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#1035157 - 09/21/11 01:57 PM [TR] Picket Range - Complete Enchainment Attempt 9/2/2011 *****
Sol Online   devil

Registered: 01/24/03
Posts: 1707
TRs: 31 Photos: 407
Loc: leavenworth
Trip: Picket Range - Complete Enchainment Attempt

Date: 9/2/2011

Trip Report:

On September 2nd Jens Holsten, Dan Hilden and myself (Sol Wertkin) began an 8 day attempt at the Complete Picket Range Enchainment. While we came quite short of our original goal, we were able to complete the 2nd ascent of the Souther Picket Range Ridge Traverse (Bunker, Haley, Wallace 2003) and push it forward a bit to the North through Picket Pass, and over Outrigger and Luna Pk before exiting via Access Creek (15 summit in total).

Day 1: The Three McMillan Spires
Day 1 is a true ass-kicker, gaining over 10,000 vertical feet, and unfortunately I had been here before, 2 years earlier Blake Herrington and I had made an attempt at the Southern Traverse, completing 5 peaks before bailing out via fried nerves and weather via Terror Creek. We had fallen short of our intended itinerary on day 1 bivying between the East and West McMillan Spires. It was with this knowledge that I set the alarm even earlier this time around. As predicted, we approached as a weather system cleared the area and lucky for us an amazing high pressure window graced us for the remainder of the trip.

The days objectives: SE Face of Little McMillan 7,600 ft, East ridge of East McMillan 7,992 ft, and the East Ridge/Face of the West McMillan Spire 8,000 ft.

Though the packs were heavy, the views were incredible, the rock wasn't half bad, and the psyche was high.

Myself celebrating the Triple Cumbre

We were happy to have completed our goal for the day, but undeniably worked from the long approach and rock climbing with such heavy packs. We settled into the bivy just as it became dark.

Day 2: The East Towers Traverse to Inspiration Peak
We slept in until nearly 8 am on day 2 rationalizing that to complete such a big undertaking we would need to periodically recover. I began our late start pushing the rope on familiar terrain around the East Towers towards Inspiration.

I was able to gain precious time compared to Blake and myself's onsight attmept and within a few hours we were starting up beautiful stone low on Inspiration Pk's East Ridge.

Jens led on, scaling Inspiration's two beautiful crux pitches.

It was here, at the base of the 5.9 pitch on Inspiration, where, 2 years earlier, I had come as close to dying as I ever have in the mountains. A microwave sized block that Blake was stemming on came loose and crashed onto the belay ledge from 50 ft. I narrowly escaped by jumping barefoot off the ledge with just enough play in my tether to dodge the missle. It felt strange to be back at the scene of the incident and was a relief to climb on uneventfully.

The traverse over the E and W Summits of Inspiration 7,880 ft was as aesthetic as ever.

But my oh my, where had the time gone? By the time we descended the W Ridge of Inspiration it was nearly 4 in the afternoon. On my previous attempt Blake and I had pioneered frightening new ground at 5.10R on our next objective, The Pyramid. Not feeling the need to launch into another late day epic on Pyramid we made the hard decision to bivy there and tackle it first thing in the morning.

We had fallen incredibly short of the first ascencionest itinerary (in which they had amazingly moved on through Pryamid, Dengenhart, and Terror to a summit bivy on the Rake), but felt it was a necessary decision considering the time of the day and the enormity of our objective.

Day 3: The Pyramid, Dengenhardt, Terror, and The Rake
Our third day began with a more traditional alpine start and Dan took the lead and nailed it. Climbed The Pyramid the right way and it was a great route.

Dan on the 5.8 crux of the East Ridge of The Pyramid

Near the summit of The Pyramid 7,920 ft

Mt. Degenhardt, 8,000 ft, was an easy scramble and we kept trucking on towards Terror.

It was near the base of Terror where I had given Blake, "the look." The look that says, "dude, i'm done, it's over," and we had bailed. This time around I just focused on placing one foot in front of the other, and really didn't look ahead too much at the exceedingly intimidating East Ridge of Terror. We knew that Wayne and party had had a hair-raising experience scaling it's loose flanks so we just focused on finding the best path. And we did, and it wasn't so bad.

Myself, leading our first pitch on the East Ridge of Mt. Terror

Jens on the Summit of Mt. Terror, 8,151 ft.

