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Trip: South Face of Bonanza, Dome Peak, 12 days Solo - 50 Shades of Cray... Date: 8/16/2014 Trip Report: Alpine soloing is an expedition into oneself. If you’d like to know yourself better, your strengths and weaknesses, your talents and fears, your ambition and breaking point, alpine soloing is a lens to bring those things into sharp focus. It’s been said in this world that “Success has many Fathers but failure was a bastard.” When one solos success has one Father, failure has one Father. I failed last year on Bonanza Peak. http://cascadeclimbers.com/forum/ubbthreads.php?ubb=showflat&Number=1113434 Below: South Face of Bonanza Peak That failure, that unfinished business didn’t leave my mind all year. I wanted badly to come back and avenge my loss. 50 weeks later I was again camped at Hart Lake just west of The Hyper Holy Hamlet of Holden Washington; they’re card carrying members of the ELCA, that’s the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Remember, if you come to Holden to climb you can give your heart to Jesus but your ass belongs to the Cascades. Maybe the NPS could take a lesson on hospitality from Holden, here’s a short vid showing how Holden feels about climbers… [video:youtube] My preparations had been much more thorough this year and it paid off; it made the whole affair a lot less anxious for me. Thou I started this 15 day solo with a slight stomach ailment that I assumed would go away on its own. Below: South Face of Bonanza Peak At first light I set out for the South Face of Bonanza Peak by way of the Isella Glacier. You simply stroll west on Trail 1256 from Hart lake camp for 300 yards to an open area where you can see up the south face of Bonanza, it’s here that you leave the trail and head up and left on a series of ramps before cutting back right into the upper basin on Bonanzas south side. There you will find the Isella Glacier which you cross to access a 100 foot snow ramp that leads to the rock climb. The climbing is mostly 4th class with interspaced 5th class moves and it would go in 5 or 6 pitches. The rock quality deteriorates the higher you climb until near the summit you can break off about any hold you grab. This route is described in the Becky Guide as the South Face route and he called it unverified. Let me verify that the 1971 South Face route on Bonanza goes, nice send to Patricia and Charles Raymond. Here is Becky’s description of Bonanza from his Cascade Alpine Guide. “The complexity of the mountain, loose rock, and attendant route finding problems renders the ascent of Bonanza very questionable in anything but settled weather. Its sheer size and height above the protection of the timber zone, its treacherous couloirs and snow conditions, make it an accent of character. Rain will start dangerous stonefall. Warm temperatures in early summer that cause extensive snowmelt will also cause stonefall; rocks may also fall in late summer when the firn cementing scree in the couloirs disappears. In many respects, Bonanza has something of the quality of the largest Peaks in the Alps and Canadian Rockies. A very early start is wise.” Below: South Face of Bonanza Peak [video:youtube] Near the top you can go right or left into respective gullies, I think the right one is the better choice. When I went into the left gully the rock quality worsened quickly, I was climbing with the rope on my back and estimated that I had 120 feet of mid fifth class above me to gain the summit ridge. At one point lots of holds were braking off, both hand and footholds, and there was no place for protection, I was worried about moving up or down. I had two options now, right or left. Left looked hard but I could only see right for 10 feet then it went around a corner. I had now eclipsed common sense and waded into fully cray. I chose right and moved to the blind spot, around the corner there was a ledge. Now I’ve been climbing for a long time, and have always heard the term “Thank God Ledge” without having a real understanding. Please allow me to posit a more concise definition; a “Thank God Ledge” is any ledge that a climber arrives on and the words spilling from your lips are “THANK YOU GOD, THANK YOU GOD!!!!” The remarkable thing about that is I’m an explicit Atheist. he he The summit was only 30 or 40 more feet on an easy ridge crest. [video:youtube] Below: South Face of Bonanza Peak Snow Ramp at the top of the Isella Glacier [video:youtube] [video:youtube] It’s deceptive because on paper the route looks really strait forward. You simply climb up the southern side of this peak for 5500 feet. But to put it in perspective I soloed the Torment Forbidden Traverse car to car sub 10 hours. http://cascadeclimbers.com/forum/ubbthreads.php?ubb=showflat&Number=1080659 It took me 13 hours and 55 minutes to solo Bonanza tent to tent from Hart Lake. I climbed in the same style and with the same equipment and was in better shape for Bonanza. So if you’re going climb Bonanza tent to tent from Hart Lake come early, bring lunch. I have to admit that I sat down and cramped for a half hour on the way up and tried to take a shortcut from the basin back to the ramps on my decent costing another half hour. So it will go sub 13 and prolly sub 12 for a bad-ass. Also, please let me know if you or any climber you know has soloed Bonanza Peak. O and the summit box on Bonanza is not water tight anymore and needs to be replaced. The summit register was soaked and unreadable. Could some kind soul please take a new box and summit register up there next year? Lyman Lake from Cloudy Pass Glacier PeaK from Miners Ridge Dome Peak was next on my agenda and that would require moving up to the southern end of The Ptarmigan Traverse. The trail heads west to Cloudy and Suiattle Passes then out Miners ridge to Image Lake and on north to Canyon Lake and up to Ross Pass, moving further north I