Slesse - Northeast Buttress (Attempt)Date:
Devin and I tried to climb the NE buttress of Mount Slesse. The weather forecast was promising, and our biggest concern going into the climb was whether there would be enough water - we'd read there isn't any up there late in the season and so we hauled up 4 liters each with us. As it turned out, lack of water would not be our problem!
Clouds swirled in and out all day, revealing tantalizing glimpses of the route one moment then shrouding the mountain in mystery the next. We had a hard time deciding if weather conditions were good enough to give it a try or not, continually putting off the decision as we hiked and scrambled upward, hoping it would become obvious if either the sun broke out or it started to rain.
As we hiked up the slabs below the pocket glacier, we passed a party that was coming back down. They'd gone up to where the first 5.7 climbing of the route is, found it wet, and turned around, telling us that "discretion is the better part of valor". We decided that "valor is the better part of valor", and continued up.
The rock was damp in places and dry in others at first, and the first pitches of the route had some fun climbing, but the rock got progressively wetter as we got higher. When we first started the route, I had been interested in climbing the 5.9/10a direct option straight up the buttress, but with wet rock it seemed obvious we should opt for the easier bypass right of the crest. The bypass was soaked and slowed our progress, and we arrived at the bivy ledge with only an hour of light to spare.
The forecast for day two called for a 10% chance of 0.04 inches of rain. We got into our bivies hoping that Sunday would at least not be worse than Saturday had been, and thinking that even with the damp rock, we could methodically work our way up the upper pitches and descend, as we'd have all day to do it. But shortly after we crawled into our bivies and went to sleep, the rain started. It didn't stop all night, soaking us completely and causing the entire NE buttress to turn into a dripping wet mess.
Day 1: "Valor is the better part of valor."
Day 2: "Run away!"
We woke up around what we could only assume was sunrise, somewhere far away beyond the clouds and mist and rain. With the rock running with little rivulets of water, it was obvious to both of us that climbing upward would be a bad idea, and we quickly made the decision to retreat back down the route.
The rappels were surprisingly straightforward, though we left a number of slings, 2 nuts, and 1 cam to facilitate our descent down the buttress, which took over 10 rappels as the soaking wet rock, mud, and moss made us hesitant to downclimb.
All in all, an adventurous end to summer alpine climbing season. Slesse, we'll be back!
The photo uploader on cc.com is broken, so check out the photos here:https://goo.gl/photos/CdqNJJDvfPk2gUNb9