While the ascent wasn't so bad, the descent sure was. Loose unprotected down-climbing characterized the descent and before long we were strung out on a steep face searching for anchors or a way to continue down. Eventually we found some very old pins, and rapped off into the col, a disgusting place, perhaps the loosest col of them all.

On the menu for dinner was the Rake, and Jens took the lead for the first and crux pitch. Loose climbing took Jens out of view and before long it was only his breathing and moans that we could decipher. I could tell the climbing was hard and that for the first time of the trip Jens was, "going for it." In the face of steep overhangs, Jens had set two OK nuts, equalized them and embarked on a 9+ traverse across "solid" edges, running it out 50-60 ft to a belay. Luckily for Dan and myself we were able to get intimate with some super-choss and keep the protection slightly more sane as we followed.

Endless simuling ensued as we traversed onto the true ridge of the Rake. The rock quickly changed and we climbed phenomenal stone around the East Summit.

Jens climbing into the golden hour on the Rake

DFH getting his follow on

Loving it

Late-night belay duty

Climbing at night, deep in the Pickets, high on the Rake, isn't the most relaxing endeavor. But things continued to unfold well. We wandered around many false summits and gendarmes and finally late into the night we heard a distant "monkey-call"from Jens and knew that we had finally arrived at the West Summit of the Rake, 7,840 ft. A short rap into the high col ended a long day. A wind-protected bivy we affectionately named,Ice Station DarkStar. We were in deep now.

Day 4: East Twin Needle, West Twin Needle, and the Himmelhorn
We awoke to a crisp morning on day 4.

I started off the day wandering down the long west ridge of the Rake towards the Twin Needle Spires.

Looking back at the Rake

As we approached the summit ridge of the E Twin Needle the rock got better and better.

Crescendoing with a wild pitch of 10- to the summit, 7,936.

Jens leading through terrible rope drag


Scary downclimbing (a theme for the trip) got us off the E Twin and we simuled up the West Twin.

The Himmelhorn, the crux of the traverse (10+), was wildly intimidating.

Jens got're done, finding the right path up the sheer north face.

We pushed on over the summit, down the backside, where two long rappels took us to a good bivy at the Ottohorn-Himmelhorn col.

Day 5: The Ottohorn
We again woke up late, intending on first bagging the Ottohorn via it's 3rd class East Face, and then the Frenzelspitz. We were worked from the previous's day's climbing and moved slowly out of the bivy with quivering legs and throbbing fingers. Unfortunatly, our romp was not to be as new rockfall just below the summit proved too unsafe to tackle unroped.

Dejected, we turned around and headed back to camp. We rested for a couple hours, discussed the high proabability that the complete objective was not to be, and headed back up the Ottohorn, this time with a rope and rack.

Dan led us to the to summit via two quality pitches of solid 5.7.

We returned to camp and continued resting.

Day 6: Outrigger Pk (SE Fury)
Though our fifth day had been predominatly characterized by resting we still awoke to day six tired, sore, and HUNGRY.

Our rations basically consisted of 4 bars and 4 GU's for breakfast, lunch and snacks, a Mountain House meal for dinner and a group instant potato meal as a second dinner/before bed snack, with some random sausage, cheese, and extras here and there. Somewhere in the ballpark of 1400-2000 calories/day.

While this works for the first few days, by day six you've burned through your reserves and you can't help but feel the effects as you start to metabolize your muscles.

Nonetheless, as we rapped off into the Ottohorn-Himmelhorn coulouir I began to formulate my, "let's keep going" speech to be delivered after we easily tagged the Frenzelspitz and effortlessly galavanted across Picket Pass.

Jens, aka "Alpine Man" preparing to do work in the Ottohorn-Himmelhorn coulouir

A long double rope rappel onto the snow, led to another long double rope rappel, lots of downclimbing, and more rapping.

While we were at times just 10-15 ft away from tromping up the 4th class East Face of the Frenzelspitz, the late-season snow was laying the "smack-down" on our spirits with hard sun-cupped conditions and impassable moats. Nearly 4 hours after first rapping into the coulouir we crested the snow to solid terra-firma.

It was a strange mental space in that we were now deeper then ever, but at the same time, finally off of the demanding 5th class terrain of the Southern Range. Any wishes of sending the Frenzelspitz collapsed into the impassable September moat as did my Pattonesque speech.

What do you know, more sketchy downclimbing moved us up and over Cub Scout Pk, and onto Picket Pass.

On a route punctuated with many highpoints it was interesting to feel equally moved by the brush and sub-alpine trees of Picket Pass, our first major low-point in a number of days.

