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Found 239 results

  1. Trip: Del Campo - FA: Brawndo Date: 12/14/2009 Trip Report: On Dec. 14 A2THEK and I climbed a 2 pitch ice line on the lower N face of Del Campo peak. Unfortunately the fresh dump of snow on Sun. night stopped our progress up the rest of the face. It was still a worthy endeavor with a fairly short approach. We spied the line last week from Morningstar peak and made plans to come back and have a go. With the forecast calling for more typical Cascades weather we figured it was either Mon. or not at all for awhile. The approach was straight forward. Park at the Sunshine Mine trailhead, follow the trail to the major drainage that leads to the valley between Lewis and Morningstar. From here head straight up the drainage instead of following the trail up the avalanche slopes that head toward Headlee pass. Follow this to where the terrain steepens directly below Del Campo’s NF. The climb itself consisted of 2 full pitches. One being a thin mixed lead to an ice belay right below the upper tier. The second pitch was a full 55 meters of solid blue ice. We rated the climb 3+ R due to thin conditions of the lower pitch, although short screws proved useful here. Two double rope rappels from trees brought us back to the start of the climb. We decided to name the climb Brawndo in honor of the “Thirst Mutilator”
  2. Trip: Lake Wenatchee - [FA] Alpine Dropout - 300m plus, WI3 Date: 12/12/2009 Trip Report: Ben Hargrove and I climbed a sweet new line on the north face of Nason Ridge - starting at Lake Wenatchee, topping out near Alpine Lookout and exiting below Round Mtn TH. The quality of ice, position and length of the route (over 1000 feet of ice, 4000 feet total ascent) made this unlike anything else in Leavenworth. Route overview (w/o lower 500 feet or upper 1500 feet to ridge): Started near the gravel pit and crossed the Little Wenatchee River which was barely frozen in one section (w/o the freeze this climb would end here since the river is too far to haul a boat too - unlike Drury's easy river access!). Ascended 1000 feet to the base of the ice. Route started with a 60m pitch of WI3. Ben leading P1: The climb then stayed in a slot surrounded by walls of the same high quality gneiss that is found at the Nason Ridge climbing area on the opposite side of the ridge. P2 was 60m of WI2 This lead to the crux pitch which was the only less-than-stellar pitch of the route since it was showering water and I got real soaked. We simuled the next 800 vertical feet with lots of great WI2 to WI3- sections up to 30m tall. Besides the cool feel of being high on a lonely north face, the views to the north of the Entiat Mtns and the Glacier Peak area was a nice change of scenery. After over 1000 feet of technical terrain, we dropped the rope and ascended about 2000 feet of snow to the saddle on Nason R just east of Alpine Lookout. The sting in the tail was the last 500 feet of deep snow pulling on trees while trying to not to victims of tree well inversion syndrome or collapsing cornices. We reached the ridge right at sunset. Homefree! A quick sprint for a about four miles east along the ridge, over Round Mtn and down 3000 feet to the second car on the road to Round Mtn TH. Not! Boot top breakable crust resulted in a five hour slog to the car. Actually, it was a calm, beautiful evening but too much calm, beauty is not healthy. Reached the car at 9:30 PM and Headwaters for pizza by 10:00. Stuffing our faces too much to join in the karaoke comp. Overview of our walkabout Bracing for the collective yawn and "oh boy, another WI3 in 11worth," this route is so much more unique than a typical Leavenworth dribble to nowhere. A 4000 feet plume line with over 1000 of quality ice ending on a remote ridge. Seemed similar to longer climbs in Lilooet or longer moderates in the Canadian Rockies. I doubt this one comes in much or is typically buried in snow. Name comes from finishing near Alpine Lookout and my rotator cuff surgery in May causing me to miss a complete alpine season for the first time in 17 years. Ouch, that hurt way more than the knife. Gear Notes: Screws only, GPS. Approach Notes: Need a frozen river or a boat. Do not traverse Nason Ridge over Round Mtn. Next time, I would try to drop the south side of the ridge somehow working around the cliffs which could suck too.
  3. Trip: Coleman Creek Canyon, Ellensburg - FA: Coleman Falls WI3 Date: 12/13/2009 Trip Report: More Good ice near Ellensburg! Today Craig Gyselinck, Denise Gyselinck And I drove up Coleman Creek Canyon just north of Kittitas to climb Coleman Falls which ive been scouting for a little while. mostly dry roads and Quick approach lead to great ice. Denise on the approach Conor Byrne on the FA of Coleman Falls Photo by Craig Gyselinck Craig attempting the Mixed Chimney at the top The view from the top Approach Notes: Drive Cooke Canyon Road north of Kittitas to the T. Take Left. Drive 3.6 Miles. take right hand turn. go over hill, under power lines untill odo says 4.9. park in large turnoff. descend slope traversing right to obvious gully.
  4. Trip: FAs: Mt. Baker - Roosevelt Ice Circ Date: 12/10/2009 Trip Report: FAs? Baker-Roosevelt ice circ Jeff Street and myself went out to Mt Baker on Wednesday and Thursday this week to see what we could find to climb - Colfax, others? When we got to the TH, we saw a row of about 8 climbs close to one another. We could not resist and decided against Colfax (which is totally in, even arguably the Polish route) From the overview pic, we did three climbs (red arrow 3), single pitch WI3, then one climb (red arrow 1), a 2 pitch WI4,WI2+. Climbs in this area range with WI4 and WI5 variations. In this area (red arrow 1), we started from left to right, the left most climb (WI5?) raining with too much water and so we bailed on that and moved to the next climb, the 2 pitch WI4 route. Then it was dark and time to come home. Our approach from Mirkwood camp on Heliotrope ridge: Colfax
  5. Trip: FA: Seven Minutes of Pleasure - Ingalls Creek Date: 12/12/2009 Trip Report: Today Conor Byrne, Kyle Flick, Mark Shipman and I went and climbed a fun line visible about an hour and a half up the Ingalls Creek Trail. It was a nice piece of ice in a beautiful setting. We named our route Seven Minutes of Pleasure, WI3. The climb was a full 70 meter pitch. Three parties went and climbed Gray Falls today, two of which were soloist and one party of three. One of them also went and put up another new line in the valley, but I'll leave that up to him to talk about if he wants. I hope some of you who got out this weekend will post what you did, it really helps. Conor Byrne showing some ass(???) on the approach to our new route. Mark Shipman enjoying his "seven minutes of pleasure." Approach Notes: Clearly Visible about an hour and a half up the Ingalls Creek Trail. Walk down.
  6. Trip: FA: "Gray Falls" - Ingalls Creek Date: 12/10/2009 Trip Report: Today Mark Shipman and I partnered up and climbed a route we named "Gray Falls" (WI4) due to its close proximity to Gray Tower, above Ingalls Creek. We climbed the route in two roped pitches (each being a full 70 meters) and did a lot of solo climbing up rambling steps. The elevation gain from the base of the route to the top was 900 feet according to our watches. The route: We soloed the first ice tier, then roped up on the 2nd, & third. From the top of the third we put the rope away and climbed up more easy stuff. Mark leading the middle section, WI3: The the upper level, WI4: Upper rambling stuff. Approach Notes: 5 or 6 miles of Ingalls Creek Trail. Clearly Visable.