crossed the ridge crest between Sinister and Gunsight and dropped north onto the Chikamin Glacier. Looking North to Dome and Sinister Peaks Sinister on the right The locals at Ross Pass Looking south across Ross Pass to Glacier Peak [video:youtube] Gunsight on the right, Sinister on the left West Face of Gunsight Peak West Face of Gunsight Peak West Face of Bonanza Peak Looking west up the Chickimin Glacier to Dome Peak [video:youtube] The day turned grey then rainy obscuring the crevasses on the Chikamin and making me feel like a rat in a maze picking through the late season problem. You basically carry over Dome peak by bivying at 8600ft just north of the summit. At one point in the late afternoon I thought I heard voices above me, the next day I read Mark Webster’s name in the summit register. Did you see me Mr. Webster? I ran out of light and bivyed on a loose rock cliff that I had to climb to bypass a crevasse blocking the way up. [video:youtube] In the morning I wasn’t feeling well and I was out of water. My stomach issues had only worsened, diarrhea made it impossible to properly hydrate or get any decent nutrients in me. The summit was so close that I thought I’d tag it and then move west off the mountain across the Dome Glacier where water would be plentiful. Dome’s main peak is an easy third class scramble and I was soon on top. I wanted to tag the southwest summit and had read that it’s a strait forward 4th class scramble with a little 5th on solid rock. Loose slabs lead to the ridge crest and I pushed forward coming to dead ends and trying it different ways. My stomach felt woozy and my legs felt weak, I was suddenly very aware of my position and imagined myself tomahawking down the cliff below. “What’s going on with you” I lamented to myself! One of my main tenets with free soloing is that I have to feel 100% and everything has to feel right: this felt wrong. Free soloing is the ultimate expression of freedom but the other side of that coin is you are always one move from your last move. As much as I wanted to tag Dome Southwest I turned my back to it and now have more unfinished business up there. [video:youtube] Moving west across the Dome glacier I met three Cascade Hard Men; it was Luke Shy, Joshua Ricardi and Josh Henderson. They had biked in the finished but unopened Suiattle River Road and hiked up Downey then Bachelor creeks to Cub lake. They said the road is really nice; I for one can’t wait for Momma Nature to come around and put things back into natural order of things. Meaning I can’t wait for a landslide to close the road again because Wilderness and access aren’t symbiotic. These guys are all about to kick the door down to the Bulger Club; their peak count is in the 90’s. Way to get after it Fellas! Looking East on the Chickimin Glacier toward Gunsight Dome Peak from Itsawoot Ridge Dome Peak from Itsawoot Ridge I was smoked from a week of climbing, hiking and diarrhea so I decided to shut it down for 24 hours on Itswoot Ridge for some much needed rest. It was there that Steve and his two Friends came south off of The Ptarmigan Traverse; they had done it in two days from Cascade Pass fast and light. I enquired as to the condition of the traverse and Steve gave me some great beta. He told me that one team had turned back at the Le Conte Glacier because of the late season conditions. He showed me pics and described their passing of the Le Conte Glacier as difficult and dangerous. He recommended that I not travel alone on the Le Conte Glacier and that finding the route down from above would be difficult. Steve even gave me some printed beta on how to go around the Le Conte Glacier by way of Hahalkl Pass (6400ft); which I never did figure out and is still a mystery to me. Does anyone know about the Hahalkl pass or its whereabouts please? Steve thanks so much for your beta! Gunsight from White Rock lakes From Left, Gunsight Peak, Chickimin Glacier, Dome Peak, Dana Glacier, Spire Point from White Rock Lakes. White Rock Lakes Dome and White Rock Lake from the head of the South Cascade Glacier. Looking North at Sentinel and Old Guard Peaks. [video:youtube] The next day I moved up to Spire Col and dropped my big pack to have a try at Spire Point. At the base of the rock climb I again felt too weak to responsibly climb and this was first time I admitted to myself that I may be sicker than I thought. I went back to my pack and headed down to White Rock Lakes and spent the night. I made the decision to stop climbing and just try to move north along the Ptarmigan Traverse. The next day I moved up to the head of the South Cascade Glacier and walked down the glacier to South Cascade Lake, that’s when I saw the mess that the USGS has left up there over the years. I went far off the traverse to avoid the Le Conte Glacier on Steve’s advice, movement continued over the west shoulder of Le Conte Mountain to the high ground above Ying Yang lakes. It was there that the weather took a turn for the worse and in the morning I decided to bail on the end of my trip, that 12 days had been enough this time. I headed due west downhill to the South Cascade River and walked it North on trail 769 to road 15 in the park where I successfully hitchhiked into Marblemount. Looking north from the west shoulder of Le Conte to the South Cascade Glacier with Sentinel and Old Guard on the left. The USGS single wide and out building on the South Cascade Glacier. Really?!?!?!?!?!?! I went home thinking this illness would clear right up but a day later I was so weak I went to the clinic and got pumped full of IV’s and antibiotics. I gave three stool samples to test for Giardia, Crypto-Protozoa and bacteria, all came back negative and it seems my mystery stomach ailment remains just that. It took almost a month of being home until I felt strong and things were back to normal. I guess there’s always next year…. Formidable and Spider from the high pass north of Le Conte Mountain. Formidable and Spider from the high pass north of Le Conte Mountain with Ying Yang Lakes. Gear Notes: I took a alpine harness, 10 nuts, a serenity 8.7 60m single rope, 150ft of 5mil cord. Corsaca ax and Grivel Alu Crampons. The RAB Ridge Mater Bivy and it's mustard. It's eVent but still condensates under the right conditions. Approach Notes: Lady of the Lake to Holden
