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Found 154 results

  1. Trip: Picket Range - Complete Enchainment Attempt Date: 9/2/2011 Trip Report: On September 2nd Jens Holsten, Dan Hilden and myself (Sol Wertkin) began an 8 day attempt at the Complete Picket Range Enchainment. While we came quite short of our original goal, we were able to complete the 2nd ascent of the Souther Picket Range Ridge Traverse (Bunker, Haley, Wallace 2003) and push it forward a bit to the North through Picket Pass, and over Outrigger and Luna Pk before exiting via Access Creek (15 summit in total). Day 1: The Three McMillan Spires Day 1 is a true ass-kicker, gaining over 10,000 vertical feet, and unfortunately I had been here before, 2 years earlier Blake Herrington and I had made an attempt at the Southern Traverse, completing 5 peaks before bailing out via fried nerves and weather via Terror Creek. We had fallen short of our intended itinerary on day 1 bivying between the East and West McMillan Spires. It was with this knowledge that I set the alarm even earlier this time around. As predicted, we approached as a weather system cleared the area and lucky for us an amazing high pressure window graced us for the remainder of the trip. The days objectives: SE Face of Little McMillan 7,600 ft, East ridge of East McMillan 7,992 ft, and the East Ridge/Face of the West McMillan Spire 8,000 ft. Though the packs were heavy, the views were incredible, the rock wasn't half bad, and the psyche was high. Myself celebrating the Triple Cumbre We were happy to have completed our goal for the day, but undeniably worked from the long approach and rock climbing with such heavy packs. We settled into the bivy just as it became dark. Day 2: The East Towers Traverse to Inspiration Peak We slept in until nearly 8 am on day 2 rationalizing that to complete such a big undertaking we would need to periodically recover. I began our late start pushing the rope on familiar terrain around the East Towers towards Inspiration. I was able to gain precious time compared to Blake and myself's onsight attmept and within a few hours we were starting up beautiful stone low on Inspiration Pk's East Ridge. Jens led on, scaling Inspiration's two beautiful crux pitches. It was here, at the base of the 5.9 pitch on Inspiration, where, 2 years earlier, I had come as close to dying as I ever have in the mountains. A microwave sized block that Blake was stemming on came loose and crashed onto the belay ledge from 50 ft. I narrowly escaped by jumping barefoot off the ledge with just enough play in my tether to dodge the missle. It felt strange to be back at the scene of the incident and was a relief to climb on uneventfully. The traverse over the E and W Summits of Inspiration 7,880 ft was as aesthetic as ever. But my oh my, where had the time gone? By the time we descended the W Ridge of Inspiration it was nearly 4 in the afternoon. On my previous attempt Blake and I had pioneered frightening new ground at 5.10R on our next objective, The Pyramid. Not feeling the need to launch into another late day epic on Pyramid we made the hard decision to bivy there and tackle it first thing in the morning. We had fallen incredibly short of the first ascencionest itinerary (in which they had amazingly moved on through Pryamid, Dengenhart, and Terror to a summit bivy on the Rake), but felt it was a necessary decision considering the time of the day and the enormity of our objective. Day 3: The Pyramid, Dengenhardt, Terror, and The Rake Our third day began with a more traditional alpine start and Dan took the lead and nailed it. Climbed The Pyramid the right way and it was a great route. Dan on the 5.8 crux of the East Ridge of The Pyramid Near the summit of The Pyramid 7,920 ft Mt. Degenhardt, 8,000 ft, was an easy scramble and we kept trucking on towards Terror. It was near the base of Terror where I had given Blake, "the look." The look that says, "dude, i'm done, it's over," and we had bailed. This time around I just focused on placing one foot in front of the other, and really didn't look ahead too much at the exceedingly intimidating East Ridge of Terror. We knew that Wayne and party had had a hair-raising experience scaling it's loose flanks so we just focused on finding the best path. And we did, and it wasn't so bad. Myself, leading our first pitch on the East Ridge of Mt. Terror Jens on the Summit of Mt. Terror, 8,151 ft. While the ascent wasn't so bad, the descent sure was. Loose unprotected down-climbing characterized the descent and before long we were strung out on a steep face searching for anchors or a way to continue down. Eventually we found some very old pins, and rapped off into the col, a disgusting place, perhaps the loosest col of them all. On the menu for dinner was the Rake, and Jens took the lead for the first and crux pitch. Loose climbing took Jens out of view and before long it was only his breathing and moans that we could decipher. I could tell the climbing was hard and that for the first time of the trip Jens was, "going for it." In the face of steep overhangs, Jens had set two OK nuts, equalized them and embarked on a 9+ traverse across "solid" edges, running it out 50-60 ft to a belay. Luckily for Dan and myself we were able to get intimate with some super-choss and keep the protection slightly more sane as we followed. Endless simuling ensued as we traversed onto the true ridge of the Rake. The rock quickly changed and we climbed phenomenal stone around the East Summit. Jens climbing into the golden hour on the Rake DFH getting his follow on Loving it Late-night belay duty Climbing at night, deep in the Pickets, high on the Rake, isn't the most relaxing endeavor. But things continued to unfold well. We wandered around many false summits and gendarmes and finally late into the night we heard a distant "monkey-call"from Jens and knew that we had finally arrived at the West Summit of the Rake, 7,840 ft. A short rap into the high col ended a long day. A wind-protected bivy we affectionately named,Ice Station DarkStar. We were in deep now. Day 4: East Twin Needle, West Twin Needle, and the Himmelhorn We awoke to a crisp morning on day 4. I started off the day wandering down the long west ridge of the Rake towards the Twin Needle Spires. Looking back at the Rake As we approached the summit ridge of the E Twin Needle the rock got better and better. Crescendoing with a wild pitch of 10- to the summit, 7,936. Jens leading through terrible rope drag DFH Scary downclimbing (a theme for the trip) got us off the E Twin and we simuled up the West Twin. The Himmelhorn, the crux of the traverse (10+), was wildly intimidating. Jens got're done, finding the right path up the sheer north face. We pushed on over the summit, down the backside, where two long rappels took us to a good bivy at the Ottohorn-Himmelhorn col. Day 5: The Ottohorn We again woke up late, intending on first bagging the Ottohorn via it's 3rd class East Face, and then the Frenzelspitz. We were worked from the previous's day's climbing and moved slowly out of the bivy with quivering legs and throbbing fingers. Unfortunatly, our romp was not to be as new rockfall just below the summit proved too unsafe to tackle unroped. Dejected, we turned around and headed back to camp. We rested for a couple hours, discussed the high proabability that the complete objective was not to be, and headed back up the Ottohorn, this time with a rope and rack. Dan led us to the to summit via two quality pitches of solid 5.7. We returned to camp and continued resting. Day 6: Outrigger Pk (SE Fury) Though our fifth day had been predominatly characterized by resting we still awoke to day six tired, sore, and HUNGRY. Our rations basically consisted of 4 bars and 4 GU's for breakfast, lunch and snacks, a Mountain House meal for dinner and a group instant potato meal as a second dinner/before bed snack, with some random sausage, cheese, and extras here and there. Somewhere in the ballpark of 1400-2000 calories/day. While this works for the first few days, by day six you've burned through your reserves and you can't help but feel the effects as you start to metabolize your muscles. Nonetheless, as we rapped off into the Ottohorn-Himmelhorn coulouir I began to formulate my, "let's keep going" speech to be delivered after we easily tagged the Frenzelspitz and effortlessly galavanted across Picket Pass. Jens, aka "Alpine Man" preparing to do work in the Ottohorn-Himmelhorn coulouir A long double rope rappel onto the snow, led to another long double rope rappel, lots of downclimbing, and more rapping. While we were at times just 10-15 ft away from tromping up the 4th class East Face of the Frenzelspitz, the late-season snow was laying the "smack-down" on our spirits with hard sun-cupped conditions and impassable moats. Nearly 4 hours after first rapping into the coulouir we crested the snow to solid terra-firma. It was a strange mental space in that we were now deeper then ever, but at the same time, finally off of the demanding 5th class terrain of the Southern Range. Any wishes of sending the Frenzelspitz collapsed into the impassable September moat as did my Pattonesque speech. What do you know, more sketchy downclimbing moved us up and over Cub Scout Pk, and onto Picket Pass. On a route punctuated with many highpoints it was interesting to feel equally moved by the brush and sub-alpine trees of Picket Pass, our first major low-point in a number of days. We hydrated and pushed on up and over Outrigger (SE Pk of Fury)7,757 ft. via aesthetic slabs, exposed ridges, and golden staircases. Chossy downclimbing led us off of Outrigger onto the flanks of the SE Glacier of Fury, which we elegantly traversed down and onto a heather basin, beneath a large ridge connecting Fury and Luna Pk. We reached running water and a fine bivy high on the ridge just a hour or so into the dark night. Day 7: Luna Pk The next morning we awoke to sore bodies and breathtaking views. The effort of the past few days was layed out in front of us and we could finally get the feeling that we had accomplished something. The beautiful high ridge route continued on and before too long we were ditching our packs and heading up to tag Luna. Great view of our route from high on Luna Pk, 8,331 ft From Luna we descended and traversed steep heather slopes into Access Creek. Jens strung-out in the heather We continued descending through the brush of Access Creek to the forest of the Big Beaver Valley and Luna Camp. Day 8: The Deproach 12+ miles of hiking found us in the heat of the valley and finally back to the car. We had the great pleasure of celebrating our adventure with good friends who happened to be in the area. I can't give enough thanks to the many folks who helped us out on this endeavor including Cheryl and Adam Mckenney of Leavenworth Mountain Sports, Jim Nelson of Pro Mountain Sports, Teresa Bruffey/Outdoor Research, John Race and Olivia Cussen of the Northwest Mountain School, Geoff Cecil, Blake Herrington, and of course Wayne Wallace. Wayne's advice, psych, and willingness to let us give his project a go proved instrumental in our success. We were awed by his bold leads while on route and kept discussing that we couldn't imagine a more committing objective than solo on the Mongo Ridge. On our final day of preparations we orchestrated a phone consultation with Wayne where we hurriedly jotted down notes in the drizzle of a Safeway parking lot as we picked his brain. This beta sheet proved quite valuable (I will scan it and post up). Gear Notes:I plan to blog in detail about the gear we used for this objective in the near future. I will link the blog post here. Links: Jen's Blog: Always Upwards Day 1 & 2 Day 3 Day 4 Day 5 Day 6 Day 7 Dan's Blog Colin Haley's original TR for the Southern Ridge Traverse AAJ: Walking the Fence Josh Kaplan's original TR for the Northern Enchainment (Kaplan, Wallace, 2005) NWMJ: Northern Pickets Enchainment We sure do live in a special place to be able to embark on an adventure of this magnitude just a few hours from home.
  2. Trip: Shuksan - Price Glacier via NE Chute+NE Rib linkup Date: 8/3/2011 Trip Report: Zloi54 and I climbed one of the 50 classics of NA list – the scary Price glacier on Shuksan - over 08/01 – 08/04/11. After my arrival from PDX on Sat 07/30, we arranged for a car shuttle between Nooksack Cirque TH and Bagley lakes picnic area. Hwy 542 was then blocked by snow and gated to Austin Pass, but is reopened now. A 30% chance of showers predicted for our Sunday’s approach turned out to be 100% full on rain and meant open biving in the ditch for two nights at Nooksack cirque TH while waiting for the weather to clear. Day 1. Approach to the Nooksack Tower. Nooksack Cirque TH (2200’): Two whitewater crossings of Ruth Creek right off the TH are currently in the brand new “fir tree” state: After about 3 miles on the Nooksack Cirque trail, we took the climbers trail down (just past Wilderness boundary sign) to the Nooksack river. Getting to the old log crossing along the riverbank sucked - due to high water level this year I guess, but traversing 20’ above it made the trick. Nooksack River crossing (another classic by itself) is still solid and welcomes visitors: Sticking with the faint trail in the alder (about 50 m to the left of Price Creek) on the other side of Nooksack river was not that bad and brought us to the open moraine above Price lake. Price Lake down below: North side of Shukshistani represents: “Open moraine” quickly turned into snow moraine as we continued towards the glacier: Some beta advised NOT to head up to Price gl before the cirque seriously cliffs out. Probably being retarded, this is what we ended up doing: we headed up way early through the steep moat-mined snow, and then climbed nearly vertical muddy rock with tools and hauling packs. Getting to Price glacier somehow came at high price of wasted energy and time. The cirque below from the approach: Approaching Nooksack Tower on Price gl: Getting to the Nooksack Tower bivy sites took some imagination for crossing the crevasses below. The approximate line, looks easier than it was in reality: Camping out by the Nooksack Tower (6600’): Sunset and dreams about Canada: Day 2. Upper Price glacier. We started at the base of Nooksack tower at sunrise, sprinted through the sketchy ice chute being constantly fed by the material from the looming above ice cliff, and then squeezed through a couple of fragile chimneys before hitting safer ground somewhere in the middle of Price gl: At this point, routefinding choices had to be made and while trying to compromise between the contradictory beta “to stay on the left” vs “to stay on the right” of the gl, we went up in the center (red line): The ice was good, took screws well and we could not see any major obstructions ahead. Yet. Z coming up first ice pitch: More ice above: Z coming up on the traverse: I then led an 80 deg snow dome and hit a dead end in the maze of overhanging ice walls and our further progress had significantly slowed down. After trying a few options, we rapped down in the underground and begun traversing east (left) through the system of corridors and chimneys, most of which we soloed. The plan was to somehow get on the above snowfields to approach the rock band by the main shrund from the left where things were least broken up. Rapping down off ice features: In the crevasse chimneys: Contemplating the overhangs: By 7 pm we run out of options and pitched in the tent in between the ice walls with the haunted Nooksack Tower watching us for the second night in a row. I am not sure how often people do that, well we had no other choice: Another sunset by Nooksack Tower: Day 3. Upper Price gl., NE chute and NE Rib. For the lack of options on the east side of Price gl, we retraced our steps through the chimneys in the seracs, downclimbed and rapped down to the point where we could get to its west (right) side framed by a vertical serac wall and steeper snice slopes. Z heading up the right side of Price: West side of Price: Finally we got to the main shrund on Price, passing through which would have taken multiple overhanging raps as was later confirmed from my vantage point in the NE chute. The green line to the main shrund and traverse to the NE chute: We made a good call on the safest option of all: the NE chute with its scary entrance made of delicate soft ice flutings over 100 feet deep cracks and its monstrous ice roof right above our heads ready to collapse at any moment. The entrance to the NE chute: Typical terrain: Z coming up on the traverse to the center of the NE chute: Z heading up the easy snow above the second shrund in the NE chute: Z climbing up to the NE shoulder to find a bypass to the Crystal glacier – a “no go” in the current conditions: After he downclimbed the snow, I traversed and went up the NE Rib made of good and bad rock. Z traversing to the NE rib: Amazing views of Price lake down below: Solid alpine rock above on P2 - highly recommended: Z starting up on the P3 of the NE rib finish: After we had finally crawled across one of the endless knife edge snow ridges, we found no summit pyramid to our delight, but another corniced ridge which I think is a part of the Hanging glacier. So, we camp again. By the Hanging glacier snow ridge this time. And we run out of food. Day 4. Summit Pyramid and Fisher Chimneys descent. Next morning we climbed up and over the Hanging glacier cornice and thank god landed on the easy slopes of the North face top out. Just about time. The Summit pyramid from the north is looking mighty: While traversing across the Crystal gl and up the summit pyramid, we spotted the chopper making its way towards us. It turned out the authorities were concerned that we are 3 days overdue (including one extra day we bivied at the Nooksack cirque TH waiting on weather) but provided us with so needed food for our descent! What a treat! Baker from the summit pyramid: Hells highway was in the straightforward shape as was the lower crossing to Winnie’s slide. We took the skiers right variation of the Fisher Chimneys. After two raps over snow covered rock, we downclimbed 50 deg snow with a tool (no crampons were needed), and then merged with the left FC variation and downclimbed the rest on more often than not dry rock all way down to the moat. Traversing the snow covered boulder fields was OK, but getting through the moat on the last rap off the tree took more time than expected. There are a couple of options here: either shorter 10’ overhanging steps to get on the snow slope or a 20’ vertical section, both requiring crampons and a good tool. The descent to lake Ann was under snow, and will probably be for another month. We took the shortcut through the snow-covered slopes rather than sticking to the trail in the trees. Gear Notes: 5 screws, 3 pickets, rock pro to 1 inch, KBs could have been helpful, and were brought but not used because I am lazy. Approach Notes: Nooksack Cirque to Lake Ann carryover
  3. Trip: Violence, Alcohol and Shenanigans in NW China - Kingata Shan Date: 6/24/2005 Trip Report: This is the story of a trip I took with my friend TJ in 2005. At the last minute, we jumped on an expedition going to Northwest China after I received an "spammish" email from a man named Yoehan who was located somewhere in Central Asia. Most people would just click "Delete" and forget about this suspicious email. But not me. Having a habit of getting myself into a bit of trouble at times, all in the interest of extracting a good story...I threw caution to the wind, wired some money to some bank in China and started packing. After all, the price was right, I was unemployed with some spare cash. And, I had a cool partner, TJ. For me, I have noticed that as the years pass, the reality of an experience (what really happened) can sometimes morph into something else...memories of events that happened 5 years, 10 years, 15 years ago become plastic and evolve into something else...they slowly emerge as similar events with small, convenient adaptations...adaptations that tend to paint ones-self in a better light, or adaptations filled with hyperbole to make for better story telling. Over time, these people and places and events become mythical in your mind...and only a quick reference to a journal entry (if one exists) bring you back to what really happened. This is the story of our trip to China. I cannot attest to its truth or accuracy, although it travels along the general path of truth, often times these stories start drifting towards the gutter... Sometime around Memorial Day in 2005, I hopped on a flight to Beijing. The plan was for me to travel the "Silk Road" to Urumqui in the Xinjiang Province of China, and meet TJ there about a month later. From there we would travel to Kashgar to meet our "Permit Procurement Officer", later to be known as our "Provision Procurement Douchebag", Yoehan , who was based in Urumqui. We would then join some Slovenians for an expedition to climb some "unclimed" peaks. The price was low, and we had moderate expectations. So, for several weeks I made my way up the Silk Road with a tiny backpack, while TJ got to schlepp my climbing gear halfway across the world. I got the better half of the deal for sure. At least I think that is what happened... A few shots of my journey up the silky road... These guys were pretty stoked to see a white guy...this was in a small village up in the hills...the guy on the motorcycle was the local Karaoke champion. At least I think thats what they told me... Normal sights along the road which parallels the old Great Wall... Meat soon to be festering in 120+ degree afternoon heat...too hot for even the flies. I finally arrived in Urumqi after a very hot 3-week tour up the Silk Road by bus. Midday temps were over 120 degrees. Luckily there were swimming pools all over the place, and I made a habit of going swimming to cool off. The only problem was that the Chinese, who are suppoedly obsessed with the size of the white-man-unit, would continually stare at my junk in the shower room. Kinda creepy. Kinda confidence-inspiring. I finally met TJ in Urumqi for our flight to Kashgar. It was great to see a familiar face. Traveling on my own was fun, and the Chinese are very friendly people, but it was great to be with someone who wasn't staring at my junk all the time. Hey Buddy! The overweight charges in China are completely ridiculous, $100 per extra kilo. Now, I am NOT saying that Chinese people are stupid, but this is the first time of many over the next several weeks where we found ourselves muttering "Stupid Chinese..." So, with ice screws and all the climbing gear we we about $4000 overweight. We wore our entire climbing kit on the plane! Arriving in Kashgar by plane, we gathered our bags and headed out into the reception area, looking for our man, Yoehan. Well, we found him! Dressed in tight black Beavis-like shorts and a black shirt with a Commie hammer and sickle...bursting belly peeking out underneath, he was a behemoth of a man. He welcomed us to Kashgar in a deep Northern European accent, and pointed us in the direction of our taxi. He seemed OK. Just OK, and from there it just went downhill... Yoehan, en route to Base Camp... Our first order of business the next day was to buy food and get our gear ready so we could leave Kashgar the next morning, bright and early. Yoehan had agreed to provide a most of the camping gear...base camp tents, cooking gear, "schlingies", etc. Since he told us that he had all that stuff ready to go(he WAS our Provision Procurement Douchebag(PPD) after all), we ended up drinking instead. Buying vegetables could wait. We awoke the next day a bit hung over, but psyched to get on the road westward towards the Pakistan-Afghanistan-Tajikistan-China border, where Johan told us we would hire some camels to take us to our base camp. From base camp, we would spend a month or so bagging "unclimbed" peaks in the Kingata Shan(Range). But, yet another caveat. Yoehan informed us in the morning, in his confirmed dutch-accented voice that the team of Slovenians that would be joining us were arriving in Kashgar a day or two late. We would have to wait in Kashgar at least another night. Ugh! I guess we would just have to get drunk again. At least that would give us some more time to get to know Yoehan. Finally, buying vegetable in the Kashgar market... At some point, the Slovenian team of three arrived over the Kunjerab Pass from Pakistan, and we were ready to roll. These Slovenians were cool guys, despite having weird names, and one of them was going to make of film of the expedition! Sweet! We would be on camera! You can see the film here: Kingata Film by Anze Cokl The plan was to hire a bus to take us to a small village, then take camels to base camp. At least that was the trip Yoehan sold us... Somewhere around this time, he told us that he "doesn't do rescues". Cool. I think it was about this time he told us how he was recently beaten to a pulp for impregnating a local Uighur girl. But, that part is foggy... Yoehan, dispatching disparaging remarks to our cook, Jaink, who didn't really understand what he was saying anyways... The idea of camels taking us to base camp sounded exotic to me. I have to say that the camels were about 50% of the reason for me going on this trip. In the end, it turned out that we didn't need any camels after all...all we needed was a bloody truck! So, without even ONE CAMEL, we ended up DRIVING right to our base camp. Yoehan and Jaink negotiate with the local Kyrgyz for passage... Well, we got to base camp after after negotiating passage with the local Kyrgyz herders, and getting the bus stuck several times. By this time, we had been around Yoehan for about 3-4 days, and he was drunk pretty much the whole time. Not only that, but he wore the same clothes every day...could he possibly continue like this for a whole month in the mountains...drinking incessantly and wearing the same clothes? What we discovered was truly horrifying. At any rate, we had arrived at Base Camp. It was super easy to get there, and it was beautiful! Locals "helping" us unload the truck Mustagh Ata in the distance: At this point, if you're still reading...you're probably wondering if we are going to do any climbing on this trip...and that what we were starting to wonder, too... But, now that we were finally at Base Camp, all we had to do was eat, try our best to deal with Johans considerable alcoholism and perceived impending violence(he started saying angry things about this point), eat, and climb. Oh, yeah, we had to keep an eye on the local Kyrgyz...who looked innocent enough, but were milling about our camp constantly...obsessed with our high-tech trinkets like swiss-army knives, condoms, and sunglasses. Dont ask about the condoms, please. Local Kyrgyz: Innocent looking, but deadly! How can you ever trust a moslem with an "I heart Jesus" hat?? Don't forget the condoms! Kidding. IT WAS TIME TO DO SOME CLIMBING! We were hoping to climb Kingata Tagh, 6760 meters. But first we settled on a little acclimitization climb of a non-technical peak nearby, Karajira IV. None of these peaks seem to have official names, but Yoehan assured us that Karajira IV is both unclimed, and also actually named Karajira IV. We spent two full days bagging Karajira IV...really just a long slog up yak-slopes, then steep rotten snow... TJ heading up Yak-slopes, with Kingata Tagh in the distance. She would be our nemesis, that dirty girl! The descent path of one of the Slovenians...he had AMS pretty bad...note how un-straight is boot path is!! Summit of Karjira IV: We bagged Karajira IV just minutes after the Slovenians did. Of course, they claimed the first ascent for their country, and we shamefully walked the 8 hours back to Base Camp with our tails between our legs... We then spent a few days in Base Camp recouperating. We passed the time by playing frisbee with the locals and shooting the yaks with a slingshot! Frisbee! Yak Abuse! Treasures abound around Base Camp! By this time, Yoehan was starting to become quite the shit-show. He doesnt use sunscreen, so he had returned from two days on the glacier with his skin red, blistering, and peeling. At the Base Camp dinner table he would pick his scabs, then dip his scab-moistened hands into the sugar jar to sweeten his tea. Absolutely disgusting. He was starting to run out of alcohol, and began getting very grumpy. He had not yet bathed, and was still wearing the Beavis shorts and the hammer-sickle t-shirt. Also, he got diarrhea ("tin shits" as he called it) up on the mountain somewhere, and instead of going outside the tent to shit in the middle of the night, he thought it better to squirt his diaroeah (how many ways can you spell diorreah, anyways?) in our ONLY cooking pot small enough to take up high on summit day. He shit in our cooking pot. WTF?!!? He claimed that since he boiled water in it afterwards, that it was OK. "Don't worry about it", he said. Mommy, where do "Tin Shits" come from?? Disgusted by Yoehan, we were amped to get up-valley and give a shot at Kingata Tagh... The valley where our upper base camp was located: Kingata Tagh from advanced Base Camp... Long story short, we spent about 10 days high on the mountain trying to climb Kingata Tagh. The weather was crap. Every morning we would wake to blue bird skies, and every day around 11am the storm clouds would come in to deposit about 3 inches of graupel. Despite the crap weather, we finally made a dash for the summit as our last days of our trip were approaching. After putting in a high camp around 6100 meters, we ended up getting turned back by steep ice climbing that we were not prepared for...neither of us felt healthy. At high camp: High on the mountain on our summit push...Pakistan and a bunch of other "Stans" lurk on the horizon... Four weeks of of living on crappy Chinese food had taken their toll. The last days we were subsiding on Chinese "Powerbars" that weighed as much as a dime. The night we ate the mystery meat was a momentous one! Disappointed, and completely exhausted and hungry, we packed up our high camp, then our ABC and headed back down to Base Camp where we could spend one last day with Yoehan before heading back to Kashgar. Seems as if Yoehan had run out of alcohol while we were up on the mountain...and he had gotten very ornery. Very ornery. Honey badger-type ornery. Yoehan was getting angry. He started talking about how much he hated Americans. And about how noble Stalin was for doing "what he believed", etc. I could tell that something bad was going to happen. But, we got packed up the next day and left Base Camp without incident... Yoehan sits while others do the work: Departing the enchanted land of the Kyrgyz: Finally arriving back in Kashgar, we decided it was time for a little celebration. The celebration would include myself, TJ, the three Slovenians and, unfortunately, Yoehan. The night started off normal enough. But, eventually, we found ourselves sitting at an outdoor table at a main junction in Kashgar...drinking fairly heavily. Yoehan, excited to have unlimited amounts of alcohol at hand (and access to Uighur prostitutes), began to get drunk...and belligerant. He started yelling to everyone withing earshot that I was a CIA spy. Then, moments later, pushed his chair back, pulled out a leather man...and moved to stab me. TJ, hating Yoehan like no other, stands up, rears, and hauls off a punch across the table into Yoehans jaw, sending him flying backwards in his chair. It was awesome. I think that was the only time TJ ever punched anyone in his life. Turned out the Yoehan had actually pulled out the corkscrew part of the leatherman, not the knife...but, that is besides the point. Moments before the "Leatherman Incident" Well, our party quickly dissipated after the melee, and we all said our good-byes and headed to bed. But not Yoehan. He kept drinking. And drinking. One of the Slovenians was sharing a room with Yoehan for the night. When he awoke at 5 am, this is what he saw. Frightening: The next day, TJ headed home, I headed to Kyrgyzstan, and Yoehan probably got drunk and bought a few whores. Classy guy. At least I THINK all this stuff happened. Things are starting to get foggy...I think I will burn my journals and continue to let reality morph into myth. BTW: You can see a more detailed trip report here: Gear Notes: Bring your own cooking pot. Approach Notes: Go halfway around the world, then turn right.