  7. Trip: the roost - northeast face Date: 9/13/2009 Trip Report: hey swingers, lunger and i climbed it so you don't have to. don't be a wimpy, do 9 pitches plus some simul-climbing starting just right of the indistinct rib in mid-face and ending just left of it. go way out on 5 pitches of bushy galore and 4 of terrortainment. III, 5.9ish. "should clean up nicely with a little traffic." Gear Notes: nuts/cams to 3.5"
  8. Trip: Sloan SW Face - Fire on the Mountain (FA/FFA) Date: 8/30/2009 Trip Report: Short version: Fire on the Mountain: FA/FFA on the SW face of Sloan. 8 pitches, 5.10+, III+ (1100ft of technical climbing on steep, clean rock plus 500ft of scrambling to the summit). Blake Herrington and Rad Roberts. Long version (photos and video by Blake Herrington): Descending Sloan after a moderate jaunt up its West Face, AlexK and I gaped in awe at the sheer Southwest face of the mountain. Alex later commented, “Walking along the base of the SW face was like walking along the base of the Upper Town Wall at Index...line after line of really awesome steep granite rising directly from the steep slope vertically for many pitches!” Alex looking up at the SW Face of Sloan, 2006 (new route starts just off the frame to the right.) With a bit of hype and a few Scurlock photos, I was able to convince Blake to take a shot at this worthy objective. Morning mists enveloped us as we coaxed my old car up FS4690 to the Bedal Creek trailhead. We walked through old growth forest and followed the cascading creek to the base of the immense West face of Sloan. Although this impressive face surely holds more good lines, we continued on to the SW face. The mists burned off as we left the forest for heathery meadows and ripe blueberries, wasting precious minutes on the jaws of a giant. Upon cresting the final ridge, I was pleased to see that the SW face looked just as steep and clean as I’d remembered. Several lines looked good, though they would need some gardening on the first pitch. We chose a prominent left facing corner leading to a chimney (upper right in the photo below) and some thin cracks up a face. Blake getting dressed for work. We should all be so lucky I asked for and was granted the opportunity to lead the first pitch. I did a little gardening at the start, but the rock was quite solid and protectable. My calves started to burn as holds ran out and the corner turned into a chimney, but an exit onto a small stance provided a rest and revealed a series of spectacular, clean finger cracks soaring straight up the wall. Working up these, I felt the fire spread to my forearms. I rested when possible and carefully contemplated each tricky section, hoping to honor this fine line in good style. Blake was very patient. Fortunately, the rock and gear were solid so it was easy to go for it. I cranked through the crux and savored juggy moves over a final bulge to a belay atop a pillar, whooping with delight on completing the onsight. Blake joined me, casually shooting video just after the crux. [video:vimeo]6387846 This would prove to be the hardest pitch of the day, perhaps 5.10+ or 5.9++ or 5.11-. Ratings reflect only one aspect of the experience, and often they distract from the essence of a climb. For me, this pitch alone was worth the price of admission, with 45m of sustained, outstanding, well-protected (I placed about 13 pieces!) climbing on solid rock, with multiple 5.10 sections and a really fun crux. Blake then headed up the next pitch, linking clean vertical and horizontal cracks and a few face moves to a belay at a ledge. [video:vimeo]6387982 This section was reminiscent of the upper pitches of Loving Arms on the Upper Town Wall at Index and various routes on Lover’s Leap. I let Blake take the third pitch as the second pitch was rather short and I’d poached the best pitch from him on Tower a year ago. P3 started in a finger crack and then headed up a series of golden flakes, dikes, and buckets. I did a hand traverse left under a large roof to move the belay and then shot up a steep right-facing corner, brushing lichen off key footholds along the way. The angle eased a bit and I cruised up to the giant heather ledge that splits the face. Lots more steep, clean, featured rock loomed above us, and we were shocked to see it was already 4pm. Go time. Blake floated up a left-leaning crack system and a perfectly clean OW corner to a belay on a pillar. There we found two old pins. Someone had come this way before (see comments below). I danced up a steep face peppered with protruding dikes, managing to sling a giant knob and slot a cam in a small crack. The end of this pitch featured a steep finger crack in a corner with an old pin. I clipped this piece of history, but images of it failing motivated me to crank through without weighting it. Entering the crux of p6 (note slung knob in foreground) Sunshine, silence, and sweeping views of the Mountain Loop and Monte Cristo peaks enveloped us. We savored the pristine wilderness setting. Blake then lead a 60m rope-stretcher to a stance just below another large ledge. Dehydrated and fried from hours of exertion in the sun, I offered Blake what we hoped would be the final lead of the day. It didn’t disappoint, with a hand crack around a roof bulge and a rising traverse on positive flakes to a final corner. We unroped. It was 7pm. Our water was long gone, and my moxie had long since moseyed. Although I had descended Sloan before, I didn’t relish the idea of rappelling and down climbing in the dark with one headlamp between us. But Blake had never been to the summit, and we needed to complete the route, so we stashed our gear and scrambled to the airy summit. We signed the register, snapped a pic, and turned to head for the stable. Note moon in background. I staggered heavily (Blake scampered lightly) back down to our packs and we admired a stunning sunset as we started the rest of the descent. We rapped to the sloping ledge as twilight turned to night, but the moon cast its gentle glow on the descent slabs and the air was perfectly still, as if Sloan were gently ushering us back down to safety. Our ropes just barely reached the snow, but it was quite hard and our tennis shoes, one ax, and lack of crampons didn’t inspire confidence. Blake chopped a bollard and we rapped down to lower angle snow. The sound of running water drew us to a small waterfall of snowmelt where we drank deeply and split a Theo chocolate bar, smiling in the moonlight. We retrieved our packs, including my headlamp, and headed toward the trailhead. But there was still one more obstacle: BLUEBERRIES! Evening dew had started to collect on the blueberry bushes at the top of the open slopes of the Bedal creek basin, and our feet skidded out each time we tried to take a step. Glissading seemed possible, but test runs showed the acceleration rates would be more like hard ice than soft snow. The ground was very hard and there was no way to hang onto the wet plants. Self arrest would be impossible. Death would be swift and sure. I could see the headline already, “Climbers die on blueberry slope.” I pictured the deadly rabbit in Monty Python’s Holy Grail. We’d climbed a striking new route but been bested by some damp blueberry bushes. Actually, I’m OK with that. We decided to stick to the dense, prickly evergreen shrubbery on an adjacent ridge. We thrashed down that and rapped off a 4ft pine when we got cliffed-out above more evil blueberries. The remainder of the descent went smoothly. The Darrington payphone ate my quarters while trucks of teenagers cruised the minimart in the wee hours. We drove to Arlington through misty fields, wolfed down tasty food at Haggen, and headed back to Seattle, arriving after 3am. My body attended morning work meetings, but my spirit was still in the mountains. When the rains settle upon us and sun-kissed alpine rock is removed to daydreams, this is the trip I will replay again and again. Thanks for a great outing Blake, and for giving me the first pitch, the last swallow of water, the only ice ax on the hard snow, and good conversation to pass the hours on the trail. ……………… Fire on the Mountain, 5.10+, III+, 8 pitches, 1100ft of technical climbing and another 500ft or so of scrambling to the summit. All free, ground-up, onsight. The route starts in a prominent left-facing corner that turns into a chimney. This is about a hundred feet right of a prominent right-facing corner, and 200ft right of a vegetated crack leading up the diamond feature in the photo with Alex. Pitch 1: Tinderbox. Start in the obvious left-facing corner below a chimney. Stay right to avoid vegetated cracks at the top of the chimney, and step right to a small stance. Climb straight up finger and hand cracks to a belay at a decent ledge. 45m, 5.10+. Pitch 2: Lightning strike. Move right to a pair of hand cracks in a corner, ascend the right one and hand traverse right to a small stance. Link face features and small cracks to a good ledge and a belay. 33m, 5.10-. Pitch 3: Bucket brigade. Start up a thin crack and then move onto a face with golden buckets, flakes, and edges. Ascend a prominent corner under an OW roof crack and then hand traverse left under a giant roof to a belay stance out left. Future parties may choose to link p2 and p3. 34m 5.10-. Pitch 4: Controlled burn. Delicate moves up a right facing corner lead to friendly flakes and dikes and a giant heather ledge that bisects the SW face. 40m, 5.8. Pitch 5: Firebreak. Ascend a left-trending crack system near the top of p4. This leads to a clean ramp and a stellar golden dihedral with an OW crack (one #4 useful here). Finish on a pedestal near old pins and some cracks. 45m, 5.9. Pitch 6: Alpine ladder. Scale a steep face on amazing dikes, follow the ladder leftward up hero climbing, and finish up a steep corner with a pin. 40m, 5.10. Pitch 7: Smoldering embers. Shoot straight up the featured face to a giant heather ledge. 63m, 5.7. Pitch 8: Final flare-up. Ascend a hand crack that jogs left around a small roof. Continue up cracks, trend left on positive flakes, and finish up a corner to a ledge. 45m, 5.10. Scamper up to the obvious corkscrew route trail. Change into comfortable shoes, stash gear, and scramble unroped to the summit. Beckey lists a route on the SW face, but what he calls the SW face is more like a route that starts on the South face, crosses a ridge mid-height onto the SW face, and follows easy ground to a shoulder. This is very different from what we experienced. Based on the position of the few pitons we encountered, we believe someone climbed p5, p6, and p7 at some point, aiding through the steep finger crack crux on p6. We’d be interested to hear if anyone knows more about the nature of that route. The condition of p1, p2, p3, p4, and p8 suggests they had not been climbed prior to our ascent. I've attempted to draw our line on a classic Scurlock shot. Red is roped climbing on p1 to p8 and green is unroped scrambling to the summit. Gear Notes: Stoppers work particularly well, including a few micronuts. We brought double cams to #3 camalot and one #4 camalot and used it all. We took a few pins but never needed them. The OW on p5 might take a #5 or #6 but Blake did fine without them. A single 60m rope is sufficient. An ice ax might handy for the snow. Go get some! Approach Notes: Approach: Bedal Creek trail to the basin below the West Face. Ascend Blueberry Hill to a treed shoulder, traverse shoulder briefly, enter the basin below the SW face. The route starts in a prominent left-facing corner that turns into a chimney. This is about a hundred feet right of a prominent right-facing corner, and 200ft right of a vegetated crack leading up the diamond feature in the photo with Alex above. Perhaps 2 hrs from the car to the base of route. Descent: Follow the corkscrew trail around to the South face, and down climb or rappel an obvious gully to a giant ramp. Descend eastward down the ramp until able to do a single rope rappel to the snow. Traverse toward the South shoulder, cross over this, and descend back to the base of the route. Retrace the approach back to the Bedal Creek trailhead.
