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JeffreyW

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  1. Trip: Eiger North Face - 1938 Heckmair Route Trip Date: 03/18/2020 Trip Report: First off: I'd be remiss not to mention the extenuating circumstances we're all in right now. Priti and I have been at home in Chamonix for over 18 days now, and we'd encourage everyone to do so as well. This climb occurred prior to the French, Swiss, and US lockdowns. We returned home to quarantine with the rest of France just after this trip. I hope this trip report will entertain and inform you so you can start your own Eiger Training Plan and trip planning! Don't FOMO, we're not doing anything right now either! Your friends, J&P “Anyone who returns from the Eigerwand cannot but realize that he has done something more than a virtuoso climb: he has lived through a human experience to which he had committed not only all his skill, intelligence and strength, but his very existence.” -Lionel Terray, Conquistadors of the Useless “Yes, we had made and excursion into another world and we had come back, but we had brought the joy of life and of humanity back with us. In the rush and whirl of everyday things, we so often live alongside one another without making any mutual contact. We had learned on the North Fae of the Eiger that men are good, and the earth on which we were born is good.” -Heinrich Harrer, The White Spider The 1938 Heckmair Route. Photo Credit: @eiger_daily (Instagram)...the best overlay we found. Posted here with permission. Climbers: Jeff and Priti Wright Luckily (or not), our ascent of the 5,000ft Eiger North Face (or ‘Eigerwand’ or ‘Eiger Nordwand’) in mid-March 2020 may have been on the quietest days in the face’s history of climbing since its first attempt in 1934. No summertime cow bells ringing in the rugged hillsides of Alpiglen above the town of Grindelwald, no cars and honks were noticed, no sounds of ski lift machinery, no joyous skiers on the hillsides of the Jungfrau ski resort which sits at the foot of the Eiger, few trains were in operation (and solely for construction workers). Not even any sounds came from the sky as we climbed in perfect, bluebird weather for three days. Frankly, I could’ve used more cow bell. Among the reasons I climb, isolation is not one of them. I appreciate the sights and sounds of civilization from a climb which provides significant psychological aid. We did, however, see several helicopters fly by delivering goods and construction materials to the future site of a new lift within the resort, along with several Swiss Air Force F-18’s practicing formations through the beautiful Berner Oberland valley. Jon Krakauer wrote in Eiger Dreams: “I didn’t want to climb the Eiger, I wanted to have climbed the Eiger.” This is a sentiment I think most climbers can understand at some level. For years this quote has haunted me. There are many climbs to which I could solidly attribute this feeling. I knew, however, that whenever I would finally step out onto the snowy slopes of the Eiger, I didn’t want to have this feeling. The Eiger is just too dangerous; too big; too bold. I always knew that if I felt this way, I would simply turn around. I wanted to be in it, and enjoy my time wrestling with the alligator. Luckily, both Priti and I were itching to attack, having fun the whole way. Left to right: Eiger, Mönch, Jungfrau We arrived in Grindelwald, Switzerland from Chamonix the day before our intended climb and took an overpriced 1hr train ride to Kleine Scheidegg, the central hub of the Jungfrau Ski Resort. Kleine Scheidegg is crowned by the historic and elaborate alpine resort, established in 1840: Hotel Bellevue des Alpes (where ‘The Eiger Sanction’ and ‘Nordwand’ were filmed). Many of the more well-sponsored Eiger climbers throughout history have stayed here. But not all. You would have thought that the Third Reich could have at least put up Karl Mehringer and Max Sedlmeyer up for a few nights! Many climbers discreetly bivy near the foot of the Eiger within the ski resort, or on the floor of the restaurant at the Eigergletscher complex (the uppermost hub of the Jungfrau ski resort). However, we were expressly denied permission to sleep on the restaurant floor. Furthermore, we also found the Women’s and Handicapped restrooms permanently locked. All of the construction workers are male, and the proprietor must have caught on to the unexpected guests of the Women’s restroom from recent Eiger Conquistadors. If a climber wants to step up their bivouac accommodations slightly above a bathroom stall or a restaurant floor, they can stay at the Eigergletscher Guesthouse (hostel). However, with the ongoing construction of a brand-new, state-of-the-art gondola which will link Grindelwald directly to Eigergletscher by the end of 2020, the guesthouse is exclusively housing construction workers until the end of the project. There is another hostel at Kleine Scheidegg (Hotel Bahnhof), but it had already been closed for a few weeks due to Coronavirus precautions. Staying at Eigergletscher or Kleine Scheidegg is ideal so that you can start your first day of climbing as early as you like (however, many climbers do start their first day from the 7:00AM train in Grindelwald). During summer months, climbers might also base camp in pastures beneath the face, as Mehringer and Sedlmeyer did for their attempt in 1936, however the train is so expensive that base camping in Grindelwald is now the norm while waiting for weather and conditions. The thing about the Eiger is that even if the forecast looks splitter, you never know when the semi-mythical and unexpected ‘foehn’ will show up. These are southerly winds that blow on the north side of the Alps in winter. The foehn (literally meaning ‘hair dryer’) frequently surprises climbers bringing sudden bursts of warm air and stormy weather. The Jungfrau ski resort is unusual in that its primary artery is a 128 year old railway: the “Jungfraubahn”, highest railway in Europe. A climb of the Eiger usually begins with an expensive 1hr train ride from Grindelwald to Kleine Scheidegg, then a change of trains for another 10min ride up to Eigergletscher. Exiting the Eigergletscher deposits one out onto the lower slopes of the North Face. The train, however, does continue on, burrowing up through the depths of the Eiger and on to a high saddle (the “Jungfraujoch”) between two of the Alps’ most impressive 4000m peaks: Jungfrau and Mönch. From Kleine Scheidegg, one gets an incredible vantage point for the skyline of these three behemoths: Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau. Modern folklore has it that the Monk (Mönch) guards the Virgin (Jungfrau) from the Ogre (Eiger). The actual German word for Ogre is “Oger”, and the true etymology of the word ‘Eiger’ stems from a curious and long-forgotten amalgam of middle high German, Swiss vernacular, and Latin for something like “high peak”. There is a multi-use, groomed run which connects Kleine Scheidegg up to Eigergletscher. Trying to save some money, we skinned up this run instead of buying a train ticket to reach Eigergletscher (only 30-45min of easy skinning). Then, we skied down an amazing groomed run for 6 miles and 4500ft of descent from Eigergletscher all the way down to our hostel next to the train station in Grindelwald. All day, the ski resort was bustling and vibrant, and no one at the resort or the train station expected any disruption of service any time soon due to Coronavirus precautions. With the Eigergletscher Guesthouse closed due to construction, Hotel Bahnhof closed due to health precautions, and the Hotel Bellevue des Alpes open but too ritzy, we planned to discreetly bivouac near Eigergletscher. Upon arrival back at Grindelwald, however, we got word that the entire resort (lifts) and the trains would discontinue operation that evening for the indefinite future due to Switzerland’s precautions against Coronavirus. A final and devastating setback. Hotel Bellevue des Alpes with (left to right) Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau behind We had originally come to Grindelwald due to a large high pressure system which was bringing a week of unusually phenomenal weather to the otherwise grim mountain. We’d planned to at least visit in order to understand the approach, logistics and start to observe the conditions on the mountain. The lack of train meant an extra 6 miles and 4500ft gain of approach to the mountain…a mere “sit-start”. We were not yet about to give up and call it quits. Back home, Chamonix-Mont-Blanc lifts were still running under normal operations and both France and Switzerland were not under lockdown, so there was no urgency to leave; no compelling ethical reason to begin self-quarantine. As luck would find it, we found a companion for our laborious day of skinning our heavy load up to Kleine Scheidegg. Another BOEALPS veteran happened to be in Grindelwald at the same time: Fabien Mandrillon. He is revered within the club for his years instructing classes and for being Head Instructor of the Basic Rock Class (as we had also been). He had emigrated to Zurich before we joined the club, and we had hoped to meet him at some point on our Sabbatical. Having pleasant company under these unfortunate circumstances was certainly a delightful way to start our adventure. Surprisingly, we saw only a few other backcountry skiers on the hike up from Grindelwald. The resort had even groomed the track from Grindelwald that morning expecting the closures would not to keep people off the slopes. It was a beautiful day after a light dusting of fresh snow the day prior. If this situation were in Washington, the trail would have been packed with backcountry skiers! Priti and Fabien enjoying a lovely day of skinning Eiger North Face, West Ridge, and West Flank (descent route) Once we were back up at Kleine Scheidegg, under full expectation of sneak-bivouacking within the resort, we were delighted to find one set of accommodations still open (under extenuating circumstances). The grand Hotel Bellevue des