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Found 52 results

  1. Trip: Ruth Gorge Alaska - Ham & Eggs, Shaken Not Stirred, and SW Ridge 11300 Date: 5/16/2016 Trip Report: Joe Peters and I just got back from a great 2 week trip to the Ruth Gorge in Alaska. This was my 2nd Alaska expedition (the first being to Denali WB) and I was a little surprised at how much easier it is to "plane camp"....no hauling sleds!! The packing phase for this trip was more like 4 books....sure; 2 sets of tools....why not; a dozen eggs....yes!! You get the picture. You can pretty much take whatever you want as long as you are willing to pay the extra money when you have over 125lbs of gear. Overall we had a fantastic time and were able to climb three great routes. Overview April 30 - Fly to Anchorage, travel to Talkeetna May 2 - Fly with TAT to the Root Canal May 4 - Climb Ham and Eggs on Mooses Tooth May 7 - Climb Shaken Not Stirred on Mooses Tooth May 12 - Bump flight to the West Fork of the Ruth May 14 - Climb Southwest Ridge of Peak 11300 May 15 - Fly home to Spokane Warning: as usual, I tend to ramble and be lengthy so if you are looking for the pictures just scroll down. A couple words about gear/food. As I said you can bring whatever you want. We brought a Hilleberg Nammatj 3GT for base camp and an MH EV2 to use if we wanted to on routes. In the end we just single pushed all the routes so we each had our own tent at camp. It may have been overkill but it was nice on storms days! Both Joe and I brought Exped MegaMat 10LXW sleeping mats. They are heavy and bulky but they sleep as though you were on your mattress at home!! By far the best base camp mat I have ever seen or used. The kitchen tent was super nice even for just a party of 2. Great to get out of the weather, cook, hangout, store gear etc... Speaking of storage bring Rubbermaid boxes. We only brought one and wished we had more. They stack, keep stuff organized, make excellent places to eat/cook, and keep your chips and bread from getting mashed. As for food bring anything and everything. On storm days or rest days cooking gives you something to do. We made breakfast burritos, fajitas, pasta and lots of other great dishes. My personal favorite was our make shift oven. I took a round cooling rack and used a circular baking sheet on top of it. Then I put the cooling rack in a deep dish frying pan and put the lid on it. This elevates the baking sheet up an inch and you can bake to your hearts content. We made warm biscuits with butter and honey, chocolate chip cookies, and my favorite...personal pizzas. We took split boards which worked well for flotation and gave us something to do for an active recovery. Bring a 5 gallon bucket and a toilet seat that fits on top. It is WAY better than squatting over the little CMC cans the NPS provide. Last minute sorting while waiting to load our stuff into one of Talkeetna Air Taxi's Otters. Paul flew us in....also a treat to fly with such a great pilot. Views looking up the Gorge as we approach the Root Canal Glacier. The huge east face of Mt Dickey dwarfs the 2,500 ft tall Mt. Barril with Denali in the background. After landing on the Root Canal we took advantage of good weather to get on Ham and Eggs a couple days later. I can see why this climb is so popular. The crux sections are steep but short and the final summit ridge to the top is safe but great exposure and views. In talking with a guide who has been to the Ruth many seasons, he said this year it was in "friendly condition". It was busy that is for sure. We left camp at 4am about 1 1/2 hrs behind the first group of 2. Another party of 3 left 1 1/2 hrs behind us. And while occasionally we had to wait for people or others waited for us, everyone got along and all parties summited. There is lots of beta out there so I won't get into too much detail. We broke up the climbing into lead blocks. I pitched out the 1st couple entrance pitches through mixed terrain and an ice step. From there we simuled over easy snow to the crux. Joe got in a couple of good screws then clipped some fixed pins right before the top out. Above the crux we simuled to the top. The ice steps were in good condition and gave adequate protection making for some really fun climbing. From the col we continued up to the summit passing a v-thread and a couple of buried pickets on the way. We had clear but windy skies up top. Beautiful views of the Alaskan Range. Started back down and had a couple of rappels and some down climbing to get to the col. Then about 16 rappels later we reached the glacier below. All the rap stations had good fixed gear, and all told we were just under 10 hrs round trip from camp. Unloading our stuff at the Root Canal airstrip. Happy to be on glacier. Our camp on the ridge above the Root Canal with Mooses Tooth and our objectives in the background. Joe leading the way through the lower easy snow slopes. You can see the 2 of two ahead of us on the crux of Ham and Eggs. Joe leading us through the easier ice steps above the crux of Ham and Eggs. Climbing past a huge boulder along the ridge on the way up Ham and Eggs. Joe topping out on the corniced summit of Mooses Tooth after completing Ham and Eggs. Looking south across the range from the summit of Mooses Tooth. Rappelling one of the pitches mid way up Ham and Eggs. Shaken Not Stirred is the big brother to Ham and Eggs. Not in the sense of height or vantage but in the degree of difficulty. Overall the route has a lot more steep sections of ice and more mixed rock. Then the crux is obviously harder. We talked with 2 separate parties who bailed before the crux. So armed with some determination we took all the gear....aiders, talon hooks, the usual rack, and even rock shoes. For Shaken to be good you need a very cold night best after some warm afternoon. On Saturday we woke up at 4am to 15F in the tents and decided it was the day. Outside the weather was less than perfect with some low clouds coming and going, but we opted to give it a shot. As it turns out they all burnt off and it was a great day out. We left camp at 5am and quickly arrived at the base. The beginning couple of pitches were not rotten or scary as had been reported. We found neve snow and good ice. Joe led up to the easy couloir where I took over the step kicking and simuled up to the "narrows". From here we pitched it out changing leads. Even if you don't get to the top of the route the narrows are totally worth climbing. Absolutely cool and appropriately named. At 1 spot you couldn't face into the ice because your shoulders wouldn't fit between the rock walls. The ice quality was generally good and pretty soon we arrived at the crux. I led the pitch below the crux and put the belay on the right wall about 20 feet below tucked out of the way. The climb turns a bit left at the crux so my belay spot was out of the firing line which as it turns out was probably one of the best decisions I made that day. The crux is basically a chockstone jammed between the walls. It protrudes out 3 or 4 feet from the back wall. Ice pours over the chockstone and the cave it forms underneath was full of snow. The right side is steep rock while the left was a little more friendly with a couple of thin cracks and a veneer of ice. Joe took a look and said he was going to do it. He decided to leave his pack at the belay and soon took off. Climbing up he got in a 10cm stubby screw in the ice on the left. He put it as high as the ice allowed before it thinned down but it was probably 15 feet below the actual chockstone. From there he worked up towards the ice above. The large section of snow was soft and unconsolidated. Attempting to get a handhold to weight slightly while reaching up with the other tool the unthinkable happened. The entire section of snow probably the size of several refrigerators gave out and it all came crashing down. I caught his fall and flattened myself into the corner as the huge chunk of snow cartwheeled just a few feet to my left. His stubby screw held and nobody was injured. Now that the snow was gone he climbed right back up and was able to get a #1 BD C4 high up underneath the chockstone. Then he worked out left and up mixed terrain. Finally he got in some good sticks above and pulled over the chockstone. We both relaxed a bit as he got in a good screw. I followed but had my own challenge as the large ice coming over the chockstone broke off with me on it. After dangling in space for a minute I was able to drytool up under where the ice had been and reach the easier terrain above. We were excited to have got the crux, and I took over the lead expecting 3 easy pitches worth of snow above. It was quickly apparent that was not the case. The topo we had said to go up over a snow hump then traverse left. As I went up my progress soon slowed as I began excavating. It wasn't quite a tunnel but at times it felt like it as I worked up digging a 3 foot wide trench through the vertical snow. An hour or so later I had made it up 30-40 feet and dug a big hole through the snow hump looking down into the traverse and the next couloir. Joe followed the pitch then we simuled up to the top. After a couple quick pictures and some water we started the process of descending the route. It was obvious from the rap stations that Shaken doesn't get climbed as much as Ham and Eggs. We replaced several cords, added some rap rings/carabiners and beefed up a couple of stations with a pin or nut. Rappelling the 1st couple pitches at the bottom drove home the need for cold temps. All the snow and ice had turned to mush in the afternoon sun. We arrived back at camp at 5:30pm in time for a much needed dinner. We were super stoked to have climbed such a fine line, but also very taxed both physically and mentally. Looking up at Shaken Not Stirred on the day before our climb. Joe leading through some of the ice on the 1st couple of pitches of Shaken. Joe coming up the snow couloirs below the "narrows". Joe climbing up through the 1st pitch of the narrows. Unbelievably cool climbing! Joe leading another awesome pitch of narrows climbing. Here is Joe working on the crux prior to his fall. Here is what the crux looks like after the snow all fell out. Quite a big hole!! Looking back at the traverse and top of the trench through the snow hump. After a couple of days rest we started to get itchy to move. We wanted to "bump" to the West Fork of the Ruth and try Peak 11300's SW ridge. The weather was nice so we called TAT to get our bump. They said to get ready ASAP. Unfortunately in the meantime of breaking camp it clouded back up and we had packed for nothing. Not wanting to drag all of our stuff back up the ridge to our camp we settled for taking the necessities. The next day we arrived back at the airstrip cache to find our stuff in a complete mess. The ravens had opened up everything and destroyed, carried off, or ate about 2 weeks of Joe's food. I only lost a couple days worth because a lot of mine was in a rubbermaid box. Spirits were low as the snow fell for another day but the lesson was learned....Rubbermaids all around next year! Spending some time watching the clouds and light dance on the mountains. The big rock buttress looks very inspiring!! Our big mess of destroyed food after the ravens got into it. Bring Rubbermaids, bury your stuff or keep it in a tent! The dreary days of waiting......listening to music, cooking, reading. A shot looking down the Ruth Gorge on our bump flight to the West Fork of the Ruth. We finally got our bump on Thursday and proceeded to setup camp at the base of Peak 11300 while we watched avalanches and seracs fall off the faces as the sun moved. We decided to attempt the route in a single push with only down parka/pants for backup. We also brought an MSR Reactor stove and 16oz of fuel along with 1 cooked meal per person. The weather window looked good but temps were very warm. As a resulted we decided to leave fairly early and try to beat the heat. Alarms went off and we were soon following the boot pack out of camp at 2:15am. I led out as we transitioned from the flat glacier to the starting slopes up to the ridge. Simul-climbing we quickly reached the 1st rock band. We simuled through it, then I brought Joe up so I could get the gear back. Another block of snow and rock and we were just below the "thin man's squeeze". The rock steps were just so much fun with great gear that I couldn't stop smiling. Another block and we took a break at the 1st col to rehydrate and eat. The sun was starting to light up Huntington and the other surrounding peaks. Another simul block brought us up through the S couloir and to the rap into the 2nd col. I pitched out the next short section through the ledges and mantle move, more for rope drag than anything else. From here Joe took over the lead and we headed up weaving around rocks, up snow, and climbing mixed steps. For the most part the route stayed on the ridge or just to the right of it. The crux of the route felt like it was the last "5.8 gully" noted on the topo. Joe got the lead as we continued our simul climbing through it. It was super fun climbing and protected very well. From there we pretty much made a beeline to the summit. The last few hundred feet were snow although you could dig down and put a screw in the ice to protect every once in a while. Topped out at 10am and into the warmth of the sun. The views from the summit and along the ridge are stunning, some of the best I have seen! We quickly headed for the descent as we knew things were getting sloppy. The ridge to the top of the rappels had a bookrack but required a little bit of down climbing in some spots with serious runout in soft snow. We added another rappel anchor at the 1st rock outcrop above the sheltered col because the down climb looked hazardous in the current conditions. Then once over the col the regular raps started. There is actually a fair bit of traversing between rappels but never too bad. Finally after 8 raps or so we made it over the bergshrund and on to the glacier below. We had watched the slopes slide yesterday so we quickly made our way down crossing a couple of crevasses on the way. The whole bowl was baking in the sun by now and we longed for the shade of the tents at camp. We got back at 2:30pm making it in 12hrs and change tent to tent. The rest of the afternoon was a blur and by 5:30pm we were sitting at the Mountain High Pizza Pie in Talkeetna with the great white mountains only a memory. And so an Alaska trip is over but we are already talking about next year!! Our camp on the West Fork of the Ruth. It is such a beautiful setting. Peak 11300 catches some afternoon sunshine in the Ruth. Rooster Comb can be seen the background. A panorama somewhere below the 1st col. Joe is just a tiny dot along the ridge line in the middle. Looking up to the "grey rock" and the S couloir from the 1st col. The North Face of Huntington catches rays of morning sunshine. In the foreground you can see the tracks at the rappel to the 2nd col. Joe leading the way up the upper section of the ridge as the sun is starting to round the summit. A super wide angle showing the Ruth Gorge and Alaska range. On the right Joe is coming down the summit ridge behind me and on the left you can see the boot track continue down the corniced ridge. Looking back up at the steep corniced ridge that we descended.
  2. Trip: Tower Rock - FA - Rapunzel's Back in Rehab - C1 Date: 7/15/2015 Trip Report: The Beast - don't be fooled, them thare are full-grown trees Tower Rock, 2 hours from everywhere, appears oddly neglected - Brown Beckey's got the tiniest blurb of the single route up it done in 1982 (anyone know of a second ascent? i can't find anyone who's tried it) but no picture n' no topo - tim olson's oregon rock guide has some more detail than beckey, but still the vast monolith appears to have continued unloved tower's just south of randle, an unladen swallow's flight from the cispus river - the face is gigantic,something like 1200 feet tall - the rock is basaltic, according to beckey, but like nothing i've seen - like over-baked brownies, it's composed of a hodge-podge of components - incredibly solid and compact, it's cross-hatched in all directions, crackless, and crumbles into bricks and blocks of all conceivable sizes - the tower looms over it's talus field, fiercely steep, it's upper-wall reminiscent of the right side of el cap, incredibly bulging and over-hanging tower is composed of two giant faces seperated by a ledge/fault system that was the path taken by the first team to climb the face - currently, after 7 days of effort, our route climbs the lower wall - it'll be just as much work to finish the upper wall, if the rock quality holds as it currently exists yeah, there's a lot more to go, but as it stands, what's there is 600 feet tall and a great day-tripper's aid adventure already - i figure the worst that can come of telling folks about this now before it's complete is that some other sad fools can go do it for me trip the first: fuck, this happened so long off i wonder if my recollection's right at all - me n' bill n' ben in the late winter - a burr up their bespectacled asses about a mythical 10-pitch free route up a largely untouched tower - the plan to hike to the top then set a rap-line down the likely route - out of town on a friday night to the frightful fall of rain - ghetto camp before the gate in gales of damnable damp - the roar of frogs - the next morning the most sordid thang - endless hours uphill w/ drill n' bolts n' chains in the continuous cloud-fuck n' frenzied chilly breeze - near the summit gob-smacked to gain a blazed trail barely a mile from a seasonal road - the top a huge disappointment, it characterized by clouds and beaming rainbows and rock so rude they rarely accoladed the attribution - soon there after the weekend righteously concluded and me around for the sweet family on the sabbath trip the second: on the reconnaissance earlier, dejected at finding a kitty-litter summit, we'd paused after a tortuous overladen descent on the boulder field and pondered on future options - a man w/ an aid-climber's conscious could do a take on "infinite bliss" and find a bitching way up the crazy big blank face - it was sure to take a mort of mortal work, but bill n' geoff are true gentlemen all measured and solid for this kinda goofy shit - we banged up from p-town on a friday night and made camp up at the turn around on the forest road - stumble-fucking up the forest we arrived amazed and ready to ramble on - many mozzies n' deer flies this damned trip - pitch 1 went quickly between geoff and bill, the later bounding up free on low-angle stacked mossy talus to make an anchor atop tier 1 - me i got tier 2 - all bolts at first until i no longer feared the ledge, then lotza 2-hook moves in a row until reaching the top of the tier where i left a fixed hook to protect a low-angle romp to the second anchor - we retired to camp n' soggy fires n' fulsome screeching music - day 2 we jugged to the top of p2 and bill and geoff got up a ways before yielding to me, whereupon i drilled n' hooked to a high point we marked w/ red tat before descending and returning to our troubled and lonely little lives - i recollect getting a true n' glorious drunk on in the passenger seat n' slumbering back to vantucky geoff putting up the first pitch on the scrubby, compact low-angle first tier the artist as a young asshole ascending the second steeper tier geoff workign on pitch 3, the first steps onto the very steep lower wall trip the third: lovely ospreys n' robins round the lake - pete n' pam play camp hosts - camp weddings n' nightly fishing sheenaningans - muskrats n' pond-skimming swallows - bastard mozzies n' mean biting flies, mostly in obeisance for the first couple cold days, but growing in malevolence as the weather waxed towards wicked hot - the sweet ne face of Tower almost totally shade-soaked for the mid-morning riser - kids n' retirees n' rv's n' jumping trout n' tame dogs - the listless routines of an aimless life - awake w/ the sun - fresh shits n' dewy breakfasts - a short but grim uphill grind through steep forest w/ plentiful windfall, shirt soaked through by the time we hit the sunny talus field at the base but soon blessed w/ shade - warm juggy work to start and then to the serious business - fear frenzies despite being armed w/ all the wonderful war machines of modern man - a long time of terror n' toil - the day dispatched, we make a rapid descent, each time by a different winding way - beer n' stripping soaked clothes off at the mercifully close car - me auolde yosemite food bin rummaged through for a desperate dinner, usually of beer n' tobacco n' pringles n' whatever benevolent bill threw my way - an hour or so of bird-watching n' binge-reading on maggie thatcher's frigid teeming fucking bush - to sleep at the post-gloaming in a grand 6-man tent alone, racked out on a queen sized inflatable air mattress, wrapped in down and dozy drunkenness - the night passed moaning to sore muscles as i twist n' turn until the dawn drags me to my addled senses, then it all runs off the reel much as it reckoned the day before... first several days of murmurings n' mumblings w/ just me n' bill (me a damn baby in comparison to my venerable and august elder - that baby weighing in at a mean 250 bare-nekkid pounds and a coward to boot of course) - bill a bastion of genteel sincerity that must sadly have bitch-left this world many generations ago - me strangely silent of song for days - my mind scrambled and saddened by the robust requirements of 6-weeks of family-left sorrows gone off in the valley - eventually songs to lift my times and shape my senses - "mining for gold" by the cowboy junkies running on an eternal loop in my mind - long after-shocks of "burn down the mission" caused by geoff for sure after 3 days of toil we grow weary and call in the cavalry - the silverman boys gonna come down n' save us from our misery - we make a rest day out of walking the mountain side w/ them, then retiring to the big boulder to pound pbr's n' provide Adult Supervision - they lounge around camp afterwards, contemplating on crashing the redneck wedding well under-way - we smoke bales of weed n' cackle n' cough n' find high times are treasure enough in this wicked world - eventually all good things must get on the bus w/ gandhi though and they roll off into the night in the hms revenge, ready i hope to return for more the last day done-off as surely as a band-aid - after a fearful arduous jug up the wild steep fixed lines ole bill baits the question ("good news or bad?" - which would you take?) - - dedication to a last day of determined work - 5 hours of bolting and hooking on endless steep traversing ground until i was gut-wrenched at what it was likely to take me to get get back to bill - epic amounts of gear left as i rapped into the void and quickly grew dependent on bill to reel me back in - the retreat then fully declared we rapped n' ruminated n' laid our plans like parchment paper, all of it ultimately putting us on sweet terra-firma w/ a fuck-load of gear to get off - surprised by bill's pronouncement of this day, i had no proper pack to cram all the crap into eventually we ambled on down the way, me overloaded like a gypsy carnival-whore w/ rope-bags aplenty such that i swooned on multiple occasions as the straps cut into me wind-pipe and i passed yards off unyielding to gratuitous thoughts, my mind in a true and lovely gray place - the last night spent in part w/ militant california-paul, such as exemplar of that shakespearean clap-trap about sounding of fuck-all and negative fury, yet yielding nothing our objective from the relative sanity of the rv park n' its teeming trout pond white-boys jugging the first 2 tiers - at this angle the lower wall takes up most of the entire frame, but the upper wall's just as big n' steeper 700 feet of ropes n' route-making machine just starting the second pitch bags of bolts n' drills n' bullshit - starting to install pitch 4 geoff at the top of p4, kyle jugging up to the mid-pt anchor closing thoughts: happy to share the discovery w/ the nw brethren - leave yer self-righteous bolting morals at home w/ yer bitches - the place went unloved for a reason - the only cracks evident are where awful rock-fall is just a geologic fart-in-a-stiff-wind away - if intending to push the route higher (what's there is plenty for a day-tripper), please let me or bill or geoff know so one of us can come along - perhaps a dozen separate lines could be pushed to the top in the same style, each likely to take weeks n' 1000$ to put in place - recon trip to the top found almost no real rock up there - at some point all lines must turn to awful kitty litter, but maybe it'll go anyhow? topo as it currently stands - hope to see this fucker get taller in the fullness of insensible time Gear Notes: - up to 30+ draws if clipping all bolts - 2 bathooks (talons can work, but they risk blowing out the drilled holes) - ideally 2 70 meter ropes, but 2 60'S can work if careful - cheater stick not bad idea, as many of the bolts were installed by a fear-fucked orangutan at his max reach - lower off tat or quick-links/biners for follower at traversing parts - helmets essential - much potential for rockfall of all sizes, especially if hauling or jugging - base area very dangerous in strong winds or if below climbers on first 2 approach pitches - upper pitches largely protected from natural rockfall (be careful up there ) Approach Notes: Exit 68 off i5 - east on 12 to randle (about an hour) - right (south) turn at randle (follow signs for tower rock RV park) - quick left about a mile south of randle, then another turn right about 6 miles later - rt turn at tower rock RV park/cispus learning center signs - left onto logging road (75?76?) just a 100 yards before rt turn to tower rock forest service camp (or straight for another mile to the RV park) - forest road is closed at gate near main road during winter/early spring - about 1 1/2 mile up road (stay on main road at split a 1/2 mile up) there's a turn around (about .25 mile past a steep switchback) - from there you can continue in car but there's no turnaround - walk or drive 1/4 mile to road-end - at wierd stone-forest-altar begin hiking up steep forrested slope - about 45 minutes to base - occasional game and human trails, generally trending right and up - copious windfall in middle section of trail - steeper for last 1/3 of trail - idea is to skirt talus field on right and join base from tree at right edge of wall - 1st bolt is just 5 feet off ground near clump of trees about 50 feet above a huge lounge-like boulder that is a great/safe observation spot descent: currently rapping from top of p5 to top of p4 is extra-ordinarly hard - in the future ideally there'll be a rap line straight down through p5 - for now be prepared to leave a fixed line to get back to the top of p4 and for the first rapper to have to haul the second back over - descending from the top of p4 requires 2 70 meter ropes or a stop at the mid-pt anchor (no rings) - the rap overhangs but you just barely touch the wall at the mid-pt anchor - use terrain to help you rap in the right direction
  3. Trip: Slesse Northeast Buttress - 2nd Winter Ascent - Date: 4/6/2015 Trip Report: This is a full month late, likely a by product of my brain exploding after my Patagonia trip as well as this climb I am about to describe. It is now undeniable that I have some kind of addiction to climbing Slesse Mountain. I have climbed the mountain more than 10 times by at least five different routes both solo and with partners. I think the main reasons for this are that: 1: It is ridiculously easy to access from the East. 2: The East flank of the mountain is hands down the raddest face in the area. 3: I can be a creature of habit. I had always wanted to climb a big route on Slesse in the winter, and after learning to 'really' mixed climb in the Canadian Rockies it became even more of a priority. I spent most of my winter in Patagonia, managing to bang off some great climbs in the Torres, including a solo ascent of the beautiful Cerro Torre. As I made the journey back north to Canadia a bit of sleuthing had me convinced that Slesse must be in the 'condition of the century' for winter climbing. I tried to find a partner to attempt Navigator Wall, but with only one or two days of stable weather remaining it was too short of notice. Listening to an interview with Stevie Haston on the airplane, I heard him describe his free solo ascent of The Walker Spur in winter which got me psyched, so I began to formulate a new plan. I had climbed the Northeast Buttress of Slesse too many times in summer, including a speed ascent in one hour and fifteen minutes. But in winter the line would certainly provide a completely new challenge. The line had only seen one winter ascent, in 1986, which required several bivouacs as well as aid on the upper headwall. Because I knew the route intimately I was able to slowly convince myself that I may be able to free solo the route in winter, for the 2nd winter ascent and first free winter ascent. It seemed a bit of a lofty goal, so I brought along an 80 meter 6mm Esprit cord and some pins and wires to bail with 'just in case'. John Scurlock photo. Isn't it just irresistible?! My sister, who lives in Chilliwack dropped me off at the start of Nesakwatch Creek FSR and I briskly walked to the Memorial Plaque beneath the mountain where I spent the night. I awoke at 4am the following morning, and after spending nearly an hour huddled in my sleeping bag I mustered the psyche to get a move on. At 5am, I left the memorial and approached directly through the basin beneath the mountain. The snow conditions were generally quite good, and a short WI2 step soon brought me to the slightly threatened slopes beneath the toe of the Buttress. I veered left here, joining the standard summer approach through the pocket glacier cirque. The upper section of the cirque still held a surprising number of deep crevasses, likely caused by avalanche debris from the East Face forming deep craters on impact. I crossed over several bergschrunds on the right hand side of the cirque then climbed directly up to the bypass ramps leading to the Buttress crest. This section, normally a third class ledge walk in summer, was a surprisingly steep and exposed traverse on snow. As I neared the crest the angle and exposure kicked back and I quickly made my way upwards on good snow to the first 5.8 rock pitch. This pitch was surprisingly easy in the conditions I found it in, the air was just warm enough that I could climb barehanded, as long as I stopped every two minutes to re warm my numb fingers. The pitch only required a few minutes of careful climbing and soon I was back on steep snow and neve, now accustomed to the exposure. Dylan Johnson photo of the route, taken the day before my solo. Line shown in red. On the traverse into the Beckey Ramps I climbed slightly too high and had to make a very exposed down climb to reach the correct ramp on the north face. The ramps were coated with perfect ice and neve, making for fun, fast and easy climbing with a spectacular view down into the 'Heart of Darkness'. "This is rad", I said out loud. The ramps led me back onto the crest of the Buttress and the second 5.8 rock pitch, which looked to be slightly more mixed than the pitch lower down. I removed my gloves again, and was able to climb about half the pitch with my hands before transitioning to proper mixed climbing. Finding a thin crack for my right tool, I danced over leftwards with my feet on small patches of ice until I could reach a thin veneer in which to place my left tool. The pitch felt around M5 in difficulty, and above the climbing slowly eased off until I reached to huge bivy ledge at mid height. At the bivy ledge I took a break to eat some snacks and assess conditions on the upper headwall. The steepest pitch appeared to be fairly free of ice, but above, where the angle relented slightly, the rock was decorated by a patchwork of thin white ice. It looked interesting to say the least. The snowslope leading to the headwall was relatively boring and does not need much description, nor does the WI3 runnel I took to bypass the first 5.8 pitch on the headwall. The 'rotten pillar' pitch was straightforward enough and soon I was on the crux, stemming in crampons around detached flakes in a corner. On top of one of these flakes I paused to remove my crampons and warm my hands before embarking on a slightly insecure bit of climbing on downwards sloping holds. I traversed back right to a small roof which I passed on juggy finger locks, and now at the apex of the small overhang I was able to peer upwards to the iced up slabs I had observed from below. It was clear I was going to need my crampons again. I placed a large nut and clipped myself to it for security, then gingerly stepped into my crampons one foot at a time. I mentally rehearsed my next sequence as it appeared from my airy stance, then removed the nut securing me to the wall and committed. I switched my feet on a good hold and stepped up and right onto the slab. With my frontpoints set in small divots I balanced upwards, holding a small edge with my left hand for balance. I uclipped the ice tool from my right side and reached upwards for a small bit of ice pasted to the wall. Now at the edge of my comfort zone, I gently tapped the tool twice against the ice until the first two teeth sunk in. I tested the tool carefully, then took care not to make any sudden movements while I slowly searched out higher edges for my feet. The edges I found sloped slightly downwards but my frontpoints found purchase enough to balance higher still. I carefully pulled out my left tool and placed it in thin but good ice above bringing me to a comfortable stance on a ledge. The crux now behind me, I allowed the mental RPM to decrease steadily until I was ready to continue. Jim Nelson photo from their 1986 ascent. This shows the crux pitch with the same patches of thin ice that I encountered. As I climbed excellent mixed terrain above I could really admire my wildly exposed position on this beatiful mountain. The whole buttress stretched out below me, black stone stained white with snow and ice. My tools found purchase on the well featured rock and the climbing gradually eased off pitch by pitch until I crested the final summit ridge and found myself standing in the sun. Eating a bar with the summit register in hand, I wrote, "Northeast Buttress - 2nd winter ascent. March 9 2015. Very exciting". The crux pitch was likely delicate M6, perhaps M5+, but someone will have to do a second free winter ascent to verify. The west side of the mountain was surprisingly warm compared to the shady, iced up North face, but the ledges and gullies were still covered in snow and neve making for a quick and pleasant descent. Descending the scree slopes on the Crossover Pass descent was nicely facilitated by the well settled snow and I was rewarded with a spectacular view of the route I had just climbed. After stumbling down the steep wooded trail below, I arrived at my bivouac site and ate a candy bar before packing up my equipment. Walking the road back towards civilization I pondered my options. I had no ride back and considered walking the fity kilometers to my sister's house through the night. I thought back to the ascent I had just made, it's often surreal when a long time dream, like climbing Slesse in winter, glides into the present, then into the past. I knew that my mind needed a break, I needed to relax and digest the adventures of the past months. As I thought these things, an animal control vehicle pulled up to offer me a ride. The driver was a likeable guy named Mark and we chatted, mostly about travelling, until he pulled up to a bus stop in Chilliwack and bode me farewell. A bus arrived a moment later and soon I was just a block from my sister's home. Her husband Robert saw me walking down the street through the window and came to greet me at the door. They welcomed me in happily, and at 6:30pm we all sat down to a delicious supper. Parting shot, taken from a plane that flew around the mountain the day of my solo. If you zoom in on a high res version my track is visible bottom center. Gear Notes: Lightweight bail kit! Approach Notes: Super chill relative to radness of climb.