  9. Trip: Squire Creek Wall - Slab Daddy V, 510+, A0 Date: 9/20/2008 Trip Report: On August 22 and 23 Bill Enger and I made the 4th ascent of the Squire Creek Wall route I have been working on since just after the last glacial epoch. The original ascent was made by Bill and me along with Dan Dingle last September but we had a punch list of pitches to straighten out, ¼” bolts to replace and odd moves to free before the route seemed ready for prime time. As usual we spent a couple of days up there, enjoying the cooler temps and more reliable friction. Look online for the upcoming article in the Northwest Mountaineering Journal. Slab Daddy lives near the northern end of the mile-wide rampart of Squire Creek Wall and is reached by a fairly civilized approach along a decommissioned logging road followed by a shallow creek crossing and finally a 600-foot hike up through steep but largely brush-free old growth forest. The climb, which has tempted me since the previous century, turned out to be 22 pitches of pure Darrington joy. About half the pitches are 5.8 or 5.9 and the balance some sort of 5.10. While there is lots of bolt-protected slap and pray climbing that Darrington is famous for, there are also a good number of pitches on the wall that require gear, and one of them to at least four or five inches. The route reaches 5.10+ in a couple of places but still a short section of the 20th pitch has kept us grabbing at the draws. Yarding by two or three bolts in this fashion should see regular mortals (like me) through the difficulties without recourse to standing in slings. We’ve been getting by with a rack up to #4 Camalot and a few doubles in the .75-2.5 range. Having one #4 assumes a willingness to run it out a bit on 5.8 laybacks. The approach involves walking up the remains of the old road for about a mile and a half and then descending to Squire Creek at a point just opposite the route. To start the approach one walks across the landslide and regains the old road and at the far end. There are two points at which the roadbed has been washed out at culverts. The first has only a small bit of pipe exposed and the second, perhaps a half mile further on, reveals the entire metal pipe lying in the eroded creek bed. This is the signal that you are getting close. After 150 walking steps up the road from the corrugated metal pipe one will be able to see that, 1. The road (trail) gently starts to angle away from the creek (left). 2. The sound of the creek reveals that it is about as close as it is gonna get and, 3. There are three stones about 8”-10” across naturally embedded in the right edge of the roadway. (this isn’t a cairn and is pretty subtle the first time past). Descend to the creek in only a couple of hundred feet and hopefully arrive at a expansive gravel bar immediately opposite the slide alder swath coming down from the wall. If it’s the right spot there will be a truck sized boulder in the creek with a small bonzai tree growing out of it. On the other side of the creek, at the confluence of a small feeder stream and about 100 feet upstream from the crossing, is a largish bright boulder almost hidden in the brush. Climb over the boulder and follow a path across the fern forest for a hundred feet until a short 15-foot uphill leads up and to the left and into the old-growth forest. The path is not marked but we have walked the same way many times and a keen eye will be able to discern most of the path. Annual blowdowns and such do tend to obscure the path in places. At about 2/3 height a short rock slab and obviously avalanche-shattered tree will be visible 100-feet off to the right. Generally the route goes just far enough into the forest to stay away from the avalanche track out to the right. Stay in the big woods until just below the toe of the formation. Some years the bottom several pitches are buried in ice and avalanche debris until sometime in July. When the little ice field has finally melted back one can walk up the boulders past the very lowest portion of stone until cleaner ramps lead easily out left to the first bolt. Three thousand feet of climbing later one will pull over the summit ridge and marvel at the madness. The start of pitch 11 Otto on pitch 19 On the summit Rapping past pitch 19 Topo (large file) to follow. Gear Notes: Gear to 6” with multiples .75”-2.5”, 12 draws, 2-50m ropes recommended
  10. Trip: Dragontail Pk. - Dragons of Eden IV+ 5.12a FFA Date: 7/22/2009 Trip Report: Obsession can be defined as a compulsive preoccupation with a fixed idea. After climbing Dragons of Eden last summer Jens Holsten and I were so impressed with the climbing and the terrain we became completely obsessed with freeing the route. A September attempt later that summer saw us diverting to Der Sportsmen on the less stormy and warmer south face of Prusik, so we hunkered down for 10 months of daydreaming, training, and preoccupation. We both agreed that there was rarely a day that went by without us thinking about DOE. Finally, a year later, we were wrestling ridiculous loads up to the Lake to put in work and give it a shot (notice no less than 18 beers ready to stash in the creek!): It was a hell of a hump up to the route, and felt a bit awkward as we had ended up on the opposite specturm of our preferred fast and light style. Nonetheless, it felt really good to be embarking on the adventure and we rounded the lake full of optimism and stoke. The first day we hiked in, climbed the first half of the route via any means possible (lots of aid), hauled to the Pteradactyl Bivy Ledge and I scrubbed the Buttterballs to the Gripper 5.11 second pitch, while Jens cleaned up the crux 4th Pitch. Jens getting the junkshow as high as possible up the jingus approach ledges: Aiding the crux 4th Pitch: It felt good to be putting in some work on the route. I transformed the second pitch by trundling two really scary flakes. It's crazy that we had climbed through the flakes twice already yet I was able to trundle each within a matter of seconds. Not only did it make the pitch safer, it revealed some locker jams and good stances, dropping the grade from 11c to 11b. Notice the two flakes in the fingercrack above Jens head in a pic from last year. The wee flake right below the big boy, they are now thankfully gone: We were glad to have the Firstlight for the bivy as the bugs were horrendous! We caught a great sunset and settled in for a night of good rest. I had worked a 14 hour double shift the previous day and was pretty worked. The next morning we slept in and layed around for a while before getting back to work. The Great White Headwall was the dirtiest section of the whole route. I led and cleaned the first 5.10 pitch and Jens linked the next two and scrubbed them. The key to this day was to not get too worn out, yet get enough scrubbing and prep done to be able to free the route the next day. Jens aiding up the second pitch of the Great White Headwall (P6), 5.11a roofs: Jugging the Great White Headwall: On the rap down to the base we took some burns on the crux pitch which is both super pumpy and technical. We both made some progress and tried not to get too worked. The plan was to meet my wife Ginnie Jo, and our friends Keri Carlton, Max Hasson, and Ryan Paulsness at the lake that night. Of the entire experience, this was definetly the best part for me. Chilling with my lady and some great friends on Colchuck Lake, work done, resting up, getting psyched to send. Ginnie and Keri had spent the day preparing an Indian Cuisine Feast! We continued our trend of sleeping in and mid-morning began the hike up to the base of the route. We had stashed all the gear we needed and I became a bit concerned when I was struggling up the pass with merely a windshirt clipped to my belt loop. I was obviously worked and prepared myself to dig deep. Ryan and Max took off up the NE Buttress intent on gaining the top of the Headwall where Max would rappel in and photograph the ascent. When we felt the time was right, we began climbing. The fist pitch takes a hand crack up and left, we did no scrubbing on this pitch, it's a bit dirty and a bit chossy, but warms you up nicely. This deposited you at a belay under a roof where we prepared for the first pitch of business, the amazing splitter finger to handcrack of pitch 2. The pitch begins with a 5.10 traversing face sequence to gain the finger crack, from there sharp and steep finger jams brought me into the meat of the pitch. As I pushed through the crux I became pumped and things began to feel a bit desperate. I was able to stem out left to the arete and cop just enough rest to push on through the finger crux into the slightly less strenuous thin hand section. From here, i twisted and torqued my extra large mitts in the deviously sized crack until finally I reached a good stem rest hollered out in excitement knowing the pitch was in the bag. My hoot gained a quick reply from the ladies who were watching our progress from the pass. A short pitch of 5.8 took us up to the base of the crux pitch where we sat down to recharge and wait for Max to reach us. Shortly thereafter he tossed his rope down the headwall. Jens moved quickly throgh the moderate start to the pitch and gained the top of the pillar where he placed a green brassie and prepared himself to send. He climbed strong and purposefully through the initial boulder problem, solid calculated movements. He got into the crack and was able to place a good green alien and protect himself from cratering into the pillar. As he moved through the next couple of stenuous finger locks he broke a foothold and screamed as he swung away from the crack. Somehow, he held on. He yelled, I yelled, and Jens one-arm campused off a fingerlock back into the crack. I thought for sure he was going to fall, but he held on. Once back in the crack, he pushed on. More screaming, cursing, and cranking continued and soon enough Jens had gained the belay. Seconding, I felt strong moving through the boulder problem, but my strength quickly sapped and i fell from the first few fingerlocks. I lowered off and rested for a second go. I got higher my second try, but screamed in frustration as I again slipped out of the crack. I lowered again and this time took a longer rest. My third try saw me reach even higher but I was spanked, i fell, screamed in frustration, and shortly accepted that I was not going to get this one clean. I had hoped for a clean ascent, but I just didn't have it in me. Jens moving into the business, P4 5.12a: We moved on up to the Pteradactly ledge at the base of the Headwall and rested again. I was worked, and tried to get out of leading the second pitch of the headwall but Jens called me out, saying he thought I could do it and that I should give it a burn. Thanks Jens! He lead the recently transformed first 5.10 pitch up the headwall to a ok stance beneath the series of large roofs that makes up pitch 7 5.11a. We hadn't scrubbed much from this pitch, but it was clean enough to send and I did. Really wild climbing takes you out the roof of the headwall with solid hand cracks, it's hyper-exposed and very out of place in the alpine. Jens followed and we prepared for the final pitch, steep face and crack climbing leads to the top of the Headwall 5.11d. Nearing the big roof on P7, 5.11a: This had been the dirtiest pitch of the route and though Jens had scrubbed what he needed to, it was still quite filthy, compounding the condition of the pitch, was the fact that we hadn't ever really given it a free burn, even on TR. Jens left the belay with his work cut out for him. A non-stop barrage of kitty litter rained down on me as Jens moved up the pitch. The first crux involves sequential deadpoints to positive flakes which Jens got through without too much fuss. He fired in some gear under the crux bulge, and rested up. After a few false-starts he was off, you could tell the climbing was hard, and Jens was going for it. He pushed through the bulge with footholds breaking and flakes flexing, at one point his last piece was a couple bodylengths below him and he was desperatly stabbing to continue. It was quite a show. He pushed on to the top mantled the headwall and DOE was free. We continued as two parties of two up the NE Buttress to the NE Summit. The day had gotten hot and the shade of the east side of the summit was a welcome releif. Two double rope rappels got us down and we began the arduous trudge down Aasgard. Since our ascent two parties of our friends have climbed the route and it has received good reviews, though they both commented about how dirty it still is. One party was able to place a bomber green alien from their tippytoes to protect the moves off the pillar on the crux pitch. This essentially takes the R out of the grade. Also, Blake and Pete H climbed a variation that we pointed out to avoid the crux pitch. It is an obvious crack about 25 ft to the right of the crux pitch and went at 10+. I highly recommend the route and hope people don't let the difficulty of the grade deter them from giving it a burn. With just a few french free moves on a couple pitches, the grade can drop down to 11- or 10+ C1. I think even aid climbers would have a blast spending some time on the route, with only a mandatory move of 10b face on pitch 2. The hauling's clean and the climbing's steep. It is possible to rap the route without too much nonsense (and with two ropes) from the top of The Great White Headwall. Though this is a an option (for slackers) I highly recommend the finish up the NE Buttress which is pretty stress free, and aesthetic, and would earn one a full tick. Feel free to PM with any questions. Hats off again to Wayne and Bob for their impressive 1989 ascent! Free Rack: dbl blue and green aliens, triple yellow alien to #1, with dbl #2's and #3's. Single set of nuts with one green HB Brassie (#5). TOPO Climbing Hot Flash Jen's TR Mucho gracias to Wayne Wallace, Max Hasson, Ryan Paulsness, Ginnie Jo Blue, Keri Carlton, Jim Nelson at Pro Mountain Sports, Adam at Leavenworth Mountain Sports, and Graham Williams at Cilogear (4 cilogear packs were used for this ascent) for their continued help and support. You guys rock! Thanks for the patience in getting this TR written, edited, and refined.