Alpes had remained open a few extra days because of a few VIP guests which they were unwilling to expel. Thus, we took a sizable chunk from our Sabbatical budget to fork over to one night of luxury before we took on the Eigerwand. The evening was reminiscent of one of my favorite films, Wes Anderson’s ‘Grand Budapest Hotel’. The entire establishment glistened with immaculate, Old World luxury. Only the remaining handful of guests were being served the magnificent 4-course meal (indeed, one of the greatest in my life) within the halls of the elaborate dining rooms. At dinner, the guests were seated segregated by an optimal number of empty tables so as to assuage our newfound distaste for social interactions. Under strict orders of “No sports attire during dinner”, we sheepishly dined wearing our Eigerwand armor and our complimentary, fuzzy bathroom slippers while the other guests wore formal wear of suits, ties, dresses, and formal shoes. As we found out later, the few guests remaining were elderly patrons going back decades, one of whom had lost her husband of 47 years the week prior, escaping to a memory of their life together. Feeling the rush to appreciate our accommodations with the clear acknowledgement of our pre-dawn start, we spent a few minutes alone in each of the exquisite rooms of the establishment, excitedly recollecting the various scenes filmed there for The Eiger Sanction: the billiards room, the parlor, the bar, the lobby, even the concierge desk. The tolerant bartender with an immaculately groomed beard and pencil-long mustache, served us some truly delightful concoctions ginger ale, tonic water, and citrus: no summit, no party. We wryly noted that whenever we expressed our intent on climbing the Eigerwand, nobody would bat an eye. Naturally expecting some expression of praise (“vanity is one of the prime movers of the world”), we were taken aback at the utter apathy to which the world judged our sepulchral pursuit. We were not special! “Eiger-birds” (hopeful climbers) were a dime a dozen, and we were to receive no accolades before or after our adventure. From our bedroom that evening, we watched winter’s shy sun set early on the North Face of the Eiger, and the nocturnal eyeball of the “Stollenloch” wake up to illuminate the lower slopes. At the turn of the 20th Century, enterprising Swiss railway Engineers blasted an impressive tunnel through the heart of the Eiger, from which two windows were poked through Eiger’s North Face about a third of the way up. One upstream (the “Eigerwand Station”) on the looker’s left side of the face, and one downstream (the “Stollenloch”) on the right side. The Stollenloch (“Door 38”) is a small, purely utilitarian window which was used to jettison debris from the early railroad construction over a century ago and was never a tourist observation window. Some climbers have approached by walking up the railroad tracks and exiting the Stollenloch to bypass the lower snow slopes of the face. Approaching via the Stollenloch is generally considered taboo, while nearly all climbers take the train up to Eigergletscher (and down as well). We have to start somewhere, and it’s not Bern! Still, it’s worth noting that Kurz and Hinterstoisser biked from Berchtesgaden, Germany, nearly 400miles away…perhaps the true sit-start for the Eigerwand! When there is enough snow, climbers stash skis up high for a victory ski lap back down to Grindelwald to top off the climb. Train entering the depths of the Eiger tunnel The Heckmair route goes very near the Stollenloch which has given this window quite a reputation through the climbing history of the face. The other gallery (the Eigerwand Station) is not near any other popular climbing route and is on the far left side of the face. The Eigerwand Station is an engineering feat, clearly visible from the valley floor, consisting of a series of several large balconies (later converted to glass windows) that mar this limestone sculpture. Since the Jungfraujoch extension opened in 1912, tourists have been able to lean over the vertiginous parapets to marvel at the face’s dizzying slopes. The balconies were even outfitted with paper bags in the event that a tourist experienced any physiological discomforts! The Eigerwand Station was a 5 minute train stop solely for tourist observation from 1912 until 2016, when newer, faster railway vehicles were incorporated, and this renowned observation point was put out of service. Interestingly, since the Eigerwand Station’s closure, “much of the publicity material fails to acknowledge that this viewpoint station ever existed” (Wikipedia). Quizzically, the iconic and celebrated Eigerwand station was axed in order to add one more train and reduce travel time to Jungfraujoch. The smaller, unassuming window, the Stollenloch, on the other hand, still plays just as an important role as it ever has. In 1936, after his other partners perished on the face, Tony Kurz froze to death in front of the Stollenloch while rappelling in free space, unable to pass a knot in the rope, just out of reach from rescue workers (recounted in the German film ‘Nordwand’). Clint Eastwood was rescued through this window in The Eiger Sanction. A window which has always served as a trap door for climbers to miraculously transport themselves from the unforgiving alpine face to the civilized world. The window from which many climbers escaped storms including Mugs Stump, who in 1981 after finding this shelter and bounding down the tunnel towards Eigergletscher was only to realize the true horror of trying to plaster his body within the 1-foot clearance of the rocky walls while the immutably time-conscious Swiss train rolled past him (Source: Krakauer’s “Eiger Dreams”). I made sure to have a copy of the train’s timetable in case we had to Gooney our way down this escape-chute/death-trap! While climbing this route, we were most impressed at the abilities of the early climbers 80 years prior being able to climb on such difficult terrain with such rudimentary equipment: Karl Mehringer, Max Sedlmeyer, Andreas Hinterstoisser, Toni Kurz, Ludwig Vörg, Anderl Heckmair, Louis Lachenal, and Lionel Terray. These climbers were total badasses. Their efforts boggle the mind. Many of the cruxes on this route are no-shit overhangs on brittle rock, downsloping ledges, and poor protection (if any at all). With a pre-dawn start from our comfortable beds at the foot of the Eiger, we stepped out into a frozen darkness. We walked the extra 45min from Kleine Scheidegg up to Eigergletscher on a deserted ski run, passing by several early-morning construction workers who were less-than-enthusiastic about our presence as we tip-toed through the construction site onto the lower snow slopes of the Eigerwand. A recent blog post by an Italian team had us hopeful that their steps in the snow would pave the way. But alas, we found no steps and instead had to make our path and kick our own steps (later deeming that the blogpost was not clearly dated and was actually from earlier in January). Since much of the route is snow travel, the existence (or not) of another party’s snow steps can drastically alter your timeline in terms of both physical exertion and time spent routefinding. It is important to intimately know the features on the face, the names of the pitches, the condition of the cruxes. The route was so meticulously memorized as we quizzed each other on the drive up, that it felt as though we were executing a victory lap of versed, choreographed sequences of movements through Nintendo’s Mario Bros (with a princess waiting on top). First, traverse across easy snow slopes towards the First Pillar, zig-zagging across snowed-over limestone ledges up to the Shattered Pillar, and finally the ‘Difficult Crack’, the crux-y start of the actual climbing. Memorize This! Sadly, we never even saw the Stollenloch. The route passes nearby, but not directly over the Stollenloch, and is very much out-of-the-way. A party behind us on the same day purposefully started late so that they could spend their first night inside the Stollenloch (requiring a good amount digging). The Difficult Crack is still truly difficult (and also hard to find)! The Difficult Crack is the start of the technical part of the climb. If there is low snow coverage, you’ll have an extra pitch much lower down, before The Difficult Crack (just above the bergschrund and next to ‘the plaque’) which is a straight up rock corner. However, we were able to easily bypass this pitch with an easy snow ramp. Many parties don’t even find The Difficult Crack and instead pick their way up much harder variations to get up to the Hinterstoisser Traverse. It’s especially important to know what the Difficult Crack looks like (keep pictures on your phone) and how to get there (a traverse about 10-15m long heading right and slightly downhill). After that, the rest of the routefinding on the Heckmair is relatively trivial. The Hinterstoisser Traverse is infamous for its very difficult climbing with snow/ice over blank slabs situated under the impressive overhang of the massive blank face of the Rote Fluh. The Rote Fluh is one of two major obstacles on the face (the other is the Gelbewand), and they are both seriously impressive overhanging faces. Shown above: start of Hinterstoisser (low angle snow) which then turns into steep slab with fixed ropes (no picture) A permanent rope is affixed to the Hinterstoisser Traverse due to its incredible difficulty (everybody pulls on them!) but also as an homage to the 1936 tragedy when the entire team perished while trying to retreat down the face but were unable to reverse the traverse (likely due to fresh verglas plastered to the slabs). Our feeble notion of “free-ing” the Heckmair route quickly evaporated in our minds almost at the very first move of technical climbing. This route is longer and more difficult than we could have imagined, but we were prepared for every obstacle. The mixed climbing is seemingly never-ending and the overhanging steepness of the cruxes were shocking for a route completed 80 years ago. After