  4. 1)Read the rules/info here before voting: http://cascadeclimbers.com/forum/ubbthreads.php/topics/1012183/Re_Best_Trip_Report_Voting_Con#Post1012183 2)I'll start the nominations off with my own: http://cascadeclimbers.com/forum/ubbthreads.php?ubb=showflat&Number=495658 "Layton-Wolfe. September.05" From the objective, to the route, to the writing - I can't remember a better candidate for "Greatest TR Ever" than Mike and Erik's TR from their FA on the East Face of Mox Peak. 4/7 Update: Changed the thread title to better reflect the main idea of this contest.
  5. Trip: Patagonia - FA. The Washington Route - Fitzroy Date: 2/8/2011 Trip Report: This last season down in Patagonia was my 5th season of toiling and suffering down there. Finally after all of those years I feel like I've actually gotten to climb some stuff. But it wasn't until the last week of my trip this year that I made it up the Fitz. Its was a long time coming.... During the first week of February the weather forecast started to show a possible 4 day weather window. The only problem for us was we were suppose to catch a plane back the states right in the middle of the goods. As the predicted weather approach it became apparent that we’d have to change our tickets for an attempt at the Fitz. A few frustrating hours on the phone and 1k and spent we were good to go. I kept telling myself it better be worth it…. I've been burnt before changing tickets down there. On Monday the 7th we packed our bags and made our way through Piedre Fraile and onto the bivi at Piedra Negra. As luck would have it, the weather Monday night wasn’t so great. Just past midnight it started to sprinkle. To save weight on the approach we opted for no tent, so we sat there in a light rain deciding what to do. After much contemplation we decided we should just get up and start. It was 12:45am. To our dismay the glacier hadn’t yet frozen as we made our way from Paso Guillaumet to the base of La Brecha. We had figured the it would only take us 3 hours from camp to the base but it ended up taking nearly 5. Which wasn’t that much of a problem but it meant we would then be climbing the Brecha in the full effect of the sun. Not fun nor that safe. Onwards and upward we went climbing right threw the waterfall that was starting run down the Brecha. Due to the running water we were forced to stop on top of the Brecha in the sun for a couple hours to dry our clothes. At this point we were starting to run way behind. Little did we know were about to fall way behind schedule as we traversed to base of the south face. A few years ago we had covered this same terrain and has cruised right across it. This time we found boiler plate hard blue ice. Our old worn out aluminum crampons were drastically inadequate as well as our single light weight ice tool. Late in the evening it became glaringly apparent that we were going to need to bivi before we even got on the “route.” We were both a little frustrated and morale was going down. With out any obvious bivi sites available we had to keep traversing farther to the base of the California route, even though this was taking us out of the way. Thankfully we reached the base of a large ice slope where we could excavate a decent platform for the two of us. We had a great view of our proposed new route up the south face which did give us hope as it didn’t look to intimidating. On Wednesday the 9th we started up the real business of the route, which first involved making a short traversing pitch across the ice slope and then a 60m rappel down to the base of the system (a place where we had nearly been before but had to continue past to find the bivi.) I had lead a good majority of the climbing the day before as it was more of the alpine variety which I’m slightly more efficient at then Kate, so now it was Kate’s turn to take the lead and get the rope up. The first couple pitches were on good rock but unfortunately they were choked full of ice. She slowly chopped the ice out of the cracks resorting to a mix of aid and free. The rope moved up at a steady pace though. It wasn’t until a couple pitches up that the ice had disappeared allowing Kate to move and an even more rapid pace. I followed behind doing whatever it took to get up the pitch, this often involved “poor man’s jumaring,” which is just yarding up the rope in between pieces and then Kate would take the rope as tight as she could. ( I can’t even remember how many times in my guiding days did I tell clients to never do that….) Kate lead on through a variety of cracks but most were in the hands to fist to off-width size. After getting set slowed down by poor conditions yesterday it felt nice to be moving efficiently on good rock in good conditions. Pitch after pitch fell below as we continued up sustained cracks. After 12 pitches or so we veered right at our first opportunity, hoping for easier terrain. Kate turned over the lead to me at the first ledge we came to as she had been leading for over 8 hours and was properly cooked. The steepness eased up and after a few more pitches we reached a point where we started simul-climbing up the 4th class terrain that lead to the final snow slope. Both of us had really hoped to top out in the light but that just wasn’t in the cards for us. We stumbled up the last easy 100m and reached the summit just before 11pm to tired and hungry to be that excited. A short discussion ensued about rappelling through the night but we choose the much more conservative and colder option of spending the night on the summit. For some unknown reason Kate and I had opted to NOT bring a sleeping bag up Fitz. This was undeniably a very very poor choice. Our teeth literally chattered all night long. No amount of spooning was going to keep us warm. We put chemical warmers into our boots and hot water bottles in our jackets, this barely helped. But each and every chatter of the teeth were quickly forgotten as the sun rose and illuminated our location on top of Fitzroy. The excitement finally hit. Somehow we had managed to climb a new route on Fitz. This one won’t soon be forgotten.
  6. Trip: Breithorn, Pollux, Castor, and Monte Rosa - Various Date: 7/29/2005 Trip Report: Ever since my brother got me my first ice axe and introduced me to mountain climbing, one mountain above all fascinated me...the Matterhorn. In 2005 I had the funds, partner, and time off to pursue that dream. When my friend Rod and I arrived in Zermatt, the Matterhorn was in perfect climbing condition.We decided to acclimatize a bit with a climb of the Breithorn (4164 meters)We ascended the west ridge to the summit, then dropped back down and climbed the central summit (4159 meters) We had hired a guide, Larry Dolecki, to maximize our chances of success and time. We met up with him in Zermatt and decided to do another acclimatization climb of the Obergabelhorn SE ridge before trying the Matterhorn. We approached the Arben Hut via bolted ladders. We awoke to a white out storm, and retreated back to Zermatt. We waited one day, hoping the weather would improve. It would take a long spell of good weather before the Matterhorn was in shape, so we decided to climb whatever we could until then. We took the cable car to Klein Matterhorn and headed onto the Verra glacier hoping to find better weather on the Italian side of the mountains. We dropped down to the Gnifetti Hut and enjoyed the pleasures of hot food, warm beds, international company, and alcoholic beverages. The next morning dawned clear and we were treated to views towards Mont Blanc. Our next goal was to climb Liskamm (4527 meters) as a traverse going west to east and end up near Monte Rosa. We headed up to the west ridge, but high winds turned us back a few hundred feet from the west summit. We headed back and climbed Castor (4228 meters) instead. We traversed south below Liskamm and descended the Gren Glacier to the Monte Rosa hut. The next morning we awoke early with about a hundred other climbers and started climbing by headlamp. The hut is at about 2795 meters(9200 feet), and the Monte Rosa summit is 4634 meters(15,199 feet). We passed all but two parties on the glacier and soon were on the rocky west ridge. The rock was a little verglassed, but soon we were on the summit. Unfortunately, it was socked in, so we didn't get to enjoy the view. We returned to the hut, rested and hydrated, then crossed the Gorner glacier and hiked up to Gornergrat to catch the train back to Zermatt. The weather improved and gave us a nice view of both Monte Rosa and the Matterhorn (alas with new snow). We enjoyed a rest day, then headed back up to climb Pollux (4092 meters). Another storm came in and dropped another half foot of new snow, and so ended my hopes of climbing the Matterhorn on this trip. I must say I still had a great time! Gear Notes: Standard glacier gear. Ear plugs and a sleeping sack for the huts. Approach Notes: From Zermatt, cable car and train access and well marked trails make approaches pretty easy. If you want to stay in the huts, make reservations...they fill up early in peak season. We were turned away from the Margherita Hut.
  7. Trip: Banks Lake ice with ropegunning wife - various Date: 12/11/2010 Trip Report: A week ago I tied the knot with the decision to secure myself a partner for life. Now a week later I tie a different knot. We both love ice, had never climbed WI together, so on Sat, 12/11, we finally got the chance to test our new marriage against some icicles!! Banks was looking promising so we drove up late from Seattle on Friday and slept in the Osborn bay Fish and Wildlife camping area (none of those climbs are in). Sat we got a lazy start, overcast, temps around 34 degrees in the morning, and headed to the Devil's punchbowl area. Lots of big ice debris below many of the climbs although we didn't see anything big coming down during the day. Trotsky's folly looked delaminated at the top and ready topple so we skipped it and headed up to start with Trotsky's Revenge. The wife asked me if she could have the first lead of the day. Now, I might be new to this but I know you should not be arguing with the wife. Gotta please the woman! The topout was a little hollow, but doable. The chimneying was great fun! At that time we saw two cc.com allstars coming up - John Plotz (telemarker)and Kyle Flick. They hopped on the punchbowl while we finished off Revenge. We chit-chatted and swaped climbs, running up punchbowl before the last remaining icicle falls off. Feeling good we finished off, waved adieu to Plotz and Flick, and headed over to Pee Wee's. We beeline to the right flow, which is the better looking one of the area. It's steep but the blobs, previous traffic, and thankfully short length (we just doubled up our 70m half rope), made it doable for me with much shaking out Pretty tied up When V runs up it I'm getting antsy to get off this flow since every small kick or swing she makes just reverberates all the way up the climb, reminding one that ice is a temporary ever-changing medium Very happy with our pump we packed up and headed a little north to complete the day with huge plates of delicious Mexican food at La Presa. Here's looking to future climbs and following some hard stuff my wife puts up for me!!
  8. Trip: Lake Wenatchee - AK47 Date: 12/12/2010 Trip Report: Redpointed my new route at the Demilitarized Zone- a crag just West of Lake Wenatchee. Enjoy. I'm calling it m 7. Climb it in crumby conditions for brownie points. [video:youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CcGRfQXYZsY Gear Notes: QD's. Approach Notes: ~ 2 miles up the White River Road on the Right hand side right before the river access turn out on the left. Please be courteous and park off of the road in either turnoff. If you need beta on how to get there pm me.