  11. Trip: Northern Pickets - FAs on Middle Challenger and West Challenger Date: 8/5/2009 Trip Report: Mario, Sandy, Keith, and I (Seth) spent the first week of August in the Northern Pickets. We climbed two new routes: * Middle Challenger, South Ridge, 1100', 5.7, 5 pitches plus 3rd/4th class terrain (August 5 2009) * West Challenger, Birthday Route (aka East Ridge), 5.9, 6 pitches (August 6 2009) On our Pickets traverse last year, we had some killer views of the West side of the Northern Pickets, which left us salivating about new route possibilities. In particular, a photo i'd taken of the South Ridge of Middle Challenger presented an obvious and appealing route. 1100' of vertical from toe to top in a wild alpine setting. A winter of staring at that picture, plus a little encouragement from Wayne (thanks Wayne!) got us motivated to head back in with some rock gear this year. photo from July 2008 (note that by August the snow band has melted out) We had more than the usual amount of pre-trip hand-wringing, with injuries, illnesses, family matters, road closures, and forecasts of thunderstorms all weighing us down. But on August 4th we were camped up at Middle Challenger col. The next day we descended the col to the base of the ridge. The climb began at the toe with fun scrambling on the ridge crest. Several steps down low presented climbing to 5.7 on cracks and ramps. Here is Keith belaying at the top of one step. We drifted left of the crest as the climb became steeper, first scrambling 4th class terrain, then pitching out 3 pitches of fun mid-fifth class climbing back onto and up the crest. Soon we were on top, enjoying the thrill of a vision becoming reality. Mario (aka "Papa Pickets" on top) Our attention turned to West Challenger the next day. From our col camp, the East ridge and Southeast face presents a compelling view, with steep slabs split by cracks, amoung outrageous scenery. Would it go for us? We debated back and forth. We decided to give it a go and find out. I led a first 5.7 pitch on blocks and slabs to the notch at the base of the ridge. After some discussion at the base, Mario and Sandy decided to let Keith and I have a crack at it with the group's two light rock racks combined into one more sizable rack (thanks guys!). The slab above looked inviting, like Castle Rock set in the Pickets. I led the pitch, following perfect hand and finger cracks with occasional face moves. Higher and higher, wondering if the route would blank out. But it just kept going. A final fingertip traverse led to a belay on the ridge crest. Wow! I whooped with excitement. This 5.9 pitch would be three stars at any crag, before even factoring in the scenery. Keith followed it, and then basked at the belay notch. Keith led an airy traverse on the crest, followed by another airy traverse left by me. Here is a photo by Keith of me starting that fourth pitch. And Keith following it. Keith led up a clean gully, setting me up for a 5.9 sequence out of an alcove, and then up blocks to the summit ridge. With our lazy mid-day start, we were now running low on time. Our turn-around time was 6pm, and it was... 5:55pm. We tagged the summit at 6. Here is a picture by Keith of me at the summit. We set a rappel route down the East face. Three double-rope rappels took us back to our boots and our good friends. It was quite a way to spend my birthday. And as such, we named it the Birthday Route. A great team, and a great time. And finally Miller Time at the Little Beaver dock. Gear Notes: Gear to 3". Light rack for the South Ridge of Middle Challenger; Medium rack for the Birthday Route on West Challenger. Approach Notes: Approached via Little Beaver and the Whatcom Peak traverse. Got quite a smoke show from the Brush Creek fire just West of Whatcom Pass.
  12. 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:
  13. Trip: Mt. Formidable - Direct NE Buttress (FA), III+, 5.9 Hicks/McBrian Date: 7/22/2009 Trip Report: On June 22, 2009 Forest McBrian and I climbed the complete NE Buttress of Mt. Formidable. This feature splits the Middle Cascade Glacier from the Formidable Glacier on the mountain’s northeast aspect. From our amazing bivy near the Middle Cascade Glacier along the Ptarmigan Traverse, we descended onto the Middle Cascade then climbed 40 degree snow to the toe of the buttress and searched for a suitable moat crossing. This dictated our starting point—at the left edge of a sidewalk/ramp system, close to a small, white crystalline band. From here, we climbed about 1000’ of new terrain, up to 5.9, before intersecting the 1962 route near the top of the buttress. The technical crux consisted of a tricky move out of a dihedral on the second pitch. Numerous pitches of less technical, but decidedly alpine terrain (a.k.a. steep, loose, nearly impossible to protect, fifth class heather) led to a snowpatch at mid-height. A couple more technical pitches to 5.8 led to the phenomenal snow arête that caps the buttress. We then climbed up and over the East Ridge pyramid that sits at the head of the Formidable Glacier (though this can be bypassed easily), probably making the second ascent of that feature (Martin Volken did the full East Ridge a few years ago). Incredibly fun and exposed ridge traversing led from the right-hand col to the true summit. Descent was made by cutting across the south face, generally traversing southeast towards the head of Flat Creek (exposed class 4/5 in spots, no rappels needed); then following the Ptarmigan Traverse route northward to the Spider-Formidable Col and back down the Middle Cascade Glacier. Our roundtrip was fifteen hours, eleven of which were spent on ascent. All things considered, our route is similar to the NE Buttress (1957) of nearby Johannesburg except that it is not guarded by 2000’+ of heinous bushwacking and the rock quality is better on Formidable. The exposed, but safe position on the buttress crest between two very active glaciers gives the route its appeal. Forest on the opening pitch Pitch 3 Snow Arete Upper East Ridge The NE Buttress Mt. Formidable Direct NE Buttress III+, 5.9 Kurt Hicks, Forest McBrian July 22, 2009 Gear Notes: A single rack to 3”; small cams most useful. One axe and crampons per person if snow conditions are firm. We placed one Lost Arrow, but other options may exist. Approach Notes: Hike to Cascade Pass then follow the Ptarmigan Traverse until able to descend down to the base of the NE Buttress.
