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  1. Trip: Seton Lake - FA-Lieutenant Dan's Aquatic Death Ride - 450m 4+ Date: 12/16/2022 Trip Report: Ice climbing around Lillooet has been on my to do list for a few years now. Just needed the right conditions and a stoked partner. This December it came together. Doing some research on the area, Zach Krahmer and I saw that an epic looking and unclimbed line had come in at Seton lake and it seemed too good not to take a shot at. We'd be there Thursday night, and Friday looked to have the best weather conditions to go for the route. The West Coast Ice guidebook advises climbers to “canoe down the lake about an hour to the climbs” on Seton Lake. Jesse Mace and Bruce Kay used a canoe, but recommended a row boat in their report for the FA of Piss 'n Vinegar. Jesse highlighted a few concerns with a canoe including potential capsizing in choppy weather and damage to the boat while climbing (from falling ice, and hitting the cliff if winds picked up as you climbed). Coming from Oregon, we looked into canoe rentals near Lillooet and found none given the season. After almost giving up due to feasibility concerns, a friend of Zach’s offered to loan us a rowboat style 2-person raft made of ripstop material. Not only would it fit in the car on the drive up, but it might be more stable in choppy water, and once we unweighted it to climb, it would be less likely to be damaged by contact with the rock cliff. On the face of it, there seemed to be some sensible advantages over a canoe. However, an obvious question remained → how to start ice climbing with crampons from an inflatable raft in an ice cold lake surrounded by steep rock cliffs? Would there be a place to safely step off the raft onto the climb without crampons that wouldn't result in a slip into the frigid water below? Jesse's trip report mentioned (jokingly) that a gun might be better than a life jacket if one were to fall in. It was hard to tell from the compressed pictures we’d seen online to know what would be waiting for us. We arrived in town Thursday evening and Zach drove us straight to the lake knowing that we might be paddling back the next night in similar conditions. The waves were nearly non-existent and the water almost completely calm. Checking the forecast we saw the next night's forecast was similar, which gave us what we needed to make a decision. We decided the next morning we would paddle out and see how the raft to climb transition looked. We hoped for the best, but knew very well we might be paddling right back to where we started. Prepping the boat in the early morning hours Ready to disembark The next morning we arrived in the dark after checking forecasts again. We inflated the raft and launched into the calm water. It was a peaceful paddle and we saw four eagles on the way out, one of them diving into the water for its meal. We took note of the other climbs that were coming in nicely this season. Looking back 2 km to our put in from aboard the raft. Comedy of Errors | Deliverance / Squeal Like a Pig | Fishin' Musician Fishin' Musician on left with Winter Water Sports in the distance. The climb! After 5-6 km of paddling, we neared our objective. We were dismayed by what we saw. The wall was far too steep to step onto safely without crampons. We paddled past the climb for a new perspective in hopes of seeing something nearby that could get us established, but found nothing. Passing by again, we took a longer look at the thin layer of ice that came down close to the water's edge. The ice nearest the lake water was partially delaminated from the rock, but seemed to be solid just a little higher. We devised a plan. With Zach holding dynamic tension from a cam at the rear of the boat, I would reach over to the sheet of ice and place ice screws, attach slings to those screws and then step into the slings with cramponless boots. This would get me high enough off the water, and far enough from the raft, so that I could attach crampons and get moving. Because the ice closest to the water was questionable, I knew I had to get a screw as high as possible. I leaned over kneeling carefully and started to place the first 10 cm screw. After just a few turns, the screw bottomed out onto the rock below. Damn. Surely I’d just hit an unlucky bit of thinner ice. “How easy this all would be if I just had my crampons on!” I removed the screw and placed it again, once again hitting rock after a few turns. Not willing to take a chance on such a marginal placement, I reached as high as I could while Zach steadied the raft. From this precarious stance, I managed to get a screw about 7cm into the ice. Knowing the failure mechanics of partially driven screws, and knowing I would be delicately standing in the sling rather than taking a dynamic fall, this seemed adequate to get started. I clove-hitched into the first screw to safeguard a higher reach and placed another screw. It wasn't great either, but deep enough! Using my tools I carefully stood up in the raft and got a foot into the first sling. I gently weighted it and saw no sign of failure. I stood up, and placed my foot into the other screw’s sling. With all my weight now on the wall, I reached higher to thicker ice. I fired in another screw and clipped into it. Now I was far enough from the raft to put on crampons safely. It ain't easy touching your toes while hanging off a screw and wearing a life jacket, but after a few minutes of uncomfortable gymnastics, the crampons were on! Now that I was properly ready, I shot up to a position above an overhanging cove where we would stow the raft. I built a v-thread to attach the raft and belay Zach up. Moments later we'd hauled up an array of “oh shit” gear (hot broth, food, bivy gear, dry clothes, warmers and anything else we might need if the boat failed) that had been stowed in waterproof bags in the raft. Zach cleaned the boat and made his way up to join me at the belay. We were finally ready to climb but the extra care we'd taken in exiting the raft had used up a considerable bit of time. Weighing the various risks, we'd prioritized fastidious attention to detail during this tricky and unfamiliar portion of climbing instead of schedule, and it showed. We were starting the climb at 12:30pm. We discussed and agreed - we weren't sure how far we would make it before we ran out of daylight, but the first half of the climb had looked relatively easy, so maybe we could make up time? I started up the first pitch which cuts over and then up a small section of ice that spills over and connects the starting cove and the primary flow of ice above. This first section turned out to be excessively wet, chandeliered ice with no real options to avoid the flowing water. I did my best to move quickly, and soon enough I was above the cove, an anchor was built and Zach was brought up. Above us was a long stretch of multiple 70m pitches of WI3 before steepening into the main headwall. We had twin 70m ropes so I knew I could cover a fair distance with each pitch, just had to move smoothly and efficiently! I took off. Although often wet, the climbing was straightforward, and soon enough I was 70m above Zach ready to set up a belay. “At this rate we stand a chance to make up time!'' I thought. But my hopes were quickly dashed. As I built the anchor and started to pull the weight of the two 70m ropes, I found we’d encountered an unfortunate new challenge. The rope was completely saturated and freezing in the cold temps. Not only was this creating a massive amount of resistance to pull the rope through my device as it sheared off the thick ice, but since the ropes were so coated in ice they were nearly impossible to grab with my glove, often slipping right through as I tried to pull in slack. I worked hard to use whatever tricks I could think of, but I was not able to pull in slack quickly, slowing Zach’s progress substantially. Finally Zach was at the belay and I started up the next pitch. On lead I was able to move relatively quickly, but at every belay the icy rope recoated, and seemed impossible to pull though the belay device. It wasn’t getting any better as we continued on, and it was taking a toll. The belaying was literally harder than leading the pitches! Around halfway up the wall the sun began to fade, and we knew we'd have to make a decision on whether to continue on or descend to our vessel. Winds were non-existent and temps were comfortable as night fell. The biggest challenge continued to be the icy belays, but conditions were downright pleasant, and route finding with a headlamp was going well so we decided to continue upward. The main headwall is a series of roughly pitch length ice steps, that each obscure the step above (probably exacerbated by the limitations of our headlamps). So at the top of each step we'd be sure we were on the last pitch, only to find another full rope length of climbing above. Slowly but consistently we checked in and continued on. The late night and cool temps brought some neat Hoarfrost. Similar to this branch, the hoar frost binded horizontally to many of the ice pillars on the upper portion of the climb. Way behind schedule but in good spirits, we topped out and built the first v-thread, preparing to descend. It was a beautiful night, and surely raps couldn't be as hard as the guide mode belays! Late, but in good spirits! Descending was relatively smooth with the exception of the rope freezing to the cliff a few times and a route finding error where I went too far to climber's right and ended up in the wrong drainage. Accidents seem to happen on the way down when people start to lose focus or rush, so we did our best not to do either, slowing and safely working our way down the wall. Before too long we were back at our stash of gear, drinking from Zach's thermos and eating snacks, our raft floating safely in the protected cove below. So far so good, now we just needed to get back into the boat and paddle out! We could hear the sound of waves below us, sounding larger than what we’d experienced on the way in. We tried to make out the lake conditions with our headlamps, but the dark water seemed to reflect almost nothing. We’d taken far longer than we’d anticipated to get to this point, and now the sun would be up soon. Feeling warm and good, we figured we might as well relax for a minute, taking our time to eat and drink, as daylight would make navigating the lake easier. Shortly after sunrise, as we prepped for the last rap into the raft, Tyler Creasey arrived transporting another party in his boat. From his boat, Tyler offered for us to come aboard to relax and enjoy his heated cabin for a few minutes once we got off the climb. We’d spoken to Tyler the previous week and ran into him the night before at the Cookhouse–awesome honey garlic wings by the way! Tyler