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About scott_johnston

  • Birthday 09/27/1953


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    mountain guide
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    mazama, wa

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  1. Great trip report. It looks like you had fun. I thought folks had forgotten about this route. Larry and I climbed the first ascent in June 2001 and the descent gully had snow in it. I don't recall anything scary or dangerous at all about the descent so maybe it would be nicer to climb it earlier in the summer. We called it the Whine Spire because we were whining so badly in our rock shoes by the time we go to the base again. As Spiderman above notes: Bring a #5 for the crux pitch. we didn't have anything more than a #4 and wished we did. The first photo in this post is actually on the second pitch. This is the 10a pitch that I went back and bolted a couple of years later to avoid the nasty 5.8 original 2nd pitch. When Larry and I scoped the route from the ground we saw the clean arching left facing corner to the right of the now bolted line. We had visions of us heroically stemming and liebacking up that cool feature. We were more than a bit dismayed when we go there and found that is a mere seam and beyond our abilities to either protect or climb. The face to the left looked great but would not take pro (till I later drilled holes in it) so we took the first ascenscionist way out and opted for a the mungy 5.8 grovel to the left. Later we recognized the over all quality and uniqueness of the route and that this was spoiled but the second pitch.
  2. I am glad to see that so many folks are getting on this route now. It is a worthy alpine adventure in a semi remote location while being doable in a day by a strong party using the Mudhole lake trail approach. I am sorry I can not give better or more specific beta than is showing up here. Stay as close to the ridge as you can for the purest line and best rock. Larry and I originally tried this route in Sept 2006 and it was covered in verglas which was pretty spooky especially since we had only normal sized gear and the cracks were only suitable for knife blades. We bailed and rapped off of a small tree so this is probably the yellow cord that skibum refers to. However when we came back the next spring we chose a line well right of that first attempt and just a few feet right of the main buttress prow. Having gotten spanked on the first attempt we went back armed for bear (well, over armed actually as it turned out not to be quite so ferocious without ice) with lots of knife blades and a power drill. We didn't want to get skunked again. We placed and left knife blades where necessary knowing that most folks won't have them on their rack and we didn't place any bolts. It was some sort of penance to lug the drill and 20 bolts and hangers (I told you, we were serious about getting up the thing) in there and up all those pitches though. On P7 we climbed both cracks and the 5.9 direct variation to the right of the 5.7 is the better line. The shots of the proud line at the top of the post were taken by me from the Driveway Butte trail out of the Klipchuck campground which has this nice view up Varden Ck. It is completely possible to continue the ascent to the true summit of 8252 but it would entail a rap into and climb out of a notch to the S of the summit of VCS. We stopped where we did because it is the natural end of the route and keeps it a grade III outing. The ridge to the top of 8252 has the same super high quality rock as the bulk of VCS has; which is the best I have seen in the WA pass area and as good as Forbidden. Several parties have climbed 8252 as part of an ascent of the complete E ridge of Silver Star which is major alpine line. I reported on this route a few years ago in the NWMJ and Mark Allen/Mark Layton have written it up here.