  4. A Google search led me to this site today, and this is my first post here. No one on this site knows me and with what I am about to post I understand why there will be people who are skeptical of this story... I am going to be deliberately vague at this time because I need to figure out the best way to present my geologic discovery to the world. Here is a summary of the discovery and an explanation of why I am not revealing the details until approximately November of this year: In the summer, I manage helicopters (Helitack) for the U.S. Forest Service on wildfire assignments. I spend weeks on end flying in helicopters all across the U.S.A. During the summer of 2010, I was managing a helicopter on a wildfire here in Oregon (I live here and I am a native Oregonian). During that assignment we had a mission to pick up two government resource advisors at a location in a wilderness area, and fly them to the fire line. Because of dense smoke we had to fly miles off course and circle back to the site where we were going to pick up the two resource advisors. During that detour, we fly low through some drainages to avoid smoke that was higher. Deep in the wilderness area, but not close to any trails, I spotted an amazing and significant geologic feature. I marked the coordinates on my Garmin GPS. The view from the helicopter was fleeting. The winds were squirrelly and we had a mission to complete so we were not able to hover and take an extensive look. The first thing that many people will think is that there are no significant undiscovered places in Oregon. People have told me that "every square inch of Oregon has been explored." Some examples: It is logical to believe that there are no undiscovered waterfalls in Oregon that are higher than Multnomah Falls? Or limestone caves that are larger than Oregon Caves? Those are just examples - I did not discover a record breaking waterfall or a limestone cave. However, the stunning site that I discovered is not only rare in the northwest; it is also more spectacular than the other similar known geologic features in Oregon. After the 2010 wildfire season wound down; in September, 2010, a friend and I attempted to backpack to the site that I discovered from the air. After a grueling seven hour hike (no trails), we set up a base camp approximately 1.5 miles from the geologic site. The next day (carrying basic survival and photography gear in our day packs) we attempted to reach the site but at only 0.34 miles from our goal we were stopped by an obstacle that we did not anticipate. This obstacle required technical rock climbing equipment to get past. My friend and I are explorers and backpackers, but we are not climbers. So the 2010 "expedition" was a failure. And a huge disappointment to me. In the four years since, you could say that I have been obsessed with reaching and photographing that site. Work and other commitments kept me from organizing a second attempt until last week. This time, two rock climbers (with climbing gear) came with me. We set up a base camp at the same place where I camped in 2010. The next day (Saturday, July 12) we successfully reached the site. It took four hours from the base camp to cover the 1.5 mile distance to the site. We spent about one hour exploring and photographing the site, and then another four hours to make it back to our base camp just before dark. We spent a second night at the base camp and hiked out yesterday (July 13). From the ground, the site was everything and more that I had hoped it would be. Awesome and stunning are good descriptors. I believe this site will become famous. Hard core backpackers and climbers will want to go there. Why am I posting this here and not disclosing the details? OK, I am not saying this compares to Hillary's summit of Mt. Everest, nor Admundsen reaching the South Pole. But for the Pacific northwest, especially Oregon, this is an amazing discovery! I am organizing my photographs and planning to write a full account of the expedition. When I have it all organized, I will disclose everything; maps, photos, GPS coordinates, routes, etc. Which brings me back to the reason for posting this. What would be the best way to present this to the public? An article in Outside or Backpacker magazine? Or is there a good regional magazine? Or the OPB TV program "Oregon Field Guide"? Maybe I could even get National Geographic interested in covering the story... Presenting it in a public setting, similar to a slide show, is another way that I would consider. However I do not belong to any club such as the Mazamas. I hope I have stirred interest with this mysterious post, and that someone will have some contacts or suggestions on ways to share this amazing find with the world.
  5. Trip: North Hozomeen Mtn - Zorro Face, IV 5.9 Date: 8/31/2013 Trip Report: “squamish?” Written at the end of a planning email for Hozomeen which addressed some nagging details, this would become our refrain throughout the trip. Labor Day offered a nice climbing window, and our list of objectives included just plain ol’ good times at Squamish, which typically promises immediate rock, clean rock, solid rock, protectable rock—all conspicuously (or suspected) absent at our objective. Most likely, many of you are aware of the opening passage in Jack Kerouac’s Desolation Angels: “Hozomeen, Hozomeen, most beautiful mountain I ever seen, like a tiger sometimes with stripes, sunwashed rills and shadow crags wriggling lines in the Bright Daylight, vertical furrows and bumps and Boo! crevasses, boom, sheer magnificent Prudential mountain, nobody’s even heard of it, and it’s only 8,000 feet high, but what a horror when I first saw that void the first night of my staying on Desolation Peak waking up from deep fogs of 20 hours to a starlit night suddenly loomed by Hozomeen with his two sharp points, right in my window black – the Void, every time I’d think of the Void I’d see Hozomeen and understand – Over 70 days I had to stare at it.” Later in the novel: “The void is not disturbed by any kind of ups or downs, my God look at Hozomeen, is he worried or tearful?... Why should I choose to be bitter or sweet, he does neither? – Why cant I be like Hozomeen and O Platitude O hoary old platitude of the bourgeois mind ‘take life as it comes’…” “take life as it comes” indeed. This is a useful mantra when approaching the west face. We had suspected an approach from the N down a gully would grant us access—Colin Haley’s blog post seemed to confirm this suspicion. However, this approach is nontrivial; the initial gully third-class down-climb, while loose, and dangerous, pales next to the shenanigans required to cross several precipitous ribs to our targeted launch point. A slip at any point spells an unpleasant end in the valley a couple thousand below. The approach took us a tedious and painstaking 4.5 hours (this after a first day of humping heavy loads 11+ miles to a camp just N of the peak.) Camp in that basin; S and N Hozomeen left to right, with the west (Zorro) face mostly out of view; some of its northern margin on the right skyline. Our approach continues down (out of view) from the furthest notch on right. Views during approach included the Picket range. Approach soloing; downclimbing skills or funeral bills. squamish? “take life as it comes”, also a useful mantra when trying to piece together leads up loose, sometimes friable and/or vegetated and/or wet, mostly welded shut (read: sparsely protected) metamorphosed basalt. The stuff is also called Hozomeen chert and was valued by the Salish for making knives and arrowheads. Hozomeen apparently is native Salish for "sharp, like a sharp knife." Looking up at much of our (foreshortened) route, which tends left to the central summit in this pic. Finally at the base, we decided to take it one pitch at a time, figuring we would try to retain the option to bail. squamish? Rock, paper, scissors, Rolf wins first lead this time. End of rope. I follow and gain an appreciation for the climbing challenges this Hozomeen chert will proffer; sparse pro and selective handholds will be the order of the day. I lead up a second long pitch to the only evidence of human visitation: a ¼ inch bolt and a bail ‘biner. Someone came, saw, and turned around; foreboding. (We did not see any other indication of passage higher than this.) After a couple pitches of metamorphosed basalt, we were talking about turning around too. But we could see trees on ledges above, and figured we could still bail in a relatively safe and reasonable manner. squamish? The land of milk and honey beckoned us. The third pitch required an exposed step-around with muddied feet; expletives drifted down to my belay. No pics. My pitch 4 went steeply up to a ledge, and traversed left; we were somehow making our way, and could still bail. Rolf’s face at the pitch 4 transition betrays some of our uncertainty. During his pitch 5 lead, some curses and words in the wind, “I wanna go home”. It was probably just the wind; he would’ve said simply, “squamish?” I’d like to forget pitch 6. I was forced up a steep 5.9 corner/arête with a paucity of gear. And what few pieces there were went into mungy and rotten fissures. Loose rock abounded, and without gear, there was no way to constrain the ropes from sending it down. Rolf didn’t get hit, but reported that he dutifully tied knots below his brake hand in case he was knocked out—so sensitive to my needs. I grunted up to a fat ledge, and Rolf managed to follow without getting shelled. Then Rolf drew one of the plum pitches, the seventh. 5.9+, climbs a nice corner (but with a section of unavoidable decking potential), then a tricky traverse to another corner, up and then traverse again to the only belay opportunity. Again, only so much gear and rope management was possible; missiles flew by my safe belay spot, but a few also threatened while climbing—somehow, no carnage. This wouldn’t happen in … Rolf up the p7 corner. Hand jams!?! Pitch 8 had a couple steep sections. Here Rolf discerns which holds to clean and/or trust. Pitches 9 and 10 stretched the ropes, continuing up the “corner” system we had identified as a weakness. More 5.9 (mostly easier) runouts. At the belay at top of pitch 10 I placed the only iron we used, a crappy pin to back up a solid piece and a marginal piece. For pitch 11, Rolf raced the sunset to a ledge. Uncharacteristically, this pitch didn’t stretch the rope; he thought we should take the bivouac bird in hand. I thought we were close to the summit and could possibly manage to climb to the top in the twilight-soon-to-be-night. He pointed out that idea was risky, and his logic prevailed. In retrospect it was definitely the right move. “take life as it comes”, also useful for shivering through the beautiful folly of an exposed bivy on a sloping ledge one nasty pitch from the summit. We’d brought some warm clothes but could have been warmer. All in all, the bivy wasn’t so bad, and definitely not as miserable as our unplanned bivy on Lemolo Mox across the way. Hozomeen wasn’t done with us. In the morning, I put together a long and winding pitch on some of the worst rock and pro conditions on the face—one strong cup of coffee, scary to the last drop. But it got us to the summit ridge! Unfortunately, the only spot to belay again made rope-disturbing rubble unavoidable. On the finishing moves, Rolf got clocked right in the helmet with a softball-sized rock, but was ok. Shudder. Top of our climb, just North of the summit, shortly after getting rocked. Glad to have done it. Another Scurlock masterpiece. Our route makes its way up to the left-facing corners directly below the summit. Our bivy occurred on the relatively large snow patch right below the summit. In the background is the Southwest Buttress, climbed many years ago by some hardcores. Kerouac again: “And I will die, and you will die, and we all will die, and even the stars will fade out one after another in time.” But we won’t die on Hozomeen. Hopefully not in Squamish either. But I will climb again at the latter. Both Rolf and I have mildly obsessed over this face for years, and were gratified (gruntled, even) to execute our vision. I expected technical demands exceeding 5.9, but given the challenges of Hozomeen chert, was glad for the limit. Probably half the pitches had some 5.9 moves, depending on what you trust for holds. We stretched the rope for most of the 12 pitches of pure adventure. I am fortunate to have a teammate like the curmudgeon: rich in experience (old), strong (for his weight), solid (old), and somehow able to check my relentlessly positive delusions. Thanks hardcore. A couple summit shots: And more pics. BTW, we descended the North Face route, rested, ate and drank, packed up and marched to car. The mosquitoes for the last couple miles were some other $#!+. Gear Notes: Single set of nuts. Tricams up to hand size v useful. We took lots of small cams, but the doubles would actually be better in the mid-range. Approach Notes: Nontrivial. Day 1, due to tons of rain the day before, we elected to take the scenic Skyline trail instead of the steep bushwhack. Day 2, follow your nose and low sense of self-worth.
  6. Trip: Ptarmigan Traverse FKT - Date: 8/16/2012 Trip Report: Uli Steidl and I completed the Ptarmigan Traverse in 12:17, a new FKT (fastest known time). It has been three years since I last enjoyed the Ptarmigan Traverse so it was time to come back to see some of the most beautiful scenery in the Cascades and refresh the prior FKT, which was set by Colin Abercrombie and me on July 28, 2009 (14:36) . This time I was joined by distance running legend Uli Steidl who has innumerable running victories and accolades to his name from road marathons to mountain running to ultras. Conditions were very similar to 2009 with nearly identical weather (hottest days of the summer). Prior to this run I figured somewhere in the 12 hour range was possible and we were able to hit that target finishing the traverse in 12:17. We started at the Cascade Pass trailhead at 4:49 am and finished at Downey Creek Bridge at 5:06 pm. Overall, the 2 hr, 19 min improvement from the 2009 time was due to a consistently faster effort throughout the traverse (see comparison below). I attribute this to more route experience and dialing in on nutrition and hydration, which helped keep energy levels high especially in the second half of the traverse. Bachlor Creek was as lovely (brushy) as ever although we avoided making any time consuming errors in the brush and the Downey Creek Trail felt as long as I had remembered. The 8.5 mile jog along the Suiattle River Road seemed especially needless because there were five forest service vehicles parked at the Downey Creek Bridge. In fact, the closed portion of the road is in better shape than the open part! It seemed like they were prepping the road, perhaps for opening? [video:youtube] Comparison: 2012 vs. 2009 vs. 2008 (difference 2012 to 2009) Cascade Pass TH (3,600 ft) : 0 / 0 / 0 Cascade Pass (5,392 ft) : 43 / 48 / 55 (- 5) Cache Col (6,920 ft) : 1:39 / 1:50 / 2:13 (- 11) Spider-Formidable Col (7,320 ft+) : 3:26 / 3:40 / 5:00 (- 14) Yang Yang Lakes (5,830 ft) : 4:10 / 4:26 / 6:20 (- 16) White Rock Lakes (6,194 ft) : 6:25 / 7:11 / 9:51 (- 46) Spire Col (7,760 ft+) : 7:52 / 8:54 / 11:55 (- 1:02) Cub Pass (6,000 ft+) : 8:55 / 10:16 / 13:42 (- 1:21) Bottom of Bachelor Creek (2,440 ft) : 10:51 / 12:48 / 16:30 (- 1:57) Downey Creek TH (1,415 ft) : 12:17 / 14:36 / 18:10 (- 2:19) Location (Elevation): Time Elapsed / Split / Real Time Cascade Pass TH (3,600 ft) : 0 / 0 / 04:49 Cascade Pass (5,392 ft) : 43:10 / 43:10 / 05:32 Cache Col (6,920 ft) : 1:38:34 / 55:24 / 06:27 Spider-Formidable Col (7,320 ft+) : 3:25:37 / 1:47:02 / 08:14 Yang Yang Lakes (5,830 ft) : 4:10:17 / 44:40 / 08:59 White Rock Lakes (6,194 ft) : 6:24:54 / 2:14:36 / 11:14 Spire Col (7,760 ft+) : 7:52:01 / 1:27:07 / 12:41 Cub Pass (6,000 ft+) : 8:54:49 / 1:02:47 / 13:44 Bottom of Bachelor Creek (2,440 ft) : 10:51:23 / 1:56:34 / 15:40 Downey Creek TH (1,415 ft) : 12:17:15 / 1:25:51 / 17:06 Gear Notes: Axe and crampons Footwear: La Sportiva Nutrition: First Endurance EFS and Ultragen, energy bars Approach Notes: Typical Bachelor Creek brush
  7. Trip: Picket Range - Complete Enchainment Attempt Date: 9/2/2011 Trip Report: On September 2nd Jens Holsten, Dan Hilden and myself (Sol Wertkin) began an 8 day attempt at the Complete Picket Range Enchainment. While we came quite short of our original goal, we were able to complete the 2nd ascent of the Souther Picket Range Ridge Traverse (Bunker, Haley, Wallace 2003) and push it forward a bit to the North through Picket Pass, and over Outrigger and Luna Pk before exiting via Access Creek (15 summit in total). Day 1: The Three McMillan Spires Day 1 is a true ass-kicker, gaining over 10,000 vertical feet, and unfortunately I had been here before, 2 years earlier Blake Herrington and I had made an attempt at the Southern Traverse, completing 5 peaks before bailing out via fried nerves and weather via Terror Creek. We had fallen short of our intended itinerary on day 1 bivying between the East and West McMillan Spires. It was with this knowledge that I set the alarm even earlier this time around. As predicted, we approached as a weather system cleared the area and lucky for us an amazing high pressure window graced us for the remainder of the trip. The days objectives: SE Face of Little McMillan 7,600 ft, East ridge of East McMillan 7,992 ft, and the East Ridge/Face of the West McMillan Spire 8,000 ft. Though the packs were heavy, the views were incredible, the rock wasn't half bad, and the psyche was high. Myself celebrating the Triple Cumbre We were happy to have completed our goal for the day, but undeniably worked from the long approach and rock climbing with such heavy packs. We settled into the bivy just as it became dark. Day 2: The East Towers Traverse to Inspiration Peak We slept in until nearly 8 am on day 2 rationalizing that to complete such a big undertaking we would need to periodically recover. I began our late start pushing the rope on familiar terrain around the East Towers towards Inspiration. I was able to gain precious time compared to Blake and myself's onsight attmept and within a few hours we were starting up beautiful stone low on Inspiration Pk's East Ridge. Jens led on, scaling Inspiration's two beautiful crux pitches. It was here, at the base of the 5.9 pitch on Inspiration, where, 2 years earlier, I had come as close to dying as I ever have in the mountains. A microwave sized block that Blake was stemming on came loose and crashed onto the belay ledge from 50 ft. I narrowly escaped by jumping barefoot off the ledge with just enough play in my tether to dodge the missle. It felt strange to be back at the scene of the incident and was a relief to climb on uneventfully. The traverse over the E and W Summits of Inspiration 7,880 ft was as aesthetic as ever. But my oh my, where had the time gone? By the time we descended the W Ridge of Inspiration it was nearly 4 in the afternoon. On my previous attempt Blake and I had pioneered frightening new ground at 5.10R on our next objective, The Pyramid. Not feeling the need to launch into another late day epic on Pyramid we made the hard decision to bivy there and tackle it first thing in the morning. We had fallen incredibly short of the first ascencionest itinerary (in which they had amazingly moved on through Pryamid, Dengenhart, and Terror to a summit bivy on the Rake), but felt it was a necessary decision considering the time of the day and the enormity of our objective. Day 3: The Pyramid, Dengenhardt, Terror, and The Rake Our third day began with a more traditional alpine start and Dan took the lead and nailed it. Climbed The Pyramid the right way and it was a great route. Dan on the 5.8 crux of the East Ridge of The Pyramid Near the summit of The Pyramid 7,920 ft Mt. Degenhardt, 8,000 ft, was an easy scramble and we kept trucking on towards Terror. It was near the base of Terror where I had given Blake, "the look." The look that says, "dude, i'm done, it's over," and we had bailed. This time around I just focused on placing one foot in front of the other, and really didn't look ahead too much at the exceedingly intimidating East Ridge of Terror. We knew that Wayne and party had had a hair-raising experience scaling it's loose flanks so we just focused on finding the best path. And we did, and it wasn't so bad. Myself, leading our first pitch on the East Ridge of Mt. Terror Jens on the Summit of Mt. Terror, 8,151 ft. While the ascent wasn't so bad, the descent sure was. Loose unprotected down-climbing characterized the descent and before long we were strung out on a steep face searching for anchors or a way to continue down. Eventually we found some very old pins, and rapped off into the col, a disgusting place, perhaps the loosest col of them all. On the menu for dinner was the Rake, and Jens took the lead for the first and crux pitch. Loose climbing took Jens out of view and before long it was only his breathing and moans that we could decipher. I could tell the climbing was hard and that for the first time of the trip Jens was, "going for it." In the face of steep overhangs, Jens had set two OK nuts, equalized them and embarked on a 9+ traverse across "solid" edges, running it out 50-60 ft to a belay. Luckily for Dan and myself we were able to get intimate with some super-choss and keep the protection slightly more sane as we followed. Endless simuling ensued as we traversed onto the true ridge of the Rake. The rock quickly changed and we climbed phenomenal stone around the East Summit. Jens climbing into the golden hour on the Rake DFH getting his follow on Loving it Late-night belay duty Climbing at night, deep in the Pickets, high on the Rake, isn't the most relaxing endeavor. But things continued to unfold well. We wandered around many false summits and gendarmes and finally late into the night we heard a distant "monkey-call"from Jens and knew that we had finally arrived at the West Summit of the Rake, 7,840 ft. A short rap into the high col ended a long day. A wind-protected bivy we affectionately named,Ice Station DarkStar. We were in deep now. Day 4: East Twin Needle, West Twin Needle, and the Himmelhorn We awoke to a crisp morning on day 4. I started off the day wandering down the long west ridge of the Rake towards the Twin Needle Spires. Looking back at the Rake As we approached the summit ridge of the E Twin Needle the rock got better and better. Crescendoing with a wild pitch of 10- to the summit, 7,936. Jens leading through terrible rope drag DFH Scary downclimbing (a theme for the trip) got us off the E Twin and we simuled up the West Twin. The Himmelhorn, the crux of the traverse (10+), was wildly intimidating. Jens got're done, finding the right path up the sheer north face. We pushed on over the summit, down the backside, where two long rappels took us to a good bivy at the Ottohorn-Himmelhorn col. Day 5: The Ottohorn We again woke up late, intending on first bagging the Ottohorn via it's 3rd class East Face, and then the Frenzelspitz. We were worked from the previous's day's climbing and moved slowly out of the bivy with quivering legs and throbbing fingers. Unfortunatly, our romp was not to be as new rockfall just below the summit proved too unsafe to tackle unroped. Dejected, we turned around and headed back to camp. We rested for a couple hours, discussed the high proabability that the complete objective was not to be, and headed back up the Ottohorn, this time with a rope and rack. Dan led us to the to summit via two quality pitches of solid 5.7. We returned to camp and continued resting. Day 6: Outrigger Pk (SE Fury) Though our fifth day had been predominatly characterized by resting we still awoke to day six tired, sore, and HUNGRY. Our rations basically consisted of 4 bars and 4 GU's for breakfast, lunch and snacks, a Mountain House meal for dinner and a group instant potato meal as a second dinner/before bed snack, with some random sausage, cheese, and extras here and there. Somewhere in the ballpark of 1400-2000 calories/day. While this works for the first few days, by day six you've burned through your reserves and you can't help but feel the effects as you start to metabolize your muscles. Nonetheless, as we rapped off into the Ottohorn-Himmelhorn coulouir I began to formulate my, "let's keep going" speech to be delivered after we easily tagged the Frenzelspitz and effortlessly galavanted across Picket Pass. Jens, aka "Alpine Man" preparing to do work in the Ottohorn-Himmelhorn coulouir A long double rope rappel onto the snow, led to another long double rope rappel, lots of downclimbing, and more rapping. While we were at times just 10-15 ft away from tromping up the 4th class East Face of the Frenzelspitz, the late-season snow was laying the "smack-down" on our spirits with hard sun-cupped conditions and impassable moats. Nearly 4 hours after first rapping into the coulouir we crested the snow to solid terra-firma. It was a strange mental space in that we were now deeper then ever, but at the same time, finally off of the demanding 5th class terrain of the Southern Range. Any wishes of sending the Frenzelspitz collapsed into the impassable September moat as did my Pattonesque speech. What do you know, more sketchy downclimbing moved us up and over Cub Scout Pk, and onto Picket Pass. On a route punctuated with many highpoints it was interesting to feel equally moved by the brush and sub-alpine trees of Picket Pass, our first major low-point in a number of days. We hydrated and pushed on up and over Outrigger (SE Pk of Fury)7,757 ft. via aesthetic slabs, exposed ridges, and golden staircases. Chossy downclimbing led us off of Outrigger onto the flanks of the SE Glacier of Fury, which we elegantly traversed down and onto a heather basin, beneath a large ridge connecting Fury and Luna Pk. We reached running water and a fine bivy high on the ridge just a hour or so into the dark night. Day 7: Luna Pk The next morning we awoke to sore bodies and breathtaking views. The effort of the past few days was layed out in front of us and we could finally get the feeling that we had accomplished something. The beautiful high ridge route continued on and before too long we were ditching our packs and heading up to tag Luna. Great view of our route from high on Luna Pk, 8,331 ft From Luna we descended and traversed steep heather slopes into Access Creek. Jens strung-out in the heather We continued descending through the brush of Access Creek to the forest of the Big Beaver Valley and Luna Camp. Day 8: The Deproach 12+ miles of hiking found us in the heat of the valley and finally back to the car. We had the great pleasure of celebrating our adventure with good friends who happened to be in the area. I can't give enough thanks to the many folks who helped us out on this endeavor including Cheryl and Adam Mckenney of Leavenworth Mountain Sports, Jim Nelson of Pro Mountain Sports, Teresa Bruffey/Outdoor Research, John Race and Olivia Cussen of the Northwest Mountain School, Geoff Cecil, Blake Herrington, and of course Wayne Wallace. Wayne's advice, psych, and willingness to let us give his project a go proved instrumental in our success. We were awed by his bold leads while on route and kept discussing that we couldn't imagine a more committing objective than solo on the Mongo Ridge. On our final day of preparations we orchestrated a phone consultation with Wayne where we hurriedly jotted down notes in the drizzle of a Safeway parking lot as we picked his brain. This beta sheet proved quite valuable (I will scan it and post up). Gear Notes:I plan to blog in detail about the gear we used for this objective in the near future. I will link the blog post here. Links: Jen's Blog: Always Upwards Day 1 & 2 Day 3 Day 4 Day 5 Day 6 Day 7 Dan's Blog Colin Haley's original TR for the Southern Ridge Traverse AAJ: Walking the Fence Josh Kaplan's original TR for the Northern Enchainment (Kaplan, Wallace, 2005) NWMJ: Northern Pickets Enchainment We sure do live in a special place to be able to embark on an adventure of this magnitude just a few hours from home.