the Hinterstoisser Traverse, more fixed lines lead up through a short chimney (‘Swallow’s Nest’) to the First Icefield, which had good névé and offered good step-kicking. A narrow gully connects the First and Second Icefields with the only pure ice climbing pitch on the route: the Ice Hose. If you’re unlucky, the pitch is bone-dry and makes for extremely difficult rock climbing (a variation on its left). Lachenal and Terray opted for the rock variation on the second ascent of the route in 1947, deeming that the WI3 Ice Hose would take too long to chop steps! Nowadays, with modern ice climbing technique, climbers are truly blessed if they find it was we did: in WI3 conditions, heavily featured, and easily accepting “stubby” ice screws. The start of the ice hose is just visible in the middle (sorry I didn't get a better pic) The Second Icefield is a long, snowy traverse on low-angled ground to get to mixed corners (Bügeleisen, or ‘Flatiron’ buttress) and finally to the wall’s first and only decent bivouac: the ‘Death Bivouac’ (aka ‘Karl-Max Bivouac’ where Mehringer and Sedlmeyer froze to death in 1935). It was dark by the time we got to the mixed corners of the ‘Flatiron’ and the climbing was terribly difficult with long runouts and poor protection at about M5. The corners were bare of snow and ice. While leading the pitch, I recalled a story from Barry Blanchard in The Calling of his and Kevin Doyle’s ascent of the Grand Central Couloir on Mount Kitchener where Doyle took off his mitts and licked his fingers so that they would stick to the rock and help his purchase. I took off my beefy climbing gloves in the cold darkness and found the extra stickiness of my bare fingers also provided excellent aid on the downsloping ledges! I could withstand the pain for a few minutes (it was probably 15F outside) if it helped prevent me from falling from my precarious perch. We finally made it to the Death Bivouac and we had been moving much slower than anticipated all day with only 12hrs of sunlight. Knowing that it was improbable that we would make the summit the next day, we planned to have a short day and bivouac again at the route’s only other decent bivouac: the ‘Traverse of the Gods’. Here at the Death Bivouac, we had to dig out a platform under a narrow overhang. Surprisingly, our ledge was just wide enough to sleep side-by-side… a welcome and unexpected luxury. We had each brought a thin, lightweight sleeping bag and a short, inflatable ‘summer’ sleeping pad. While brewing up dinner, I was horrified to discover that my sleeping pad had a hole which prevented it from staying inflated. I therefore had to sleep three nights in sub-freezing temperatures on narrow ledges with only ropes and backpacks under my ass! Every morning was difficult. We woke with the sunlight and made coffee with very little urgency. The entire climb felt rather like a holiday with a very leisurely itinerary and perfect weather. Ashamedly, we spent more time on the face than the first ascent in 1938 and the second ascent in 1947. The face doesn’t receive sun until late in the evening where you are lucky to get 30-60min of direct sunlight on your face. After the Death Bivouac, a short traverse across the Third Icefield leads to ‘The Ramp’, several pitches of easy mixed ground which funnels up to the ‘Waterfall Chimney’ (possibly the crux of the entire route). The Ramp (much like the Hinterstoisser) crawls timidly under another massive overhanging face, the Gelbewand. The ‘Waterfall Chimney’ is a genuine overhanging chimney of few holds which gushes with water in the summertime. Luckily, being in winter there was no water (good) but also no ice (bad). Usually when climbed in colder parts of the night, the spring/summer thaw freezes and makes the pitch much more palatable. Above here, the route splits into another chimney on the right (not advised) and a tenuous traverse above a head-spinning overhang on the left. The chimney above looked so well protected with fixed ropes and pitons everywhere, but every topo told us to go left around the corner instead. This leftward traverse spits the climber above a dizzying overhang, balancing on delicate, unprotectable limestone discs. A fall would mean a giant pendulum into space, dangling thousands of feet above the concave of the face below. Luckily, a multitude of pitons after a long runout help surmount a final bulge to a short, stout icefield cirque. Above: the Waterfall Chimney, overall crux of the route (in our opinion). Other contenders: Difficult Crack, Crystal Crack, Exit Chimney Above this icefield is a steep wall which you traverse on the ‘Brittle Ledges’. In Conquistadors of the Useless, Lionel Terray describes the Brittle Ledges as “tottering, piled up crockery”, which is as best a description as I can surmount. Luckily those piled up crockery are surprisingly solid, making for very interesting traversing on impossibly protruding discs. One final crux to reach our next bivouac: the Brittle Crack. From a hanging belay, you surmount a sizable bulge via perfect hand/fist cracks. This may have been the most fun pitch of the route, gleefully taking off my gloves and jamming my way up solid cracks in sub-freezing temps. Above: Traverse of the Gods bivouac Here, one finds a final bivouac at the beginning of the ‘Traverse of the Gods’, so named because it miraculously provided passage to the final major feature (the White Spider) for the first ascensionists. This accommodation was much narrower than the Death Bivouac and we were forced to sleep narrowly in a line, head-to-toe (with feet dangling off the sides). A typical timeline is to do the route in 2 days with one bivouac here at the ‘Traverse of the Gods’, making for a VERY big first day from Eigergletscher. The ‘Traverse of the Gods’ takes easy mixed ground rightward to the lower-left appendage of the ‘The White Spider’, a large snow/icefield high on the face. The White Spider is an obvious concave weakness in the wall spotted from the valley floor which was more black-and-blue this time of year than “white”. In winter, the snow/hail sloughs off immediately and the upper part of the face does not get above freezing during the day. Therefore, the White Spider was hard ice for us (instead of easy névé of the late spring and summer). This made for strenuous front-pointing on bullet-hard ice to the final left-trending ramp (the ‘Exit Cracks’) which led to the summit slopes. Above: Start of the Traverse of the Gods. Just before the next belayer in the background, the traverse goes up slightly, then back down. Above: Further along the Traverse of the Gods (the lower end of the White Spider just visible) Above: The White Spider, with Exit Cracks (ramp) above Moderate mixed terrain up this ramp ends at a final crux, the 15 meter long ‘Quartz (or Crystal) Crack’ (due to the splotches of Quartz on the limestone face). Sometimes there can be ice in this off-width overhang, but we found it dry. Steve House calls this pitch “Enjoyable when dry”. Priti led this pitch brilliantly, employing virtually every tool in the kit. Another mixed corner leads to a short traverse/rappel on a fixed line to the left-most couloir: the ‘Exit Chimney’. Above: Quartz Crack (technical crux, but short) It was my turn to lead on what looked like an exceptionally fun pitch of easy 5.6 terrain in a wide, hamstring-stretching chimney, of which all three walls resembled a washboard of downward-sloping holds. The crux here is not so much its difficulty as is its headiness. If you’re lucky, there is ice in this chimney (for climbing on and not for placing ice screws in!), but we found it dry as is expected in winter. The limestone is so compact in this chimney that protection does not exist for about 20ft. Your first piton is visible from the bottom of the pitch and you eye it up ravenously as you climb higher. Wide stemming and outward bare-handed palming are more valuable than pure dry tool technique. Here, mono points find value in the corners of the shallow chimney as you try not to look down. A fall would mean cheese-grating on this washboard slab onto a narrow snowy ledge over an overhang into space. The final moves to the first piece of protection were some of the headiest of my life as I made a dynamic (admittedly ungraceful) throw with my ice tool to the weathered cord hanging from a doubtful piton. After this point, another 100m of much lower-angled couloir climbing takes you to the ‘Summit Snowfields’. Above: Exit Chimney (psychological crux) This pain-in-the-ass route never ends! Above: 200m low-angle mixed just before summit snow/icefield You still have 200m of easy, mixed terrain followed by another 200m of bullet-hard low-angle ice to finally reach where the summit ridgeline meets the Mittelegri Ridge. We knew the summit was flat enough for a bivy site, but we found a luxuriously wide flat spot earlier, at this juncture with the Mittellegi Ridge. Here, this comfortable bivouac overlooked the Bernese Oberland down to the North and the Ischmeer Glacier (‘Ice Sea’) down to the South, with a brilliant sunset and sunrise. Above: Our final bivouac, just where the Mittellegi Ridge meets the summit ridgeline. The next morning was a casual stroll on an easy, snowy ridgeline to the summit as we enjoyed finally being showered in sunlight. Earlier, at the ‘Traverse of the Gods’ a French team of two and a Swiss team of two passed us as we made coffee. We were glad to have people pass us so they would blaze a descent trail down the West Flank of the Eiger. In summer, the descent can be an annoying affair with rappels and down climbing. But in winter, it’s easy snow all the way down to Eigergletscher, and we were glad to have tracks going down the slopes. Above: looking down at Grindelwald and the Berner Oberland Above: Looking down the Eiger's West Flanks (Eigergletscher and Kleine Scheidegg are visible below) Above: View from Eigergletscher up the Eiger's West Flanks. Check out (Instagram) @eiger_daily post (Feb 5, 2020) for a good overlay and description of the descent. We picked up our cached skis at Kleine Scheidegg and enjoyed the victory ski lap down to Grindelwald on yet another perfectly sunny day in a deserted ski resort. As soon as we got back to Grindelwald, we got an automated text from the French government (sent to all French phone numbers) that France was now in lockdown. The next morning, we high-tailed it back to Chamonix to commence 4 weeks of mandatory lockdown. Selected History of the Eigerwand: 1935 - Karl Mehringer and Max Sedlmeyer established a line to the First Icefield (much further left on the face from the Heckmair route) and established the path to the ‘Death Bivouac’ where they perished. Their line to the First Icefield is not often climbed and has much more sustained difficulty and objective hazard. 