Dallas Kloke Memorial Work Day
By Calvin Landrus, SRCFC Director
On September 25th, 2015, it was five years since Dallas Kloke died in fall high in the Northern Cascades. He was a husband, father, grandfather, friend and Christ-follower. Dallas had joined Solid Rock when it was founded in 1989, served as a Chapter Coordinator and was on SRCFC’s Board of Directors when the accident occurred.
We decided to honor his legacy by having SRCFC host an Annual Dallas Kloke Memorial Work and Climb Day at Mount Erie, WA. He first climbed at Mt. Erie in the 1950s and was the main developer of the area as it was essentially in his “backyard.” It was a very special place to him!
Dallas liked connecting his faith to his climbing experience. One way he did that was to occasionally name routes after spiritual moments that were meaningful to him. “Gotta Keep Dancin” (5.9, 4 pitches) was inspired by the book of the same name by Tim Hansel. The book is a classic and gives the account of God’s working in Tim’s physical and emotional suffering, helping him discover the real meaning of joy based on Psalm 30:11, “You have changed my sadness into a joyful dance.”
On the 5th annual day in his honor and after a good morning of trail work, my partner and I climbed another one of Dallas’s first ascents, a 3 pitch route, 5.10a named after the song, “Lord of the Dance.” When I was rappelling down, I noticed that Dallas may have missed a route on one of the tallest and most exposed features of Mt. Erie.
At that moment, two thoughts collided: after nearly five years there was not a memorial route for Dallas at his beloved crag and doing a first ascent in his honor would be something I would love to try to do.
As we gathered to say our goodbyes, I mentioned the line to the current steward and co-author of a new Mt. Erie guidebook, Jim Thompson, and told him if it would go, it would be a great route to do in Dallas’s honor. After telling Jim about the possible route, he told me I had to come back and do the first ascent. “Yes!” But doubts lingered as I was not sure it could be done at a “reasonable” grade.
Fast forward to August and after an eight hour drive from my home in Bend, OR to Anacortes, WA, Jim and I set up a huge top-rope to check out the 150 feet of virgin rock. I started climbing 100 feet off the ground at the top of the first pitch of “Lord of the Dance” with a left-facing corner going around a steep buttress. The pitch ended up having some super fun and pumping climbing in the mid-5.10 range.
Next was a 110 foot pitch to the top where the climbing really became interesting and varied. Twenty feet of bulgy slabs, with long reaches gives way to a rest. The next section is the first crux in the mid-5.11 range – an overhanging wide crack where rounded edge side-pulls and gastons that allowed me to reach a good jam. The crack continued with easy movement until I reached the “money” part of the route.
Here is where I was afraid the route could become so difficult that only world class climbers might be able to do it. But if that section went, the last forty feet would be “hero” 5.10 climbing in a spectacular position.
Scrubbing every feature that might possibly be used, an improbable traversing sequence began to emerge. In the moments that followed, I found a sidepull for the left hand, an undercling for the right, then a sloper, followed by a hard cross-through to a bad pinch. All that was the step-up for the crux deadpoint to a jug…it was so exciting to discover sequence that was hard but doable in the 5.11+ range.
Our plan was to place the bolts that day, assuming we decided the route would go, so that way when a long-time friend from Seattle, Dave Engle, came, he could belay and Jim would take pictures. But we ran out of daylight and decided to bolt the route first thing in the morning.
I have had limited first ascent experience which also means I had only placed a couple of bolts before. The modern hammer drill and bits were surprisingly easy to use but I found it still took a fair amount of core strength to drill the twelve bolt holes. So, by the time we had finished that and were ready to climb the route, I was pretty tired.
Thinking I should “do it right,” I decided I would start from the ground. To get to the new route, I had the option of climbing the first pitch of “Lord of the Dance” (5.7) or another “dancing” route called “Dances with Ticks” (5.10c/d). I should have chosen the easier as “Dances with Ticks” turned out be a sandbag that I had to hang on it. With the heat of the day coming, I decided to keep on going rather than properly redpoint the pitch. So much for “doing it right.”
After cruising the gear-protected opening section of the 5.10 corner pitch, I climbed confidently through the newly bolted steep part until I varied my sequence from the day before. I reached out to a hold that I hadn’t used the day before, the hold breaks and I’m flying 25 feet in clean fall. Well, I lower down to the belay, pull the rope and try the pitch again. My nerves were rattled and I couldn’t send it without hanging.
Having not sent either pitch of the day, my confidence for doing the crux pitch of the route was waning like the last bit of light at sunset. There was temptation just to stop but knowing what Dallas would do, I pressed on.
The first crux of this pitch, which felt reasonable the day before, spanked me. Eventually, I did get through that section with some hanging; the effort did bring some hope as I found a sequence that made it possible even when tired.
I finally reached the second crux section, which I thought would be the only “in-doubt” section of the route. The moves seemed really hard…maybe it’s not as reasonable as I thought. But as I continued to try, I felt I could do the sequence if I wasn’t so tired.
I climbed on to the top and brought Dave up; he had followed all the pitches but had hung as well. I apologized to Dave as he had been a patient belayer in my unsuccessful bid and to Jim for having snapped a bunch of pictures with no ascent to be claimed.
As the day drew to a close, a decision needed to be made. I could go home the next day and leave the route unsent or stay for two more days and try it on Monday after a day of rest. I decided to stay.
It’s in moments like those where the outcome is uncertain that it’s easy for doubt to creep into a decision. In this I wasn’t risking much – only some time and the risk of not succeeding for a second time. Still, I was definitely glad to be able to remind myself that in God’s economy it’s not about reaching our goals but about doing life “as working for the Lord.” (Colossians 3:23)
On Monday, with Jim as my belayer, I quickly dispatched the corner pitch with confidence as I was feeling fresh. The money pitch was going well and I thought the send was in the bag but suddenly a foot popped. Immediately after falling, I went back to the rest before the crux and climbed through it and on to the top. Uggh…the dreaded one-hang…but I “knew” I would redpoint it on my next go.
But that was not to be…I went back down to the anchor and tried the pitch two more times and fell both times going for the deadpoint jug. I was disappointed but grateful for the opportunity to have given it a try.
Before I started my eight hour journey home, Jim wanted to know what I was going to name the route. I said that honor normally goes to the one who does the first ascent. But if I had sent it, I would have gone with dancing theme of routes nearby and named it “Dancin’ with the Divine (Dallas Kloke Memorial Route).”
In a very generous gesture, Jim posted the route on the climbing area’s Facebook page using my suggested name and giving me credit for the route. Since then, I have learned that Jim’s son, Tyler, has sent the route. I have communicated with them that Tyler should be listed as the one who did the first ascent and has the right to name the route.
It seems that the name, “Dancin’ with the Divine” will remain. I know this honors Dallas for he lived with assurance found in 1 Corinthians 5:8 that to be absent from the body is to be at home with the Lord. Are you living in that same assurance? If not, come into a right relationship with God through Jesus Christ. That would greatly please Dallas.
UPDATE: Tue Apr 19, 2016 – Route Repointed by Calvin Landrus
I had a chance to return to Mt. Erie and free the pitch I didn’t get last summer. You can read the complete information about he route on Mountain Project here.