  8. Trip: Shuksan - Price Glacier via NE Chute+NE Rib linkup Date: 8/3/2011 Trip Report: Zloi54 and I climbed one of the 50 classics of NA list – the scary Price glacier on Shuksan - over 08/01 – 08/04/11. After my arrival from PDX on Sat 07/30, we arranged for a car shuttle between Nooksack Cirque TH and Bagley lakes picnic area. Hwy 542 was then blocked by snow and gated to Austin Pass, but is reopened now. A 30% chance of showers predicted for our Sunday’s approach turned out to be 100% full on rain and meant open biving in the ditch for two nights at Nooksack cirque TH while waiting for the weather to clear. Day 1. Approach to the Nooksack Tower. Nooksack Cirque TH (2200’): Two whitewater crossings of Ruth Creek right off the TH are currently in the brand new “fir tree” state: After about 3 miles on the Nooksack Cirque trail, we took the climbers trail down (just past Wilderness boundary sign) to the Nooksack river. Getting to the old log crossing along the riverbank sucked - due to high water level this year I guess, but traversing 20’ above it made the trick. Nooksack River crossing (another classic by itself) is still solid and welcomes visitors: Sticking with the faint trail in the alder (about 50 m to the left of Price Creek) on the other side of Nooksack river was not that bad and brought us to the open moraine above Price lake. Price Lake down below: North side of Shukshistani represents: “Open moraine” quickly turned into snow moraine as we continued towards the glacier: Some beta advised NOT to head up to Price gl before the cirque seriously cliffs out. Probably being retarded, this is what we ended up doing: we headed up way early through the steep moat-mined snow, and then climbed nearly vertical muddy rock with tools and hauling packs. Getting to Price glacier somehow came at high price of wasted energy and time. The cirque below from the approach: Approaching Nooksack Tower on Price gl: Getting to the Nooksack Tower bivy sites took some imagination for crossing the crevasses below. The approximate line, looks easier than it was in reality: Camping out by the Nooksack Tower (6600’): Sunset and dreams about Canada: Day 2. Upper Price glacier. We started at the base of Nooksack tower at sunrise, sprinted through the sketchy ice chute being constantly fed by the material from the looming above ice cliff, and then squeezed through a couple of fragile chimneys before hitting safer ground somewhere in the middle of Price gl: At this point, routefinding choices had to be made and while trying to compromise between the contradictory beta “to stay on the left” vs “to stay on the right” of the gl, we went up in the center (red line): The ice was good, took screws well and we could not see any major obstructions ahead. Yet. Z coming up first ice pitch: More ice above: Z coming up on the traverse: I then led an 80 deg snow dome and hit a dead end in the maze of overhanging ice walls and our further progress had significantly slowed down. After trying a few options, we rapped down in the underground and begun traversing east (left) through the system of corridors and chimneys, most of which we soloed. The plan was to somehow get on the above snowfields to approach the rock band by the main shrund from the left where things were least broken up. Rapping down off ice features: In the crevasse chimneys: Contemplating the overhangs: By 7 pm we run out of options and pitched in the tent in between the ice walls with the haunted Nooksack Tower watching us for the second night in a row. I am not sure how often people do that, well we had no other choice: Another sunset by Nooksack Tower: Day 3. Upper Price gl., NE chute and NE Rib. For the lack of options on the east side of Price gl, we retraced our steps through the chimneys in the seracs, downclimbed and rapped down to the point where we could get to its west (right) side framed by a vertical serac wall and steeper snice slopes. Z heading up the right side of Price: West side of Price: Finally we got to the main shrund on Price, passing through which would have taken multiple overhanging raps as was later confirmed from my vantage point in the NE chute. The green line to the main shrund and traverse to the NE chute: We made a good call on the safest option of all: the NE chute with its scary entrance made of delicate soft ice flutings over 100 feet deep cracks and its monstrous ice roof right above our heads ready to collapse at any moment. The entrance to the NE chute: Typical terrain: Z coming up on the traverse to the center of the NE chute: Z heading up the easy snow above the second shrund in the NE chute: Z climbing up to the NE shoulder to find a bypass to the Crystal glacier – a “no go” in the current conditions: After he downclimbed the snow, I traversed and went up the NE Rib made of good and bad rock. Z traversing to the NE rib: Amazing views of Price lake down below: Solid alpine rock above on P2 - highly recommended: Z starting up on the P3 of the NE rib finish: After we had finally crawled across one of the endless knife edge snow ridges, we found no summit pyramid to our delight, but another corniced ridge which I think is a part of the Hanging glacier. So, we camp again. By the Hanging glacier snow ridge this time. And we run out of food. Day 4. Summit Pyramid and Fisher Chimneys descent. Next morning we climbed up and over the Hanging glacier cornice and thank god landed on the easy slopes of the North face top out. Just about time. The Summit pyramid from the north is looking mighty: While traversing across the Crystal gl and up the summit pyramid, we spotted the chopper making its way towards us. It turned out the authorities were concerned that we are 3 days overdue (including one extra day we bivied at the Nooksack cirque TH waiting on weather) but provided us with so needed food for our descent! What a treat! Baker from the summit pyramid: Hells highway was in the straightforward shape as was the lower crossing to Winnie’s slide. We took the skiers right variation of the Fisher Chimneys. After two raps over snow covered rock, we downclimbed 50 deg snow with a tool (no crampons were needed), and then merged with the left FC variation and downclimbed the rest on more often than not dry rock all way down to the moat. Traversing the snow covered boulder fields was OK, but getting through the moat on the last rap off the tree took more time than expected. There are a couple of options here: either shorter 10’ overhanging steps to get on the snow slope or a 20’ vertical section, both requiring crampons and a good tool. The descent to lake Ann was under snow, and will probably be for another month. We took the shortcut through the snow-covered slopes rather than sticking to the trail in the trees. Gear Notes: 5 screws, 3 pickets, rock pro to 1 inch, KBs could have been helpful, and were brought but not used because I am lazy. Approach Notes: Nooksack Cirque to Lake Ann carryover
  9. Trip: Index, Inner Wall - The Route of All Evil- 5.9. PG Date: 6/21/2010 Trip Report: I cleaned and put up a route at Index over the last couple weeks. Most likely a FFA and FA but let me know if you know otherwise. Checked all available sources already. It's left of the 5.10d View from the Bridge. Overview. See far left. Here are the pictures- Photos Thanks Todd for the belay. Gear Notes: Two number ones, two number twos, and a yellow alien. Approach Notes: To the left of Toxic Shock at the Inner Wall.
  10. Trip: Pickets - South to North Ski Traverse Date: 2/17/2010 Trip Report: Over six days of glorious high pressure, the prolific Jason Hummel and I skied from Stetattle ridge to Hannegan Pass road through the southern and northern Pickets. With a few variations, we followed the route of the 1984 Skoog traverse. Most notably, we omitted the summit of Fury and finished on the Mineral high route, skiing over Mineral and Ruth mountains instead of hiking along the Chilliwack trail. We encountered variable but mostly good ski conditions, and some interesting route finding. As anticipated, the crux proved to be finding a reasonable way onto Mt. Fury from the bottom of McMillan Creek cirque. Going over the Southeast Peak seemed unreasonable in winter conditions, so we found a way up the creek and falls draining the Southeast Glacier. Unsure of the details of the route the Skoogs took to cross from Luna to McMillan, we opted for the devil we knew and traversed to Luna col. The ski down into Luna was the powder run of a lifetime--super stable, Valdez style snow, with Fury as a backdrop. Unforgettable. I kept thinking to myself, "This is like the Haute Route 10,000 years ago." The solitude and austerity of the Range make it easy to overlook that the traverse is really an enjoyable, reasonable tour; no technical shenanigans required. The heinous reality of retreating down any of the valleys simply made it extra important to check the weather forecast before dropping into McMillan. Don't leave home without your UHF/VHF radio! I will post photos when I wake up in about a week. Approach Notes: Stetattle ridge is long, but two days riding the ridge let the avalanche hazard subside before we entered really serious terrain. We hiked to 4,000 ft. on the Sourdough Mt. trail, then travelled almost exclusively on skis for the remainder of the six days. Literally ten minutes of road walking brought us to the car.
  11. Trip: West Fork Ruth - Huntington E. Ridge Date: 4/1/1980 Trip Report: The 1980 West Fork Expedition The concept My first two expeditions to the Alaska Range were the result of the late night campsite bullshit sessions of a group of rookie climbers from Portland Oregon while climbing on Cascade volcanoes, Smith Rocks trad routes, and Columbia Gorge waterfalls. We wanted big-mountain experiences, but weren’t club joiners or sponsor-seeking pros. We were just a bunch of Oregon boys that loved to climb, and wanted to do it on our own terms. In 1978 and again in ’79, our teams were composed of two 2-man ropes traveling together on the glacier, but climbing separately on the mountain. That formula worked well, but I thought that having more friends along would make for more fun, and add opportunities to team up with different partners. I began recruiting for a new expedition as soon as we got home to Portland in the summer of ’79. By the spring of 1980 our team had grown to nine climbers, and a base camp cook. Three were veterans of our previous expeditions, the rest were Alaskan newbies. Our plan was ambitious, to say the least. We would ski into the West Fork of the Ruth glacier via the Hidden River valley, the Buckskin Glacier, and a pass just North of the Moose’s Tooth. We would be air supplied for a thirty-day base camp in the West Fork. After our stay on the West Fork the pilot would return and ferry our base camp over the hump to the Kahiltna glacier. We would follow on foot over Ruth Gap, actually crossing just north of the gap by climbing over Denali’s South Buttress. We would spend another thirty days on the Kahiltna, and then finally ski out to the South through Little Switzerland. Total duration in the field: 80 days. We turned the apartment I shared with my roommate Dave into expedition Central and began preparing for the trip in January. The expedition would require 640 man/days of food, and to save money we made most of our own. We designed three menus; one for skiing days, one for alpine climbing days, and one for base camp days. Only the alpine rations had freeze-dried components. My partner Scott Woolums was working at an archeological dig, and managed to score a large artifact dryer, which we converted into a food dehydrator. For two months we cooked and dried meats, beans, noodles, veggies, fruits and breads which we would then combine into prepackaged meals of chili with corn bread, spaghetti with meatballs, or a goulash we called Peter’s Favorite. We bought fleece by the yard at a fabric store and made our own pants, shirts and booties. Some of us were working under the table remodeling a local outdoor store, and worked out a deal for gear at cost. We begged, borrowed and scammed our way to the airport in Portland, arriving with a backpack, a daypack, and 4 seventy-pound cardboard boxes each, just exactly the Alaska Airlines limit per passenger. Total weight: 3000 pounds. The Approach A few days later we were standing on the platform, waiting to board the Alaska Railroad train to Talkeetna. Sharing the platform with us was a Japanese expedition headed for the SE Spur of Denali. They were all wearing matching down parkas over matching nylon one-piece jumpsuits. Their gear was in custom made canvas duffels with the team name embroidered on the sides. The leader had a three-ringed binder 6 inches thick with charts, graphs, route photos, and an hour-by hour itinerary and climbing plan. Next to them, our group of longhaired freaks dressed in homemade fleece standing next to a small mountain of crumpled cardboard boxes looked pretty unprofessional. In Talkeetna we unloaded our boxes of gear and food and Barbara, the base camp cook onto the platform, where our pilot, Jay Hudson was waiting. Then we reboarded the train, heading for a “flag stop” at milepost 249. A flag stop is anywhere backcountry Alaskans wave a flag at the train, signaling their desire to be picked up. The train pulled to a stop at our milepost and we climbed out onto the snow. The baggage handler passed us our packs and skis from the baggage car, and the train pulled out, leaving us in a cloud of steam in the middle of nowhere. Milepost 249, Alaska Railroad Shouldering our 80+ pound loads, we skied off westward into the bush, heading for the Susitna River, about five miles away. The snow was knee-deep powder, the air temperature was below zero, and skiing downhill to the riverbank was a rude awakening to the realities of winter travel on foot in Alaska. No one argued when we called an early end to the day as soon as we reached the river. 80+ pounds of food and gear Camp one, Susitna River Approach route We spent the next two days working our way down the Suisitna river, across a low ridge to the Chulitna river and into the Hidden River valley beyond, a distance of about fifteen miles. Travel on the rivers was easy in early April, with the river frozen solid and buried in deep powder. Keith Stevens and Scott Shuey did most of the trail breaking, and being out front, decided to follow a pair of moose that seemed to know a shortcut over a ridge into the Hidden River drainage. It turns out that moose can navigate 50-degree slopes rather better than men on skis with 80-pound packs. Even so, after a few wild falls down the moose trail, we arrived on the evening of day three at the Hidden River, our route into the heart of the Alaska Range. Skiing down the Susitna River on day 2 Following a pair of moose over the ridge In three days we had put two frozen rivers, two ridges and 20 miles between the nearest road and us. Flying into the mountains from Talkeetna is an adrenalin rush thrill ride, but its over so quickly. A trip to the mall takes longer if the traffic is bad. Crossing those same miles on foot forces your mind to accept he immensity of the place, the smallness of your self and the serious nature of what you’re about. Dropping down off the ridge towards the Hidden River brought all this into focus for me. First glimpse of the Hidden River. Note the moose tracks to skiers right. The Hidden River Valley from the moose ridge The Hidden River threads its way up a classic u-shaped glacier-carved valley, and provides easy skiing to the Buckskin glacier at its head. The floor of the valley is silted in to a flat plain a half-mile wide, scattered with groves of aspen and fir. The river was open in places, the only source of liquid water we would find for the next two months. One more 9-mile day of travel found us at our first glacier camp, at 2100 feet on the Buckskin. Last free-flowing water for two months Camp 4 above the toe of the Buckskin Glacier, 2100' Once you are skiing on an Alaskan glacier the true scale of your surroundings hits you like a ton of bricks. Its twenty miles to Moose’s Tooth camp from our first camp near the toe of the glacier. You trudge along under your load for hours, and when you look up the landscape seems not to have changed at all. The normal estimates you make on how long it will take to get to point A just don’t work. When it’s your turn at the sharp end of the rope, breaking trail through the powder snow that reaches to mid-thigh, the passage of time becomes truly glacial. We spent days 5 and 6 on the Buckskin, drawing a long straight line up the center of the glacier that finally ended below the massive North Face of the Moose’s Tooth. The setting at the head of the Buckskin was unreal and incredibly intimidating. The Moose’s Tooth from this aspect is unbelievably impressive. From our camp we could see the camp of Jim Bridwell and Mugs Stump about a mile south. They were somewhere high above doing the first ascent of the North Face. Just to the west, across a final half-mile of glacier littered with ice debris that fell continuously down the North Face, was the pass we had to cross the next day; 1400 feet of 50 - 60 degree powder snow capped by a huge overhanging cornice. At 5400 feet, we spent our coldest night of the approach, with temperatures around -20 F. Camp 6, 5400' below The Moose's Tooth The next morning we hurried to cross the avalanche zone below the pass, staying well to the north side to avoid any parting shots from the Moose’s Tooth. We all skinned up as the slope steepened, and we skied switchbacks up the center of the headwall. The snow was bottomless, and we all thought the entire slope could slide at any moment. Looking up all you could see was the cornice, overhanging the slope by a good forty feet. Finally, the snow became too steep and deep to ski, and we wallowed our way straight up, trying to compact the snow into some kind of a footstep. The trough we left behind was waist deep in places. The cornice had a break on the right side, and one by one we popped over the top, thanked our lucky stars to have survived, and gawked at the view that rewarded our hour of fear. From the pass at 7000 feet, the Don Sheldon Amphitheater spread out below us, and vast bulk of Denali towered beyond. Heading for the pass to the Ruth The Moose's Tooth North Face Looks nasty from here! Cornice is geting bigger Wallowing to the top The Don Sheldon Amphitheater, Denali beyond Basecamp – West Fork Ruth Glacier The week of perfect weather we enjoyed on the approach was ending as we descended from Buckskin pass and skied the four miles to the Mountain House. A four-day storm kept us pinned down in the amphitheater, trying to stretch our food out until better weather allowed Jay Hudson to fly in our first resupply. As soon as the sky showed signs of clearing, we hustled up the West Fork to prepare an airstrip. The six-mile ski tour from Sheldon’s Mountain House to base camp in the West Fork is simply amazing. As you come around the toe of the Rooster Comb and see the North Face of Mt. Huntington for the first time, your jaw drops. There is a reason this face has only had one ascent (props to McCartney and Roberts for an amazing ascent). It is the most frightening north face imaginable, swept several times a day with massive avalanches, with no place at all to hide. As you ski up towards Huntington the fantastic northern aspect of the Rooster Comb is on your left. One by one you ski past the French summit, the beautiful North Buttress of the main summit, and the broad NW Face of the western summit. Avalanches from the Rooster Comb often sweep out across the center of the glacier, making the ski tour more interesting. Skiing toward the West Fork Below 11300 East Face Avalanches have the right-of-way on the West Fork Icefall on the face of the Huntington/Rooster Comb Col We place our base camp at 7000’, directly across the glacier from Mt. Huntington, a half mile from the base of the SW Ridge of 11,300. This position is not quite a mile from Mt. Huntington’s north face, but even so we were dusted regularly by avalanche clouds that rushed across the glacier in a matter of seconds. As soon as we got there in 1980, we dropped our packs, probed the area around camp for crevasses, and then began compacting an airstrip with our skis. We filled black plastic bags with snow and marked the 600’ long runway, then sat back to wait for Jay. Soon the sound of a Cessna reverberated off the walls of the mile-deep canyon of the West Fork, and Jay arrived with the first load of food and gear. He also brought in Barbara Bradford, our cook, and Jim Opydike, who had been forced to abandon the ski-approach on day two because of a massive blister. Two flights later Jay had all our stuff safely on the West Fork, and we broke out the booze as Barbara took over the cook tent. Much later that night we staggered (or crawled) from the cook tent to our sleeping bags, well fed and liquored up. Making a landing strip Hudson Air Service Taxiway Jay Hudson Base camp relaxation Staples Barbara making braekfast Some of the crew Afternoon excitment, courtesy of Mt. Huntington North Face The Climbs After a few days of sorting food and equipment, we split up into climbing teams and skied off in several different directions. A group of us decided that the SW Ridge of Pk. 11,300 would be a fine warm-up for the more challenging climbs to come. This beautiful line, a 4000’ moderate ridge climb that has since become a classic, was just a half-mile from camp, and was still waiting for a second ascent. It had a great bivy spot in the first col about 1500 feet up the ridge, gets sun all day, and has the best position of any line in the West Fork. The weather and snow conditions were perfect as we kicked steps up the gulley that leads up to the lower ridge, and we were soon following the wildly corniced ridge upward towards the mid-ridge bivy. Great rock and moderate climbing on the east side of the ridge crest gave us plenty of opportunity to enjoy the tremendous views of the West Fork and Mt. Huntington. At the first col we expanded a small crevasse into a spacious snow cave and spent a comfortable night. SW Ridge of Pk. 11300 Entrance gully is right out the back door Heading up the entrance gully On the ridge! View up the upper West Fork, Mt. Hunter beyond. Note our ski tracks in the center of the glacier The next day began with high-angle neve slopes leading up to a major gendarme, which we passed on the east side. We rapped into the col behind the tower and left a fixed line for the descent. From the high col there is an exciting upward traverse on the steep sides of the knife-edged ridge until it merges into the summit ice fields. We gained the ice field as the sun went down behind Denali’s South Buttress, and we climbed on into the evening. It was amazing fun, two ropes of two simul-climbing parallel lines up the blue boilerplate ice toward the summit as daylight faded into darkness. Steep snow and neve above the lower col Mt. Huntington's French Ridge is a nice backdrop Below the tower Climbing around the tower to the upper col, Mt. Huntington North Face behind Upper ridge and summit of Pk. 11300 We arrived at the summit sometime around midnight, and even in the half-light of the April night the views were mind-blowing. Scott Woolums and I were mesmerized by the view of Mt. Huntington’s East Ridge, our intended route, just across the dark abyss of the West Fork. Keith Stevens was likewise scoping out his intended line, a new route up the unclimbed NW Face of the Rooster Comb. All in all, a magical night on what I consider the best line in the area. These days 11300 is descended by traversing to the southeast, but we descended the route without incident and spent several days resting up for the main events. The Rooster Comb and Mt. Huntington at midnight from the summit of Pk 11300 Dawn light on Mt Huntington on the descent The Main Event Scott Woolums and I decided to climb Mt. Huntington’s East Ridge in 1979, after seeing it up close from the top of the Huntington/Rooster Comb col. We had crossed the col in ’79 on the way from the West Fork to Huntington’s South Ridge. The 5000’ East Ridge had only seen one ascent, and that had been siege-style over a period of two weeks in 1972. We wanted to climb it alpine-style in three days. Keith Stevens and Leigh Anderson had their eye on the unclimbed NW Face of the Rooster Comb. Their steep 3000’ mixed line climbs through the only relatively safe area on the broad face of the west summit of the Comb. Like us, they planned a fast, lightweight ascent. Scott and I blasted off a day before Keith and Leigh. The first order of business was to ascend the face of the Huntington/Rooster Comb col. Climbing this icefall is not for the feint-of-heart. The col is topped by huge cornices and very active seracs, and is swept frequently by huge avalanches. We climbed at night, and moved as fast as we could, using the same line we had climbed twice the previous year. Despite the objective hazards, the climbing is not difficult, and our luck held. We arrived at the col at dawn and settled in for a day of rest and photography. Huntington/Rooster Comb col Setting out for the base A little reminder of who's the boss Blue ice on the face of the col Objective hazards above The upper icefall Two climbers near the top of the col Cornice dance Top of the col, and still in one piece! Camp one, Pk. 11300 SW Ridge beyond Day 2 was the crux of the climb. The col rises easily for a few hundred feet, but soon merges into the steep north face of the ridge proper. The face is a series of steep gullies separated by fins of corniced snow flutings. We chopped our way into the first gully and climbed it until the snice in the gully was buried in near vertical powder snow. The unconsolidated snow forced us to burrow through the fin into the adjacent gulley. We gained a few more rope lengths up the face before tunneling our way into the next gulley to the right. Each time we neared the ridge crest the angle steepened to near vertical, the ice disappeared under the feathery powder, and we tunneled sideways. The exposure was tremendous, looking down the uninterrupted North Face 3000’ to the West Fork. Above and to the right was a massive hanging icecap that could be bad news if we had to go too far right. Finally we dug our way into a gulley that wasn’t choked at the top with snow, and I found myself leading the last few feet up vertical snice to the crest. It had been a long, hard morning, and my body was near its limit. I forced myself to focus on the next few moves. A fall here was unthinkable, protected only by a snow picket, now half a rope length below me. My head cleared the ridge crest, and six inches in front of my face was a gift from the first acscentionists. A 4-inch loop of 8-year old poly fixed line protruded from the ice of the ridge. I clipped my daisy chain into the loop and heaved myself up and over the edge. I slammed in a screw to back up the handy loop of fixed line and belayed Scott up. We hustled on up the much easier terrain of the ridge crest, looking for a place to make a bivy. Night fell, and still no ledge. The climbing was steep and everything was rock hard snice. At 11pm Scott gained a small corniced arête that protruded horizontally from the base of the mid-ridge rock band. We were out of options, so we chopped the cornice off the top of the arête, forming a ledge just big enough for the two of us. We settled in for the night, and enjoyed a fantastic display of Northern Lights as a reward for a hard 18-hour day. Summit day dawned clear and cold, at -20 F. In the daylight the exposure of our perch was heart stopping, with a 3000’drop off either side of our 3-foot wide platform. We had been lucky that the weather had remained fair! Scott led the rock band (all 30 feet of it), and we climbed up onto a mid-ridge plateau that had room to camp a small army. We dropped our packs and set off up the ridge toward the summit. Camp 2 on the East Ridge. Tokositna glacier beyond The (very short) rock band Above the plateau the ridge narrowed into a beautiful knife-edged ridge of ice, which we traversed just below the crest on the south side. The climbing was fun and the weather perfect, cold with just a bit of wispy clouds blowing past on the light breeze. The knife-edge merged into the bulging side of the summit cornice and Scott led up the final steep bit to the top. Then we were sitting on the summit of one of the world’s classic peaks for the second time in two years, and it was a blast. The clouds fell away and we were treated to fantastic views in all directions. Mt. Hunter to the west seemed close enough to touch in the crystal clear air. The upper East Ridge, 11,500' On top for the second time in two years! The view east, Rooster Comb, Mt. Dickey, Mt. Barille, and the Moose's Tooth The view west, Mt. Hunter and Mt Foraker The down-climbing back to the plateau went quickly and we spent a comfortable night there, but in the morning the skies to the southwest were looking grey and threatening, so we wasted no time and started a long series of rappels back to the col. Once off the ridge we didn’t slow down, and descended the face of the col in record time. We were back at base in time for dinner. And the view back down the East Ridge! From the route we had an excellent view of the NW face of the Rooster Comb, and had watched for any sign of Keith and Leigh. We thought we spotted the flash of a headlamp on the evening we spent on the chopped off arête of camp 2, but it was a mystery where they were now. That night the stormy weather hit, and for the next two days there was no sign of the pair. Once the weather cleared we spotted them coming down from the col. They had climbed the face in two long days, but missed the weather window and got held up by the two-day storm on the top of the col. Leigh had frozen his toes, and was real anxious to get out to the hospital. Luckily, Jay flew in a day later and Leigh left the party. Anchor at the bivy, NW Face of the Rooster Comb Leigh Anderson at the sitting bivy Steep ground, NW Face of the Rooster Comb Keith Stevens leading off More steep mixed climbing on the Rooster Ruth Gap and Beyond After thirty days on the Ruth it was time to move on. Jay Hudson made several flights to transfer gear to the Kahiltna, and several team members flew out to Talkeetna, bringing our party down to six. We shouldered packs with 4 days food and fuel and headed west for Ruth Gap. The upper West Fork is a lonely and seldom visited place. The SE Spur and South Buttress of Denali forms the north wall. The Isis Face towers 7000’ above the floor of the glacier. The much smaller peaks that form the wall between the West Fork and the Tokositna, beginning with the French Icefall, are very active avalanche zones, and they spread fans of debris far out onto the glacier. From our camp just below Ruth Gap, 4 miles up-glacier from our base camp location, we could see the West Face of Huntington rising above the intervening ridge, while behind us the view was blocked by the headwall formed by the beginnings of the South Buttress. Crossing this 2000’ wall of snow and ice was the next day’s challenge. Skiing on the upper West Fork Camp below Ruth Gap Morning found us once again wallowing up steep powder snow slopes beneath towering overhanging seracs. Just as when crossing Moose Pass, we were sure that the entire slope was just waiting for an excuse to cut loose and carry us all to the bottom. We climbed as fast as we could make steps in the bottomless powder, and topped out on the buttress in early afternoon. Suddenly the views opened up to the west, and Mounts Foraker and Crossen filled the horizon. Just as we had a year earlier, we set camp on the spot, unable to resist the fantastic setting. In ’79 it had been a mistake to camp on the Buttress. We woke up in the middle of the night to a bad storm, and ended up trapped there for three days. In 1980, however, the weather was settled and the next morning began another of a long series of cold clear days. We skied down the west side of the buttress, stopping twice to rappel over giant crevasses. A few hours later we moved out onto the main body of the Kahiltna. It was easy to spot the location of the ski trail to the West Buttress by the long lines of sled-pulling climbers trudging along up the center of the glacier. Climbing over the South Buttress of Denali Camp on top of the South Buttress South Face of Denali from the pass View back down the West Fork The year before, when the weather trapped us here for three days Skiing below the South Face The main Kahiltna Glacier, and crowds of climbers ahead. Mt Crossen in the distance After 45 days of solitude, Kahiltna International was a bit of a culture shock. There were over a hundred climbers there, most wanting desperately to fly out after spending a couple of weeks on Denali. We were still looking forward to another month of mountain living, but none of us fancied hanging around with the crowds on the Kahilta. Scott Shuey, Jim Olson and I hatched a plan to escape southward (the opposite direction from everyone else) and spend two weeks exploring a region known as Little Switzerland. Everyone else leaving Us digging in We skied the 20 miles to the Pika Glacier in an easy day. We were cruising on firm snow, double-poling as we lost elevation on the Kahiltna, all the way down to 4000’ before making a hard left up the Pika. The views of Mt. Foraker were amazing on the perfectly clear, sunny day. We were excited about Little Switzerland, an area that had seen very little exploration in 1980. We hoped to do some new routes on the warmer rock faces of the smaller, lower peaks. Unfortunately for the three of us, we spent 9 of the next 10 days trying to keep the tent from being buried by the constant snow of a major storm that kept us pinned down in camp. Crammed into a small two-person tent, we had one paperback book, one cassette tape for the Walkman, and nearly came to blows over the proper way to prepare a freeze-dried dinner. When our food and fuel ran out we were forced to return to base camp, with nothing to show for ten day except a single ski ascent on the one clear afternoon in mid-storm. We navigated most of the 20 miles back to base with map, compass and altimeter, skiing up-glacier in a total whiteout. A week later we packed up and retraced our steps to Little Switzerland on the first leg of the long trek out of the range to the Anchorage/Fairbanks highway. Ready to head south Mt. Foraker Lower Kahiltna, shirtsleeve weather Little Switzerland camp Pika Glacier Rock Spires, Little Switzerland Our route out of the range was complicated. We crossed an unnamed pass in Little Switzerland that led to an unnamed backside glacier. We descended this glacier until we were able to climb up to the east onto heather benches below Whitehorse Pass. The pass led us to a high drainage full of bear sign, a beautiful tundra valley with the ruins of an old miners claim, and a final climb up into the Peters Hills. We followed a creek of beaver dams towards a place on the map labeled Petersville, where a dirt road would finally lead us out to the highway. From the top of a low ridge, we suddenly came into sight of a bustling placer mining operation. As we came down the slope we were spotted by the gold miners below, and were met at the bottom by a pair of bearded miners with very big guns, wondering just who the hell we were, and where the hell we thought we were going. Once we explained that we were climbers just trying to get out to civilization, the miners warmed up enough to invite us into the cookhouse for lunch. There was a lot of friendly chatter until a guy came in with a gold pan loaded up with the mornings take. They seemed a bit nervous about outsiders seeing their panful of gold, and we decided it was time to thank our hosts for a nice lunch and hit the trail. After another endless day of walking down the dirt road, we were given a lift by a couple of Alaskans in a pickup truck, who stopped the truck every 5 or 10 minutes and blasted away at the wildlife with their rifles. Unnamed glacier east of Little Switzerland Climbing heather slopes toward Wild Horse Pass Lonely tundra valley northwest of the Peters Hills Chowing down on canned goods salvaged from a bear-destroyed miners shack Later that day we limped into Talkeetna, 80 days after skiing away from the railroad. First stop: the Chevron station for a hot shower and clean clothes. Second stop: the Roadhouse for dinner. Last stop: The Fairview Inn and several pitchers of beer. The 1980 West Fork Expedition had been an amazing success, and the adventure of a lifetime, but the planning for a return trip started over beers at the Fairview that night. Oh, and that fancy Japanese expedition we met on the train? With no skis or snowshoes, they spent all their time falling into the crevasses on the NW Fork of the Ruth as they ferried their gear toward the SE Spur, and ran out of time before making any progress on the route. Hudson Air Service cabin, Talkeetna
