1 pointTrip: Mount Formidable - South Route Trip Date: 07/05/2020 Trip Report: YouTube video (FYI - mistyped the date in the video splash screen - its July 4-6, not June) We had a Fri-Sun trip planned but switched to Sat-Mon due to the weather. Good call as one day either way would have been a no-go. We lucked out with the one day with sunny and calm weather for the summit day. Overall it was about 26 miles and pushing 10,000ft gain for the whole thing car to car. About 7 hours to camp, 19 hours for the climb day and 6 hours hike out. The climb day broke down to about 2.5 hours from camp to the col looking at Formidable. 5 hours col to summit, 8 hours summit to col (extra time due to an additional handline, softer snow coming down and rappels for 5 people), 3.5 hours col to camp. 5 of us took off from the gate 2 miles back from the Cascade Pass trailhead adding an extra 4 miles and 1000ft gain to the trip starting around 8:30am. From Cascade Pass 99% of the rest of the trip was on snow with only an occasional bit of trail or rock islands to cross. Steep snow with bad runout in places along the way to Cache Glacier but not bad. There is a huge cornice forming across the entire width of Cache Col. That will not be pretty when it collapses. We had to hit it on the far right and traverse under the cornice to the rocks on the other side and a loose scree/rock scramble up to the top of the col. From there its an easy snow walk to Kool-aid lake which is still under feet of snow. But the water is running at the stream there. The traverse around to Red Ledges is also an easy snow walk the entire way. The Red Ledges were a bit tricky. Getting onto them is straightforward traversing on steep snow but the last bit is a runout over the moat. Around the corner out of sight was another steep now patch about 20ft across covering the ledge with runout into the chasm that had to be side traversed. Then a steep snow climb out of the ledges, again with runout into the chasm. Everyone soloed it okay but its 3 no-fall steep snow sections to get through the ledges. We setup camp just around the corner near Arts Knoll and turned in early. 3:30am wakeup and walking around 4:45. We woke up to clear blue sky and calm weather. Made quick work of the Cascade Glacier, down Formidable/Spider col and across the basin to the final col in just over 2 hours. The drop from there was on a steep snow finger that was easy to get down. From there a walk across and backup to the rock ledge where we found a couple different paths to scramble up the ledges to the next snowfield. From there we went up to where the ledges scramble option starts but looking at our options figured there were too many snow patches on the ledges but it looked like snow went all the way up the chasm. So we decided to go straight up the middle of the chasm hoping to intersect the 4th class step across the chasm. Halfway up we hit a moat starting to form but was still enough left we were able to get around it and all the way to where we could step onto the other side of the chasm. The ledges had a layer of snow and ice but was easy to get into and made it to the cairn. From there the next trick was getting across the face which was mostly steep snow. We started going up about 40ft before starting to traverse over. (Photo of Albert, Rodica and I by Tim) One person was far enough out they soloed across to the rock island. The rest of us decided to run a handline so we got one anchored to rocks on both ends tying our twin 37m ropes together. Once across the first half we had a 2nd snow slope to get the rest of the way over so we repeated with a 2nd handline between two rock islands. The snow was firm enough on the way across we sped it up having more than one go across the handline at the same time. On the return trip with softer snow things slowed down when we only sent one person at a time across the handlines. Once over we had the last 300ft most of which was another steep snow slope which was starting to soften up. (Photo of Sean, myself, Rodica and Albert coming up the last 250ft snowfield from the base of the traverse to just below the summit block by Tim). We were able to all solo up and then the last 50 feet or so to the summit block was mixed snow and loose rock. On the way down we scrambled the rocks about half way down till we found a horn that seemed like it would hold a handline and backed it up with a cam and dropped down the rope as a handline for everyone to prussic down to the start of the traverse. Last person cleaned the gear and downclimbed with a couple pickets left in to protect the last person down. To get across the face we repeated the 2 handlines to the cairn at the top of the chasm. With the softer snow on the way back only one at a time went a cross each handline. That and dropping a line to prussic down part of the upper snowfield from the summit block and the rappel added a few extra hours to the trip down. Here we couldn’t find any rappel slings from other videos we’ve seen. Maybe they were still buried under the snow. So we tied 