Trip: The Glacier Peak Wilderness Area - South Face Sinister, 15 days solo Date: 8/29/2013 Trip Report: Greetings, from Red Rock Nevada; the fall season in the desert is in full swing. Even though the loop road and camp ground are closed the climbing is open and the climbers have the keys to the castle. The canyons are ghost towns and the routes are wide open….picture me rolling. Here is a video Merritt Pelkey made with a small quad-copter; it’s cheesy but the angles are cool. https://www.dropbox.com/s/3pwqdggme38iw66/Eric_redrocks_02.mov https://www.dropbox.com/s/1c502gf9l5emz18/eric_full-desktop.m4v I’m spiting it real this TR and throwing PC right out the fucking window, you may not want your kids to read this, in fact, I recommend against it. This was a 15 day solo so I’ll be talking about a lot more than climbing; my opinions, my emotions and you might even get a peak at my massive and unwarranted ego. Ha If you know me then you know I’m mostly kidding around and that I don’t take myself to seriously, but if it’s about beta it’s word for word the truth. My folks dropped me off at 25 mile campground on the shores of Lake Chelan on the 29th of August. I camped that evening and walked the three miles to the 25 mile boat launch the 2nd morning and took the lady up to Holden launch. The bus runs you 11 miles up the hill to Holden. After lunch I walked the four miles up to Hart Lake and settled in for the evening. There was a nice couple from Seattle there and we sat and matched bowls through dinner and into the evening. This guy was a Lawyer but he could burn herb with the best of’em. At first light my movement to climb Bonanza was under way. As much as I tried to pace myself and told myself to go slow it was to no avail. I came up out of Hart Lake all engines running. That was a mistake, it was an 85 degree day, I was a little dehydrated from having a few drinks and puffing and by the time I had gained 4k of elevation I could feel it. It gets worse. The snow ramp to access my rock route on Bonazas south face was way out of shape; it looked as fragile as a chandelier. As soon as I saw it my inside voice said “NO”. I have a long standing promise with my inside voice never to ignore it. I tried to argue, bargain; “we” had a brief board meeting. I was soon seen headed down the mountain with my chin hung low. I felt as though Fred Becky himself just stepped out from behind a boulder with a clipboard and a black beret to evaluate me. It gets worse. After losing that 4k+ of elevation, all of it off trail in rolling rocks and intermittent cliffs and some slide alder and gaining the trail, I was hurting. Cramping badly in both legs and my core; standing was hard, this was a mild heat stroke and I was a bit uncomfortable. Two college aged Christian Girls from Holden had appeared in my camp site in my absence. They were a little surprised to see me and in such bad shape; I doubt they’ve ever seen someone push themselves that hard. Dinner was tough to cook and harder to eat. A fawn wondered into camp and the girls are so innocent one of them says “I wish I could take the fawn in my tent and cuddle with it.” I was thinking, “I’d like to slay that fawn, roast its tender loin over the fire, eat it with some couscous and have a cuddle puddle with both of you hotties under the stars.” Blurred Lines, I’m not just going to jail, I’m going to hell. It gets worse. A full body sweat covered me and woke me from my sleep; vomiting or defecating was imminent and I wasn’t sure which. Standing or squatting was impossible due to core cramps and my pants barley got down, with my butt propped up on a little rock before I desecrated that camp site in total darkness. It gets worse. In the morning the girls had left by the time I got up. I was fixing breakfast and trying to rehydrate when one of them comes jogging back into camp with a radio. She informed me that the weather was going to turn bad and that she and the Pastor at Holden had discussed it and I should come back to Holden and rest before getting a special ride down to the boat so I could get out of the woods. I didn’t offer a word of protest, simply thanked her for her concern. As soon as she left camp I packed and headed deeper into the woods. Did Holden think I was Roberto Duran, quitting on my stool? Is Holden in the business of advising people on what they can and can’t do in the woods? Are they experts? I didn’t register with the hikers hut at Holden for a reason; I didn’t want them thinking about me. Lyman Lake Three miles killed me before crashing on the side of the trail that day. The next day I made it to Lyman Lake and took a rest day. No one was there. I was so weak that a five year old in a wheel chair could have kicked my ass. The following day I moved up to Cloudy Pass then down to Suattle Pass and briefly south on the PCT to Miners Ridge Trail. At Image lake I turned north and headed over the ridge and down into Canyon Lake Basin where the trail turned to an intermittent path. Canyon Lake That evening lightning was popping off in the cloud tops down in the western WA low lands; it looked like a fireworks display. As the storms reached the hills they accelerated and intensified under the Venturi effect, passing over me like runaway freight trains in the night. I took an Oxy-codeine that a good Friend had given me and burned some herb; Mazzy Star crooned softly in my ear. The violence of the storms was magnificent. In the morning my whole world was wet and it was still raining. “Rain