  3. About 6 or 7 years ago Steve House and I made an attempt on the SE ridge of Tower in January. We skied up Pine Creek from near Lone Fir campground on Hwy 20. We were thwarted due to the difficulty of the rock climbing. That doesn't necessarily mean much since we are both hacks. In our defense we were climbing in ski boots and had a very light alpine rack and short 8mm rope. The ridge looks moderate but it didn't take much 5th class rock to defeat us. With no possiblity to aid the harder moves we had to turn back after a really fun mixed scramble along the bottom of the route. We did it as a day trip and the skiing is really fun in that drainage so all was not lost. I recall the rock seeming quite good and I think in summer it would be a fun jaunt. We did this a few days after climbing most of the NW ridge of WA Pass pk which is a really fun alpine route that we went back and finished the next summer. Scott
  4. Peter; I may have misspoken here. I have climbed the route about 4 times and not in the last 2 years so my recollection might be a bit off. It is clear that some if not all of the original aid bolts on the first pitch bolt ladder had been replaced with more modern bolts. As I recall this is done in such a way that maybe every other bolt has a the funky original 1/4" (could be wrong here) and aluminum hanger and the others are bigger bolts(Those old 1/4' bolts are generally easy to pry out and then a nice starter hole is in place for the new bolt which saves a bunch of effort). This way a person who needed to French free it had all the bolts but someone freeing it would have decent pro to limit fals to say 10-20' (at least that was my interpretion from what I saw). I am always too busy trying no to fall off those moves to pay a lot of attention to the bolts in detail. I believe that the second 5.11 pitch is a different story. From my understanding the FA used hooks for a few moves on that steep bulge with the finger pockets. There are at least 2 bolts now in that section that are very close together. Maybe 2' apart is an exageration but they are very close so perhaps 3-4' is more accurate. My guess is that the rebolter (whom I applaud by the way) felt that since he was making the route French free-able and most folks don't head on to free climbs with aiders and hooks he would stick a couple more bolts in and make them close enough together so one could yard on them if need be. I had not climbed it before it was rebolted but looking at the remaining rusted bent 1/4' bolts in the area it is easy to see why some of the old bolts have been replaced. As far as I know this rebolting was done only once. When you say it was not a "death run out" are you meaning on aid or free? Probably all the old bolts would hold body weight. However, a free climbing leader fall on to one of the those 1/4 rusted bolts cold easily have resulted in a ground fall on the fist pitch. Recall that bolt ladder starts right off the ledge. On the second aid pitch the area requiring hooks and the hard pocket free moves are also done right off the belay ledge. There is no alternative for protection there to prevent a ground fall. So maybe not "death" but certainly broken legs and shattered pelvis are are distinct possibilites in both those spots. Rereading my earlier post IO can see hwhy it was not clear, sorry. Scott
  5. Goatboy; Some good points have been mentioned in this discussion but it appears that some info might be missing in the evaluation of the merits of this or any bolt. Some of what I say will be obvious to some but maybe not to all so bear with me here. 1)By well respected and vastly experienced I had hoped to imply that this climber has much experience in many varied climbing scenarios. His esteem has come from his experience and good judgement shown during some 35+ years of climbing. I am not involving him in this discussion out of respect (for the record it is not Steve House). Just as you might defer to someone who is more skilled and experienced in any other climbing situation (even asking for beta)it does not seem unreasonable to give the benefit of the doubt to someone with such knowledge. He didn't earn his reputation by being a Bozo. In several of the earlier posts here the argument was put forth that since the poster didn't see the need/use for the bolt there must not be a use. I tried to make the point that there might indeed be uses that many folks seemed unwilling or unable to acknowledge and that the person who placed the bolt just might have thought through the placement pretty thouroughly. Anyone who has ever spent an hour hand drilling a bolt hole knows that this is not a casual decision. 