3 cordelletes together and slung the giant block the cairn is sitting on as a backup to rappel slings put around 2 smaller boulders. We rappelled off the smaller boulders with the backup in place in case they moved. The last person down retrieved the cordelletes and just left a sling behind. So, if anyone ever sees that sling wondering if someone rapped off the small boulders – it was backed up for the first 4 people. That rappel put us down past the moat forming in the middle. And had to jump across the side moat to get back onto the snow. From there a short face in downclimb and then back to the scramble down the ledges. By the time we hit Formidable/Spider col the sun was going down and headlamps came out. One person had a headlamp bulb go out so we had to slow down on the descent of the glacier and back to camp which added the extra hour on the return to camp. Great climb with a great group that worked well together figuring out some tricky options to protecting the climb in ways that are not normally done there that way. Signing the summit register the last people to have signed it were almost a year ago last August. Memorable Quotes Gathered by Sean: "We're crazy" ~ Rodica "Is that the Spider/Formidable col?" ~ Albert, deliriously pointing toward a snow finger nowhere near our exit col "I have some cord that I found and don't know the history of so we should rap off it because i'm tired of thinking about it, I just want to get rid of it" ~ Tim "Guys, we should really be protecting this. Right???" ~ Rodica "I don't mind if we bail on this picket because it's Albert's anyway...." ~ Ian "If I hike all night and go straight to work I probably still won't make it on time" ~ Sean "I'd love to come up here in tennis shoes sometime" ~ Tim "Would you consider this an intermediate climb?" ~ Albert "These are all the cams left?" ~ Ian "[ice axe falls down cliff]" ~ Ian "[glove falls down cliff]" ~ Sean [Blue Skies by Ella Fitzgerald comes on the radio when we're in a whiteout at camp] "I think the radio is taunting us" ~ Tim "I'm already committed." ~ Sean, as everyone else decides to stop and rope up. Gear Notes: Twin 37m ropes, light alpine rack (cams/nuts), 5 pickets, ice axes + 2nd tool
1 pointHey y'all, been lurking here for a few years soaking up a ton of great advice - never posted about any of my (+ wife) trips, so figured I'd put up a few pics from early June where we went for an Adams+Rainier two-fer. We nailed the window for Adams, getting to the mountain 2days after the park opened and only a couple days after blizzard-like conditions - kept a SUPER keen eye-out for avy prone slopes! Camped in a great little spot on the Lunch Counter and went up the following day. The south route was actually still pretty icy and a bit steeper than either of us expected, and boy is it a mental gut-punch getting to Pikers and (though expected) still seeing another ~600ft of climbing left. Bluebird skies by the time we hit the summit, and things started de-icing by the time we were coming down (around 1ish? we started late to let the ice thaw a tad). Also, a ton of what I assume are sulphur vents up there? Pretty cool! Big shout out to the guy who took our summit pic - he gave us an ersatz lesson in glissading (somehow we'd still never done it) and that is THE way to get down if you aren't ski descending. Also, big apology to the skiers who (whom?) were surely perturbed by us on the way down! We spent a night in Ashford after we descended and planned to get on Rainier and do the DC the next morning. Weather report said clear and warming, and hoooooo-boy was that wrong. We got to Paradise around 8am and it was cloud city - with that and still being kinda sore from Adams, we said screw it and decided to just do a hike to Muir. Going down it was, like, 40ft visibility from 7500-9000ft which was pretty concerning - this was the day that lost hiker at Paradise went missing, so I'm assuming it was due to the whiteout (we personally ran into a dude who got separated from his wife and kid - who it turns out decided to descend without telling him???). And good golly, we were seeing people still coming up in tshirts, shorts, and tennis shoes with no supplies! One group tried going up this steep snowslope before Panorama without even microspikes! The degree to which some people are so cavalier with their lives is mind boggling. Anyway that sort of brings me to why I posted this in the "newbies" section - even with >10yrs of trad/aid/sport climbing experience and a couple prior Rainier summits plus this recent trip, my wife and I are only FINALLY starting to feel comfortable with our skills. To any of the newbies thinking "I've got backpacking experience, so I can pull off Rainier. Surely crampons aren't THAT tough to figure out" you will fail. If you want to get a jump on the learning curve, I would personally recommend multiple guided trips - we did the independent route and are only 50/50 so far! I digress. Anyway, big thanks to the website and users, and hopefully we'll have more trip posts in the future!