is offering his services to climbers for the first time and we’d recommend connecting with him if you are interested in his boat. We removed and safely stowed anything sharp, put life jackets on and rappelled into the raft. We’d intentionally left the boat under the cove to protect it from ice fall, but this also meant that it was partially below the wet ice flow. I was in the boat first and found everything in good shape, but some water had accumulated in the bottom of the boat. Not enough to impact travel, but enough to slosh around and get my boots wet. “Oh how pleasant” I thought. Zach cleaned up, rappelled into the boat and we were off, leaving behind only the v-thread. Although I was anxious to get back to the car, we agreed it would be fun to take up Tyler on his offer and relax for a minute on his boat. Tyler was hanging out at the base of Winter Water Sports, occasionally trolling eastward toward the parking lot to prevent the wind from blowing him too far west. After we boarded we got to benefit from one of these trolling sessions, as we sat chatting with Tyler for about 15 min. Before long, Tyler reached the furthest east point he planned to troll to and let us know this was our stop. We climbed back into the raft and started paddling again. It was 9:59am as we pushed off from Tyler’s boat. We’d been advised about the risk of winds picking up around 2pm, which would have left us plenty of time, but as we paddled towards the car our luck wasn’t so good. Winds were increasing and our forward progress began to slow. As more time went by, the wind increased, we slowed and the cycle began to reinforce itself. It seemed our progress would eventually be stopped if winds continued to increase, so we opted to cross the lake and travel on foot the remainder of the way back. A railroad track runs the north side of the lake. We knew dragging a boat wasn’t going to be easy, but at least we wouldn’t be at risk of being blown further west, away from the parking lot. We arrived at the far side of the lake and pulled the raft onto shore. The boat wasn’t light, but slid along the tracks quickly. Just before the parking lot there is a narrow channel of water separating the railroad tracks from the dock about 55 meters across. We approached the channel and assessed the best place to put in and cross (taking care to stay west of the dam inflow). At this time, Tyler’s boat drove back to the docks, only to quickly turn around and head back up the lake. Tyler’s boat turned again and headed straight toward us. I figured Tyler was going to take the opportunity to bust on us for doing things the hard way before heading back to check on the other climbers. Instead, he conveyed a message that immediately crushed me. Someone had called search and rescue on us. I was in complete disbelief. How did this happen? We’d literally just been hanging out with Tyler on his boat joking a few hours ago and in good spirits and he is the guy that does SAR on the lake. Later we would find out that when SAR called Tyler after we’d departed his boat, he told them he’d just seen us, and if they waited we’d be back to the dock soon. While I am frustrated they didn’t heed Tyler’s recommendation, I understand why. I know SAR is under significant pressure in circumstances where a rescue is potentially needed and choosing not to take action always has some risk that a negative outcome will result. We both have a strong opinion regarding SAR calls. Specifically, we believe SAR should only be used in cases where death is imminent or long lasting bodily injury is otherwise inevitable. I despise an attitude amongst some that seem to believe that SAR is who you call when you get tired, or things get hard. If you don’t have high confidence that you can get back or get down, then you don’t have business pursuing that objective. Upon our return to the base of the climb, if the boat had been destroyed, and we had no other way across the lake, we would have climbed the route again, connected to Seton Retask Road and hiked the 27km back to the car. It wouldn’t be easy or pleasant, but harder things have been accomplished by people who’ve set their minds to them. I don’t see the world of adventure as a theme park where I can hit the big red EMO switch on. And yet here we were, standing in front of a uniformed Canadian police officer, requesting that we get on Tyler’s boat to be escorted across for the remaining distance that I could nearly throw a rock across. We reluctantly complied and soon enough we were back at the car. We talked with the SAR members to understand what had gone wrong so that a similar mistake would not be repeated. We’d thought we were doing things right. We had met with Tyler the night before and discussed communication during the climb. Zach had been communicating with Tyler (the very person who would have been called in a SAR event) during the climb, providing him with updates on our progress and general wellbeing. Zach had an inreach mini that we could have used at any time if a real problem had arisen, which we thought would prevent a loved one from thinking a call like this would be necessary. Zach’s loved one did not know we were communicating with Tyler and was unfamiliar with how to initiate a garmin message. Ultimately because of our slower progress and the coming cold front, a call was put out in the last hours of the trip. This call emphasizes the importance of establishing expectations with loved ones at home about communication before heading out. We both truly regret that SAR was incorrectly called. Besides that unfortunate mistake (and although everything took longer than planned), the trip went quite well, particularly considering the challenges involved. We climbed an unclimbed ice route on a frigid lake from an inflatable raft without a single "close call". Research shows accidents are most likely to occur not when carefully pushing limits, but due to complacency. Feel free to think it's stupid or crazy, but just remember those are subjective concepts that we often manipulate to justify our own actions and condemn the actions of others. Regardless, if you're hankering for a little aquatic adventure (and maybe a little suffering too! lol) Lieutenant Dan’s Aquatic Death Ride will be out there waiting!
  2. On April 13th Koby Y and I climbed what we believe is a first ascent on the far-left side of the Black Spider. We humbly submit this report for the historical record and for review by the fine netizens of cascadeclimbers. If you know of this line being climbed before, please let me know and I'll PRINT this trip report and then EAT IT (and appropriately redact our claims here). This route is labeled "waterfall" on the hand-drawn topo, left of the "waterfall" that later became the Fric-Amos route: Here's the route from the side, photo taken from the base of Cooper Spur in December (side note: despite looking fat in this photo, Fric-Amos was 100% unprotectable snice): This is a bit of a "lite"/"diet" Black Spider route, not tackling the entire face but rather topping out onto the Newton Clark Headwall about halfway up. Despite this, we did about as much technical climbing as on the neighboring Fric-Amos route and found it surprisingly engaging. It's a bit tough to grade as the ice was quite thin but we'd say it goes around WI4 with a couple M3-4 moves thrown in. I assume that like other routes on the Spider it could become easier and perhaps go entirely at WI3 in fatter conditions. On to some photos of the climb. Here is the face from below with the Arachnophobia second cliff band looking quite fat for April. Our route (which you can't really see as it's tucked in the corner) above the arrow: Next photo, approaching the route. There's currently a LOT of snow over there so the first steep bit visible in the side view above was totally buried. We just walked up into the little snowfield though there were a couple patches of low-angle water ice. Koby coming up into the snowfield: At the top of the snowfield we built an anchor and pitched out the rest of the climb. Here's looking down after the initial steep bit (WI4-ish?) of pitch 1: A couple photos from higher on pitch 1 below. Somewhat tricky climbing up a series of brief vertical steps with some thin/snicey/delaminating sections: I only led about 25 meters before building an anchor, as there was a patch of fat blue ice, a decent pin placement, and I guess I had already used all but one of my screws, sewing it up out of fear in my typical style. Here's Koby leading out above the anchor, about to do perhaps the hardest move on the route involving a brief torque in a horizontal crack to reach the good ice up above: Above this was mostly mellower, typical Mt Hood WI3-ish: Pitch 2 ended up being about 35 meters before joining the Newton Clark Headwall. In reality, we may have been able to squeeze all of our serious climbing into 1 60m pitch, though in more typical conditions (less snow) it looks like gaining the snowfield could require a bit of ice climbing, so it seems reasonable to expect to do at least 2 pitches. We simuled up the rest of the headwall, climbing one last short bit of WI2 between two gendarmes to join the upper Wy'East route to the summit: A couple final notes: First, thanks to Zach and Artem for trying to get this done with me the week prior. The wallowing was, unfortunately, insurmountable: Second, we did have one scary rockfall encounter that I feel obligated to mention. While belaying Koby on our second pitch, shortly after he topped out, a microwave-sized block spontaneously detached in the bowl above me and narrowly missed my head (I ducked), instead hitting my pack and ripping out the picket I had racked in the side pocket. A good reminder that climbing on the Spider sucks and to put the belays in more sheltered spots. This is really my fault for putting the anchor right in the fall line, I thought that we were much closer to the top of the route than we were in reality and that there wasn't that much overhead hazard. Thankful to emerge unscathed. Picture of the rock below: Thanks for reading.