before 7, gone by 11” I assured myself. A wet hike to Canyon Lake ensued; Canyon Lake was deserted as well. I would have to wait out the weather here before committing to the high country. It was another evening filled with lightning and thunder. Dry creeks roared to life and the lake level went up then dropped leaving a high ring of debris. I would learn later that more than 10 inches of rain and thousands of lightning strikes fell in those 48 hours around Stehekin. Looking West to Sulfer Creek Can you make out Miners Ridge Lookout below? The weather finally broke that afternoon and I moved up to Totem pass. About 30 minutes after arriving a cold steel rain started to fall and I climbed in my OR one man shelter and suffered another wet evening. It was another soaked morning and Ross pass was on the days agenda. This was the most pristine and clean place I have ever been in my life. There was zero sign of Man, no trails or paths, no carins, no fire pits or trash; it was amazing. The blue berries had been really good the whole trip but outlandish here. The cool night air at 6500ele had perfected the sugars in the berries and I couldn’t eat enough. Some people would say shut up Eric, don’t let the secret out. But this place is guarded by a very remote location and the kind of terrine that would give a mountain goat vertigo. Dome Peak Dome and Sinister The next morning the weather finally broke and Dome and Sinister were just to the north peeking out from dissipating clouds. I was thoroughly enjoying my federally protected wilderness experience when some “No Talent Ass Clown” showed up flying the route I had declared to the NCNP in a turbine powered rotary wing aircraft thousands of feet below the summits. It’s a violation of Federal Law to fly an aircraft that low in a wilderness area without a declared emergency. I was fucking pissed off. What was he going to do, see what my comfort level was? Drop me a Duraflame log, a dry sleeping bag and some Animal Cookies? Not that I would have refused the cookies. I’ll tell you what those worry warts in Holden don’t know, what those NTACS at the NCNP can’t tell you; “Mamma can’t cut the crust off the world for you.” If you come to these Cascade Mountains it actually might rain, it could be uncomphy, and one may just have to Cowboy up. I know I’m so preaching to the choir on this. That day ended at a high camp on the SE corner of Sinister with a cool carin. http://www.noparkexpansion.blogspot.com/ That evening, from my camp below Sinister, I saw the jet stream pass over me and usher a window of good weather in. At first light on the morning of September 9 the sky had gone blue bird, there was no ring around the sun and my stoke was high. That morning I laced my boots up like a prize fighter whose pride had been sorely strung and packed my go bag like a commando prepping for a one man alpine assault on the summit, clean, cold blooded, through and methodical. The south face on Sinister is a striking Granite wall 600 feet tall. It looks like there are lots of lines left to go. Maybe when the boys tire with Gun Sight they’ll head over. As the wall got closer my eyes settled on a line that would go for me. Glaicer Peak South Face of Sinister The late season shrund had one place that could be crossed but it was guarded by steep snow. Carefully I made my way traversing up the steep snow and delicately stepped across the shrund. A big smile crossed my face as I touched the sun warmed rock for the first time. An anchor was quickly set and the ears were turned closed on my silent partner. It was on like Donkey Kong! The first pitch was the best, 5.7 on clean granite. It came right off; I set another anchor and was on my down to clean pitch 1. I then moved up and left free solo over easier 5th class to the southwest ridge. As I soloed the ridge with the south face exposure to my right, Tool sober was blasting in my ear buds and the irony made me laugh as my adrenal glands swelled, brimmed, pushing my favorite drug into my bloodstream. At the summit my gaze fell on the crowd of peaks to my north as Sinister was counted out by the ref in my peripheral vision. Here's me on Sinisters Summit...ha It was surreal to be alone and in such a remote place. I loitered on the summit in the sunshine and solitude for quite some time, burned some herb and wrote this poem. Lost in time, movement and motion, adrift and in bliss on an alpine ocean. Lost in the light and immenseness of this space, I want to tear out my soul and leave it forever in this place. Yet I scurry away in the inky twilight, for there’s no alibi from the truth or the night. An American Alpinist in the American Alps. There is very little tat on Sinister. I’m the type of climber that will move tat around to suit my needs. That option isn't available here, it’s just too remote. I burned all my tat and a sling to get back to the snow and was back at camp well before dark. The next day I moved around to the cool camp site just east of Gunsight peak. The site is up on a cliffed ridge that has Blue Lake under it. The morning of Sept 11th I moved up to the notch south of Gunsights south peak. I gave a big Monkey Call but it came back all echo’s…Where were you guys? I looked and looked for the way down with no luck. I had to find the way because I was out of Tat. I couldn’t find it Blake. Did you guys leave tat last time you were there? I saw on your TR you said “the third notch south of the south peak” Gunsight Peak looking North Sinister and Dome looking West I forgot about getting down and started to take a look at Gun Runner. That’s the traverse Blake and a buddy put up. After assessing my tat situation, time of day, physical condition and remoteness; I decided that it would be irresponsible to start a grade IV rock climb and headed back to camp a little disappointed. It was a good decision as the next few days would be some of the toughest of my