1936 - Toni Kurz and Andreas Hinterstoisser established a new line to the First Icefield which then met up with the Mehringer-Sedlmeyer route up to the ‘Death Bivouac’ before retreating in a storm. This new line went up through ‘The Difficult Crack’ and across the ‘Hinterstoisser Traverse’. Hinterstoisser masterfully crossed this difficult slab with a series of strenuous tension traverses. Nowadays, most climbers just pull on the fixed lines across the Hinterstoisser Traverse, although with enough snow and skill, the Traverse can be free’d. Kurz, Hinterstoisser, and two other climbers (Willy Angerer and Edi Rainer) perished on retreat during a storm, as recounted dramatically in the German movie Nordwand. 1938 - Anderl Heckmair, Heinrich Harrer, Fritz Kasparek and Ludwig Vorg complete the first ascent via the Kurz/Hinterstoisser variation (reference Harrer’s book The White Spider). 1947 - Second Ascent by Lionel Terray and Louis Lachenal (reference Terray’s book Conquistadors of the Useless). 1957 - Two Italians (Claudio Corti and Stefano Longhi) and two Germans (Franz Meyer and Gunther Nothdurft) epic on the Heckmair Route in bad weather (scathingly recounted in Conquistadors and White Spider). Only Corti survived. Corti sat for four days on a narrow ledge near the top of the face at the base of the Exit Chimney before a 52-person rescue operation unfolded, finally rescuing him with the use a summit-mounted winch and steel cable. Topo maps still point out this “Corti Bivouac”, however the term “bivouac” is more tongue-in-cheek since this tiny protrusion would no place to spend a night. 1961 - First winter ascent, Walter Almberger, Toni Hiebeler, Toni Kinshofer, and Anderl Mannhardt. 1963 - First solo ascent, Michel Darbellay, in 18hrs. 1964 - Daisy Voog first female ascent. 1971 - First helicopter rescue from the face. Today, the company ‘Air-Glaciers’ regularly plucks climbers off the face with reliable mastery. 1987 - Christophe Profit free-solo’s an enchainment of the North Faces of the Eiger, Matterhorn, and Grandes Jorasses (the “Alps Trilogy”) in a single push (with paraglider and helicopter transport) in under 42 hours. Many say this event marked the beginning of the era of the “fast and light” style in mountaineering. 1991 - Jeff Lowe put up the Metanoia route straight up the middle of the face (solo and in winter) with unparalleled, visionary madness. 2007 - Roger Schaeli (“Mister Eiger”, with 52 ascents at the time of this writing) belayed by Christoph Hainz establish the route “Magic Mushroom” (so named for the iconic mushroom-shaped pillar on the West Ridge on which the route tops out), rated 7c+ (5.13a) 2008 - Dean Potter free-BASE’s Deep Blue Sea (5.12+) then jumps from the top. 2015 - Sasha DiGiulian first female to free “Magic Mushroom”, along with Carlo Traversi 2015 - Ueli Steck solos the Heckmair Route in 2 hours 22 minutes 50 seconds 2016 - After 25 years, Jeff Lowe’s Metanoia route sees a second ascend by phenoms Thomas Huber, Roger Schaeli, and Stephan Siegrist. Beta side-note: Bring a pocket full of Swiss Franc coins! There are large lockers at the Kleine Scheidegg train station to store ski boots (5 Swiss francs), ski lockers (2 Swiss francs per pair of skis), and a high-powered viewing telescope at the Hotel Bellevue des Alpes to look at conditions on the face (1 Swiss franc). Special Thanks to @eiger_daily for your incredible hospitality, support, and beta; you are truly fostering a wonderful community in the Berner Oberland. Resources: Aside from browsing blog posts and Google Images for route overlays, Eigertopo.com is the best route description we found. This little pamphlet provides pitch-by-pitch descriptions as well as informative overlays. This little book is literally all you need!! Also check out @eiger_daily (Instagram) for recent pictures of the face and also scroll through the post for the best overlay and gear beta. More important beta from Steve House: https://www.uphillathlete.com/climb-eiger-north-face/ Uphill Athlete Training Plan: https://www.uphillathlete.com/eiger-north-face-training-plan/ The Italian topo here is VERY descriptive and shockingly accurate. Take belay locations with a grain of salt. Link or combine as many pitches as you can: https://www.camptocamp.org/routes/189333/en/eiger-n-face-heckmair-route Gear Notes: Single rack #.3-1 (5 cams), nuts, 1 piton (didn't use), 5 ice screws (2 stubby's), 2 technical ice tools each, monopoint crampons, light (summer) sleeping bags, puffy pants, big-ass belay parkas, short 3/4 length (summer) inflatable sleeping pad, 60m 8.7mm rope, 6 quickdraws, 4 single-length alpine draws, 4 double-length alpine draws, cordalette, 3 micro traxions for the team (for simul climbing) Approach Notes: Normal approach from Eigergletscher
  2. [TR] Mt. Hood - North Face Right Gully 01/02/2019

    Just climbed this route yesterday (1/13/19) and it's still in great shape. Thanks for the beautiful trip report and inspiration!
  3. [TR] Mt. Hood - North Face Right Gully 01/02/2019

    Nice work. That's a BIG day!
  4. Trip: North Cascades - Southern Pickets - Southern Pickets Enchainment (Traverse) – Second Ascent Trip Date: 08/17/2018 Trip Report: Climbers/Scribe/Photos: Jeff and Priti Wright Priti and I completed the Second Ascent of the full Southern Pickets Enchainment (Traverse) between 8/12/2018 and 8/17/2018 via the first ascensionists’ agenda (VI 5.10+, ca. 3 miles). Thirteen peaks in four days staying on technical terrain enchaining every peak in the Southern Picket Range from East to West. The Chopping Block was our 14thpeak on the last day à la Bunker-Haley-Wallace. We were lucky to have splitter weather the whole time except for our approach day which was non-stop drizzling and kept us from jumping on the rock right away. We had previously attempted this climb during the July 4thweek earlier this summer but were stormed off at the base of Mount Terror. View of the entire Southern Pickets from Mount Triumph. Photo Credit: James Blackmon (1) Little Mac Spire, (2) East McMillan Spire, (3) West McMillan Spire, (4) Tower 1 summit of the East Towers aka "Don Tower", (5) Tower 5 summit of East Towers, (6) Inspiration Peak, (7) Pyramid Peak, (8) Mount Degenhardt, (9) Mount Terror, (10) The Rake aka "The Blob", (11) The Blip, (12) East Twin Needle, (13) West Twin Needle, (14) Dusseldorfspitz, (15) Himmelhorn, (16) Ottohorn, (17) Frenzelspitz, and (18) The Chopping Block The Chopping Block is on the left. History: FA: In 2003, this visionary line of 13 summits (Little Mac Spire to Frenzelspitz) was first completed by Mark Bunker, Colin Haley, and Wayne Wallace in an incredibly speedy 4 days car-to-car. http://c498469.r69.cf2.rackcdn.com/2004/34_wallace_pickets_aaj2004.pdf https://cascadeclimbers.com/forum/topic/15094-walking-the-fence/ 2011: Dan Hilden, Jens Holsten, and Sol Wertkin completed 12 of the Southern Pickets summits (Little Mac Spire to Ottohorn), but were halted by an impassable moat under the South Face of the final bookend peak, Frenzelspitz (a lesson we borrowed to not take the snow approach). https://www.outdoorresearch.com/blog/article/chad-kellogg-jens-holsten-tackle-complete-picket-range-enchainment http://www.alpinist.com/doc/web15s/wfeature-never-ending-holsten-kellogg https://cascadeclimbers.com/forum/topic/82900-tr-picket-range-complete-enchainment-attempt-922011/?tab=comments#comment-1029444 2013: Jens Holsten and Chad Kellogg traversed 11 of the Southern Pickets summits (Little Mac Spire to Himmelhorn), and carried on to the Northern Pickets to do a mind-blowing Southern and Northern Pickets traverse. Even though Jens humbly calls their climb an “attempt” since they left out three minor summits, their ascent was easily one of the greatest alpine achievements in the lower 48. https://cascadeclimbers.com/forum/topic/92032-they-made-it/?tab=comments#comment-1101276 http://jensholsten.blogspot.com/2013/07/desperate-country-seven-day-enchainment.html https://www.outdoorresearch.com/blog/article/chad-kellogg-jens-holsten-tackle-complete-picket-range-enchainment Legend In the topos below, note the following color codes -Blue circle: belays that we chose to take (all are optional, obviously) -Yellow arrows: Bail options, or ways to enter/exit shorter segments of the Enchainment -Green tent: bivy sites (note the comments) -Red lines: Ascent -White circles: Rappels -White lines: Descent Day 1 With our packs each weighing in at 28lbs, we hiked in to Terror Creek Basin via Goodell Creek through wet bushes and a light drizzle and bivied at the Terror Creek Basin High Camp. Day 2 As we roped up at the base of the start (Little Mac Spire) on Day 2, Priti glumly pulled two left-footed red Moccasym rock shoes out of her pack, but decided to keep going like the hardcore badass that she is! We climbed from Little Mac Spire (5.8) through East McMillan Spire (5.6), West McMillan Spire (5.8), the East Towers (5.8) summiting Don Tower and Tower 5, and finishing the day with Inspiration Peak (5.9). We had to climb up 1/3 of Pyramid to find a small snow patch for water and dinner. On our last trip in early July there was a lot of snow at the cols, so it was easy to find water. There was a lot less snow in the cols in August, making finding water along the traverse very tricky, to say the least. We filled our dromedary up every time we found snow. The smoke