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[TR] The Pickets - Himmelgeisterhorn - Wild Hair Crack 08/25/2017

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Trip: The Pickets - Himmelgeisterhorn - Wild Hair Crack

Trip Date: 08/25/2017

Trip Report:

 

Well, it would seem that I completely missed larch season this year as we were gone yanking on tufas in Greece and now ski season seems to be well on its way.  It was another fine year of climbing, the hustle was put on in the spring to tie up some loose ends on larger Cascadian objectives which was immediately followed by a great deal of Mountain Loop cragging in Darrington and a lot of heavy packing and choss chucking to bolt a new route up by Mile High Club.  Amongst all of that I did accomplish a long standing goal in the Pickets with my good buddy Imran, a tick of the Wild Hair Crack on Himmelgeisterhorn.

Wild Hair Crack is a route that was established by Silas Wild, John Roper, and Russ Kroeker in 1981.  For all the information you really need to know about the route and the hilarious story of it's conception go to John Roper's site Rhino Climbs.  There's a lot of other great info there too if you look around a bit.

Years ago, on a short and brutal traverse of the Pickets from the Chopping Block to Luna with the Running Dog we briefly stood in the notch of Otto-Himmel Col and gazed up slack jawed at the crack, knowing that we knew what it was but not being able to summon the name.  Regardless, we figured we should probably come back and climb it and headed off down the Mustard Glacier to Frenzelspitz Camp where we immediately got smacked by a standard Picket thunderstorm on an otherwise bluebird day.  A few years of shameless peakbagging had gone by since then as well as other trips into the Pickets but I had not yet focused up to get back to that beautiful piece of rock.

Imran and I set a date early this year, weather window permitting and waited for the weekend to arrive.  We've done so many trips together at this point that communication went as it often does these days, we knew which guy was in charge of what and which version he decided to show up with was completely up to him.  Park and Ride time was decided upon and the supply of whiskey was double checked, the weather was looking bomber.  Northgate, Arlington, Darrington, Marblemount, and Newhalem all in a row, we snapped pics of guidebook photos and headed up the trail just about 8AM.  We made our way down into Crescent Creek Basin past the Chopping Block a little after noon passing one tent at the divide.  The clouds had lifted as we made our way across the Barrier and now we suffered the sunny choss as we contoured around Crescent Creek and climbed up below Terror, making our camp at the obscenely beautiful promontory at 6300'.  We gutted our packs, piled rocks over the important stuff and took advantage of our lightened feet by scrambling up the West Ridge of Terror, tagging the summit right at 5PM.  Back at camp we rolled cigarettes, set up the tent and sipped Laphroaig telling jokes and watching the sunset.

The next morning we dropped a little elevation right out of camp and then contoured old terminal moraines towards the hidden couloir that leads to Otto-Himmel Col.  Last time I had been through here it was early season and we had just strolled to the top, this time it was a whole different animal.  We predominantly stayed in the moat on the left stemming between ice and rock until being forced through a portal in the snow to the right side.  Below the huge chockstone we scrambled up the rock on the left side and then back across smallish ledges right until back in the gulley above the chock.  A few more feet of vert brought us to the Col and a bit of a breeze so we added some layers and got our gear on.  I started up the righthand of the two large cracks and climbed for a ways until it appeared as though the rock might be of better quality over in the left crack.  Imran was shouting at me to stay in the right side but I figured I'd go check out the other one at about half pitch.  I liked what I saw so I continued up, I suppose following the right side is what is shown in Red Fred but both variations were climbed in the process of seeking the first ascent by Silas, Roper and Kroeker so I figured I'd split the difference on the first pitch.  Both lines will take you to the base of the next pitch in a little alcove/cave below the offwidth chimney.  If memory serves me there was a small slung chockstone here with what must have been some tasty cordage that a varmint had chewed through as well as some other old webbing that was in slightly better shape.  I threw in a cam as backup and made an anchor to bring Imran up.  Once he arrived all smiles as usual I set about getting my nerve up for the next lead.  It looked big, slightly overhanging, and I could not see anywhere that took gear less than eight inches; 5.7?  I'll bite.  Up I went, the holds were...amazing!  All the stances, everything was like a dream.  I almost forgot about placing gear, which wouldn't have mattered anyways because unless you have a Big Bro or a length of 2X4 it doesn't matter until you are at least 20' out.  The first placement is a small cam in a horizontal crack to the right of the crack, the next, about 5' higher is a bomber #1 or #2.  The angle eases off after this and the pitch rambles up a ways nearing the ridge.  Instead of heading over the ridge to the left we opted to continue up towards the subpoint angling slightly right to a weakness and chocked chimney just below the subpoint.  I belayed Imran up while sitting on the chockstone and we unroped for the next bit of 3rd and 4th class terrain up and over the subpoint and across the ridge towards the true summit.  There is a nice flat col before the final pitch up to the summit and we threw our packs down here and put the rope back on for safety sake.  I placed a 0.5 or 0.75 in a feature to protect a bit of exposure but that was it.  We had reached the top of the "Horn of the Sky Spirit" and the horizon was smoke free, giving us views for days.  The summit is pretty small, we looked around for a summit register but could not locate one despite Jason and Tim reporting on it during their FA of Stonehenge.