  14. Trip: Dome Peak SE Face of SW Peak - Gran Torino FA Mike Layton & Wayne Wallace IV 5.9 Date: 7/15/2009 Trip Report: "Gran Torino" IV 5.9+ 15p. Mike Layton and Wayne Wallace SE Face of SW Dome Peak 7/15/09 Above photo by John Roper "Grand" is supposed to read "Gran" and the date is wrong. Wayne and I established the first route on the 1800' SE face. The position, climbing, protection, and rock quality were truly spectacular. I first noticed this face on my N.Cascades recon flight with John Scurlock (thanks John!). It looked like one of the biggest unclimbed faces left in the state, but the legnthy approach and unknown rock quality kept it on the to do list for four years. With the grim reality of graduating college after 11 years, and the even harsher reality of needing to work full time and relocating to SLC, I never thought I'd get a change to give it a try. Luckily Wayne and I both got time off and I flew into Seattle late Saturday night. Wayne took a little convincing. This was our plan "B" trip, as plan "A" required a better forcast on the front end. We quickly scrambled to re-pack and figure out the fastest way in to Dome. With the Downey Creek approach a literal "wash", we think we pegged what will probably become the new approach route to this area. With prototype 45L Cilogear unwoven dynema packs that clocked in at barely over one pound, ultralight CAMP carabiners, and Feathered Friends one pound custom bags (thank you Cilogear, Feathered Friends, and Pro Mountain Sports), we managed to get 8 days worth of crap in our bags without making them look like a yard sale. Wayne and I seriously geeked out over shaving every possible gram without being dangerously under supplied for weather and emergency. We took the Lady of the Lake from Fields Point to Stehekin and the Shuttle bus to the High Bridge drop point well after 3pm. (total cost with parking, boat and shuttle = $128 cash ... so bring extra bills for the bakery). We then hiked the Agnes Creek Trail for 9 miles to Spruce Creek Camp. It thundered and rumbled constantly and we finally got fully soaked by the time we pitched our tent. Thankfully the bugs hadn't hatched yet! The next day we crossed Spruce Creek and hiked for 1/2 a mile off trail until we decided to schwack up the obligatory 3500' hillside. There is a large granite buttress you can see on on the hillside for future FA'ers. From there it is a long traverse to the Spruce-Icy col where we camped again. The gunsight range loomed just above us. This is also the best approach to this range. It could be done in a moderate/heavy day, but the timing on the boat/shuttle kinda forces it to be a two day approach. The best bivy for the gunsight is past this point, however. Continue along the ridge until it turns to kitty litter with the blue glacier bordering it. From here it's only a short ways in. Day three was the tricky route finding day. We originally planned on traversing over the peaks to up and over Sinister, but after summitting peak 7875 by its east ridge, we realized this was a very bad idea. The contour lines on the map made a low traverse look dangerous, but with careful route finding we picked a way around the S.Face of Sinister (this little cirque would provide a few days of fun 2-5 pitch routes) and into the basin below dome. The basin required one lead of sketchyness to reach our high camp just below the face. I should point out that Wayne purchased a flask of Absolute 100 and put it in a platypus. This fire water somehow reacted with the plastic, and created the most awful brew. It tasted like turpentine mixed with poison. We drank it anyway and watched movies on our Ipods. Gran Torino with Clint Eastwood (my favorite movie) was that night's entertainment. At pre-dawn we cramponed around to the left side of the glacier and hopped on the ramps at the base of the face. We roped up there and immediately began climbing. We headed for a "tilted block" and climbed a great 5.8 razor layback to offwidth. We pulled an overhang into a layback dihedral and then up a 50' blank chickenhead face. Several pitches of cracks and dihedrals later we moved the belay to the right to get into the major corner system in the center of the face we dubbed the "megadihedral". The corners to get into this megadihedral were five star splitter. Variations before our corner would be excellent as well, and make the route harder above by moving the line slightly left. The megadihedral didn't offer so much gear so we face climbed on chickenheads and found fun gear on the face. It was incredibly spectacular climbing. Fun, thoughtful, a little scary since you weren't sure if the gear would blank, and wildly exposed! Two more pitches of steep crack climbing led to a steep ramp the cut right across the face. We took this ramp one pitch until we could find more cracks, and then headed up once again. We topped out at 10:30am! We were climbing with a fire under our heels to get off the face before the heat of the day was upon us. We roped up at 6:00am. To get off, we downclimbed the so far as we know, unclimbed East Ridge. The route would be around 5.6 and well protected. After the ridge, we needed to climb the next high point east to get to a col to glissade back to camp. The descent took 3-4 hours. It looked like a storm was a-brewing, and the difficult route finding around Sinister would be gun to the head shitty, so we hiked and scrambled back to that kitty litter Gunsight camp, arriving at 9pm and knackered. The next day was spent hiding from the sun and resting. We did the Gun Runner Traverse the next morning to wind down the trip, moved camp to below the pass, and bouldered for the rest of the day. To get the boat in time, we woke up at 4am and did the 12 mile hike and descent down the slope to get to the shuttle by noon. We spent our left over $4 at the bakery in the day old section, and spent the rest of the day on buses, boats, and driving home. The vast majority of the tip was spend trying to find shade under rocks. We have a lot more footage and Wayne will post his video footage shortly. -ML Gear Notes: 1.5 cam rack up to 4" (or an entire rack of .75 camalots), nuts, and slings. ice ax, crampons. one rope. Approach Notes: Stehekin to Bridge Creek to Agness Creek Trail to Spruce Creek to Spruce-Icy col. Traverse low under the towers and peaks to the garden glacier under Sinister. From here careful route finding to a platform almost level with the start of the route.
  15. 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
  16. Trip: Thread of Ice - North side of Twin Needles - Southern Pickets - FA Date: 6/26-28/2009 Trip Report: During a north to south traverse of the Picket Range last summer, I was intrigued by a couple of lines on the north side of Twin Needles: the sweeping north ridge and the 1200-ft snow/ice couloir next to it. I later discovered that these two lines were the "Thread of Gneiss" and "Thread of Ice" named by John Roper on his ascent of the Twin Needles in 1981. As far as I know, neither had ever been climbed. Here is a great photo taken by John Roper in July 1984 of the north side of Twin Needles. The Thread of Gneiss runs up the left ridge, and the Thread of Ice is the central couloir. Thread of Ice is central couloir: Wayne Wallace and Mike Layton had attempted the “Thread of Gneiss” in 2007. They had encountered a rotten fault line that was almost impassable, and deemed the buttress not worth the risk. So I turned my attention instead to the steep, skinny, shadowy, snow couloir that snakes its way to Eye Col between the two Needles. I emailed Wayne Wallace and asked if he was interested. "Heck, yeah." So, on June 26, we headed up the Barrier into the Southern Pickets, hoping that the June conditions in the couloir would be a 1200-ft continuous line of steep snow and ice. On June 27, we hit the route under ideal conditions, and had a great first ascent of what turned out to be a pretty cool route. (Note on conditions: This route is very dependent on conditions. A melt-freeze cycle could result in an amazing water ice route, heavy snows could create the potential for a challenging ski descent, or patchy/nonexistent snow and ice could make the ascent impossible. Under ideal conditions of continuous snow and ice, the route does not pose any major challenges.) I posted the TR on my website, but can't figure out how to make the html work here. So, until I figure this out, here is the link to the TR: http://sabegg.googlepages.com/threadofice Below is a video and a couple of photos to give a taste of what is in the TR on my website... Video taken by Wayne as he climbed up the route: [video:youtube] Steph topping out with the Thread of Ice stretching below: Wayne on the summit of East Twin Needle: Looking down at the Thread from the summit of West Twin Needle: MORE PHOTOS: http://cascadeclimbers.com/plab/showgallery.php?ppuser=13427&cat=500 Link to the TR on my website: http://sabegg.googlepages.com/threadofice
  17. Trip: Twin Needles, Southern Pickets - Thread of Ice, Twin Needles - FA Date: 6/26/2009 Trip Report: During a north to south traverse of the Picket Range last summer, I was intrigued by a couple of lines on the north side of Twin Needles: the sweeping north ridge and the 1200-ft snow/ice couloir next to it. I later discovered that these two lines were the "Thread of Gneiss" and "Thread of Ice" named by John Roper on his ascent of the Twin Needles in 1984. As far as I know, neither had ever been climbed. Here is a great photo taken by John Roper in July 1984 of the north side of Twin Needles. The Thread of Gneiss runs up the left ridge, and the Thread of Ice is the central couloir. Thread of Ice is central couloir: Wayne Wallace and Mike Layton had attempted the “Thread of Gneiss” in 2007. They had encountered a rotten fault line that was almost impassable, and deemed the buttress not worth the risk. So I turned my attention instead to the steep, skinny, shadowy, snow couloir that snakes its way to Eye Col between the two Needles. I emailed Wayne Wallace and asked if he was interested. "Heck, yeah." So, on June 26, we headed up the Barrier into the Southern Pickets, hoping that the June conditions in the couloir would be a 1200-ft continuous line of steep snow and ice. We hit the route under ideal conditions, and had a great first ascent of what turned out to be a pretty cool route. (Note on conditions: This route is very dependent on conditions. A melt-freeze cycle could result in an amazing water ice route, heavy snows could create the potential for a challening ski descent, or patchy/nonexistant snow and ice could make the ascent impossible. Under ideal conditions of continuous snow and ice, the route does not pose any major challenges.) I posted the TR on my website, but can't figure out how to make the html work here. So, until I figure this out, here is the link to the TR: http://sabegg.googlepages.com/threadofice Below is a video and a couple of photos to give a taste of what is in the TR on my website... Video taken by Wayne as he climbed up the route: [video:youtube] Steph near the top of the Thread of Ice: Wayne on the summit of East Twin Needle: Link to the TR: http://sabegg.googlepages.com/threadofice
  18. Trip: Mt. Stuart - Mixed Blessing (previously undocumented) Date: 5/24/2009 Trip Report: About five years ago, I made a trip in to the North Side of Mt Stuart at Memorial Day with Travis Hammond. The weather turned crappy, and we didn't climb anything, but we did observe three undocumented ice lines on the north face of the West Ridge between the Stuart Glacier Couloir and the NW Buttress Route. I've watched those lines each spring since then, and on a quick recon on May 2 this year, found them coming into perfect shape. Had to work harder than I expected to find a partner, (Shipman was working, Tarver in Alaska, Flick had family commitments, etc. blah-blah)but finally succeeded in recruiting Bill (Dobby) Dobbins for an attempt on the Holiday weekend. Dobby picked me up at my home in 11-worth at 0600 Saturday morning, for a suitably early start on the Stuart Lake trail, then in classic CFCC (if you don't know, you probably don't want to...) form, remembered two miles up the trail that he'd neglected to hang/display his parking permit before leaving the trailhead. So I got an hour nap while Dobby (remember this guy, like me,is in his mid-50s) jogged four miles down to the car and back in his Sportiva Nepals to prevent ticketage. We still managed to stagger to Stuart Lake before noon, although Dobby was actin' pretty whipped by then. Continued on snowshoes beyond the lake to the end of the meadow/swamps at the base of the Stuart Glacier moraines, where we elected to camp and get a good rest rather then try to hump our camping gear up the steep moraine to the glacier in the afternoon sloppy snow. An 0200 start Sunday morning yielded perfect neve for effortless cramponing up the moraine, and we gained the Stuart Glacier just as the morning brightened enough to turn off the headlamps. Of the three lines I'd observed two weeks earlier, two were mostly gone, but the center line still held a decent pillar of ice reaching to snowfields that access the crest of the West Ridge. We ate, drank, roped and racked and started on the pillar. Being the old, frail, lazy guys we are, we'd elected to bring only a single 60-meter half/twin rope, so we doubled it over for the first steep pitches, and limited ourselves to 30 meters between belays. Six pitches of stellar WI3 with the odd mixed move here and there brought us to the snowfields where we unfolded the rope and climbed five more 60-meter pitches to the crest of the NW Buttress where we had to decide whether to continue up the old route, or call it done and descend the NW Buttress with enough time to get all the way out that night. Being old and frail and lazy, and already intimately familiar with the summit, of course we bailed. Unfortunately, the Stuart Deity chose that time to become obstreperous. The lovely snow chute I had identified two weeks earlier, and planned to slide down on my behind, had melted out during those two weeks. We couldn't see far enough to be sure, but the top looked sorta rocky-ugly. We started downclimbing anyway. After several hours, we came to the "edge of the world" just as it was getting dark enough to pull the headlamps back out. Not being able to see past the edge, of course we rappeled. Then we rappeled again... And again... Six rappels later, we finally tagged the Stuart Glacier in pitch darkness - and stumbled on down to our tent, arriving at 1230. Ten hours up, twelve down. I suggest following parties simply rappel the route... As Dobby kept sayin: "Ahm tard!" to which I would respond "me too; does that make me re-tard?" Tard & Re-tard, twin alpine clowns... but we did git-er-done Summary: Mount Stuart, north side of West Ridge: "Mixed Blessing": IV, WI-3, M-0 Gear: one 60-meter half/twin rope; three stoppers from 1/4" to 3/4"; three hexes from 1" to 3"; six cams from 3/4" to 3.5"; one long, one medium, & one short ice screw; one knifeblade, one lost arrow, and two Leeper Z-pegs, eight alpine-style quickdraws, and about 60' of accessory cordage which was almost entirely gone by the end of the descent... and we used pretty much every piece at least once...