made the views hazy, but we could tell how far away the later peaks were, and how far we had to go. The base of Little Mac Spire The start of the technical climbing (5.7) on the face of Little Mac Spire The upper ridge of East McMillan Spire View looking West in July View looking West in August Upper face of West McMillan Spire Starting up Tower 1 Priti is belaying below Pitch 2 (5.8 with a hand/fist overhang) Inspiration Peak Summit is the impressive overhang on the left Day 3 On Tuesday (day 2 of climbing, day 3 of the trip), we started out on Pyramid (5.8), and traversed over Degenhardt (3rd class). We chose a steep face crack for the first pitch on Terror to start. This may be the 5.8 start Jens and Chad did. Starting further out left might go at 5.6. After finding the piton rappel off Terror, we downclimbed about half of the Rake-Terror col before starting up a loose gulley on The Rake (skier’s right). The climbing didn’t feel too hard, and we must have avoided the 5.9 R climbing described by previous parties. However we didn’t make it to the nice bivy at the summit, instead hunkering down on a slopey grassy ledge for the night. Snafflehounds poked me in the face and jumped on my feet to start the night out. The meteor shower sparkled above us. In the morning, Jeff found his helmet strap had been gnawed through, his crack gloves stolen and the nut butter munched. Nothing a little duct tape won’t fix! Starting up the technical climbing on Pyramid Peak Inside the crux chimney Day 4 On Wednesday (day 3 of climbing, day 4 of the trip), we only climbed for a few hours doing lots of fun ridge climbing on the Rake (5.8) which took us to the best bivy spot of the trip: on top of the West Rake Summit. It was so nice, we decided to relax the rest of the day and camel up for the next day. The choosy 4th class gully which exits the Terror-Rake col (about halfway down) on climber's right The entire Rake ridgeline is pictured here. Priti is on the initial ridgeline, heading to the Rake's deep, major notch (right of center). Stay high on this initial ridge to get to a 5.6 traverse about even with the notch to get over to the notch. Starting the traverse too soon may result in 5.9R climbing. The vertical ridgeline just left of the major notch is the technical crux. The technical crux of The Rake. This is the second pitch after getting to the major notch which takes you to the The Rake's ridge proper. 5.8+ ledges with small gear. Starting out on the Rake's ridge proper. Looking back at the Rake (Eastward) from the summit Guns out! Amazing bivy site! Don't stop at the col (aka "Ice Station Dark Star"), but continue to this bivy after a short pitch. Day 5 Thursday morning we woke up stoked for the Twin Needles and Himmelgeisterhorn. The Blip between the Rake and the Needles was a quick jaunt (5.6). In the descent gulley, Priti kicked a small rock down, which tipped a precarious car-door sized boulder over and core-shot our rope. She literally had two left feet! We just climbed the rest of the way with 40m of rope out. East Twin Needle (5.10a) had some of the best climbing on the trip, following an aesthetic line up the knife edge ridge, that looks like a gothic tower. There was a TCU that the previous party stuck behind a flake, and was reminded of the giant footsteps we were following. The last couple moves were extremely dirty though. The left variation of the crux is much easier than sticking right. West Twin Needle was chill 3rd Class. Then came Himmelgeisterhorn (5.10), the “Horn of the Sky Spirit”. The climbing was fantastic: engaging, with great position, and unique au chevaling! We climbed over Düsseldorfspitz, on the way to the summit of Himmelhorn. We rappelled down the North Face of Himmelhorn with our 60m rope which worked out perfectly. Ottohorn took about an hour to summit and get back down to the Himmel-Otto col. The 3rdclass route that Bunker-Haley-Wallace took is gone due to some fresh rock fall. Instead of taking the 2 pitch 5.7 variation that Hilden-Holsten-Wertkin took, we attacked the fresh rock scar directly which was splitter 5.6 hand cracks for maybe 15 m to the ridge and summit. In the fading light, we then headed over to Frenzelspitz (the final peak of the Enchainment) from the Himmel-Otto col, traversing along rock on the north side of Ottohorn. The ledge/gulley traverse had the most heinous, scary, exposed choss. Luckily the climbing on Frenzel was pretty great 5.7ish. We made four fresh rappel anchors, starting with a runner on the summit block, two double-nut anchors, and another slung horn. 5.8 ridge (vertical blocks) The fantastic climbing on the technical crux of East Twin Needle. Priti leading out onto the technical crux (and I mean technical!) - face climbing on crimps with small gear Looking up and over Dusseldorfspitz. Priti is belaying between Dusseldorfspitz (foreground) and Himmelhorn (background). The crazy outcropping (Dusseldorfspitz) just East of the summit of Himmelhorn Looking back down from the Himmelhorn summit at the belay. Left to right: Dusseldorfspitz (the small spire along the ridgeline, just below the summit), Himmelgeisterhorn ("Horn of the Sky Spirit", also a small suberb of the German city of Dusseldorf), Ottohorn, and Frenzelspitz...three names taken from the label of a mustard bottle brought along by Joan and Joe Firey (kindred spirits and personal heroes of ours) during their first ascent of these peaks in 1961. Ed Cooper, also on the trip, was "aghast" at the names chosen! The magnificent Northern Pickets Frenzelspitz, a perfect pyramid Day 6 The last day we climbed the Chopping Block via the NW Route (4thClass) and hiked out via “Stump Hollow” to Terror Creek. Mega thanks to Wayne, @solwertkin, and @jensholsten for their great beta, inspiration, and support. Priti and I have been dreaming of this climb for years now since reading Alpinist 47 magazine’s expansive article on the Picket Range and being inspired by Jens Holsten and Chad Kellogg’s 2013 Pickets Traverse (of both the Southern and Northern Pickets, 10 miles) after we had just taken the @boealps Basic Climbing Class. The next level of alpinism in the Southern Pickets may be to complete the entire enchainment in a day! This seems like an entirely reasonable feat (especially for a soloist) given enough familiarity and speed. Bivy Beta: Primo bivies (East to West) base of West McMillan Spire descent (snow through the summer, nice bivy walls) base of Mount Terror, cross over ridge to North side - late season snow available on top of the Rake sub-peak (1 pitch past the “Ice Station Dark Star”) – lots of snow just a short scramble distance away along the Rake descent. Himmel-Otto col (if no snow on the col, make one rappel toward Crescent basin to find snow) Terrible bivies (East to West) base of East McMillan Spire descent (sloping ledges, snow early season) slabby ledge about 1/4 the way up the Inspiration West Ridge (exposed) Pyramid-Inspiration col (no snow late season) grassy ledges down and climbers left when you first gain the ridge proper at the start of the Rake “Ice Station Dark Star” (as coined by Hilden-Holsten-Wertkin) which is the col after just rappelling from The Rake summit (snow early season, but rappel north late season to find snow down a heinous choss gully)…if no snow just at the col, then recommend continuing on to the Rake descent to find tons of easily accessible snow in late season Himmelhorn summit (no snow) Gear Notes: small set of nuts and some brassies doubles BD UL Camalots .4-2 single BD UL Camalot 3 (for Inspiration East Face) singles BD C3 000-1 (extra green 0) single BD Camalot X4 Offset 0.1/0.2 single BD Camalot X4 0.3 singles Metolius Mastercam 0-3 4 double-length runners with 2 Camp 22 biners each 3 double-length runners with 1 Camp 22 biner each 9 single-length runners with 1 Camp 22 biner each (can’t have too many runners) 30L Patagonia Ascensionist pack (for him) and 30L Black Diamond Speed pack (for her) Patagonia Micro Puff jacket (each) Patagonia Alpine Houdini jacket (each) Patgaonia Nano-Air Light Hybrid Jacket (for him) 2L MSR DromLite (essential!) Garmin inReach Mini (love this little guy!) Beal Escaper (for emergency bails) Petzl Leopard FL crampons (each) Petzl Sirocco helmets Petzl Sitta harness (for him) and Arc’teryx harness (for her) Metolius Feather Nut Tool (each) Camp Corsa Nanotech 50cm (each) chalk bag, each (didn’t use) tape gloves (for her) and OR Splitter gloves (for him) x2: Mammut Smart belay device (not the Alpine Smart) + Grivel Sigma Wire D carabiner 3 lockers for group: Grivel Tau K12L, Grivel Lambda HMS, Grivel Plume 60m 8.5mm Beal Opera rope 15m 5mm cord (did not use ever) 1 medium fuel canister 1 small fuel canister (did not use) Jetboil Sol stove Safety ‘biner (each) – Edelrid 19g caribeener, Petzl Micro Traxion, short Sterling Hollowblock, Trango Piranha knife Bivy setup (each) – Short Thermarest NeoAir XLite sleeping pad, Exped Air Pillow UL, Feathered Friends Vireo UL sleeping bag 8.5ft^2 tarp by Hyperlite Mountain Gear TC Pros (for him) and Moccassyms (for her) La Sportiva TX2 (for her) and TX4 (for him) approach shoes Petzl Reactik headlamps (each) + 3 extra AAA batteries + Petzl e+LITE headlamp Other things: 1 long spoon to share, chapstick to share, small Joshua Tree sun stick to share, Kenu iPhone tether, lighter, whistle, duct tape, Thermarest repair patches, Voke tabs, Nuun, pain killers, 1L Platypus soft water bottle (for her) and 750mL HydraPak Stash (for him), warm headband, glove liners, 1 pair thick long socks (each), sunglasses, ear plugs, WRFA emergency form, small pencil Dinner: 2 AlpineAire meals, 3 Near East Couscous boxes repackaged with small olive oil packets in ziplock bags, salt Day food was mostly bulky, yummy snacks: vegan jerky, dried mango, nuts, Cheese-Its, sesame sticks, Gu, nut butter, etc Approach Notes: Excellent Approach trail Goodell Creek to Terror Basin. The descent from Crescent Basin is tricky The luxurious tree marker where one descends from the ridge below "Stump Hollow" towards Terror Creek Log crossing Terror Creek on descent
