Trip: Little Tahoma - Lawless Trip Date: 03/03/2020 Trip Report:
I first became interested in Little Tahoma talking with Matt Christensen (my step father) about his first ascent of the West Ridge with his climbing partner Paul Cook. We found it interesting that the third highest peak in Washington has had only a few significant ascents. I teamed up with my friend Jay, who had been wanting to climb something on the north side of the peak for awhile.
On the third of March we started walking from camp at 3:30am, our starting elevation was around 8800ft on the Cowlitz Glacier. We crossed below Cathedral Rocks and got onto the Ingraham and started to head west up glacier. The Ingraham was covered in a thin windblown snow crust which made glacier navigation difficult. I punched through into a crevasse and went in up to my head. I remember looking down and seeing a lot of open space below my dangling boots. From that point Jay graciously took the lead. It took us longer than planned to navigate the Ingraham due to the weak snow bridges. Eventually, we made it to the termination of the West Ridge of Little Tahoma and descended the Winthrop Glacier to below the North Face of Little Tahoma. We encountered a significant bergschrund which took two rappels using v threads to get across and to the base of our route. By that time the sun was fully out. We didn't have too much beta to go off of as we scanned the north face for a weakness. We chose a line and went for it. The climb started out on lower angle snow and ice leading to the second pitch which was fun AI4 up a thin ice runnel. The next two pitches were AI3, M3-M4ish climbing and really enjoyable. Pitch five was more serious (at least for me). It was steep mixed climbing with a thin layer of snow cover on what, in appearance, was a cement mix with cobblestones protruding. I was able to find a pin placement low on the pitch, but the majority of the lead was unprotected. This was definitely one of the hardest pitches I've done due to the mental aspect, trying to keep the negative thoughts at bay. Jay took the sixth pitch, which was the crux. A short crack system lower on the lead led up to difficult moves pulling around an overhanging bulge. This pitch had some loose blocks and my belay was directly below and exposed. I had my fingers crossed Jay would not pull any off. At the top of the sixth pitch we started to gain the West Ridge. On the West Ridge we started to climb a series of gendarmes. At this point we were able to put away the ice tools and do some fun alpine rock climbing. There were a few large loose blocks, but most of the pitch was on good rock. From there we reached the last major gendarme on the West Ridge. We rappelled down into a notch between the gendarme and the final buttress of the West Ridge.
By that time the daylight was gone and the weather had moved in causing whiteout conditions. We were not expecting to bivy and our gear was limited, which would have made a very cold night. We made the decision to bail on our original plan of climbing the distinct vertical chimney system that cuts directly up the final buttress to the summit. Instead, we traversed around the South Face until we found a large couloir. Pitch ten climbed the couloir up 65-70 degree snow leading us to a short pitch of AI3. From here we were essentially on the standard route up the east side. Even though we were close to the summit, being as exhausted, and frankly grateful to have made it as far as we had, the decision was made to descend. We got back to camp with a round trip time of almost exactly 24 hours.
Grade V AI4 M6 5.8, 11 pitches
Single rack in rock pro .1-3 in BD, 5 ice screws, 7 pins, 2 pickets, twin 70m ropes Approach Notes:
Approached from the North Face of Little Tahoma by going around the the terminus of the West Ridge.