  9. Trip: Mt. BORAH (12662') - North Face traverse - AI3, WI3 Date: 10/10/2010 Trip Report: For the last couple of months I developed an obsession for the north face of the highest peak in Idaho - Mt. Borah (12662’) - located in the Lost River Range when a friend of mine mentioned this gem with over 2000’ of sustained ice to be climbed in fall. And not a pliable glacier ice usually found in the cascades, but clear and hardcore, on the face itself and in the mixed water couloirs comprising the North Face Cirque. For the past few weeks, Mt.Borah seen temps around 20-34 degrees, some fresh snow, and the last weekend was forecasted to be partly sunny with some potential for snow showers. Veronika (Spionin - on here) was the only one who shared my delight to drive over to ID and who actually wanted to climb the North Face with me. V and I had been making arrangements and timing weather window for quite a while and the trip finally came together the last weekend. The last minute OlegV decided to come out of his never-ending retirement and was eager to join us too. DAY 1. THE APPROACH. OlegV and I leave PDX Friday pm, drive over to Seattle to pick up V before heading to the Lost River range in Idaho. Scenery off I-93: Lost River range: Veronika navigating through the desert: 12 hrs later and after a quick breakfast in Challis, we relatively painlessly find a so-called “trailhead” (there is no trail there) for the north face approach located at the Rock Creek drainage off Doublespring Pass. We pack up and hike out trying to follow the creek. The available beta indicate that you can't really follow the creek directly because of the brush, so you are supposed to walk "a few hundred feet above, sometimes on the left, sometimes on the right, then on the left again, ...". Starting out on the approach: Idahoan moonscapes: West side of Borah: Anyways, we hike up a little higher than necessary, and when we finally drop down, we end up in a wrong drainage leading to the west side of the mountain! But whatever, not a big deal, right? If you drive 12 hrs, wouldn't you want to see as much of a mountain as possible, circumnavigation ensued?? 3D OVERLAY OF THE MOUNTAIN AND OUR ROUTES (many thanks to Doug Seitz - cbcbd - for making the montage!) green = recommended approach for the North Face; red = our approach; yellow = SW ridge/Chickenout ridge, our descent route: So, we begin crossing the endless number of ridges to get away from the west side nordwand. “Hiking” the approach includes some sketchy traverses along loose and steep rocky slopes plastered with wet snow which Oleg immensely likes - they remind him of the Willis Wall on Rainier. He even gears up for the potential fight. Oleg on the “Willis Wall” of Borah: We finally got on one of the ridges revealing the North Face but reaching the lower basin for the North face still remains unknown to mankind. Veronika and the North face: Oleg and I contemplating the descent down to the lower basin: There's no shortcut to the other side (unless suicide is in order): We decide on downclimbing a few wet and loose rock gullies which was not trivial and took some patience and time. Oleg and I on the descent to the lower basin: Finally we got to a notch that looks like a dead end with the only option being loosing another 1000’ of elevation just to regain it back upon bypass of the rock band leading to the high basin. V attempts a recon of a loose rock-filled chimney through the rock band as our last resort while Oleg and I are sullenly anticipating the bypass through the lower basin. Oleg with the two packs getting through the chimney just before sending down a flow of boulders: To our surprise, the chimney turned out to be our escape to the upper basin and to the nice bivy sites with running water in the meadows. My awesome friends at our camp in the upper basin: Overall, we really had a great time. Sure, we were tired from driving all night, and then hiking twice the distance we needed to, but everyone was in high spirits. DAY 2. THE CLIMB. Next day we got up later than desired, at 6:30 a.m., to slight fog that cleared shortly. There is a bunch of routes and variations on the North Face described in detail in the Tom Lopez’ “Idaho” climbing guide. The official rating for the north face routes is AI3, and WI3 - for the summit couloirs. In addition, North Face Cirque is home to a famous Octoberfest ice climbing area with multiple lines up to AI4 and WI5 ( Linky) Our line is shown in red, with summit marked. The exit couloir is not visible from this angle and buried inside the walls of the summit block: For those seeking more thrills, here is “Psycho Therapy” – a part of the North Face Cirque – rated at AI4, M6, 5.9+: The route we took starts at about 45 deg gradually increasing to 60 deg, with the first pitch being a black rotten ice buried under a couple inches of fresh powder. Too bad - our picks do not stick and in desperation we climb higher. Black ice low on the face: Things improve higher up as we simul solo the face: the snow quickly thinned, revealing a solid sheet of water ice below. Bomber!! We feel better at this point. Solid ice higher up on the face: Veronika and Oleg soloing the face: Oleg and I soloing the final couloir before the traverse: Oleg and I at the start of the traverse: The slope continues to steepen, eventually turning left and culminating in a small moat at the base of the direct variation. V and I enjoying the sickening exposure at 12000': V scouting the traverse that we will simul-climb: The so-called (in “Idaho” guide) "snow ledge" on the traverse is not a ledge and is not as innocent as it looks from the base of route. It is however a loose conglomerate of barely protectable rock, coated with a thin layer of wet snow. Alas, we decide to simul-climb this crap right below the summit pyramid. By far, this is the technical crux of the entire endeavor: a mentally demanding series of very tenuous moves on unstable surface with 80’ runouts between purely symbolical pro. No comments on falling here: the rock bands are right down below! We guess the length of the traverse was about 100-120 m, during which Veronika placed 2 nuts and 3 pins (one of which actually fell out! probably because the rock fell apart - it was that chossy). Now in retrospect, the best way to deal with the traverse would be soloing the entire thing by bypassing the mixed sections on snow/ice in between! Typical runouts: Typical placements: V enjoying the sketchfest on the traverse: V and I get into the first ice gully we pass but which we had to downclimb after realizing it is a dead end. First dead-end ice couloir we bailed off: In the meantime, Oleg continues around the corner on the traverse and finds another ice couloir (estimated length - 100 m) that looks more like a highway to the summit ridge. We happily simul-climb the couloir on 4 screws and 1 pin. Most of it, again, is solid water ice (WI3) powdered it with snow. Badass V whacking the second couloir: Oleg topping out on the summit ridge: And finally…The summit. To celebrate our full-on russian attack on the North Face of Borah, we choose a culturally appropriate, national drink! We begin a carryover descent via SW ridge/Chickenout ridge (“dog route”) at 17:30, which is of course quite late. The initial part of the descent is a fairly mellow, somewhat obvious, rocky path. Oleg and V on the descent: Sunset at 12000’: Around sundown, we reach "Chicken-out ridge", which is normally a class 2-3 section, but with snow, it's said to be "more serious". Anyways, not something to tackle at night. Bonus unplanned bivy ensued. DAY 3. THE DESCENT. We pitch in our tent on the tiny ledge at 11900’ right by the cliff - the only decent spot we could find. V and I at the forced bivy: A few hours into our night it begins to hail, and then – blizzard, the tent zippers are all frozen and we have no clue how to get our asses down from 12000’. The “more serious” class 2-3 section is not obvious to us at all, especially in the dark and whiteout. Awesome! We still have enough fuel left and a plenty of food which I tend to overpack for 2 extra days so I suggest to the guys that we all could just live there in the tent for a while. Oleg enjoying a full mountain experience in the morning: “Class 2-3” section of the dog route which Oleg and I pitch out: It does not go as expected and we bail off it leaving a couple of nuts behind. Still being unsure what Idahoan dogs do in this situation, we decide to downclimb a snow couloir just below the Chicken-out ridge, with the two tools and crampons – I bet the dogs use them too! Essentially, we follow this route and sure enough upon gaining the ridge, we spotted our path! The following few hours we hike the scree, continue scrambling on a class 2-3 "dog route", and enjoy beautiful subalpine shrubbery: I am still wondering about the Idahoan dogs though. They must be proficient rock climbers belonging to some kind of African breed with long legs and claws to be able to pull out moves like that on the "class 2-3" terrain: Because our descent route ended a few miles south of our start, we then had to circumnavigate the base of the mountain through the desert to get back to the rig. To finish off the route in a previously established style and to add to the sight-seeing, we missed our trail (thanks to the brilliant USGS map of this area), and hiked an extra few miles north: A nice dude named Scott from upstate New York, who was visiting his brother in Idaho, gave us a ride in the back of his truck (next to a jug of carlo) back to our trailhead! Many thanks to Oleg and Veronika for the awesome and intense trip! Gear Notes: A set of nuts, 3 russian titanium pins, 4 ice screws, 2 screamers. Approach Notes: I-90, I-93 and then rugged shwhack to west side
  10. Trip: 4 climbs in the Canadian Rockies - Yukness, Hungabee, Huber, Temple Date: 8/24-28/2010 Trip Report: Scott Bingen, Steve Trent, and I just got back from a climbing road trip to the Canadian Rockies. We climbed 3 summits in Yoho NP (BC) and also climbed Mt. Temple in Banff NP (Alberta) before heading home. It was a fun trip, full of massive mountains, spectacular scenery, and ubiquitous Rockies choss. Day 1 - Aug 24 - Yukness Mtn The first day we took the bus to Lake O'Hara (avoids walking 11km along road), hiked a couple of hours to the basin below Opabin Pass where we established camp, and then scrambled up Yukness Mountain for some stellar views of the park. A friend named Demetri (from Canmore) joined us. Day 2 - Aug 25 - Hungabee Mtn + Abbot Hut The second day the four of us (Scott, Steve, Demetri, and I) climbed the West Ridge of Hungabee Mountain, which is the highest summit in Yoho National Park and lies on the continental divide between BC and Alberta. This climb represents the epitome of Rockies climbing: massive, chossy, tricky route-finding, and spectacular summit views. We had reservations at Abbot Pass Hut, so despite the fact we got down to camp as the sun was setting, we packed up to hike 3.5 hours to Abbot Pass. Demetri had to work the next day, so he hiked out. The grueling ascent in the dark was all worth it when we were greeted with a fire burning in the wood stove and water already boiling on the stove. Day 3 - Aug 26 - Mt. Huber The third day we woke up to a brilliant morning at the cozy Abbot Pass Hut. After the long day the day before, it was nice to just relax in such a beautiful spot. But it wasn't long before I began to get antsy to climb some of the mountains towering around us, so I left to go climb Mt. Huber (via the Huber Ledges route, since I preferred to have a partner if I went up the more technical route from Abbot Pass), while Scott and Steve opted to hang out at the hut. I reconnected with Scott and Steve evening at the Lake O'Hara parking lot, and we drove to Canmore to stay with some friends. Day 4 - Aug 28 - Mt. Temple Finally, before heading back to Seattle, we took advantage of a 1-day weather window to climb the nearby Mt. Temple in Banff National Park. Interesting note: Mt. Temple had been the location of my first hike and camping trip when I was 3 months old (see photo below). As usual, I've posted a full trip report on my website: Canadian Rockies Part I (3 climbs in Yoho NP): http://www.stephabegg.com/home/tripreports/britishcolumbia/yoho Canadian Rockies Part II (Mt. Temple): http://www.stephabegg.com/home/tripreports/britishcolumbia/temple
  11. Trip: Bugaboos - Many Date: 8/15/2010 Trip Report: Bugaboos trip Aug 15th - Aug 22nd Dave and I awoke dizzy and blurry eyed on the Sunshine Coast after a friends wedding. The night before we vowed to be on the 0815 ferry back to Vancouver. We ended up on the 1300 ferry and feeling severely hung over. Not the alpine start we wanted for our Bugaboo trip… After shopping, eating, and driving to the gravel access road, we finally set up the tent and passed out at 0130. An early rise had us hiking by 0700. Two hours and 15 minutes later we were dropping gear in Applebee and heading up the Snowpatch/Bugaboo col. It was only about 1pm by the time were walking behind Snowpatch spire. Our original plan was to go solo the west ridge of Pigeon, then bivy the night and do the Beckey-Chouinard the next day. Instead we did Wildflowers, 5.9, on the back of Snowpatch. By the time we were setting out bivy gear beside Pigeon it was later than expected and we were really feeling the lack of sleep of the previous days. Our prospects did not look good for the B-C… Wildflowers [img:center]http://i758.photobucket.com/albums/xx222/Scott_Burrell/IMG_4261.jpg[/img] After a cold and windy bivy the alarm finally went off at 0330. The conversation went, How do you feel? Not good... Me neither... We should probably just suck it up and go anyway. Shit… After the decision was made it became much easier. 4th class scrambling at the start of the Beckey-Chouinard [img:center]http://i758.photobucket.com/albums/xx222/Scott_Burrell/IMG_4321.jpg[/img] Scott following low crux on Beckey-Choinard [img:center]http://i758.photobucket.com/albums/xx222/Scott_Burrell/IMG_4339.jpg[/img] The B-C lived up to all the hype. Pretty much 1000 meters of 5.8-5.9 hand cracks. We were on the summit by 1320. Raps took about 1.5 hours with double ropes. If you have the energy, I would highly recommend the 5.10 finger/hand crack variation around the squeeze chimney. It was probably the best pitch of climbing on the whole route and that chimney looks ugly. Dave following 5.10 variation on Beckey-Chouinard. Squeeze chimney visible on left of pic. [img:center]http://i758.photobucket.com/albums/xx222/Scott_Burrell/P8170024.jpg[/img] Our only difficulty came on pitch 15 (Chris Atkinson and Marc Piche guide book), the tension traverse or 5.10 + variation. The problem was we somehow missed this pitch… The confusion started as Dave lead pitch 13. The book reads, “Climb the gully over chockstones to where it steepens into a capped corner. Climb the second crack on the left wall to belay at the base of a long, shallow, right facing corner (5.9 60m) 14: Follow the corner to a two-pin belay at a small notch (5.8 30m).” This is then supposed to be the tension point, then a 5.6 gully to the top. Dave takes off and I notice that he is at about 55m, I shout this information at him, but probably due to wind he doesn’t hear it. I interpret this as he is ignoring me. The rope goes tight and I start simul-climbing. Once I can see what’s happening I can see the capped corner referred to in the book and the cracks up the left wall. Dave is way up on the left arête of the gully having climbed what appears to be the second crack on the left. I followed up the left wall, which was 5.9-5.9+ train track hand cracks, awesome. He builds a belay at the base of a long shallow right facing corner. Seems like we have followed the book perfectly but appear to now be in a 5.6 gully that goes to the horizon and we have not seen a pin or small notch anywhere. I jump on lead and take us to the top, which was in fact the correct summit with a 20m rap and then 4th class to the true summit. In hind sight you are supposed to go all the way to the capped corner than climb the crack 2nd to the left FROM THE CORNER. So really we turned two pitches of a chockstone filled gully, a weird 5.8, and tension traverse, into an 80 m pitch of solid continuous 5.9 hand crack. We thought we should pass this information on to the original assentionist. The letter is as follows. [font:Times New Roman]Dear Mr. Fred Beckey and Mr. Yvon Chouinard: My friend Dave and I recently climbed your world famous route up the SW Buttress on South-Howser tower. I can see why it is such a sought after climb, wow, what a route! Amazingly sustained at its grade and the line is stunning. We noticed that between pitch 13 and 15 the quality is slightly less than average, and many people require a tacky tension traverse. We would like to let you know that we have now fixed your route to follow the ethics with which it was originally intended by trading aid for crack climbing. We have posted the necessary changes in a popular climbing forum. Scott and Dave [/font] All kidding aside, it really was a simple mistake that I am sure many have made before us… Oops. I hope all our route finding problems end up this well. The next day we woke up late and did Surfs Up, 5.9. Dave got off route and in all fairness I think most parties that climb that route go astray somewhere (this must have something to do with the guide book describing “follow the corner” when about 10 corners exist in close proximity). This time we weren’t lucky as on the B-C. I lead through a 5.10 + roof with bottoming fingers, then we had to rap over to the proper dihedral. Dave finished the route up following amazing hand cracks with awesome exposure. Scott following up high on Surfs Up [img:center]http://i758.photobucket.com/albums/xx222/Scott_Burrell/IMG_4481.jpg[/img] [img:center]http://i758.photobucket.com/albums/xx222/Scott_Burrell/IMG_4491.jpg[/img] The following day we did the Cooper-Kor on Pigeon spire 5.9, A0. This route was really amazing mostly because of it’s positioning on the wall. Dave and I also really like the alpine feel of the tension traverses way up on the exposed wall. We haven’t done too much of that stuff so it was neat to run across that wall. The slabs and one 5.9 finger crack were quite wet, making it a bit tricky. Dave following the slab pitch [img:center]http://i758.photobucket.com/albums/xx222/Scott_Burrell/P8190096.jpg[/img] The weather started to move in that evening. So the next day we went to Crescent Spire and climbed Paddle Flake Direct 5.10. Again, more amazing crack climbing that was surprisingly steep. We then climbed the 5.10+ roof McTech after as a single pitch. Good way to finish a short day. Scott leading roof McTech [img:center]http://i758.photobucket.com/albums/xx222/Scott_Burrell/IMG_4613.jpg[/img] The weather was really not looking so good for the next day so we went off to climb Sunshine Crack 5.11- on Snowpatch. It is a good one to climb in unsettled weather because it has bolted rap stations down the entire route. The low 5.10 off width is a bit of a bar fight, but very doable, just a lot of grunting… This route continues with amazing jamming pretty much the entire way, passing through 4 roofs. The 5.11- roof is only about 1 move and is softer than the grade implies. Two pitches from the top it started to snow while Dave was leading. Shit. By the time I was brought up to his belay stance it was a full on blizzard. Encouraged by the sound of another party’s cheers after pulling through a roof below us, I tied into the sharp end and took the rack. Half way up this long pitch, and fairly run out, Dave yells up “Scott! Check it out, there is significant snow accumulating on the ropes.” Thanks Dave, that’s very helpful at this point… Arriving safely at the top and bring Dave up, we snapped a couple pics and rapped out. The raps went better than expected considering the ropes were being blow horizontally below the rappeller. Scott leading 5.10 offwidth on Sunshine [img:center]http://i758.photobucket.com/albums/xx222/Scott_Burrell/IMG_4622.jpg[/img] Gearing for final 5.10 pitch on sunshine (in the snow) [img:center]http://i758.photobucket.com/albums/xx222/Scott_Burrell/IMG_4644.jpg[/img] We rolled into camp, grabbed out gear and ran out to the car. We were back in Vancouver by 0245 in the AM. Gear notes for Sunshine: Take doubles to and including #4 camalot, and one #5 camalot. You can push the # 5 up once or twice and then the angle of the crack backs off. You can leave the #5 clipped to the anchor at the top of pitch 2 (the off width) because it isn’t needed after that. The double #3’s and #4’s are nice for the top pitch. Sunshine was by far the best climbing of the whole trip. That route is amazing. Gear notes for the Beckey-Choiunard: We took doubles up to and including #3 camalots, and one #4 camalot, and a 3rd # 2 camalot. You could definitely do it without the triple #2’s, but we simul-climbed a lot of it and it was nice to have extra of this very common size on the route. You can also make an argument to leave the #4. It was placed but we did not climb the chimney so it wasn’t “necessary,” depending on your comfort level. Crazy awesome trip!
  12. Trip: mt rainier - liberty ridgeDate: 7/5/2010Trip Report:doug (cbcbd), bob (bob g, fka dirtbag_packwork) and i climbed rainier's liberty ridge route july 2-5.The route is in excellent condition, and our plan was to do it over 3 days with camps around winthrop/carbon glacier and thumb rock, followed by summit/descent. unexpected storm resulted in an additional (bonus!) bivy a bit above 13k ft.on day 1 we left the ranger station around 14:30, walked out of white river trailhead around 15:30, and reached the top of st elmos pass around 18:30. the clouds were rolling in by then, but the weather was fine. there were tracks from previous parties that we followed through a small crevasse jumble, stopped at the edge of winthrop glacier, and established camp at 20:00.the weather was ok, it was drizzling, and there was some wind from NW direction.day 2 was mostly warm and sunny. much sun screen was used. before dropping on carbon, we saw a party of two head out, and wondered why they had turned around. we roped up after crossing the bergschrund at the toe of the ridge, but unroped after getting up onto it. then followed the seemingly endless climb up the snow slope in baking temps. we followed lower on the ridge under all rock bands, and ascended the final slope toward thumb rock at 17:00. the weather was calm, there was a consistent cloud cover down below, and no wind. another party of 2 was camping at thumb rock. they had been there since 9:30 that morning, and were planning to start climbing very early.b/c we got to camp late and still had to make water, we got up later, at 1:30, and began ascending climbers' left of the ridge around 3:00. the party ahead of us was barely visible. we made good progress. our pictures from previous day showed some rock bands directly above thumb rock, so we decided to lean climbers’ right and go around on snow. this put us on a NW-facing slope, and around 5:30-6:00 we began to feel the wind picking up from that direction.we climbed very consistently, but visibility was decreasing and wind was becoming stronger and colder. around 8:00 we saw the other party stopped before an ice wall ahead of us. the weather had turned, and by this time it was becoming extremely cold, stormy, and we could barely see. we discussed making a stop and digging in, talked to the other party, but they were confident to continue. we found a corniced cave, dug it out, and pitched our tent to try to wait out the storm. the wind got stronger for the next few hours, and we could still occasionally hear the climbers above, taking siege of the wall! we let them know that we were parked below, in case they decided to come down.frozen hair!by mid-day we had decided to stay put until the following morning, and wait until the wind had calmed. we had a nice view of clouds from our cave, we watched lenticulars forming like giant alien spaceships, listened to the snow beating the tent, and drank hot chocolate. although we did not have much extra food, we did have a full large canister of fuel, and were not concerned about water or staying warm. it was still extremely gusty, but we hoped it would clear during the night. trying to get into the tent against the winddoing campsite chores: chopping ice for melting [video:vimeo] 2010-07-03 rainier LR 1 from veronika on Vimeo. [video:vimeo]2010-07-03 rainier LR 2 from veronika on Vimeo. in the morning it finally got quieter. we packed up and left at a leisurely 7:30. although it was again cloudy, it was better than the previous day. we began by ascending a long, less-than-vertical slope of neve with occasional patches of wind-buffed snow, which then gained some patches of solid blue ice. we roped up and simuled for a few hundred feet. there were two sections of more technical ice, but fine with three screws and simuling. doug leads the second part of the ice sectionthen followed a few hundred feet on iced-over snow, and finally the summit hump! we reached liberty cap around 10:20, and the weather was windy but friendly. after a short break we began descending towards emmons. we reached camp schurman at 14:00, 6,5 hours after leaving our cave. another person at the camp told us that the party ahead of us had come into camp schurman at 23:00 the previous night, 14,5 hours after we last saw them. we were glad to hear that they had descended safely. we were back at the car at 17:15.
  13. Trip: Index, Inner Wall - The Route of All Evil- 5.9. PG Date: 6/21/2010 Trip Report: I cleaned and put up a route at Index over the last couple weeks. Most likely a FFA and FA but let me know if you know otherwise. Checked all available sources already. It's left of the 5.10d View from the Bridge. Overview. See far left. Here are the pictures- Photos Thanks Todd for the belay. Gear Notes: Two number ones, two number twos, and a yellow alien. Approach Notes: To the left of Toxic Shock at the Inner Wall.
  14. Trip: Mt. Hood - South Sizzle Date: 4/18/2010 Trip Report: Just what everyone wanted to see, ANOTHER South Side TR. Well, sit down and shut up cause here it is: We wanted to see the sunrise from the summit so we got there early. I could have sworn there was a Starbucks portable coffee shop in the parking lot cause there was a ton of cars and campers...even a tent. There were old ladies rolling mob deep into the place. I started to get nervous thinking I'd get shown what time it was by someone who was actually at Woodstock so we randomly hid their Carter Liver pills, got our shit together, and hauled ass. Once on our way we beat feet to the top of Palmer. It was epic, like Mt. Everest only not. We nearly got lost but the ski lift towers saved our lives. Good thing there wasn't a cloud in the sky or it would have been certain death. Once we got to the Palmer lift house it took 10 minutes to recover. We looked down the hill to see what looked like a Chinese celebration following us up. FUCK THAT! The next section up to Cathedral can only be described as a scene out of a Krakauer novel, epic yet smooth as cheerleader's ass. All rock formations covered in nothing but finely crusted snow. No skins or snowshoes needed. A quick look back brought the heavy reality of the situation to the forefront, the geriatrics parade was catching up to us! Damnit, Damnit, Damnit...They must have brought their oxygen bottles! We hauled ass up to the Hoggsback where we put on our crampons. One of the guys had some technical issues but after a half of a roll of duct tape and some bailing wire he was back in action...but then the unthinkable happened...a solo climber had caught up to our group! He must have cheated his ass off and used our perfectly broken tracks. The lone soloist carried Ice tools and spoke of a far away place laden in water ice called the Pearly Gates. He stated that in no uncertain terms should a daredevil attempt this death defying feat without tools and protection. After some conversation amongst my team of righteous friends we decided the course toward the Old chute would be better for drinking and grab-assery. By this time the Chinese New Year celebration had showed up and one group started up the Hoggsback after the Soloist. Once to the wall they started to break the trail to the Old chute, however, in a twist of fate they became perilously lost in a chute much too early. We made our way to the chute right of the old chute and up to VICTORY!!! (The lost climbers regained their bearing and followed us) At the top we met the Soloist and another group, all taking different routes. The sun rose and we took turns getting suntans and telling Yomamma jokes. We made our great escape before the AARP tried to hit us up for early memberships. We landed at the bar for a round of Ice Axe. The beer was refreshing but the waitress got snooty when she thought I made light of her "glandular problem"...we DID do her a favor by eating the extra pastries regardless of what she thinks. Look Ma, no hands! Did someone spill some honey? "Excuse me sir, we just climbed your mountain and what we need to know is...will you serve us your beer?" Gear Notes: Speedos and flip-flops, we took all the usual shit but this is all that was really needed. Approach Notes: The weather couldn't have been better. If you put Mt. Hood off for another day you may as well quit because you probably missed the best day of the year.
  15. Trip: Mt Si Haystack - FA- Dull Pickels Date: 4/1/2010 Trip Report: 5.4/M 3-4. Hey check out my addition to SP. Probably a FA. http://www.summitpost.org/view_object.php?object_id=609840&confirm_post=12 Gear Notes: ice tools. Approach Notes: Take the interstate all the way to the top.
