Trip: Broken Top - NW Ridge
Summer is here, time for some fairweather alpine climbing! Our destination, the summit of broken top via the northwest ridge.
Lauren and I got up early on Friday morning, drove from Mt. Shasta up HWY 97, and met Chris and Steve at the parking lot of the Green Lakes Trailhead around 2:30pm. None of us were in a big hurry to get started early, since it was only about 4 miles from the trailhead to Green Lakes, where we had planned on spending the night. We all packed light, opting for primitive shelter since the weather was decent. We hit the trail at about 3:00 and about a minute later ran into a park ranger heading back toward the parking lot. We got some beta from the ranger who informed us that there was "a lot of snow" still on the trail. Turns out he was right. After about 1/4 mile of hiking, we were following footsteps through the snow. Steve and Chris had climbed the mt. twice before, so we felt confident about our bearings and pressed on. We had a second group of 3 climbers who were planning on meeting us at camp, so steve left markers to make sure that they would be able to follow our path. After about 2 miles, we reached our first landmark, a log bridge crossing the river to our right.
We crossed the bridge and found ourselves on an island, with rivers on either side of us. We traveled north and after 1/4 or 1/2 mile came to a second bridge on our right, which crossed the other section of river. Chris informed us that we were about half way to green lakes. Unfortunately, the second half of our climb for the day was a bit more difficult. The river, now to our left, followed a series of waterfalls, making travel along the riverside impossible. We chose a route uphill through the trees to gain higher ground. It was steep, as we were walking straight up a slope that would otherwise be handled via switchbacks. Upon reaching high ground, we spotted a gap in the trees which we assumed was the first of the 3 green lakes. Turns out we were right. We reached the lake to find that it was still frozen solid. We looked around for some dry ground to set up camp, but no such luck. We were all still feeling strong, so we decided to press on, and set up camp closer to the northwest ridge. It was at this point that the variability in our fitness levels became evident. Steve (the crossfit fanatic) and Lauren (all around tough chick) got further and further ahead of Chris and I on the moderate snowfield. About 1/2 mile uphill from Green Lakes, Lauren spotted a nice, flat, dry area with plenty of dry wood, so we decided to set up camp.
Steve got on the radio and tried to get ahold of the second half of our group, which we knew had to be somewhere behind us. After some broken communication and plenty of white noise, we were able to gather that they had crossed both bridges and were headed toward the green lakes. Steve informed them that we set up camp beyond the green lakes. Although it was hard to tell exactly what was coming from the radio, it was pretty evident that was not the news they were hoping to hear. About an hour later, they reached the green lakes and radio communication became crystal clear. We relayed our position and waited for their arrival. Steve, being the fitness freak that he is, decided to walk back down towards the lakes to meet them. Just before sundown, we spotted Steve, Peter, Sheldon, and Jesse creeping up the snowfield.
Within no time, they had reached camp. We shared introductions, made some grub, and tried to unwind. Peter packed in an entire salami (COSTCO sized salami) and a bag of bagels. We all had a laugh, considering that the rest of us brought the bare minimum to conserve weight. Unfortunately, nobody brought booze so needless to say none of us slept all that well. The wind came in heavy at night and I was a little concerned that my first attempt at primitive shelter was going to result in a midnight tarp chase, but it held firm. After several hours of tarp flapping, it finally got light out and I was able to stop pretending to sleep. We had some coffee and cliff bars, threw everything in the "tent" except for some gear and some water, and got an early start towards the summit. In no time we were on the NW ridge.
The climbing along the ridge was really straightforward. Routefinding was a non-issue and there was essentially a trail beaten into the rocks by previous climbers. Even though the summit block was always in sight, it actually took longer than I expected to reach it. Lauren had my water in her pack and she got well ahead of me on the ridge, so I had to make haste to catch up. By the time I did, we were at the base of the "nose". We stopped, had a snack, and waited for the rest of the crew to arrive. The nose looked a lot more intimidating in the pictures I had seen than it actually was in person. The exposure was minimal and the climbing was very easy. Lauren and I decided to climb it free solo style, then we set up a top rope to bring up the rest of our group.
Once everybody reached the top we decided that it would be best to protect the traverse to the "catwalk". The traverse was wide enough to walk easily, but the exposure was moderate, so peace of mind for the group and for the wives took precedence. At this time we looked back down toward the snow field and spotted the only other climber we saw during our entire trip. He was well below us, not even to the ridge yet, but was moving fast. Steve led the traverse, set up a fixed rope, and the rest of the group essentially jumared across the traverse.
As you can tell from the picture, the pitch was slightly runout as there was really nowhere to place intermediate protection. I followed last, cleaned the route and had Steve belay me from the "top". Since I was already tied in to the end of the rope, I led the final pitch across the catwalk and up the summit block.
I set a sling around a horn of rock at the base of the block, then made a couple easy moves to the summit proper. I set up an anchor around a horn at the top and set a fixed rope. The rest of the group came up using prusiks around the fixed rope. We hung out at the summit, snapped a butload of pictures, and enjoyed the most calm, sunny, beautiful summit experience I've ever had.
On our decent we played it safe, and protected the catwalk and the traverse as on the way up. We set up a rappel to get down from the nose. Directly beneath the nose, Lauren and I opted to scree ski down to the snow field, while the rest of the group decided to walk down the ridge. The scree ski was quite fun and ended up saving us about a half hour. While on our way, I looked to my right only to catch Sheldon doing the most amazing glisade I have ever seen. About a quarter mile of fast sliding, face hurting from smiling, but slide. When we got back to camp, we all helped ourselves to the salami that we had previously laughed at Peter for bringing (thanks Peter).
We then slugged the 4 and a half miles or so back to the trailhead in 90 degree heat and direct sunlight. It was in all honesty, the hardest part of the whole trip. Upon reaching the trailhead, we hopped in the creek for a dip (super cold) then were on our way to Cascade Brewing for some burgers and beer. I hope anyone viewing this TR finds it helpful and that you decide to make the climb. It's well worth it.
Slings to protect the top section. The climbing is easy enough to do without protection, but there is some decent exposure so a rope is recommended. Also, bring some snow pants for the decent. Glissading is so much more fun than walking.
LOTS of snow. Be prepared to be following footsteps after about 1/4 mile from the trailhead.