life. Gunsight at dawn Pano, Glacier Peak, Sinister, Dome, Gunsight. It was time to head back to civilization, my food was getting low and I was eating oatmeal for breakfast and dinner. Sugar on it in the morning and taco seasoning on it for dinner; it’s not as bad as you may think. The way down for me would be north into Icy Creek then down the West Fork of Agnes Creek. This was a bad mistake. It started normal enough with alpine slabs and intermittent cliffs. After that large scree fields until the slope became choked with brush and steepened alarmingly. The muddy slope turned to a blind cliff that seemed pretty big from above. I climbed a tree to get a better look; I learned I was up shit creek. I kept making my way lower to find the edge of the cliff and set my first rappel from a small tree. As soon as I lowered out the cliff looked scary, loose and wet. My rope disappeared over a bulge making the rappel blind. I was out of options and went for it. The rope ended on a small ledge 200 plus feet off the deck. I pulled it and scrambled over to another small tree. Two more long raps brought me to a steep slope that I scrambled down. This cliff cost me $50 bucks to get off, I guess I needed a new cordelette anyway. This cliff was the most dangerous thing I did in 15 days and I’d call this cliff a good place to die. Trying to descend it at night would be sheer folly. I’m soft peddling this to an enormous degree. Cliff on Icy Creek I thought that was the worst of it was behind me, I was wrong. As I descended steep slopes to the creek bottom it looked thick as a jungle. There were old growth Cedars jutting out of this tangle every so often, hundreds of feet tall. The old growth slide alder tangled with devils club and nettles started as soon as I was down. The stuff was giant, obscene with lower boughs two feet in diameter and black water under them leaving no place to rest. While I was in it I thought about opening a new gym in Seattle called “Slide Alders”. I would have people work out on a Slide Alder machine. You’d come in and I’d be like….”Hi, welcome to slide alders. Toss that 70 pound pack on and step up on the boughs…grab the ones over head with your hands. I’m going to turn it on now and spray you with a hose….” Guaranteed to burn a ton of calories. The valley had swamps, beaver dams, multiple stream channels including the main one with swift water and boulders. The trail #1272 marked on the green trails maps hasn’t been maintained in years. I found it in spots severely over grown with slide alder. Movement continued until dark and thought the worst of it was behind me, I was wrong. I was on the move by first light and hoped to make the pct by noon. A Bull Elk in rut was following me all morning and continuously bugling at me. I’ve hunted Elk and heard them bugle at other males to fight. This Bull thought I was a girl Elk and his bugle was a song and whistles, it was beautiful. Finally he got so close I turned and yelled, “Dude, I’m not an Elk”. That’s the last I heard of him. At 5pm I crossed the confluence of South Fork of Agnes and the West Agnes and camped on the creeks edge thoroughly smoked. It took me another hour the following morning to find the pct which seemed like a sterile passageway compared to the diversity of off trail travel and the high country. A few easy hours later and the bus stop at high bridge was gained. The bakery was in striking distance and I thought about all the snacks in that little store. It had been 9 days since I had seen another person, the first three groups walked by me without so much as a hello. It made me feel very lonely for the first time. Soon two ladies could hold their curiosity no more and asked me what I was doing. I asked them if they had any food and they gave me there left over lunch; I licked the wrappers shamelessly as they looked on in amusement. In Stehekin a large group of PCT through hikers were breaking from the trail and resupplying. They had started on the Mexican Border in early April and had a few weeks left to the Canadian border. They asked me what I was doing and showed them some video footage of soloing on the south face of Sinister to ooohhss and ahhhaasss. A crowd formed around my camera and the inevitable questions started…”You do this alone?” “Are you crazy?” “Does your Mom know?” She dropped me off, I reply. I felt like a chess player that had inadvertently wandered into a checkers tournament. I was up at first light on the 15th and walked down to the dock to make some photos. On the dock were four people who informed me they were going to Chelan. How I asked? Beaver sea plane and do you want to go was the reply. I ran to get my pack and got a free Beaver sea plane ride down the lake at sunrise from the two coolest Microsoft cats ever! Then they drove me back to Bellevue and even bought me breakfast. I told them they had a free climbing guide in the Seattle area. So, I’ll share this much but don’t ask me for any info on the following. On one of the days in this 15 day solo I came across a rock with a piece of very pure Galena on it. That’s mainly silver. I about crapped my pants! I had been looking for this my entire life and was now holding it in my hand. Ten feet higher I found a rock covered in crystals the size of a toe and copper. It was beautiful, and then 10 feet higher I found the vein these rocks came from, the ledge had free Galena, silver and copper running in crystals and quartz. I was frozen in real time, a deer in Mother Nature’s headlights. Then I had the epiphany of a lifetime, enlightenment. This is how all the serious dirtbags have done it all these years. Of course! I’ll bet Becky has half a dozen ledges stretched out from the Yukon to Yuma County. Kick’em down Fred. I’ll bet the Skoogs have a ledge; they had three sets of eyes out there for years. How about Nelson, that shop can’t make that much. Does Blake want me to believe