  16. Trip: Pickets - South to North Ski Traverse Date: 2/17/2010 Trip Report: Over six days of glorious high pressure, the prolific Jason Hummel and I skied from Stetattle ridge to Hannegan Pass road through the southern and northern Pickets. With a few variations, we followed the route of the 1984 Skoog traverse. Most notably, we omitted the summit of Fury and finished on the Mineral high route, skiing over Mineral and Ruth mountains instead of hiking along the Chilliwack trail. We encountered variable but mostly good ski conditions, and some interesting route finding. As anticipated, the crux proved to be finding a reasonable way onto Mt. Fury from the bottom of McMillan Creek cirque. Going over the Southeast Peak seemed unreasonable in winter conditions, so we found a way up the creek and falls draining the Southeast Glacier. Unsure of the details of the route the Skoogs took to cross from Luna to McMillan, we opted for the devil we knew and traversed to Luna col. The ski down into Luna was the powder run of a lifetime--super stable, Valdez style snow, with Fury as a backdrop. Unforgettable. I kept thinking to myself, "This is like the Haute Route 10,000 years ago." The solitude and austerity of the Range make it easy to overlook that the traverse is really an enjoyable, reasonable tour; no technical shenanigans required. The heinous reality of retreating down any of the valleys simply made it extra important to check the weather forecast before dropping into McMillan. Don't leave home without your UHF/VHF radio! I will post photos when I wake up in about a week. Approach Notes: Stetattle ridge is long, but two days riding the ridge let the avalanche hazard subside before we entered really serious terrain. We hiked to 4,000 ft. on the Sourdough Mt. trail, then travelled almost exclusively on skis for the remainder of the six days. Literally ten minutes of road walking brought us to the car.
  17. Trip: Zzzion - Retards Drive South For Da Wedder Date: 2/13/2010 Trip Report: zzzzzzzzion!!! – my u-tard cherry – seems an apt appellation – when yer but 1 of 2 retard dirt-bag aid-types too broke to fly n’ rent n’ only have a 4 day window to zip down to the world of the sun n’ be back, you pretty much spend any moment yer not actively driving or climbing sleeping – i felt litle fear though, accompanied by sound legal counsel in my boy geoff, who dusted off and rewired together his swede-wagon to mount the campaing– my worst memory of the trip awakening in fuck-tard utah in the zero-dark hour to the cruel visage of The Colonel glaring down at me, daring anyone to Fuck With The Chicken Foo! so, best perhaps to jump strait to the scenery porn? not wanting to spoil my onsight, i studiously avoided looking up any beta on our intended route – prodigal sun – for a route w/ that regal title, it suuuuuure don’t get much solar radiation – in the 2 days we spent on the wall, we felt direct warm-fuzzies for about 17 1/2 minutes – what a great call! drive 18 hrs to somewhere it ain’t fucking raining n’ shitty to climb a route in the Great Big Bowl of Frozen SunLess Sandstone? at least we got to see tour-ons walking around in shirts n’ t-shirts the whole time? the prodigal sun at about the height of the empire state building soars up, twice as tall as the picnic lunch wall at smiffistani rocks – the 2 times i got kicked square in the nutz there this past fall was fine practice for suffering down south sooooo tasty! mostly thin cracks that gobble up dmm offset nuts, linked by the occasional bolt ladders that are actually large angle pins pounded n’ glued into drilled holes high on the wall – view to the southwest – i have no clue what i’m looking at but goddamn it looks purty! the fantastic fin at the bottom a fine objective in itself w/ its funky catwalk running from peak to peak sooo kewl looking! the view south – always nice to be able to heckle any would-be carjackers from an excellent position to call fire-missions in from to the east – the walls of angels landing on the left – saw some homeboys spend 2 evenings messing w/ a route on the far end – my eye was drawn to the massive arch on the good (south) side of the canyon – a sandstone version of mideast crisis in Da Valley! dude, just like mideast crisis (at least if you add 2 more giant roofs!) the n wall of angels landing in the couple a winter minutes a day it gets sun – the spectacular crack on left soooooo tasty! to the climbing pRon – we left at 9 the first night - my lawyer and i arrived late afternoon on day 1, stupid w/ sleep, but determined to do somethang dammit ‘fore the day was done – i zoomed up pitch 1, reaching the anchor at dark, then fixed our static line and zipped down to honor the spirit of the law by portaleding it on the first bolt of the route next morning i linked in pitch 2, hauled n’ geoff commenced up pitch 3 your friend n’ humble narrator had plenty of time tap-dancing in the meat-locker to savor the sweet, sweet sunshine across the way and stare up at a bobbing hairy man-taint i swung up on pitch 4 – looking down at p3 top from the first couple bolts/rivets up (take 2 rivet hangers or fucking nuts that actually have sliding heads!) – fantastic fun clean-aid above, skipping a spacious intermediate belay to the chair of forgetfullness at p4 top i reckon you could score this day 2, if you count the fart-in-a-stiff-breeze that was day 1 – at any rate, geoff headed out on p5 as evening loomed, getting us to the anchor at 4 1/2 by nightfall – typical big-wall clusterfuck ensued as he tried to set up the ledge on top of himself and a shit-ton of ropes n’ baggage, w/ only 2 bolts to work from – i jugged up and eventually helped move the whole camp down a bolt below where the wall is flat and perfect – despite some initial signs of The Great Fear, my attorney reached deep into his sleeping bag, pretended he was in a happy place, and felt The Great Glow i had home-made pizza and a liter of burgundy and 20 craptacular class-a carcinogens, so you know i was happy (a few hours later I replaced the liter of vino w/ 3/4 of a liter of rarified piss, so i reckon the balance only Made Me Stronger? the magic minutes! our 1 glance of the sun the whole trip! i contemplate the Great Leap below awakened in the cloudy dawn, we packed up and unfucked our camp – geoff finished off the bolt ladder that is the second part of pitch 5 – our time-schedule was a Cruel Mistress – my attorney had a date w/ The woMan on wendsday morning, so there was no question of fucking up the timing – if we finished to the summit, hauling through the no-doubt-nightmare of the exit chimneys, undoubtedly we’d leave so late he’d end in a state prison, so instead we resolved to leave our pig behind atop p5, and climb at least to p7 top before heading back down the wall starting up p6 – c2 – note to self: next time bring the fucking pink tri-cam! the first part of the crack was wicked hard, and ultimately had to be overcome w/ the dr. suessian stick-clip contraption geoff strapped together out of waste products from cold-war era nuclear submarines – i had a moment to stare down while he dug it out of the bottom of the haul bag and observe exactly where i like to stick my nutz would you believe that nut is not even a year old? it counts as alpine if you can see snow, right? what classification do you get if you walk through snow wearing your nike flip-flops, fresh from fording a knee deep flood? my legal counsel seemed a bit concerned reaching p6’s top, but i brow beat him into commencing up 7 – the suessian salvation quickly did it’s service! i heart navajo sandstone so young, but so haaaaaawt! so geoff didn’t dig it so much when the angle relented to free climbing world and the texture of the rock took on the consistency of the beachbreak at mid-day – he bailed 2/3 of the way up 7, and i took the helm, reaching an anchor w/ 3 pins/bolts, but no webbing – time was tightening, and rapping back down from the top of the next pitch appeared problematic – at any rate, there was no way we could top out through snow-crusted chimenys and then navigate our way back down the raps to the pig w/o tempting fate to fuck us, so we had to say so-long, just 2 pitchs from the top-out – siiiiiigh – maybe when it’s sunny n’ summerious? looking up at the last aid-pitch – rumored to be the crux, it looked straitforward enough – arching crack to a pendulum to a long bolt ladder where you can’t clip a thing to the exit chimneys? geoff lowering off from p7 top – great fun leading through there – tied off pin n’ sandy horseshit to some good hidden gear – tired of chopping ropes, i gave the edge a nice treatment our descent went quite quickly – we rapped back to the top of 6, then to the top of 5 where our shit was stashed, then double roped to the intermediate belay at 3 1/2, then to the top of 2, then to the ground – i celebrated our return to solid Earth w/ a piss the constiency of maple-syrup recalled to the realm of mere mortals, we celebrated as only hedonists can, then headed off, bound for that Big Slow Boat home! geoff n’ the wistful glimpse back, only a steep sand plunge-step to a frozen fording to the car – by the time we pulled out of the p-lot i’d had my 2 liters of sangria and was off on the great big nod Gear Notes: offset nuts a must have! wish i'd brought more than a red tricam! stick clip nice to have on p6 n' 7 Approach Notes: drive until you go fuckign crazy, then drive somemore - still only 100$ each!
  18. Trip: West Fork Ruth - Huntington E. Ridge Date: 4/1/1980 Trip Report: The 1980 West Fork Expedition The concept My first two expeditions to the Alaska Range were the result of the late night campsite bullshit sessions of a group of rookie climbers from Portland Oregon while climbing on Cascade volcanoes, Smith Rocks trad routes, and Columbia Gorge waterfalls. We wanted big-mountain experiences, but weren’t club joiners or sponsor-seeking pros. We were just a bunch of Oregon boys that loved to climb, and wanted to do it on our own terms. In 1978 and again in ’79, our teams were composed of two 2-man ropes traveling together on the glacier, but climbing separately on the mountain. That formula worked well, but I thought that having more friends along would make for more fun, and add opportunities to team up with different partners. I began recruiting for a new expedition as soon as we got home to Portland in the summer of ’79. By the spring of 1980 our team had grown to nine climbers, and a base camp cook. Three were veterans of our previous expeditions, the rest were Alaskan newbies. Our plan was ambitious, to say the least. We would ski into the West Fork of the Ruth glacier via the Hidden River valley, the Buckskin Glacier, and a pass just North of the Moose’s Tooth. We would be air supplied for a thirty-day base camp in the West Fork. After our stay on the West Fork the pilot would return and ferry our base camp over the hump to the Kahiltna glacier. We would follow on foot over Ruth Gap, actually crossing just north of the gap by climbing over Denali’s South Buttress. We would spend another thirty days on the Kahiltna, and then finally ski out to the South through Little Switzerland. Total duration in the field: 80 days. We turned the apartment I shared with my roommate Dave into expedition Central and began preparing for the trip in January. The expedition would require 640 man/days of food, and to save money we made most of our own. We designed three menus; one for skiing days, one for alpine climbing days, and one for base camp days. Only the alpine rations had freeze-dried components. My partner Scott Woolums was working at an archeological dig, and managed to score a large artifact dryer, which we converted into a food dehydrator. For two months we cooked and dried meats, beans, noodles, veggies, fruits and breads which we would then combine into prepackaged meals of chili with corn bread, spaghetti with meatballs, or a goulash we called Peter’s Favorite. We bought fleece by the yard at a fabric store and made our own pants, shirts and booties. Some of us were working under the table remodeling a local outdoor store, and worked out a deal for gear at cost. We begged, borrowed and scammed our way to the airport in Portland, arriving with a backpack, a daypack, and 4 seventy-pound cardboard boxes each, just exactly the Alaska Airlines limit per passenger. Total weight: 3000 pounds. The Approach A few days later we were standing on the platform, waiting to board the Alaska Railroad train to Talkeetna. Sharing the platform with us was a Japanese expedition headed for the SE Spur of Denali. They were all wearing matching down parkas over matching nylon one-piece jumpsuits. Their gear was in custom made canvas duffels with the team name embroidered on the sides. The leader had a three-ringed binder 6 inches thick with charts, graphs, route photos, and an hour-by hour itinerary and climbing plan. Next to them, our group of longhaired freaks dressed in homemade fleece standing next to a small mountain of crumpled cardboard boxes looked pretty unprofessional. In Talkeetna we unloaded our boxes of gear and food and Barbara, the base camp cook onto the platform, where our pilot, Jay Hudson was waiting. Then we reboarded the train, heading for a “flag stop” at milepost 249. A flag stop is anywhere backcountry Alaskans wave a flag at the train, signaling their desire to be picked up. The train pulled to a stop at our milepost and we climbed out onto the snow. The baggage handler passed us our packs and skis from the baggage car, and the train pulled out, leaving us in a cloud of steam in the middle of nowhere. Milepost 249, Alaska Railroad Shouldering our 80+ pound loads, we skied off westward into the bush, heading for the Susitna River, about five miles away. The snow was knee-deep powder, the air temperature was below zero, and skiing downhill to the riverbank was a rude awakening to the realities of winter travel on foot in Alaska. No one argued when we called an early end to the day as soon as we reached the river. 80+ pounds of food and gear Camp one, Susitna River Approach route We spent the next two days working our way down the Suisitna river, across a low ridge to the Chulitna river and into the Hidden River valley beyond, a distance of about fifteen miles. Travel on the rivers was easy in early April, with the river frozen solid and buried in deep powder. Keith Stevens and Scott Shuey did most of the trail breaking, and being out front, decided to follow a pair of moose that seemed to know a shortcut over a ridge into the Hidden River drainage. It turns out that moose can navigate 50-degree slopes rather better than men on skis with 80-pound packs. Even so, after a few wild falls down the moose trail, we arrived on the evening of day three at the Hidden River, our route into the heart of the Alaska Range. Skiing down the Susitna River on day 2 Following a pair of moose over the ridge In three days we had put two frozen rivers, two ridges and 20 miles between the nearest road and us. Flying into the mountains from Talkeetna is an adrenalin rush thrill ride, but its over so quickly. A trip to the mall takes longer if the traffic is bad. Crossing those same miles on foot forces your mind to accept he immensity of the place, the smallness of your self and the serious nature of what you’re about. Dropping down off the ridge towards the Hidden River brought all this into focus for me. First glimpse of the Hidden River. Note the moose tracks to skiers right. The Hidden River Valley from the moose ridge The Hidden River threads its way up a classic u-shaped glacier-carved valley, and provides easy skiing to the Buckskin glacier at its head. The floor of the valley is silted in to a flat plain a half-mile wide, scattered with groves of aspen and fir. The river was open in places, the only source of liquid water we would find for the next two months. One more 9-mile day of travel found us at our first glacier camp, at 2100 feet on the Buckskin. Last free-flowing water for two months Camp 4 above the toe of the Buckskin Glacier, 2100' Once you are skiing on an Alaskan glacier the true scale of your surroundings hits you like a ton of bricks. Its twenty miles to Moose’s Tooth camp from our first camp near the toe of the glacier. You trudge along under your load for hours, and when you look up the landscape seems not to have changed at all. The normal estimates you make on how long it will take to get to point A just don’t work. When it’s your turn at the sharp end of the rope, breaking trail through the powder snow that reaches to mid-thigh, the passage of time becomes truly glacial. We spent days 5 and 6 on the Buckskin, drawing a long straight line up the center of the glacier that finally ended below the massive North Face of the Moose’s Tooth. The setting at the head of the Buckskin was unreal and incredibly intimidating. The Moose’s Tooth from this aspect is unbelievably impressive. From our camp we could see the camp of Jim Bridwell and Mugs Stump about a mile south. They were somewhere high above doing the first ascent of the North Face. Just to the west, across a final half-mile of glacier littered with ice debris that fell continuously down the North Face, was the pass we had to cross the next day; 1400 feet of 50 - 60 degree powder snow capped by a huge overhanging cornice. At 5400 feet, we spent our coldest night of the approach, with temperatures around -20 F. Camp 6, 5400' below The Moose's Tooth The next morning we hurried to cross the avalanche zone below the pass, staying well to the north side to avoid any parting shots from the Moose’s Tooth. We all skinned up as the slope steepened, and we skied switchbacks up the center of the headwall. The snow was bottomless, and we all thought the entire slope could slide at any moment. Looking up all you could see was the cornice, overhanging the slope by a good forty feet. Finally, the snow became too steep and deep to ski, and we wallowed our way straight up, trying to compact the snow into some kind of a footstep. The trough we left behind was waist deep in places. The cornice had a break on the right side, and one by one we popped over the top, thanked our lucky stars to have survived, and gawked at the view that rewarded our hour of fear. From the pass at 7000 feet, the Don Sheldon Amphitheater spread out below us, and vast bulk of Denali towered beyond. Heading for the pass to the Ruth The Moose's Tooth North Face Looks nasty from here! Cornice is geting bigger Wallowing to the top The Don Sheldon Amphitheater, Denali beyond Basecamp – West Fork Ruth Glacier The week of perfect weather we enjoyed on the approach was ending as we descended from Buckskin pass and skied the four miles to the Mountain House. A four-day storm kept us pinned down in the amphitheater, trying to stretch our food out until better weather allowed Jay Hudson to fly in our first resupply. As soon as the sky showed signs of clearing, we hustled up the West Fork to prepare an airstrip. The six-mile ski tour from Sheldon’s Mountain House to base camp in the West Fork is simply amazing. As you come around the toe of the Rooster Comb and see the North Face of Mt. Huntington for the first time, your jaw drops. There is a reason this face has only had one ascent (props to McCartney and Roberts for an amazing ascent). It is the most frightening north face imaginable, swept several times a day with massive avalanches, with no place at all to hide. As you ski up towards Huntington the fantastic northern aspect of the Rooster Comb is on your left. One by one you ski past the French summit, the beautiful North Buttress of the main summit, and the broad NW Face of the western summit. Avalanches from the Rooster Comb often sweep out across the center of the glacier, making the ski tour more interesting. Skiing toward the West Fork Below 11300 East Face Avalanches have the right-of-way on the West Fork Icefall on the face of the Huntington/Rooster Comb Col We place our base camp at 7000’, directly across the glacier from Mt. Huntington, a half mile from the base of the SW Ridge of 11,300. This position is not quite a mile from Mt. Huntington’s north face, but even so we were dusted regularly by avalanche clouds that rushed across the glacier in a matter of seconds. As soon as we got there in 1980, we dropped our packs, probed the area around camp for crevasses, and then began compacting an airstrip with our skis. We filled black plastic bags with snow and marked the 600’ long runway, then sat back to wait for Jay. Soon the sound of a Cessna reverberated off the walls of the mile-deep canyon of the West Fork, and Jay arrived with the first load of food and gear. He also brought in Barbara Bradford, our cook, and Jim Opydike, who had been forced to abandon the ski-approach on day two because of a massive blister. Two flights later Jay had all our stuff safely on the West Fork, and we broke out the booze as Barbara took over the cook tent. Much later that night we staggered (or crawled) from the cook tent to our sleeping bags, well fed and liquored up. Making a landing strip Hudson Air Service Taxiway Jay Hudson Base camp relaxation Staples Barbara making braekfast Some of the crew Afternoon excitment, courtesy of Mt. Huntington North Face The Climbs After a few days of sorting food and equipment, we split up into climbing teams and skied off in several different directions. A group of us decided that the SW Ridge of Pk. 11,300 would be a fine warm-up for the more challenging climbs to come. This beautiful line, a 4000’ moderate ridge climb that has since become a classic, was just a half-mile from camp, and was still waiting for a second ascent. It had a great bivy spot in the first col about 1500 feet up the ridge, gets sun all day, and has the best position of any line in the West Fork. The weather and snow conditions were perfect as we kicked steps up the gulley that leads up to the lower ridge, and we were soon following the wildly corniced ridge upward towards the mid-ridge bivy. Great rock and moderate climbing on the east side of the ridge crest gave us plenty of opportunity to enjoy the tremendous views of the West Fork and Mt. Huntington. At the first col we expanded a small crevasse into a spacious snow cave and spent a comfortable night. SW Ridge of Pk. 11300 Entrance gully is right out the back door Heading up the entrance gully On the ridge! View up the upper West Fork, Mt. Hunter beyond. Note our ski tracks in the center of the glacier The next day began with high-angle neve slopes leading up to a major gendarme, which we passed on the east side. We rapped into the col behind the tower and left a fixed line for the descent. From the high col there is an exciting upward traverse on the steep sides of the knife-edged ridge until it merges into the summit ice fields. We gained the ice field as the sun went down behind Denali’s South Buttress, and we climbed on into the evening. It was amazing fun, two ropes of two simul-climbing parallel lines up the blue boilerplate ice toward the summit as daylight faded into darkness. Steep snow and neve above the lower col Mt. Huntington's French Ridge is a nice backdrop Below the tower Climbing around the tower to the upper col, Mt. Huntington North Face behind Upper ridge and summit of Pk. 11300 We arrived at the summit sometime around midnight, and even in the half-light of the April night the views were mind-blowing. Scott Woolums and I were mesmerized by the view of Mt. Huntington’s East Ridge, our intended route, just across the dark abyss of the West Fork. Keith Stevens was likewise scoping out his intended line, a new route up the unclimbed NW Face of the Rooster Comb. All in all, a magical night on what I consider the best line in the area. These days 11300 is descended by traversing to the southeast, but we descended the route without incident and spent several days resting up for the main events. The Rooster Comb and Mt. Huntington at midnight from the summit of Pk 11300 Dawn light on Mt Huntington on the descent The Main Event Scott Woolums and I decided to climb Mt. Huntington’s East Ridge in 1979, after seeing it up close from the top of the Huntington/Rooster Comb col. We had crossed the col in ’79 on the way from the West Fork to Huntington’s South Ridge. The 5000’ East Ridge had only seen one ascent, and that had been siege-style over a period of two weeks in 1972. We wanted to climb it alpine-style in three days. Keith Stevens and Leigh Anderson had their eye on the unclimbed NW Face of the Rooster Comb. Their steep 3000’ mixed line climbs through the only relatively safe area on the broad face of the west summit of the Comb. Like us, they planned a fast, lightweight ascent. Scott and I blasted off a day before Keith and Leigh. The first order of business was to ascend the face of the Huntington/Rooster Comb col. Climbing this icefall is not for the feint-of-heart. The col is topped by huge cornices and very active seracs, and is swept frequently by huge avalanches. We climbed at night, and moved as fast as we could, using the same line we had climbed twice the previous year. Despite the objective hazards, the climbing is not difficult, and our luck held. We arrived at the col at dawn and settled in for a day of rest and photography. Huntington/Rooster Comb col Setting out for the base A little reminder of who's the boss Blue ice on the face of the col Objective hazards above The upper icefall Two climbers near the top of the col Cornice dance Top of the col, and still in one piece! Camp one, Pk. 11300 SW Ridge beyond Day 2 was the crux of the climb. The col rises easily for a few hundred feet, but soon merges into the steep north face of the ridge proper. The face is a series of steep gullies separated by fins of corniced snow flutings. We chopped our way into the first gully and climbed it until the snice in the gully was buried in near vertical powder snow. The unconsolidated snow forced us to burrow through the fin into the adjacent gulley. We gained a few more rope lengths up the face before tunneling our way into the next gulley to the right. Each time we neared the ridge crest the angle steepened to near vertical, the ice disappeared under the feathery powder, and we tunneled sideways. The exposure was tremendous, looking down the uninterrupted North Face 3000’ to the West Fork. Above and to the right was a massive hanging icecap that could be bad news if we had to go too far right. Finally we dug our way into a gulley that wasn’t choked at the top with snow, and I found myself leading the last few feet up vertical snice to the crest. It had been a long, hard morning, and my body was near its limit. I forced myself to focus on the next few moves. A fall here was unthinkable, protected only by a snow picket, now half a rope length below me. My head cleared the ridge crest, and six inches in front of my face was a gift from the first acscentionists. A 4-inch loop of 8-year old poly fixed line protruded from the ice of the ridge. I clipped my daisy chain into the loop and heaved myself up and over the edge. I slammed in a screw to back up the handy loop of fixed line and belayed Scott up. We hustled on up the much easier terrain of the ridge crest, looking for a place to make a bivy. Night fell, and still no ledge. The climbing was steep and everything was rock hard snice. At 11pm Scott gained a small corniced arête that protruded horizontally from the base of the mid-ridge rock band. We were out of options, so we chopped the cornice off the top of the arête, forming a ledge just big enough for the two of us. We settled in for the night, and enjoyed a fantastic display of Northern Lights as a reward for a hard 18-hour day. Summit day dawned clear and cold, at -20 F. In the daylight the exposure of our perch was heart stopping, with a 3000’drop off either side of our 3-foot wide platform. We had been lucky that the weather had remained fair! Scott led the rock band (all 30 feet of it), and we climbed up onto a mid-ridge plateau that had room