  5. Wow! Super impressed. Congrats guys!
  6. [TR] Inspiration Peak - South Face 09/02/2018

    Incredible pictures and great style! I'm truly amazed by your eye for photographing these beautiful peaks and landscapes.
  7. Honestly, I was surprised at the quality of the 5th class terrain. There is so much incredible 5th class terrain, and the rock quality was surprisingly good. We never had any random hand-holds or foot-holds break loose, unexpectedly (but perhaps we were just lucky on both trips). We tread slowly and carefully, and any loose stuff was obvious (standard Cascades climbing). There aren't too many places on the planet where one can get endless 5th class like this with such incredible purchase. It definitely deserves more traffic!
  8. Thanks everybody for the appreciation of the beta! We made half of these topos after our first attempt, and brought the topos with us on the final attempt to make markups and corrections. We recorded voice memos at the end of each day to capture the specific beta and routefinding. Our hope is that more of this terrain gets traffic since most of it was high-quality technical choss with astounding position. Any of the linkups of smaller segments of the Enchainment would be an excellent weekend outing. Of course, it was a fun adventure to pick our own way much of the time! Leave the beta sheets at home if you want extra adventure. The approach into the Pickets is way too long just to go climb a single peak (been there, done that!). Probably my favorite segment would be Terror-Rake col to Otto-Himmel col. East Face of Inspiration was the single best pitch of the Enchainment imo. The approach to Frenzelspitz was really scary (especially in the dark), and I wouldn't recommend it unless you're going for the full Enchainment. Also, we still want to go back to also climb the Wild Hair Crack on Himmelhorn which looks incredible!
  9. Actually, by any empirical measure, it was Angela! https://www.dailymotion.com/video/x2oht8a Also, I added a new video to the top of the trip report. It's a bit long, but hope it's entertaining and informative. Don't forget to turn the music up!
  10. Route Overlays. West Rib in red for reference. Cassin Ridge in yellow.
  11. [TR] The Brothers - Brothers Traverse 05/13/2018

    Strong work! Fun trip report
  12. [TR] Moose's Tooth - Shaken, Not Stirred 04/15/2018

    Solid work! Looks like a sweet trip!!
  13. [TR] Mt. Rainier - Sunset Ridge 05/25/2018

    Wow, nice work, gentlemen! Very inspiring. I'm glad to see other routes getting tracks other than the usual suspects. When my wife and I met you on Liberty Cap, we definitely felt way less hardcore after climbing Liberty Ridge and heard you just came up Sunset!
  14. Trip: Chair Peak - North Face Trip Date: 12/16/2017 Trip Report: Priti and I climbed the North Face of Chair Peak on Saturday 12/16. Thanks, John Douglass for the pictures! Approach snow was deep. Recommend skis/snowshoes, but kick-stepping wasn't so bad. The first pitch had nice, consistent, solid, THIN ICE for 60m, maybe WI3. It was so stinking fun if you like thin, unprotectable ice. I got one good stubby in over the whole 60m pitch. We had rock pro and pitons but didn't find them helpful. Pitches 2-4 (to summit) were snow over rock with occasional thin ice for protection. Snow is too shallow and loose for pickets. Only used trees and stubby's for pro. Existing anchors every 60m. Red link cam backed up the anchor on pitch 1. NE Buttress of Chair Peak. Only one party of 2 attempted it and bailed due to loose snow. Pitch 1 on the North Face - 60m thin ice, some thicker ice near the top of the pitch. Upper pitches of North Face of Chair Peak. Snow over rock with thin ice. Deep snow to the False Summit and more snow-over-rock to the summit. Summit selfie Summit East Face of Chair Peak. There is avy debris in this bowl now. When we rappelled onto the slope from the standard descent, we triggered a slab avalanche which went 500 feet down, crown was .5-2ft deep and 15m wide. Be careful of avy danger here as always! I would wear beacon/shovel probe to the base of the climb, and also for the descent from the summit. Lots of rain in the Pass on Sunday, so no promises. Enjoy! Gear Notes: Brought: 10 screws all sizes, 1 picket, 1 red link cam, pitons, nuts. Used: 3 stubbies, runners to girth hitch trees. Approach Notes: Snowshoes/Skis recommended
  15. 2017/18 Oregon Washington ice

    Priti and I climbed the North Face of Chair Peak on Saturday 12/16. Thanks, John Douglass for the pictures! Approach snow was deep. Recommend skis/snowshoes, but kick-stepping wasn't so bad. The first pitch had nice, consistent, solid, THIN ICE for 60m, maybe WI3. It was so stinking fun if you like thin, unprotectable ice. I got one good stubby in over the whole 60m pitch. We had rock pro and pitons but didn't find them helpful. Pitches 2-4 (to summit) were snow over rock with occasional thin ice for protection. Snow is too shallow and loose for pickets. Only used trees and stubby's for pro. Existing anchors every 60m. Red link cam backed up the anchor on pitch 1. NE Buttress of Chair Peak. Only one party of 2 attempted it and bailed due to loose snow. Pitch 1 on the North Face - 60m thin ice, some thicker ice near the top of the pitch. Upper pitches of North Face of Chair Peak. Snow over rock with thin ice. Deep snow to the False Summit and more snow-over-rock to the summit. Summit selfie Summit East Face of Chair Peak. There is avy debris in this bowl now. When we rappelled onto the slope from the standard descent, we triggered a slab avalanche which went 500 feet down, crown was .5-2ft deep and 15m wide. Be careful of avy danger here as always! I would wear beacon/shovel probe to the base of the climb, and also for the descent from the summit. Lots of rain in the Pass on Sunday, so no promises. Enjoy!
  16. [TR] Hyalite 2-17 - 2/22/2017

    Wow, Zack Attack looks amazing, way to go! And Matrix looks very different than it did in December...spookier!