  3. 28 Aug 2023 @Tom Beirne @Doug_Hutchinson Jason Niebler A survival climb, with interesting moves masquerading behind a feral crag, unwilling the be tamed. You can go in with all the iron and cams you want, but the flakes will flex and handholds turn to kitty litter. We were lucky to depart the falls before dusk, when it's rumored that Tin Cup Joe emerges with hatchet in hand and menaces trespassers. This rock appeared visually the cleanest in the area, especially compared to the rock immediately above the lower falls. The higher we trespassed, the lower the quality. This TR is intended to serve as a placeholder for the curious, and in our case, the stupid. This applies to the visible cliffs above the first falls all the way up to the upper slabs: don't bother. Picture below: first rock cliff above Tin Cup, lookin' sus. Approach. Don't approach. Turn around, do something else. Take the standard trail shown on Gaia up to the falls, then cross just prior to the first falls. A very faint trail can be barely followed left of the falls for a few hours. Cross both falls climber right and head towards the upper slabs, which you glimpses of during creek crossings. P1 5.7 40m to gear anchor belay on decent ledge. Begin up easy 5.7 slabs, through some shrubbery, and turn the lip of an awkward layback to the belay. P2 5.9+ 40m to hanging tree belay. Move belay to on top of tree with #1,2,3 crack directly above. Trend up and right through balance ledges through the green patch, and into the chimney for fun short boulder problem. Protects well in the chimney. P3 5.6 30m left trending diagonal traverse to visible tree. Couple pro options down low, none after about 15m. Mind the house of cards. RAP: Two Successive double 60m raps, each from stalwart pines. Apologies to the mountain gods for this transgression, we will seek absolution through worthy missions ASAP. Ps, Happy Birthday Jason, hope you liked your gift.
  4. Trip: Tower Rock - FA - Rapunzel's Back in Rehab - C1 Date: 7/15/2015 Trip Report: The Beast - don't be fooled, them thare are full-grown trees Tower Rock, 2 hours from everywhere, appears oddly neglected - Brown Beckey's got the tiniest blurb of the single route up it done in 1982 (anyone know of a second ascent? i can't find anyone who's tried it) but no picture n' no topo - tim olson's oregon rock guide has some more detail than beckey, but still the vast monolith appears to have continued unloved tower's just south of randle, an unladen swallow's flight from the cispus river - the face is gigantic,something like 1200 feet tall - the rock is basaltic, according to beckey, but like nothing i've seen - like over-baked brownies, it's composed of a hodge-podge of components - incredibly solid and compact, it's cross-hatched in all directions, crackless, and crumbles into bricks and blocks of all conceivable sizes - the tower looms over it's talus field, fiercely steep, it's upper-wall reminiscent of the right side of el cap, incredibly bulging and over-hanging tower is composed of two giant faces seperated by a ledge/fault system that was the path taken by the first team to climb the face - currently, after 7 days of effort, our route climbs the lower wall - it'll be just as much work to finish the upper wall, if the rock quality holds as it currently exists yeah, there's a lot more to go, but as it stands, what's there is 600 feet tall and a great day-tripper's aid adventure already - i figure the worst that can come of telling folks about this now before it's complete is that some other sad fools can go do it for me trip the first: fuck, this happened so long off i wonder if my recollection's right at all - me n' bill n' ben in the late winter - a burr up their bespectacled asses about a mythical 10-pitch free route up a largely untouched tower - the plan to hike to the top then set a rap-line down the likely route - out of town on a friday night to the frightful fall of rain - ghetto camp before the gate in gales of damnable damp - the roar of frogs - the next morning the most sordid thang - endless hours uphill w/ drill n' bolts n' chains in the continuous cloud-fuck n' frenzied chilly breeze - near the summit gob-smacked to gain a blazed trail barely a mile from a seasonal road - the top a huge disappointment, it characterized by clouds and beaming rainbows and rock so rude they rarely accoladed the attribution - soon there after the weekend righteously concluded and me around for the sweet family on the sabbath trip the second: on the reconnaissance earlier, dejected at finding a kitty-litter summit, we'd paused after a tortuous overladen descent on the boulder field and pondered on future options - a man w/ an aid-climber's conscious could do a take on "infinite bliss" and find a bitching way up the crazy big blank face - it was sure to take a mort of mortal work, but bill n' geoff are true gentlemen all measured and solid for this kinda goofy shit - we banged up from p-town on a friday night and made camp up at the turn around on the forest road - stumble-fucking up the forest we arrived amazed and ready to ramble on - many mozzies n' deer flies this damned trip - pitch 1 went quickly between geoff and bill, the later bounding up free on low-angle stacked mossy talus to make an anchor atop tier 1 - me i got tier 2 - all bolts at first until i no longer feared the ledge, then lotza 2-hook moves in a row until reaching the top of the tier where i left a fixed hook to protect a low-angle romp to the second anchor - we retired to camp n' soggy fires n' fulsome screeching music - day 2 we jugged to the top of p2 and bill and geoff got up a ways before yielding to me, whereupon i drilled n' hooked to a high point we marked w/ red tat before descending and returning to our troubled and lonely little lives - i recollect getting a true n' glorious drunk on in the passenger seat n' slumbering back to vantucky geoff putting up the first pitch on the scrubby, compact low-angle first tier the artist as a young asshole ascending the second steeper tier geoff workign on pitch 3, the first steps onto the very steep lower wall trip the third: lovely ospreys n' robins round the lake - pete n' pam play camp hosts - camp weddings n' nightly fishing sheenaningans - muskrats n' pond-skimming swallows - bastard mozzies n' mean biting flies, mostly in obeisance for the first couple cold days, but growing in malevolence as the weather waxed towards wicked hot - the sweet ne face of Tower almost totally shade-soaked for the mid-morning riser - kids n' retirees n' rv's n' jumping trout n' tame dogs - the listless routines of an aimless life - awake w/ the sun - fresh shits n' dewy breakfasts - a short but grim uphill grind through steep forest w/ plentiful windfall, shirt soaked through by the time we hit the sunny talus field at the base but soon blessed w/ shade - warm juggy work to start and then to the serious business - fear frenzies despite being armed w/ all the wonderful war machines of modern man - a long time of terror n' toil - the day dispatched, we make a rapid descent, each time by a different winding way - beer n' stripping soaked clothes off at the mercifully close car - me auolde yosemite food bin rummaged through for a desperate dinner, usually of beer n' tobacco n' pringles n' whatever benevolent bill threw my way - an hour or so of bird-watching n' binge-reading on maggie thatcher's frigid teeming fucking bush - to sleep at the post-gloaming in a grand 6-man tent alone, racked out on a queen sized inflatable air mattress, wrapped in down and dozy drunkenness - the night passed moaning to sore muscles as i twist n' turn until the dawn drags me to my addled senses, then it all runs off the reel much as it reckoned the day before... first several days of murmurings n' mumblings w/ just me n' bill (me a damn baby in comparison to my venerable and august elder - that baby weighing in at a mean 250 bare-nekkid pounds and a coward to boot of course) - bill a bastion of genteel sincerity that must sadly have bitch-left this world many generations ago - me strangely silent of song for days - my mind scrambled and saddened by the robust requirements of 6-weeks of family-left sorrows gone off in the valley - eventually songs to lift my times and shape my senses - "mining for gold" by the cowboy junkies running on an eternal loop in my mind - long after-shocks of "burn down the mission" caused by geoff for sure after 3 days of toil we grow weary and call in the cavalry - the silverman boys gonna come down n' save us from our misery - we make a rest day out of walking the mountain side w/ them, then retiring to the big boulder to pound pbr's n' provide Adult Supervision - they lounge around camp afterwards, contemplating on crashing the redneck wedding well under-way - we smoke bales of weed n' cackle n' cough n' find high times are treasure enough in this wicked world - eventually all good things must get on the bus w/ gandhi though and they roll off into the night in the hms revenge, ready i hope to return for more the last day done-off as surely as a band-aid - after a fearful arduous jug up the wild steep fixed lines ole bill baits the question ("good news or bad?" - which would you take?) - - dedication to a last day of determined work - 5 hours of bolting and hooking on endless steep traversing ground until i was gut-wrenched at what it was likely to take me to get get back to bill - epic amounts of gear left as i rapped into the void and quickly grew dependent on bill to reel me back in - the retreat then fully declared we rapped n' ruminated n' laid our plans like parchment paper, all of it ultimately putting us on sweet terra-firma w/ a fuck-load of gear to get off - surprised by bill's pronouncement of this day, i had no proper pack to cram all the crap into eventually we ambled on down the way, me overloaded like a gypsy carnival-whore w/ rope-bags aplenty such that i swooned on multiple occasions as the straps cut into me wind-pipe and i passed yards off unyielding to gratuitous thoughts, my mind in a true and lovely gray place - the last night spent in part w/ militant california-paul, such as exemplar of that shakespearean clap-trap about sounding of fuck-all and negative fury, yet yielding nothing our objective from the relative sanity of the rv park n' its teeming trout pond white-boys jugging the first 2 tiers - at this angle the lower wall takes up most of the entire frame, but the upper wall's just as big n' steeper 700 feet of ropes n' route-making machine just starting the second pitch bags of bolts n' drills n' bullshit - starting to install pitch 4 geoff at the top of p4, kyle jugging up to the mid-pt anchor closing thoughts: happy to share the discovery w/ the nw brethren - leave yer self-righteous bolting morals at home w/ yer bitches - the place went unloved for a reason - the only cracks evident are where awful rock-fall is just a geologic fart-in-a-stiff-wind away - if intending to push the route higher (what's there is plenty for a day-tripper), please let me or bill or geoff know so one of us can come along - perhaps a dozen separate lines could be pushed to the top in the same style, each likely to take weeks n' 1000$ to put in place - recon trip to the top found almost no real rock up there - at some point all lines must turn to awful kitty litter, but maybe it'll go anyhow? topo as it currently stands - hope to see this fucker get taller in the fullness of insensible time Gear Notes: - up to 30+ draws if clipping all bolts - 2 bathooks (talons can work, but they risk blowing out the drilled