that he saved his tips to buy the chopper ride into Waddington? Bullshit Herrington, where’s your ledge? Slide me the catalog, Daddy’s gonna show you how to ball…..ha Gear Notes: Gear, I bought some new gear and tried some new stuff this trip. I looked on Andrew Skurka’s web site to get all of his go-lite tips. I tried the cat can stove and love it! For the cascades it really is a great solution and I highly recommend it. Besides cooking your food the rubbing alcohol came in handy for hand sanitizer, screen cleaner, wound cleaner and it’s the ultimate fire starter. The cat can stove is the best fire starter hands down; it beats mag block, Vaseline cotton balls and a candle. The best thing about the stove besides being light is that it will cost you less than 5 bucks. Go-Lite packs are not suited for North Cascade punishment. I’ll be sending mine back for a refund, I’m surprised it finished the trip. The Salewa Alpine Trainer is a good boot but I broke it in and wore it out in 16 Cascade days. There’s no way that boot would last 30 days in the Cascades. I bought a new z-lite foam pad and would go with a rolled one next time; I just didn’t trust any of my inflatable pads for 15 days. Scholler dry-skin is IMHO the best wicking layer out there and this stuff stands up to serious abuse. I carried 1 70m 10.2, silent partner, set of nuts, set of aliens, 25ft tat, 5 rap rings, ice ax, crampons. I would recommend a lot more tat in this area. I did not take a map, GPS, compass or signaling device of any type. I needed to keep my headlamp, i-pod and camera charged this whole time so I designed and built this small widget. It’s an 8AA battery holder from radio shack with a 12vdc to 5vdc cigarette lighter to USB port and a zerner diode to keep the juice flowing in the right direction. I used 8 lithium AA batts and they kept everything charged for 11 days. It’s a great solution and cost me less that $20 bucks to build. Approach Notes: Lady of the Lake to Holden.
Hey everyone, just wanted to post a link to my blog in which I am detailing the most recent trip at the moment. Sol Wertkin, Dan Hilden, and I made an attempt on the full summit ridge traverse of both the Southern and Northern Pickets. We fell short of the goal, but still have some great stories to tell. Check it out at: http://jensholsten.blogspot.com Hope you enjoy it!
Pickets Traverse – July 3-12, 2008 Due to the length of this TR, Firefox will not load it all. Internet Explorer recommended for your full viewing pleasure. 10 days and 8 summits from Thornton Creek to Big Beaver From July 3-12, Sean Martin and I did an alpine traverse beginning at Thornton Creek, and ending at the Ross Lake TH via Big Beaver Creek. Along the way, we climbed Mt. Despair, North Despair, Pioneer Ridge, Mt. Crowder, Swiss Peak, Phantom Peak, Crooked Thumb Peak, and Mt. Challenger. This is the story.. Day 1 Sean amidst one of the creek crossings on the approach. Sean ascending to the ridge. Views from the ridge. Camp 1. Initially the plan was to take the Thornton Creek Trail to Thornton Lakes for a leisurely first day. After trying to cross Thornton Creek, however, we spontaneously changed plans and headed directly up to the ridge dividing Damnation and Thornton Creeks. I had been this way twice previously, once to climb Triumph, and once on an attempt of Despair. I had never camped at Thornton Lakes, and that appealed to me, but the creek was running WILD that day, and we had no other choice but to cut uphill. The going is easy up to the ridge – mainly steep, open forest with occasional rock steps. Upon arrival in camp, we were greeted to some pretty sweet views. Day 2 Camp 2. On day 2, we awoke to a whiteout. We could not see the stove and cookpot ten feet away from our tent. Although it did not rain on our approach day, it rained the night before, and so all the brush on the approach was wet. We were soaked upon arrival in camp and had hoped that day 2 would provide us with an opportunity to dry things out. This was not to be. We decided to make day 2 our one weather day for the trip. This would mean no rest days would be feasible considering the magnitude of our schedule. Day 3 Sean amidst wet brush on the way to Triumph Pass. We awoke on day 3 to another whiteout and steady rain. Since I had to be back on the 12th, we had two choices given our busy itinerary: bag the trip, or press on in crappy weather. We chose option B. Fortunately, at this point our gear had dried out enough to be functional. We both had down bags which were able to be dried from body heat throughout the past 36 hours spent in the tent. We packed our packs with our remaining 8 days worth of food and fuel and climbing gear and headed down into Triumph Creek towards Triumph Pass. The steep forest traverse was wet, which made it pretty tricky. The forest here is coated with moss and heather and pine needles over mossy cliffy steps. In steady rain and whiteout, we made it through unscathed, and continued on fairly easily to a very windy Triumph Pass. From Triumph Pass we couldn’t see much, but through whisping clouds we were able to locate the lake in the lower basin, on the shoulder of Triumph. We made camp here since we were drenched. We hoped Day 4 would clear, but we weren’t convinced. Day 4 The best picture of Despair we got. Long live the Trail Blazers! Bollard rap #1. Sean in our rap gulley. Traversing to the col. Our descent from the notch on Despair. Descending steep snow on the N side of the Col. The sun over Despair arm. On day 4, we awoke – to another whiteout. We were beginning to wonder if we should continue on or head back out. The last forecast I caught before we left indicated sunny weather was in store, so we crossed our fingers and hoped for the best. And so we embarked once again, packs fully loaded, up to the summit of Despair. It was a little tough finding the summit in swirling clouds, but we were able to