2)No one seems to be willing to defend the position that 5.11 climbers deserve to have bolts at the ready but 5.2 climbers do not. I am not talking chipping holds or any other extreme thing you are suggesting. I am talking purely about a simple protection bolt where nothing else will serve. It would be the rare modern climber who has not enjoyed the benefits of clipping bolts on routes that tested their ability. I have yet to hear anyone complain about the retro bolting that took place on the Beckey Leen E Butt Direct of SEWS some 12 years ago. The old 1/4" bolts were replaced and new bolts (some 2 feet apart) added to the second ladder where hooks were used at first. All the 5.11 climbers (and some who weren't) I have ever talked to were glad to clip each bolt. None of them whined about the destruction of that classic climb like some of the posters on this thread seem to be implying about the S arete. In fact I'll wager that the Beckey-Leen gets climbed 10 times as often since the retro bolting took place. In my opinion it is a wonderful and difficult free climb now which has bolts linking crack systems to create a true classic. So I ask again: Why do advenced climbers deserve to have bolts where needed but beginners do not?? We climb for many reasons and I tend to think the world is a better place if more people get out there and challenge themselves in the mountinas and on the crags at whatever level they find their challenge. 3)You make the same old argument about where do we stop if we allow bolting to occur at all. We are debating one simple protection bolt here not the end of climbing as we know it because of the downward spiral in ethics. This bolting debate is as old as the rap bolting debate, the chalk debate or the sticky rubber debate or the nuts vs pins debate but I have been around long enough to have heard them all. Unless you climb naked and with no rope you are already admitting that you have adopted modern technology to the artificial construct of climbing rock. So to follow the argument that you seem to be proposing to its logical conclusion would reduce the number of climbers by 99/9%. Will you be left climbing in this pure state? I sure won't. So, instead the climbing community has evloved with the technology and done so quite nicely, I think. No one today would try to equate top roping or hangdogging your way up a sport 5.12 with an onsight ascent, on gear of a remote alpine 5.12. We have new frames of reference with which to view our "sport" that didn't even exist 25 years ago. I submit that to place bolts in the chimney pitch lower on the route as you allude to would go beyond the accepted norm for almost everyone. There are ample natural protection sites there so that bolts would be totally redundant. On the traversing arete about which all this bruhaha is over there are no gear options at all. To me, your attempt to draw a conlcusion from dissimilar situations is without any merit as the situations are completely different. One has temporary gear options the other has NONE. 4)If you don't need the bolt; don't clip it. It really is that simple. When you climb a crack you have the option (to some extent) of placing as much gear as want where you need it. If you don't need it you don't place it. Simple. Some folks sew up 5.6. Some will run out the same crack but I never hear that the seamstress has some how deminished the bold guy's climb. 5)Some posters seem confused as to why the bolt is where it is. It is at the high point of the traverse to afford the most protection possible. While one can lead past it and belay on the other side (while acending and descending the route)that places the leader below the second with very bad consequences should the second fall (a penduulum ground fall of 50'). I will grant that the likelyhood of a fall there is small but a resuce would be required and most likely a heli evac causing a lot of problems for many people. So what I do when guiding is to sit au cheval on the arete at the bolt and clip in. I then belay the client(s) across. I am as much above them as I can possibly be, have minimized the potential penduulum and I can coach them if they have difficulties. This is not something that many of you have had the need of doing but perhaps my explaining the reasoning and thought behind all of this will serve to shed some light. You would not believe the number of folks I have watched fall off the first pitch of that climb; some coming perilously close to decking. Many of them I am sure felt like experienced leaders but I have seen gear pulled, gear too low to keep the leader off the ground, no gear, poorly placed gear. I have seen leaders spend 20 minutes shaking on that 5.5 crux. These are the folks that are attracted to this sort of climb: Not the likes of the probably very competant climbers involved in this discusion. Sorry for the long winded post Scott
  6. Goatboy: My point of making the taunting reference to Tooth and Claw was that for some folks; that exposed traverse holds as much intimidation that the runouts on accepted hard climbs do for more experienced climbers. Certainly there are other ways to manage that traverse and your fixed rope idea is one of them. I believe that most folks will not have the skills nor take the time to build the necessary bomber anchors for a horizontal fixed rope. You have to admit that the bolt was a simple and tidy way of solving an otherwise difficult problem. And my point as regards that solution was that it was placed in an unobtrusive place that went unnoticed by most climbers. I have often heard the argument presented that "I don't need that bolt so it should go." It is easy to dis bolts placed on easy (for you) climbs. If you don't believe me just go read the continuing nonsensical debate about the bolt spacing on Prime Rib. Folks are actually bragging about skipping bolts on 5.8!! I find that kind of argument specious and by making the challenging comparison to Tooth and Claw perhaps I was over reacting but not everyone feels comfortable on long runouts even on "easy" ground. You are entitled to call the bolt silly if you choose. But, the next time you are sketched and feel the need to clip a "silly" bolt that Peter Croft would scamper past perhaps you will consider the hypocracy in the relief that you feel when safely clipped while you are wanting to deny that same feeling to some beginner on their first lead. The argument that good climbers deserve protection on hard routes but poor or inexperienced climbers do not deserve protection on "easy" climbs just doesn't hold water. Nothing personal, I think this is a discussion long overdue. Scott Johnston
