Hey boys and girls! If you haven't heard, Slesse NE Buttress is open for business! And it's only getting colder and darker. The Pocket Glacier slid a few weeks ago and there is just a little bit of safely perched snow here and there on the slab.
Climbers: Jeff and Priti Wright
Route Up: NE Buttress via Bypass Route
Route Down: Crossover Descent
Total Time: 25hrs (13.5hrs up, 11.5hrs down)
Download-able GPS tracks: http://www.peakbagger.com/climber/ascent.aspx?aid=701815
Here is a neat TR with pics of Slesse (for conditions) from Ensakwatch on the same day we were on Slesse: http://cascadeclimbers.com/forum/ubbthreads.php?ubb=showflat&Number=1151380
To continue our experiment of 50 Classics Car-to-Car/Single Push, this is our third in the past month (with Beckey-Chouinard on S Howser Tower and North Ridge of Mount Stuart). It was a slow, 25 hours. Again, we're not the fastest in the bunch, and it's not a Triple Linkup, but we're working on our pain and suffering tolerance!
3:15AM - Leave Trailhead
4:15AM - Memorial Plaque (don't get water here! It's a 10min bushwack...)
5:30AM - Propeller Cairn
6:45AM - Base of Bypass Route
4:45PM - Summit
4:15AM - Back at Trailhead
The Crossover Descent was long and hard, with tricky routefinding in the dark. It started raining on the last pitch from the summit and lasted a few hours, so descending the Crossover on slick rock was slow and sketchy. We simul'd/short-roped most of the descent, not fully unroping until under the Wooded Stump. The climbing was fast and easy, but we found this descent route very difficult. The crux was finding the flagging boot path at the bottom of the orange scree through the subalpine meadows to get to the established Crossover Trail. We never found this path or any flagging, and wandered for hours in the subalpine before just bushwacking hard left to intercept the Crossover Trail. Otherwise, the Crossover Descent route was obvious. Next time, we'd want to know what elevation to expect the subalpine skier's left traverse..or better yet, next time, we're bringing two cars to do the normal descent! This Crossover Descent might have been must faster in dry condition, with daylight, backpacking boots, and general situational awareness. We had tennis shoes which were perfect for the approach, but terrible for the Crossover Descent. You have to do a lot of travel on sketchy, muddy scree!
Blake Herrington has the best description of the Crossover Descent in his new book, Cascades Rock. Get as much beta as you can on the Crossover Descent!
Because of the sopping wet rock, we took all available rappels (7 total) with a 60m rope off established tat anchors: 2 rappels at bottom of summit gully (could be done with 1 70m, or 5.6 downclimb), 1 after crossing the traverse notch from the gendarme (4th class downclimb), 2 to get down to the final scree/meadow slope (3th class downlimb), and 2 off the summit block of the final peak before Crossover Pass (raps recommended, looked like hard 5th class downclimbing). Usually I think people just do it in 3 (1 at the beginning, and 2 at the end).
Water: There is running water at the Propeller Cairn, the Pocket Glacier slab, and the orange talus on the Crossover Descent. Crossing the Pocket Glacier slab, you don't have to get on snow, but it's a wet, muddy affair. No snow on route.
The route: Routefinding on the Bypass and the NE Buttress was very straightforward. We pitched it out the exact same way as Steph Abegg did (13 Pitches), which was very natural and obvious. Only the first 2 pitches and the crest involved simul-climbing. Further simulclimbing would have been difficult with rope drag, unless you kept the rope very short. Did the whole Bypass Start unroped (3rd/4th class, never any 5th), roping up behind the gendarme on the NE Buttress. The only mistakes we made was on Steph Abegg's Pitch 4 and Pitch 8. On Pitch 4 where you cross right over the arete, there is "off-route" tat out left which gets you way left and adds a tons of rope drag...instead go straight up from the belay to cross the arete soon, angling right to cross the arete. On Pitch 8 (right after the long crest simul), there again is an aluring "off-route fixed nut" out left up a tempting hand crack (the only hand crack on the Buttress!)...instead, you want to avoid the beautiful hand crack and traverse right (away from the buttress) before going back left to the grassy ledge (just as Fred Beckey's topo shows). The hand crack out left near the buttress is a siren which leads to decaying, exposed, unprotectable 5.9 granodiorite.
Beautiful route. In hindsight, after forgetting all of the descent suffering, the Crossover is rather adventurous and aesthetic, but I think 2 cars is still the best way to go. Gear Notes:
-Not really any jamming on this route (mostly face climbing), so recommend leaving the Ocuns/Jammies at home
-We both brought chalk bags, but the climbing was so easy, we never really used it. The route felt like a long scramble.
-SR to 3; doubles of .5, 1, 2; orange, blue, yellow Mastercam (used a lot); red C3 (not used), light nuts, pink tricam (obligatory, lol)
-Recommend light boots for Crossover Descent. Tennis Shoes for normal approach/descent.