feel our way up through the breaks and soon we stood on the summit. The summit register was placed by a good friend of my Father’s, the late Cliff Lawson., in 1968. The original Trailblazer summit register is still in place as it should be. This one doesn’t get climbed much. Last to sign in were Mike Collins and Dave Creeden in 2007. From the summit of Despair, we could see patches of blue through the cloud deck. From the summit, we dropped down about 400’ to a N-Facing gully (steep snow). This would be our gate to the next leg of the journey. We made one rap off a rock horn to the moat, where we looked for reliable rock anchors. We had three pickets which we could have used, but we wanted to save them for later in the trip. After not finding any reliable rock anchors, we made a bollard from the moat. Rapping off this down to another moat, we did the same again to a rock ledge. The rock ledge offered no reliable rap anchors either, but I did have one piton which we placed in a shallow crack. From here we made one 30m rap onto the glacier N of Despair. We traversed the glacier North up and over a col, then down the other side on steep snow (corniced). From here, we couldn’t see much except for a possible camp on the arm leading North from North Despair, our next objective. We found a nice camp on snow here and called it a day. Day 5 Sunshine – finally! Clouds hanging around the valley. N Despair. Views from camp. Sean on N Despair. Despair from N. Despair. Sean descending N Despair. A perfect arête. One of the many traverses. Views deep into the heart of the Pickets. Views from Jasper Pass. More views. And more. Pioneer Ridge. Sean ascending to Pioneer Ridge. Alpenglow from camp. Baker at sunset. The view from the tent. On day 5, we awoke – to SUNSHINE! Not a cloud in the sky. We were amazed at the turn of events, and were eager to get up North Despair, which looked phenomenal. N Despair has one of the most impressive arêtes of any I’ve seen. Eldorado’s arête looks a bit meek in comparison. The climb of N Despair is straightforward, and we didn’t take a rope. Firm snow made for easy cramponing up the fairly steep slope (40 degrees steepening to 55 degrees at the summit). The summit register is a small rusty container with a few scraps of paper dating back to Mike Swayne and Gordon Thompson’s first ascent in July, 1963. There have been about 8 parties who have signed in since. From here, we dropped back down to our lovely camp and packed up for a traverse down to Jasper Pass, and up to Pioneer Ridge. The traverse was made on steep snow over cliffs – all a bit tiring (physically and mentally) considering we had heavy packs. Jasper Pass is nothing to write home about. Thankfully it was 75% snow-covered because it looks like it’s got some nasty brush. We didn’t stop for long on the way through, instead setting our sights on the beautiful Pioneer Ridge which Beckey calls one of the most rugged spots in the range. We arrived on Pioneer Ridge with enough time to head to the summit. The tough part was, we had no map for this zone (USGS Blum) since I failed to get one in time before the trip, so we didn’t know which was the true summit. We camped less than 200 vertical feet below what was later determined to be the true summit, but instead took it upon ourselves to travel an hour out of our way to get to the point which we thought was highest. Upon arrival, we did not see a register (which didn’t jive with reports from recent summit parties), but we just thought it got taken by one of those register Nazis. We should have taken the 15 minute stroll up from camp to the other knoll which looked similar in height. Oh well. The views from Pioneer Ridge to Mystery Ridge, Blum/Bacon/Hagan, and the entire Pickets range North to South is stunning. We were now able to see nearly our entire journey from start to finish. It looked huge. We settled into camp that night with our sights set on Wild Pass and Mt Crowder to Pickell Pass the following day. Day 6 A frozen Wild Lake. Sean ascending slopes below Crowder. Crowder’s dramatic N Face. Just some yahoos. Views from Crowder. Sean downclimbing on Crowder. Sean descending steep snow in the gulley. Dirt-ponning on Crowder. Vegetable raps. Ascending to Pickell Pass. Picket Creek. The moon over Crowder. Spectre Peak. Triumph through the gap. A magnificent camp. Sunset. On Day 6, our plan was to drop to Wild Pass from Pioneer Ridge and ascend Crowder. Then we were to drop to Pickell Pass where we would set up camp. Dropping off Pioneer Ridge entailed more steep snow traversing over cliffs with heavy packs. The descent to Wild Pass took no time at all due to the fact that we glissaded a great portion of it. Wild Lake was 95% frozen still, but we could see the turquoise blue water starting to appear on its shores. This is a magnificent lake, and I can’t wait to come back and see it when it’s melted out. From Wild Pass, we made the 2000’ ascent to the summit of Mt. Crowder. Again, not too many people climb this one. The last party to sign in was none other than Dan Sjolseth (my father), Jim Nelson, and Mike Swayne – in 2003! I can’t believe it hasn’t been climbed in that time, but then again there’s no pencil in the register and the peak is REMOTE. From Crowder, there really is no information out there on how to get to Pickell Pass (that I was able to obtain). I knew it had been done, since Roger Jung had signed in the N Despair summit register that he made it from Pickell Pass to N Triumph via Crowder. We decided to descend straight off the summit, directly towards Pickell Pass. This went great for about 300 vertical feet, but then we encountered lack of rap anchors again. 