to camp a small army. We dropped our packs and set off up the ridge toward the summit. Camp 2 on the East Ridge. Tokositna glacier beyond The (very short) rock band Above the plateau the ridge narrowed into a beautiful knife-edged ridge of ice, which we traversed just below the crest on the south side. The climbing was fun and the weather perfect, cold with just a bit of wispy clouds blowing past on the light breeze. The knife-edge merged into the bulging side of the summit cornice and Scott led up the final steep bit to the top. Then we were sitting on the summit of one of the world’s classic peaks for the second time in two years, and it was a blast. The clouds fell away and we were treated to fantastic views in all directions. Mt. Hunter to the west seemed close enough to touch in the crystal clear air. The upper East Ridge, 11,500' On top for the second time in two years! The view east, Rooster Comb, Mt. Dickey, Mt. Barille, and the Moose's Tooth The view west, Mt. Hunter and Mt Foraker The down-climbing back to the plateau went quickly and we spent a comfortable night there, but in the morning the skies to the southwest were looking grey and threatening, so we wasted no time and started a long series of rappels back to the col. Once off the ridge we didn’t slow down, and descended the face of the col in record time. We were back at base in time for dinner. And the view back down the East Ridge! From the route we had an excellent view of the NW face of the Rooster Comb, and had watched for any sign of Keith and Leigh. We thought we spotted the flash of a headlamp on the evening we spent on the chopped off arête of camp 2, but it was a mystery where they were now. That night the stormy weather hit, and for the next two days there was no sign of the pair. Once the weather cleared we spotted them coming down from the col. They had climbed the face in two long days, but missed the weather window and got held up by the two-day storm on the top of the col. Leigh had frozen his toes, and was real anxious to get out to the hospital. Luckily, Jay flew in a day later and Leigh left the party. Anchor at the bivy, NW Face of the Rooster Comb Leigh Anderson at the sitting bivy Steep ground, NW Face of the Rooster Comb Keith Stevens leading off More steep mixed climbing on the Rooster Ruth Gap and Beyond After thirty days on the Ruth it was time to move on. Jay Hudson made several flights to transfer gear to the Kahiltna, and several team members flew out to Talkeetna, bringing our party down to six. We shouldered packs with 4 days food and fuel and headed west for Ruth Gap. The upper West Fork is a lonely and seldom visited place. The SE Spur and South Buttress of Denali forms the north wall. The Isis Face towers 7000’ above the floor of the glacier. The much smaller peaks that form the wall between the West Fork and the Tokositna, beginning with the French Icefall, are very active avalanche zones, and they spread fans of debris far out onto the glacier. From our camp just below Ruth Gap, 4 miles up-glacier from our base camp location, we could see the West Face of Huntington rising above the intervening ridge, while behind us the view was blocked by the headwall formed by the beginnings of the South Buttress. Crossing this 2000’ wall of snow and ice was the next day’s challenge. Skiing on the upper West Fork Camp below Ruth Gap Morning found us once again wallowing up steep powder snow slopes beneath towering overhanging seracs. Just as when crossing Moose Pass, we were sure that the entire slope was just waiting for an excuse to cut loose and carry us all to the bottom. We climbed as fast as we could make steps in the bottomless powder, and topped out on the buttress in early afternoon. Suddenly the views opened up to the west, and Mounts Foraker and Crossen filled the horizon. Just as we had a year earlier, we set camp on the spot, unable to resist the fantastic setting. In ’79 it had been a mistake to camp on the Buttress. We woke up in the middle of the night to a bad storm, and ended up trapped there for three days. In 1980, however, the weather was settled and the next morning began another of a long series of cold clear days. We skied down the west side of the buttress, stopping twice to rappel over giant crevasses. A few hours later we moved out onto the main body of the Kahiltna. It was easy to spot the location of the ski trail to the West Buttress by the long lines of sled-pulling climbers trudging along up the center of the glacier. Climbing over the South Buttress of Denali Camp on top of the South Buttress South Face of Denali from the pass View back down the West Fork The year before, when the weather trapped us here for three days Skiing below the South Face The main Kahiltna Glacier, and crowds of climbers ahead. Mt Crossen in the distance After 45 days of solitude, Kahiltna International was a bit of a culture shock. There were over a hundred climbers there, most wanting desperately to fly out after spending a couple of weeks on Denali. We were still looking forward to another month of mountain living, but none of us fancied hanging around with the crowds on the Kahilta. Scott Shuey, Jim Olson and I hatched a plan to escape southward (the opposite direction from everyone else) and spend two weeks exploring a region known as Little Switzerland. Everyone else leaving Us digging in We skied the 20 miles to the Pika Glacier in an easy day. We were cruising on firm snow, double-poling as we lost elevation on the Kahiltna, all the way down to 4000’ before making a hard left up the Pika. The views of Mt. Foraker were amazing on the perfectly clear, sunny day. We were excited about Little Switzerland, an area that had seen very little exploration in 1980. We hoped to do some new routes on the warmer rock faces of the smaller, lower peaks. Unfortunately for the three of us, we spent 9 of the next 10 days trying to keep the tent from being buried by the constant snow of a major storm that kept us pinned down in camp. Crammed into a small two-person tent, we had one paperback book, one cassette tape for the Walkman, and nearly came to blows over the proper way to prepare a freeze-dried dinner. When our food and fuel ran out we were forced to return to base camp, with nothing to show for ten day except a single ski ascent on the one clear afternoon in mid-storm. We navigated most of the 20 miles back to base with map, compass and altimeter, skiing up-glacier in a total whiteout. A week later we packed up and retraced our steps to Little Switzerland on the first leg of the long trek out of the range to the Anchorage/Fairbanks highway. Ready to head south Mt. Foraker Lower Kahiltna, shirtsleeve weather Little Switzerland camp Pika Glacier Rock Spires, Little Switzerland Our route out of the range was complicated. We crossed an unnamed pass in Little Switzerland that led to an unnamed backside glacier. We descended this glacier until we were able to climb up to the east onto heather benches below Whitehorse Pass. The pass led us to a high drainage full of bear sign, a beautiful tundra valley with the ruins of an old miners claim, and a final climb up into the Peters Hills. We followed a creek of beaver dams towards a place on the map labeled Petersville, where a dirt road would finally lead us out to the highway. From the top of a low ridge, we suddenly came into sight of a bustling placer mining operation. As we came down the slope we were spotted by the gold miners below, and were met at the bottom by a pair of bearded miners with very big guns, wondering just who the hell we were, and where the hell we thought we were going. Once we explained that we were climbers just trying to get out to civilization, the miners warmed up enough to invite us into the cookhouse for lunch. There was a lot of friendly chatter until a guy came in with a gold pan loaded up with the mornings take. They seemed a bit nervous about outsiders seeing their panful of gold, and we decided it was time to thank our hosts for a nice lunch and hit the trail. After another endless day of walking down the dirt road, we were given a lift by a couple of Alaskans in a pickup truck, who stopped the truck every 5 or 10 minutes and blasted away at the wildlife with their rifles. Unnamed glacier east of Little Switzerland Climbing heather slopes toward Wild Horse Pass Lonely tundra valley northwest of the Peters Hills Chowing down on canned goods salvaged from a bear-destroyed miners shack Later that day we limped into Talkeetna, 80 days after skiing away from the railroad. First stop: the Chevron station for a hot shower and clean clothes. Second stop: the Roadhouse for dinner. Last stop: The Fairview Inn and several pitchers of beer. The 1980 West Fork Expedition had been an amazing success, and the adventure of a lifetime, but the planning for a return trip started over beers at the Fairview that night. Oh, and that fancy Japanese expedition we met on the train? With no skis or snowshoes, they spent all their time falling into the crevasses on the NW Fork of the Ruth as they ferried their gear toward the SE Spur, and ran out of time before making any progress on the route. Hudson Air Service cabin, Talkeetna
  19. Trip: Enchantment Traverse - Continuing Bromance With Peter Croft Date: 9/18/2009 Trip Report: Having been a bit disappointed at getting shut down on the Mt. Stuart leg of my traverse, I obsessed the following week on the 2nd half of it: Dragontail-Prusik-Snow Creek Wall (optional, maybe happened, maybe not). I knew there would be more water than I could ever drink, and an easy trail to turn the mind off. Both of these factors were reassuring. Friday, I got the day off work, grabbed the weather window and hit it. I stashed my bike at the Snow Creek trailhead, and drove to Stuart Lake T.H. For Dragontail, I chose Backbone Ridge because it's a better route than Serpentine. I relish the exposure for the four pitches on the fin. The off width was a bar fight as usual, and I ended up having to take my pack off 1/2 up the pitch and hang it from my chalk bag strap. This pitch out of the way, the rest of the route went well and was incredbly fun. I hung out briefly on the empty summit, and busted it for Prusik. I walked out out on the snowfield and found it icy. I saw myself sliding for life in my tennis shoes and made the executive decision to head east around the south side of Witche's Tit, and descend that way. This was convenient and didn't add any extra time to the day. Prusik Peak, the next stop on the Croft tour. The West Ridge held no surprises. The solid, reliable granite was a welcome contrast to Backbone's sometimes suspect holds. Being without a rap rope this time, climbed the slab and downclimbed it just to make sure I could do it. Again, I got to an empty summit, the theme for the day. Downclimbing took 15 minutes, much faster than the raps! From there, I made the only wrong decision of the day, which was to descend through Shield/Mese/Toketie Lakes. I thought I would be able to cut off time vs. the snow lakes descent. I knew from past experience the Toketie drainage spits you out approximately 1/4 mile from the snow creek wall trail. And, from what I remembered the trail was very direct. Hiking by Shield and Mesa lakes, with Temple Ridge forming a picket fence behind them, I was reminded just how beautiful these lakes were. Enhanced by the fact they were deserted too. I got to Toketie Lake quickly enough, snapped a few shots of imposing Toketie Wall, and this is where the fun ended. The last time I descended Toketie drainage, it was fairly straightforward with minimal schwacking. That was about 6 years ago. Now, brush is everywhere. At times it was over my head. Add to that brush endless downfall. Brittle branches collapsing under my feet. Endless logs to cross. And no sign of any trail. I was even cliffed out a couple times. I saw my chances on Outer Space slipping slowly by, pissed off at myself for not taking the snow lakes trail. I finally hit the valley bottom, and found a good log to cross snow creek, but it was 6:15 already. Dannible mentioned enthusiasm ebbing and flowing. Though demoralised by the eternal schwack down Toketie, I hit one of those bursts. I got to the log crossing at snow creek wall and didn't even have to decide. I grabbed the chalk and shoes and headlamp and headed up. Physically I knew I could do it given this newfound energy. Mentally, I was wary. And there were a couple moments on Outer Space where I had to force myself to just concentrate on the next foothold. But overall, Outer Space went as expected, topping out in fading light. I was able to sprint down the backside reaching the base of SCW right at dark. I reached my bike and started the slow ride mostly uphill. About 1 mile from 8 mile road, I noticed my right peddal feeling lopsided, and by the Classic Crack crag, it snapped off completely. I was shocked. This bike is a workhorse, having taken me from Astoria to Tijuana without even a flat tire! I coasted down to the start of 8 Mile Road, dismounted and started walking back to the Stuart Lake Trailhead. And believe me, the irony was not lost on me. Details: Hiking: 6:00am Climbing Backbone: 9:07am Summit: 11am Base of W. Ridge Prusik: 1:28pm Summit: 1:58pm Snow Creek Wall Crossing: 6:20pm Start Outer Space: 6:33pm Top Outer Space: 7:21 Back at Crossing: 7:58 Back at car: 11:15pm Mid-offwidth shell shock Colchuck Bidding adieu to the offwidth Greeting the rest of the route Fun fin cracks Summit Rainier from Dragontail Looking towards Prusik Summit Prusik Toketie Lake and Toketie Wall Top of Outer Space, SCW
  20. Trip: Torture Memo #3: Embracing the Schwack - Craggies Rock Glacier Exporation, No Dice Basin Date: 9/16/2009 Trip Report: TR: Craggies Rock Glacier Exploration 9/16/09 Sphagnum moss, No Dice Creek If you’ve waded through the first two chapters of this 3 part series, perhaps because you’ve lost use of your arms and legs or Netflix is late shipping the Temptation Island series, you’ll recall that Max (a friend’s 21 year old and ‘student’, of sorts) and I had one more double plus secret bonus mission to complete on our six day alpine short course before heading home. I climbed the Craggies, bordering the Pasayten Wilderness, several weeks back. From West Craggy’s summit I could see that the basin to the north, above No Dice Lake, was filled with what appeared to be a rock glacier. Was there ice under there? Apparently, an informal survey team several years ago had found ice under a very similar rock glacier on Bigelow Peak’s (Sawtooth Wilderness) north side at about the same longitude and elevation. Max and I had to go in and try to find out. Craggies Rock Glacier, from West Craggy’s summit ridge Max hadn’t had a chance to enjoy any bushwhacking yet; this would be a perfect opportunity to do so. Max embraces The Schwack, No Dice Creek We got going just before 7:00, passing the Pickwickian, Tre-Bark clad predator who’d helpfully reminded us that very morning of the wilderness area prohibition on bikes (and hang gliders) even though we were neither taking our bikes nor going into the wilderness area, as he stealthily patrolled the quarter mile apogee from his camper’s strong gravitation. He was after deer. I couldn’t help thinking; why not just walk onto someone’s lawn in Winthrop, close your eyes, point any direction, and let fly? Or just drive Hwy 20 at night? Mind you, hunting for an animal that tastes like freezer burned goat’s ass is not a sport I pretend to understand. After the two quick miles of trail to Eightmile Pass we dropped onto a game trail and traversed to No Dice Creek. I instructed Max to avoid Creek bottoms whenever possible, so started to do just that. We stayed in or near the creek bottom nearly the entire two miles to the lake. No Dice Basin, from near Eightmile Pass After 3 hours or so we emerged from the jungle to spectacular No Dice Lake, where pan sized trout leapt out of the sun warmed shallows onto dry lakebed, they were so happy to see us. We should have duct taped frying pans to our shoes. A strong, chill wind roared through the larches. Beneath the Craggies dark precipices, the Rock Glacier snaked towards, guarding its secrets. No Dice Lake Craggies Rock Glacier, from No Dice Lake I discovered a camp site. “Why do yahoos always leave a half burned Jiffypop packages in their fire pits?” “What’s Jiffypop? Is it some kind of soda?” It was then I realized that Max and I, from a relativistic standpoint, were borne of two entirely different universes in space time. To be sure, the digital age is a form of time machine that compresses past and present; I caught Max humming Jim Croce’s “Car Wash Blues” on the hike in, but still, the planet that forged his experience is an alien one. It has twice the population as the one I came from, for starters. It also has World of Warcraft and Oxycontin addicts, no privacy, a collapsing environment, a collapsing economy, a fully militarized, humorless, police state mentality, corporate supremacy, a record number of Americans living in the streets or in prison…thank God it still has the Dick’s Deluxe. That, and you no longer have to gap your points. And you can still rant and rave, but now you can have a much larger audience. I just hope some new technology never compresses future and present: the parking would be horrific. Larches Larix occidentalis, No Dice Lake The rock glacier itself consisted of ‘flowing’ rills, the top of which were covered with heavily lichened rock, indicating that the rock was relatively stationary. Between the rills were ravines of fresher, non-lichened rock. At about 6860’ elevation, we came upon what appeared to be a sink hole in one of the ravines. It’s bottom was filled with ice and silt. It was multi season ice, for sure, but we couldn’t determine the depth, of course. Frozen snowmelt from last year? Exposed glacial remnant? We certainly couldn’t tell, but the cause of the sink hole remains an interesting mystery. Max descends into a sink hole, Craggies Rock Glacier Ice at the bottom of the sink hole Other than the sink hole and a few more pieces of sculpted ice at the bottom of a couple of caves, the rock glacier was dry. Larch snag and Big Craggy, Craggies Rock Glacier On the way out, I remembered one of the reasons I love to hike in the fall so much Puffball Lycoperdon perlatum, No Dice Creek Eyelash pixie cup Scutellinia Scutellata, No Dice Creek Hygrophorus sp., No Dice Creek Elfin saddle Helvella sp., No Dice Creek Waxy caps (hygrocybe), lichen, and moss, No Dice Creek Alien fungus, No Dice Creek [video:youtube]mWa9hMrEq8Q Gear Notes: B52s, Agent Orange
  21. Trip: The Xedni Skaep - The Xedni Esrevart Date: 8/22/2009 Trip Report: This trip report is (mostly)true, only the names have been changed to protect the guilty and the innocent. (for some reason Firefox won't view this many images, try IE) The Xedni Esrevart You've been wanting to do the crossing for years, ever since you bagged the North Spire in '99. One of the three legs of the blue collar triple, a Northwest test piece for a so called hard man. But being this far over the hill do you still have what it takes? Or is this just your conniving mind making a promise that your long past prime body can't hope to keep? The serious attempts began in '06 with a couple attempts every year, most ending with bad conditions, with failure, with defeat. Watching the weather every day the week before and writing it down on the calendar. Several dry days are needed beforehand so the rock will be dry on the climb. The metamorphosed gabbro is slippery like glass when wet, especially on the North face of the North Spire. You hike in the 3,000 ft to the base and it's wet, so you go back down. You hike in to the base and there's low cloud cover with 30ft visibility, so you go back down. You hike into the base with clouds, you climb up to the start of the first technical pitches and wait an hour for the clouds to dissipate, they don't so you go back down. You hike in to the base and it just doesn't feel right. Your watch tricks you by going into 2nd time zone mode and you think you've lost an hour, so you go back down. Are you ever never ever going to tag this elusive climb? Are you ever going to get the conditions and have a high energy day at the same time so you even get the chance to face your fears and prevail? For every climber knows, fear is the mind killer. You have to control your fear in this arena or it will bite you bigtime. And the stakes on this one are as big as the exposure, as big as it gets, unrelenting on all sides, a narrow rocky ribbon in the sky, a thin fragile line of life or... a thick hard line of death. The gear is all lined up, over and over, it's written on a list, it's dialed and re-dialed. You cut the contact mirror in half. You find the lightest harness, you buy the lightest stove with a smaller fuel bottle. You take the back off the cell phone, look at that, the battery holds without it. The re-used energy drink bottle is a 3rd of the weight of a purpose bought water bottle. The big savings is the 5mil tech cord, 60m weighs 3 lbs, rapping like a spider on a thread but it's all good. Look at the mini lighter, is it full of fuel? Empty it to less than half, how many times will it still flame? Enough. You weigh the pounds and shave the ounces. The toughest choice is shoes, free solo 5.7 you want the rock shoes, but many sections have steep trees with pine needles under them and sand and dirt not to mention the moss and heather. You need some tread also for all this slippery stuff, so settle for the Guide 10's and the rock shoes. Being so far over the hill, if you're going to have any level of success, you have to find and possess an edge or two or a dozen, like think smarter not harder. Rock Jedi mind tricks. They're exchanged straight up for the long lost exuberance and all out strength of youth. The largest concession will of course be time. Age will slow everyone but if you can control the logistics to allow more time the same end result can be reached. Also you must never no never underestimate the power of the unmitigated mind. The mind that conquers and controls the mind killing fear will also defeat the depth and breadth of the task of slipping undetected, unmolested past the usual limitations of an age compromised physical state. The decomposing decay and degradation of the unassailable march of time must be held at bay, must be pushed back and away, avoided, altered, and circumnavigated. Wipe off the rustling maggots, maybe there's still some good muscle underneath. You startle awake at 12:30 am in the am. Car camping at Stevens Pass the night before, 4,000ft of acclimation. That being one of the rock Jedi tricks. The occasionally present small voice, is it guardian angel or guardian demon dependent on current condition of existence? It softly whispers two words in it's barely discernible voice. Is it ever real or has it always been just a mind illusion? Yes. Whatever it is, it's two words "hard snow". Dammit dammit dammit, don't say that, no don't say that. Chop off an hour of precious deep sleep and wake at 3:30 am and drive the 70 miles one way back to the house to get the crampons. So the planned and intended trailhead start time of 5:00 am gets pushed out to 7:00 am. Leaving the car to bust up the trail, but the uncharacteristically bad August weather presses down trying to smother the dream. It's murky low clouds obscuring the objective. It's doubt, uncertainty, lack of vision harshly weighing in. But by this point in time, in life, it really doesn't matter anymore. It will be just one more defeat in a long line of them, stretching back for years. The mind grindingly shifts gears to the fall back position. Put it on ignore and get on with whatever happens, because "this is the path where no one goes" and that at least is some small consolation. To the lake by 8:30, save the data on the alti watch. Documentation for the forum TR just in case the impossible occurs and you actually make it up this thing. The lake and peaks are partly covered with wispy clouds, it still looks iffy but maybe that chance is hiding somewhere there. Traverse the lake, stash the ski sticks and approach shoes, climb the talus and scramble the approach slabs and trees and brush. To the base of the normal first roped pitch by the late hour of 10. Maybe the detour back to the house is just a mind trick to get you to let go of time. So what if there's a force bivy when the daylight ends? If you can't do it in two days, hang up your shoes and hang down your head. Being a practitioner of the Nelson method, you jamb the pieces of foam in the heels of the Guides. Jamming your toes tight for the necessary precision of technical ground. Vegetated mossy steps and a ramp gully, the rock is dry but all the vegetation wet. Every foot placement must be scrutinized for moisture. Repeatedly wiping the shoe bottoms on the other leg like a cricket, a rock Jedi cricket keeping his feet dry for the grip. Then the first point of real neck in da noose commitment on this narrow rock sky path high above the howling hounds of doom. The 2nd pitch turning the "sudden exposure" 5.6 corner. The start is a short unexposed slab above thick brush that would catch and hold a fall, up thin edges and stepping out, over and above the abyss. Do you look down or do you not look down? You must look down because it's a mind killer fear test and this is just the start. Taste it and if you like it and can stand it take a bigger bite, you need a healthy appetite for this dish of mind killer fear, for there is surely a feast of it ahead if you're ever going to prevail. And today it seems to taste okay, and surprise surprise, the clouds are thinning....there must be something wrong, this just can't be true? Or can it? Up into the bowl with the two chimney's. A larger one below and a smaller one above. Your route diverges from Becky's description at this point. Heck most of the climb has more than one option, when the description is so vague how do you even know if it's the regular route or a variation? Face climbing up from the left on 5.6, it's compact and smooth, looking up there's old pins and weathered tat. It starts getting thinner, look around for easier ground, but everything else is harder, steeper. Small voice "there is no gimme here". Suck it up or go down. A few thin moves up then a thin traverse in closer to the big chimney and up face near it's left side and around it to it's top. A circuitous path but good foot edges most of the way, then scramble the bowl above up to the base of the 2nd smaller chimney. It looks like it would go without the pack but if there's an easier way why grovel or engage in a tedious chimney haul? Sure enough straight right and up some 5.5 and you're back on easier ground. This "variation" puts you right at the start of the treed ledge traverse. Ahh the safety of some brushy Cascade goodness. A narrow treed ledge crossing between bouts of mind withering exposure. Walk softly, tread lightly, do no damage and leave no trace. Do nothing to disturb the Rock God's garden. His extra special hair trigger death blocks are teetering above the chasm. They patiently await to smash down on the heads of lowly humans who degrade his life's work. And an interminable life it is from your perspective. Think of it, the time it takes to plan and shape the path of the magma flow, to erode the softer surrounding rock. The time it takes to build and shape these spires with eons of weathering exposure. How could you expect him to take it lightly if you dared to disrespect and defile his pristine creation? One pitch across the anorexic crack addict body width ledge to the North face bowl, it goes, on tip toes. The narrow treed ledge goes straight over to the polished North face bowl and meets it about 1 pitch from the 1000 ft sheer unobstructed cliff at it's bottom. So again your looking down the chasm, and again it's nipping at your heels. It's even wetter on this side where the sun never hits. All