  7. That bolt was placed by a universally well respected climber in the NW climbing community who has more experience on hard alpine routes in big mountains than half the people on this board put togther. He did a credible job of "hiding" it on the off side so that many folks never even know it is there. Sure, almost all of us never need to think of roping up for that traverse on a sunny day in July. But believe it or not some folks need to belay that entire route. Try guiding that section in a safe manner when it is covered in verglas or snow. I climb that route at least a dozen times a year and have seen some things done by supposedly experienced climbers all over that climb that can only make you shake your head. The bolt was placed in a careful and considerate manner for those that might need it whatever their circumstances. You want hard and runout do you? Need to prove your man? Rather than pick on a trade route that has one bolt where NO other protection options exist go hop on Tooth and Claw and tell me how you like those runouts. I have not seen a TR from that rig in like...........forever! Hummmmm, why do you suppose that is? Scott Johnston
  8. Park at the pullout just uphill from mile post 165. Walk uphill to the very end of this pullout and look over the embankment at the stand of fir trees that comes highest up the slope toward the pullout. Those are your target. The steep bank of fill does not hold a trail but you will find one once you get down into the big trees just below the large talus. From there the trail is pretty well beaten in. Scott
  9. Trip: North Cascades - First Ascent N Arete of Varden Creek Spire Date: 6/22/2007 Trip Report: After looking at this fantastic piece of rock for several years while skiing around Silver Star Larry Goldie and I finally overcame our sloth and made the long trek up to try to climb what we thought would be the N Arete of pk 8252. This striking piece of rock rises up from the head of Varden Creek and forms a significant high point along the complete E ridge of Silver Star. We made this foray late last Sept and were sent packing by very thin pro and a thin coating of frost that did not melt. After two longish and very run out pitches on slippery lichen we rapped off trees vowing to return with knifebaldes. The rock quality, position and asthetics of th eline were irresistable. In mid June of this year we ventured back armed to the teeth. The climbing turned out to be all we had hoped and so I think others might like to know about a route of this quality. We reached the toe of the buttress proper and stayed very close to the arete all the way to the last pitch. The rock quality is some of the best I have seen in the WA pass area. And it remains such all the way until a short very easy section just below the summit tower. The climbing is consistantly 5.FUN with a few spicey moves thrown in to keep you on your toes. We placed (and left) around 7 knifeblades in strategic locations so that you won't have to lug in pins and a hammer. Just stick close to the arete unless the climbing becomes harder than 5.9 then follow the easy way but steer back the arete ASAP. We never went more than 20 feet or so off the ridge and most of the time were right on the arete which gave great climbing and nice exposure. I'll post a few photos and a topo here but there are more photos on ncmountinaguides.com. The climbing in general is not sustained with just the odd hard move here and there. The exception to this is the 5.9 variation on P7 which is a sustained finger crack and licheny. View looking up Varden Creek at the proud line Sorry for the squiggly line Sweet rock typical of the whole route Larry following P5 Larry leading P6. Yep, it goes up the RH skyline Larry next to the summit Gear Notes: Light rack of single small cams to number 2 Camalot, runners etc. Like I said we went in loaded for bear and were way to heavy. Most hard pitches have crux protected with fixed pin. Approach Notes: We are nothe guys to ask about approaching this thing as we went the hard way both times. What I suggest would be one of the two following options. 1)Camp at the Larch bench below Burgandy col and approach over the col and cross SS glacier and over the Varden/ SS creek divide to the toe of the route. 2)Ascend Varden Ck but reputed to open trees and not bad by moderately reliable local source. We went up Mudhole lake trail and then cross country to the base. Took us 4 hours to the base. DESCENT; It turned out that this was not the N ridge of 8252 but was its own seperate little sub summit and hence the unique name. So we did two short raps to get us back to the start of the last hard pitch and then down climbed to the snow basin below the E side to the Arete. Pretty easy down climing but it could be rapped from tree anchors too.
