Trip Report: I first saw this jagged tooth of a mountain in May of last year, before the snowmelt, with DavidW. Exploring the South Face of Squire Creek Wall, I took my first photos of the surrounding upper basin. I learned from David this was Jet Tower, informally named for a military jet that had crashed into it many years ago. Later in the summer, after shooting it from nearly every stop along the way up our new climb, we planned to climb it next. Not knowing how to get up there, early in this year David and I spent a couple of weekends finding a way into the big timber which would gain access to the upper basin.
Later, last Winter, I was getting to know Chris Greyell at our weekly gym training sessions. He, too, was motivated to climb the Tower and was convinced he knew the best way up to it. At the inspiring slide show at his home, he showed us a cool photo and told of his wonder at standing at the base, laying hands on it and looking up. He also said nobody had ever climbed this East face of it. He nearly had me persuaded to climb his Approach Route on the Roan Wall and keep going up into the cirque, traversing North to the Tower. I was afraid he would beat us to it using his approach. But later, as Winter turned to Spring, he allowed that he would be too busy putting up new routes in Waterfall Basin, and said with grace that he would be honored to do the Second Ascent after we succeeded.
David and I held firm to our determination to approach from the North. But the way was steep and long, so we decided to change priorities back to Squire Creek Wall and its obvious slab potential. The Tower would have to wait. So when the opportunity arose on Sept. 7, 8 and 9 with our helpful buddy Wes Bevins and a clear weather forecast, I was determined to get up there and at least carry out a reconnaisance trip.
The weekend started badly. The sadness at the loss of Chris depressed me, and other partners were not feeling like getting out. Wes was my only companion, and he was coming down from Concrete after camping with his family. He said he would call me at home and we'd meet at the trailhead. All morning I waited, growing more nervous and sunk with each passing hour, until two in the afternoon. The call came and I jumped in the truck. Biking at 4:20, hiking up and camping at 7:00. Not the best way to spend a good weather Saturday.
On Sunday morning, after a leisurely start gearing up with bivy and climbing gear including hammer and pins, we started up at 8:00. We carried one of Wes' 8.5mm double ropes each. We skirted under Skeena26 and crossedonly one small snow patch before reaching the canyon crossing. There is a deep gully, or small canyon, separating the West Buttress from the rest of Squire Creek Wall. David and I researched a good way to cross it involving a short rappel into it, and easily walking out. Wes and I slid down a rope 30' and across the gully, into the deep forest on the far side.
It turned out that DavidW and I had already gone through the most difficult part of the approach. The steep virgin forest band gave way to boulder slides and easy tree bands, which all gave way to heather alps and finally clean granite benches. It took Wes and I four hours from a camp near the base of Skeena26 to Jet Tower. So, it was seven hours in all from the truck.
Wes coming across the heather slopes of the upper basin
Being only noon, we had time to procure comfortable bivy sites and have lunch. At 2:00 we set out and I climbed up a good-looking, curving, grassy crack in white granite. This is about 50' left of the extreme toe of the buttress. It was easiest to step right and continue up to a belay close to the buttress edge. Two wired stoppers and a small cam for a belay, I asked Wes if he wanted the next pitch. He seemed happy to say, "No, this is your show", and we switched rope ends. I led straight up to a steeper bulge, the initial low-angle apron was over. I had to step left through 5.9 face moves to get past the bulge on an excellent, solid face riddle with pinch holds. the path of least resistance trended back right, and I pulled onto a small ledge next to a huge flake with a 5" gap behind it, perfect for the extra 4 and 5 Camalots we'd carried up. Slinging the flake with some fine 1" tubular webbing we'd thought to bring along, I built a good belay backed up by the cams. Wes came up leaving the first pitch anchor intact. We fixed each rope to one of the anchors and slid down to dinner.
Our starting spot on the white apron, shown after fixing the lines
Higher up, blue rope on the first pitch, red on the second
Higher still, showing the second pitch
Squire Creek Wall, South Face
Next morning, Monday, I took a walk around the jet parts field and took photos of the Air Force memorabilia. It was so interesting and widespread that we didn't get out of our bivy camp until 10:30.