  12. Trip: The Xedni Skaep - The Xedni Esrevart Date: 8/22/2009 Trip Report: This trip report is (mostly)true, only the names have been changed to protect the guilty and the innocent. (for some reason Firefox won't view this many images, try IE) The Xedni Esrevart You've been wanting to do the crossing for years, ever since you bagged the North Spire in '99. One of the three legs of the blue collar triple, a Northwest test piece for a so called hard man. But being this far over the hill do you still have what it takes? Or is this just your conniving mind making a promise that your long past prime body can't hope to keep? The serious attempts began in '06 with a couple attempts every year, most ending with bad conditions, with failure, with defeat. Watching the weather every day the week before and writing it down on the calendar. Several dry days are needed beforehand so the rock will be dry on the climb. The metamorphosed gabbro is slippery like glass when wet, especially on the North face of the North Spire. You hike in the 3,000 ft to the base and it's wet, so you go back down. You hike in to the base and there's low cloud cover with 30ft visibility, so you go back down. You hike into the base with clouds, you climb up to the start of the first technical pitches and wait an hour for the clouds to dissipate, they don't so you go back down. You hike in to the base and it just doesn't feel right. Your watch tricks you by going into 2nd time zone mode and you think you've lost an hour, so you go back down. Are you ever never ever going to tag this elusive climb? Are you ever going to get the conditions and have a high energy day at the same time so you even get the chance to face your fears and prevail? For every climber knows, fear is the mind killer. You have to control your fear in this arena or it will bite you bigtime. And the stakes on this one are as big as the exposure, as big as it gets, unrelenting on all sides, a narrow rocky ribbon in the sky, a thin fragile line of life or... a thick hard line of death. The gear is all lined up, over and over, it's written on a list, it's dialed and re-dialed. You cut the contact mirror in half. You find the lightest harness, you buy the lightest stove with a smaller fuel bottle. You take the back off the cell phone, look at that, the battery holds without it. The re-used energy drink bottle is a 3rd of the weight of a purpose bought water bottle. The big savings is the 5mil tech cord, 60m weighs 3 lbs, rapping like a spider on a thread but it's all good. Look at the mini lighter, is it full of fuel? Empty it to less than half, how many times will it still flame? Enough. You weigh the pounds and shave the ounces. The toughest choice is shoes, free solo 5.7 you want the rock shoes, but many sections have steep trees with pine needles under them and sand and dirt not to mention the moss and heather. You need some tread also for all this slippery stuff, so settle for the Guide 10's and the rock shoes. Being so far over the hill, if you're going to have any level of success, you have to find and possess an edge or two or a dozen, like think smarter not harder. Rock Jedi mind tricks. They're exchanged straight up for the long lost exuberance and all out strength of youth. The largest concession will of course be time. Age will slow everyone but if you can control the logistics to allow more time the same end result can be reached. Also you must never no never underestimate the power of the unmitigated mind. The mind that conquers and controls the mind killing fear will also defeat the depth and breadth of the task of slipping undetected, unmolested past the usual limitations of an age compromised physical state. The decomposing decay and degradation of the unassailable march of time must be held at bay, must be pushed back and away, avoided, altered, and circumnavigated. Wipe off the rustling maggots, maybe there's still some good muscle underneath. You startle awake at 12:30 am in the am. Car camping at Stevens Pass the night before, 4,000ft of acclimation. That being one of the rock Jedi tricks. The occasionally present small voice, is it guardian angel or guardian demon dependent on current condition of existence? It softly whispers two words in it's barely discernible voice. Is it ever real or has it always been just a mind illusion? Yes. Whatever it is, it's two words "hard snow". Dammit dammit dammit, don't say that, no don't say that. Chop off an hour of precious deep sleep and wake at 3:30 am and drive the 70 miles one way back to the house to get the crampons. So the planned and intended trailhead start time of 5:00 am gets pushed out to 7:00 am. Leaving the car to bust up the trail, but the uncharacteristically bad August weather presses down trying to smother the dream. It's murky low clouds obscuring the objective. It's doubt, uncertainty, lack of vision harshly weighing in. But by this point in time, in life, it really doesn't matter anymore. It will be just one more defeat in a long line of them, stretching back for years. The mind grindingly shifts gears to the fall back position. Put it on ignore and get on with whatever happens, because "this is the path where no one goes" and that at least is some small consolation. To the lake by 8:30, save the data on the alti watch. Documentation for the forum TR just in case the impossible occurs and you actually make it up this thing. The lake and peaks are partly covered with wispy clouds, it still looks iffy but maybe that chance is hiding somewhere there. Traverse the lake, stash the ski sticks and approach shoes, climb the talus and scramble the approach slabs and trees and brush. To the base of the normal first roped pitch by the late hour of 10. Maybe the detour back to the house is just a mind trick to get you to let go of time. So what if there's a force bivy when the daylight ends? If you can't do it in two days, hang up your shoes and hang down your head. Being a practitioner of the Nelson method, you jamb the pieces of foam in the heels of the Guides. Jamming your toes tight for the necessary precision of technical ground. Vegetated mossy steps and a ramp gully, the rock is dry but all the vegetation wet. Every foot placement must be scrutinized for moisture. Repeatedly wiping the shoe bottoms on the other leg like a cricket, a rock Jedi cricket keeping his feet dry for the grip. Then the first point of real neck in da noose commitment on this narrow rock sky path high above the howling hounds of doom. The 2nd pitch turning the "sudden exposure" 5.6 corner. The start is a short unexposed slab above thick brush that would catch and hold a fall, up thin edges and stepping out, over and above the abyss. Do you look down or do you not look down? You must look down because it's a mind killer fear test and this is just the start. Taste it and if you like it and can stand it take a bigger bite, you need a healthy appetite for this dish of mind killer fear, for there is surely a feast of it ahead if you're ever going to prevail. And today it seems to taste okay, and surprise surprise, the clouds are thinning....there must be something wrong, this just can't be true? Or can it? Up into the bowl with the two chimney's. A larger one below and a smaller one above. Your route diverges from Becky's description at this point. Heck most of the climb has more than one option, when the description is so vague how do you even know if it's the regular route or a variation? Face climbing up from the left on 5.6, it's compact and smooth, looking up there's old pins and weathered tat. It starts getting thinner, look around for easier ground, but everything else is harder, steeper. Small voice "there is no gimme here". Suck it up or go down. A few thin moves up then a thin traverse in closer to the big chimney and up face near it's left side and around it to it's top. A circuitous path but good foot edges most of the way, then scramble the bowl above up to the base of the 2nd smaller chimney. It looks like it would go without the pack but if there's an easier way why grovel or engage in a tedious chimney haul? Sure enough straight right and up some 5.5 and you're back on easier ground. This "variation" puts you right at the start of the treed ledge traverse. Ahh the safety of some brushy Cascade goodness. A narrow treed ledge crossing between bouts of mind withering exposure. Walk softly, tread lightly, do no damage and leave no trace. Do nothing to disturb the Rock God's garden. His extra special hair trigger death blocks are teetering above the chasm. They patiently await to smash down on the heads of lowly humans who degrade his life's work. And an interminable life it is from your perspective. Think of it, the time it takes to plan and shape the path of the magma flow, to erode the softer surrounding rock. The time it takes to build and shape these spires with eons of weathering exposure. How could you expect him to take it lightly if you dared to disrespect and defile his pristine creation? One pitch across the anorexic crack addict body width ledge to the North face bowl, it goes, on tip toes. The narrow treed ledge goes straight over to the polished North face bowl and meets it about 1 pitch from the 1000 ft sheer unobstructed cliff at it's bottom. So again your looking down the chasm, and again it's nipping at your heels. It's even wetter on this side where the sun never hits. All vegetation and moss are sopping wet, but still the rock is dry. The shoes get wet it's unavoidable, so you're constantly drying them. Half a pitch up, one foot slips, but the other foot and both hands are secure, it happens while shifting weight. Downclimbing and try to traverse to the true North ridge because TR's have mentioned it is an alternate. A 15 to 20 minute detour and it's a no go, thicker brush, more rotten rock and it's all wet, traverse back. Besides the normal 3 to 4 point solo rule there's a clutching brush rule, where available 2 or 3 branches for each hand. Branches from different plants when possible. Back into the gully of the bowl, this time paying even more attention to keeping the shoes dry. Working the stem harder. The first pitch in the gully is mostly 5.5 stemming and has a small treed ledge one pitch up. Then up the right side of the gully for a pitch of exposed 5.6 face, some positive edges, some rounded. The angle eases then half a pitch of brushy scramble to the notch at the base of the upper North ridge. Huge exposure down the West side, the biggest yet, and it just keeps getting bigger. Break out the Aces in the hole and stash the Guides, always keeping the double death grip, with thoughts of House on North Twin. The story of a single boot leaving it's partner behind and dancing down on gravity into the abyss. The ridge looks and at first feels harder than it was years ago, more exposed if that's possible, but once started it flies by. The shining sun drying the brush, the clean solid rock, the sharp rough positive edges, past more tattered rap points up up up and onward. The mixed forest heather rock above also seems longer than before and the Guides go back on to grip the differing terrain. Looking back in case there's retreat, the top of the ridge is un-obvious, remember this tree, this slab, this rock. Lots of scrambling heather and trees and then a section of bare rock before the summit. There's really not that much looseness on the entire North face climb, the real loose teetering blocks are mostly at the summit, and they are all around. A different voice? "disturb nothing!!". Yes Master Rock God, yes Master. Delicately balanced death blocks hovering over the abyss, angled downward and resting on small points, do not touch them, do not even breathe on them. And do not even forget. You will have to climb below them. The first summit, the timer captures the single Index finger for posterity. Then as promised there is a gift for Eve, two pale rose colored diamond stud earrings carefully placed in the summit rocks. Well sorry of course, it's cubic zirconia, because that's all one step above dirtbag affords. And after all it's the thought that counts. She will like them, although she didn't answer this time when near the start her name was called. Perhaps angels are otherwise occupied at times, who really knows? Rest in peace babe, rest in peace. Speaking of time it's precious, for it's already one o'clock, the zenith of the day. So read and carefully ponder the route notes. What little info Becky provides is as clear as Skykomish river mud at flood stage. Downclimb (how far?) until it's possible or impossible to traverse if you can find it, or you can rap off the West side after you downclimb the South West then back right over up or you can go around left up down back right left and down over right back and rap from the lower tower on it's West side and down and traverse if you can find it and rap again, if you can find the rap point or the traverse... or not. Or whatever. The psyche until now has continually seesawed between 90 percent gripped and guarded confidence, alternating pretty evenly at varying intervals depending on a variety of circumstances. At this point it leans toward the gripped. Voice "it's been hard up to here, but it just gets harder". You're at another key point of commitment, furtively sneaking further out on the plank, the chance of return diminishing behind you with increasing difficulty. The TR's have said it's loose and it is, but it's not impossible. Climbing down knocks small rocks loose and they rattle off and down, chasing the beckoning call of gravity. Listen to them very carefully, for this is another mind killer fear test. And if you listen closer, can you hear the howling hounds of doom? Frustratingly the traverse without raps is never really found and you climb over and back up to the top of one of the gendarmes and crawl to the edge to try and see the way. It looks so steep and blank everywhere, impassable, a phenomenon that will present itself multiple times during the remainder of the traverse. Only an up close inspection reveals the way, and at times dead ends are followed out and back before that way is found. Back down the gendarme and down around it's East side on ever steepening slopes and back up and around to it's South West side. To a tattered rap point, one anchor is just a jammed knot on a sling faded to whitish gray. A rope stretcher 30 M rap puts you down on a sloping 5.5 ledge, and tech cord doesn't really stretch all that well. Voice "I hate ropes". Please, it's okay. However on pulling the rap you don't whip it properly and the cord then proceeds to Houdini itself into a trick knot that jams behind a flake. And it's not okay. Dammit...No amount of flicking and whipping will free it. Luckily it's only some 5.5 up to where it's stuck. Take another chunk of not unlimited time and climb up, unstick it, and climb back down. Exasperatingly still not finding the traverse to the North Middle notch, but traversing non the less ends up at another rap point above the notch. Now to face your biggest mind killer fear, you're largest doubt and most persistent uncertainty. Looking down and across at the opposite face, the ultimate crux of the route, and also the point of no return, where the nearest safe exit becomes up and over. The Becky described 5.7 reputed to be a sandbagged 5.8. It's dead vertical with a bulge. From this vantage point it looks thin if not blank with a crack system on the upper sections. The rap anchor is another mankfest but it's acceptable, so flake out the cord and another full 30 M rap to the notch. And a small and very exposed notch it is, not even flat enough for a single bivy. Barely a flat enough spot to set the pack and stash the cord. The notch is about a 50 degree sided edge that gets steeper about 10 ft down and is only about 3 feet long. Not big enough to land on from even 5 ft up the crux pitch. Do you climb with the 20 pound pack or do you trail the cord and haul it? The pitch looks like it might hang up a haul, so you decide to carry the weight of the pack on this, the crux pitch. You can just climb up and see how it goes, if it's too tough you can always down climb and haul. Take some deep breaths and try to gain some composure, you can do this. You break out the Aces again and the chalk for the first time. You're going to need every edge in the arsenal if this thing is going to go. The ultimate mind killer fear test of the climb. Will you pass the test? Go go go go go!!!. It's steep, it starts okay but gets thin, thinner, bulge... steeper... sandbagged crimps. You don't want to admit it but you start to sketch a little, moving too fast, not finding the easiest way. Maybe the constant exposure and the physical difficulty of the task is starting to make itself felt. But you can't back down now, not after getting this far. Besides it's safer to keep going up and over from this point. A few sketchy moves and then there it is, at full arms length, a thank Rock God big sharp and positive edge. "You did it the hard way". Oh well, at least you did it without falling. The climbing eases just a little, but it's a full pitch before the 2nd pitch of 5.6 takes you to the finish on the ridge. A very large weight, that you've been trying your best to ignore for pretty much the entire climb up to this point... is suddenly lifted. And a much older and larger burden of the years of failure, of turning around too many times in defeat, feels like it may be finally ending. From now on whatever happens happens, but if you do your best and keep on your toes, this baby should go. You suck down another Gu and start on the second quart of water. The Gu seems to be working just fine and there's been no solid food today so that makes it an even more effective mind trick. Every time you start to lag just zap another dose. The 2 quarts of water seem to be going just about right, not too thirsty yet. Hopefully you'll make it to the main summit tarns tonight. The stellar climbing scramble continues on the ridge. Sunny dry rock, not too loose and just enough positive cut holds. With the occasional detour around Rock God garden banzais and through heather, and of course the constant mind killer fear exposure on both sides, right along with the continually awesome views. Ridge climbing is just like they say, sort of like being on a summit the entire time. It all goes hand in hand, this mix of everything alpine, the 10 percent of pleasure and fun letting you know the 90 percent of work and suffering is all worth it. The climbing up to the middle false summit is straightforward route finding and you go left around it and an easy scramble continues to the middle summit. Pausing just long enough for the requisite poser pic, this time a two finger salute. The descent down to the last notch is just like the first one from North Peak. The route finding is tedious and problematic, without much of a mention from the guidebook of what to expect. At some point you just let go and follow your instincts or the voice inside your head. Or are you just conversing with yourself? Either way you manage to get down. Some slab, crack, face, a reddish chimney, some trees and brush, and somewhere along this descent there is another rap with another manky anchor. You are also getting a good view of the route up the Main peak. You see what looks like the "wedge gendarme" as Sir Becky describes but it's not really certain, and it sort of looks like there's two of them. This view also has the good or bad fortune to see the problematic and exposed exit gully, and it looks just as described, a real howling hounds of doom sketch fest. A veritable snot slippery rotten choss gully of uber doom and gristling death. Lurking skulking scheming to throw the near exhausted and unwitting wanabee climber from his tenuous grip. Desperately scratching scraping tumbling smashing, down down down into the cold, uncaring, and unforgiving abyss, off to get the chop. The chop chop chop of death. No no no no no. Above all else in this life you are a survivor. If it's at all possible to stay alive, you will stay alive. You will either control the situation or avoid the circumstances that lead to a premature demise. You will continuously and vigorously pursue that ultimate objective with every fiber of your being. You will live through this. The notch between Middle and Main is the same as the previous notch. A very small sharp edged feature flanked on each side with ever steepening gullies quickly going down to un-climbability. Looking at the start of the climb up the Main Peak from just above the notch it appears to be vertical and blank. Mossy vertical gullies and chimneys off to the left and blank sheer walls and gullies to the right. And again only when descending to the notch and getting right up close to the opposing wall does the way appear almost magically before you. It's a thin series of foot edges and holds going off to the right. It's six pm, only a couple hours till dark. You hit up another Gu and a gulp of the water that's almost gone. You follow the thin climbing to the right and it turns into a nice rock chimney gully with plenty of stemming opportunities to rest your weary arms. The gully turns into a steep heather slope, and since it's North facing it's pretty wet from the previous days of cloud cover. Even with the Guide's traction you are having trouble maintaining grip for the feet in this steep wet vegetation. Somewhere along this field of steep wet heather the maximum points of contact mantra that every solo climber must follow comes to the fore. While moving a foot higher up the other foot slips. Both feet slide down and the adrenaline shot hits like a bolt of lighting. The product of eons of evolution, with the exposure it's been trickling all day, but now a full dose of nature's organic instant speed is slammed home to the bloodstream with a vengence. The heather is thick and strong here and the grip of both hands instantly forces in further, holding that much harder until both feet regain purchase. "I thought you were going on a long fast ride down?" Not even, not now, not ever. You arrive at the base of the wedge gendarmes and find a way up around the left one. It's gets steeper on clean solid rock and you gain the crest. An old pin along the way lets you know at least someone else has been here. You climb along the crest until you achieve the notch between the two gendarmes. But it's going to be very difficult to climb the notch between them, and it looks pretty problematic to anchor a rap. After some hesitation and indecision you decide it will waste too much precious time so you look around for an alternate way. Back below the gendarmes it looks like a traverse may go. You backclimb the way you came and traverse under the towers. It's very winding and a bit technical, but it's doable and you find a way across to a narrow ridge that drops to the Northwest below the right gendarme. You look up and again you can see the heinous death gully, the exit. There's just a bit of technical ground to get up to the gully. At this point you unwittingly unknowingly slip your neck into an unbreakable tech cord noose. It's subtle softly quiet and your distracted by the temptation of the exit. Up to this point the rock has been almost entirely of a positive strata and not really ever close to impossible loose. You eye this climbing traverse to the start of the exit gully crossing and without thinking proceed to climb. It quickly turns into a frightening gripping sketch fest. Apparently the avoidance of the described route, climbing and descending the wedge gendarme is going to demand retribution. The rock becomes increasingly loose and the edges are all pointing the wrong way down. Every other hold is loose and the ones that bang solid are suspect, cracked and thin. You side pull and undercling on most everything that holds because there's nowhere to pull down. Feet are smearing and small edges. Breathing, concentration, your heart creeps up in your throat, you get past the point of an easy return and dare to keep on into the dangerous difficulty. Finally, thankfully after a half pitch of harrowing insecurity and gristling exposure it eases and you're up and on the side of the evil exit gully. Hit another Gu, a small replenishment for the wracked out body and gulp the last of the water. Something anything to hold you back from the desperate edge. Sit and rest and take a breath. Focus. This time on the final crux you resolve to not descend into a sketchfest like at the primary crux. The rock is looser here, a bit chossy, there's no margin for error so you must make no error. Careful observation reveals a couple of possible crossings. You traverse to the nearest one and get a look up close. It's friable rock with nothing for the hands, a long reach to only one foot hold in the center of the gully on which you will have to match feet and then reach again to the other side. The extra sense says it smells like the way everyone goes, but looking closely at the foot hold it's a small knob that's cracked at it's base. Roped it would go but it's not good enough for soloing. You back out of the gully and scramble a pitch up it's left side to another spot that looks good from below, but a close inspection reveals it's totally blank. You climb back down to the first location for further inspection and low and behold there's another possibility. Above the foot hold knob a small dihedral parallels the gully up. "Careful the rock is rotten" I know, it's chossy and friable but it's a really good stem. You climb up a half pitch and another possible traverse comes into view. It goes with good hand and foot holds and a long reach across to a solid juggy flake. It goes it goes it goes. And it goes safe and without the gripping sketch. Another pitch or so of 5.5 traverse and the difficulties ease. Is that it? Are you off and safe? Or was that not really the exit gully? You turn the corner and the mountain starts facing more to the west. There's some more heather but it's dryer on this aspect where the sun has been shining. You downclimb one last bit of steep rock in spite of an easier alternative. Your mind and body maybe not wanting to let go of the mad thrills of this beautiful climb. Up up up heather and rock slopes, it's still quiet a ways but every step up more sure that you will succeed this time after all the trials and tribulations that brought you to this point in alpine time and space. The final bare rock summit slope, thank the Rock God, thank the guardian angel, thank the mountain's spirits... Eve and the rest. You have arrived at the summit of Main Peak! You have done the traverse! YEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEHHHHHHH HAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! The sun is getting low and as you watch the mountain horizon starts to bite into it. For once some time is taken to soak in the view, the sight, the sounds. The small town and winding road below, the lonesome whistle of a faraway train reminding you of childhood, of a time long ago and far away. The glimmering sound and lakes out in the hazy distance, the mighty volcanoes and near and distant ranges, all on view before you during this short time as a humble visitor of one of the thrones of one of the mountain Gods. For this brief interlude the pawn views the world as would a king. The view and pictures are good and you sit long enough to need another layer, for as the sun goes so does the warmth depart. In the back of your mind of course you're still not safe for you know the descent gully is loose and you're not sure what condition it's in considering the differing weather patterns this year has brought. Of course the alpine mantra applies, that the summit is only half the way home. But maybe on a traverse like this the "summit" is somewhere far back around the ultimate crux, and surely the technicality is easier from this point onwards. There's also the confidence of having already done the descent. So the epics that have plagued so many competent climbers when vague descriptions fall short and the visibility goes away with the frequent cloud cover will surely be avoided. Climbing, traversing down Southwards to the tarns at the pass your tired mind doesn't