holes) - ideally 2 70 meter ropes, but 2 60'S can work if careful - cheater stick not bad idea, as many of the bolts were installed by a fear-fucked orangutan at his max reach - lower off tat or quick-links/biners for follower at traversing parts - helmets essential - much potential for rockfall of all sizes, especially if hauling or jugging - base area very dangerous in strong winds or if below climbers on first 2 approach pitches - upper pitches largely protected from natural rockfall (be careful up there ) Approach Notes: Exit 68 off i5 - east on 12 to randle (about an hour) - right (south) turn at randle (follow signs for tower rock RV park) - quick left about a mile south of randle, then another turn right about 6 miles later - rt turn at tower rock RV park/cispus learning center signs - left onto logging road (75?76?) just a 100 yards before rt turn to tower rock forest service camp (or straight for another mile to the RV park) - forest road is closed at gate near main road during winter/early spring - about 1 1/2 mile up road (stay on main road at split a 1/2 mile up) there's a turn around (about .25 mile past a steep switchback) - from there you can continue in car but there's no turnaround - walk or drive 1/4 mile to road-end - at wierd stone-forest-altar begin hiking up steep forrested slope - about 45 minutes to base - occasional game and human trails, generally trending right and up - copious windfall in middle section of trail - steeper for last 1/3 of trail - idea is to skirt talus field on right and join base from tree at right edge of wall - 1st bolt is just 5 feet off ground near clump of trees about 50 feet above a huge lounge-like boulder that is a great/safe observation spot descent: currently rapping from top of p5 to top of p4 is extra-ordinarly hard - in the future ideally there'll be a rap line straight down through p5 - for now be prepared to leave a fixed line to get back to the top of p4 and for the first rapper to have to haul the second back over - descending from the top of p4 requires 2 70 meter ropes or a stop at the mid-pt anchor (no rings) - the rap overhangs but you just barely touch the wall at the mid-pt anchor - use terrain to help you rap in the right direction
  5. Trip: Bonanza Peak's Southwest Summit, West Face - Cascadian Route V 5.10+ Trip Date: 08/26/2023 Here's a couple obligatory John Scurlock photos of the western aspect of Bonanza's Southwest Summit: Trip Report: Summary: Sam Boyce and I took a 3-day weekend to climb a new route* on the West Face of Bonanza’s SW Summit. The Cascadian Route (V 5.10+) ascends Bonanza’s intimidating western wall. Our line gains >2,000 vertical feet over 16 pitches and 2,800’ of climbing. For context, our route is off to looker’s right of its neighbors to the north, the Soviet Route (1976) and the Oregonian Route (2013), both of which ascend the Northwest Buttress (previously also referred to as the "West Buttress", and in 1976 "the North Face") of the SW summit. In a marked up version of Sam's photo below: The approx. Cascadian route in green (each dot approx 3 pitches); the Soviet and Oregonian routes off to the left meet near the 8,700’ subsummit pinnacle on the skyline (red point), before ascending mellower terrain on the peak’s more-northern aspect (out of view; parties apparently traversed left under red roofs of the summit block): On the Scurlock photo, same color scheme (Soviet red, Cascadian green), but with the Oregonian start indicated by an orange dot: From the 9,320’ summit, we descended the Isella Glacier, which (as can be seen on satellite imagery) is split at approx. mid-height by a magically continuous undulating walkway. We were able to walk and downclimb (one low-fifth crux) to roughly 6,900’ without rappelling or touching snow, then used a notch/gully to drop through the peak’s south ridge before circling back up to our 7,000’ camp near the North Star – Bonanza col. Near the col above the bivy, there remains a small snow patch that provides water, even near the end of this hot dry 2023 summer. Report: Several years ago en route to climb Dark Peak with my friend Jon, we crossed (interminable and uniquely annoying scree) under Bonanza’s SW summit and gaped up at the expanse of rock on its western flank. I made a mental note to explore new routes if given the right conditions. Thanks to Sam’s can-do attitude and vision, and the forecasted wildfire smoke that ruled out other candidates, this was the moment. On Friday 25 Aug we made the time-consuming approach (car, Chelan-Lucerne ferry, Holden bus transport, many miles of walking); Saturday we finished the approach, climbed and descended to camp (15 hours, dawn to dusk); and early Sunday boogied out to catch the 10am Holden to Lucerne bus, then ferry, etc., etc. Would you believe the route looked this good all the way up? (Above: Sam follows the pleasurable 5.10a pitch 8, sends a sweet 5.10 corner on pitch 9, and earns his kale on the 5.10+ pitch 13 overhang) That would be a mistake: (Above: Eric confronts the heinous choss band of 5.8+ pitch 4, and the tricky steep delights of 5.10R pitch 12) While there were enjoyable stretches, there were also satiating portions of choss. Roof systems, particularly a large one that spans the west face feature near the top, provided few weaknesses and narrowed free-climbing line options to 1 or maybe 2 in places. We were both concerned about passage near the top, as bailing would be fraught and difficult. The technical highlights were five pitches of 5.10; three of these (pitches 8, 9 & 13) sported steep and fun climbing, but another two (pitches 11 & 12) were horsepuckey. For much of the climbing on these two steep 5.10R puckery pitches, literally not a single hold was loose; nah, haha, two or more were. While the featured rock inspired a kind of upward hope, protection was occasional, creative, and even whimsical—bring your bag of tricks. These pitches offered quality terror-tainment (@rat ©). This was a no meat-rain zone. The rest of the route predominantly ranged from mid-fifth to 5.8 on similarly varying rock quality—any given hold might be probably portable, or revealed as a solid protrusion of the mountain, eternally nonmoving and crank-able. Climbing of this sort can be extremely engaging and stimulating, and while Sam and I enjoyed moving up the route, it might not be to others’ tastes. For interested folks, he took concise notes on the pitches, and will hopefully chime in here with that info. * I encountered a 2.5” Trango Flex-Cam in a crack with a ‘biner attached on pitch 4, after the first heinous choss band but before the most technical climbing. This late-‘90s/early-aughts era cam was in a textbook placement and easily removed. The sling is weathered, perhaps had been sitting there for 10-20 years (hard tellin'). Anyway, given no evidence of passage in the pitches above, we surmise that perhaps this was used for bailing. A search for attempts or climbs of this feature has not borne fruit. However, if anyone knows better, please advise. Here are a few more photos. They don’t really do the route’s position and exposure justice, but they do serve to highlight the area’s rock/choss quality variability. (Above: choose your own adventure, then call your mom) (Above: In a move that typifies much of the climbing, Sam stems out in search of better rock) (Above: Eric following the overhanging section of 5.10+ on pitch 13) Here's an album with more pics, including descent: https://photos.app.goo.gl/8qAiXj6o4BfRSGJm9 Gear Notes: Lots of small gear was helpful, a bag of tricks (ball nuts, tricams) useful, and we also used some pins at belays. No need really for anything larger than a #3. 70m rope. Approach Notes: There are many ways to get there, but we took arguably the easiest starting via the ferry to Lucerne. Good bivy sites just south of the North Star – Bonanza col, around 7,000'
  6. From Aug 20th to 24th Lani Chapko, Nick Gonzalez and I did the first ascent of the direct SE ridge of Seahpo Peak. The SE ridge gains roughly 4400' over around 1.5 miles of horizontal. Jagged Ridge adds roughly another 1.5 miles of ridge traversing. We climbed roughly 30 pitches on the SE Ridge of Seahpo with another 6-8 or so on Jagged Ridge. I would consider the SE ridge a Grade V as a stand alone if a team were to descend the standard route, and while maybe controversial, consider it a Grade VI with its continuation through the Jagged Ridge (Grade V 5.6). We had 18 hours of climbing time on the SE ridge and around 12 hours of climbing time on Jagged, totaling just shy of 30 hrs of climbing time over the course of 3 long days. Lani and I's climbing time on Mongo Ridge was around 17 hours and our non-speed-climber NIAD time last year was 16 hours. While not really relevant, these seem to be common benchmarks that people like to compare to. Photo I found last year from the summit of Icy showing the entirety of the ridge (sorry i don't remember who took it...) Early Attempts: I first spotted the line last year when Joe and I went in to do Spectre. It is a sneaky ridge that is only visible from a fairly narrow window of the North Cascades. We both agreed it looked massive and epic. I convinced Lani to give it an attempt late September. This was a couple weeks after a bad ankle sprain on Jo Berg. We ended up bailing after around 800' of climbing because of extreme heat, dry conditions and mild hallucinations from intense smoke. We approached via the Baker River and Crystal Creek. This year in July we had a window and decided to give it another go. We figured the Baker River approach would not go smoothly so we decided to try a high route approach via the Ruth-Icy traverse. Once at the Icy-Seahpo col we dropped down the head of the Crystal creek cirque and tried to find an access point to the ridge from the north. The climbing looked like 5.10X with minimal anchors, so we ultimately bailed out with the knowledge that we would have to repeat the heinous munge we found on the ridge last year. Day 1: We knew we were heading into dry conditions, so we sought out a third person to join the party to help distribute water weight on the harder climbing near the toe of the ridge. We reached out to Lani's friend Nick the morning of to see if he would be down, and he somewhat reluctantly joined knowing he would be procrastinating some work. The last minute shuffle meant we were in for a bit of a long packing session and late start. We got to the Baker River Trailhead in the mid afternoon and started our approach around 3PM. The approach went smoothly as the Baker River was super low and the crossings were super chill. We again picked up the old trail up crystal creek. We were initially super confused about the existing trail until we consulted with Eric W and learned that there used to be a trail up crystal creek. We got up into