 'impurities' of our beloved sport. This is, of course, a characteristic shared by nearly all forums of discussion on the internet.
The basic result of this contrast is that any real development goes on silently and with a certain degree of anonymity, often with little acknowledgment. Vast amounts of potential adventuring remains for those who enjoy rock climbing. For the rest, thankfully, the internet knows no impatience or exclusivity.
As an adjunct to my rant, I want to provide some real insight into my experiences at New Halem. The routes are, in fact, quite good. The bolting on older routes (early to mid 1990's) is egregiously amateur at best, but this was the result of tactics employed by one or two persons and could easily be rectified with (unfortunately) a lot of hard work. Didn't they make removable and/or 1/4" bolts back then? Thank goodness a new generation of developers took over: the newer additions and extensions are much more sensibly protected and the quality is very good throughout. I feel a bit sheepish for not having visited this area before, despite having heard so much about it in the past. It is certainly one of the better local sport climbing crags in Western Washington.