remember it being this far and you wind around in the dark for a ways. The headlamp seeking, showing the way past the wind's banzai trees, the fairy's meadows, and the glacier's sculpted rocks. Past the exit gully and down to the snow and water of the tarns. The two quarts of water went about right to get you past the final crux but the thirst has relentlessly advanced since that point. So by the time you reach the clear cold and clean water of the tarn it's as appreciated as it should be. Much more so than normal everyday life. Alpine climbing condenses, distills life to it's base and primary facets. Life and death, the necessity of a flawless physical execution in moving up and down over dangerous exposed terrain. The demand to continuously place one foot and hand in front of the other without falter or fail. Water and food. Energy and rest. Clear sunny sky, and wind and cloud and rain, storm, snow, and ice. Darkness and light. Hunger and food. Thirst and water. Two quarts of water and back up past the descent gully which is inspected as far as possible by the headlamps thin beam. Looking down the mountain's gullet, looking for the way out, the safe passage past it's rocky teeth. A small cairn in case of low visibility in the morning then up to look for bivy spots. There's plenty of flat places around this summit but you need something out of the wind and away from the chilling snow. A nice spot is found a few feet from the precipitous drop down the East side, but nestled at the edge of big boulders so it feels somewhat safe. It's going to be a force bivy, you've sort of known it all along. A bare-bones forced shiver bivy. The climb is done in a day car to car but not by you at this point in your de-composure. As a compromise you've gone light for the steep technical climbing. No sleeping bag and just an ultralite bivy sack and a 1/4" foam pad. You'll sleep in the light puff jacket and the rain gear. Maybe you can't technically call it sleep. You'll lay down with eyes closed and shiver the night away scrunched up in the fetal position. Trying to find that one position where the knees and shoulders don't constantly ache. The weight compromise has included food, one piece of bread, one piece of cheese, two ounces of olive oil. That's it. The rest is Gu, which works fine when your on the move but wears thin at camp. You don't even feel that hungry for some reason, so you eat half the food and drink some water. You watch the stars, the stars always there but unseen in the city. The big dipper is crystal clear and it's tilted just right to hold it's fullest cup, sort of signifying the climb so far. Sleep does not come for it's too cold, after seeming hours the dipper's cup has hardly moved, so you decide to heat the water for warmth. You haven't even needed the stove and fuel that was brought, so put it to some good use now. The only problem is there's only two quarts so if used for heat you won't have any to drink. Oh well you can drink in the morning. Tediously heat the water, careful not to spill. It only lasts a short time but you finally get a brief few hours of much needed sleep. You heat the bottles more than once, so hot they leave small burns on your chest, but it allows sleep so no matter. You've had your brief time of fun, now for the art of suffering which defines most of alpinism. The dawn finally breaks, it's overcast with the smallest touch of rain and darkish clouds surrounding the horizon. You crawl to the edge and take some pics of the stormy daybreak. You quickly throw everything in the pack, take the requisite summit pic with the triple fingers extended for the record. It's cold and your half beaten body protests at first even going down, but go down you must for while this is a nice place to visit you can't stay especially with no sleeping bag and no extra time alloted away from the grindstone. Down down down, the exit gully is mostly free of snow but wet. Careful of all the loose rock because your climbing in the gully below it for at least a thousand feet. Down to the 5.6 crux, you thought you might downclimb it but in a somewhat weary condition you break out the cord for one more rap. It goes without incident, a freehanging drop to above the last vestiges of gully snow. Down down down. To the talus field and traverse to the saddle of the ridge above the ancient sacred lake. A brief time to enjoy the view then find the thin winding trail in the sky, down the ridge, down down, hanging on roots and branches, downclimbing past the Mounties rap points. Getting worn, tired, now you hit the pass, down down more talus to the lake so very serene. There's still some snow but you find a path littered with debris for traction. Walking the edge of the lake, soaking in it's stillness and beauty. Watching looking you are now below the summit crossing you so recently made, back to looking up but now with the memory that you at least once looked down on all this. Retrieve the gear at the lake, pause to rest and eat before leaving it again, engage the tourons in idle gossip. "you climbed that?" Yes and shiver dozed like a decrepit fetus during the night, repeately burned by heated water bottles. "no kidding?" I wish I was, no not really, it was great, the time of my life. Down down down, the steep hiway trail takes it's final toll, you move more slowly and rest more often. Only by measured steps will you reach the end. Down down down, to the trailhead, to the car. The most dangerous part of the trip is still ahead, the drive home past the drunken drivers on the two lanes of death hiway. Past the cell phone talkers that should never ever have been given a license. You stop at the clandestine campgrounds to talk to your long time friend, the one that told you to "just do it". To tell him, yeah dawg, I just did it. "Damn that's awesome man". We converse for a while easy and relaxed, with a mutual admiration and respect. Brothers of the alpine discipline. You take a short rest and eat before the trip back. "you drive safe now hear me?" Yeah man. Back on the hiway, a quick look up at the peaks in all their splendid majesty looking down at the pawns, now including one of them that dared to at least briefly share that view. THIS MUST BE THE WAY THE OBJECTIVE OBSCURED BY OPPRESSIVE CLOUDS THE CLOUDED LAKE WITH THE DESCENT SADDLE ON THE RIDGE ABOVE LOOKING UP AT THE START ON THE SKYLINE LOOKING DOWN FROM NEAR THE START THE NORMAL START OF ROPED CLIMBING, RED SLING UNDER ROOF LOOKING DOWN THE FIRST PITCH LOOKING UP THE FIRST PITCH LOOKING DOWN THE 2ND PITCH LOOKING AHEAD ON THE TREED LEDGE, IT HUGS THE CLIFF LOOKING DOWN THE NORTH FACE BOWL, A 7 PITCH WALL IS DWARFED BELOW. LOOKING UP THE NORTH FACE BOWL THE SHORT SCRAMBLE PITCH AT THE TOP OF THE NORTH FACE BOWL EXPOSURE DOWN THE WEST SIDE THE START OF THE NORTH RIDGE CLIMBING TALUS AT THE NORTH SUMMIT AND HORNS SOUTH OF THE SUMMIT A HORN AND MIDDLE AND MAIN FROM NORTH THE RIDGE GOING TO MIDDLE FROM NORTH EXPOSURE DOWN THE EAST SIDE TO THE LAKE FALSE, MIDDLE, AND MAIN BEHIND, FROM THE TRAVERSE LOOKING BACK TO NORTH LOOKING BACK TO NORTH, YOU CAN SEE THE FIRST NOTCH EXPOSURE DOWN THE EAST SIDE TO THE LAKE LOOKING BACK AT MIDDLE NORTH AND MIDDLE FROM THE ASCENT OF MAIN THE SKULKING BRISTLING DEATH GULLY EXIT LOOKING BACK AFTER THE EXIT GULLY, MUCH OF TRAVERSE BETWEEN SUN/SHADE LOOKING AHEAD PAST THE EXIT RAINIER FROM NEAR THE SUMMIT SUNSET FROM THE SUMMIT OF MAIN TARN WATER BY HEADLAMP BAREBONES FORCED SHIVER BIVY SMALL TOWN AT NIGHT DAWN STORM SKY TARN AT THE PASS DOWN THE DESCENT GULLET DOWN THE LAST RAP UP THE LAST RAP LOOKING TOWARDS THE SADDLE AT THE TOP OF THE RIDGE ABOVE THE LAKE IT'S A MAGICAL MYSTICAL PLACE, JUST ASK THE SNAFFLES BACK AT THE LAKE BACK AT THE LAKE, GOD'S "JUST DO IT" SWOOSH (from a previous trip) LITTER DETAIL FROM THE WEST FROM THE EAST And please remember, walk soft, climb clean, and leave no trace. Gear Notes: A mini lighter with most of the fluid emptied out so it weighs less. Modded Go-Lite Breeze pack, 1 garbage bag, sunglasses w/scarf, 1/2 REI mirror, 1 extra contact, read glasses w/case, 5 band aids, altimeter watch, compass, hand written route description, becky photos, cell w/no back, camera w/ultralite case, chapstick, keys, cards, cash, TP, pen, duct tape, 3 mini no-climb beaners, 5ct 3/4 gear straps. Smallest swiss army knife. Light zip shorts, med polypro top/bottoms, 1 touk, 1 pr polypro socks, HH ureathane raincoat and full zip pants, thin gloves, columbia puff jacket, knee brace, 1/4"x 3/4 insolite pad, integral ultra-lite bivy sack. 2 qts water in re-used energy drink bottles, 26 lemon-lime GU's, 1 sm piece bread, 1 sm piece cheese, 2 oz olive oil, 1 TI stove pot(handles removed), 1 snowpeak stove, w/small fuel, 1 ultra-lite lighter, 10 vitamins including Ginkgo. 60M 5mm tech cord w/thin stuff sack, 2 4mm prusiks, Bugette rap device, ultra-lite harness, 3 spectra shoulder slings, 25ft 5mm cord, 3 lockers, 3 ultra-lite beaners, 2 TI pins, 2 short BD blades, BD Venom hammer, hybrid strap on alum cramps w/steel tips, HB carbon fiber helmet, chalk bag, Guide 10's, Aces. Total pack weight w/all food and water, 20 pounds. Approach Notes: Take the path where no one goes.
  13. Trip: Alaska Range - West Face Mt. Huntington, Colton/Leech Route Date: 4/1/1983 Trip Report: First let me say that when Keith read my TR on our ascent of the Rooster Comb DNB, I was told that he said, "That Jay... he was always falling off of stuff". Unfortunately, this TR will do little to dispel that gross exaggeration. Also, still looking for my slides from this trip. In March, 1983 Keith Royster (Keith’s last name is now Stevens) and I set off on our first two-man expedition into the Alaska Range. All of our previous trips had been with a minimum of four climbers, although we had always climbed as two-man rope teams. For this new foray into the range we decided to raise the ante a bit by resetting some of the parameters. First, just the two of us. That cuts the margin of error for the expedition in half. In the event of an accident that injures one climber, it is much harder to affect a rescue, and too dangerous if not impossible to go looking for help. The tragic experiences of Jim Wickwire and Chris Kerrebrock on the Peters glacier just two years before come to mind (read Jim's book Addicted to Danger: A Memoir about Affirming Life in the Face of Death). Second, a longer approach. In previous expeditions, we had skied into the Ruth from the Alaska railroad up the Buckskin Glacier, which is the shortest, most direct line into the Don Sheldon Amphitheater. This time we would use a new route, skiing from the Anchorage/Fairbanks highway up the Chulitna River to the West Fork glacier, cross Anderson Pass onto the Muldrow Glacier on the North side of the range, and finally cross back into the Ruth from the head of the Traleika glacier. This is a distance of around 100 miles. Third, travel light and fast. For the approach we would limit our climbing gear to the barest minimum; one 60-meter 9mm rope, double three-pin cross-country boots with overboots, flexible crampons, one ice tool each, and a few slings and biners. We would improvise anchors by using ice bollards and deadmen made from buried skis. Forth, minimize contact with our air support. Our climbing gear and supplies would be pre-cached ahead of us at two places; In the Don Sheldon Amphitheater for an attempt on Mt. Huntington’s West face, and on the Kahiltna glacier for a climb on Mt. Hunter’s North Buttress. Our one concession to our minimalist approach was a CB radio for contacting overhead aircraft in case of emergency. So the plan in a nutshell was; ski in to the West Fork of the Ruth Glacier from the North side of the Alaska Range, climb Mt. Huntington, ski and climb over the South Buttress of Denali into the Kahiltna Glacier, climb Mt Hunter, and then ski out of the range to the South. Keep it simple. Approach Route full-rez image here We left the highway on March 13th in perfect weather, cold, clear and sunny. From the small village of Colorado, we crossed the Chulitna River, still well frozen and covered in deep snow. We made good time by following a snow machine track up the West Fork of the Chulitna, heading for the West Fork Glacier. About noon of the second day a hunter on a snow machine came roaring up and offered us a 3-mile ride in the sled he was pulling. Later the same day we ran into a pair of Park Rangers and their dog team, heading back to the highway. They had been investigating an illegal cabin that had been built on National Park land at Ruby Creek, and told us to follow their tracks to the cabin if we wanted a warm night inside. They also said that as far as they knew, we were the only climbing party anywhere in the park at that time. The cabin was just what you would expect an Alaskan trappers cabin to be like; a low log structure set back in the trees, with a cast iron stove, a pair of bunks, a stockpile of firewood and canned food, and a rifle hanging from pegs on the wall. We spent another two days gaining Anderson Pass. We crossed the divide and descended onto the storied Muldrow Glacier, the approach route of the pioneer expeditions to Denali. Conditions changed dramatically, from deep powder snow on the South side of the range, to a windswept, rock hard frozen surface strewn with rocks of all sizes, fine gravels to giant boulders. The Muldrow is two mile wide and broken with pressure ridges and medial moraines. It was 20 miles to the junction with the Traleika Glacier, and we carried our skis the entire way, staying up on a pressure ridge so we could see the best path through the tortured ice and debris. Once on the Traleika the snow conditions improved and we could ski again. It was another 12 miles to the head of the Traleika. To our right were Mounts Carpe and Koven. To our left Mt. Brooks, the Pyramids, and Mt. Silverthrone. Our first camp on the Traleika was at the junction with the West Fork of the glacier, and from there we could look up the West Fork to Karsten’s Ridge and Browne Tower, the route of the first ascent of Denali. The next day we pushed on up the Traleika to its headwall, where the East Buttress of Denali, descending from Thayer Basin, blocks access to the Ruth just beyond. We set our final north-side camp at 7800 feet. Ahead of us was a wall of ice and snow rising to a pass at 10,500 feet. This was definitely the most remote place Keith and I had ever been, seven long days of skiing from the nearest road, barren, windswept, and silent but for the wind and sounds of moving ice. Galen Rowell’s party first used this route as a pass from North to South in 1978 during their circumnavigation of Denali. Scott Woolums and I had watched them descending from the pass that year from high on Mt. Dan Beard, which sits just south of the pass. They had done multiple rappels from ice screws on the descent to the Ruth. Keith and I would have to down climb. We weren’t carrying any screws. Traleika Pass Area full-rez image here The next morning’s work began before dawn. The climb to the top of the ridge was straightforward, although ice climbing in our soft three-pin double ski boots left something to be desired. It took us six hours to climb to the ridge top. The view from the ridge top was beyond description, the bulk of Denali to the west, Mt. Dan Beard immediately to the south, the deep gorge of the Northwest Fork of the Ruth down below, with the Southeast Spur of Denali beyond. Now things would get interesting. We immediately began down climbing, swinging 60 meter leads between belay anchors set in the deep snow using a set of skis as pickets/deadmen. Ten rope lengths brought us to the top of an obvious drop-off. We couldn’t see how big a drop it was, so we set up a rappel to find out. We chopped out a big ice bollard and ran the rope around it. I down climbed until I could get attached to the line, then lowered about 50 feet and looked over the edge. It was one of those good news/bad news situation. Good that we somehow managed to hit the bergschrund at it’s narrowest spot. Bad that the rope ended about 15 feet short of the bottom. The huge crevasse below the end of the rope was filled with snow. It LOOKED like it was pretty solidly filled. I looked up at Keith and said, “I’m going to drop off the end of the rappel. Clip the line into your belay so I don’t pull the rope down. You might need it”. I don’t think he was happy about the plan. I dropped over the lip and was hanging free. Lowering to the bitter end of the rope, I untied the safety knots at the end (kids, don’t try this at home!) and tried to let them both come through my figure eight together. A second later I landed in the ‘schrund, unhurt, in deep snow. When a reluctant and slightly pissed off Keith appeared at the lip, I told him to pull up one end and tie in to it so we wouldn’t loose the rope when he dropped off the end. After a few choice words from my partner, he arrived at the bottom, none the worse for wear. After dusting ourselves off we descended another few hundred feet to a saddle at 8500 feet and made camp. Beyond the saddle to the south the way was blocked by 10,250 foot Mt. Dan Beard. To the west an icefall dropped steeply into the heavily crevassed Northwest Fork of the Ruth. Our route lay to the east, where another icefall fell 1500 feet into the North Fork, and an easy 7-mile ski to our cache on the south side of the amphitheater. The snow was once again thigh-deep powder, and climbing down the icefall would not be easy going. Without our skis to distribute our weight we stood a good chance of finding a very deep hole, and we didn’t have a lot of resources for a crevasse rescue. So we pushed off the top on skis, climbing skins attached to slow the descent a bit, and roped together for safety. Skiing roped up with heavy packs is tricky even on easy slopes. Doing it in a maze of massive seracs and crevasses that drops 1500 feet in a half mile is a real challenge. Many times the leader would feel the snow collapse under his ski tails when crossing an obvious crack. Keeping the speed up was the key to avoid falling in. The leader would shout a warning, and the follower would bank his turn a bit wider to avoid the hole. Eventually we skied out onto the lower angled glacier below the icefall. Six hours after leaving the top of the icefall the long slog across the Don Sheldon Amphitheater was behind us. The first part of the long approach to Mt. Huntington was complete. We dug out the snow blocking the door to the small octagonal cabin known as the Mountain House and moved in. This spot is the primary landing strip for parties flying into the Ruth, and I had spent many days there over the past several years. From this spot we had launched ascents of Mt. Dan Beard, The Moose’s Tooth, The Rooster Comb and Mt. Dickey. On this occasion it was just a waypoint, a supply depot where we would gear up for the climb and pick up food and fuel for ten days. The cache we had expected wasn’t there, but the next morning Jay Hudson landed with our food and gear, and a surprise delivery of a six-pack of PBR and a couple of choice t-bone steaks. The next day as we relaxed and prepared our gear I made a discovery that would later have serious consequences. I was adjusting my rigid crampons to fit the soles of my borrowed pair of brand new plastic climbing boots. This was new technology in 1983, and the plastics were a third the weight of my heavy leather double boots. I adjusted the left crampon to fit the boot sole, and mirror-imaged the right crampon. When I fit it to the sole of the right boot, it was a half-inch too long. I double-checked the adjustment; it matched the left crampon exactly. I checked the boots; left boot size 10, right boot… shit! Size 9! My borrowed boots were mismatched and the right boot was one size too small. There was no way I was going to let this end our expedition. I hadn’t even noticed the difference when I tried on the boots back in Portland. Now I would just wear a thinner sock on the right. It would be fine. The next morning we packed up and began the 7-mile ski up into the West Fork. I never tired of the ski tour from the amphitheater up into the West Fork. Turning the corner of the Rooster Comb and coming into view of the awe inspiring North Face of Mt. Huntington stuns you every time. You don’t have to get lucky to see a dramatic avalanche come thundering down from Huntington or Rooster Comb. They are almost hourly occurrences, often sweeping right across your ski tracks. The West Fork is a deep, cold, ice-filled trench with walls a mile high. Keith and I skied past our normal campsite at 7000 feet, and continued on to set our camp below the French Icefall. We would leave the tent, skis and a cache of 4 days of food and fuel here on the Ruth. Early the next morning we post-holed over to the base of the icefall and started climbing. I had been up this slope before on a failed attempt on the French Ridge, and knew it was pretty straightforward. Nick and Tim had said the descent to the Tokositna was easy, and so it was. We rappelled and down climbed to the glacier and had plenty of time to dig a nice cave and settle in for the night. Colton/Leech follows the shaded gully. The top of the French Icefall is lower left The next day was a rest and recon day, and we watched the face for avalanche activity and talked about options for the descent down the Harvard Route, or maybe just to its north side. We looked at the sweeping 2000-foot couloir of our route and the 2000 feet of mixed climbing above that and thought that those brits had a pretty good eye for a line. The route looked to be in great condition, and after watching all day not a single thing had fallen of the face. On the 15th day after skiing off from the highway we climbed up the broad base of the funnel-shaped couloir, swinging long leads of simul-climbing on perfect ice. The weather was settled and clear, but cold, at about -10. As we gained height the angle steadily steepened, and snow turned to solid blue ice. The surface ice was rock hard and brittle, and every placement sent a shower of ice down the rope to pummel whichever of us was tied to the dull end. The final lead of the day was mine, and I was getting flamed. My arms ached from being bombarded all day with falling ice, and the broad couloir had narrowed into a proper gully. The final 200 feet were nearing 85 degrees, and I slowed down, afraid of a fall as we climbed together up the steep ice. I climbed into a fluted chute and was able to rest in a wide full-body stem, then made a final slow-motion charge over the top to find a roomy ledge that would make an adequate bivouac. I slammed in an anchor and brought Keith up, thanking him for his patience at the slow pace of those last few feet. The open bivy was comfortable but the night was very cold, with the temperature dropping below -20. We both slept boots on, in sleeping bag and bivy sac, and awoke to another day of perfect clear weather. After a quick brew we set off on the best day of mixed climbing of our lives. Never desperate, but continuously steep and interesting, the climbing was amazing. The sun and views made the belays enjoyable in spite of the cold. The sun was setting as I set up a semi-hanging stance about 100 feet below a snow ledge that we had been aiming for all day. I chopped a boot ledge in the ice and brought Keith up. Keith was pretty tired as he arrived at the stance, and since I was rested I volunteered to lead on up to the ledge, where it looked like we could spend the night. I should have grabbed my headlamp before I left the tiny stance, but I thought the light would last long enough. With speed in mind, I ran out a quick 50 feet on steep verglassed rock, and hung a sling around a perfect granite horn. Protected, I climbed another 30 feet to the base of a steep slab split by a 3-inch runnel of ice. The ledge beckoned just beyond. I realized that it had become much darker when my first tool placement threw sparks into the gathering gloom. I tried a dozen more times to get a pick into the thin ice, rewarded with nothing but more sparks. To my left the rock disappeared under a near vertical snow slab that led to the same ledge. I traversed over and the snow seemed firm, so I started double-shafting my way up. Twenty feet and I’d have it made. My head came over the top and I heaved a sigh of relief, reaching over the edge to shove my ice ax shaft into the snow. It felt like stabbing into spun sugar, there was no resistance at all, and no purchase for mantling up off of the vertical wall. I poked around with my axe, but there was nothing to offer the slightest hold. Then I felt my north wall hammer, still driven in to the head just below the lip, start to break out. My footholds began disintegrating under my weight and suddenly I was airborne as the snow collapsed beneath me. I felt myself contact the wall again and again as I pin wheeled down in the darkness into a vertical mile of air. Keith looked up at my yelp of surprise, and saw only bursts of sparks as my ice tools and crampons struck granite. I fell past his belay to the right and jerked to a stop ten feet below. My single piece of protection, the slung horn, had probably just saved both our lives. Within seconds I realized that, though shaken, I was not hurt. My tools still hung by the wrist loops, my right crampon was hanging from it’s ankle strap, bent nearly double, and my helmet was gone, but I was alive and uninjured after the 100 foot fall. With tension from Keith, I struggled back up to the tiny stance and took stock. Now fully dark, with my gear and brain in disarray, it was obvious that we would have to spend the night right where we were. As I hung from the anchor collecting myself, Keith began a 2-hour effort to enlarge the foot ledge to something that we could sit on. It was midnight before we were sitting/hanging in our bags, backs against the wall and the stove between us on the now 12-inch wide ledge. Somehow we managed to sleep through the coldest night yet. At one point I woke up and glanced over at Keith and my heart stopped. He was gone! Well, not gone, just sound asleep and doubled over at the waist, hanging from the anchor. Later, in the morning light, I bent my crampon back into something that would fit loosely onto my boot, and told Keith that it was still my lead. I backed up the sling on that beautiful horn as I climbed past. At the bottom of the ice runnel that had frustrated me the night before, I excavated a bombproof placement. In the light of day I could see where the thin ice offered sketchy tool placements, and surged safely up to the ledge in a matter of seconds. A few easy leads later and we were on the summit snowfield. We held a quick conference and decided to forego the summit. We were just above the top of the Harvard Route, low on food and fuel, and had a long way to go to get back to our camp on the Ruth. Down climbing, we got to the top of the vertical headwall pitch on the Harvard Route, and began a series of rappels to the right, down a steep little gully. Natural anchors were plentiful, and we left mostly slings as we descended rapidly back to the glacier. Just below the ‘schrund I picked up my helmet, none the worse for its 4000-foot fall. Crossing the ridge on our way back to the Ruth, we unroped about halfway down the French Icefall. Our tent out on the Ruth was looking really good, and we were in a hurry to get down. My right crampon was pretty useless, and had been coming off my boot every so often since the fall. 200 feet from the bottom of the icefall it decided to fall off one more time. I was on a bulge of good looking blue ice at the time, so I slammed both tools into the ice and clipped into them with my daisy chain. I bent over and began working on the bent-up crampon, putting weight on my tools. I heard a noise like when you pour a drink over really cold ice-cubes, and my tools fell past me, attached to 18-inch dinner plates of hard Alaskan ice. I was jerked of my feet, and accelerated down the slope toward a 50-foot cliff. I shot over the lip and landed in a pile of avalanche debris at the bottom. My luck was now played out, and my right fibula snapped. Keith walked over, shaking his head. He gave me a couple of Percodan and splinted the leg. I tried to stand, but couldn’t bear any weight, so I crawled the half-mile to the tent, dragging the leg behind. By this time the drugs were kicking in and I told Keith that I thought maybe it was just a bad sprain, and I thought I’d be able to travel in a couple days. He laughed and gave me more drugs. Keith helped me get into the tent and get my boots and clothes off to examine the leg. As he pulled off my right sock, he took a long look at my foot and said, “Jay, your toes are frozen.” We spent the next several days watching our food and fuel supplies diminish, hoping for the sound of a plane. I kept the radio inside my bag to keep the batteries warm, and my toes outside the bag to keep them frozen. We didn’t know how long I’d be there, and I didn’t want to risk infection by re-warming my foot. Our last resort was for Keith to ski back down to the amphitheater, where it was much more likely to find help. But that meant a 7-mile solo over some of the biggest crevasses in the Range, not something I wanted him to risk. We were burning the last of our fuel to make a final hot brew when we heard the beautiful sound of a Cessna coming over Ruth Gap. I had the radio out in an instant, and Jay Hudson’s voice filled the tent. We told him our situation, and he asked if we were still trying to minimize our air support, or were we ready for a ride. Keith described the glacier below our camp. There were several depressions marking large crevasses on the slope. Maybe, he suggested, we should travel down glacier to the regular airstrip at 7000 feet. Jay replied with the news that a 4-day storm was hours away, and he would be right down, so we should start packing. Jay kept the power on as he flew the Cessna up the slope, flying right across the low spots. He kicked the plane sideways not 20 feet from the tent. Three hours later I checked in to the hospital. Mt. Hunter was going to have to wait. Approach Notes: Skin-in from the Anchorage-Fairbanks highway, 100 miles