crystal creek basin right as it was getting dark and decided to set up camp in the trees just after crossing crystal creek. Near the end of our approach, Nick got stung by a ground wasp and started developing some full body hives. He had previously never been allergic to any kind of stings so this was a new development. Luckily we had just added some Benadryl to the first aid kit. He reacted well to the Benadryl and the hives subsided after around 20 min. Day 2: We started out the day finishing our approach up the crystal creek basin. This involves some mellow, but overhead grassy bushwhacking. When we were here in 2022, there was clear evidence that a ton of bears had trampled the valley. Adding a very eerie feeling to the endeavor. We felt like we were being taunted by Tanuki, hence the name. The climbing on the ridge starts around 2900-3000' depending on how your device is feeling. Once at the base of the ridge again we were back in familiar terrain. Ignorance may have been bliss... The first 1000' of the climb involves some substantial, runout and sometimes challenging munge-a-neering. Lani following one of the 5.9 munge pitches on the first attempt Looking up at the crux munge pitch after bailing on attempt #1 After reaching our high point, we continued questing upward. We had a hunch that we were through the major difficulties of the lower ridge on the first attempt, and luckily that prior assumption was true. 1000' more munge led us to the summit of the first major tower. This tower rises over 2000' over crystal creek basin and feels like a major accomplishment in and of itself. Lani and Nick Following near the top of Tanuki Tower Looking back down at the long scrambling section in the middle of the route After reaching the summit of the first tower, which we later dubbed Tanuki Tower, the ridge eased back for a massive, long section of 3rd and 4th class scrambling, separated by the occasional pitch. We were able to make good time to the base of an obvious gendarme to camp at 6900'. When we arrived at camp we were able to locate a 3rd class access ramp that allowed for access to the glacier on the south side of the ridge. This allowed for a much needed water top off. Future parties could consider gaining the upper (more classic) ridge via this hanging basin and scrambling access ramp to avoid the munge on Tanuki Tower. Looking up at the upper ridge from camp. Day 3: We started by climbing the obvious Gendarme above camp and traversing to the main summit massif and upper ridge. Classic moderate climbing on the Gendarme above camp The upper ridge provided a ton of clean, moderate ridge climbing with a bunch of awesome position and good climbing. Nick leading the upper crux, a clean 5.8+ lieback After a bunch of false summits, gendarme traverses and generally entertaining ridge climbing, we finally found our way to the summit of Seahpo. Stoked on our success we started the debate about continuing. We all had trail runners and light aluminum snow gear. After an hour long debate we decided thin conditions meant we could work around the snow and manage the little that we had to, so we began our committing raps off the summit of Seahpo. We started off with the moderate snow traverse across the glacier to regain the ridge. Conditions were super firm, so while only being around 30 degree traversing terrain, we ended up pitching out this short section. Looking out from the start of the Jagged Ridge Traverse Clean Rock on Jagged Ridge Once back on the rock, we were able to make super quick progress soloing a bunch of 4th class terrain to near the mid point on the Jagged Ridge traverse. There were minimal opportunities for bivies, but we found a reasonable, albeit exposed ledge near the ridge crest. If we would have been able to continue for another 20 min, we would have made to to a kush ledge on the north side of the ridge that would have been sheltered from winds. A nice ledge amongst the choss traversing near the end of Jagged Ridge Day 4: The remaining part of Jagged Ridge was honestly kind of awful without snow coverage. Very loose compact dirt and unstable talus traversing above big exposure. There was the occasional pitch but mostly scrambling. We ultimately made it to the final group of towers that define the exit to the ridge. We didn't really find the "lethal choss chimney" described in other reports, though there was a low angle choss gully with a 5.6 boulder problem around a chockstone. The final pitch to exit was the definitive crux and decent climbing, though a bit steep and committing for 5.6. Once off the traverse, we realized our mistake in equipment selection. It was clear that heading up onto the crystal glacier with so much blue ice exposed would be an awful test of our mediocre snow gear. That and a whiteout shielded the bergshrunds from our vision, so we didn't have a clear view of our exit. Our original plan was to head up and maybe tag the summit pyramid, though we decided to bail onto the slabs below the crystal and sulphide glacier. There was a level of uncertainty with terrain and overhead hazard, though the seracs looked quiet enough to feel comfortable with the traverse. The 2 mile long slab traverse took what felt like days, but we were able to link into the sulphide route right at the standard sulphide camp, avoiding all of the steep exposed ice. We took the slabs just below the snout of the crystal, then back up the rocky passage on the Sulphide Typical terrain on the slabs after a waterfall crossing A quick jaunt down the shannon ridge trail got us back to civilization, but not out of the clear... as we opted not to spend the time to set up a car shuttle. Nick in all of his glory had volunteered to run the shannon ridge trail and road all the way back to baker lake trailhead to shuttle the car, for a total of an 11 mile run to finish off the trip!! Overall, this was a grand journey up one of the largest technical features in the lower 48. I would recommend the whole ridge as an awesome cascadian, blue collar route! Rack: Singles Single Rack to 3 with doubles up to .75, optional KB's, Single 60M Rope A rough track showing our approximate route TH to TH A Close up showing our rough track on route Potential alternate approach tracks; Green showing an early season approach via the Icy-Seahpo col, this route may require some rappels down low angle slabs. Purple being a potential high route that would require a bushwhack up the ridge to the left of Crystal Creek. And Red showing a technical track up low angle waterfall slabs that would access the hanging basin to bypass Tanuki Tower. The two access points (red and purple) seem like equally easy and viable ways to access the ridge.
  7. Trip: Uzbekistan - Alpomish - New Highpoint of Uzbekistan Trip Date: 08/23/2023 Trip Report: Alpomish (4668m, IV, 7 pitch 5.8), Highpoint of Uzbekistan, and Khazret Sultan (4643m, III, 2 pitch 5.7), Second Highest Peak in Uzbekistan Aug 21-26, 2023 Eric Gilbertson and Andreas Frydensberg First Ascent of Alpomish Andreas near the summit of Alpomish Aug 21 – Taxi to Sarytog village, hike in Aug 22 – Hike to base of Alpomish Aug 23 – Climb Alpomish (7 pitch 5.8) Aug 24 – Hike to base of Khazret Sultan Aug 25 – Climb Khazret Sultan (2 pitch 5.7) Aug 26 – Hike out, taxi to Dushanbe Until now it was widely accepted that Khazret Sultan Peak was the highest peak in Uzbekistan. I’m working on climbing country highpoints so it was on my list to climb. On this trip we discovered that Alpomish, a previously unclimbed peak, is in fact the true Uzbekistan highpoint. Khazret Sultan is located on the border with Tajikistan in the Gissar Range and is not a popular peak. It was most likely first climbed by Soviet mountaineers in the 1930s or in 1961, possibly a surveying team. It was first named Peak of the 22nd Party Congress, but this name was dropped after Uzbekistan gained independence. The peak was next climbed in August 2005 by Ginge Fullen and Tajik guide Tolic, climbing the northeast ridge from the Tajikistan side. This was Ginge’s third attempt to climb the highpoint and he discovered extremely valuable beta about the route and logistics. This would make it much easier for future climbers like me. The route On the summit they found the cairn left by the first ascent team. At that point the peak was officially unnamed and just referred to by its elevation, Peak 4643. This was the elevation measured on the most recent ground survey, the 1981 soviet topographic map. Based on the 1981 soviet topographic map, the most accurate map of the area, this was considered the highest peak in Uzbekistan. There were no higher peaks on the map and no subsequent ground surveys after 1981 of the area. In June 2010 a team of Uzbek climbers climbed the peak also from the Tajikistan side and later gave it the officially-recognized name of Khazret Sultan Peak. They officially recognized it as the highpoint of Uzbekistan. This unfortunately has led to a bit of confusion because there was already another peak named Mount Khazret Sultan in Uzbekistan at an elevation of 4083m. That is considered a holy mountain and is frequently climbed by pilgrims. It is not the country highpoint. Since 2010 there was one other known ascent, by Pat Bauman (solo) in August 2018 via the northeast ridge. Pat gave me excellent beta, saying the route was mostly 4th class with one or two pitches of 5.7 (which he soloed up and down). He also gave me a few GPS coordinates of key locations on the route. The 1981 Soviet topo map. Khazret Sultan is labeled 4643.3 but Alpomish is not surveyed I’ve been planning to climb Khazret Sultan every summer since 2019, but it never worked out. I always planned to tag it on at the end of another expedition but usually ran out of time. Finally in 2023 I again planned again to tag in on at the end of another expedition. I would climb my remaining snow leopard peaks Korzhenevskaya and Kommunizma in Tajikistan, then afterwards if I had time I’d go in with Andreas to climb Khazret Sultan. Since I’d already be in Tajikistan and the best route was from the Tajikistan side it should be straightforward. Before the trip, though, Andreas noticed open street map showed a peak called Alpomish with a higher elevation about 6km south of Khazret Sultan on the Tajikistan-Uzbekistan border. I found Gaia had similar results. I researched all topographic maps based on ground surveys of the area and purchased the relevant maps from mapstor.com. The 1981 soviet map was the only one with enough detail to show both peaks and appears to be the last ground survey conducted in the area. Interestingly, while the map had a spot elevation of 4643m on khazret sultan, there was no spot elevation for Alpomish. The topo lines for Alpomish showed it slightly shorter. But with no spot elevation for the summit that means the summit