  17. Hey boys and girls! If you haven't heard, Slesse NE Buttress is open for business! And it's only getting colder and darker. The Pocket Glacier slid a few weeks ago and there is just a little bit of safely perched snow here and there on the slab. Climbers: Jeff and Priti Wright Route Up: NE Buttress via Bypass Route Route Down: Crossover Descent Total Time: 25hrs (13.5hrs up, 11.5hrs down) Download-able GPS tracks: http://www.peakbagger.com/climber/ascent.aspx?aid=701815 Here is a neat TR with pics of Slesse (for conditions) from Ensakwatch on the same day we were on Slesse: http://cascadeclimbers.com/forum/ubbthreads.php?ubb=showflat&Number=1151380 To continue our experiment of 50 Classics Car-to-Car/Single Push, this is our third in the past month (with Beckey-Chouinard on S Howser Tower and North Ridge of Mount Stuart). It was a slow, 25 hours. Again, we're not the fastest in the bunch, and it's not a Triple Linkup, but we're working on our pain and suffering tolerance! 3:15AM - Leave Trailhead 4:15AM - Memorial Plaque (don't get water here! It's a 10min bushwack...) 5:30AM - Propeller Cairn 6:45AM - Base of Bypass Route 4:45PM - Summit 4:15AM - Back at Trailhead The Crossover Descent was long and hard, with tricky routefinding in the dark. It started raining on the last pitch from the summit and lasted a few hours, so descending the Crossover on slick rock was slow and sketchy. We simul'd/short-roped most of the descent, not fully unroping until under the Wooded Stump. The climbing was fast and easy, but we found this descent route very difficult. The crux was finding the flagging boot path at the bottom of the orange scree through the subalpine meadows to get to the established Crossover Trail. We never found this path or any flagging, and wandered for hours in the subalpine before just bushwacking hard left to intercept the Crossover Trail. Otherwise, the Crossover Descent route was obvious. Next time, we'd want to know what elevation to expect the subalpine skier's left traverse..or better yet, next time, we're bringing two cars to do the normal descent! This Crossover Descent might have been must faster in dry condition, with daylight, backpacking boots, and general situational awareness. We had tennis shoes which were perfect for the approach, but terrible for the Crossover Descent. You have to do a lot of travel on sketchy, muddy scree! Blake Herrington has the best description of the Crossover Descent in his new book, Cascades Rock. Get as much beta as you can on the Crossover Descent! Because of the sopping wet rock, we took all available rappels (7 total) with a 60m rope off established tat anchors: 2 rappels at bottom of summit gully (could be done with 1 70m, or 5.6 downclimb), 1 after crossing the traverse notch from the gendarme (4th class downclimb), 2 to get down to the final scree/meadow slope (3th class downlimb), and 2 off the summit block of the final peak before Crossover Pass (raps recommended, looked like hard 5th class downclimbing). Usually I think people just do it in 3 (1 at the beginning, and 2 at the end). Water: There is running water at the Propeller Cairn, the Pocket Glacier slab, and the orange talus on the Crossover Descent. Crossing the Pocket Glacier slab, you don't have to get on snow, but it's a wet, muddy affair. No snow on route. The route: Routefinding on the Bypass and the NE Buttress was very straightforward. We pitched it out the exact same way as Steph Abegg did (13 Pitches), which was very natural and obvious. Only the first 2 pitches and the crest involved simul-climbing. Further simulclimbing would have been difficult with rope drag, unless you kept the rope very short. Did the whole Bypass Start unroped (3rd/4th class, never any 5th), roping up behind the gendarme on the NE Buttress. The only mistakes we made was on Steph Abegg's Pitch 4 and Pitch 8. On Pitch 4 where you cross right over the arete, there is "off-route" tat out left which gets you way left and adds a tons of rope drag...instead go straight up from the belay to cross the arete soon, angling right to cross the arete. On Pitch 8 (right after the long crest simul), there again is an aluring "off-route fixed nut" out left up a tempting hand crack (the only hand crack on the Buttress!)...instead, you want to avoid the beautiful hand crack and traverse right (away from the buttress) before going back left to the grassy ledge (just as Fred Beckey's topo shows). The hand crack out left near the buttress is a siren which leads to decaying, exposed, unprotectable 5.9 granodiorite. Beautiful route. In hindsight, after forgetting all of the descent suffering, the Crossover is rather adventurous and aesthetic, but I think 2 cars is still the best way to go. Gear Notes: -Not really any jamming on this route (mostly face climbing), so recommend leaving the Ocuns/Jammies at home -We both brought chalk bags, but the climbing was so easy, we never really used it. The route felt like a long scramble. -SR to 3; doubles of .5, 1, 2; orange, blue, yellow Mastercam (used a lot); red C3 (not used), light nuts, pink tricam (obligatory, lol) -Recommend light boots for Crossover Descent. Tennis Shoes for normal approach/descent.
  18. Awesome report and beautiful pictures! Good effort on this long route. We were on Slesse NE Butt that day too. Didn't see the storm coming in until we were in it on the summit! It drizzled from 4:00-7:00PM, never really hard, but left the rock soggy. Good call to call it quits. Descending Slesse on soggy rock was super sketch.
  19. [TR] Dorado Needle - SW Buttress 8/21/2016

    Incredible pictures/report. Nice work! I appreciate the work you did climbing this thing with a gigantic DSLR hanging from your neck
  20. Awesome report, nice work! Gotta put that route on our list. Who knew you could be alpine climbing and not actually suffer sometimes. This winter, we'll have to take you back here and do the Improbably Traverse with tools and 'pons!
  21. Steph Abegg's Rappel overlay is spot on and saved our bacon from getting off-route. You definitely want to have her overlay with you as you do this rap for the first time. Some additional lessons on the descent: Ref: http://www.supertopo.com/tr/South-Howser-Tower-Beckey-Chouinard/t12222n.html -We did all rappels on a 60m rope (Mammut Serenity). No problem. Still, I think most ropes are within 5% of their advertised length, so our 60m rope might not equal your 60m rope. Plus we are light (100lb and 150lb) and rope stretch is another factor to consider. The ends or our ropes barely reached the bolts every time. On the 32m and 35m rappels, we did lower the first person to add pull cords if it didn't make it. Make sure to put knots on the end and be careful. If you're nervous, instead of bringing a 70m rope, you can just untie your 10m cordalette to add as a pull cord. We did use this method on the last rap over the shrund to get us to flat ground. When we do this again, we will simul rappels #4 to the shrund with just a 60m (with knots on the ends) and then add a 10m pull chord to the last rap over the shrund for a single-strand rap to flat ground. -The first anchor is tat (not bolts) on the N side of the summit block. -Thought her "1a" tat anchor was essential. Down climbing would be difficult. You pull your rope between 1 and 1a and walk to 1a on a big flat cube boulder. -"2" is a bolt anchor. We skipped this and walked on flat ground over to "3". -"3" was pretty easy and straightforward. Stay on the ridge until you see your bolt anchor. You kind of want to veer climber's right as you rap, but avoid the temptation. -"4" is straight down a corner. Lots of flakes and cracks. We got our rope stuck here in a crack and had to lead up it, so be careful pulling your rope here. -"6": There is a janky old handline to scramble down to some useless tat. Then some more "scrambling" between the useless, old tat and the anchor. First, I scrambled, unroped along the handline to the tat, but further scrambling seemed too dangerous below the tat to the bolts (which you can't see). So instead, Priti set up a rappel adjacent to the hand line so we could both rappel to the bolts. Recommend rappelling from the bolts (which hold the handline at position "6") and rappel parallel to the handline down the scrambley ledge, continue past the janky tat (in the same direction, along the wall) down the gully to the anchor. -"7": VERY IMPORTANT...as Steph notes, "DO NOT go down corner/gully". We missed this note, went down the corner/gully and had to jug back up. Instead, rappel down the slab climber's right. Bolts are easy to find. -"8": Anchor was easy to find here, instead of the advertised "hard to find" -If you try the last rap with just a 60m, it will still reach, but you'll want to have crampons on and your ice axe holstered. 60m barely gets you over the shrund but not to flat ground. FYI, The last rap station above the shrund is a tiny edge (not a ledge), so you'd be putting on crampons while hanging.