Wes getting ready to jug up
I jugged the lines before Wes started up, to lessen the chance of any loose rock getting knocked off onto him. Arriving without incident, Wes had to protest a little when I stepped back out left to gaze at the wall. "I can't climb that!", he said, and I couldn't, either. It looked hard, as the numerous small dihedrals held only closed seams. We'd arrived at 50' of blank face before it would get to the obvious big cracks leading to the summit point. I had to back off. Around to the right, out onto the North face of this East Buttress, was a broken ramp that went up to the horizon. It was festooned with broken, wedged-in blocks, lichen-covered and menacing. Up this ramp I went, carefully thumping every hold and listening. Delicate stems, nothing difficult but just careful, quiet climbing brought me to an outrageous dirt hump next to cracks for a belay. This third pitch was wild, crusty Cascade climbing at its best.
Looking for a route out on the left side of the buttress edge; we backed off from this
Whitehorse from the route
The belay was two 2" cams in a crack which separated a refrigerator-sized block from the wall. It looked wedged in place at its top and bottom. I backed it up with a good 1" cam on the main wall. We didn't stop to take any pictures. After switching ends, I step up onto our belay block and Wes says he sees it moving. I hop to change feet, and he says it again. I want to get off that block quickly but there are a couple of delicate, steeper moves ahead, and I have to figure them out. Holding our breaths, I ooze upward, off the block, laying back to a dihedral and easier ramp above. Accelerating up some big, solid blocks I soon realize these are the Summit blocks, and there is the Sun just ahead. Wes later said he felt a huge surge of relief and thankfulness when I called out, "I'm on top!"
The tableau where I pulled onto the summit
Wes enjoying being up there
The fourth pitch was only 40' long, putting to rest the early surmise that this thing might be five pitches tall. Then just recently, DavidW had cannily revised his estimate to four pitches. So, with an approach of seven hours and bivy sites now ready, one could easily do this route in two days. Hike in and camp at the base the first day, do the climb and hike out the second.
I found a modern, sewn webbing loop with two carabiners attached at the exact base of our route. We can only wonder if someone has beat us to it this year. The webbing is in brand-new looking condition. Has anyone you know been up this face, and possibly dropped this? We would love to hear about the exploit, successful or not, in public or not. Send me a PM if you like, and describe to claim your gear!
After a lot of photo shooting at the wilderness, we prepared to depart through the trees on the West side. Glacier Peak looked magnificent, Blueberry Hill looked small and far below, Three Fingers and Whitehorse enclosed us. And the huge massif of slender slab ribbons on Squire Creek Wall looked most alluring of all, to me. Even with all the competing stunning terrain, that's still where I want to be.
Dropping straight down through the trees folowing the path of least resistance brought us to a boot track that we used as we turned South to Pop Tart Tower. I first heard of this formation from Chris, and didn't ask him about the funny name. Turning a corner around some boulders I suddenly saw the reason for the name.
On the far side of Pop Tart Tower is a gully which we downclimbed without need of the rope. It was a relief to be on solid ground. We rested, broke camp and descended to the bikes in five hours and rode out in the dusk. Thank you, Wes, for being ever helpful and enthusiastic. I hear you've had a mishap; heal up fast and stay loose, my friend.
Gear Notes: Single rack to 5"
Approach Notes: Bushwhacked from the South side of Squire Creek Wall
"Try for Further" - Chuck Berry
The gear belongs to my climbing partner Evan! You found it! We went up there last month and did pretty much the same route, though we started right on the toe of the ridge instead of the left side. Pretty wild route eh?
The route was done by Evan and Micah which they named, "The Scorpions Tale" checking in at 5.8 with some R sections. In talking to them, they started at the base of the toe as there was too much snow to start at the side. It was put up on a few different trips and completed in August after a lot a good deal of cleaning loose blocks. I've seen a few pics, but I'll leave the rest of the details to them.
Good judgment comes from experience. Experience comes from bad judgment.