was not directly surveyed and the topo lines for the peak are just approximate. We then looked at satellite based measurements (SRTM) from google earth. The highest elevation points on each peak were exactly the same to the nearest meter. SRTM can have high errors up to 16m or more on sharp peaks, so this meant the two peaks were within error bounds of each other based on SRTM. Google maps terrain view had both within the 4600m contours but Alpomish was within a bigger contour. That usually, but not always, means the peak is taller. I believe the open street map, Gaia, and google terrain elevations are using digital elevation models (DEMs) to approximate elevations in between point measurements taken by satellites. They use different models so get slightly different elevations. The problem with the DEMs is that they are just approximations. Unless the satellite measurement sampled the exact summit of alpomish (very unlikely for a sharp peak), then there will always be unknown error in them DEM elevation. This seemed like a very interesting problem to solve. Which peak – Alpomish or Khazret Sultan – is the true country highpoint of Uzbekistan? Based on all existing information it was too close to know for sure. I could think of two ways to figure out the answer. The first was to fly a plane over Alpomish taking Lidar measurements which should be accurate to the nearest foot. That flight is unlikely to ever happen. The second is to go in and take ground measurements of alpomish. That I could do. Over the past year I’ve been acquiring survey equipment and skills that would be perfect for such an expedition. Just this july I finished an extensive survey project to find the true 100 highest peaks in Washington (results available at https://www.countryhighpoints.com/washington-top-100-peaks-updated-list/ ). I’ve conducted over a dozen ground surveys using sight levels, a theodolite, and a survey grade differential gps unit. I could apply those same skills and equipment to survey alpomish. My plan was to bring the differential GPS unit and sight levels to the summit of alpomish. The theodolite would be too heavy. The gps with a one hour measurement should give me an absolute elevation accurate to the within 3cm. As a backup I would use my 5x and 1x 10-arcminute sight levels to measure the angular inclination or declination looking from alpomish to khazret sultan. I could find the horizontal distance between them from Google earth and use trigonometry to find the relative height. I could then add the relative height to the known soviet-surveyed height of khazret sultan to find the absolute height of alpomish. To get more measurements to increase confidence I would then climb khazret sultan and repeat the whole process. I’d take an absolute height measurement with the differential GPS and also take angular measurements from khazret sultan looking back to alpomish. I could again calculate a relative height and use this to find the absolute height of alpomish. Also, if there were any intermediate locations of known elevation from the topo map I could use the sight levels to measure angular inclination up to alpomish and again find an absolute height. Finally, I would bring my handheld garmin 62s GPS for another independent source of height measurements. This has higher error than the differential GPS but could help increase confidence in whether alpomish is taller than khazret sultan or not. Ideally all measurements would agree. The more measurements I take that all agree the more confident I am in the final result. I usual am only comfortable if at least three independent measurements all agree before reporting a summit elevation. This was all a nice plan for surveying alpomish, but the more difficult part would likely be actually climbing it. I spent a lot of time trying to research if there had ever been previous ascents and I couldn’t find any information. We even had russian friends search in russian databases and they didn’t find any reports of ascents or attempts. This was intriguing. The peak had apparently never been surveyed accurately enough to know if it was the country highpoint and had never been climbed. This expedition sounded like true exploration. For better or worse with no beta or even pictures of the mountain I decided to come prepared for the worst. I would bring a full climbing rack with doubles of the intermediate pro, rock shoes, 60m rope, crampons, ice ax, and screws. I knew khazret sultan had a bit of rock climbing and was nearby so it was a good guess that alpomish might also involve rock climbing. We could make out glaciers at the base of alpomish from the satellite images so there was a good chance there might also be snow and ice climbing. Satellite images couldn’t really show if the peak was technical or not, though. With so much uncertainty in the route we decided to build in quite a few buffer days. We decided on one day to circumnavigate the peak to assess the best route and two days to climb the route. Then we gave ourselves two days to climb khazret sultan in case that had difficult route finding. We knew from Pat’s beta the best way in to khazret sultan was starting in sarytog village. However, it was unclear what the best way was to get from there to alpomish. I researched that there exists a trail over Mura pass nearby. That connects to an adjacent valley which would eventually lead up to alpomish. But it was very indirect – about 20 miles from khazret to alpomish. I played around a lot on Google earth and it looked like there was another option to climb up to a glacier up the valley from khazret sultan and cross a pass above that. Then we could try to stay high and cross one more glacier pass to get to the base of alpomish. That route was half the distance but there was more uncertainty in whether it would work. We decided to go for it, though, to save time. We probably had enough technical gear to make it work. So the full itinerary with all the buffer days added up to nine days. With all the climbing gear, survey equipment, and nine days of food that would make for very heavy packs. To help a bit we planned to climb alpomish first and cache extra food on the way in at the turnoff for the khazret sultan valley. I would bring an ursack so animals couldn’t get into our cached food. I liked going for alpomish first because it was the biggest prize, was the main objective for the trip, had the most uncertainty, and was the farthest away. Thus it made sense to prioritize. If we managed to climb alpomish, then khazret sultan would be easy to finish on in comparison. With the trip fully planned we started out on our primary expedition to finish the snow leopard peaks. We started by acclimating on Bazarduzu, the Azerbaijan highpoint, then flew to Tajikistan and moskvina glade basecamp in late July. Over the next few weeks we successfully climbed Pik Korzhenevskaya and Pik Kommunizma/Ismoil Somoni, finishing the snow leopards on Aug 16. Pik Kommunizma/Ismoil Somoni, Tajikistan highpoint and final snow leopard peak The next helicopter out of basecamp wasn’t scheduled until aug 26, but it turned out a group of climbers had arranged for a medical evacuation flight on aug 19. One of them had taken a fall and needed to go to the hospital. Helicoptering out of basecamp They were nice enough to let us squeeze on the flight, though we had to bribe the pilot to accept (even though the flight was completely paid for by the climbers’ insurance). We were lucky enough to fly all the way to dushanbe on aug 19, a full week ahead of schedule! This gave us plenty of time for our bonus objectives of alpomish and khazret sultan. The climber ended up being ok after visiting the hospital. Back in town with internet access we bought flights home for early september and took a full rest day to buy food for our next trip and repack. Then we were ready to go. Aug 21 After two nights at the Green House Hostel we left our extra gear stored and headed out in a taxi at 8am. Lucky for us our trailhead town Sarytog is located near Iskanderkul, a big lake in the mountains that is a popular tourist destination. So transportation would be easy. We paid $80 for the ride which went due north of dushanbe into the mountains. We stopped for an early lunch of sashleek along the way and made it to sarytog by noon. The road on our intended route appeared to continue past the village, but it was rough and our taxi driver was not interested in proceeding. So he dropped us off at the edge of town. We took down his WhatsApp number in case we wanted to call for a ride back, but didn’t want to arrange anything in advance. There was too much uncertainty in the trip timing. We could get lucky and finish early (unlikely) or need more time and stretch our food and get back late. We figured most likely we could just ask around in town whenever we got back and someone would be happy to make some extra money and drive us to dushanbe. Andreas stashed some flip flops in the bushes (a good idea I should have also done) then by 1230pm we started walking. For the first hour we walked along a gravel road out of town along the south side of the Capomok river. The road would be passable to a normal car most of the way. Halfway we passed a set of buildings and volleyball net that was labed Camp Archa the meadows on Gaia. I think this is a popular weekend destination for campers from Dushanbe. Hiking up the valley from Sarytog The road ended at the confluence with the Mura river and we stayed on the east side going up river on a decent trail. It got narrow in a few places on steep side slopes but was generally very good. We stopped for a brief break at the small village of Sarikhodan. This was at the turnoff for Mura pass. The village was only six small rock structures and I think the villagers are mostly shepherds in the area. From there we continued on good trails on the east side until we reached the dikondara confluence. On our map it looked like the west side was easier travelling, so we decided to cross. It wasn’t too bad – we just took of our shoes and waded through the shin deep cold water. Crossing the Dikondara river On the other side the river edge cliffed out but we hiked high on sheep trails and mostly had easy strolls through meadows. After the cliff section I noticed a wood bridge down at the river. We would keep that in mind for the return if needed. We continued through easy meadows on sheep trails until 6pm when we reached our planned cache location at the turnoff for the khazret sultan valley. There we waded across to the south side of the dikondara and found a good boulder to cache our food under. It would be easy to identify since there was a sheep carcass next to it. We continued a little farther to a nice flat meadow and pitched our tent there for the night. I boiled water in a tea kettle we’d bought