P3 Defiance Loop

Evening Entertainment

“Hey, what are you doing this evening?”

I was driving through North Bend, headed to the Ira Spring Trail to do the P3 Defiance Loop by myself when I got a call from Kyle. A few minutes later, he agreed to meet me there in an hour. Sometimes this is how chaotic weeknights go.

I ran along the road while waiting for Kyle (so meta, I know). He showed up with no food, no water, and no pack. Call it ill preparedness, or call it deficit training. Despite the name of my blog, Kyle is the real Climber Kyle. I’m just cardio Kyle. Hmmm. No food, no water. I guess we will see how this goes.

Kyle tied a wind jacket around his waist (Dad mode, engaged!) and we started up the P3 trail. The trail has a remarkable amount of downhill switchbacks for a supposed steep climbing trail. Finally, it kicks back and just goes straight up an alpine ridgeline. We broke out into the meadows and sky.

Jesus rays over North Bend.
Kyle “training” in zone 3.

People often mistaken the two of us. Really, I guess we just both get credit for the trips each of us has done separately. Have you heard of this cool blog Kyle has? Here’s the link

At the top of P3, we observed our objective: the alpine, airy ridge traverse from P3 to Defiance. Some call it a grade IV rock climb, possibly grade V if you go directly over the Great Gendarme, rather than taking the bypass. Beckey himself failed 4 times before finally completing the traverse. Some call it the 51st classic of North America – uh, I mean North Bend. No food, no water, and fading daylight: could we pull it off? With the power of two Kyle’s, we had faith.

Kyle 1.0 + Kyle 2.0 = P3

Said no one ever
The imposing traverse from P3 to Defiance.

We decided to proceed unroped until we felt the exposure was too great. I slipped on some heather patches, but never drew blood. Kyle was falling back, but luckily we had cell service in case I got too far ahead or needed a heli drop off supplies.

Fast forward a few hours and we find ourselves at the base of the Great Gendarme. Beckey says that it can be circumvented with a 20m rappel and some scrappy scrambling, or you can go directly over with two 5.9+ OW pitches. Having no rope (no food, no water) we were in trouble. Can’t go around. Can’t go over. But what Beckey failed to realize is that you can go under the gendarme at class 2!

We breathed a sigh of relief when we entered the forest and the relentless exposure of the gnarled ridgeline was over. I purposefully sought out the single patch of alder in a nicely spaced forest, but managed to stumble out eventually onto the meadows on the south face of Defiance.

Fog and flowers.

We were completely socked in now. Somehow, we found a faint game trail that turned into a climber’s trail and eventually a full-on Franklin Falls quality hiking trail towards the summit of Defiance. I thought the easiest route up Defiance was 5.7R? Apparently, people have found some backdoor route that’s not mentioned in the Beckey Guide….

Kyle was getting pretty delirious, two hours in. We passed some avalanche lilies, which I hear are edible. It took all his will power to not pummel the meadow, but we wanted to maintain the integrity of the landscape for others to enjoy. Plus, Kyle needed to flex “no food, no water” on Strava.

Wonder if they taste good.

Every step was labored as we closed in on the summit. In a moment of grace, the clouds parted, giving us views of… the highway. Darn it! We had almost gotten ourselves to believe we were deep in the wilderness, on some massive ridge traverse.

Parting views near the summit of Defiance.

The descent was pleasant and uneventful, although a little muddy and snowy on the backside of Defiance. We stumbled back to the parking lot just as headlamps would be needed, which is good, because Kyle had eaten his batteries in desperation. So much for “no food, no water”.

Another evening, another little adventure. Good times with good friends. This is what it’s all about, right?

Notes:

  • The loop is 9 miles and 4k gain. Most of the terrain is pretty slow. It took us a little over 3 hours.
  • In all seriousness, the off trail section is pretty easy, mostly class 1 and 2. It stays pretty close to the ridge and is quite fun. I’d definitely recommend this as an evening objective. Especially when the wildflowers are prime like right now.

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