  22. Climbers: Jeff and Priti Wright Routes: - Cerro Torre: Via dei Ragni (600m, 90deg, M4), unsuccessful - Aguja Guillaumet: Comesana-Fonrouge (400m, 30deg, 6b+), successful We've been meaning to post this TR for a while now, but hopefully it will inspire you for the next Patagonia season! Priti and I went back to el Chalten in February 2016 for our second season of climbing in Patagonia. In Dec 2014, we summited Aguja de l'S by the Austriaca route and had two unsuccessful attempts on Aguja Guillaumet due to poor weather. This time we went back and sumitted Aguja Guillaumet (the first peak on the Fitz Roy Traverse) by the Comesana-Fonrouge route and also made an unsuccessful attempt on Cerro Torre due to a bergshrund that we couldn't cross. Chalten Massif (with Cerro Torre and Cerro Chalten) Cerro Chalten (Fitz Roy) from Lago de los Tres Cerro Torre: Via dei Ragni (600m, 90deg, M4) The Torre Range looks like a row of dominos frozen in place mid-fall with Cerro Torre as the book-end, standing tall and narrow as a toothpick. We arrived in town very lucky to have a 3-day weather window in the first week. With such a long window, we decided to go for our biggest objective, Cerro Torre via the Ragni Route. This is the original line of ascent from 1974 and is an ice/mixed line on the opposite side of the massif, from the Hielo Continental (Southern Patagonian Ice Field). Colin Haley and Alex Honnold had just climbed the Torre Traverse in a historic, one-day sprint the week prior which really lit the stoke for us! View of our route and high point We were to approach via Paso Marconi, a 20mi approach over highly glaciated terrain, as opposed to the Col Standhardt which is much shorter but with exceptional difficulties at the moment. We met a European team the previous night who had just turned around from Cerro Torre last week due to difficulties getting over the Col Standhardt. According to Colin, the only reason to take the Col Standhardt approach is if you have gear cached at Niponino base camp, otherwise it's best to take the long, leisurely approach over Paso Marconi. Rio Electrico Valley over Paso Marconi onto the Hielo Continental View of Hielo Continental and Circo de los Altares (right) View of the Ragni Route up the glacial ramp between Cerro Torre and Filo Rosso (Red Spur) We started the approach up the Rio Electrico and continued up the valley onto the Glacier Marconi, crossing seracs to mount Paso Marconi, then marching 15km across flat ice on the Hielo Continental and finally entering the Circo de los Altares, a large cirque surrounded by majestic peaks: Cerro Rincon, Cerro Domo Blanco, and the Torres. Looking back at the Rio Electrico Glacier Marconi Paso Marconi: There are two routes, over the dangerous seracs on the left or up the chossy cliffs on the right The Hielo Continental When we got the base, we saw two other weary souls who had just come down from the difficulties of Col Standhardt intending to climb the Ragni as well. One had blood coming from his forehead. They looked like hardened, Eastern European climbers, but they were in no mood for talking...or climbing. They looked like they had seen ghosts; they just sat down and quietly looked up at the route with the disposition that they had already been defeated before they started. They just asked us in broken English how to get out, we pointed the way, and they left back for town. The Ragni is normally a very popular route, especially on huge weather windows like this one, but the entire time, Priti and I were the only climbers there, indicating that we had likely come too late in the season. Circo de los Altares The backside of the Torres Traverse (Left to Right): Cerro Standhardt, Punta Herron, Torre Egger, Cerro Torre Cerro Domo Blanco Everything was sweltering, making the glaciers very problematic. The first 400m of the climb is a simple 35deg; glacial slog, which for us is now a complex, time-consuming, serpentine maze of crevasses and a bonus 60m pitch of serac ice climbing (A2). The "mixed" pitches were actually super fun, with difficulties of M2/M3 with tools and crampons (the hardest bit being a 20m 5.8 hand crack). There was no actual ice on these pitches, but rather a few flowing waterfalls here and there. It turned out to be 4 wandering pitches, following the tat and the easiest way up (of which there were several possible lines). Looking up at the "mixed" pitches Priti following slab on crampons From the mixed pitches, another 300m of 40deg glacier climbing forms a narrow ramp between Cerro Torre and a rocky spur called Filo Rosso. After climbing about 250m, we were stopped by a 10m wide crevasse which stretched across the entire width of the glacial ramp. There were footprints left from last week's ascents which stopped at a terrible overhang; perhaps the warm weather had collapsed a previous bridge. We were hoping to make the Col de la Esperanza (Col of Hope) by the end of the day, but unfortunately we were forced to turn around about 200m short of that goal after having climbed about half of the vertical terrain of the mountain. The bergshrund we couldn't cross. Fresh steps indicated a recent bridge had collapsed. Heading back down Cerro Rincon at one end of the Circo We head home, weary and disappointed, but at least we had a beautiful sunset to watch from our high-perched bivy. Now, we make the long trek out, back through Paso Marconi. From what we've gathered, we were the last ones to attempt Cerro Torre that season. Rappeling steep, wet slabs near the foot of Filo Rosso The long march out Aguja Guillaumet: Comesana-Fonrouge (400m, 30deg, 6b+) Back in town, we had a few days to catch our breaths. Andrew Rothner (a bouldering badass) and Josh Wharton (an alpinist badass) were staying at our hostel. We went bouldering with Andrew and our friend Julieta one day and ran into Brette Harrington at the crag. Pretty cool to see celebrities all over town! One evening, Colin Haley and Alex Honnold stopped by the hostel and asked us to join them for dinner. At the table, we were joined by Mikey Schaefer, Ben Erdmann, and Josh Wharton. It was a really neat experience to swap stories with these legends. The next two weeks were filled with "sucker-windows" where there is an 8-10hr break with semi-climbable weather. Priti and I attempted Aguja Guillaumet, but the rain never let up and we also didn't reach the base. Finally, the trip was coming to a close, and we had one more sucker-window the day before we left, so we thought we should keep trying. This would be our 4th attempt of Aguja Guillaumet over 2 years. Since it's the Patagonian granite spire with the shortest approach, we always reserved it for these tiny micro-windows which always failed us. It's 13 pitches, with the crux being 6b+ (5.10d), then a steep snowfield at the top. Aguja Guillaumet, our route is the ridge on the right The other side of our ridge route (from a different trip); also visible is Aguja Mermoz and Cerro Chalten (Fitz Roy) All night long and all morning we were pounded with a snow storm in our bivy at Piedra Negra, near the base of the route. This did not bode well for conditions. We came expecting to find rime and snow on route, and we were not disappointed. We actually had decent weather for the first 10 hours as predicted, but climbing was a lot slower than we expected, having to use ice tools to climb, clearing the icy cracks. Then the wind started picking up and carried with it rime ice crystals that pelted your face and blew up in your nostrils. The temps were very cold and we climbed in big puffies. Priti leading up the crux A view of the crux after the ice has been chopped out! An airy traverse after the crux Finally at the notch above the Amy Couloir By dusk, the wind was howling and we still had a ways to the summit. We agreed ahead of time, we would only turn around if we could not go up anymore, so we kept going up... We finally reached the summit at the stroke of midnight. By then, the clouds had rolled in, and we could see some of the distant lights of the estancias far below. The winds ripped the ropes ferociously. We were proud to have pushed through this great struggle, but scared about the descent, as the winds kept picking up more and more. The ropes were plastered to the rocks by the wind and frozen in place. It took us 5 hours to make four 30m rappels in the blasting wind, which from the reports were expected to be about 40-50knots (although we had expected to be down before then). We finally made it to a small Amy notch and retreated to a snow/ice gully on the opposite side of the mountain which proved to be a little more sheltered from the wind. We were familiar with this gully, having climbed it the year prior, and knew that getting out from there was straight-forward. As we rappelled down the gully, the sun rose. It was a nightmare-ish experience, a true old-school Patagonian experience. We were the only ones on this exceedingly popular mountain. We were probably the only ones climbing in the massif. Later, we would have dinner with Jeannie Wall and Colin Haley and all the climbers there were impressed by our brazen stupidity in going out in such crappy weather. Definitely no regrets, but definitely would never climb in such conditions again. In total, we spent 30 hours moving from getting up from our bivy at Piedra Negra to hiking out back to town in one push. Photo Spheres from Cerro Torre and the Southern Patagonian Ice Field are on Google Maps. You can simply find them on there from the map (loaded by Jeffrey Wright), or copy/paste these addresses into your desktop: - https://www.google.com/maps/@-49.2911066,-73.1036873,3a,75y,52h,90t/data=!3m8!1e1!3m6!1s-ib_OTXqQ1IQ%2FVtpCHf3yBiI%2FAAAAAAAAGGQ%2FnZkwEQT-fHEWFVnFc51HCeCJv9R8x1azg!2e4!3e11!6s%2F%2Flh4.googleusercontent.com%2F-ib_OTXqQ1IQ%2FVtpCHf3yBiI%2FAAAAAAAAGGQ%2FnZkwEQT-fHEWFVnFc51HCeCJv9R8x1azg%2Fw203-h101-n-k-no%2F!7i8704!8i4352!5m1!1e4 - https://www.google.com/maps/@-49.2654099,-73.160241,3a,75y,46h,90t/data=!3m8!1e1!3m6!1s-xm-8K9-rhWk%2FVtpCD4jQZkI%2FAAAAAAAAGGI%2FQbmJKT0IIJAnXEYpv-myqJsmsjib0lgag!2e4!3e11!6s%2F%2Flh5.googleusercontent.com%2F-xm-8K9-rhWk%2FVtpCD4jQZkI%2FAAAAAAAAGGI%2FQbmJKT0IIJAnXEYpv-myqJsmsjib0lgag%2Fw203-h101-n-k-no%2F!7i8704!8i4352!5m1!1e4 - https://www.google.com/maps/@-49.2420604,-73.163543,3a,75y,21.88h,98.25t/data=!3m8!1e1!3m6!1s-Tx9sMx6lUUs%2FVtpCGqOjljI%2FAAAAAAAAGGo%2FlfNnv4_kHa86QIURq0nfrMkbdSYq1ppHA!2e4!3e11!6s%2F%2Flh4.googleusercontent.com%2F-Tx9sMx6lUUs%2FVtpCGqOjljI%2FAAAAAAAAGGo%2FlfNnv4_kHa86QIURq0nfrMkbdSYq1ppHA%2Fw203-h101-n-k-no%2F!7i8704!8i4352!5m1!1e4 - https://www.google.com/maps/@-49.2815767,-73.1182334,3a,75y,178.99h,74.08t/data=!3m8!1e1!3m6!1s-V-Wfgsg7rJM%2FVtpCG4QPnmI%2FAAAAAAAAGGk%2FheAEW-jRKRoKQwk6JHqxA1Xex-XtZea6Q!2e4!3e11!6s%2F%2Flh4.googleusercontent.com%2F-V-Wfgsg7rJM%2FVtpCG4QPnmI%2FAAAAAAAAGGk%2FheAEW-jRKRoKQwk6JHqxA1Xex-XtZea6Q%2Fw203-h101-n-k-no%2F!7i8704!8i4352!5m1!1e4 Gear Notes: -Cerro Torre: light rack, several screws, 1 picket, stuff sacks (for deadmen), ice tools with wings, double ropes 60m -Guillaumet: SR, single rope 60m with 60m pull cord
  23. http://cascadeclimbers.com/forum/ubbthreads.php/topics/1150895/TR_Patagonia_El_Chalten_Cerro_#Post1150895
  24. [TR] Yellowjacket Tower - Standard 8/6/2016

    Sweet trip you two! Lookin good! Gotta put this on our Wish List
  25. Way to go you two! I like the minimal bivy setup Just gotta watch out for the jimmy leg...
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