Yep, I just got a PM from Evan confirming the gear and a little about the story of their climb. Congratulations, Evan and Micah! That is true adventure climbing, for sure! I'm looking forward to your TR. If there were even more loose blocks before your arrival, that must have been some delicate climbing! Also, I agree with the 5.8R rating; my .9 move was overcooked. Good on ya both!
"Try for Further" - Chuck Berry
It turned out to be a really sweet climb. Right out in the open too. It's rad you guys got on it this season! Visible from the main trail even. I've been looking at those peaks on the ridge from the Illusion wall for the last few years. Last year while on the Page I got the best view I'd had and simply had to go find a way up to it. Glad we got out early this year!
We ended up approaching from further up the valley too, so no Illusion wall approach. Not necessarily easier, but shorter at around 5hrs+. In all the approach is awful, but we did lots of work on the approach making it sort of doable to cross the river and work through old growth. I'll write up everything in more detail when I get a TR together.
We called it "The Scorpions Tale" because of the two F-89 Scorpion Jets that crashed on the ridge over 60yrs ago and because it weaves back and forth across the arete like a tail. The wreckage is really amazing and found simply all over the ridge.
There is even a bivy rock that sleeps two comfortably and as Otto mentioned the route would be good for a one or two day trip. Hike in day one, climb, bivy and hike back out.
Here is Micah at camp a 5min walk from the base. You walk off the back and down the gulley Otto describes in the far left of the pics. 1 rope, alpine setting and amazing weather made for a superb trip.
Here is that ultra sweet bivy rock. Damn, life was good.
Another obligatory summit shot. Those two "Totems" were amazing. I felt like they might represent the two jets that crashed below the ridge. One of the best summit tops I've ever been on for sure.
I first saw this ridge in 1970 and was quickly up there getting trapped into parts exploreing from the 86. The parts were much more 'in place' in the early 70,s. (only a little more than 10yrs) After talking to the "MAN" (harry engels) about him racing up there with a case of beer, beating the airforce who was going up to figure out what happened, and collect live rounds and guns, i have put together a detailed account of what happened. Many times from the walls of squire, i have seen ea6's and other navy jets doing the same type of ... run. It is breath taking. A few times, i have seen a p-3 orion doing calibration runs, over the steel and aluminum parts from Squire walls. After climbing all over jet tower and the other towers, looking for aluminum embedded into the granite, we established Camp 86. It is also a place for bears to do there stuff and mark their ground. A great place with running water and flat ground. There used to be live rockets all around the place, and we still find some. It supposedly had over 500 live rockets whenit crashed. It would be near impossible to figure out how it happened now, as the parts are spread out all over the place, by ice/snow/climbers, and 32ft/sec/sec. Warning. it is a big blackhole. Can get sucked into it very easily. I have done about 6 different ways up jet tower looking for clues before mid 90,s. I am sure i was not the first one to climb any of the routes i have done on all the towers there. There is only one jet, not 2. It came from paine field, where i heard many taking off in my youth, growing up just a few miles away. Especially during the cuban missile crises. They would go supersonic right away, cause it was a ... crises. We even found the pilots boot a few years ago. I have 50+lbs of parts we brought back down, by way of big boulder basin, or n.e. 3 fingers. I think i should be renamed, in Chris's honor.
I'm never there all ways just arriving
they were called saber jets. then the super saber. they saw a lot of dog fights in the korean war with the russian 17,s. They kicked butt. They were also the VERY FIRST to go thru the sound, just weeks before the bell rocket jet dropped from a bomber. It was kept from the public, because of all the $$$ being spent on the x-planes. A very good read is "aces wild", by blackburn, about the pilot george welch, who took it away from chuck yeager, for real. Another example of how we are lied to all the time by our government.