  19. Trip: Greybeard Peak - East Face Date: 5/16/2009 Trip Report: Dan Helmstadter and I climbed and skied the East Face of Greybeard (on maps appears as eastern terminus of Ragged ridge just E of Easy Pass, elevation 7965’) on Saturday. I haven't seen any record of this being climbed or skied; would be curious to hear if any of you have heard tales. The climb alone as a moderate alpine objective is worthy and recommended; its proximity to the road makes it that much more appealing. A few weeks ago, somebody had posted a shot of this face, unnamed, on a report from Cutthroat (I think)—looked intriguingly possible. Then last week a couple buddies and I were on Mt Hardy and noticed the east face looking pretty fat—perhaps probable. Greybeard East and North Faces: The obligatory Scurlock photo: http://www.pbase.com/nolock/image/53643445 On Friday evening I drove up towards Swamp Creek and saw that the face had melted out some from a week ago, but still appeared relatively do-able. What the heck, give it a try and if it’s not good, bail or descend some other aspect (the southwest is more mellow)… evening east face We started climbing from 6100’ at around 3:30am after a solid freeze, and availed ourselves of a NE-facing couloir to gain a rib and ultimately the east face proper. Runnels in the couloir initially made for ready sticks with axes and crampons, but abruptly morphed into chunder-wonder variability. The climbing on the ribs and faces above was often steep and entertaining; I recall at one point left hand to rock hold, right hand to axe in snice, left foot post-holed, and right foot kicked into ice—what was next was a guess. Route-finding slowed us down a bit, as did two crampon failures for Dan, which he handily repaired. Luckily, clouds kept the sun at bay, urging us upward. above the couloir difficulties on the face last stretch to summit The views from the summit didn’t disappoint. Goode et al Dan and Black Peak sunlit Mt Logan, Arriva foreground Jack Mtn S Face w/ lenticular and Crater Peak The skiing was classic “spring variable”. We had gained the summit at a bit before 8, and as it had been cloudy all morning, waited for the sun to come out and work some magic on the icy patina found on most of the snow we had climbed. When the sun finally came out full-force at 11 a.m., it was forceful, and our worry turned from too crusty to too soft. For the most part we enjoyed soft-snow turns on the face. up at summit turns We had to down-climb a couple sections due to either grave avy conditions or too-rocky chocolate-chip sections. We finally jumped a little step to finish the c. 1700'face, and skied a ridge feature to my bivy site at 6100’, making for a c. 1900’ run. link1 link2 Perhaps this face will come into better shape (i.e., ski-able in full) in future years after a more robust snowfall for this area. Taken later that afternoon with Rainier in hand: route up in red, down in green edit: guess I used the wrong "shortcut" for showing images. will try to fix later...if any of you mods have helpful suggestions...
  20. Trip: Seton Lake - FA-Piss 'n' Vinegar-450m 4+ Date: 3/13/2009 Trip Report: I generally dont write a TR for ice cragging but these routes deserve some traffic! I think everyone who has thumbed through the west coast ice guide has passed the seton lake section and probably thought those are some cool sounding routes. I actually think Don has under estimated the quality of these lines, these are must do routes and every one is 5 stars. I had been trying to get down the lake for the last few weekends but every time we prepared to leave high winds would be forecast causing us to cancel. Our mode of transportation was a canoe, a rather precarious mode of travel when loaded up with tonnes of gear. Therefore we needed a calm lake and we needed it to be calm all day, so not wanting to fully commit we decided to load up bivy gear as well. All for making a low riding canoe. I spent Thursday working and trying to come up with a wind forecast for Seton lake, once I was convinced it was worth a shot I drove up to Whistler picked up Bruce Kay and we headed to Lillooet for the night. Now there just had to be climbable ice. 4 Pines tried to charge us 80$ so we wandered over to the Mile-0. The next morning we were at the lake before sun up and paddling towards the first set of climbs. What a surreal and somewhat frightening experience, Bruce joked that the life jackets would just prolong our death in the icy lake and possibly a gun would be a wiser choice if we were to capsize. First set of bluffs, left to right Deliverance far left then the unformed Squeal Like a Pig and Fishin Musician Click photos for larger shot Fishin Musician Comedy of errors I missed a shot of but it just looks phenomenal as a narrow alpine couloir!!! Bruce and I had our sights on something larger, the 400m+ flow of Winter Water Sports, which lies further down the lake. Looking at the guide this behind Belmore gully may be the biggest line in the guide? A worthy destination so we pressed on. Water Sports from the Canoe, Ice Capades can be seen at the end, its about an hour canoe ride in calm winds Winter Water Sports on the left fully in to the water, as opposed to the first ascent where they climbed rock for 80 m to reach the ice. The right hand line is the new route Piss n Vinegar and looks discontinuous. We continued on the right on the upper wall in total about 10 pitches. Dock your canoe in a little niche at a single bolt then start climbing, make sure to keep the boat out of the line of fire of ice though. views are unique!! Looking up halfway Crux pitch Lillooet and Seton lake Almost done the route and the photo overload We topped out in a strong wind and with white caps on the lake I wondered if we should descend to a barren cold ledge or camp in the forest and make a fire. We decided to head down and see what happens. Besides the sleeping bags were down there. We were concerned about falling ice in the warm temps so we rapped the vertical forested face to climbers right, and after 8 raps we hit the canoe. I was pretty tired and the hour long paddle home seemed hard on my shoulders. However once we hit the middle of the lake the wind picked up and started broad siding the canoe with waves, this brought renewed power and we bee lined for shore, not the quickest route but having land within swimming distance seemed comforting. The waves were larger here though and as we neared the car the wind started howling, I could see the mist from crashing waves in the parking lot lights being whipped against the truck. Thankfully we were close just another 100 feet but the waves were getting big finally one swamps the canoe Bruce yells and then we slide up on the beach, safe. Then it was beer and a long drive home.. So if your full of Piss n Vinegar there are some great routes available and they come with a most memorable experience just an hours paddle away.. Approach Notes: Notes A Row Boat would be better, The wind forecast is for Lytton which is the windiest place in the interior. Either go dead calm or call Environment Canada for a forecast. You can scope Winter Water from just after the bridge going South before Seton lake boat launch. There is a very high possibility that you could walk to Comedy of Errors et al.