We hydrated and pushed on up and over Outrigger (SE Pk of Fury)7,757 ft. via aesthetic slabs, exposed ridges, and golden staircases.

Chossy downclimbing led us off of Outrigger onto the flanks of the SE Glacier of Fury, which we elegantly traversed down and onto a heather basin, beneath a large ridge connecting Fury and Luna Pk.

We reached running water and a fine bivy high on the ridge just a hour or so into the dark night.

Day 7: Luna Pk
The next morning we awoke to sore bodies and breathtaking views. The effort of the past few days was layed out in front of us and we could finally get the feeling that we had accomplished something.

The beautiful high ridge route continued on and before too long we were ditching our packs and heading up to tag Luna.

Great view of our route from high on Luna Pk, 8,331 ft

From Luna we descended and traversed steep heather slopes into Access Creek.

Jens strung-out in the heather

We continued descending through the brush of Access Creek to the forest of the Big Beaver Valley and Luna Camp.

Day 8: The Deproach
12+ miles of hiking found us in the heat of the valley and finally back to the car.

We had the great pleasure of celebrating our adventure with good friends who happened to be in the area.

I can't give enough thanks to the many folks who helped us out on this endeavor including Cheryl and Adam Mckenney of Leavenworth Mountain Sports, Jim Nelson of Pro Mountain Sports, Teresa Bruffey/Outdoor Research, John Race and Olivia Cussen of the Northwest Mountain School, Geoff Cecil, Blake Herrington, and of course Wayne Wallace.

Wayne's advice, psych, and willingness to let us give his project a go proved instrumental in our success. We were awed by his bold leads while on route and kept discussing that we couldn't imagine a more committing objective than solo on the Mongo Ridge.

On our final day of preparations we orchestrated a phone consultation with Wayne where we hurriedly jotted down notes in the drizzle of a Safeway parking lot as we picked his brain. This beta sheet proved quite valuable (I will scan it and post up).

Gear Notes:I plan to blog in detail about the gear we used for this objective in the near future. I will link the blog post here.

Jen's Blog: Always Upwards
Day 1 & 2
Day 3
Day 4
Day 5
Day 6
Day 7

Dan's Blog

Colin Haley's original TR for the Southern Ridge Traverse
AAJ: Walking the Fence
Josh Kaplan's original TR for the Northern Enchainment (Kaplan, Wallace, 2005)
NWMJ: Northern Pickets Enchainment

We sure do live in a special place to be able to embark on an adventure of this magnitude just a few hours from home.

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#1035172 - 09/21/11 03:46 PM Re: [TR] Picket Range - Complete Enchainment Attempt 9/2/2011 [Re: Sol]
Tyson.g Offline
old hand

Registered: 01/07/10
Posts: 1000
TRs: 7 Photos: 136
Loc: Bellingham
tup Sweet!
Can't wait for the next chapter!
Cheers gentlemen!

Please note I am posting this as a joke.

#1035194 - 09/21/11 07:13 PM Re: [TR] Picket Range - Complete Enchainment Attempt 9/2/2011 [Re: Sol]
Dannible Offline
addicted to

Registered: 06/26/06
Posts: 573
TRs: 8 Photos: 156
Loc: Der Town
Fun stuff in a crazy place. I had only been rock climbing a handful of times this summer because I was in AK for a while, so my fingers got pretty worked by all the lichen. Now they are all peeling and weird. I posted some of my thoughts and some pics on the other thread.

#1035195 - 09/21/11 07:19 PM Re: [TR] Picket Range - Complete Enchainment Attempt 9/2/2011 [Re: Sol]
ivan Offline
Sick Spray Bird

Registered: 03/12/02
Posts: 17493
TRs: 118 Photos: 1803
Loc: Oceania
ummmm....fuck yeah! smile
Ignorance is Strength
War is Peace
Freedom is Slavery

#1035202 - 09/21/11 07:51 PM Re: [TR] Picket Range - Complete Enchainment Attempt 9/2/2011 [Re: Sol]
ryanl Offline

Registered: 05/31/05
Posts: 179
TRs: 19 Photos: 424
Loc: shoreline
Fantastic!!!! I'm in awe. Nice writing too.

#1035239 - 09/22/11 09:13 AM Re: [TR] Picket Range - Complete Enchainment Attempt 9/2/2011 [Re: ivan]
Stefan Offline

Registered: 04/16/01
Posts: 2232
TRs: 7 Photos: 9
Loc: the circus
Namaste - Whatever your outer appearance, I see and greet the soul in you.