1 pointTrip: Mt Stuart - Direct North Ridge Trip Date: 06/22/2020 Trip Report: I finally ticked off this crown jewel of the Cascades! We did deal with some tough early season conditions, including snow and ice on the "Slab with Crack" as well as the section between the gendarme and the summit. I've included the text of my report below. Full report with photos can be found at https://spokalpine.com/2020/06/29/mt-stuart-direct-north-ridge/ John and I climbed the Direct North Ridge of Mount Stuart on a “leisure” schedule from June 21-23, 2020. It was the culmination of years of honing my mountain craft in the Cascades and abroad; this one meant a lot! The journey started in 2016, when I saw Stuart in person for the first time from Colchuck Peak. I was spellbound by the rugged beauty of the mountain with its springtime coating of snow and ice, making the North Ridge even more dramatic as it soared directly to the summit. It is possible to climb the North Ridge using an “abbreviated” start, gaining the ridge crest at half-height via a rocky gully rising from Stuart Glacier – this version of the route is included as one of the “50 Classic Climbs of North America” and some say it is the most commonly climbed version. To me, a direct start climbing directly from the toe of the ridge creates a much more pure, aesthetic and logical line to the summit. The Direct North Ridge instantly became my goal. Three months later after I first laid eyes on it, John and I made the Southern approach via Ingalls Creek for an attempt on the route. Cresting Goat Pass, we stopped to stare at the route in profile. The scale of the climb was jaw-dropping; we quickly turned around and went home. We were not ready and we knew it, but we made other excuses. Four years and many climbs went by before John and I decided that it was time to put this project to bed. This time, we trudged up Mountaineer’s Creek to Mount Stuart. Swarming insects, brutal heat, boulder hopping and a off-trail bushwhacking brought us to our plush back country campsite below Stuart’s Northern aspect. A few other climbers passed by our camp on their way out; they were the last people we would see for two days. We had the entire valley, and mountain, to ourselves. Cheers to weekday alpinism! With the Summer Solstice only two days prior, we had a long day of daylight on our side. Planning to blast the route and descent in a single push from camp, the route was already in full sun as we started hiking up the moraine at 5:30am. John volunteered to lead the first pitch, which was a great warmup for the day. The “slot” on this pitch is as awkward as people say… hang the leader’s pack off of a cam below the slot and belay just above. The leader can lower a loop of rope to the follower and haul the packs past the slot. I took point on the uneventful second pitch and John fired the 5.9+ third pitch, the hardest pitch on the climb. After a fourth belayed pitch (perhaps 5.7), we changed gears to simulclimbing mode. This part of the climb was truly a gift, featuring moderate climbing and unbeatable alpine ambiance. Rock and ice thundered down Ice Cliff Glacier every few minutes, reminding us that the mountain is always in charge. Our staircase of clean granite carried us 1600 feet higher into the cobalt sky. After a few hours, I lead over a high point in the ridgeline and felt my stomach drop. I was looking at the well-known and typically easy “slab with crack” pitch, but it was partially covered in snow and ice. There were no signs of prior passage and I questioned whether or not I would be able to climb it in these conditions. I quickly realized that I had to give the pitch my absolute best effort – bailing from this high on the ridge would be an absolute nightmare. The mountain was testing us even more than I expected. I cautiously led up the pitch, placing a solid cam a few feet below the snow patch before strapping my pathetic, worn-down aluminum crampons on my approach shoes. Evaluating the snow patch, I realized that it consisted of about 1 inch of ice against the rock with a couple of inches of snow on top. My ultralight ice axe would not be able to excavate the crack to place protection. The first few feet were the thinnest, and I willed the snow patch to stay attached to the mountain. With full commitment, I stepped onto the ice and quickly power-stepped my way up, trying to maintain my upward momentum. Racing to the top, I slapped my hands on the lip and mantled to a perfect belay stance. The final section of mid-fifth class climbing was still very snowy. Several miserable pitches with snow blocking the easiest route cost us a lot of time. Since it was dark already, we chose not to hurry, shifting our focus to finding the safest route among the snow and loose rock. Several times, I found myself at a dead-end, requiring me to reverse the last few moves and find another way. This was crushing in my exhausted state! We pulled onto the summit just at 11:30pm as the temperatures dropped. Regardless, I was incredibly happy and felt no stress about our situation, just focus and joyful resolve. We could handle this. The night sky was ablaze with stars and I was living my ideal atop this massive, complex peak. We began toiling our way down the East Ridge on snow, then 4th class rock, and then a lot more snowy rock. It was extremely slow going in the dark and we settled in for a short bivouac once we found a good platform. Bouts of violent shivering and continual harassment from the local snafflehounds provided entertainment until the sun rose again. In the morning, we continued traversing the East Ridge and descended the Sherpa Glacier, which was a tedious but straightforward descent option. The hike out to the car was quite the death march, but it always seems that way! Gear Notes: Doubles from fingers to #3. Approach Notes: Approach via Mountaineer's Creek and descent via the Sherpa Glacier.