  21. Trip: Dewdney Creek/Coquihalla Hwy - FA Toll Free - 200m WI3 M5 Date: 2/8/2009 Trip Report: I did a little bit of ice scouting on Saturday up the Coquihalla. There is very little snow up there except right around the pass. Looks like it was cold enough for ice to form last week from snowmelt, and it is melting out a bit. Jarvis Bluffs had a bunch of rotten ice. Shady stuff higher up was in - Drool In the Lotus, Thinking Outside the Box and the shadier stuff in Box Canyon looked fat and blue. The Box Canyon approach is not in great shape, though, due to the low snowpack although someone was parked there and maybe climbing on Saturday. Driving back down the highway I saw some unclimbed ice up high on the north-facing side of the Dewdney Creek drainage and ended up enticing Doug out to climb it on Sunday. From the road it looked like a large flow of blue ice with a couple of separate possible finishes. I guessed maybe 2 pitches at WI3-4. Sunday morning I met Doug in Agassiz at 7 and we were parked and hiking not long after 8. We wandered up the north side logging road in Dewdney Creek about 2km until right across from the climb then found logs to cross the creek on. The approach is up a shallow drainage betwen two heli-cutblocks, and was easy walking on old avvy debris. Looking up from the logging road at the route. At the top of the cutblocks the drainage splts into two gullies; we took the right-hand one. There was melting rotten ice in this drainage, low-angled but hollow; we had to avoid a couple of short sections in the forest to the right. We gained about 200m up this drainage and then got to fatter ice where the route started. Doug in the approach gully. The route turned out to be a lot longer than I had estimated. The first rope-stretcher pitch (61m WI2+) went up an easy flow to a short wall of steeper ice, and got us into a large bowl with three massive, blue flows of ice in it. The right-hand line was the lowest angle but longest while the central and left lines were shorter but steeper. It was starting to warm up noticeably as clouds rolled in and we saw a bit of ice- and rock-fall so decided to climb the lowest angle line. We climbed a 60m WI2 pitch, then a 40m WI3 pitch to a ledge below the final pillar. It was Doug's fourth ever day on ice and first multipitch ice route - I kept offering him the lead and he kept declining. Maybe the fact he was using my old Pulsars had something to do with it. Doug seconding the long second pitch. We moved the belay 20m left on the ledge to the left side of the final pillar, then I led off. The ice was steppy and rotten on the left but solid and blue just to my right so I was able to get in a few good screws. I got to what looked like the top of the route (25m WI3) only to find it had melted out - I was balanced on the rim of a hollow tube. Between me and the nearest solid belay tree there was a 5m gap consisting of moss-covered, unfrozen vertical and overhanging choss with a couple of perched detached ice blobs about 2m diameter. I tiptoed across the lip of the ice tube and started grunging around with my tools looking for drytooling holds. Everything was pretty slopey and the moss was not frozen enough to turf-tool. I balanced up a couple of holds, ripping out massive clods of moss and mud, and at full reach managed to hook an incut flake under an overhang; it flexed a bit but held my weight. I mantled onto the head of my hooked tool and was able to reach up with my other hand and snag a thick devil's club stem over the overhang and then pull on it like a madman and beached-whale over into the forest above. I got up to a solid cedar tree and carefully felt the back of my pants to see if I had shat myself or not. Just then two of the ice blobs below that I had tiptoed around cut loose, funnelled down the route and laid a beating on Doug at the belay, giving his pack a good pounding while he cowered under it. Doug climbed up to me, climbing the ice easily but using some of the rope to yard his way through the mixed section. We sat down in the forest above the climb and had a bit of a breather to calm down and stop shaking. Rapping back down the route now seemed out of the question so we decided to try and walk off. We found a decent set of benches and ledges to descend to the west of the drainage, although there were a few sections of face-in frontpointing on frozen moss to link the benches. At around the same elevation as the base of the climb we got cliffed out and had to rap 30m off a tree. Forest rappeling. We grabbed our poles from the bottom of the gully and hiked out the way we had come, arriving back at the car around 5. It's great to have the longer days in February Ride'em cowboy log crossing. Overall this was a pretty fun climb except for the last 5m, which were definitely some of the hardest, chossiest and most scary mixed climbing I have ever done. Probably a colder day with the top of the route bonded would be a much better time to do this climb. Gear Notes: Screws and draws and helmet. Thick gloves help when yarding on Devils Club. Approach Notes: Park at Carolin Mines u-turn route and walk south on the highway about 300m to the narrow strip of land between the Coquihalla and Dewdney bridges. Cut into the forest to pick up the gas pipeline and follow it back to Dewdney FSR. Walk up Dewdney FSR to an open gate at around 2km, and just beyond the gate look south to see the route. Cross Dewdney Creek on logs and plug c.500m up the hillside to the route, which is at c. 1000m elvation.
  22. Trip: Enchantments, The Flagpole FWA 2-7-2009 - The Flagpole Date: 2/8/2009 Trip Report: Saturday Kyle Flick and I climbed the Flagpole in amazing weather: Warm sun in the day, full moon at night that was our headlamp all the way back to Icicle Road. We started around 4:30am on skis at Bridge Creek Campground. The dirt patch near the start of the road is slowly getting bigger, but the road is still skiable from the trailhead down to that point. We skinned up to the Colchuck Lake turnoff and stashed the skis, since we knew the trail up to the lake is icy and totally not worth the skin nor the ski down. As it turned out, no where in the Enchantements is worth skiing at this point. Maybe in March? We had perfect cramponing up Asgaard, and across the upper plateau. No postholing whatsoever. We climbed Flagpole last Sprng, so we had the approach dialed in. We approached via the dry gully just West of Little Annapurna. By the time we reached the base of the climbing, 10 hours had elapsed. We knew when we started climbing at 2pm we would be deproaching in the dark, but with these perfect conditions we weren't in any hurry. Kyle led the first mixed pitch, easy terrain with a snow/ice ramp to a bush belay. On the second pitch, I threw on my rockshoes, and Ade's lucky legwarmers. The climbing was on warm rock free of any snow or ice, which brought us to the base of the Flagpole's bolt ladder. I clipped through the ladder, using my rivet hangers on the old bolts which don't accept carabiners of any size. The finishing 5.8 offwidth move takes a #5 (new size) camalot, followed by some easy but very exposed moves on the arete. Kyle lowered me off and clip cleaned the ladder. By the time he touched down, it was dusk. Having two ropes for the two raps is very useful. We slogged back out the gully and popped out onto the upper Enchantments in bright moonlight. We would not use the headlamps again until we got into the trees. I've skied the trail from the trail cutoff three times so far this season, and not once have I done it without the skins still on. It's total survival "skiing". We chatted with a couple poor souls walking the road, who had climbed the Colchuck's NBC, which looked okay by the way. There does appear to be a couple rock steps with no ice in it. However, they had no problems surmounting those. By 1:30am 21 hours after starting out, we staggered back to the car, vowing to never slog that road again until the f$@%er is melted out! Contrived mixed hike up Asgaard Pass. This can be easily avoided. The upper Enchantments. Looking South towards Mt. Rainier, Ingalls Creek. Descent down gully. The Flagpole and Pennant Peak On the approach. Kyle on the first mixed pitch. Me starting the second pitch, replete with Ade's lucky legwarmers. Starting the bold ladder. On top. Looking down from the top of the Flagpole. Kyle Flick photo. Looking East from the top of the Flagpole. Kyle Flick photo. Stuart in the sunset. Kyle Flick photo. Thanks to Ade Miller who let us use some critical gear, not least of which were the '80s era legwarmers, which have quite a bit of magic left in them.
  23. Trip: Strobach - FA: Ponderosa Pillar WI5 65m Date: 2/1/2009 Trip Report: Alpine Monkey and I (Bryan Schmitz) went into Strobach for some ice this weekend and ended up having a great time. The snow conditions were pretty prime, no post holing. We began at the Motherlode area on Saturday. Me looking pretty jazzed for the Hike in after the 2:15am wake up and the three and half hour drive that followed. Hiking In Some cool looking rock or dirt? 2 + hours later we arrive!!! In the words of Frank Snaders, "i am here now" Dropline through Bleeder Project Strobach Unclimbed A & B. Now strobach Unclimbed A & Ponderosa Pillar Me high up the route, the route was about 70 feet longer than we thought, topped it out and rapped off a tree. God look at all those screws what was I doing? First on The Right Left side of the watchtower Area We climbed the tongue and Hidden Delight on sunday A possible "Winter Dance" of Strobach in the upper left of the photo. The Watchtower, NOT Touching, to bad, but a good reason to return later. Approach Notes: Hwy 12 Tieton Road just east of rimrock lake, head through the woods towards Strobach Mountain. Follow directions in WA state ice. You can see the climbs on Strobach across the lake and would be a good way to check conditions if you had a scope.
