Trip: Sloan Peak, Mountain Loop Hwy - West Face variation
Trip Report: Departed from U. District of Seattle with climbing partner Robert at 0500 Saturday morning with the objective of climbing the W. Face of Sloan Peak. Missed FSR 4096 on the first pass, but caught the mistake quickly and set out from the trailhead around 0730. After a bit of a break in the blueberries on the slopes below the start of the route, we began climbing around 1030. Using beta from Rad and Schaef's TRs, we simul-climbed the first three pitches to the start of the leftward slanting fourth pitch to join the upper section of the dihedral (5th pitch). The move into the dihedral is indeed "airy", but the crux went smoothly (thanks whoever left the nut as fixed gear). We inadvertently made the route more interesting by not checking the topo after leaving the belay above the dihedral, heading right instead of left. We traversed about 40m right along the bench before roping up again, heading straight up for four rope pitches. The final pitch cruised up a lichen encrusted but very aesthetic arete, ending at a rappel anchor that appeared to be in pretty good shape. From here we unroped and ascended fourth class terrain, gaining the corkscrew route about 60 m above the rap station.
With the extra pitches and route finding issues, we tagged the summit at a very late 1900, and while the weather through the day had been ideal, the cloud cover moving in rapidly dimmed the light. Heading back down the corkscrew, we downclimbed the 30m rappel at the SE corner to gain the lower bench down to the snowfield, but in the waning light were unable to locate any established rap stations. We switched on our headlamps as a light rain began to fall, making conditions on the relatively smooth slabs of the bench trickier. We ended up downclimbing to the bergschrund, setting a single rope rappel off a corner of the schrund as an anchor to get down the steepest part of the snow. Yaktrax provided pretty poor traction on the very hard snow now lubricated with a touch of rain, and the traverse across the snow went slowly, self-belaying with our ice axe picks.
Back on rock at the far side of the snowfield, we scrambled up to gain the ridge separating the snow field from the scree below the S. Face, and hiked along the ridge until finding a convenient point to downclimb 5m to the slopes below. The traverse back around to the gear we'd cached at the start of the route, groping along by headlamp, seemed to take forever. Seeing our pack, trekking poles, and extra water bottles appear in our headlamps was a joyful occasion, though fatigue was setting in.
With all gear redistributed into two packs and our smoked salmon dinner consumed by 2345, we slowly descended the steep slopes below the W. Face in search of the faint climbers' trail leading out of the forested saddle below. We missed this, resulting in a bush whack back up the ridge a bit to find the steep heather slopes leading down towards Bedal Creek drainage. The light rain had made these treacherous, but the whippet self arrest ski poles we had along as a second snow tool proved perfect for mud-tooling back down. The remainder of the descent back to the car was somewhat dream like, as we were frequently not sure whether or not we were on route, with only the occasional familiar landmark materializing in our headlamps to suggest we were headed the right way. Bedal creek trail back to the trailhead cruised by quickly, and we returned to the car at about 0315, and were back in the U. District by 0530, 24 hours and 30 minutes after setting out. The climb was fantastic, the descent a bit epic, but an amazing day (and change) out. Will add pics when Robert gets them off his camera.
The pics of the face we have aren't good enough to mark it... I'll try to find one of yours or Schaef's and pen the route in. Was curious if the rap station we ran into at the top of the final arete was part of the descent for one of your projects, as I figured we were over the the SW face at that point, but probably weren't quite far enough right for that to be the case.
nice man, me an a friend just did that route 2 weekends ago and had a blast...we bivied down at the giant boulder and got a 7am start...think we topeed out around noon and back to the car at 5. that descent is a real slog with lots of slippery/loose fun...i imagine doing it in the rain and dark was good times indeed!
Crux pitch was certainly still the dihedral, so nothing harder than that, though a bit trickier than the pitches preceding the dihedral. The final pitch up to the bench was excellent, though, a bit of lichen coverage but straight up a relatively sharp arete, which might've been the best of the day.