#1035240 - 09/22/11 09:17 AM Re: [TR] Picket Range - Complete Enchainment Attempt 9/2/2011 [Re: Sol]
Le Piston Offline
addicted to

Registered: 08/15/07
Posts: 552
TRs: 26 Photos: 529
Loc: Kent, WA (USA)
Stout work. Now THAT is a TR! You guys are animals. Thanks for sharing your adventure.

#1035253 - 09/22/11 10:40 AM Re: [TR] Picket Range - Complete Enchainment Attempt 9/2/2011 [Re: Sol]
Rad Offline

Registered: 08/11/03
Posts: 2461
TRs: 28 Photos: 760
Loc: The Emerald City
rawk rocken moondance

If you'd set the Southern Pickets traverse as your goal you'd be elated, but setting the full S and N traverse as your goal you felt you fell short. In the end, you did what you did, nothing more and nothing less. Congrats on an amazing adventure.

Earth and stone echo my bone.

#1035285 - 09/22/11 01:42 PM Re: [TR] Picket Range - Complete Enchainment Attempt 9/2/2011 [Re: Sol]
Riley81 Offline

Registered: 06/25/07
Posts: 234
TRs: 17 Photos: 599
Loc: Seattle, WA
Thanks for sharing. I recall getting my ass kicked just getting to the southern pickets.
"Pound a pin save some skin" TA

#1035286 - 09/22/11 01:47 PM Re: [TR] Picket Range - Complete Enchainment Attempt 9/2/2011 [Re: Sol]
timmy_t Offline

Registered: 09/27/04
Posts: 153
TRs: 22 Photos: 566
Loc: Mount Vernon
Wow, great job! Thanks for the report.

#1035296 - 09/22/11 03:18 PM Re: [TR] Picket Range - Complete Enchainment Attempt 9/2/2011 [Re: Sol]
Ziff Offline

Registered: 04/11/01
Posts: 49
TRs: 1 Photos: 1
Loc: vancouver, bc
wow. nice work!

#1035299 - 09/22/11 03:41 PM Re: [TR] Picket Range - Complete Enchainment Attempt 9/2/2011 [Re: Sol]
Alpinfox Offline
Tebow Believer

Registered: 03/05/02
Posts: 5227
TRs: 23 Photos: 322

Awesome! Hats off to you guys!
let's spank this pony and see where she goes

#1035305 - 09/22/11 04:43 PM Re: [TR] Picket Range - Complete Enchainment Attempt 9/2/2011 [Re: Alpinfox]
Tom_Sjolseth Offline
addicted to

Registered: 09/02/05
Posts: 548
TRs: 45 Photos: 1972
Loc: Wenatchee (The Kent of the Eas...

Rad summed it up well. What a great adventure, thanks for sharing. brew
Heavy and slow.

#1035308 - 09/22/11 04:50 PM Re: [TR] Picket Range - Complete Enchainment Attempt 9/2/2011 [Re: Tom_Sjolseth]
wayne Offline

Registered: 05/14/01
Posts: 3602
TRs: 78 Photos: 656
Loc: Seattle!
Updated my page on this extraordinary ascent. If you were packed for just the southern, you would have smoked it too. Lets have another look at this project next year with a July start.
Know this, Your climbing and writing about this inspires many people. Who knows who is looking at this and thinking : "One day, I will try to reach for the stars."
Who cares if you only grab the moon!

#1035315 - 09/22/11 06:18 PM Re: [TR] Picket Range - Complete Enchainment Attempt 9/2/2011 [Re: Sol]
nels0891 Offline

Registered: 01/26/10
Posts: 93
TRs: 1 Photos: 1
Loc: Moscow, ID and Federal Way, WA
At some point I'd like to do this climb... that would be the realization of everything I like out of climbing and an incredible accomplishment.
Just as Wayne pointed out, the climb and the write up are very inspiring, and hopefully some day I can make my own mark on the area's climbing history.
Chase Nelson

#1035322 - 09/22/11 08:16 PM Re: [TR] Picket Range - Complete Enchainment Attempt 9/2/2011 [Re: Sol]
ezra Offline

Registered: 08/02/11
Posts: 53
TRs: 2 Photos: 0
Loc: Ideeeho
Absolutely friggging awesome job and write up. That's a year or more of climbing for us mortals..... rocken rawk

#1035326 - 09/22/11 08:45 PM Re: [TR] Picket Range - Complete Enchainment Attempt 9/2/2011 [Re: Sol]
telemarker Offline

Registered: 09/17/01
Posts: 1672
TRs: 71 Photos: 1091
Loc: Wenatchee, WA U.S.A
The dynamic TRIO! Well done!
"God gave you two eyes, two ears and one mouth. Use each in proportion."

#1035327 - 09/22/11 08:47 PM Re: [TR] Picket Range - Complete Enchainment Attempt 9/2/2011 [Re: Sol]
zoroastr Offline

Registered: 10/02/00
Posts: 248
TRs: 40 Photos: 253
Loc: redmond, washington, USA
finished reading your report, but i can't stop gaping. nice! tuptuptuptup
Always be sincere--even if you don't mean it.
--Benny Hill

#1035338 - 09/22/11 11:42 PM Re: [TR] Picket Range - Complete Enchainment Attempt 9/2/2011 [Re: Sol]
Friedrich Offline

Registered: 12/03/03
Posts: 112
TRs: 3 Photos: 43
Loc: Seattle, WA
WOW! Fantastic, inspiring story, photos, and TR. Well done!
'Ascend the obvious gully.' - Fred Becky.

#1035352 - 09/23/11 08:45 AM Re: [TR] Picket Range - Complete Enchainment Attempt 9/2/2011 [Re: Sol]
olyclimber Offline

Registered: 09/19/03
Posts: 25324
TRs: 47 Photos: 895
Loc: In Love with You
Wow...pretty crazy how the bar just continues to raise. Great job guys.

#1035361 - 09/23/11 09:53 AM Re: [TR] Picket Range - Complete Enchainment Attempt 9/2/2011 [Re: Sol]
swezeyt Offline

Registered: 06/08/08
Posts: 25
TRs: 6 Photos: 66
Loc: Bellingham, Wa
What an adventure!

#1035367 - 09/23/11 10:23 AM Re: [TR] Picket Range - Complete Enchainment Attempt 9/2/2011 [Re: Sol]
off_the_hook Offline

Registered: 05/15/03
Posts: 186
TRs: 90 Photos: 13448
Loc: San Carlos, CA
Sweet!! The Pickets deliver awesome terrain and the Himmelhorn looks wicked! Congrats and I hope to see the complete S to N come to fruition next year.

#1035368 - 09/23/11 10:25 AM Re: [TR] Picket Range - Complete Enchainment Attempt 9/2/2011 [Re: Sol]
willstrickland Offline

Registered: 06/15/01
Posts: 3535
TRs: 7 Photos: 109
Loc: Joshua Tree
That's one helluva trip!

#1035369 - 09/23/11 10:53 AM Re: [TR] Picket Range - Complete Enchainment Attempt 9/2/2011 [Re: Sol]
danhelmstadter Offline
addicted to

Registered: 08/22/07
Posts: 409
TRs: 88 Photos: 22
Loc: pnw
YEAH! awesome !!!

#1035371 - 09/23/11 11:00 AM Re: [TR] Picket Range - Complete Enchainment Attempt 9/2/2011 [Re: Sol]
Dannible Offline
addicted to

Registered: 06/26/06
Posts: 573
TRs: 8 Photos: 156
Loc: Der Town
Thanks everyone. This may have been an attempt at something bigger but by the time we got off the southern traverse we were all pretty stoked to have done it. It was a strange feeling as we set off towards picket pass, celebrating what we had done, but knowing that we had a few days of movement left to get out where there could be no mistakes. I knew that there was a good chance that we'd only finish the southern (or less) which is why I went in and sussed out the crescent creek approach the week before. This is also why I lobbied to push on to Outrigger, Luna, and Access Creek: covering new ground seemed like a lot more fun than going down the crescent twice in two weeks. Also, that dotted line running over Picket Pass in the Beckey Guide has always spurred my imagination and been "the middle of nowhere" in my mind.

As for finishing it next year, it's hard to imagine. I've been thinking about this really hard for a couple of years and it's freeing to have gone and given it a go. When you are really set on trying something like this it can dominate so much of your life and thoughts that it's nice to be able to put it on the back burner for a while. Also, there were parts of the Southern Traverse that were pretty dangerous (following over loose rock with a friend right below you is scary) and one must let those memories fade a bit before going and doing it again. Just to go and do the Northern Traverse would be pretty cool.

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