  14. Trip: West Fork Ruth Glacier, Alaska - The Rooster Comb, DIrect North Buttress Date: 4/15/1980 Trip Report: OK, this all happened a long time ago, so here it is, to the best of my rapidly aging recollection: In late April 1981, Keith Royster and I had been camped on the West Fork of the Ruth glacier with a couple of friends for two weeks. We were waiting for a weather window long enough for a 3-day alpine style ascent of the unclimbed North Buttress of the Rooster Comb. The pattern had been 2 to 3-day periods of stormy weather separated by a day of clearing. We knew from our experiences of the previous three seasons spent on the Ruth that if we were patient that pattern would reverse, and we could expect a 3 to 4-day period of fine cold conditions. Rooster Comb routes Bivy sites We both had climbed other Rooster Comb routes on those earlier expeditions. Scott Woolums and I had bagged the first ascent of the Rooster Comb’s main summit in 1978 via the SE Face. In 1979 Jeff Thomas and I made an ascent to the NW summit from the top of the col between the Rooster Comb and Mt. Huntington. In 1980 Keith and Leigh Anderson climbed a new route up the NW Face to the NW summit. Each year we looked at the North Buttress and vowed to come back and give it a shot some day. That day was rapidly approaching for Keith and I, but the current weather was less than perfect. It WAS good enough for a bush pilot from Talkeetna to land on the West Fork just above our camp and drop off two British climbers, Nick Colton and Tim Leech. They post-holed over to our camp, introduced themselves and announced that they were going to climb our route the next morning. After the brits left to set up their camp we convened a hasty war council. We could beat them to the base; our gear was packed and we had skis. In a footrace we could move much faster that the post-holing brits and get on the route ahead of them. But we knew the weather, and it wasn’t going to be good. We had seen the lower buttress disappear under enormous avalanches more times than we could count. At best there would be continuous spindrift for most of the route. It was a huge decision… did we want the first ascent or the best ascent? In the end we decided to wait for the weather. We were climbing for fun, we told each other, not glory. Five days later Nick and Tim were back from their epic. Or maybe it was just a typical day on the crag for them, being crazy brits and all. The constant spindrift had slowed them down dramatically in the lower third of the route, and they had bypassed the crux section of the gully by aid climbing around to the right. If we couldn’t be first, maybe we could score some points on style. Now finally the weather was becoming settled, and we hoped most of the new snow had fallen off the route, because we were going to go that night. It seemed to us that, after weeks of watching the face over the past three years, the big avalanches cut lose in the mid-afternoon. By starting the climb at 10pm, we could be out of the lower gully before noon. Even in late April there is plenty of light for gully climbing at night. We blasted off right on time, leaving our skis at the base of the route. The lower gully was classic, with excellent snow and ice up a twisting gully, perfect granite on both sides. We climbed together, moving fast, the leader placing pro until out of gear. Sometime before dawn we switched leads at Nick and Tim’s first bivy platform, set dead center in a wide section of the gully. I was nervous just stopping there to belay. It must have been a nasty bivy in the conditions they were climbing in. Keith in the lower gully By 10am we were feeling like we were in safer ground, with most of the lower gully below us. About that time our friend Jim Olson was at the base to retrieve our skis. From the center of the West Fork he watched a massive avalanche fall into the gully below us. A cornice had let go from high above and it scoured the gully, then washed out halfway across the West Fork. A half-hour slower and we would have been right in the firing line. As it was, we were blissfully unaware of our close call. At about the halfway point, the gully becomes discontinuous as it runs into a prominent 500-foot rock band. We set our first bivy where the snow and ice of the lower gully met the rock band. It was a very small platform, maybe two feet wide, but well protected by the overhanging bulge of rock above. We spent the night in sleeping bags and bivy sacs at –20F. I had a miserable night, not cold, but cramping up on the narrow snow ledge. Even my facial muscles were cramping, locking my eyes shut. About 30 feet right of our platform, the next pitch began with a 30 foot section of vertical rock, beyond which the gully picked up again, though quite a bit more steep than it had been. Keith made quick work of the rock, and led up the gully a ways before bringing me up. I got a really sweet lead up the gully to the base of the crux pitch. This is the point where Nick and Tim had climbed out to the right, bypassing the heinous, rotten vertical ice hose that the gully had just become. I was not unhappy that it was Keith’s lead! Keith led up some beautiful gully ice to the foot of the overhanging 40-foot chimney partially filled with some really crappy looking ice. He put in an ice screw that MIGHT have held a light fall, and headed straight up. It was mostly a very scary looking stem, with his backpack and right shoulder against the rock wall on the right and his feet kicking holes into the rotten ice curtain on the left. It was a monster effort, and I was sweating bullets for him until he finally pulled over the top. Definitely a no fall situation! Keith on the heinous crux pitch Keith continued on easier vertical mixed ground and banged in a belay. I jugged past the heinous chimney, thinking all the while what a scary lead it must have been. I lead off from Keith’s belay, first traversing left to follow the remnants of the gulley, now degenerated into vertical ice-filled cracks. Protection was scarce, and my first piece after traversing left was a number 1 stopper. I climbed up another twenty feet of ice-covered rock, heading for a three-inch wide runnel of ice. At the base of the runnel I was REALLY looking for a placement, and there in the base of the crack was a fixed pin left by Nick and Tim. I hit it a couple of times with my north wall hammer. It rang true and I and clipped in. WHEW! I set my axe and north wall hammer into the ice of the runnel and grabbed hold of the sling I had clipped to the fixed pin to lean back for a good look up the ice runnel. Suddenly the rock broke, the pin pulled, and I was forty feet lower, upside down over 2000 feet of air. Hanging from the number 1 stopper, I watched my snow shovel fall back to the glacier. I looked over at Keith as I slowly rotated in the air. He told me, “Stop screwing around Kerr, I’m freezing over here!” I got back on the rock, and looked up to see my ice tools waiting for me, still stuck in the runnel. The pitch had been hard with tools. Climbing back up to them barehanded was “interesting”. Once reunited with my tools, I banged the pin back in and scampered up the ice. For the first time in two days I climbed into the sun. I anchored in and brought my frozen partner up. In a couple more easy pitches we were above all difficulties and built a commodious bivy ledge. The next morning we kicked up the summit snowfield and pulled out the flask for a quick summit celebration. The weather was still holding perfect, and we enjoyed the 360-degree view for a few minutes before starting down the ridge that led to the col between the main summit and the NW summit and plateau. The descent to the col was exciting ridge climbing, ending in a long free rappel into the col. The climb up to the NW summit ridge was not difficult and we walked west across the plateau to the top of the wide gully that leads down to the Huntington/Rooster Comb col. It was late and we decided to bivy in the bergschrund before descending to the col. Unfortunately, we were out of food. After we dug our way down into the crevasse and set up our bivy, I told Keith I was going out to find us some dinner. He looked at me like I had been smoking too much pot. I crawled out of our cave and crossed the top of the descent gully to the base of a large rock. I dug at the snow and rock for a few minutes, then reached into a hole in the rock and retrieved the bag of food and fuel that Jeff Thomas and I had left there the year before. Keith was suitably impressed with our foresight when I returned with a huge meal for two and a pint of stove fuel. We started down early the next morning, and made two rappels down the gulley. We were crossing the giant cornices of the col barely an hour after we started down, working our way across to the west side, and the safest descent route to the West Fork. I knew the way down from the Huntington/Rooster Comb col really well. I’d made two round trips over the col in 1979 on our way to Mt. Huntington’s SE side, and one round trip in 1980 to gain the East Ridge of Mt. Huntington. It’s straightforward snow and ice climbing, made a game of terrifying Russian roulette by the huge cornices and seracs that threaten every part of the face. This is definitely not a place to stop for a picnic, and Keith and I fairly flew down the face, reaching the glacier in about two and a half hours. Crossing the Huntington/Rooster Comb col on the descent We felt great after the climb. We had managed to cut a full day off the first ascent time, climbed the crux gulley pitch, and done it in a spell of perfect weather. The North Buttress is the most classic line in the West Fork, in my book, and I put it at the top of my personal list of achievements. Some days after we got back to base camp, Nick and Tim returned from climbing a new route on the West face of Mt. Huntington. You had to hand it to those two; they really maxed out the possibilities on their visit to the West Fork. Two years later Keith and I skied back into the range from the North, destination: the Colton/Leech route on Mt. Huntington. But that is another story… Since our ascent in 1981 this route has only had one other successful ascent. Gear Notes: Lightweight alpine rack (screws, one picket, assorted pins), 160m double 9mm ropes, sleeping bags/bivy sacs, MSR stove, 3 days food/fuel
  15. Trip: Mt. Stuart - Gorillas in the Mist - IV 5.11 Date: 7/8/2009 Trip Report: Mt. Stuart is one of the Cascades' most iconic and complex peaks. With such prominence, fame, and extensive development, one might think that all significant new routes have been climbed. However, excellent routes do at least remain unfinished. Inspired by the pictures from an attempt by Mark Allen and Mike Layton, as well as a desire to climb or unearth a new hard route on the Enchantment's premiere peak, Sol Wertkin and I were excited to give the West Stuart Wall a go. Work and anniversary obligations had cut Sol's available climbing time down to one day, so I contacted Jens Holsten to see if he wanted to head up to the peak with me on day one, in order to fix the first few pitches and have Sol meet us on day 2. Jens was stoked to join the team, but insisted we could go alpine style. Of course Jens also insisted it would be 90 degrees on the summit and we didn't need to bring backpacks. Caveat Emptor when getting beta from Mr. Holsten. NOAA was predicting breezy and cool conditions, so we all brought along windshirts. It's summer right? We left the trailhead at 5am and after a few hours ended up at Goat Pass, near the start of the West Ridge. The West Stuart Wall rises up maybe 900' from the snow... but where the hell was it? The face had seen various activity in the past, and we found 2 bolted anchors (stamped '1993') as well as runners low on the route. Perhaps it was a rappel route, perhaps it was someone's unfinished (or aided) project, or perhaps it had already been sent in its entirety. We didn't know and didn't really care. Roping up at the base, we knew we'd have some solid, memorable, and steep climbing. Edited/explained down below - after contact with the 1993 folks, it sounds like this climb was a new route to the top of the wall and the peak Jens led off pitch one, following the OBVIOUS clean hand crack, mantle, and chimney to a belay on the right. This pitch was probably the crux of the route at 5.11- and would see nearly constant traffic if it were located at a crag in the icicle. Steep, with solid rock and great gear, it set the perfect tone for the wall. Top of P1 The next pitch headed up and left across 2 bottomless corners and hanging aretes, 5.9 with positions to keep the adrenaline going. Jens' final lead was the mental crux for us, but shouldn't deter future parties. He headed up and left from the belay, past a 4" crack, and shouted "Watch me" as he launched into the unknown. Sol and I, unable to see the climber, witnessed a large handhold get ripped from the wall, and the simian sounds of grunting and vomiting as Jens styled the 'monkey traverse.' Did you throw up? No way man... just a little dry heaving Jens would go on to finish the pitch in style. The followers both cleaned out the hand traverse crack, and future parties should find no shortage of solid gear all along this pitch. 5.10+ Sol about to 'go ape' Finishing the Monkey Traverse Did you see that big block come flying off? ...uhh yeah, we thought it was you From here Sol took over, finding a yosemite v-slot, and an immaculate finger crack and stem box to another perfectly flat ledge. 5.10- Pitch #5 headed up and right, with a bouldery 5.10 crux move, belaying at the first significant ledge system on the wall. We continued across the 'skywalk traverse' to the right and set off again. I took the lead for a 30m pitch of 5.8 (but mostly easier) on what we thought would lead up to the West Ridge, but we hadn't finished the wall yet. From a belay in the clean V-slot/groove, I followed up a long immaculate right-facing corner, with hand and fist cracks through a small roof, and finger cracks up a slab to the hanging belay, our first belay spot that was not a comfortably flat ledge. This pitch was 55m of sustained 5.8 crack climbing. From the hanging belay, a short hand crack lead straight up to the West Ridge, and I mantled over the top with a 'whoop' and monkey shout. We started up the West Ridge in a fog, with winds steadily increasing. Winding around towers and hidden pinnacles, the rock was more and more covered in ice. Soon our rope and cams were iced up as well. The wandering terrain and numerous gendarmes kept us guessing, and as darkness fell, we knew it was time to quit fighting the conditions. The three of us settled in for a memorable bivy of uncontrolled shivering, made more so by the presence of 0 sleeping bags, no stove, no puffy jackets, and 2 30liter packs in which to stuff our six wet feet. I don't know the temperature, but Jens' water bottle froze. We joked about getting lost on a mountain which we had all climbed before, but kept our spirits high thinking about the quality terrain we'd covered. In the past few years 3 of the Enchantments' 4 biggest peaks had seen new or 're-discovered' hard, excellent rock climbs. Solid Gold and Der Sportsman had been unearthed on Prusik, Dragons of Eden was re-climbed on Dragontail, and The Tempest Wall established on Colchuck Balanced Rock. With a climb of the West Stuart Wall, the 4th peak had fallen into place and Stuart's modern rock climb established. Our platonic spooning subsided at 4AM, and Jens started things off right by breaking out the breakfast of champions, in the form of one "Worthers Original" for each of us. No longer climbing inside a cloud provided a significant morale boost, and Sol thawed out our semi-functional cams with his mouth, once again establishing the value in being full of hot air. After a quick summit stop to revel in the sun, we headed to the Sherpa Glacier where soft snow allowed us to descend a few thousand feet back to the valley bottom in no time. With today being Sol's anniversary, he knew his wife would be especially nervous about our delayed return (and extra jealous of all the spooning enjoyed by Jens and myself). We hustled back to the car and enjoyed our true breakfast, the creek-stashed beers we'd left 30 hours before. EDIT: It turns out that Mark Makela and Geoff Sherer did some climbing on that wall in 1993 and put in the bolts, going up with full-on wall gear, and fixing ropes. They made it up what would be most of the pitches, using a mix of aid and free, but never completed the last few on wall. In any case, it's an amazing climb that should be on the list for future parties. Approach: Just north (around to the left) from the toe of the West Ridge, near Goat Pass. Route starts in the middle of the face, you can't miss that pitch. Gear Notes: Single Blue and Green Alien, 2x Yellow alien to #3 Camalot, single new #4 camalot. Set of nuts. TOPO: HUGE VERSION
  16. Trip: Alaska - The Great Gorge of the Ruth Glacier Date: 4/25/2009 Trip Report: Summary: April 23: PDX -> SEA -> ANC -> Talkeetna. April 24: Spent most of the day waiting to fly (weather); Paul/TAT flew us to the Ruth camp late in the day (~7 pm). April 25: Toured up glacier/scoped routes. Started snowing around lunch. Snowed through the night and most of the next day. April 26: Snow stopped in the morning. ~1' of new snow when it was all said and done! April 27: Mix of sun and clouds for the day. Toured down to scope The Escalator on Mt Johnson April 28: Climbed The Escalator on Mt Johnson April 29: Rest day April 30: Climbed Wake Up on Mt Wake May 1: Picked up by TAT/returned to Talkeetna. ()^3 and ()^2 May 2: Talkeetna -> Urgent care -> ANC -> SEA -> PDX left to right: Mt Johnson and Mt Wake Details/Pics: I've put this trip off way to long. For the past few years running I've attempted to put a trip together only to have work or something else squash my plans. This year was looking like that... the best I could do was a little over a week off and the list of people willing to gamble the money on a week trip to the gorge was very short. I dont blame them... the odds of spending the week eating, sleeping and shoveling out the tent were good. I managed to find someone willing to take the gamble and met Doug for the first time in the SEA airport. We were in Talkeetna Thursday evening. Friday was a mixed bag of rain, snow and mostly dense fog/clouds... I was skeptical we'd be able to fly but Paul managed to find a window in the system and get us in Friday evening right before the next storm arrived. Fly TAT or plan on spending a few extra days in Talkeetna Saturday morning started out as mixed clouds and sun so Doug and I + Team Harro (who were also in the gorge but looking at some different routes) toured up the glacier to scope the approach to the Root Canal as we'd heard Stirred was in very nice. Shall we go see? Saturday tour By the time we got back to camp the weather had taken a turn for the worse... it snowed through the night and most of Sunday. Common occurrence on Sunday When the storm was all said and done Monday morning ~1 foot had fallen so we let everything shed and settle on Monday. Post storm: Avy on Bradley We headed down the glacier on Monday while things settled and shed to scope out The Escalator on Mt Johnson The Escalator on Mt Johnson On Tuesday we got an alpine start and climbed the The Escalator on Mt Johnson. The Escalator starts with ~3 pitches of WI3/snice which we simulclimbed. Following the initial ice step is a long snow field that lead to the upper runnels (see route pic above). The snowfield Start of the runnels The runnels had it all: soft snow (technical wallowing!), neve, the occasional alpine ice/snice and of course powder over rock. Good times. Hot runnel action As the mountains were still shedding the recent snowfall we had to deal with the semi regular wet sluff. Shower time for John Doug holding his rope out of a slide The runnel ended on the summit ridge which we followed to the top. Where's John? The ridge had a few rock steps We stopped just short of the true summit which is actually a cornice that at the time overhung the north face... a few days prior to our ascent a Polish dude had cracked part of it off as he attempted to stand on the "very top" and had to jump to safety as the "summit" at that time fell down the north face!!! The standard descent is to the Johnson/Grosvenor col and down via downclimbing + some raps. Definately rated on the jingus scale. Please dont squish me We found The Escalator to be extremely moderate (WI3, 5.5, snow!) and long (at least by Cascade standards... 4000'+ !!!) but would have a hard time recommending it to someone unless it was cold temps and they understood the descent has some healthy objective hazards. Still... a great route! I guess we were the 7th (???) or so ascent of the route (3 of those in 2009). Wednesday was a rest day... we spent the day napping, eating and drying stuff out. Wednesday Yard Sale Wednesday views from camp (l-> r): Church, Johnson, Wake, Bradley Thursday we headed back down the glacier again for a swing at Wake Up on Mt Wake. Wake Up follows the obvious gully on the right hand side of the face to the ridge and then the summit ***Note the monster hanger above the North face. This will be of interest later in this TR*** Though we overslept our alarm by an hour (route name irony?) we still managed to start the route fairly early. Start of the route. Note hanger again. Lower portion of the route Approximately 1/3 or so up the route the above mentioned hanger released. Before (note glacier floor) After. I wonder if I still have skis? Some video taken just after the the above pics were taken [video:youtube] We kept rolling (as once on the route you arent under the hanger) and soon reached the supposed WI5 crux. Mid crux which was awesome flutings and a little wet Looking down the crux We found the crux to be maybe WI4 (Cody 3+ ) and very enjoyable. From there the route dogs right towards the summit ridge. You work you way through snow mushrooms and gargoyles. To The Top! Awesome terrain Looking back down Much to our enjoyment the ice continued! We worked our way through more mushrooms and a few short rocks steps Rock step Mushroom negotiations Ice is nice We found a way to gain the ridge with minimal cornice tunneling Gaining the ridge It was nice to be back in the sun! Sunshine! Faced with the earlier avy and the fact that we knew our descent sported a similar cornice we opted to not continue to the summit (weak) and head for the descent couloir before it got any more sun. Wild nice views on the descent [video:youtube] We did one rap on the way to the descent couloiur and one more to get into it. We bombed down the couloir as quickly and safely as possible and began the search for our skis. We were in luck! Though scattered they were intact! These were originally standing up next to each other Doug found his crampon and ice screw bags approximately 1/4 mile down the glacier! Evening commute home We found Wake Up though not as moderate or long as The Escalator still fairly tame (WI4, 5.8) and we both greatly enjoyed it. Our CAN friends Damien and Jimmy attempted the same route the next day and as they were racking up @ 2:30 am the same hanger released again! They ran for safety and though they were both pelted were not injuried! We all flew out on Friday and after an unpack/dry out/repack session proceeded to and (some more than others). Saturday we headed south to ANC minus a quick stop @ intensive care... one of the CANs managed alcohol poisoning after the previous night's festivities... I guess that's what happens when you go switch from kokanee to PBR Shameless Plugs: This trip wouldnt have happened or went as well as it did if it wasn't for: - Doug for taking a chance and going on a bigger trip with someone he had never met before. Thanks for a great trip dude! :tup: - Mark Westman/Joe Puryear/Marcus Donaldson/Roger Strong for answering all my beta/route/gear questions - Team Harro for the Mid and Stove boards and Talkeetna shuttle service - Kurt Hicks for hooking up a ride to ANC - Team Good Times (the CANs) for the ride back to ANC. You fuckers can party like god damn rock stars! - Jared (CO) and Tim (all over) for all the great beta and warm wine (It goes straight to your head!) And most importantly I am deeply indebted to both Rob Shaul/Mountain Athlete and Mark Twight/the Gym Jones staff (Rob and Lisa) for providing me both the tools and motivation to make this trip a success (at least in my eyes it was). Due to a house remodel at the start of this year I had only touched an ice tool twice and had been in the rock gym maybe five times or so leading up to this trip. Regardless of this thanks to their programming design advice and insight I was still able to make 2 routes happen in the 4 climbing days we had during our short trip. Many, many thanks. [soapbox]I find it comical that climbers will gladly drop $$$ on new gear (that they only end up selling a few years later when something "better" comes out) but refuse to spend any $ on a training seminar... something they will "own" the rest of their life and will only improve/enhance their climbing. Go figure.[/soapbox] Until next year Gear Notes: Peanut butter quesadillas! Approach Notes: TAT sucka!
  17. Trip: Lemolo Peak (erstwhile Hardest Mox) - NE Buttress ("After Hours") V 5.10- R Date: 9/12/2008 Trip Report: Summary: On 9/12 and 9/13/2008, Rolf Larson and Eric Wehrly climbed the NE Buttress of the 8501' summit to the E of SE Mox Peak. The NE buttress on right division of dark and light, John Scurlock photo: A shot from the other side on our descent: From what we can tell, our route shares several pitches with Layton and Wolfe's E Face line "The Devil's Club", somewhere in the middle third of the ascent. "After Hours" (appropriate for several reasons) takes a direct start on the NE Buttress toe, and ends at the summit of what some have referred to as "Hardest Mox", the apparently heretofore unclimbed peak to the E of SE Mox. We continued to SE Mox Peak from there, adding a bit more engaging climbing. I believe that we are the first ascentionists of this peak, and hence can derive a little fun naming it. If this is the case, in keeping with the naming convention of Mox ("twin") Peaks, we propose Lemolo Peak; "Lemolo" is Chinook jargon for wild, or untamed. Klone (Chinook for "three") Peak would also be appropriate, but is already taken in Washington. If this summit is not worthy of a separate name, then no sweat--I already had my fun. I think that Rolf (aka the Bard of Leavenworth) is crafting a TR in iambic pentameter; until then, the following must do... Overview: Day 1, approach from Little Beaver to c. 5000' bivy in Perry Creek basin; 9 hours. Day 2, finish approach to 6000' rock start, and climb to 8200' bivy; 13.5 hours. Day 3, proceed to 8501' summit, then ridge traverse to SE Mox 8504', and descend to camp via gullies and unnamed glacier SE of Mox; 9 hours (ish?). Day 4, thrash homeward; 7 hours even, every minute fun. More detailed notes and pictures (I took all pictures; when the Bard isn't writing, his other job is male supermodel): On morning approach day 1, Jack Mtn and Nohokomeen Gl: Early part of roped climbing on day 2, somewhere around 7000': I was pretty worked from the day 1 approach, and started to get some hand cramps about 1000' into the climb; so Rolf took up the yoke and led the majority of the steep headwall in the middle third of the climb. He drew the crux pitch, which among its cruxes, included pulling a roof over suspect gear. Rolf reached into his puny reservoir of Solid and cruised the pitch—-one of the most impressive leads I'll witness. It was here that I believe he threw an alpine berserker gang-sign. No time for pics, but after following the pitch, I took a shot back at its traverse element: You might be able to make out some tat from MnE's rap 3 years ago. Additionally, looking at this pic from Mike's report, I surmise that while those guys went up and left from that point, we went up and right, cutting back left eventually. Here's Rolf making his way through more roofs: Some exposure from this belay, looking down at the buttress: At about 7500', I led what we jokingly referred to as a "comeback pitch" left and then up one of the few clean splitters we encountered, very exposed, then Rolf zagged back right across the buttress crest: The climbing was exposed and a lot of fun; I like the Bard's term for it, "cerebral", ha. Another shot a bit higher, ~8000': We had enough daylight to search around for bivy sites between 8000 and 8300, and settled on a then-windless site at 8200'. Temps were dropping a bit more steeply than we expected; we'd left our sleeping bags in favor of a lighter jacket-and-backpack bivy, and paid for our insouciance. We were so giddy about our situation, that we giggled convulsively through the night. Here's the alpine rat burrowing in for Led Zeppelin's "you shook me" all night long: Took some solace from the views; underexposed Picket Range: After the sun came up and I drank from my partially frozen water, we scrambled up and roped up for teetering stacked blocks to the summit (Mt. Spickard background): Last pitch to the yet-unclimbed 8501' summit: Shot of Pickets from tippy-top: Now we have to go over there--SE Mox: The traverse involved a 60m rap, a scoot around a gendarme, then a few more pitches of climbing on a ridge--actually very cool climbing. Even more pics, first is looking back at Rolf and the gendarme, I think: Then Rolf leading toward SE Mox, Mt Redoubt background and NW Mox foreground: Finally, views of 1) Lemolo from the summit SE Mox; 2) Challenger et al; 3) Bear's NF etc.: Then the ultra-brutal chossy galore descent of several gullies to the glacier: This tried our dessicated patience. Staggered into a deserved camp celebration of the finest 2-course meal (I guess everything does taste better with tuna), brews, bourbon, chocolate. Last day parting shot: And then beers and plunges at Ross Lake while waiting for our boat; deeeeluxe. I can now fully appreciate and salute Mike and Erik's journey into the unknown 3 years ago. Pretty certain I'd not take 4 days off to go after this big endeavor without their information posted here--thanks fellas. I remember reading about the brotherhood you guys shared, and held hope for similar with Rolf--nope. Our partnership is built on mutual disrespect and loathing; we share a vile and putrid love, and feed most from each other's misery. I'm not happy until you're not happy. Nevertheless, the Bard is a solid partner and I look forward to future adventures--this was an exceptionally stellar one. Gear Notes: -medium rack, with pins that did not get used. tri-cams employed often. -while no metal used, much extracted; our route intersected rap stations enough such that we bootied bountifully. -no plants were harmed in the development of our product. Approach Notes: Jungle fever Nihilism (or Zen Buddhism, according to one’s preference)
  18. Trip: Colchuck Balanced Rock - FA: The Tempest Wall IV 5.10 A2 Date: 8/28/2008 Trip Report: In order to be a succesful climber in the Pacific Northwest you have to be able to adapt. Plans set in stone for weeks, even months, can be shut down at the last minute with alarming regularity; fickle cascade weather being the main culprit. Such was the case last week as the slowly increasing chance of precipitation crescendo'd at 4 in the afternoon with 100%. Our second attempt at a large north cascades project would have to be postponed, and we were back to the drawing board. Worse yet, blake could ditch me completely and head out on an extended trip amongst clearer horizons in the Idaho Sawtooths. The Enchantments were are best bet and i had to think fast. The Google chat box quickly filled with ideas for the range: Boving Route to Solid Gold, the Girth, Der Sportsman. Blake shut each one down. I was scrambling for ideas when he replied: new route on CBR? i saw a line to the right. It was on, and i was hyped. He claimed thin cracks through headwalls, aid for sure, so we brought the kit and caboodle. The approach was more comical than usual, quite cold, and a bit stormy. The first day we scoped things out, found a line, and fixed the first pitch. Blake threw down a mix of mostly free with a bit of aid, a badass heel-hook, and even placed a knifeblade while free climbing. Pitch 1: We went to bed that night a bit intimidated by our chosen line. The next day we woke up early to a brisk morning and numerous cups of coffee. I taught Blake how to jug on pitch 1: The weather was worse than the day before, clouds were blowing through, and we were being hit by intermittent mist and drizzle. At least we'd be dry under here: What really can i say about the roof. The lead felt like I was in a trance. Did it take me 20 minutes, or 2 hours? I had to stop at the base and ask myself if I really was going to do this. The problem being, enough gear to get me to where? In the end it worked out fine, and yes, I think it will go free, it's mostly gold camalots! Colchuck Reality Crack. Cilogear! Being that it was all the same size i had to backclean our two two's out the last half of the roof and then all the way up to the belay. I tagged them to Blake and he embarked on his first real aid pitch ever. Self-portrait of Blake enjoying a steep learning curve: We named the ledge atop the roof the "yin-yang ledge", and the next pitch which starts with the more moderate aspect of the roof crack, "The Lighter Side of the Moon." Fun free climbing up good dirty cracks. Blake starting out: Myself seconding: An easy 5th class pitch led us to the base of the headwall which began with akward free up a pillar then onto the face. It soon turned to aid up a series of dirty corners and roofs. I short fixed a couple belays when the ropedrag got bad or i needed gear. The finale involved an aesthetic set of triple cracks and brought me to a great stance ontop of the headwall. I was stoked to give up the lead up to this aid gumby: Actually Blake was doing a great job his first day out aid climbing and he pushed us on up the next pitch. Aid through a flare lead to a fun moderate corner crack and a slightly sketchy belay. Darkness fell as I seconded, and i quickly remedied Blake's nest with a solid angle that we fixed. We could tell we where near the top and we really wanted to be off the face. The day had been cold and long and we were getting pretty worked. Aid led up to a dirty wet corner, a heelhook mantle, then a short chimney put me on the ridge, "The Great Escape." I hooted and hollered and then Blake did too. Three simul pitches got us to top and the Tempest Wall was sent. A moderatly painful morning-after was tempered by the idyllic alpine ambience. The Tempest Wall With a scrub, everything but the roof will proabaly go free at 5.11-. I think the roof will go somewhere around 12c or so. It'll be one hell of a fight at the lip. Rack of doubles from black alien to .75, 3 #1's, 4-6 #2's, 2 #3's, a single #4, set of nuts, dbl set of rp's, few pins or not.
