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I've used this forum a fair bit for research in the past and figured it's time to contribute back! This is a post from the summer of 2022, but hopefully the beta is still useful. My partner Andrea and I set out to do Phyllis's Engine via the standard route in late September. The plan was to do the approach on day 1 up to Polemonium Ridge and then attempt our climb the following morning with a long hike out on the same day. Despite its inclusion in the Alpine Select, there's actually not a ton of beta (that I could find) on the standard route. Steven Song has a great report from the 5.9 variation and there was also one post on here from 2013 with some good beta as well, but otherwise there's limited details on what to expect. The one other detail that I read on numerous accounts was the cadence of ropes getting stuck on rappels. I had that in the back of my mind for the rest of the trip. On the 20th, of September we set out from the Helm Creek Trail Head and followed the well paved path all the way to the turn off for Helm Glacier. The glacier was in a very dry condition, so we didn't bother roping up and found it straightforward to navigate. When we reached the top of Gentian Pass we caught eye of the 250m elevation loss below, but the scenery is nice enough to distract from it all. We reached a suitable camp site around an hour before sunset and settled in for the evening. Andrea on the Helm Glacier Dropping into Gentian Pass Sunset at camp We got going around 9am, when the sun rose and followed the long side hilling traverse around to the Sphinx Glacier entry West of Phyllis's Engine. This glacier looked more complicated to traverse so we made the decision to rope up here. Andrea lead a great line up to the base of the Engine and then we transitioned over to climbing gear. From there we lead 3 pitches to the summit on solid rock, albeit the top of pitch 1 was kitty litter over slab. Reaching the entrance to the glacier The Engine off in the distance Getting closer Myself above the first part of pitch 1 At the top of pitch 1 looking down at Andrea The kitty litter slab traverse Andrea coming up pitch 2 Myself on pitch 2. I ran out of gear just before the top, so Andrea lead the remainder up to the base of pitch 3. Looking down the exposed and awesome pitch 3 Andrea on the summit Myself on the summit On the descent, we found our rope was too short to reach the second rappel station we spotted (on a 60m rope) and so had to build an intermediary rap station and then continue on. I held my breath on each rope pull, but thankfully it never got stuck. We swapped back into our regular gear and then roped up for the glacier again. We didn't reach our camp site until just before sunset. Andrea and I debated crashing for the night, but we had run out of snacks and we figured it's better to slog it out now then be hungry in the morning covering the same distance. With that, we packed up camp and made our way back towards Helm Glacier. We didn't arrive until well into the night and it was a touch spooky covering the glacier by head lamps only. It was a moonless night, which didn't help. Helm Glacier at night After the glacier, it was a long march back to the car, but we finally made it around 4am after 19 hours on the move. I drove us back home where we promptly crashed out for the day. I have a full recount of the details here if you're interested: https://www.francisbaileyh.com/2022/09/22/phylliss-engine/
I got back last night from a four-day trip to the yurts (Wallowa Alpine Huts, WAH) in McCully Basin in the Wallowa Mountains in northeast Oregon. There wasn't a TON of information online about the area so I thought I could contribute a tiny bit to what's out there. Here's one useful report from Wildsnow that includes a link to a GPX with some ski runs. Apologies in advance for the weird photo sizing/formatting below. Best I could do without taking hours on it... You might be wondering where this area is. Wikipedia article here for your reading pleasure. I was lucky enough to be invited on the trip with nine other people, knowing only one of them going in. Thank you, @Hoo!!! We were so lucky with snow conditions and weather for this trip. I won't share my entire journal entry about the trip, but here are some highlights: The drive from Seattle to Joseph, Oregon included listening to a very interesting New Yorker podcast about "smoking toad" and then (seriously) almost running out of gas going over the Blue Mountains due to my misjudgment of the distance between towns with gas stations. WHEW. Finally in Joseph, we had dinner at this odd tiny cafe + pet store concept (The Dog Spot) but the food was EXCELLENT. Rotating menu every two weeks; we enjoyed some black mushroom dumplings and dandan noodles... 🤤 Joseph: We got to the house where we were all staying the night before heading into the yurts. After hanging out for awhile, I was poking around the house and I found that there was a door with stairs leading to a garage or basement? I walked down the stairs and... oh, hello, there's a human down here! It was Silas, a young guy working on guide certs, who would be with us for the trip in the next day. Meeting him there was the first surprise of many on this trip. The WAH owner, AKA the yurtmeister, is not known for his communication skills....but I hear he's a fun guy to be around! The next morning, we met the other two guides at a cafe down the street. The lead guide repeated: "It's a FOUR mile skin in! Make sure you bring enough water!" FOUR MILES!?!?!?! 1800' gain! We felt there was a 50/50 chance of us making it to the yurts. My giant backpack weighed 40-45 pounds, including a fifth of whiskey, almost an entire six-pack, about 2.5 pounds of peanut M&Ms, half of a quiche, a couple dozen cookies, a loaf of bread I made, lots of fresh vegetables, my touring pack ...etc etc.. Micah's pack job was beautiful and the bag of Juanita's survived the journey in quite well: We'd learned the day before that we would be getting a snowmobile tow in for about a mile! Packs in a tub behind the snowmachine, in ski mode, it was kind of like waterskiing. I won't name any names, but I don't think it's a coincidence that the two times we had to stop were because someone on split skis fell over... (couldn't help myself). For real, though, @Hooreally showed off his split skiing game this trip; I think his board spent significantly more time in split mode than together on the descents. And so, rising out of the crusty snow up to the consistent soft stuff, we arrived at the yurts (7540'). There were three: a kitchen yurt and two sleeping yurts. The advertised sauna yurt hadn't been constructed in years, it seemed. We were in Eagle Cap Wilderness and the yurts are taken down and put up each year. Yurts had cots, sleeping pads, stocked wood/stoves, the usual ski hut cooking supplies, propane lanterns and stoves, no bleach 🤨. Open creek hole nearby supplied the water; haven't come down with giardia yet. Kitchen/hangout yurt and really awesome lichen that I will try to identify soon: Due to the deep persistent slab problem and high winds everywhere, we kept the skiing pretty darn mellow. We went on two short tours the afternoon of our arrival, finding variable conditions and then better soft stuff; the next day we skied in somewhat stormy conditions all day with great fast snow and refills all day; and days three and four we lucked out with beautiful weather and poked around a little higher. Sunday, day three, we toured over a sandblasted saddle (8590') on the east side of the basin and down into Little Sheep Basin and skied a couple really fun, longer laps on a NW aspect before heading back over to McCully Basin: Monday, everyone else packed up and left right away, but Micah and I decided to check out things to the west: we toured low-angle slopes up to Bear Mountain (9170'), a very broad and wind-scoured rocky summit, and then after a bit of doubt on my part (we had no pons, axes, whippet) and a couple carries through rocks, we were able to pretty easily take the ridge up to the top of Aneroid Mountain (9700'). The views were STUNNING! I hadn't heard the word aneroid before, so I looked it up: adjective - 1. using no liquid 2. relating to or denoting a barometer that measures air pressure by the action of the air in deforming the elastic lid of an evacuated box or chamber. TMYK! We took a short bonus lap on the way down to the yurts and finally Micah said he was feeling a little worked! On the exit back down into civilization, we had a sometimes-exciting downhill skin out and then a fast ski down and out the snowmobile/ski track and icy road. The six hours back to Seattle went without incident. What a fantastic trip! So lucky. Although I don't describe the other yurt-mates here, it was a great time all around, even after the sun went down. Thank you, Micah!