70 degree heather (and crappy rock) made us reconsider our options. We climbed back up to the summit and descended back down towards Wild Pass, eventually finding a weakness in Crowder’s N flank. We rapped off a tree into a steep (60 degrees) snow-filled gully. From here, we rapped off one picket down to the moat where we found OK rock to sling for one more rap. From here, we downclimbed 50 degree snow, gradually lessening in angle to the glacier below. At this point, the traverse around Crowder was still not trivial. We encountered very steep heather again, and it was wet. We donned crampons and traversed a quarter-mile around Crowder’s N Buttress on steep, wet dirt and heather, eventually finding a goat trail at the base of cliffs which brought us to the basin in upper Picket Creek. From here, it was a 1200’ gain to Pickell Pass on low-angle snow. We placed camp here with the Northern Pickets towering high above us. Day 7 More views. W Fury from the slopes below swiss. Some flower on the summit of Swiss. Indian Paintbrush on Swiss. Lupine on Swiss. On Day 7, we went up to explore Swiss Peak and possibly attempt W Fury. Upon summitting Swiss, we couldn’t spot an easy way up W Fury. It was tough to convince Sean that we should drop down on the E side of the Fury-Swiss Col and find easier terrain there, and we didn’t want an epic this far away from home, with other summits still on our plate. Plus I reasoned that I could always get W Fury a lot easier from Picket Pass, or possibly even on a traverse from E Fury from Access Creek. So we goofed around up around Spectre Peak and took lots of photos, generally turning this into a “rest” day. We returned to camp hopeful that the good weather would continue. Day 8 Phantom Peak’s true summit. Crooked Thumb and its ascent gulley. Challenger/Crooked Thumb Col. Views from Crooked Thumb to Challenger. Descending Crooked Thumb’s gulley. Sean traversing to Challenger. Unique swale on the way to Challenger. The gulley we used to gain Challenger Arm. The moon over our camp. Sunset from camp. On day 8, we awoke – to a whiteout – again! This was a little disconcerting, since we only had 3 days left until we needed to be back to Ross Lake TH, and we still had 3 peaks to climb (Phantom, Crooked Thumb, and Challenger). We packed up camp quickly and made a traverse towards Challenger. At this point, I had trashed the idea of summitting Phantom or Crooked Thumb in lieu of getting out out in time. I knew negotiating our route up through Challenger Arm and down Eiley Wiley to Big Beaver would be tough in whiteout conditions, so I wanted to give ourselves as much time as possible to get it done. But while on our way out of camp, the clouds started to whisp away into sucker holes. Brief sucker holes, but sucker holes nonetheless. While passing Phantom, I noticed a clearing in the clouds, and thought we should go for it. Sean disagreed. Plus he was beginning to get blisters from all the traversing with heavy packs and no rest. Sean agreed to wait in the swirling mist and clouds while I soloed Phantom. While on the summit, I encountered some very strong winds (gusting to 50) – and mist, which made the lichen-slick rock a little tricky. It took me a little less than 2 hours round trip to climb the 2000’ to the summit and back (snow to 50 degrees, class 3-4 rock). I signed the summit register and got down as fast as I could. When I got back, Sean was patiently waiting for me on a subsidiary ridge on the way to Challenger. We got rolling again, and the weather (thankfully) began to improve. The weather improved so much that I was able to convince Sean in accompanying me on climb of Crooked Thumb. We started up a steep snow gully at the Challenger/Crooked Thumb Col. From here, we got onto the SW Face and followed a series of ledges and class 3-4 gullies (and enormous blocks) to just below the summit on the N Side. From here, we traversed onto the E Side, then worked our way S of the summit block. From here, a meandering 5.4 pitch got us on the summit. We descended off Crooked Thumb (which took about as long as it did to climb), and headed back to our packs at the col. From the col, we spotted a steep gully (snow, then rock) leading to the Challenger Glacier, 300’ or so feet below the summit. We headed up it without much difficulty and were treated to some of the most amazing sunset views I’ve seen. Awesome!! Day 9 Sean ascending to the summit of Challenger. Challenger’s summit block. Sean on the summit of Challenger. NE Face of Fury from Challenger. Descending to camp. Going home. We’re going to miss this place. On day 9, we awoke to bluebird skies. Phew! We quickly climbed the 300’ up to the base of the summit pitch and cruised up to the summit thanks to 3 fixed pitons. The views from Challenger are great. We could see Slesse peeking to the North, and the entire Chilliwack group. Baker and Shuksan were slapping us in the face, and so were the N Pickets and our entire traverse. Luna looked stunning and Luna Creek looked like a maze of brush. From the summit, we made one rap and descended the short distance back to camp. We decided that we wanted to try and make it all the way out to the TH on this day because we were hankering for a beer and Good Food. So we packed camp and were rolling by noon. We made quick work of the descent to Eiley Wiley courtesy of easy glacier walking. Eiley Wiley seemed to drag on forever though, and at 6PM we finally touched down at Beaver Pass. Instead of stopping to rest, we kept going down the trail, finally being stopped by blisters at 39 mile camp, ~11 miles from the TH. So much for getting out today. Day 10 The last 11 miles dragged on due to our blisters, but we eventually made it out to the TH at 11AM. We hitchhiked into Marblemount and got a 6-pack at the Shell station. I made a call to the best Dad in the world who then came out from Tacoma (thanks Dad) and dropped us off back at Thornton Creek. This was an amazing trip spanning a vast array of terrain, and posing a wide assortment of challenges. A true Cascade traverse of epic proportions. Trip stats: -53 miles -30,000' gain 10 days Route topos: