Kaleetan Peak, July 7, 2019
Chuck's Line, one pitch, 5.7, 1x
The last outing I did with Chuck Spiekerman was a visit to Kaleetan Peak on 7/22/2019. He had been working on me to get away from Darrington, and sold me on this unclimbed 600-foot West Face. The only problem was the four-hour approach hike. But since I'd been doing that nearly every summer weekend for the last several years, I agreed to help.
Chuck had done the research, scoping the face on an earlier solo trip up the North Ridge. He'd returned to work out the approach from Melakwa Lake and the best place to leave the climbers' track to contour around to the west side. He'd found the "magic gully" that leads down from the south shoulder to the west face smoothly. Now he'd invited me to join him on a rock climb of discovery on the west face itself. I was skeptical that there could be a good, unclimbed cliff in a busy, popular hiking area. At the same time, I was skeptical of all the work to hump in the required gear. Surely these two factors opposed themselves and would cancel out! So I agreed, and we'd have the place to ourselves for a day.
We brought two 60m ropes, a single rack with wires and cams to 3", my bolt kit with 3 bolts and hangers, drill and hammer, and no bivy gear. It is in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness Area, so no power drills are allowed. We would have to allow four hours of hiking time to get back to Denny Creek trailhead, and set our turn-around time. I didn't want to hike out in the dark.
Being on a strict timeline, I didn't stop for photos much. Wanting to document the wall itself, I took shots of the cliff but not of Chuck leading out. He drilled his first ever bolt on lead, protecting a steep short wall on a limestone patch. It only took him about 8 minutes to drill. The climbing on the limestone patches was phenomenal: sharp, sticky, and fun. Then he got in another bolt at the belay anchor, which is in quartzite, or perhaps andesite, much harder, and it took 20 minutes. It's a "pre-Tertiary melange" up there! He brought me up, and I drilled the second anchor bolt. Agreeing to go up and left toward a big tree for Pitch 2 next time, we rapped off.
It was late afternoon and time to get out of there. On the talus on the way out I took these three photos of Chuck. Rest in peace, my friend.
There is gravel strewn over every ledge and hold, but the rock is sound. We didn't experience any loose rock or rockfall. The talus slope at the base is very loose and littered with bright, white quartz rhomboids. It is a wide wall; there are doubtless better places to start. Indeed, there is a good crack in a left-facing corner directly below our line that could be used as a more direct start at a higher grade. For our continuation, we were going to angle left to the big tree aimed at by the arrow in the annotated photo. We spoke of staying in the light-grey limestone as much as possible, as the climbing there is excellent. If someone hankers for an adventure route, feel free to use Chuck's Line as a first pitch and go from there.