vegetation and moss are sopping wet, but still the rock is dry. The shoes get wet it's unavoidable, so you're constantly drying them. Half a pitch up, one foot slips, but the other foot and both hands are secure, it happens while shifting weight. Downclimbing and try to traverse to the true North ridge because TR's have mentioned it is an alternate. A 15 to 20 minute detour and it's a no go, thicker brush, more rotten rock and it's all wet, traverse back. Besides the normal 3 to 4 point solo rule there's a clutching brush rule, where available 2 or 3 branches for each hand. Branches from different plants when possible. Back into the gully of the bowl, this time paying even more attention to keeping the shoes dry. Working the stem harder. The first pitch in the gully is mostly 5.5 stemming and has a small treed ledge one pitch up. Then up the right side of the gully for a pitch of exposed 5.6 face, some positive edges, some rounded. The angle eases then half a pitch of brushy scramble to the notch at the base of the upper North ridge. Huge exposure down the West side, the biggest yet, and it just keeps getting bigger. Break out the Aces in the hole and stash the Guides, always keeping the double death grip, with thoughts of House on North Twin. The story of a single boot leaving it's partner behind and dancing down on gravity into the abyss. The ridge looks and at first feels harder than it was years ago, more exposed if that's possible, but once started it flies by. The shining sun drying the brush, the clean solid rock, the sharp rough positive edges, past more tattered rap points up up up and onward. The mixed forest heather rock above also seems longer than before and the Guides go back on to grip the differing terrain. Looking back in case there's retreat, the top of the ridge is un-obvious, remember this tree, this slab, this rock. Lots of scrambling heather and trees and then a section of bare rock before the summit. There's really not that much looseness on the entire North face climb, the real loose teetering blocks are mostly at the summit, and they are all around. A different voice? "disturb nothing!!". Yes Master Rock God, yes Master. Delicately balanced death blocks hovering over the abyss, angled downward and resting on small points, do not touch them, do not even breathe on them. And do not even forget. You will have to climb below them. The first summit, the timer captures the single Index finger for posterity. Then as promised there is a gift for Eve, two pale rose colored diamond stud earrings carefully placed in the summit rocks. Well sorry of course, it's cubic zirconia, because that's all one step above dirtbag affords. And after all it's the thought that counts. She will like them, although she didn't answer this time when near the start her name was called. Perhaps angels are otherwise occupied at times, who really knows? Rest in peace babe, rest in peace. Speaking of time it's precious, for it's already one o'clock, the zenith of the day. So read and carefully ponder the route notes. What little info Becky provides is as clear as Skykomish river mud at flood stage. Downclimb (how far?) until it's possible or impossible to traverse if you can find it, or you can rap off the West side after you downclimb the South West then back right over up or you can go around left up down back right left and down over right back and rap from the lower tower on it's West side and down and traverse if you can find it and rap again, if you can find the rap point or the traverse... or not. Or whatever. The psyche until now has continually seesawed between 90 percent gripped and guarded confidence, alternating pretty evenly at varying intervals depending on a variety of circumstances. At this point it leans toward the gripped. Voice "it's been hard up to here, but it just gets harder". You're at another key point of commitment, furtively sneaking further out on the plank, the chance of return diminishing behind you with increasing difficulty. The TR's have said it's loose and it is, but it's not impossible. Climbing down knocks small rocks loose and they rattle off and down, chasing the beckoning call of gravity. Listen to them very carefully, for this is another mind killer fear test. And if you listen closer, can you hear the howling hounds of doom? Frustratingly the traverse without raps is never really found and you climb over and back up to the top of one of the gendarmes and crawl to the edge to try and see the way. It looks so steep and blank everywhere, impassable, a phenomenon that will present itself multiple times during the remainder of the traverse. Only an up close inspection reveals the way, and at times dead ends are followed out and back before that way is found. Back down the gendarme and down around it's East side on ever steepening slopes and back up and around to it's South West side. To a tattered rap point, one anchor is just a jammed knot on a sling faded to whitish gray. A rope stretcher 30 M rap puts you down on a sloping 5.5 ledge, and tech cord doesn't really stretch all that well. Voice "I hate ropes". Please, it's okay. However on pulling the rap you don't whip it properly and the cord then proceeds to Houdini itself into a trick knot that jams behind a flake. And it's not okay. Dammit...No amount of flicking and whipping will free it. Luckily it's only some 5.5 up to where it's stuck. Take another chunk of not unlimited time and climb up, unstick it, and climb back down. Exasperatingly still not finding the traverse to the North Middle notch, but traversing non the less ends up at another rap point above the notch. Now to face your biggest mind killer fear, you're largest doubt and most persistent uncertainty. Looking down and across at the opposite face, the ultimate crux of the route, and also the point of no return, where the nearest safe exit becomes up and over. The Becky described 5.7 reputed to be a sandbagged 5.8. It's dead vertical with a bulge. From this vantage point it looks thin if not blank with a crack system on the upper sections. The rap anchor is another mankfest but it's acceptable, so flake out the cord and another full 30 M rap to the notch. And a small and very exposed notch it is, not even flat enough for a single bivy. Barely a flat enough spot to set the pack and stash the cord. The notch is about a 50 degree sided edge that gets steeper about 10 ft down and is only about 3 feet long. Not big enough to land on from even 5 ft up the crux pitch. Do you climb with the 20 pound pack or do you trail the cord and haul it? The pitch looks like it might hang up a haul, so you decide to carry the weight of the pack on this, the crux pitch. You can just climb up and see how it goes, if it's too tough you can always down climb and haul. Take some deep breaths and try to gain some composure, you can do this. You break out the Aces again and the chalk for the first time. You're going to need every edge in the arsenal if this thing is going to go. The ultimate mind killer fear test of the climb. Will you pass the test? Go go go go go!!!. It's steep, it starts okay but gets thin, thinner, bulge... steeper... sandbagged crimps. You don't want to admit it but you start to sketch a little, moving too fast, not finding the easiest way. Maybe the constant exposure and the physical difficulty of the task is starting to make itself felt. But you can't back down now, not after getting this far. Besides it's safer to keep going up and over from this point. A few sketchy moves and then there it is, at full arms length, a thank Rock God big sharp and positive edge. "You did it the hard way". Oh well, at least you did it without falling. The climbing eases just a little, but it's a full pitch before the 2nd pitch of 5.6 takes you to the finish on the ridge. A very large weight, that you've been trying your best to ignore for pretty much the entire climb up to this point... is suddenly lifted. And a much older and larger burden of the years of failure, of turning around too many times in defeat, feels like it may be finally ending. From now on whatever happens happens, but if you do your best and keep on your toes, this baby should go. You suck down another Gu and start on the second quart of water. The Gu seems to be working just fine and there's been no solid food today so that makes it an even more effective mind trick. Every time you start to lag just zap another dose. The 2 quarts of water seem to be going just about right, not too thirsty yet. Hopefully you'll make it to the main summit tarns tonight. The stellar climbing scramble continues on the ridge. Sunny dry rock, not too loose and just enough positive cut holds. With the occasional detour around Rock God garden banzais and through heather, and of course the constant mind killer fear exposure on both sides, right along with the continually awesome views. Ridge climbing is just like they say, sort of like being on a summit the entire time. It all goes hand in hand, this mix of everything alpine, the 10 percent of pleasure and fun letting you know the 90 percent of work and suffering is all worth it. The climbing up to the middle false summit is straightforward route finding and you go left around it and an easy scramble continues to the middle summit. Pausing just long enough for the requisite poser pic, this time a two finger salute. The descent down to the last notch is just like the first one from North Peak. The route finding is tedious and problematic, without much of a mention from the guidebook of what to expect. At some point you just let go and follow your instincts or the voice inside your head. Or are you just conversing with yourself? Either way you manage to get down. Some slab, crack, face, a reddish chimney, some trees and brush, and somewhere along this descent there is another rap with another manky anchor. You are also getting a good view of the route up the Main peak. You see what looks like the "wedge gendarme" as Sir Becky describes but it's not really certain, and it sort of looks like there's two of them. This view also has the good or bad fortune to see the problematic and exposed exit gully, and it looks just as described, a real howling hounds of doom sketch fest. A veritable snot slippery rotten choss gully of uber doom and gristling death. Lurking skulking scheming to throw the near exhausted and unwitting wanabee climber from his tenuous grip. Desperately scratching scraping tumbling smashing, down down down into the cold, uncaring, and unforgiving abyss, off to get the chop. The chop chop chop of death. No no no no no. Above all else in this life you are a survivor. If it's at all possible to stay alive, you will stay alive. You will either control the situation or avoid the circumstances that lead to a premature demise. You will continuously and vigorously pursue that ultimate objective with every fiber of your being. You will live through this. The notch between Middle and Main is the same as the previous notch. A very small sharp edged feature flanked on each side with ever steepening gullies quickly going down to un-climbability. Looking at the start of the climb up the Main Peak from just above the notch it appears to be vertical and blank. Mossy vertical gullies and chimneys off to the left and blank sheer walls and gullies to the right. And again only when descending to the notch and getting right up close to the opposing wall does the way appear almost magically before you. It's a thin series of foot edges and holds going off to the right. It's six pm, only a couple hours till dark. You hit up another Gu and a gulp of the water that's almost gone. You follow the thin climbing to the right and it turns into a nice rock chimney gully with plenty of stemming opportunities to rest your weary arms. The gully turns into a steep heather slope, and since it's North facing it's pretty wet from the previous days of cloud cover. Even with the Guide's traction you are having trouble maintaining grip for the feet in this steep wet vegetation. Somewhere along this field of steep wet heather the maximum points of contact mantra that every solo climber must follow comes to the fore. While moving a foot higher up the other foot slips. Both feet slide down and the adrenaline shot hits like a bolt of lighting. The product of eons of evolution, with the exposure it's been trickling all day, but now a full dose of nature's organic instant speed is slammed home to the bloodstream with a vengence. The heather is thick and strong here and the grip of both hands instantly forces in further, holding that much harder until both feet regain purchase. "I thought you were going on a long fast ride down?" Not even, not now, not ever. You arrive at the base of the wedge gendarmes and find a way up around the left one. It's gets steeper on clean solid rock and you gain the crest. An old pin along the way lets you know at least someone else has been here. You climb along the crest until you achieve the notch between the two gendarmes. But it's going to be very difficult to climb the notch between them, and it looks pretty problematic to anchor a rap. After some hesitation and indecision you decide it will waste too much precious time so you look around for an alternate way. Back below the gendarmes it looks like a traverse may go. You backclimb the way you came and traverse under the towers. It's very winding and a bit technical, but it's doable and you find a way across to a narrow ridge that drops to the Northwest below the right gendarme. You look up and again you can see the heinous death gully, the exit. There's just a bit of technical ground to get up to the gully. At this point you unwittingly unknowingly slip your neck into an unbreakable tech cord noose. It's subtle softly quiet and your distracted by the temptation of the exit. Up to this point the rock has been almost entirely of a positive strata and not really ever close to impossible loose. You eye this climbing traverse to the start of the exit gully crossing and without thinking proceed to climb. It quickly turns into a frightening gripping sketch fest. Apparently the avoidance of the described route, climbing and descending the wedge gendarme is going to demand retribution. The rock becomes increasingly loose and the edges are all pointing the wrong way down. Every other hold is loose and the ones that bang solid are suspect, cracked and thin. You side pull and undercling on most everything that holds because there's nowhere to pull down. Feet are smearing and small edges. Breathing, concentration, your heart creeps up in your throat, you get past the point of an easy return and dare to keep on into the dangerous difficulty. Finally, thankfully after a half pitch of harrowing insecurity and gristling exposure it eases and you're up and on the side of the evil exit gully. Hit another Gu, a small replenishment for the wracked out body and gulp the last of the water. Something anything to hold you back from the desperate edge. Sit and rest and take a breath. Focus. This time on the final crux you resolve to not descend into a sketchfest like at the primary crux. The rock is looser here, a bit chossy, there's no margin for error so you must make no error. Careful observation reveals a couple of possible crossings. You traverse to the nearest one and get a look up close. It's friable rock with nothing for the hands, a long reach to only one foot hold in the center of the gully on which you will have to match feet and then reach again to the other side. The extra sense says it smells like the way everyone goes, but looking closely at the foot hold it's a small knob that's cracked at it's base. Roped it would go but it's not good enough for soloing. You back out of the gully and scramble a pitch up it's left side to another spot that looks good from below, but a close inspection reveals it's totally blank. You climb back down to the first location for further inspection and low and behold there's another possibility. Above the foot hold knob a small dihedral parallels the gully up. "Careful the rock is rotten" I know, it's chossy and friable but it's a really good stem. You climb up a half pitch and another possible traverse comes into view. It goes with good hand and foot holds and a long reach across to a solid juggy flake. It goes it goes it goes. And it goes safe and without the gripping sketch. Another pitch or so of 5.5 traverse and the difficulties ease. Is that it? Are you off and safe? Or was that not really the exit gully? You turn the corner and the mountain starts facing more to the west. There's some more heather but it's dryer on this aspect where the sun has been shining. You downclimb one last bit of steep rock in spite of an easier alternative. Your mind and body maybe not wanting to let go of the mad thrills of this beautiful climb. Up up up heather and rock slopes, it's still quiet a ways but every step up more sure that you will succeed this time after all the trials and tribulations that brought you to this point in alpine time and space. The final bare rock summit slope, thank the Rock God, thank the guardian angel, thank the mountain's spirits... Eve and the rest. You have arrived at the summit of Main Peak! You have done the traverse! YEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEHHHHHHH HAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! The sun is getting low and as you watch the mountain horizon starts to bite into it. For once some time is taken to soak in the view, the sight, the sounds. The small town and winding road below, the lonesome whistle of a faraway train reminding you of childhood, of a time long ago and far away. The glimmering sound and lakes out in the hazy distance, the mighty volcanoes and near and distant ranges, all on view before you during this short time as a humble visitor of one of the thrones of one of the mountain Gods. For this brief interlude the pawn views the world as would a king. The view and pictures are good and you sit long enough to need another layer, for as the sun goes so does the warmth depart. In the back of your mind of course you're still not safe for you know the descent gully is loose and you're not sure what condition it's in considering the differing weather patterns this year has brought. Of course the alpine mantra applies, that the summit is only half the way home. But maybe on a traverse like this the "summit" is somewhere far back around the ultimate crux, and surely the technicality is easier from this point onwards. There's also the confidence of having already done the descent. So the epics that have plagued so many competent climbers when vague descriptions fall short and the visibility goes away with the frequent cloud cover will surely be avoided. Climbing, traversing down Southwards to the tarns at the pass your tired mind doesn't remember it being this far and you wind around in the dark for a ways. The headlamp seeking, showing the way past the wind's banzai trees, the fairy's meadows, and the glacier's sculpted rocks. Past the exit gully and down to the snow and water of the tarns. The two quarts of water went about right to get you past the final crux but the thirst has relentlessly advanced since that point. So by the time you reach the clear cold and clean water of the tarn it's as appreciated as it should be. Much more so than normal everyday life. Alpine climbing condenses, distills life to it's base and primary facets. Life and death, the necessity of a flawless physical execution in moving up and down over dangerous exposed terrain. The demand to continuously place one foot and hand in front of the other without falter or fail. Water and food. Energy and rest. Clear sunny sky, and wind and cloud and rain, storm, snow, and ice. Darkness and light. Hunger and food. Thirst and water. Two quarts of water and back up past the descent gully which is inspected as far as possible by the headlamps thin beam. Looking down the mountain's gullet, looking for the way out, the safe passage past it's rocky teeth. A small cairn in case of low visibility in the morning then up to look for bivy spots. There's plenty of flat places around this summit but you need something out of the wind and away from the chilling snow. A nice spot is found a few feet from the precipitous drop down the East side, but nestled at the edge of big boulders so it feels somewhat safe. It's going to be a force bivy, you've sort of known it all along. A bare-bones forced shiver bivy. The climb is done in a day car to car but not by you at this point in your de-composure. As a compromise you've gone light for the steep technical climbing. No sleeping bag and just an ultralite bivy sack and a 1/4" foam pad. You'll sleep in the light puff jacket and the rain gear. Maybe you can't technically call it sleep. You'll lay down with eyes closed and shiver the night away scrunched up in the fetal position. Trying to find that one position where the knees and shoulders don't constantly ache. The weight compromise has included food, one piece of bread, one piece of cheese, two ounces of olive oil. That's it. The rest is Gu, which works fine when your on the move but wears thin at camp. You don't even feel that hungry for some reason, so you eat half the food and drink some water. You watch the stars, the stars always there but unseen in the city. The big dipper is crystal clear and it's tilted just right to hold it's fullest cup, sort of signifying the climb so far. Sleep does not come for it's too cold, after seeming hours the dipper's cup has hardly moved, so you decide to heat the water for warmth. You haven't even needed the stove and fuel that was brought, so put it to some good use now. The only problem is there's only two quarts so if used for heat you won't have any to drink. Oh well you can drink in the morning. Tediously heat the water, careful not to spill. It only lasts a short time but you finally get a brief few hours of much needed sleep. You heat the bottles more than once, so hot they leave small burns on your chest, but it allows sleep so no matter. You've had your brief time of fun, now for the art of suffering which defines most of alpinism. The dawn finally breaks, it's overcast with the smallest touch of rain and darkish clouds surrounding the horizon. You crawl to the edge and take some pics of the stormy daybreak. You quickly throw everything in the pack, take the requisite summit pic with the triple fingers extended for the record. It's cold and your half beaten body protests at first even going down, but go down you must for while this is a nice place to visit you can't stay especially with no sleeping bag and no extra time alloted away from the grindstone. Down down down, the exit gully is mostly free of snow but wet. Careful of all the loose rock because your climbing in the gully below it for at least a thousand feet. Down to the 5.6 crux, you thought you might downclimb it but in a somewhat weary condition you break out the cord for one more rap. It goes without incident, a freehanging drop to above the last vestiges of gully snow. Down down down. To the talus field and traverse to the saddle of the ridge above the ancient sacred lake. A brief time to enjoy the view then find the thin winding trail in the sky, down the ridge, down down, hanging on roots and branches, downclimbing past the Mounties rap points. Getting worn, tired, now you hit the pass, down down more talus to the lake so very serene. There's still some snow but you find a path littered with debris for traction. Walking the edge of the lake, soaking in it's stillness and beauty. Watching looking you are now below the summit crossing you so recently made, back to looking up but now with the memory that you at least once looked down on all this. Retrieve the gear at the lake, pause to rest and eat before leaving it again, engage the tourons in idle gossip. "you climbed that?" Yes and shiver dozed like a decrepit fetus during the night, repeately burned by heated water bottles. "no kidding?" I wish I was, no not really, it was great, the time of my life. Down down down, the steep hiway trail takes it's final toll, you move more slowly and rest more often. Only by measured steps will you reach the end. Down down down, to the trailhead, to the car. The most dangerous part of the trip is still ahead, the drive home past the drunken drivers on the two lanes of death hiway. Past the cell phone talkers that should never ever have been given a license. You stop at the clandestine campgrounds to talk to your long time friend, the one that told you to "just do it". To tell him, yeah dawg, I just did it. "Damn that's awesome man". We converse for a while easy and relaxed, with a mutual admiration and respect. Brothers of the alpine discipline. You take a short rest and eat before the trip back. "you drive safe now hear me?" Yeah man. Back on the hiway, a quick look up at the peaks in all their splendid majesty looking down at the pawns, now including one of them that dared to at least briefly share that view. THIS MUST BE THE WAY THE OBJECTIVE OBSCURED BY OPPRESSIVE CLOUDS THE CLOUDED LAKE WITH THE DESCENT SADDLE ON THE RIDGE ABOVE LOOKING UP AT THE START ON THE SKYLINE LOOKING DOWN FROM NEAR THE START THE NORMAL START OF ROPED CLIMBING, RED SLING UNDER ROOF LOOKING DOWN THE FIRST PITCH LOOKING UP THE FIRST PITCH LOOKING DOWN THE 2ND PITCH LOOKING AHEAD ON THE TREED LEDGE, IT HUGS THE CLIFF LOOKING DOWN THE NORTH FACE BOWL, A 7 PITCH WALL IS DWARFED BELOW. LOOKING UP THE NORTH FACE BOWL THE SHORT SCRAMBLE PITCH AT THE TOP OF THE NORTH FACE BOWL EXPOSURE DOWN THE WEST SIDE THE START OF THE NORTH RIDGE CLIMBING TALUS AT THE NORTH SUMMIT AND HORNS SOUTH OF THE SUMMIT A HORN AND MIDDLE AND MAIN FROM NORTH THE RIDGE GOING TO MIDDLE FROM NORTH EXPOSURE DOWN THE EAST SIDE TO THE LAKE FALSE, MIDDLE, AND MAIN BEHIND, FROM THE TRAVERSE LOOKING BACK TO NORTH LOOKING BACK TO NORTH, YOU CAN SEE THE FIRST NOTCH EXPOSURE DOWN THE EAST SIDE TO THE LAKE LOOKING BACK AT MIDDLE NORTH AND MIDDLE FROM THE ASCENT OF MAIN THE SKULKING BRISTLING DEATH GULLY EXIT LOOKING BACK AFTER THE EXIT GULLY, MUCH OF TRAVERSE BETWEEN SUN/SHADE LOOKING AHEAD PAST THE EXIT RAINIER FROM NEAR THE SUMMIT SUNSET FROM THE SUMMIT OF MAIN TARN WATER BY HEADLAMP BAREBONES FORCED SHIVER BIVY SMALL TOWN AT NIGHT DAWN STORM SKY TARN AT THE PASS DOWN THE DESCENT GULLET DOWN THE LAST RAP UP THE LAST RAP LOOKING TOWARDS THE SADDLE AT THE TOP OF THE RIDGE ABOVE THE LAKE IT'S A MAGICAL MYSTICAL PLACE, JUST ASK THE SNAFFLES BACK AT THE LAKE BACK AT THE LAKE, GOD'S "JUST DO IT" SWOOSH (from a previous trip) LITTER DETAIL FROM THE WEST FROM THE EAST And please remember, walk soft, climb clean, and leave no trace. Gear Notes: A mini lighter with most of the fluid emptied out so it weighs less. Modded Go-Lite Breeze pack, 1 garbage bag, sunglasses w/scarf, 1/2 REI mirror, 1 extra contact, read glasses w/case, 5 band aids, altimeter watch, compass, hand written route description, becky photos, cell w/no back, camera w/ultralite case, chapstick, keys, cards, cash, TP, pen, duct tape, 3 mini no-climb beaners, 5ct 3/4 gear straps. Smallest swiss army knife. Light zip shorts, med polypro top/bottoms, 1 touk, 1 pr polypro socks, HH ureathane raincoat and full zip pants, thin gloves, columbia puff jacket, knee brace, 1/4"x 3/4 insolite pad, integral ultra-lite bivy sack. 2 qts water in re-used energy drink bottles, 26 lemon-lime GU's, 1 sm piece bread, 1 sm piece cheese, 2 oz olive oil, 1 TI stove pot(handles removed), 1 snowpeak stove, w/small fuel, 1 ultra-lite lighter, 10 vitamins including Ginkgo. 60M 5mm tech cord w/thin stuff sack, 2 4mm prusiks, Bugette rap device, ultra-lite harness, 3 spectra shoulder slings, 25ft 5mm cord, 3 lockers, 3 ultra-lite beaners, 2 TI pins, 2 short BD blades, BD Venom hammer, hybrid strap on alum cramps w/steel tips, HB carbon fiber helmet, chalk bag, Guide 10's, Aces. Total pack weight w/all food and water, 20 pounds. Approach Notes: Take the path where no one goes.