  24. Trip: Dragontail - Chasing the Dragon Part 2 - Backbone Ridge, FWA Date: 1/16/2009 Trip Report: Here's the TR and some pictures. You can find even more pictures in my gallery here. When John Plotz emailed me last weekend completely convinced that conditions on Dragontail’s Backbone Ridge were going to be perfect I have to say I was skeptical. Previous experience told me the Colchuck Lake basin was bitterly cold most of the winter. But local knowledge is local knowledge and it’s not like I had anything else planned for the end of the week. So… Thursday morning found me standing at the Eight Mile trailhead waiting or John and Kyle to arrive so we could ski into the lake. If winter climbing in the Cascades demands nothing else it demands optimism. We skied up the road in the cold fog convinced warmer air lay above the inversion. Kyle had originally planned to accompany us to the trailhead and possibly further but a fall the previous week had left him with a back injury and he wished us luck and turned back shortly after we left the cars. John and I continued skinning up the trail. The previous week’s rain had reduced the snow cover and it was mostly easy going all the way to the lake. Either that or my skinning has improved which doesn’t seem that likely. At the lake we retrieved a cached rope and some large cams and pitched a tent on the edge of the ice. We planned to climb the route in a single day figuring we might be able to rappel from the base of the Fin into the top of the Triple Couloirs route and climb that for a quick finish if darkness looked like it was going to overtake us. Being benighted would not be fun. An early start was in order… John gearing up at the base of the route. The following morning John and I left the tent just before six and hiked the twelve hundred or so feet up from the lake up to the base of the route at 6,800’. The snow was really well consolidated so we made really good going and reached the base by around dawn just after seven. We geared up on the moraine and I set off to the start of the route. In winter the lower part of the route climbs a shallow gully and then traverses easy angled snow slopes first left and then back right to the base of the 5.6 corner a pitch below the off-width. We simul-climbed the snow to the corner using trees as belays. Soft snow made it seem like hard work but at least it was really easy climbing. There are actually two obvious corners below the off-width, in winter the left hand one looks to be the better option. It had less ice than on my previous attempt a few years ago with Alasdair. The snow ended in a short ice smear up the base of the corner. We drytooled and then rock climbed the corner to the obvious tree anchor. Probably at about M4 or so – because every Cascades route seems to get M4 these days. John following the last of the snow above the mixed corner. We put away the boots, crampons and ice tools and put on rock shoes and, in my case, attractive 80s style leg warmers. The warm temps and rock shoes allowed John to make short work of the pitch Alasdair and I had spent ages aiding on our last attempt. Heavy packs made the first 5.6 moves feel like hard work though. By 9:30 we we at the base of the off-width corner which had some snow deep in the crack but was pretty much dry. We broke out the aiders and big green Camalot. I was worried the corner might really slow us down but a combination of aid, French free and free climbing soon had me hauling packs and John following the corner. The wall above looked largely free of snow. John belaying the off-width. We were able to free climb the 5.8 pitches above the off-width to gain easier ground on the ridge crest below the Fin. We simul-climbed the forth class pitches to the base of the Fin. All really fun climbing without much of the unpleasantness usually associated with winter climbing. In fact other than the overly heavy packs, it was all starting to seem a bit too easy. Leading the 5.8 pitches above the off-width. Very dry conditions. From the base of the Fin we could see directly into the upper of the Triple couloirs. Like everything else on the face snow cover was thin. As we were watching a TV sized block came bouncing down the gully dislodging other rocks and taking them into the lower couloir. This made our cunning escape plan seem a whole lot less cunning. John led the first pitch up from the base of the Fin across the ledges. Which is where Dragontail started to bite back. There was a lot more verglass on the slabs and icing in the cracks than we’d found lower down making the climbing somewhat harder and hard to protect. John did a great job of making it to the belay ledge in the middle of the Fin without being able to get much gear. Working up towards the ledge belay on the Fin. I led a short pitch up the face but was stopped as grove above me was filled with snow. Further up the remainder of the crack system was completely iced in and not in a fun mixed sort of way. I belayed John up to our high point and we examined our options. These seemed somewhat limited given that we are over a dozen pitches up the route and our bailout option of the Triple Couloirs looking very unattractive. Other than the groove leading right there was another set of cracks to the left. I remembered a topo showing the left hand variation so we opted to give it a go, neither of us actually having done it before in summer. It seemed like the only, and therefore best plan. John starting the left hand variation on the Fin. John headed up the first series of cracks to a great belay at the start of a rightwards traversing rack system. While the cracks weren’t iced in you definitely had to be careful where you put your hands and feet as there was much more icing than lower on the route. I climbed the cracks right and ended up in an obvious notch in the crest of the fin and belayed John up. We were rewarded with a fantastic position and amazing view of the surrounding peaks and the lake far below. On the minus side the sun was starting to set over Colchuck and it was getting cold. The Fin traverse. OK. So it's now cold. I’d been to the notch before in summer while exploring another variation – usually called “being off route” - and vaguely remember a loose ledge system on the back side of the fin. The ledges led to another notch, onto the front of the Fin and then ultimately to the summit. Of course in winter this turned out to be covered in either ice or soft snow. We quickly changed out of rock shoes and into boots. It was now past 4pm and darkness would be on us in under an hour. John doing the business on the final section of ridge. The traverse was slow going with many loose blocks waiting for the unwary. After a little aid and a lot of cursing we regained the ridge crest just as it got truly dark. Rather than continue traversing the summer route’s iced in ledge system we opted to put rock shoes back on and simul-climb the crest of the rock ridge. I belayed in the dark as John grunted up another easy (in summer, in daylight) off-width to the ridge crest and continued along it. He ran out of gear just below the summit. I followed the cracks - more swearing and grunting - and finished off the final fifty feet of mixed rock and snow gaining the top just after 6pm (total time on route about eleven hours). I know what you're thinking. We did NOT stop to take drugs on the summit. It just looks that way. We took a few photos and headed down. The descent was straightforward except for a short section of scree at the top of Asgard Pass we were able to plunge step most of the way to the tent for a round trip time of about fourteen hours. Next morning we left camp early the and John skied and I slid down the the trailhead. Yes, there is a difference. How anyone can ski with a forty pound pack on is beyond me, I half expected John to rail slide the handrails on the bridges over the creek. Either way we made it to the trailhead were we were met by Kyle. We swapped stories and then skied down the road to the cars. John skiing out across the lake. By 2pm I was waiting in Starbucks in Leavenworth with the other sheeple trying to get a coffee for the drive home. A full value trip and the weekend wasn’t even half over with. Thanks to... This has been a project of mine for the best part of five years since climbing the Serpentine Ridge in winter with Alasdair Turner in 2005. Numerous winter attempts with Alasdair, including one that failed above the off-width, and several summer rehearsals with Forrest, Justin and John and Kyle Flick all contributed to being able to make the most of the weather this time and get it done. Thanks to everyone who’s tried this route with me – summer or winter – and especially John for watching the weather and being an excellent partner for the trip. Summary First Winter Ascent of the Backbone Ridge (Weigelt-Bonneville, 1970) with Fin Direct left hand variation (Anderson-Brugger, 1974). Ade Miller and John Plotz, Jan 16th 2009 (2000’, 5.9 A1 mixed). The route follows the summer line climbing easy snow to the base of the 5.6 corner. Climb the corner system (mixed) to a tree (possible belay) and continue up rock to the base of the offwidth. The the route to the Fin crest is as described in Beckey. On reaching the crest traverse the south side of the Fin on loose icy ledges (mixed, one pt. aid) to regain the crest at an obvious notch. We avoided further ledge systems on the north side of by climbing up to the crest and traversing towards the summit. Gear Notes: Full rock rack to #6 Camalot with some doubles in the mid-sizes. Pins (KBs and Angles) not used. Ice tools and crampons required, we took one heavy set for the leader and a light weight set for the second. Double ropes increase your options should you have to bail. Approach Notes: Ski or snowshoe from the Icicle road. Good trail to lake. See Colchuck Lake conditions thread for more details.
  25. Trip: Near Hope - F.A - Family Man , 150m WI2+ Date: 12/26/2008 Trip Report: So MikeW and I were going to climb Hell's Lake Falls or something up the Fraser Canyon but just past the gas line crossing the fraser while heading east towards Hope we spotted a line running up a corner/gully on the cliff left of the road. We parked and geared up at a small pullout 100m east of the route and walked over to the base. I took the first lead which climbed low angle thin ice to the right of the prominent right-facing corner. Where the angle decreased and the ice became thinner I moved left to the corner where I scrambled up low angle mixed rock and ice to a blob of ice decent enough for a belay. (50m WI2 M0) Mike climbed a few meters of low angle ice past the belay to a snow terrace then a few more meters of low angle ice to a tree below the main gulley. This could probably just be soloed or some simul climbing could be done to combine pitches 1 and 2. (25m Wi2-) Mike took off on lead again as the last section had been short and easy. He climbed up the gulley on more low angle ice towards a prominent rock buttress where we took the left hand branch (the right hand branch looked like more low angle ice). This narrow gulley to left of the rock buttress had the most enjoyable climbing of the route, climbing up several short, steep bulges then staying to the right to avoid some bushes. Mike then belayed below the most prominent bulge as he ran out of rope. (50m WI2+) I took the last lead up the final steep bulge, then up more low angle ice moving right into an easy rock dihedral(to avoid bushes)leading to the forest above. (25m WI2+ M0) I saw some more ice in the woods above so we hiked up to the base of it. There were many options on this flow ranging from about WI2+ to WI4+. I wanted to climb a fine looking pillar but Mike had to be back in Hope with his family for the evening so we headed down, hence the name of our climb. All lines on this wall remain unclimbed. We rapped the route off V-Threads and Trees in 4 raps. Stupid me did all this in my thin lead gloves and my fingers froze until they were too weak to shove back into my toasty belay gloves. In fact I'm having trouble typing this report as my fingers are still thawing out I will post pics when Mike sends them to me... or Mike will just post them himself. Gear Notes: A few Stubbies, some med - long screws, rap tat... 50m or 60m ropes... Approach Notes: The climb is located between the gas line crossing the Fraser and Hell's Lake off Highway 7 near Hope. Look for a large prominent corner system on the cliffs above the road (where there are no nets covering the cliff) The climb follows this system staying left of the rock rib near the top.