We hung out up there for quite a while but eventually decided we were hungry and we needed to figure out how to get down.  We knew we didn't want to rappel the lower three pitches of the Wild Hair due to a lack of anchors for our single 70M rope (FA was with twin 50M ropes) and we didn't want to end up too far down the N face and have to come back up the Mustard Glacier.  We had spotted a pretty nice looking anchor backed up with a nut and some fresh looking webbing just below the subpoint on the north aspect so we figured we'd start there.  I ran the rope through, tied knots and chucked each half into the unknown.  Looking down the face everything looked pretty ledgey but also decked out with areas of obviously loose rock so I exercised considerable caution keeping the rope free of debris.  At about 25M I came upon a double piton anchor joined together with some old webbing but decided to try and angle off back towards a large boulder out right (skier's left), suspecting a possible anchor in that vicinity.  I came up on the knots right as I touched on a ledge above the boulder, I unweighted the rope removed it from my belay device and scrambled around the boulder to find a nice looking rap anchor.  Imran came down and we set the next rap angling hard back over the ridge towards Otto-Himmel Col.  We found another anchor over the ridge and were able to rap into a small depression almost at level with the col with a slight ledge leading back to the col, I believe this is the depression and ledge described in the N. Face route description.  Stoked to have made it back down on our single 70 with relative ease we rapped down past the chockstone and continued to rap most of the gulley on old suspect singlepoint anchors composed around sketchy rock or attached to jiggly pitons in jiggly rock.  Eventually we emerged back in Crescent Creek Basin and rambled back to camp encountering a rather large and healthy set of mountain goats along the way.

Somewhat begrudgingly we packed up camp and made our way back across the hot red choss to the Chopping Block where we set up camp for the night and encountered a curious Stoat for a split second before it went back to hunting down Pikas and other alpine morsels.  Sunset was amazing in all directions and the nice view of Teebone Ridge had Fallen Angel stuck in my head for the rest of the trip but thanks to 4G service at the ridge I was able to scratch the media itch.  In the morning we climbed the NE ridge of the Chopping Block staying generally on route but adding in a few short harder sections at the bottom and top for fun.  Rapping this route with a single 70 is a bit of a rope stretcher and requires attention to detail.  Finally, we packed up for good and headed down the Barrier gorging ourselves on blueberries the whole way back to Terror Creek.  Another trip in the Pickets with a head full of ideas for the next time.

I had the good fortune to talk to all the members of the first ascent team at this years Bulger Party and I think they got a kick out of the kids taking such pleasure in their route, it is a real gem!  Thanks to Silas, Russ, and Roper for putting up the line!  Okay, Pictures!

 

Coming up the Barrier with clearing skies

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Crescent Creek choss heat.

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Terror!  With Luna in the background.

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Camp life.

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Sunset from camp.

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Highly recommended accommodations at ca. 6300'

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Himmelgeisterhorn

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Starting up the right crack, the chimney of P2 can be seen above the left crack near the top of the rock in the picture.

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Imran climbing towards the top of P1, minimal gear was placed on ascent but lots of opportunities existed.

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Last Pitch

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Sky Spirit!

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Taking the ledge back to Otto-Himmel Col

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Super Crack!

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Late season gulley shenanigans.

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Sunset from Chopping Block camp.

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NE Ridge of the Chopping Block

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Picket Stoke!

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Gear Notes:
Single rack of cams #00-#2, medium nuts, long runners, 70M rope, crampons, ice axe, whisky

Approach Notes:
Terror Creek to the Barrier to Crescent Creek Basin
  • Thanks 3

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The beta is much appreciated on this overlooked gem!  I remember standing at the col gazing up and thinking "some day..."

I need to make it happen!  So many lifetimes in our backyard.

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Sumitted Terror in 9 hours from the car?  Did I read that right?

If so, I am clearly doing something very wrong.  

Nice work you guys and thanks for posting the TR and photos!

  • Snaffled 1

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You read that right.  And remember how Morgan dropped us on the skin track that day?  We're doing it all wrong!

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Ah, it's just the antioxidant power of the blueberries, that or the need to find water in the parched landscape that is the late season Barrier.  Also, big kudos to the new site format!  This is way easier to navigate and use, the ease to drag and drop photos when writing this TR was a game changer.  Way to go team!

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outstanding!

as you may know, this route is John Roper's all time favorite. We wanted to climb it this summer, but were out of juice after our Ottohorn climb.

Here is a shot of Wild Hair from atop Ottohorn: 

 

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Yeah!  You guys went full value on your trip, way to press on.  It's still there, it's still good, next trip for sure.  We looked over at Ottohorn and were contemplating scrambling up the east face but bagged it in order to still have stoke left for the NE ridge of the Chopping Block or The Stump as John would prefer.  That's a nice pic!  So I scribbled all over it how we climbed the route, I only marked the first two rappels below the subpoint as I couldn't remember where on the West Face the rest of the spots were exactly I did indicate the final ledge back to the col that we took, although looking at it now we might have landed on the ledge slightly further lookers right; anywho it's all there.

 

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nice report!  whiskey is an essential ingredient to camping in the crescent cr basin environs.

4 hours to the drop-in point near the chopping block?  damn, either that trail has been beat in, and/or you guys were moving.  with that kind of steam, you shoulda checked out the central buttress on the S face of Terror, a worthwhile climb imo.

that Wild Hair Crack climb does rank high on my list of shorter climbs worth the hike...wild place, with neat history.

Edited by lunger
dur

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Thanks Eric!  I find whiskey essential on most trips but it probably has to do with the terrain we enjoy, haha.  The trail is pretty beat in but still manages to disappear in all the right spots, the moss boulders coming into Terror Creek are still somehow seemingly untrampled every damn time and the top of the ridge climbing out of terror creek goes without trail for quite a ways.  We saw the summit register note from you guys on the central buttress and spent a while at camp trying to pick out the line, by the time we left we thought we mostly had it figured out but still were having trouble deciding on the first pitch, it definitely looked like a sweet line!  Might have to head back in there with some more whisky and sort it out!

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