in dushanbe since our reactor stove had gotten left at moskvina basecamp. The evening was surprisingly windy and we hoped it wouldn’t be like that for the summits. Camp at the turnoff for the khazret sultan valley Meteorologist Chris Tomer was continuing to send us daily forecasts to my inreach as he had done for korzhenevskaya and Kommunizma and it looked like the next few days would be good summit days. Aug 22 Our objective for the next day was to make it to the base of alpomish, about 10 miles away. It didn’t seem like a long day so I didn’t set an alarm. Around 7am we were woken up by a big dog poking his nose inside the tent! He soon left and I stuck my head out to see a shepherd on a donkey heading up the khazret sultan valley. He soon tied up the donkey and continued on foot. I suspect he was checking on some cows that we would later see grazing up there. Hiking up to the grassy cirque above camp He just happened to tie up the donkey next to our cached food and I was a bit nervous the dog might smell it and dig it out of the rocks I’d piled up. So I walked up there and moved the ursack to a different boulder closer to our tent. I figured the shepherd would assume it was related to the people in the tent and not mess with it. We soon packed up and continued up the valley. We followed sheep trails into a big basin with glaciers visible above then headed steeply up the right side. We found as long as there was grass there would be trails to follow, so we stuck to the grassy slopes as much as possible. We eventually ran out of grass and followed talus to the toe of the westernmost glacier in the basin, closest to the Uzbek border. The pass above the glacier is labelled pass 2 on gaia (but in russian/cyrillic). The glacier crossing to access the next valley The glacier was low angle enough and the ice/snow soft enough that we were able to continue all the way to the pass above around 4000m without putting on crampons. Interestingly I saw what looked like old sheep poop in some places and the pass had a small cairn. It appears shepherds must occasionally use that pass as a shortcut between valleys without needing to go all the way down to Mura pass. That’s pretty much exactly what we were doing too. It was very satisfying that all my research on Google earth had been accurate and the route had worked to the pass so far. The other side was low angle as I expected and we easily descended the scree and talus slopes to the next basin below. From there we traversed around the base of a ridge on 3rd class ledges to gain the next basin to the south. We crossed talus fields there to reach the toe of the largest glacier on the west end of the basin. The next glacier pass to cross This glacier was a bit steeper than the previous one and would likely require crampons to walk directly over. But there was a scree slope on the right side that looked doable. I was a little lazy about putting on crampons so opted for the scree slope. We made good progress and were soon at the pass. Surprisingly there was another cairn there. Perhaps shepherds use that pass too to get between valleys. We took a break at the pass and I noticed a formidable looking peak looming above to the southwest. It was composed of four steep spires like fingers sticking up from a hand. It was in the general direction of Alpomish. Andreas was skeptical that it was alpomish and I was hopeful it wasn’t since it looked really hard. We decided to get to our planned basecamp before worrying about it. From camp we could be certain which peak was alpomish. First view of alpomish From the pass we descended scree slopes then traversed around the ridge extending east from alpomish. We crossed some talus fields and eventually reached the small tarn at 3975m I had planned as our bacamp. The camp was perfect, and one of the most scenic I can remember camping at. The toe of a glacier ended in a tall ice cliff with waterfalls pouring into the tarn. The tarn had icebergs floating inside and was surrounded by boulders except for the southwest side which had a sandy beach next to the outflow. We pitched our tent on the beach by 6pm. Above us loomed Alpomish at the head of the unnamed glacier, as we verified on our map. For better or worse it was the same four-finger mountain we’d been intimidated by before. Now it looked even steeper. At basecamp for Alpomish It reminded me a lot of the east face of Mt Whitney in the Sierra nevada mountains of california. There was a huge granite face for each of the four spires. The left most (southern most) spire clearly looked the tallest, and I verified this with my sight levels. There was no obvious easiest way up and I was happy to have brought all the climbing gear. We would certainly need it. The next day was a planned scouting day and I hoped we could find some weakness in the peak once we walked closer for a better look. It was too late in the day to get any meaningful scouting in before dark though. But, I could get our first altitude measurement. I knew the altitude of the tarn from our topo map and could calculate the distance to the peak from gaia. Nice campsite by the tarn I measured angular inclinations using my 5x and 1x sight levels and got consistent results of 19 deg 50min. I calculated that alpomish was then between 4660m – 4670m tall. (There was a bit of uncertainty in the exact distance to the peak based on the topo lines on the map and this translated to uncertainty in altitude). That was significantly taller than khazret sultan! It was an intriguing result and already consistent with altitudes on gaia and open street map. I hoped I could get more measurements to increase confidence in the results. Sunset soon came and we went to bed. The forecast was for a sunny morning but slight chance of afternoon snow showers the next day, so we see our alarms to get up early. Approaching the east face of Alpomish Aug 23 We were up at sunrise and moving by 6am, ready for a potentially big day. The official plan was to do a scouting trip circumnavigating the mountain to look for a good route up. But we would bring all our climbing and surveying gear just in case we saw a good route to try that day. From camp we immediately got on the glacier and started walking towards the peak. As we got closer the features became easier to make out. The direct east face looked like good rock with cracks but would be very long. A gully went up to the left skyline which might work. There was a saddle to the right we could possibly use to get around to the back side of the peak. The rightmost spire looked like the easiest and maybe we could traverse from there to the summit. But that would require climbing the two intermediate spires which looked tough. Looking back towards camp There was a big gully leading up to the notch between the summit and the next spire to the right. From the notch to the summit looked short and doable. If that gully was scree or third class maybe the peak actually wouldn’t be too tough. We decided to go for the gully since it seemed like a reasonably high chance of success. Of course there could have been an even better way on the back side but we decided to gamble and try to go for the summit then instead of continuing scouting. This also had the advantage that we wouldn’t have to sneak over to the Uzbek side of the border, though I’m pretty sure that part of the border doesn’t get patrolled. Looking up at the east face We found an icy snow ramp at the base of the gully and cramponed up until the snow ran out at a slabby construction. We made a somewhat sketchy scramble up to scree slopes then traversed left onto third class blocks. The gully wrapped around to the left above us and we thought it looked all melted down to scree, so we ditched crampons and ice axes there. We continued up on third class blocks on the left side then met chossy scree up higher. We soon met a split with the left gully blocked by a huge chock stone. I guess that wasn’t too surprising in these kind of gullies. A right gully looked open and it was tempting to think it provided a way around the chockstone, but in my experience I judged that extremely unlikely. That gully most likely just led up to the notch between the next two spires. Climbing the east gully We climbed up to the chockstone and I saw light underneath, but it was too small of a hole to wriggle through. We would have to climb around. I changed into my climbing shoes and stashed my boots and poles and racked up. Luckily there was a crack on the face to the right that looked doable. Andreas belayed me up the face as I zippered it up with gear. At the top it turned into an overhang and I traversed left delicately on a steep slab to at last reach the top of the chockstone. I continued a little higher on scree to build a good anchor on the wall on the right. The pitch was about 5.7. Looking down from above the chockstone pitch Andreas didn’t bring rock shoes so climbed in hiking boots. I think the traverse was a bit trickier but he made it up fine. Above us we scrambled a little ways up chossy rock then encountered a constriction with a small waterfall in the middle. That was nice there was water to drink, but it meant there was probably ice and snow above us we hadn’t planned on. The constriction was steep and exposed so we decided to pitch it out. I led up again, managing to mantle up on the right side of the water to stay dry. Above it I climbed another small steep bit to an anchor on the left wall where the terrain turned back to scree. The pitch was 5.7. I belayed andreas up and then we noticed above us was a huge mass of ice filling the gully all the way up to the notch. If we could reach the notch the summit looked attainable. But we had ditched our crampons and ice axes. We would have needed technical tools and technical crampons and more ice screws anyway to make it up that. Ice leading up to the notch We optimistically scrambled up to the base to get a better look anyway just in case we could climb rock on the edge. But it was no use. We’d have to find a different way up. It looked like the only option was to move onto the face on our left and climb the remaining distance. Fortunately the rock looked protectable and climbable. Climbing the east face We descended back to my previous anchor on the left wall and I started up. I was able to follow ramps and ledges up to a nice ledge above for a 5.4 pitch. Andreas soon followed. Above that I tried to continue on ledges facing the gully but they got steeper and I needed to make a few stemming moves with an overhang to my left. I surmounted the overhang but then opted to traverse left to a ridge crest with a good belay ledge. That pitch was 5.7. Climbing the east face It looked like staying on the rock facing the gully was not going to work and we’d have to move farther left onto the main east face. The