I'm never there all ways just arriving
after looking at a pic. of a 89 scorpion, i think it was a f-89. i could never figure out the tail part, cause it didnt seem to be from a 86. I was told by many older than i, and who had been there much earlier than i, that it was a 86. Never found a 2nd jet, only parts from 1. Also heard 4 died, so must have been 2 jets?? DJ, who has hauled 100,s of pounds of parts/aluminum from there, said it was a 86, so i believed him, cause he had so many placards. Remember one that had a engine number that was not an engine they used in a 86 (j-47, one of my favs)that i knew of, but there are many variants and one offs when it comes to jets of that era. I think you are right in saying it was a scorpion, and not a sabre. dont know for sure, but the tail is way different than a 86, and i always had a problem with that. I never found parts on the west side (anyone??), which throws other stories i heard about it going thru the gap and missing it. Have seen many do that over the years. I did find granite embedded with aluminum on one climb, and slabs broken off by force, where im sure it hit first, as that fitted with the way parts are scattered about. They might have helioed out the other jet? We only found the 3 tires (2 large, one smaller)in the late 70,s too. I DO KNOW, that is one of the top 10 storys that Engles liked to tell, how he beat the "seattle climber boys" up there, all beat up and spent, with a case of beer to share. He was "lounging about", when they "finally showed up", as Harold and friend started much latter. I have approached the ridge from 6 different ways. The 'best' way is using the 'old' Frank Loso trail he and his son spent a lot of time on. The funnest, is up the steep rock from big boulder basin (the area i think would be 'cool/good' to 'rename' in Chris's honor. heard Chris bolted up a route that way, ) I Have gone from car to jet in a little more than 3 hrs using the Frank Loso trial, taking our time, moving slow with plenty of 'breaks'. Frank is the one who put in the steel cables on the ridge just north of squire walls. They saved my ass one time, when the rocks gave way under me, being last with 4 just ahead of me. He said he knew it was going to go anytime, and thats why he put them there, after i asked him why he went to so much trouble hauling them up there. He also spent a lot of time with Harold exploring the squire creek area. They used to have a trail that started from our property on Squire creek, and was fun to hike. now it is a real BITCH, with the famous D town brush grown up over it. I dont believe there are any bolts on the towers on this ridge, and hope/wish it can stay that way. Climbing these towers using gear you remove, leaves it more 'wild' for the next ones to do so. I have also seen others climbing this route, or right next to it before. there are lot of parts from a heilo they used in a movie they made from Whitehorse in buckeye basin still. If you havent seen that movie yet, it is a 'must see' for any climber. High Ice! It all about , dropping the gear, or worst nightmare when climbing big walls. Loved your pics and story about the climb. Thanks!!!!!
Edited by crazedmaniac (09/21/1308:09 PM) Edit Reason: can't seem to make it work
I'm never there all ways just arriving
Two jets crashed in March of 1956. They were USAF Northrop F-89D Scorpions part of the 321st Fighter Squadron out of Paine Field from 1955 to 1960.
One crashed into the base of pop tart tower and the other about a 1000 feet South (away from the central "Jet Tower") on the slabs below another bulge formation on the ridge that I don't know the name of. Neither actually crashed into the formation named "Jet Tower", but close enough... We found both impact zones with gouged granite, etc. Parts are all over the place. It's truly amazing to see the destruction.
The largest pieces of wreckage left are the Allison J-35 Turbojet engines. Still intact but twisted mangled pieces. You can see huge steel geared plates with teeth sheared off and taco'd like a rim of a bike tire.
Here is one of the turbojets still under snow from an early trip up in July. After that trip I had to do more research on the crashes because they were simply so amazing. You can also see the oil pack turbo cooler in the foreground with serial plates and numbers matching the production info for the Scorpions as well.