  19. Trip: Ptarmigan Speed Traverse Date: 8/14/2008 Trip Report: Colin Abercrombie and I completed the Ptarmigan Traverse in 18:10 from the Cascade Pass parking lot to the Downey Creek trailhead. We set out at 2:05 am and reached the Suiattle River Road at 8:15 pm. The weather was perfect and the glaciers were in great shape. We did the Ptarmigan in 2004 which was very helpful for routefinding purposes. Location (Elevation): Time Elapsed / Split / Real Time Cascade Pass TH (3,600 ft) : 0 / 0 / 02:05 Cascade Pass (5,392 ft) : 55:03 / 55:03 / 03:00 Cache Col (6,920 ft) : 2:13:13 / 1:18:09 / 04:18 Spider-Formidable Col (7,320 ft+) : 4:59:33 / 2:46:19 / 07:05 Yang Yang Lakes (5,830 ft) : 6:20:09 / 1:20:36 / 08:25 White Rock Lakes (6,194 ft) : 9:50:45 / 3:30:35 / 11:56 Spire Col (7,760 ft+) : 11:54:44 / 2:03:59 / 14:00 Cub Pass (6,000 ft+) : 13:41:32 / 1:46:48 / 15:47 Bottom of Bachelor Creek (2,440 ft) : 16:29:45 / 2:48:12 / 18:35 Downey Creek TH (1,415 ft) : 18:09:36 / 1:39:50 / 20:15 [Car at Milepost 12.5: 20:48:24 / 2:38:48 / 22:54] After doing the car shuttle Wednesday afternoon and evening, we rested at the Cascade Pass parking lot. At about 1 am we were awoken by icefall from the hanging glaciers on Johannesburg. The thunderous noise persisted for over 5 minutes. We set off at 2:05 am and after 55 minutes of walking and jogging we were at Cascade Pass. We continued up Mix-up arm and then ascended to Cache Col arriving while it was still dark at 4:18 am. On the descent towards Kool Aid Lakes we descended a little too low instead of traversing boulder fields. Once we realized the mistake we began an ascending traverse meeting up with the route heading towards the Red Ledge. The Red Ledge was straightforward with no moat issues yet. Once we rounded the corner, we saw the magnificent icefall of the Middle Cascade Glacier as the sun was rising. Mount Formidable. The Middle Cascade Glacier icefall. Sunrise over Formidable. On the ascent to Spider-Formidable col, we had to make a small backtrack due an open bergshrund spanning from rock walls to the right to the center of the glacier. Ascending left of center was straightforward and we were at Spider-Formidable col in under 5 hours from the start. Buckindy Region The steep snow from Spider-Formidable col was quite hard in the early morning and we downclimbed for a couple hundred feet before beginning a fast traverse down to mosquito infested Yang Yang Lakes (the only spot we encountered any mosquitoes). At Yang Yang we were met by a couple climbers who had fallen very ill and could not complete the traverse. We took their contact information and passed on their desire to be rescued to the rangers and sheriff’s office. A quick ascent up to the saddle north of Le Conte Mountain brought us to the awesome traverse over to the Le Conte Glacier with up close views of glacial ice hanging over the rock buttresses and the wild Flat Creek basin. Flat Creek Basin Old Guard and Sentinel At Sentinel Saddle we met Cascade Climbers JoshK and Ivan who were doing a south to north traverse. We chatted for a few minutes and then I continued the walk to Lizard Pass which was amazing with views in every direction. We took a break at the spectacular White Rock Lakes for photography and refueling. South Cascade Glacier Lizard Pass. Gorgeous White Rock Lakes. Dana Glacier Re-energized, we made great time up to Spire Col on the Dana Glacier, which was also in great shape. Sweet contrast. Taking the third gully on skier’s right from the col, we made it down to Itswoot Ridge fast. The classic view of Dome Peak Dakobed and Glacier Peak Traversing the basin down to Cub Lakes took longer then expected and the short but steep climb up to Cub Pass in the 90 degree heat was physically taxing. We thought gravity would take us down Bachelor Creek, not so fast! The upper part of Bachelor Creek is actually in decent shape and you can reasonably follow the path through the slide area. The most difficult section was the lower Bachelor Creek where thick brush made travel very slow. The brush, consisting of salmonberry, slide alder, and a sprinkling of nettles, has gotten thicker since our last visit and affecting a greater length of trail. We finally reached Downey Creek and knew the Suiattle River was not far. After a break, we jogged the final 6.5 miles, arriving at the Downey Creek trailhead at 8:15 pm. We were not looking forward to the extra 8.5 miles of road walking due to the washouts at MP 12.5 and 13, but the road is flat and it goes by fast. Once we started walking we were able to reach the car in less than 2.5 hours, arriving at 10:54 pm. Four summers ago after spending 4 nights on the Ptarmigan we would have never thought to do it in a single push, let alone 18 hours. In discussing this trip, we had hoped to go under 20 hours, but knew it could run longer a la Mount Fury last week. We were able to exceed expectations on the traverse portion, and despite Bachelor Creek taking longer than expected, a steady, consistent effort throughout the trip allowed us to make great time. Knowing the route and the smooth conditions on the glaciers were helpful. We left just enough energy to navigate brush-choked Bachelor Creek. The Ptarmigan is a classic traverse for good reason - the terrain and scenery are amazing! To traverse all of it in less than one day was very rewarding. Gear Notes: axe, crampons, sunscreen Approach Notes: A few snow patches left on the traverse to Cache Glacier. Stay left of center on Middle Cascade Glacier unless you want to jump an opening bergshrund. The brush on lower Bachelor Creek is indeed getting worse. The 8.5 mile walk on the Suiattle River Road is flat, easy, and fast. It is possible to drive around the washouts but it is dicey and definitely not suitable for larger vehicles unless you want to park in the Suiattle River.
  20. Trip: Two White Boys on a Big White Hill - Cheam Peak - Random NW couloirs Date: 5/24/2008 Trip Report: So.... I was thinking of going and doing an alpine route last weekend but the weather was going to be super hot with frequent avalanches... I ended up going to a youth confrence in Chilliwack instead. I had e-mailed my friend Jared from mission to go climbing last weekend and when the trip was cancelled we postponed the trip to this Saturday ... our plan was to climb up to the NW bowl of CHeam peak and then hike low angled snowslopes to the toe of the West Ridge to gain the summit. He picked me up at 6:00 at my house and we drove over to the pulloff from the highway where we were to begin our ascent.. We hiked up the creek draining the NW bowl and then moved into the trees to avaid some huge cliffs in the gulley, It was a major slog but we eventually dropped bak into the gulley (now filled with snow) to gear up and hike into the NW bowl... we started up the gulley and just as we were about to get into the NW bowl we got a phonecall.. my other climbing friend Lorne said, "if you look up towards the toe of the west ridge what do you see", and I was like, "holy crap! Its you!" He and his Dad decided to run up to the west ridge earlier to ambush us for no apparent reason.. they didnt go to the peak but they left a cool pattern in the snow for us to look at. We talked and they took off down while we kept climbing up the NW bowl... it was getting hot in the sun and we skirted around the west side of the bowl so we wouldn't get killed by stuff falling on us, it got so hot on the snow that we had to stop and take off our pants and wear just our gore tex shell pants with boxers underneath. We eventually started getting bored of doing the easy snowslope route that Al and Lorne had done so I started looking for an alternative. There were some rock towers above the west side of the bowl and it looked like there was a cool gulley going in between them so we set off to climb this mysterious gulley. We ditched our packs at the base of the gulley and Jared set up a quick belay with my lucky tri-cam and his ice axe. The belays were not really nessecary in the first gulley but we had lots of time and used them anyways, all we had brought was an 8mm, 30m scrambling rope so I led up 30m to a tree sticking out of the snow and belayed Jared up and past me another 30m where he set up a makeshift belay with his ice ax. We stuck to the shady edges of the Couloir where the snow was firmer and less sketchy.. I led up again and set up a belay on a couple crappy bushes and then Me and Jared did some simul-soloing to the top of the first couloir. From the top of the first couloir the slope joined another steeper snowlope going up towards the ridge crest. We switched leads and diagonally ascended the slope for a few more short pitches. Jared's final lead to the crest was quite steep (60 degrees) From there we climbed a cool ridge and up a last short slope (with a vertical buldge of snow) to the toe of the weat ridge... It was getting late and we didnt want to slog all the way to the top so we glissaded and plunge stepped down easier angled slopes back to our packs and then hiked all the way down the trees and creek back to the car at the Highway. Overall the route was super fun with plenty of excitement but not at all scary... there was no gear on any pitches, we climbed from belay to belay. Approach Creek Old Snow Bridge Cliffs in gulley Almost in the NW bowl Our route starts in between those rock towers Slogging it out in the Bowl Crap bush belay Starting second snowslope, above the couloir Jared Leading on the second snowslope Heading up more steep snow, Yes Im wearing aviators Looking down the second snowfield Red Pyramid Me leading a super fun section Jared on a steep section Final Ridge Posing at the top of our climb Big Cheam Packing up Snow Pattern Descending Gear Notes: A few slings for tree belays, light rope, ice axe, crampons not nessecarry... aviator sunglasses and my lucky tri cam are a must! Approach Notes: Up drainage to big cliffs, up forest to bowl... up snow to couloir.
  21. Trip: Mt Rainier - Fuhrer Thumb + Survival Date: 5/6/2008 Trip Report: May 4-6, 2008, Mt Rainier, Fuhrer Thumb + Survival Summary: The Fuhrer Thumb is a beautiful ski line. But summit fever can get you in deadly serious trouble in the blink of an eye. Whiteouts and high winds at 14000 feet can suddenly leave you in a desperate survival situation. Steam caves in the crater are disgustingly humid, but better than freezing to death out in the open. And sometimes you are lucky enough to survive your stupidity, maybe even learn from your mistakes, and live to ski another day. I hope that by sharing this story, I can help myself digest one of the most powerful experiences of my life, and also give others some insight about what to do and what to avoid in a dire survival situation atop a big mountain. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Fuhrer Thumb and Finger area, with our ascent route in blue. Zoomed view with a better angle of the Fuhrer Thumb. Details: We set off to ski the Fuhrer Thumb on the south side of Mount Rainier, a nicely steep couloir of 40-45 degrees, narrower but with a more sustained fall-line than its better-known neighbor the Fuhrer Finger. The forecast called for mostly sunny skies and 7500-8000 ft freezing levels on both Sunday and Monday, so we planned a one-day push overnight with light packs. We registered just before the Jackson Visitor Center closed at 6pm on Sunday May 4, with the park rangers remarking at our lack of gear, but trusting that with 40 Rainier summits between the two of us, we knew what we were doing. We started skinning uphill at 9pm, hoping to summit (9000+ ft of gain) in about 12 hours + nap breaks. We ascended the Nisqually on skis to about 7600 ft and eventually switched to booting with crampons as the slopes steepened and became hard-frozen near the Wilson Glacier. Routefinding through the one major crevassed area was complicated somewhat by the new moon and near-total darkness, but this area is easily avoided by heading up a gentler ramp to its right (if you can see). Yet the dark night sky was also brilliant with stars, and punctuated several times by the brief blazes of meteors. We reached the foot of the Thumb at 10200 ft at 3am and took a lengthy sitting nap break under a rock overhang, at the base of a steep cliff on the couloir's right side, just a few feet from the small bergschrund marking the head of Wilson Glacier. Starting up the Fuhrer Thumb just above our nap spot, with the Wilson Glacier bergschrund just to the left. Steep views down the Thumb, with Mt St Helens in the distance. We awoke at dawn to find unexpectedly gray skies and thick high clouds, but despite the weather concerns we eventually started up the steep slopes of the Thumb at 6am. Snow conditions were a mix of nice supportive crust perfect for cramponing and arduous breakable crust, causing postholes up to a foot deep. We each climbed using Whippets on our ski poles (two for me, one for my partner), and the single ice axe we'd each brought stayed on our packs throughout the climb. Above the top of the Thumb (11400 ft), we continued directly up the eastern edge of Wapowety Cleaver, avoiding the eastward traverse onto the Nisqually Glacier which looks quite broken up around 12000 ft, with crevasse navigation issues likely. The downside of choosing the crevasse-free Wapowety is that there are several sections of steep 50-55 degree sidehill snow slopes from 12200-12500 ft, which are arduous and exposed in spots, perched above rocky cliffs with a long drop down onto the Nisqually. In the midst of these steep sections the weather worsened around 9am, with light snowfall, gusty winds, and a large lenticular cloud enveloping the entire summit plateau. We took another break on a small flat spot near 12300 ft, which turned into a long nap for my ski partner after we debated whether to just pull the plug and ski down. We decided to at least wait a bit and see, and the weather did improve within a couple of hours, brightening to mostly sunny skies and much lighter winds with only wispy fragments of the lenticular remaining. I fired up the Jetboil to make about 2.5 liters of water, easily enough to see us through to the top. So at noon we headed upward once more, hoping to polish off the last 1900 vertical to reach 14158 ft Point Success, the second highest of Rainier's three 14000 ft peaks, in a couple of hours. Map of routes: Gray: Our ascent route; the switchbacks on the Nisqually are very approximate in location and number. Red: My initial ski route and subsequent reascent to the crater rim (also approximate). Green: Travels around the crater rim the next morning. Blue: My ski descent from the rim to rejoin the ascent route, the rest of the ski descent followed the ascent route. The next 200 vert above our nap spot were the steepest of the entire route, and we split the exhausting post-holing duties, diagonaling up the sun-softened slopes. Atop the flat summit of Wapowety Cleaver at 13000 ft, we took another break to switch back to skins, since the slopes above were not very steep and it looked to be no problem to skin all the way to Point Success. We zigzagged left and right through a field of large crevasses, but by 13400 ft the powdery snow atop a firm crust on the upper Nisqually Glacier was making skinning difficult for my partner. She switched to booting on foot and headed more directly towards Point Success, while I continued skinning a switchbacking track with ski crampons providing occasional support. My last glimpse of her was just after 2pm, as I headed out of sight around a minor rib on a long rightward switchback. The weather remained mostly sunny with light winds as I made the final leftward switchback, and I snapped a photo of Point Success from about 200 yards away along the ridge at 2:40pm. Hard work ascending the steepest part of the route on Wapowety Cleaver. The last bit of ridge to Point Success, still mostly sunny at 2:40pm. Six minutes later, I stood atop the peak in a sudden whiteout and strong gusty winds. The temperature was 14 F, winds 30+ mph from the west, and my altimeter read 14220 (+62 error). There was nowhere to hide from the elements atop the narrow summit crest, so I stood with my back to the wind and waited. And waited. Occasionally shapes which looked like human form, complete with skis on pack, appeared through the mist along the ridge to the east, and I yelled my partner's name each time, but in vain as all turned out to be illusions in the drifting fog. Wind-driven rime was rapidly coating my pack and clothing, so I switched over to ski mode and skied back down my skin track after about 20 minutes atop the peak. I assumed my ski partner must have turned around when the winds and whiteout hit, and I thought that I'd be able to ski down and cross paths with her soon. Little did I know that my friend would arrive only minutes later atop the ridge to find my skin track leading to an empty summit, and a partner who had abandoned her. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Things got much worse from here. My skin track down the ridge was rapidly filling with wind-driven snow, and following it down became impossible, as visibility for snow features was less than 10 ft. I navigated by altimeter and dead-reckoning, trying to hold a 14060+ contour (including a mental correction for altimeter error) which would put me at the saddle separating Point Success from the summit craters, and from which I could easily ski down the fall line to intersect my ascent route. Unfortunately, I made a nearly-catastrophic navigational error. I held a contour just a bit too low, probably only 20 vertical feet low, but that's hundreds of feet of horizontal error in the flat featureless vicinity of the saddle. The distance I had skied was hard to gauge in the whiteout and strong tailwind pushing me along. I suddenly halted as a dark black feature appeared about 50 feet to my right. What?!? I realized that I must have overshot the saddle and was now on the uppermost Tahoma Glacier, standing just below a gaping bergschrund. The sudden fear and panic of being lost in an unknown field of crevasses in a whiteout was gripping me. I pulled my seldom-used compass out of the bottom of my pack, turned 180, and began following my track back away from the crevasses. It was painfully ironic to know that my two GPS units were sitting warm and dry at home while I was lost and freezing in a whiteout at 14000 ft. At least I had a nice waterproof topo map of the summit region, and could attempt to navigate by compass. I eventually found the 14000+ ft saddle (or is it really closer to 14040 ft?), an extremely windswept spot marked by numerous exposed rocks. The west wind was now about 40-50 mph, and I spotted a small snow-cave like shelter, about the volume of an office desk. I considered crawling inside for relief from the wind, but nearly an hour had already passed since I left Point Success. I decided it would be best to simply ski across the saddle and try to descend the Nisqually to reach our ascent track, and hopefully reunite with my ski partner. I thought the winds might ease on the opposite side of the saddle, but they didn't. I continued downhill to about 13900 ft, pushed from behind by the relentless wind as I held a wide snowplow stance to maintain walking speed, and unable to see much beyond my ski tips. The fear of plunging into a gaping crevasse, the same ones I had switchbacked around during the ascent, was overpowering me. I stopped and sat down. I knew that I was in very serious trouble, and for the first time in my life, realized that I might actually freeze to death, my life thrown away uselessly, lost in a featureless plain surrounded by crevasses which I could not see. There had to be a way out, I couldn't die here. I pulled out my cell phone, thankfully warm in an inside pocket and switched off to preserve its battery, and discovered upon turning it on that I had 2-3 bars of signal. I tried the MRNP number at 4:15pm, but couldn't connect. Next, 911, and it went through! Such a relief. I explained my location and predicament in great detail, several times to make sure that elevation and position had been recorded correctly, and the operator told me to stay put and that Mt Rainier National Park would call me back. Then nothing for a while, so I called my ski partner's phone, connecting to her voicemail after 3 attempts and leaving a detailed message with my location, apologizing for my foolish summit fever which had put us in this situation, and wishing that she was doing well. I then saw that I had new voicemail, and discovered a message: "Amar, this is David Gottlieb, climbing ranger at Mount Rainier. My number is 360-569-2211 x6028. Get back to us. Talk to you soon. OK, bye." I had met David a couple of times at high camps, and even remembered talking with him in July 1999 at Camp Schurman about the various routes he had skied. At least the rangers knew about my dire predicament, including the detailed location info I had given 911 (or so I thought at the time: it turns out they did not get the 911 recording, and the only info they got from 911 was that I was at "15000 ft on Mount Rainier". Ridiculous.) Over the next day, I would make a total of 49 cell phone call attempts, including 30+ to MRNP, several to voicemail, and several to another friend hoping that he could contact the park. Of that, only these 3 successfully connected, all between 4:15 and 4:30pm on May 5. By turning the phone off between each set of 3-4 call attempts and keeping it warm with body heat, I still had about 2/3 battery life remaining afterwards. I thought about my ski partner a lot, probably caught just like me somewhere out in the storm. The decisions we had made beforehand about gear and going lightweight, the way we had pushed each other onward and upward when either of us had lagged, and my final overwhelming push and desire to summit, even when it was clear that she was much more tired than me and just wanted to turn around and ski back down. She's the best and most inspiring ski partner I've ever met, and I knew that I had let her down. But the immediate issue was hypothermia, and worse, severe frostbite or actually freezing to death. I'm not very tolerant of cold at all, with poor circulation in the extremities, and I doubted that I could survive an exposed bivy with minimal gear at 13900 ft, in 40-50 mph winds with temperatures dropping below 10F overnight. My clothing consisted of top/bottom lightweight Capilene long underwear, soft-shell pants (REI Acme), and microfleece top (TNF Aurora). Insulation included a thick fleece vest, a newly-bought hooded puffy (Montbell Thermawrap Parka), and my super-warm Feathered Friends Volant down jacket with hood (still inside my pack). Shells consisted of Arc'teryx Theta SK bib pants and an Arc'teryx Alpha LT jacket. And thankfully, I did have lots of gloves and hats: 2 fleece hats, a fleece helmet liner, a thin balaclava, OR Alti Mitts (heavily insulated and waterproof, with insulated liner), OR Couloir ski gloves (insulated waterproof), OR Omni gloves, and 2 pairs of OR PL 100 liner gloves. A lot of clothing for sure, but not enough for me to survive overnight in that situation unless I kept moving or found shelter from the wind. There were only two options: descend the climbing route as best I could and hope to drop below the whiteout before falling in a crevasse, or climb back up to the crater rim and try to find a steam cave to bivy inside of. I tried option 1, trying at first to slowly ski down but realizing that I would have to switch to cramponing on foot. This would reduce the risk of skiing into a gaping crevasse, but greatly increase the risk of plunging into a hidden one. Around 13800 ft, I decided to turn around and climb back up, 400+ vertical to the rim. I headed due north, hoping to reach the Nisqually bergschrund, and then traverse rightward along it to a safe-enough crossing, providing access to the crater rim. I reached the schrund at 5:30, a huge opening about 20-30 ft high, with enough room for many to camp inside, but the wind was whipping through its length and powdery snow was flying everywhere. So traverse along it I did, and as expected it narrowed farther eastward, eventually becoming only a foot or two wide with numerous snow bridges across it. I crawled across one of them, and I could see exposed rocks just beyond. At least I was now safe, but it was time to get warm and fast. The bergschrund at the head of the Nisqually Glacier. I reached the crater rim around 6:20pm, a bit over 14200 ft, and immediately found an entrance leading to a large steam cave. I descended 15 ft into a first chamber, large but barely tall enough to stand up in, and then slithered and crawled through 3-4 ft high passages another 20 feet down, reaching an excellent large chamber with several hot fumaroles along one side and a steep passage angling directly back up to the surface about 30 ft above, providing a welcome glimpse of daylight without letting too much weather inside. Definitely home for the night, and maybe much longer if the weather did not improve. I went back to the surface to retrieve my gear and planted my skis in an X outside the entrance, hoping that any climbing parties that might reach the rim the next morning would see it. The steam cave just inside the crater rim, looking down the first entrance. The interior of the upper part of the steam cave. I set up the Jetboil to melt snow for water, but within seconds I had tipped it over, dousing its flame completely and unable to relight it due to all the snow packed into the burner. This was a potential disaster: without a way to make liquid water, I would probably get hypothermia if I kept eating snow even within the relatively warm (almost freezing) steam cave. But then an idea: I filled the Jetboil cup with snow, put the lid on, and sat it against the hottest nearby fumarole. This one sounded like a camping stove, hissing out a powerful jet of steam and gas which was intolerably hot to the touch and thankfully nearly odorless. I suspected its temperature was close to the boiling point of water, about 185 F at 14000 ft. I knew that volcanic gases typically include H2O, CO2 (carbon dioxide), SO2 (sulfur dioxide), CO (carbon monoxide), and H2S (hydrogen sulfide). The latter three are all poisonous, with CO being odorless and thus quite insidious, SO2 having a noticeable pungent smell, and H2S with a noxious rotten eggs smell, so prevalent on other Cascade volcanoes such as Mt Baker and Mt Hood. I knew that this fumarole had almost none of the stinky sulfurous gases, and hoped that any CO would be minimal to avoid any effects of carbon monoxide poisoning. Within a few minutes, the snow had melted in the Jetboil cup, and 15-20 minutes produced half-liter quantities of water as hot as tea. I was stoked: As miserably wet and humid as the cave was, I had found a source of both unlimited warmth and unlimited hot water at the summit of Mount Rainier. I knew I could survive for days if necessary with no fear of either hypothermia or dehydration. But food was another story: a quick inventory revealed only 1 pack of 4 Nutter Butter cookies (250 cal), 1 pack M&Ms peanut (250 cal), 1 pack M&Ms plain (240 cal), 1 Chewy Dipps granola bar (140 cal), 1 Chewy granola bar (100 cal), and 1 Kudos bar (100 cal) = 1080 calories. I decided not to eat any of it that night, saving it all for the next day. Although I knew I needed food, especially after the exertion of climbing nearly 10000 vertical feet in the past 21 hours, for some reason I was just not very hungry. Also, I realized with relief that I felt no discernible effects from the altitude. I've always felt so lucky that I handle altitude better than most people, and in numerous previous trips from sea level to 14000+ feet in under 24 hours, I had never once experienced any altitude-related illness. I'm very fortunate in that regard, and the majority of people would experience some symptoms of AMS for sure under a forced bivy at 14000 ft less than a day after leaving sea level, with HAPE or HACE a real possibility for a smaller fraction. So darkness came and I cuddled up next to the fumarole, still always brewing another batch of hot water in the Jetboil cup and making sure to drink plenty. I tried turning my headlamp off at first, but realized that I needed the small comfort of being able to see around me in such an alien environment and so I kept it on most of the rest of the night. LED headlamps are great, I knew I had dozens of hours of battery life remaining. My clothes were already soaked, as the rate of condensation on any exposed surface was the most rapid I've ever seen. Any object would be dripping wet within a minute or less. Nevertheless, being hot and damp was much better than cold and damp, and so I kept rotating various sides of my body close to the fumarole, using my crampon bag as a deflector to reduce or re-aim the stream of hot gases in a needed direction. When my feet got cold inside my ski boots, I could just place them directly atop the fumarole and they'd be back warm within 10-15 minutes. I was wearing all my clothes except the down jacket, which I tried to carefully preserve inside its Sil-Nylon stuffsack within my pack. The down would be useless within the steam cave environment, rapidly turning into a heavy sodden mess, but it might be essential to my survival the next day outside on the mountain and so I had to keep it dry. Despite the heat from the fumarole, I shivered constantly through most of the night, with relief usually only for a few minutes after drinking a cup of hot water. My hands stayed nicely warm and dry for several hours inside the insulated waterproof Alti Mitts, but eventually they soaked through too and my fingers soon looked like prunes. My soaking wet fingers the next morning. I slept fitfully, mostly not well at all, and had my longest nap from 4am to 5:30. I awoke on Tuesday May 6 to a shocking surprise: there was daylight visible out through the opening of the cave! Given the forecast for deteriorating weather throughout the week, I could not believe my good luck. With nice weather, I thought that climbers and especially guided parties would certainly be reaching the rim shortly. I planned to ask them for food and for assistance in descending via whatever route they had climbed. I also probably needed some dry clothes, since my sodden garments would quickly freeze into a stiff suit of armor outside in the expected 10 F cold. Looking up the second entrance from home sweet home. It took me forever to get ready, eat some of my food, and prepare to go outside. I shook out my wet outer layers, donned the mercifully still-dry down jacket, and climbed out to the surface just after 7am. Partly sunny, cold but not too cold, and winds light, W 10-15 mph, with visibility past Mt Adams. WOW. The crater rim in the morning. I realized that my cave was about 100 yards west of where the normal climbing routes reach the low point in the crater rim, so it was important to leave a message over there for the climbers who would surely be arriving shortly. So I walked over to the low point, which was marked with 2 wands, and scratched out the words, "Help! 100 yds west", in a smooth patch of snow with my ski pole. I also moved my crossed skis from the original cave entrance to the second entrance, which was closer to the low point. I tried several more cell phone call attempts to MRNP, to no avail. As expected, my outer layers had frozen stiff in the cold air, so I retreated to the steam cave to thaw them out. Looking down into my cave, with the west part of the East Crater rim in the distance. By 9am it was time to head back out again. I thought for sure that climbers must be getting up there already, but in any case I decided that I'd walk around the inside of the crater rim and try to place cell phone calls in each different direction, hoping to get a stronger signal. To avoid the hazard of accidentally falling into thinly snow-covered steam cave entrances, it is best not to walk too close to the inside of the rim, so I walked in arcs passing through the middle of the crater and connecting to points on the east and north rims, and forcefully probed with both ski poles just in case. The floor of the crater was scoured to bare blue glacial ice in many spots, cut in a couple places by thin, 6-12" wide snow-filled cracks that were deeper than I could probe. Each time I reached the rim, still no luck with the cell. By now, I was almost at Columbia Crest, the true 14411 ft summit of Mt Rainier. I walked over to the summit register, located in a steaming area of fumarolic bare ground just below the summit, and thumbed through the old entries. The last entries were from April 17, and before that from autumn of 2007. At 9:50am, I added my own lengthy page, describing what had happened and my worries about my ski partner and about how I would make it down. I climbed up to the Crest, took in the grand views once again, and made several more unsuccessful cell attempts. Columbia Crest, with the West Crater rim beyond. The day was becoming gloriously warm and sunny, with winds dropping to nearly calm and temps rising to near 20 F. Nothing at all like the NWS forecast. My clothes were drying on my body, and I felt really good despite the lack of food and sleep, with no ill effects from the previous day's exertion. So I decided to set myself a deadline: if no climbers or helicopter had appeared by noon, I would simply ski down the upper Nisqually to rejoin our ascent route, and ski the Thumb as originally planned. I hoped that by noon, the snow on the steepest parts of Wapowety Cleaver (50-55 degree SE facing slopes) would be softened enough to hold an edge. If I could get past that crux safely in my probably somewhat weakened condition, the rest of the run down the Thumb and Wilson Glacier would be cake in any snow conditions, even if parts were still breakable crust. At 10:45am, I headed back across the crater to my cave, and carefully repacked all my gear. Everything was disgustingly wet, and much of it covered in a muddy hydrothermally-altered clay which forms the soil within the steam caves. I melted and drank a final liter of water, and planned to eat snow as needed to stay hydrated during the ski descent. If everything went well, I should be able to ski out to Paradise in about 2 hrs, even including the short climb back up to Glacier Vista. 