  22. Trip: Alaska Range - West Face Mt. Huntington, Colton/Leech Route Date: 4/1/1983 Trip Report: First let me say that when Keith read my TR on our ascent of the Rooster Comb DNB, I was told that he said, "That Jay... he was always falling off of stuff". Unfortunately, this TR will do little to dispel that gross exaggeration. Also, still looking for my slides from this trip. In March, 1983 Keith Royster (Keith’s last name is now Stevens) and I set off on our first two-man expedition into the Alaska Range. All of our previous trips had been with a minimum of four climbers, although we had always climbed as two-man rope teams. For this new foray into the range we decided to raise the ante a bit by resetting some of the parameters. First, just the two of us. That cuts the margin of error for the expedition in half. In the event of an accident that injures one climber, it is much harder to affect a rescue, and too dangerous if not impossible to go looking for help. The tragic experiences of Jim Wickwire and Chris Kerrebrock on the Peters glacier just two years before come to mind (read Jim's book Addicted to Danger: A Memoir about Affirming Life in the Face of Death). Second, a longer approach. In previous expeditions, we had skied into the Ruth from the Alaska railroad up the Buckskin Glacier, which is the shortest, most direct line into the Don Sheldon Amphitheater. This time we would use a new route, skiing from the Anchorage/Fairbanks highway up the Chulitna River to the West Fork glacier, cross Anderson Pass onto the Muldrow Glacier on the North side of the range, and finally cross back into the Ruth from the head of the Traleika glacier. This is a distance of around 100 miles. Third, travel light and fast. For the approach we would limit our climbing gear to the barest minimum; one 60-meter 9mm rope, double three-pin cross-country boots with overboots, flexible crampons, one ice tool each, and a few slings and biners. We would improvise anchors by using ice bollards and deadmen made from buried skis. Forth, minimize contact with our air support. Our climbing gear and supplies would be pre-cached ahead of us at two places; In the Don Sheldon Amphitheater for an attempt on Mt. Huntington’s West face, and on the Kahiltna glacier for a climb on Mt. Hunter’s North Buttress. Our one concession to our minimalist approach was a CB radio for contacting overhead aircraft in case of emergency. So the plan in a nutshell was; ski in to the West Fork of the Ruth Glacier from the North side of the Alaska Range, climb Mt. Huntington, ski and climb over the South Buttress of Denali into the Kahiltna Glacier, climb Mt Hunter, and then ski out of the range to the South. Keep it simple. Approach Route full-rez image here We left the highway on March 13th in perfect weather, cold, clear and sunny. From the small village of Colorado, we crossed the Chulitna River, still well frozen and covered in deep snow. We made good time by following a snow machine track up the West Fork of the Chulitna, heading for the West Fork Glacier. About noon of the second day a hunter on a snow machine came roaring up and offered us a 3-mile ride in the sled he was pulling. Later the same day we ran into a pair of Park Rangers and their dog team, heading back to the highway. They had been investigating an illegal cabin that had been built on National Park land at Ruby Creek, and told us to follow their tracks to the cabin if we wanted a warm night inside. They also said that as far as they knew, we were the only climbing party anywhere in the park at that time. The cabin was just what you would expect an Alaskan trappers cabin to be like; a low log structure set back in the trees, with a cast iron stove, a pair of bunks, a stockpile of firewood and canned food, and a rifle hanging from pegs on the wall. We spent another two days gaining Anderson Pass. We crossed the divide and descended onto the storied Muldrow Glacier, the approach route of the pioneer expeditions to Denali. Conditions changed dramatically, from deep powder snow on the South side of the range, to a windswept, rock hard frozen surface strewn with rocks of all sizes, fine gravels to giant boulders. The Muldrow is two mile wide and broken with pressure ridges and medial moraines. It was 20 miles to the junction with the Traleika Glacier, and we carried our skis the entire way, staying up on a pressure ridge so we could see the best path through the tortured ice and debris. Once on the Traleika the snow conditions improved and we could ski again. It was another 12 miles to the head of the Traleika. To our right were Mounts Carpe and Koven. To our left Mt. Brooks, the Pyramids, and Mt. Silverthrone. Our first camp on the Traleika was at the junction with the West Fork of the glacier, and from there we could look up the West Fork to Karsten’s Ridge and Browne Tower, the route of the first ascent of Denali. The next day we pushed on up the Traleika to its headwall, where the East Buttress of Denali, descending from Thayer Basin, blocks access to the Ruth just beyond. We set our final north-side camp at 7800 feet. Ahead of us was a wall of ice and snow rising to a pass at 10,500 feet. This was definitely the most remote place Keith and I had ever been, seven long days of skiing from the nearest road, barren, windswept, and silent but for the wind and sounds of moving ice. Galen Rowell’s party first used this route as a pass from North to South in 1978 during their circumnavigation of Denali. Scott Woolums and I had watched them descending from the pass that year from high on Mt. Dan Beard, which sits just south of the pass. They had done multiple rappels from ice screws on the descent to the Ruth. Keith and I would have to down climb. We weren’t carrying any screws. Traleika Pass Area full-rez image here The next morning’s work began before dawn. The climb to the top of the ridge was straightforward, although ice climbing in our soft three-pin double ski boots left something to be desired. It took us six hours to climb to the ridge top. The view from the ridge top was beyond description, the bulk of Denali to the west, Mt. Dan Beard immediately to the south, the deep gorge of the Northwest Fork of the Ruth down below, with the Southeast Spur of Denali beyond. Now things would get interesting. We immediately began down climbing, swinging 60 meter leads between belay anchors set in the deep snow using a set of skis as pickets/deadmen. Ten rope lengths brought us to the top of an obvious drop-off. We couldn’t see how big a drop it was, so we set up a rappel to find out. We chopped out a big ice bollard and ran the rope around it. I down climbed until I could get attached to the line, then lowered about 50 feet and looked over the edge. It was one of those good news/bad news situation. Good that we somehow managed to hit the bergschrund at it’s narrowest spot. Bad that the rope ended about 15 feet short of the bottom. The huge crevasse below the end of the rope was filled with snow. It LOOKED like it was pretty solidly filled. I looked up at Keith and said, “I’m going to drop off the end of the rappel. Clip the line into your belay so I don’t pull the rope down. You might need it”. I don’t think he was happy about the plan. I dropped over the lip and was hanging free. Lowering to the bitter end of the rope, I untied the safety knots at the end (kids, don’t try this at home!) and tried to let them both come through my figure eight together. A second later I landed in the ‘schrund, unhurt, in deep snow. When a reluctant and slightly pissed off Keith appeared at the lip, I told him to pull up one end and tie in to it so we wouldn’t loose the rope when he dropped off the end. After a few choice words from my partner, he arrived at the bottom, none the worse for wear. After dusting ourselves off we descended another few hundred feet to a saddle at 8500 feet and made camp. Beyond the saddle to the south the way was blocked by 10,250 foot Mt. Dan Beard. To the west an icefall dropped steeply into the heavily crevassed Northwest Fork of the Ruth. Our route lay to the east, where another icefall fell 1500 feet into the North Fork, and an easy 7-mile ski to our cache on the south side of the amphitheater. The snow was once again thigh-deep powder, and climbing down the icefall would not be easy going. Without our skis to distribute our weight we stood a good chance of finding a very deep hole, and we didn’t have a lot of resources for a crevasse rescue. So we pushed off the top on skis, climbing skins attached to slow the descent a bit, and roped together for safety. Skiing roped up with heavy packs is tricky even on easy slopes. Doing it in a maze of massive seracs and crevasses that drops 1500 feet in a half mile is a real challenge. Many times the leader would feel the snow collapse under his ski tails when crossing an obvious crack. Keeping the speed up was the key to avoid falling in. The leader would shout a warning, and the follower would bank his turn a bit wider to avoid the hole. Eventually we skied out onto the lower angled glacier below the icefall. Six hours after leaving the top of the icefall the long slog across the Don Sheldon Amphitheater was behind us. The first part of the long approach to Mt. Huntington was complete. We dug out the snow blocking the door to the small octagonal cabin known as the Mountain House and moved in. This spot is the primary landing strip for parties flying into the Ruth, and I had spent many days there over the past several years. From this spot we had launched ascents of Mt. Dan Beard, The Moose’s Tooth, The Rooster Comb and Mt. Dickey. On this occasion it was just a waypoint, a supply depot where we would gear up for the climb and pick up food and fuel for ten days. The cache we had expected wasn’t there, but the next morning Jay Hudson landed with our food and gear, and a surprise delivery of a six-pack of PBR and a couple of choice t-bone steaks. The next day as we relaxed and prepared our gear I made a discovery that would later have serious consequences. I was adjusting my rigid crampons to fit the soles of my borrowed pair of brand new plastic climbing boots. This was new technology in 1983, and the plastics were a third the weight of my heavy leather double boots. I adjusted the left crampon to fit the boot sole, and mirror-imaged the right crampon. When I fit it to the sole of the right boot, it was a half-inch too long. I double-checked the adjustment; it matched the left crampon exactly. I checked the boots; left boot size 10, right boot… shit! Size 9! My borrowed boots were mismatched and the right boot was one size too small. There was no way I was going to let this end our expedition. I hadn’t even noticed the difference when I tried on the boots back in Portland. Now I would just wear a thinner sock on the right. It would be fine. The next morning we packed up and began the 7-mile ski up into the West Fork. I never tired of the ski tour from the amphitheater up into the West Fork. Turning the corner of the Rooster Comb and coming into view of the awe inspiring North Face of Mt. Huntington stuns you every time. You don’t have to get lucky to see a dramatic avalanche come thundering down from Huntington or Rooster Comb. They are almost hourly occurrences, often sweeping right across your ski tracks. The West Fork is a deep, cold, ice-filled trench with walls a mile high. Keith and I skied past our normal campsite at 7000 feet, and continued on to set our camp below the French Icefall. We would leave the tent, skis and a cache of 4 days of food and fuel here on the Ruth. Early the next morning we post-holed over to the base of the icefall and started climbing. I had been up this slope before on a failed attempt on the French Ridge, and knew it was pretty straightforward. Nick and Tim had said the descent to the Tokositna was easy, and so it was. We rappelled and down climbed to the glacier and had plenty of time to dig a nice cave and settle in for the night. Colton/Leech follows the shaded gully. The top of the French Icefall is lower left The next day was a rest and recon day, and we watched the face for avalanche activity and talked about options for the descent down the Harvard Route, or maybe just to its north side. We looked at the sweeping 2000-foot couloir of our route and the 2000 feet of mixed climbing above that and thought that those brits had a pretty good eye for a line. The route looked to be in great condition, and after watching all day not a single thing had fallen of the face. On the 15th day after skiing off from the highway we climbed up the broad base of the funnel-shaped couloir, swinging long leads of simul-climbing on perfect ice. The weather was settled and clear, but cold, at about -10. As we gained height the angle steadily steepened, and snow turned to solid blue ice. The surface ice was rock hard and brittle, and every placement sent a shower of ice down the rope to pummel whichever of us was tied to the dull end. The final lead of the day was mine, and I was getting flamed. My arms ached from being bombarded all day with falling ice, and the broad couloir had narrowed into a proper gully. The final 200 feet were nearing 85 degrees, and I slowed down, afraid of a fall as we climbed together up the steep ice. I climbed into a fluted chute and was able to rest in a wide full-body stem, then made a final slow-motion charge over the top to find a roomy ledge that would make an adequate bivouac. I slammed in an anchor and brought Keith up, thanking him for his patience at the slow pace of those last few feet. The open bivy was comfortable but the night was very cold, with the temperature dropping below -20. We both slept boots on, in sleeping bag and bivy sac, and awoke to another day of perfect clear weather. After a quick brew we set off on the best day of mixed climbing of our lives. Never desperate, but continuously steep and interesting, the climbing was amazing. The sun and views made the belays enjoyable in spite of the cold. The sun was setting as I set up a semi-hanging stance about 100 feet below a snow ledge that we had been aiming for all day. I chopped a boot ledge in the ice and brought Keith up. Keith was pretty tired as he arrived at the stance, and since I was rested I volunteered to lead on up to the ledge, where it looked like we could spend the night. I should have grabbed my headlamp before I left the tiny stance, but I thought the light would last long enough. With speed in mind, I ran out a quick 50 feet on steep verglassed rock, and hung a sling around a perfect granite horn. Protected, I climbed another 30 feet to the base of a steep slab split by a 3-inch runnel of ice. The ledge beckoned just beyond. I realized that it had become much darker when my first tool placement threw sparks into the gathering gloom. I tried a dozen more times to get a pick into the thin ice, rewarded with nothing but more sparks. To my left the rock disappeared under a near vertical snow slab that led to the same ledge. I traversed over and the snow seemed firm, so I started double-shafting my way up. Twenty feet and I’d have it made. My head came over the top and I heaved a sigh of relief, reaching over the edge to shove my ice ax shaft into the snow. It felt like stabbing into spun sugar, there was no resistance at all, and no purchase for mantling up off of the vertical wall. I poked around with my axe, but there was nothing to offer the slightest hold. Then I felt my north wall hammer, still driven in to the head just below the lip, start to break out. My footholds began disintegrating under my weight and suddenly I was airborne as the snow collapsed beneath me. I felt myself contact the wall again and again as I pin wheeled down in the darkness into a vertical mile of air. Keith looked up at my yelp of surprise, and saw only bursts of sparks as my ice tools and crampons struck granite. I fell past his belay to the right and jerked to a stop ten feet below. My single piece of protection, the slung horn, had probably just saved both our lives. Within seconds I realized that, though shaken, I was not hurt. My tools still hung by the wrist loops, my right crampon was hanging from it’s ankle strap, bent nearly double, and my helmet was gone, but I was alive and uninjured after the 100 foot fall. With tension from Keith, I struggled back up to the tiny stance and took stock. Now fully dark, with my gear and brain in disarray, it was obvious that we would have to spend the night right where we were. As I hung from the anchor collecting myself, Keith began a 2-hour effort to enlarge the foot ledge to something that we could sit on. It was midnight before we were sitting/hanging in our bags, backs against the wall and the stove between us on the now 12-inch wide ledge. Somehow we managed to sleep through the coldest night yet. At one point I woke up and glanced over at Keith and my heart stopped. He was gone! Well, not gone, just sound asleep and doubled over at the waist, hanging from the anchor. Later, in the morning light, I bent my crampon back into something that would fit loosely onto my boot, and told Keith that it was still my lead. I backed up the sling on that beautiful horn as I climbed past. At the bottom of the ice runnel that had frustrated me the night before, I excavated a bombproof placement. In the light of day I could see where the thin ice offered sketchy tool placements, and surged safely up to the ledge in a matter of seconds. A few easy leads later and we were on the summit snowfield. We held a quick conference and decided to forego the summit. We were just above the top of the Harvard Route, low on food and fuel, and had a long way to go to get back to our camp on the Ruth. Down climbing, we got to the top of the vertical headwall pitch on the Harvard Route, and began a series of rappels to the right, down a steep little gully. Natural anchors were plentiful, and we left mostly slings as we descended rapidly back to the glacier. Just below the ‘schrund I picked up my helmet, none the worse for its 4000-foot fall. Crossing the ridge on our way back to the Ruth, we unroped about halfway down the French Icefall. Our tent out on the Ruth was looking really good, and we were in a hurry to get down. My right crampon was pretty useless, and had been coming off my boot every so often since the fall. 200 feet from the bottom of the icefall it decided to fall off one more time. I was on a bulge of good looking blue ice at the time, so I slammed both tools into the ice and clipped into them with my daisy chain. I bent over and began working on the bent-up crampon, putting weight on my tools. I heard a noise like when you pour a drink over really cold ice-cubes, and my tools fell past me, attached to 18-inch dinner plates of hard Alaskan ice. I was jerked of my feet, and accelerated down the slope toward a 50-foot cliff. I shot over the lip and landed in a pile of avalanche debris at the bottom. My luck was now played out, and my right fibula snapped. Keith walked over, shaking his head. He gave me a couple of Percodan and splinted the leg. I tried to stand, but couldn’t bear any weight, so I crawled the half-mile to the tent, dragging the leg behind. By this time the drugs were kicking in and I told Keith that I thought maybe it was just a bad sprain, and I thought I’d be able to travel in a couple days. He laughed and gave me more drugs. Keith helped me get into the tent and get my boots and clothes off to examine the leg. As he pulled off my right sock, he took a long look at my foot and said, “Jay, your toes are frozen.” We spent the next several days watching our food and fuel supplies diminish, hoping for the sound of a plane. I kept the radio inside my bag to keep the batteries warm, and my toes outside the bag to keep them frozen. We didn’t know how long I’d be there, and I didn’t want to risk infection by re-warming my foot. Our last resort was for Keith to ski back down to the amphitheater, where it was much more likely to find help. But that meant a 7-mile solo over some of the biggest crevasses in the Range, not something I wanted him to risk. We were burning the last of our fuel to make a final hot brew when we heard the beautiful sound of a Cessna coming over Ruth Gap. I had the radio out in an instant, and Jay Hudson’s voice filled the tent. We told him our situation, and he asked if we were still trying to minimize our air support, or were we ready for a ride. Keith described the glacier below our camp. There were several depressions marking large crevasses on the slope. Maybe, he suggested, we should travel down glacier to the regular airstrip at 7000 feet. Jay replied with the news that a 4-day storm was hours away, and he would be right down, so we should start packing. Jay kept the power on as he flew the Cessna up the slope, flying right across the low spots. He kicked the plane sideways not 20 feet from the tent. Three hours later I checked in to the hospital. Mt. Hunter was going to have to wait. Approach Notes: Skin-in from the Anchorage-Fairbanks highway, 100 miles