Luckily we went back in August to clean the route more and got to see way more wreckage after more snow melted out. We didn't see any pieces on route but we did trundle a few thousand pounds of rock. No bolts, webbing, slings or anything left on the route either. We also don't plan to put any hardware on the ridge either, so no worries CrazedManiac. The only thing we left was the draw Micah dropped while on route
WOW!! , THANKS, BLACK ROCK!!! yea, i found the one by jet tower. All these years, thought it was a 86, and only one. couldn't figure out the vert. stab part. have already told many i was wrong. Wish someone WOULDA, many many years ago. Loved hearing the "MAN" talk about it. Harold, or Harry Engels was a true legend in these parts. A huge hard core mountain man. He had storys, SHOULDA written a book. COULDA. i have spent a lot of late falls up there climbing all around. Thats how i finally ended up on the south wall on squire. Can see primal scream from there, (nice shot in one of the pics above) and it called out to me for about 20+ years before Ken Strong and i went up there one very late fall day (nov.) and went up it, all solo free. (we did have mass gear in our packs too) A very fun route. fast and way easy. I once found a jar with a note in it from the early 30,s by some one who went up to this ridge for a pick-nick. (base of the buckeye east ridge) Wrote how They left snohomish in the late morning. sure 530 was not paved then either, and there was no I-5 or a paved hwy 9. Things were WAY DIFFERENT, long time ago. Many think they are the 'first' to climb so much around these parts. Only time im sure i was 'first' is when i had to place bolts to make movement (aid) over super smooth walls. Like Harry, people were just way tougher, long time ago. I saw a lot of climbers on the walls north of the bowl-in-alley in the 80,s and early 90,s. Sure many did some fine routes there, as there are more features and ledges. Don't ever assume you are .. first, just because no one posted their climbs, some where. I have not, on about 90% of my 'climbs'. Remember some guy who was/is the 'keeper of firsts', asking me a lot of questions about squire walls in late 90,s, and he figured out a lot on his own, and by talking to others who were with me. Heard he (Klint?) posted a log some where ... to my NOT wanting that ... some one brought in a list/print out into the store one night, and blew me away what he figured out, from so little information. had to give him MASS kudos for that. I love this area sooo much, we bought 40 acres at the base of squire, where buckeye meets it. You drive across our property (we pay taxes on) to get to the trail head up squire and to east 3 fingers. Have always wanted to have a intentional community there. That ended when i broke my neck for the 2nd time. I am a very slow mover now. very slow, and very care-full. Have had to many SUPER CLOSE CALLS, in this beautiful valley, on my favor-right type of rock, quarts die right. Have spent a lot of days trying to climb the east face of 3 fingers, from the bottom of the 45, or straight up the huge wall of death. Usually got sucked into the walls just up from, or around the 'big boulder', by the water falls. Placed a lot of pitons around there, left/lost a lot of micro gear. Heard Chris was working on a new route there. they might be/of been bolting up one of our 'routes' ??, like he did (and others) on Illusion wall. We were just trying to find a 'faster' way up to Craigs and n. peak of 3 fingers. SOOO glad they stopped the choppers from landing there and having ... picknicks with wine! that was really rude, i thought. yea, i am a whinner, or, "the king of rant!" Zip
I'm never there all ways just arriving
ALSO noticed that you have bullion lakes (upper and lower)with the title craig lakes over it. ( they might have been renamed by now too) Craig lakes are the 3 just at the n. base of north peak 3 fingers, just south of Salish, kinda still part of the s.n. ridge, being just off the west side of it. Big open spaces and flat spots, just above the lakes, (east side). i used to see weekend choppers landing with tourists for lunch. Have been buzzed several times while on 3 fingers wall, and its no fun as it is crummy rotten rock. The lakes are usually covered in snow and ice most of the year and i have always seen ice (glacier) going directly into the upper one. middle one rarely is free of ice/snow. (shadow) Haven't been up there in about 10 years now tho, so dont know about being kept at 32 deg.f. any more. (example, the glacier on the north side of Whitehorse used to be the lowest glacier (msl) in the lower continental U.S. It used to be way down the flank, before the early 80,s) The long rock slabs going down westerly into craig lake have ridges/marks from large rocks migrating down the slabs, and you can count the years by seeing how they stayed momentarily in one place/season. Know what you mean about speeding mother nature along with the rock movement and 32ft/sec/sec. Have had some wild sites/smell of rock and gravity and AIR pressure, moving rocks off Illusion wall (well, most of all Squire creek walls) in the early 90,s. At night, no moon is the best. Great light shows!! As you can tell, i really miss this place. Criag lakes is one of my favoright places to camp and chill ... Almost died trying to take a 'bath' in the lake one time, after spending a week on 3 fingers east face. Part of having a serious case of S.M.S. THANKS AGAIN FOR YOUR POST!!!
Edited by crazedmaniac (09/24/1304:13 PM)
I'm never there all ways just arriving