12:10 pm: My pack and gear are all back at the surface, with skis still crossed above the cave entrance. By noon I was back out on the surface with my pack and gear, making final preparations to ski down. But wait - - - I heard a helicopter! And there it was, climbing upwards towards the rim from far below me. It quickly approached and circled around me twice, as I waved a single hand to let them know I was OK. I assumed that it would land in the crater, but then it took off down the mountain, so I thought that maybe the rangers think I'm OK and don't need a ride. Only later would I be told that the chopper had an engine malfunction light of some sort come on, and was forced to descend without me, while MRNP staff scrambled to locate a backup chopper in case it was needed. 12:19 pm: The MRNP rescue helicopter circling around me. So back to peace and silence on the rim. I'd had the summit all to myself for nearly a day, and still no climbers had appeared. As I prepared to click into my bindings, I noticed that the Dynafit fittings on my boots were clogged completely with mud. I used a Leatherman tool to chip the mud out of my boot fittings, which was very difficult since it appeared that the hydrothermally-altered clay had set into something as hard as plaster. Given the steepness of parts of the descent, I could take no chances with the typical Dynafit accidental pre-release bullshit, so I made sure the fittings were super clean and then locked the toes too for good measure. Looking across at Point Success from high on the Nisqually Glacier. (Sorry, bad photo, camera was fogging up.) I skied down the Nisqually Glacier at 12:40pm, a completely surreal feeling given the events of the previous 22 hours. I crossed the bergschrund somewhere near where I had crawled across it the evening before, and quickly located portions of the skin track of our ascent route. The 1-2 inches of new snow during the storm had been heavily windblown, and so only obscured small portions of the track. The ski down to 12500 ft was easy, albeit on an unpleasant mix of crust, windpacked powder, and a few patches of bare glacial ice. Unfortunately, the steepest parts of Wapowety Cleaver had not softened enough, and I was forced to sideslip much of the most exposed parts, using my uphill (right) Whippet as an anchor at times. The steepest step, only about 10 ft high but that had to be 55+ degrees, required sidestepping carefully while anchored with the uphill hand. And then I was safe, or so it seemed. But far below, a marine layer had filled the valleys to well over 8000 ft, and it was thickening. I hoped to avoid another whiteout on the glaciers below. Looking down the vertiginous Fuhrer Thumb, with Wilson Glacier and the marine layer clouds far below. The snow improved greatly below 12000 ft, becoming almost corn-like in spots. In the Fuhrer Thumb, the previous day's breakable crust had solidified enough to hold a skier's weight, and the descent was thoroughly enjoyable on a mix of edgeable crust and proto-corn. Hitting the Wilson Glacier at 10200 ft, I found the nicest snow of the day, fine spring corn on the cruising rolls down to 9000 ft and the edge of the marine layer. This whiteout was as dense as the one on the summit yesterday, but with nearly dead-calm winds and no real problems. I followed footsteps back to the Nisqually, and then the huge cattle-stampede track of a crevasse rescue class back to the moraine and Glacier Vista. Snow conditions were complete mushy glop in the whiteout, but I didn't care one bit. I had made it down off the mountain, alive and well. Corn and ski tracks on the Wilson Glacier. I reached the ski dorm at the edge of the parking lot at 3pm, and a single thoroughly-sodden packet of M&Ms still remained uneaten. I had survived my first major epic, and now I was desperate to make sure my ski partner had, too. To my great relief, there was a note on my car from climbing ranger Thomas Payne, informing me that she was safely off the mountain and that I should contact David Gottlieb at Longmire as soon as I got back. The ski dorm at Paradise. Safe at last. I drove down to Longmire, and went through a lengthy debriefing and interview process with the climbing rangers, a necessary bureaucratic process since an official search-and-rescue mission had been launched. They told me my ski partner had downclimbed the Kautz Glacier from Point Success on foot, in harrowing whiteout conditions down to 12000 ft, and then skied the Turtle back to the Nisqually Glacier and Paradise by 8:15pm the night before, and stayed at the ski dorm overnight. They said I could see her, but only after the interview and timeline of events was complete. As I was finishing my signed statement of events leading to the SAR, she finally walked in and we were both so relieved and overjoyed to see each other again, both safe and sound. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- I'm not sure what will happen to me going forward from now on. It's going to take some time for me to process what happened and decide if I need to make some changes in my mountain travel habits and my degree of acceptable risk. Certainly I think the GPS is going back in my pack, for any trip of significant size. The only other thing that would have helped in the whiteout is being roped up the entire time, which is certainly worth considering for any such trips in the future. And at least I lost some weight during the trip: From the morning of May 3 through this afternoon on May 7, my weight has decreased from 144.4 lbs to 140.0, with body fat decreasing from 14.9% to 12.3%. This equals a loss of 4.3 lbs of body fat, which would supply about 17000 calories, and luckily it appears that I managed not to burn a significant amount of muscle mass. That would have changed for sure had I been forced to spend longer up there with no more food. Thanks to David Gottlieb, Chris Olson, Matt Hendrickson, Joe Franklin, and all the other climbing rangers and staff at MRNP who assisted in the planning and execution of my SAR mission. Although I made it down safely without assistance this time, it was only because of an unexpected lucky break in the weather, and my situation would have otherwise become increasingly desperate had the foul weather continued. And thanks most of all to my trusty ski partner and dear friend, for forgiving me and for still wanting to go skiing with me after this. I'm so glad you got down safely. "Hey dude, where are we skiing tomorrow?" -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- [font:Courier New]MOUNT RAINIER RECREATIONAL FORECAST NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE SEATTLE WA 345 AM PDT SUN MAY 4 2008 SYNOPSIS...AN UPPER LEVEL RIDGE WILL BUILD OVER WESTERN WASHINGTON TODAY. SKIES WILL CLEAR AND THE AIR MASS WILL WARM TODAY. THE RIDGE SHOULD PERSIST INTO MONDAY. ONSHORE FLOW WILL INCREASE MONDAY NIGHT AND TUESDAY AS A WEATHER SYSTEM REACHES THE AREA. AN UPPER LEVEL TROUGH WILL DEVELOP OVER THE REGION MIDWEEK. SUN SUN MON MON TUE NIGHT NIGHT SUMMIT (14411 FT) 11 15 15 14 9 E 9 W 25 W 30 W 28 W 35 CAMP MUIR(10188 FT) 25 27 27 28 20 SE 10 W 14 W 20 W 11 W 25 SUNDAY...MOSTLY SUNNY. FREEZING LEVEL 7500 FEET. SUNDAY NIGHT...PARTLY CLOUDY. FREEZING LEVEL 8500 FEET. MONDAY...MOSTLY SUNNY. FREEZING LEVEL 8000 FEET. MONDAY NIGHT...MOSTLY CLOUDY. FREEZING LEVEL 8000 FEET. TUESDAY...MOSTLY CLOUDY WITH SCATTERED SHOWERS. SNOW LEVEL 5500 FEET. TUESDAY NIGHT...MOSTLY CLOUDY WITH SCATTERED SHOWERS. SNOW LEVEL 4500 FEET. WEDNESDAY AND WEDNESDAY NIGHT...MOSTLY CLOUDY. SCATTERED SNOW SHOWERS AND NUMEROUS SHOWERS. SNOW LEVEL 3500 FEET. THURSDAY AND THURSDAY NIGHT...MOSTLY CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF SHOWERS. SNOW LEVEL 3500 FEET. FRIDAY AND FRIDAY NIGHT...MOSTLY CLOUDY. A CHANCE OF SHOWERS. SNOW LEVEL 5000 FEET. [/font]
  22. Trip: I Love the Desert Date: 4/28/2008 Trip Report: This spring I was fortunate to make a really fun desert Southwest tour with my wife Michelle and a few other friends. We visited Colorado, Utah, Arizona, and Nevada. During the trip I climbed 32 desert towers and a half dozen other routes. First stop was Colorado National Monument. It was pretty cold, but we managed to climb Independence Monument, Otto's Route (III, 5.9). Colorado National Monument, with Independence Monument on the right: A close up: The route was pretty "cool" with snow all over the ledges, But fun none-the-less. Love the history of the route with all the manufactured holds and staircases. You can see one of the staircases in the pic below, and Michelle is grabbing on to an old pipe hole: With temps dipping down to 10-degrees, we decided to head farther south to the Moab area. We did a quick climb of South Six Shooter, South Face (II, 5.8). On South Six Shooter Peak, with North Six Shooter in the distance. It snowed on us, so dreaming of warmer weather we decided to head farther south into Arizona. We had long wanted to climb in the Superstition Mountains outside of Phoenix. The Superstitions. The Hand, the Tower, and the Prong are the first three towers on the lower left. The larger Grandfather Hobgoblin Spire is on the right, but blends in a little with the cliff behind: The rock at the "Supes" is really interesting, some kind of crazy conglomerate. The protection is often sparse, and when there are bolts, well... One of those plant towers: The first day we did a collection of towers on the northwest side of the range. We climbed The Hand (5.6), The Tower (5.8 R), The Pickle (5.4), The Periscope (5.4R), and The Prong (5.6). All of them were unique little climbs and summits. Very cool. The Hand: Here is Michelle at a small belay on The Hand. The 3-pitch route we climbed was called the Razor's Edge and the climbing was on a 3-foot wide, steep ridge crest: The Tower had 25-feet of unprotected, overhanging 5.8 climbing to start the route, then a long and thoughtful 5.7R pitch above that. It felt good to get on top of that sucker. The Pickle was fun - it looks steep and hard from the base but it really is only 5.4. The climbing is on huge cemented together conglomerate rocks. Michelle rapping off the Pickle. The next day we woke up for two more climbs of Grandfather Hobgoblin (III, 5.9), and the really fun North Buttress, Spider Walk (III, 5.6). Here is Grandfather Hobgoblin, the 4-pitch route climbs up to the notch on the left, then right up to the summit: Looking down at Michelle atop the first pitch: View from the summit out towards the suburban sprawl: After rapping down we went directly over to the North Buttress. Spider Walk takes an improbable looking line (for 5.6), meandering up 4 pitches of run-out slabs, with hard to find bolts, then up a chimney/crack system up a very cool feature. Here's a shot of the North Buttress. The route starts on the left side, then works its way up to the chimney near the top: Michelle following the second pitch: At the end of the route, you can scramble up to a high spire that overlooks everything. A final sunset: Next stop was Red Rocks, Nevada. We spent a few days climbing Dark Shadows (5.8), Frogland (III, 5.8), Sour Mash (III, 5.10a), then met with our good friends Chin and Raleigh and climbed Eagle Dance (III, 5.10c A0) and then a twisted variation of The Gobbler and Yellow Brick Road (III, 5.10c) on Black Velvet Wall (this to bypass the cluster on Dream of Wild Turkey's and other routes). Hiking up to Eagle wall: Me leading the second pitch of The Gobbler, with Raleigh belaying: Michelle following Sour Mash: All in all we had a great week in Red Rocks, with splitter weather and pretty moderate crowds. Next stop: Zion. I really love Zion, and this is partly why: We only had a chance to spend two days here. The first day was a bit of a lazy day. We rode up canyon in the shuttle and climbed The Pulpit, Original Route (5.9, C1) - a cool little spire at the end of the road. Here's Michelle following the one and only pitch: Day 2 we climbed the Iron Messiah (III, 5.10) a 10-pitch route on the Spearhead. You gotta love chimneys to like this route: High on the route (see Michelle at bottom of crack and shuttle bus below), the second to the last pitch was a stellar 200-foot corner. It had been a few years since visiting Zion and I was really psyched to climb there again if only for a couple days. Michelle had to head back home and my buddy Jim flew down to meet me for some climbing around Moab. Our first stop was the Bridger Jack Towers in Indian Creek. In two days we climbed Sparkling Touch Tower (5.11-), Thumbelina Tower (5.11), Sunflower Tower, East Face (III, 5.10), Easter Island Tower (5.10), and King of Pain, Vision Quest (III, 5.10+). Shadow of the Bridger Jacks on the desert floor: Jim's picture of me leading Thumbelina, a great single pitch of 5.11, and a cool spire to boot! Jim's picture of me leading the first pitch of Sparkling Touch: The King of Pain. Vision Quest climbs the split between the two towers: Here's Jim in the 5.10 slot on Vision Quest. After this pitch, I won't disagree with the guidebook description calling the route "burly". Jim taking the lead on the last pitch of Sunflower Tower. South and North Sixshooter can be seen in the distance. I was psyched to finally climb on these towers. The ease of access, quality rock and routes, and relaxing atmosphere made for a great couple of days (and a great warm up for Jim!) Next we headed into Canyonlands National Park. We stopped by the ranger station and got a permit to camp down on the White Rim for a couple days, then later that afternoon we climbed Washer Woman, In Search of Suds (III, 5.10+). The route was super-classic just like everyone said it would be. Gotta be one of the most unique looking towers in the desert. Can't wait to see what it looks like when that chock stone falls out! Washer Woman and Monster Tower: Looking down from the last pitch, with Monster Tower behind: Jim's pic of me leading the final summit block: Gotta love that rappel! Next we headed into Monument Basin. Our first objective was the ultra-classic Standing Rock, Kor Route (III, 5.11). You can tell this route gets climbed a ton because there is no loose rock or mud typical of the area to speak of. I can only imagine what it must have been like on the first ascent. Jim's pic of me leading the great roof (way easier than it looks from below): Jim following the second pitch: That afternoon we climbed the Shark’s Fin, Fetish Arête (III, 5.10c R). This route doesn't seem to get as much traffic and one gets a taste for some more authentic Monument Basin climbing. This picture was taken from Island in the Sky. The route follows the lower angled right side for 5 fun pitches: Jim's pic of me starting up the first pitch: I thought the 1st and 3rd pitches were more R rated than the 5.10b R second pitch according to the guidebooks. Jim rappelling off of Shark's Fin - awesome rock striations: ....continued...
  23. Hi CC-ers, Could you please visit our site when you have moment? This expedition site is the proof that you can achive a lot even on the intermediate route as WB. If you are genious like our exp leader... He did something for all of us, we couldn't even imagine at our first coffee meeting several months ago. http://cleanenergydenali08.com/ Zoran
  24. Trip: Mt. Goode - Megalodon Ridge ( IV+ 5.10- ) Date: 9/6/2007 Trip Report: Last Wednesday, my friend Sol Wertkin and I headed out to the North Cascades National Park on an attempt to stretch a little more summer into what was rapidly becoming fall. The intended destination was a climb of the complete East Ridge of Mt. Goode. After seeing photos and encountering the ridge last month, I knew it would be a "big fish to fry" hence Sol coined it the " Megalodon Ridge" in honor of the biggest and scariest fish to ever swim the seas. The ridge runs from L->R across the skyline. On the first day we approached the base of the technical climbing and had a perfect bivy on the ridgeline before it steepened up. A few drops of rain fell on us, but by morning it looked as though things might clear up. After crossing some icy snow in the morning, we started up the ridge, with the summit often lurking in distant clouds. Dan Hilden and I had climbed this first part on a traverse a few weeks ago, but bailed off due to 40lb packs, and very little climbing gear. We made one 50m rappel and began swapping leads along the crest. The position was amazing, with alpine lakes below us, and the sun coming out just when we needed it. The rock wass often pretty good along the crest, with memorable highlights including a 5.8 finger crack and another overhang corner of the same grade. Soon the steep wall of the SE peak began to loom closer ahead of us. Sol fired off the first headwall pitch, which ended up being a splitter 5.10- hand crack to a nice belay ledge. I got the next pitch which started up a perfect corner before stepping left and doing some delicate stemming to the top. A bit of scrambling brought us to the last pitch on the SE peak, which Sol lead through with scanty protection. "No life Guard on Duty" here... From the SE Peak we skirted the steep glacial ice by climbing through the moat. Ross and Sky skied from near here ~5,000' down to Bridge Creek a couple years ago, that just blows me away. Some steep solid rock and an au-cheval crest led us up to the final pinnacle before Black Tooth Notch. We had joked around for much of the climb about all the potential shark-themed names, which was fitting as our crux involved this pitch climbing down into Black-Tooth Notch. I belayed Sol down and across the wall to the notch, with several thousand feet of exposure to bridge creek below his feet. He protected this lead perfectly and memorized nearly every move so as to feed me beta as I seconded the traversy downclimb. It ended up being overhanging 5.10 climbing, but it brought us back "on the map" and past all major obstacles. From there we did one long running belay to the summit. It was late and we were tired, so we did some quick construction and settled in for a night on the highest point in the National Park. An amazing sunset and meteor shower had us in awe all night. The next morning's chilly sunrise was a nice sight as well... As Sol says "Livin' the dream, life is Good(e)" Yesterday we made the 5,000' descent down the south side of the mountain to Park Creek and were thankful for the cool fall breeze on our 19-mile hike back to the car. There was also a forest fire that provided some temporary entertainment. This was a really fun trip with a great partner. The summit bivy spot is (obviously) highly recomended by us both. The register which was there last summer is gone now though... Gear Notes: Standard climbing rack. Should have included goldfish crackers to complete the fish theme. Approach Notes: Up N.Fork of bridge creek for 2 miles, turn left and cross the creek through open clearings when the ridge is obvious.
  25. Trip: Denali - Denali Diamond Date: 6/19/2007 Trip Report: At Colin's and others' request, I'm posting as a trip report an email I already sent out to friends, with a few additional photos added. Enjoy. -MW We flew to Kahiltna base camp on June 2nd and over the next several days ascended the west buttress of Denali to the 14,300 foot basin. We arrived here with 3 days of food. We would leave 10 days later with at least 4 times that amount. On our 9th day on the mountain, we went from 14 to the summit on a nice day… joined by over 100 other folks who had camped up at 17,000'! Here's the fixed lines two days earlier: Although it was a surreal experience, it was actually the first time I had ever summitted Denali by this route, and I have to say I enjoyed it plenty despite the crowds. As always, Colin enjoyed himself too: Two days later, Colin joined the extreme ski team and climbed the upper West Rib to the summit and skied the Orient Express in his mountaineering boots and miniature skis, while I gave an exertion cough I had developed some opportunity to recover. In ensuing days, the ski team went on to ski the Messner, Rescue, Orient, and numerous other steep chutes on both the north and south peaks of the mountain, taking advantage of some of the best ski conditions in many years on these features. A stretch of mostly good weather during this week also allowed our friends John (Jedi) and Evan to climb the Cassin Ridge in 3 days after they took a chance on an ambiguous forecast that yielded bomber high mountain weather. Their successes were contagious and fired us up. On the evening of the 16th, we descended to our "basecamp" at 7,800' at the junction of the northeast fork, and the following evening left this camp for our planned route: the Denali Diamond, a 3500' granite wall left of the Cassin Ridge. The route then continues up an additional 4500 feet of steep snow terrain alongside, then on, the upper Cassin Ridge. We made rapid progress up the northeast fork despite unfrozen snow conditions and reached the bivouac crevasse at the foot of the Cassin Ridge in 5 ½ hours from 7,800'. We spent the day resting as light snow fell and visibility remained limited, but a forecast for 2, possibly 3 days of sunny skies and high pressure kept us optimistic. At midnight that night, the clouds evaporated and we began climbing. We simul climbed a half dozen easy pitches of snow and ice to where the wall steepened. I then led several easy to moderate mixed pitches with some simul climbing. The route unfolded beautifully, with astounding rock quality and well iced chimneys and grooves that provided continuously stellar climbing. Colin led a block of pitches up some wonderful mixed terrain that brought us to the "Diamond", an enormous block that dominates the wall. I then led a very steep squeeze chimney filled with ice, followed by a difficult mixed pitch. Soon we found ourselves entering the final crux corner system that leads to the snowfields hanging above. Colin led two very steep waterfall pitches (5+) which held sustained and continuous 90 degree sections. I thought these quite reminiscent in terms of difficulty and quality to the "Shaft" on the Moonflower of Mt. Hunter. The first of these leaned left and actually overhung in places, requiring some delicate and technical stemming: The second pitch began with a short but technical M6 mixed step, followed by relentlessly vertical but excellent ice. As with everything we had climbed to this point, the protection and rock quality was absolutely superb, allowing us to focus entirely on the climbing, and maximizing our enjoyment. A short ramble above the second step led us to the infamous crux pitch. To the right, the FA party's notorious 25 foot, A3 roof loomed. This looked very intimidating. Just left of this was an even worse looking chimney (unclimbed): Just a bit further to the left, the main corner continued above as a 40 meter, vertical, inside corner, with no ice. This pitch, climbed by the 2nd and 3rd ascent parties, had never been freed, but was estimated at M7. The plentiful cracks assured us that it would go one way or another, but at this point in the day (15 hours) our primary goal was simply getting the rope up there. We brewed up some water as the afternoon sun began to blaze upon us- our timing was working out as hoped, climbing the hardest part in the warm sun. Colin started up and the climbing proved quite hard. After 20 meters of mixed free and aid, he belayed, to recover some pieces that would be needed above. I belayed from a fully hanging stance while Colin worked out more mixed free and aid climbing to another belay 30 meters higher. Following with both packs was a major pumpfest. Above, instead of the easy terrain we were now hoping for, we were treated to 2 more pitches of M5-ish climbing in icy, awkward chimneys, before we abruptly exited into the massive snowfield paralleling the upper Cassin Ridge, at about 16,000'. It was 9 PM, hour 21 since leaving the base. Although the Alaska Range was surrounded on all sides by enormous thunderheads, the weather up here was beautiful and windless, a perfect day to be on this huge face. Finding only hard ice and thin snowcover, we were forced to climb another 600 feet to find snow deep enough to obtain a tent ledge without having to chop into ice. Both of us were now very dehydrated and therefore pretty much knackered; as such, this last section of "easy" climbing was, for me at least, the mental crux of the whole climb, and I had to dig deep. Once settled in the tent we could begin repairing the deficit we'd put ourselves in, brewing up much water and eating a good meal. We then slept soundly in Colin's custom 2 person sleeping bag; between this bag and the BD firstlight tent, our bivi setup weighed almost nothing yet allowed us enough comfort to get a good rest. Day 2 was bright and sunny, so we slept in and did not begin climbing until 2 PM. This day was like a whole different climb: all snow climbing, and at altitude. We broke trail in variable snow conditions for over 3 hours before finally joining the Cassin around 17,500'. Anticipating a cold, late evening summit, we stopped at 19,000' to brew up in the evening sun and prevent a repeat of the previous day's dehydration. Smoke from lightning caused fires began to infiltrate the mountains, but otherwise it was relatively warm and beautiful. At 9:45 PM we stood alone on the summit in a cold stiff wind, happy it was now all downhill from here. Our time on the 8000 foot face was 45 hrs, 40 minutes, and this was the route's 5th ascent. At just after midnight we reached the tent and food we'd left behind at 14,000 on the west buttress. The weather shut down the following afternoon. I love it when the timing is this perfect. We remained on the mountain for another week: me at Kahiltna basecamp with Lisa, Colin at 14,000 in hopes of some further climbing; but, the weather would not allow it. On the positive side, with the right connections, Mountain High Pizza Pie delivers to basecamp in 90 minutes or less: Gear Notes: Standard alpine rack to 3", 6 screws (mostly 13's), handful of pins of all types, lots of slings, a light pack, and a good weather forecast. Approach Notes: The Northeast fork of the Kahiltna is always a heads-up experience, but don't let rangers or British climbers tell you it's near-impossible. Go look for yourself, move fast, and use common sense.
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