  23. Trip: West Fork Ruth Glacier, Alaska - The Rooster Comb, DIrect North Buttress Date: 4/15/1980 Trip Report: OK, this all happened a long time ago, so here it is, to the best of my rapidly aging recollection: In late April 1981, Keith Royster and I had been camped on the West Fork of the Ruth glacier with a couple of friends for two weeks. We were waiting for a weather window long enough for a 3-day alpine style ascent of the unclimbed North Buttress of the Rooster Comb. The pattern had been 2 to 3-day periods of stormy weather separated by a day of clearing. We knew from our experiences of the previous three seasons spent on the Ruth that if we were patient that pattern would reverse, and we could expect a 3 to 4-day period of fine cold conditions. Rooster Comb routes Bivy sites We both had climbed other Rooster Comb routes on those earlier expeditions. Scott Woolums and I had bagged the first ascent of the Rooster Comb’s main summit in 1978 via the SE Face. In 1979 Jeff Thomas and I made an ascent to the NW summit from the top of the col between the Rooster Comb and Mt. Huntington. In 1980 Keith and Leigh Anderson climbed a new route up the NW Face to the NW summit. Each year we looked at the North Buttress and vowed to come back and give it a shot some day. That day was rapidly approaching for Keith and I, but the current weather was less than perfect. It WAS good enough for a bush pilot from Talkeetna to land on the West Fork just above our camp and drop off two British climbers, Nick Colton and Tim Leech. They post-holed over to our camp, introduced themselves and announced that they were going to climb our route the next morning. After the brits left to set up their camp we convened a hasty war council. We could beat them to the base; our gear was packed and we had skis. In a footrace we could move much faster that the post-holing brits and get on the route ahead of them. But we knew the weather, and it wasn’t going to be good. We had seen the lower buttress disappear under enormous avalanches more times than we could count. At best there would be continuous spindrift for most of the route. It was a huge decision… did we want the first ascent or the best ascent? In the end we decided to wait for the weather. We were climbing for fun, we told each other, not glory. Five days later Nick and Tim were back from their epic. Or maybe it was just a typical day on the crag for them, being crazy brits and all. The constant spindrift had slowed them down dramatically in the lower third of the route, and they had bypassed the crux section of the gully by aid climbing around to the right. If we couldn’t be first, maybe we could score some points on style. Now finally the weather was becoming settled, and we hoped most of the new snow had fallen off the route, because we were going to go that night. It seemed to us that, after weeks of watching the face over the past three years, the big avalanches cut lose in the mid-afternoon. By starting the climb at 10pm, we could be out of the lower gully before noon. Even in late April there is plenty of light for gully climbing at night. We blasted off right on time, leaving our skis at the base of the route. The lower gully was classic, with excellent snow and ice up a twisting gully, perfect granite on both sides. We climbed together, moving fast, the leader placing pro until out of gear. Sometime before dawn we switched leads at Nick and Tim’s first bivy platform, set dead center in a wide section of the gully. I was nervous just stopping there to belay. It must have been a nasty bivy in the conditions they were climbing in. Keith in the lower gully By 10am we were feeling like we were in safer ground, with most of the lower gully below us. About that time our friend Jim Olson was at the base to retrieve our skis. From the center of the West Fork he watched a massive avalanche fall into the gully below us. A cornice had let go from high above and it scoured the gully, then washed out halfway across the West Fork. A half-hour slower and we would have been right in the firing line. As it was, we were blissfully unaware of our close call. At about the halfway point, the gully becomes discontinuous as it runs into a prominent 500-foot rock band. We set our first bivy where the snow and ice of the lower gully met the rock band. It was a very small platform, maybe two feet wide, but well protected by the overhanging bulge of rock above. We spent the night in sleeping bags and bivy sacs at –20F. I had a miserable night, not cold, but cramping up on the narrow snow ledge. Even my facial muscles were cramping, locking my eyes shut. About 30 feet right of our platform, the next pitch began with a 30 foot section of vertical rock, beyond which the gully picked up again, though quite a bit more steep than it had been. Keith made quick work of the rock, and led up the gully a ways before bringing me up. I got a really sweet lead up the gully to the base of the crux pitch. This is the point where Nick and Tim had climbed out to the right, bypassing the heinous, rotten vertical ice hose that the gully had just become. I was not unhappy that it was Keith’s lead! Keith led up some beautiful gully ice to the foot of the overhanging 40-foot chimney partially filled with some really crappy looking ice. He put in an ice screw that MIGHT have held a light fall, and headed straight up. It was mostly a very scary looking stem, with his backpack and right shoulder against the rock wall on the right and his feet kicking holes into the rotten ice curtain on the left. It was a monster effort, and I was sweating bullets for him until he finally pulled over the top. Definitely a no fall situation! Keith on the heinous crux pitch Keith continued on easier vertical mixed ground and banged in a belay. I jugged past the heinous chimney, thinking all the while what a scary lead it must have been. I lead off from Keith’s belay, first traversing left to follow the remnants of the gulley, now degenerated into vertical ice-filled cracks. Protection was scarce, and my first piece after traversing left was a number 1 stopper. I climbed up another twenty feet of ice-covered rock, heading for a three-inch wide runnel of ice. At the base of the runnel I was REALLY looking for a placement, and there in the base of the crack was a fixed pin left by Nick and Tim. I hit it a couple of times with my north wall hammer. It rang true and I and clipped in. WHEW! I set my axe and north wall hammer into the ice of the runnel and grabbed hold of the sling I had clipped to the fixed pin to lean back for a good look up the ice runnel. Suddenly the rock broke, the pin pulled, and I was forty feet lower, upside down over 2000 feet of air. Hanging from the number 1 stopper, I watched my snow shovel fall back to the glacier. I looked over at Keith as I slowly rotated in the air. He told me, “Stop screwing around Kerr, I’m freezing over here!” I got back on the rock, and looked up to see my ice tools waiting for me, still stuck in the runnel. The pitch had been hard with tools. Climbing back up to them barehanded was “interesting”. Once reunited with my tools, I banged the pin back in and scampered up the ice. For the first time in two days I climbed into the sun. I anchored in and brought my frozen partner up. In a couple more easy pitches we were above all difficulties and built a commodious bivy ledge. The next morning we kicked up the summit snowfield and pulled out the flask for a quick summit celebration. The weather was still holding perfect, and we enjoyed the 360-degree view for a few minutes before starting down the ridge that led to the col between the main summit and the NW summit and plateau. The descent to the col was exciting ridge climbing, ending in a long free rappel into the col. The climb up to the NW summit ridge was not difficult and we walked west across the plateau to the top of the wide gully that leads down to the Huntington/Rooster Comb col. It was late and we decided to bivy in the bergschrund before descending to the col. Unfortunately, we were out of food. After we dug our way down into the crevasse and set up our bivy, I told Keith I was going out to find us some dinner. He looked at me like I had been smoking too much pot. I crawled out of our cave and crossed the top of the descent gully to the base of a large rock. I dug at the snow and rock for a few minutes, then reached into a hole in the rock and retrieved the bag of food and fuel that Jeff Thomas and I had left there the year before. Keith was suitably impressed with our foresight when I returned with a huge meal for two and a pint of stove fuel. We started down early the next morning, and made two rappels down the gulley. We were crossing the giant cornices of the col barely an hour after we started down, working our way across to the west side, and the safest descent route to the West Fork. I knew the way down from the Huntington/Rooster Comb col really well. I’d made two round trips over the col in 1979 on our way to Mt. Huntington’s SE side, and one round trip in 1980 to gain the East Ridge of Mt. Huntington. It’s straightforward snow and ice climbing, made a game of terrifying Russian roulette by the huge cornices and seracs that threaten every part of the face. This is definitely not a place to stop for a picnic, and Keith and I fairly flew down the face, reaching the glacier in about two and a half hours. Crossing the Huntington/Rooster Comb col on the descent We felt great after the climb. We had managed to cut a full day off the first ascent time, climbed the crux gulley pitch, and done it in a spell of perfect weather. The North Buttress is the most classic line in the West Fork, in my book, and I put it at the top of my personal list of achievements. Some days after we got back to base camp, Nick and Tim returned from climbing a new route on the West face of Mt. Huntington. You had to hand it to those two; they really maxed out the possibilities on their visit to the West Fork. Two years later Keith and I skied back into the range from the North, destination: the Colton/Leech route on Mt. Huntington. But that is another story… Since our ascent in 1981 this route has only had one other successful ascent. Gear Notes: Lightweight alpine rack (screws, one picket, assorted pins), 160m double 9mm ropes, sleeping bags/bivy sacs, MSR stove, 3 days food/fuel
  24. Trip: Colchuck Balanced Rock - The Scoop III+ 5.11c (FA) Date: 8/9/2009 Trip Report: During a trip to climb the west face (III 5.12a) on Colchuck Balanced Rock (CBR) last year, Evan and I were amazed at the lack of development of lines to the right. We decided on the spot that we had to try and find a new route next year. We took a large number of high-resolution photos and trudged our way back down the gulley to Colchuck lake. Over the winter, we spent time studying the photos, drooling over several possible lines, but one particular feature kept catching our eye: a large dihedral carved out of the rock about halfway up the face. It almost appeared as if a giant had used an oversized ice cream scoop to dig it out, creating a sharp dihedral at the bottom and slowly “scooping” out into an overhang. Not knowing what was in store for us, we knew we would need another strong climber along, so we contacted our friend Stewart, and put in for two separate four-day permits. Our first trip began on an early morning in June, with three of us slugging heavy packs up the loose gully to CBR. We set up camp amongst the white bus-sized boulders at the bottom of the route, and started setting up for the unknown. Although dirty, the first three pitches were dispatched onsight and free (9, 10a, 10a) leading us to a large ledge that seemed to be the launch point for a wide variety of lines up the second half of the face. We were now finally face to face with scooped dihedral that we had been dreaming of during the rainy Seattle winter. Even though we were now directly below the pitch, it was impossible to tell if there was a crack in the dihedral or whether it was simply a copperhead seam. Stewart set off aiding the pitch and we held our breath in anticipation. With every foot of progress came questions from below, “Is there still crack above you? Does it pinch off? What size is it?” As he continued to climb and remove the thick lichen, we were simply amazed that it continued to dish up a beautiful finger crack that widened into occasional hand jams near the final overhanging 20-foot section. It looked like the line might go free, but the major concern was the lack of good foot holds most of the way, and lack of rests for over 120 feet of the full 200-foot pitch. If it would go, it was going to be one hard pitch for sure. On the third day, we started late in the cold spring temperatures and wind and soon found ourselves sitting on a spacious ledge at the top of the scoop pitch. Across a slab twenty feet to our left started yet another long dihedral, angling up into two large ominous roofs. It was our luck that there was a small sloping ledge that allowed us to traverse across into the thin crack and up to a very dirty corner. The crack was filled with decades of accumulated dirt, moss, and plants and at this point we knew we had to go back into aiding and try to return and eventually free the pitch. A couple of hours and twenty pounds of dirt later, we came to the first of the roofs. It was almost as by design that a small knob appeared for a foot below with a hand crack under the roof allowing us to traverse to yet another ledge. The second roof appeared to be even harder than the first, requiring climbing up, traversing, and down climbing again to get back out and left to the end and into the final dihedral. The edge of the roof provided a unique “fang” feature that allowed for a nice rest following the delicate traverse. Again due to the dirtiness of the cracks, we aided through this section to gain a large ledge system several hundred feet below the summit. We knew from climbing the west face route the year before that we were about four easy 5th class pitches from the top, but due to weather we proceed to rappel down the route. On the last day, we headed up to give our first try at the scoop pitch to see what it would require to eventually lead it. After several runs on top rope, we knew we might be able to eventually lead it, but it would take everything we had to get it. We rappelled to the ground and headed back to the car in a mid-June snowstorm. So far we had everything that we were hoping for: a new route on CBR that was completed ground up, and never required a single piton or a bolt. Now the question was, would the line go free? Six weeks later, we found ourselves on the long hike back up to CBR, this time leaving most of the aid gear at home with the hopes of going into full free mode. We had two major goals: top out the route and free the three pitches that were previously aided. The first goal was fairly easy, after topping out on pitch 6, the three of us roped up and simul-climbed to the summit. The second goal was a little harder. On the summit day, each one of us tackled one of the remaining aid pitches, with only pitch 5 going free at 5.10b on the first go. After some additional cleaning, pitch 6 eventually went free at 5.10a, making it an excellent final pitch to the route. The scoop pitch evaded us for three days and we were worried that we may not be able to send it at all on this trip. On the last day, we got a late start and headed back up to launch ledge and Evan’s last go at the lead. The cold temperatures were perfect for friction, but unfortunately were also good for creating numb fingers and toes, not great for the sharp crack and featureless dihedral. To warm up, Evan lowered down pitch 3 and took a warm up lap to get the blood flowing. After a 5 minute rest and a few deep breaths, he launched off the ledge and sent it on his first go of the day. The last remaining pitch now went free at 5.11c. There was little discussion or argument about the name of the route; due to the dominance of the feature on pitch 4, we all agreed to name the route “The Scoop”, III+ 5.11c, 10 pitches. Stewart and Matt figuring out where to start the route: Stewart leading p2 (in the v-slot): Stewart belaying Evan up p2: Matt leading p3: Stewart finds a hidden crack below all the lichen: Evan starting the Scoop: Below the first roof on p4: Start of the overhang on p4: Evan on the Scoop p4: I'm not sure the tape helped here: Stewart coming across the groove: Stewart leading p5: Evan and Matt coming up p5: Matt on p5: Matt leading p6: Simul-climbing to the top: Evan and Stewart at the top of CBR: Matt, Evan, and Stewart after the clean send: Our river beers were waiting at the car: Topo (PM me for a higher res image): Routes on CBR:
  25. Trip: Mt. Stuart - Gorillas in the Mist - IV 5.11 Date: 7/8/2009 Trip Report: Mt. Stuart is one of the Cascades' most iconic and complex peaks. With such prominence, fame, and extensive development, one might think that all significant new routes have been climbed. However, excellent routes do at least remain unfinished. Inspired by the pictures from an attempt by Mark Allen and Mike Layton, as well as a desire to climb or unearth a new hard route on the Enchantment's premiere peak, Sol Wertkin and I were excited to give the West Stuart Wall a go. Work and anniversary obligations had cut Sol's available climbing time down to one day, so I contacted Jens Holsten to see if he wanted to head up to the peak with me on day one, in order to fix the first few pitches and have Sol meet us on day 2. Jens was stoked to join the team, but insisted we could go alpine style. Of course Jens also insisted it would be 90 degrees on the summit and we didn't need to bring backpacks. Caveat Emptor when getting beta from Mr. Holsten. NOAA was predicting breezy and cool conditions, so we all brought along windshirts. It's summer right? We left the trailhead at 5am and after a few hours ended up at Goat Pass, near the start of the West Ridge. The West Stuart Wall rises up maybe 900' from the snow... but where the hell was it? The face had seen various activity in the past, and we found 2 bolted anchors (stamped '1993') as well as runners low on the route. Perhaps it was a rappel route, perhaps it was someone's unfinished (or aided) project, or perhaps it had already been sent in its entirety. We didn't know and didn't really care. Roping up at the base, we knew we'd have some solid, memorable, and steep climbing. Edited/explained down below - after contact with the 1993 folks, it sounds like this climb was a new route to the top of the wall and the peak Jens led off pitch one, following the OBVIOUS clean hand crack, mantle, and chimney to a belay on the right. This pitch was probably the crux of the route at 5.11- and would see nearly constant traffic if it were located at a crag in the icicle. Steep, with solid rock and great gear, it set the perfect tone for the wall. Top of P1 The next pitch headed up and left across 2 bottomless corners and hanging aretes, 5.9 with positions to keep the adrenaline going. Jens' final lead was the mental crux for us, but shouldn't deter future parties. He headed up and left from the belay, past a 4" crack, and shouted "Watch me" as he launched into the unknown. Sol and I, unable to see the climber, witnessed a large handhold get ripped from the wall, and the simian sounds of grunting and vomiting as Jens styled the 'monkey traverse.' Did you throw up? No way man... just a little dry heaving Jens would go on to finish the pitch in style. The followers both cleaned out the hand traverse crack, and future parties should find no shortage of solid gear all along this pitch. 5.10+ Sol about to 'go ape' Finishing the Monkey Traverse Did you see that big block come flying off? ...uhh yeah, we thought it was you From here Sol took over, finding a yosemite v-slot, and an immaculate finger crack and stem box to another perfectly flat ledge. 5.10- Pitch #5 headed up and right, with a bouldery 5.10 crux move, belaying at the first significant ledge system on the wall. We continued across the 'skywalk traverse' to the right and set off again. I took the lead for a 30m pitch of 5.8 (but mostly easier) on what we thought would lead up to the West Ridge, but we hadn't finished the wall yet. From a belay in the clean V-slot/groove, I followed up a long immaculate right-facing corner, with hand and fist cracks through a small roof, and finger cracks up a slab to the hanging belay, our first belay spot that was not a comfortably flat ledge. This pitch was 55m of sustained 5.8 crack climbing. From the hanging belay, a short hand crack lead straight up to the West Ridge, and I mantled over the top with a 'whoop' and monkey shout. We started up the West Ridge in a fog, with winds steadily increasing. Winding around towers and hidden pinnacles, the rock was more and more covered in ice. Soon our rope and cams were iced up as well. The wandering terrain and numerous gendarmes kept us guessing, and as darkness fell, we knew it was time to quit fighting the conditions. The three of us settled in for a memorable bivy of uncontrolled shivering, made more so by the presence of 0 sleeping bags, no stove, no puffy jackets, and 2 30liter packs in which to stuff our six wet feet. I don't know the temperature, but Jens' water bottle froze. We joked about getting lost on a mountain which we had all climbed before, but kept our spirits high thinking about the quality terrain we'd covered. In the past few years 3 of the Enchantments' 4 biggest peaks had seen new or 're-discovered' hard, excellent rock climbs. Solid Gold and Der Sportsman had been unearthed on Prusik, Dragons of Eden was re-climbed on Dragontail, and The Tempest Wall established on Colchuck Balanced Rock. With a climb of the West Stuart Wall, the 4th peak had fallen into place and Stuart's modern rock climb established. Our platonic spooning subsided at 4AM, and Jens started things off right by breaking out the breakfast of champions, in the form of one "Worthers Original" for each of us. No longer climbing inside a cloud provided a significant morale boost, and Sol thawed out our semi-functional cams with his mouth, once again establishing the value in being full of hot air. After a quick summit stop to revel in the sun, we headed to the Sherpa Glacier where soft snow allowed us to descend a few thousand feet back to the valley bottom in no time. With today being Sol's anniversary, he knew his wife would be especially nervous about our delayed return (and extra jealous of all the spooning enjoyed by Jens and myself). We hustled back to the car and enjoyed our true breakfast, the creek-stashed beers we'd left 30 hours before. EDIT: It turns out that Mark Makela and Geoff Sherer did some climbing on that wall in 1993 and put in the bolts, going up with full-on wall gear, and fixing ropes. They made it up what would be most of the pitches, using a mix of aid and free, but never completed the last few on wall. In any case, it's an amazing climb that should be on the list for future parties. Approach: Just north (around to the left) from the toe of the West Ridge, near Goat Pass. Route starts in the middle of the face, you can't miss that pitch. Gear Notes: Single Blue and Green Alien, 2x Yellow alien to #3 Camalot, single new #4 camalot. Set of nuts. TOPO: HUGE VERSION
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