  10. So that's why the "10b" start completely kicked our ass! yeah that start of P1 is hard but would you consider it harder than P4? P4 felt like 11a to me and martins, so we graded it 10c. blake said 10d and you said 10c. who knows? personally, i prefer the sandbag over the softy. I think .10b for the first pitch because I was able to onsight it and I was pretty run-down at that point in our trip. However... if that crux is .10c, then the first pitch is 5.8 Yikes; Am I missing something here or did you guys change climbs in the middle of a thread? If we are talking Gato Negro here then I thougth folks were in pretty good aggreement that the first pitch was 5.8 and the 4th pitch was around mid 5.10 not the 10 plus we wimpy first ascensionists graded it. Honestly I thought it felt like 5.11 but I am really bad a wide cracks that are full of loose shit, but that's just me and Larry talked some sense into me after I stopped shaking. Help me out here or do I need to completely redo the topo?? BTW: The photos above are not Hardy N buttress but are a new route on a sub peak of pk8252 which is along Silver Star's E ridge. We called it Varden Creek Spire as it was disappintingly seperated from 8252 by a deep gash that we didn't want to deal with. Rock quality is the best of anything I have climbed in the WA pass area. Quite similar stone to N Ridge of Stuart but with more lichen of course. If anyone is interested I could post a TR about it. Scott N Arete of Varden Ck Spire: N Buttress of Hardy
  11. Sol; Whew; I'm relieved that we don't need to downgrade that pitch too. I might get a complex or somthing. I climbed that pitch with a brush in one hand and prybar in my mouth (even though it didn't need much cleaning) so my rating perspective could have been skewed. Mike; I will update the topo when some more recent ascensionista comes forth with better descent beta. In the mean time here a couple of teaser shots from a recent climb Larry and I did in the same neighborhood. Look familiar to anyone? Not too savvy on how to work this whole photo thing so here goes nothing.....
  12. Mike; It has been too long ago and my mind is too adled to recall specifics of the descent. What I do remember is that we did 2(?) single 60m rope raps into the gully and left slings or cordolettes then followed the gully back to the base of the route. There was a little low fifth class down climbing over short steps (??). Maybe John or others who have been there more recently can chime in with details. Larry and I were too busy whining (hence the spire's name) about our painful shoes so my brain was probably shut down to survival mode. I sure didn't mean to be cavalier about the descent as it has real potential to be dangerous and my omission from the topo was an oversight for sure. I will make changes to the topos at the NCMG shop.
  13. John et al; Glad you liked Gato Negro. Nice photos and I can't believe how much cleaner it looks than when Larry and I did the FA 6 years ago. I guess it has been getting some traffic. No doubt the grade of the crux pitch was somewhat inflated. We had a minimal rack and that pitch was really dirty (read; scary). I agree that the new direct 2nd pitch is a vast improvement over the dirty 5.8. It better be as it was a real pain to bolt. Did you feel the grade was fair on that pitch? That steep bolted face was the way that we tried to climb on the FA but it was way run out and we had to bail to the much less glamorous, dirty, loose cracks rather than spend too much time on one pitch so early in the climb. Much of that upper 5.8 crack climbing is just plain fun. We did the climb early in the summer so there was snow in the gully for the descent and it was pretty casual (even in rock shoes) so a June climb might save some anguish on the descent. BTW: There has been more new route activity in the area and if I can find the time I will try to post something short. Regards, Scott Johnston
  14. Mike Layton; Did you ever find the start of Restless Native? As you no doubt noticed it is just a wee bit damp at the moment. No question: It is the best route on GW. If you have not done it Bryan's new book is due out soon and will help. Scott PS; Glad you liked it. Thanks for the cudos to Larry and me. It was the proverbial Sisypean task but inthe end it was worth all the work.
  15. Off: DUUH. Not sure why I didn't think of looking at the very informative posts over at the BC board. Thanks for suggesting that. Scott
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