next pitch would be the crux of the route. I climbed a steeper 5.8 crack directly up the ridge crest. I poked my nose over to the right but it looked tough. So I instead made a delicate traverse left into a cleft. Shortly below me the cleft led to an overhang with extreme exposure but above looked doable. I made a few more moves to a ledge and belayed Andreas up. I think the delicate traverse was again tricky in hiking boots. Starting the final pitch From that belay I could see the summit, but the direct east face looked smooth and tough. I continued up the cleft and managed to cross back right to the rock facing the gully. There I found nice ledges and ran the rope out to its end for a 5.5 pitch. Finally the summit looked attainable! From that ledge I climbed directly up to the summit ridge behind a spire and crossed to the other side. I wove the rope around horns and followed the final knife edge ridge to at last reach the summit at 4pm. The final pitch was 5.5. Andreas on the final knife edge ridge to the summit ‍ I tagged the summit, which was a sharp bit on the knife edge. Then I downclimbed to a small boulder notch below. I slung the boulder and belayed Andreas up. Our route up alpomish Miraculously the predicted afternoon snow never materialized and we were treated to partly cloudy skies, warm temperatures, and no wind. It was a perfect summit day. We took a bunch of pictures and I looked over to the west side of the peak into Uzbekistan. Interestingly, it looked like glacier ice extended all the way up to the notch from that side. The rock between the summit and notch just looked like a few pitches and not too steep. So in theory if climbers came early season from the Uzbekistan side maybe they could just walk up snow to the notch and climb a few rock pitches to the summit. On the summit I soon brought out the survey gear and started setting up. I first made a quick verification with the sight level that all nearby spires of the peak were shorter, which was indeed true. We were definitely on the highest point. Then I got out the tripod, mounted the antenna and plugged in the differential GPS. I had a bit of trouble mounting the antenna somewhere so it could stand vertical and i eventually put it as high as I could between a boulder and the knife edge ridge. It needed to stand vertical for ideally one hour, so it didn't make sense for me to just hold it. I started logging data but it had trouble acquiring satellites for some unknown reason. I turned on my garmin 62s handheld unit and it was able to acquire satellites in the same location. Perhaps the boulder obstruction was an issue, but there weren't many options up there for mounting the device. Setting up the differential GPS unit near the summit I played around with settings a bit and finally decided to just let it take whatever measurements it could and I would try to process them later. I cursed myself for not taking test measurements on the way in, but it had worked fine on my last trip in Washington. It's possible the issue was related to me being outside the US. I was happy I had backup measurement equipment though, which would still suffice for measuring the altitude of alpomish in case the differential GPS didn’t work. I then took out my 5x and 1x sight levels and pointed them towards khazret sultan as verified by gaia. With each sight level I measured 10-20min angular declination looking down at khazret sultan. Clearly khazret sultan was shorter. Andreas on the summit I also noted altitude measurements from the garmin 62s and from my garmin fenix 6 watch after gps calibration. We hung out on top until 5pm taking measurements but then had to get down. I hadn’t found any evidence of anchors or cairns or any human presence so it seemed very likely we had made the first ascent of alpomish. Anyone else climbing such a technical peak would likely have rappelled off, but we saw no rap anchor evidence. I had come prepared with a lot of rap gear, though, and was experienced making rap anchors from my big wall climbing expeditions in the northwest territories, canada. View from the summit I slung a rock horn near the summit, backed it up with a cam, and started down. We only had a 60m rope so would need to make a lot of rappells (I wished then that we’d brought twin ropes, but that would have been heavier to hike in with). I planned to rap directly back into the gully since that would be shorter than our ascent route and hopefully require leaving less gear on the mountain. We couldn’t rap directly to the notch, though, since it looked too sketchy to then get down the steep ice without crampons. So I planned to do diagonal rappels until we were clear of the ice, then rap straight down. It’s a little bold to rap down a face we hadn’t climbed up, but it looked featured enough that I could probably make enough anchors. Looking at khazret sultan I rapped down diagonally and found another good horn at a good ledge to sling. I built the next anchor, then Andreas followed. I again made another diagonal rappell on ledges and again found another good horn to sling. Horns are great because I just have to leave some cord as an anchor. I’d brought 30m of 5mm cord for this purpose and it was relatively cheap. Unfortunately one problem with diagonal rappells on loose non vertical terrain is the rope pulls aren’t always smooth. On that pull the rope got caught on a rock and when I yanked it the fist sized rock dislodged from about 20ft above us. It grazed Andreas on the rear end but he said he was ok. Rapping down I next rapped into an icy gully and over to a ledge on the side. Unfortunately there were no horns. My second choice rap anchor is a two-nut anchor. Nuts are cheap – about $10 a piece – so it’s not too bad to leave a few. And they can be very solid. We were still over the ice so did another diagonal rappell on ledges. Again there were no horns so I had to leave another two-nut anchor. Finally we appeared to be nearly clear of the ice. I next rapped straight down to a ledge just above the ice and found a good horn to sling. Andreas joined and by then it was finally dark enough for headlamps. I think we were pretty efficient at 30min per rap. At the last rope throw the ends reached the bottom of the ice and we were soon safely back on scree in the gully. But we werent quite off the technical section yet. We walked down to the top of the waterfall pitch and I slung another horn. That pitch had seemed long, but by rapping directly down and relying on some rope stretch we just barely reached the scree below the waterfall. Rapping down the final chockstone pitch We then walked to the chockstone and slung a boulder above. That had been a long and indirect pitch too. But, by rapping directly over the chockstone we again barely reached the scree below. Finally by 9pm we were off the last technical section. I switched back to boots and we carefully hiked and scrambled down the chossy gully. After retrieving our stashed crampons we decided to try to avoid down climbing the sketchy slabs to the snow ramp. We instead continued scrambling down the blocky 3rd class stretch. It eventually cliffed out, but we were able to traverse onto the snow ramp at a safe spot. From there we cramponed down in the dark following our ascent route. We finally staggered back to camp at 11pm for a long 17 hour day. Last view before leaving basecamp Aug 24 We were several days ahead of schedule, but Chris forecast bad weather coming in Aug 27 that might leave a foot of snow on the summits for a long time. So we didn’t want to take any rest days to delay things. We allowed ourselves to sleep in, though, and were up and moving by 10am. The goal for the day was to move camp to the base of khazret sultan. All measurements had so far indicated alpomish was significantly taller, but we still wanted to be thorough and get final measurements from the summit of khazret sultan to be absolutely certain with our conclusion. View of alpomish from the hike out. Summit is the left spire We followed the exact same high route crossing the two glaciated passes. At the last pass we started getting snow flurries and by the time we reached our food cache at 430pm there was intermittent drizzle. We were very fortunate that hadn’t happened the previous day on alpomish. Crossing the first glacier pass We took a short break, got a little but of food out of the cache, then started up the khazret sultan valley at 5pm. We had earlier seen the shepherd go up the left side of the river so we stayed on that side too. The trail started good but soon deteriorated. We made slow progress along the steep sidehill full of talus. The light rain made the boulders slippery and we had to be extra careful. Finally we were able to cross to the right side and travel eased. We hiked a chossy slope up to an upper basin then hugged the right side on cow trails in the grass. Ascending the valley towards khazret sultan We reached the end of the grass by sunset and pushed on to a small tarn at 3970m a little farther up where we leveled out a campsite. I had hoped to reach the basin at the base of the khazret sultan route that day so we could scout the route, but it didn’t make sense proceeding in the dark with unknown water source locations. So we slept there for the night. Aug 25 The next day was forecast to be sunny until 11am then increasing chances of snow up to 1 inch on the afternoon. We expected khazret sultan to be mostly 4th class so would hopefully go much faster than alpomish. Starting up the valley at sunrise We were up and moving by 6am, and unfortunately the rocks were all icy. The evening rain had frozen on the rocks overnight. We hoped the sun could de-ice the route by the time we got on it. At the base of khazret sultan We hiked up talus to eventually reach the basin at the base of the southeast face of khazret sultan. From there Pat’s route was to hike up a gully to gain the east ridge, the follow that to the northeast ridge, then follow that to the summit. Hiking up to the northeast ridge This looked pretty circuitous and the ridges looked tough from below. But we optimistically trusted Pat that it was mostly 4th class and went for it. (For reference, Pat has free-soloed big wall routes on half dome in yosemite, so I suspected his 4th class was a bit stiffer than mine). I racked up at the bottom of the gully and we hiked up easy scree and talus to a big notch on the top. From there we turned left and continued up another wide choss gully all the way to a col at the intersection with the northeast ridge. I was amazed how much progress we could make on easy terrain and still not need to do any scrambling. That was not at all obvious from below. Good ledges on the north side. Summit in background We peered over the col at the northeast ridge and were met with a big cliff dropping of to the north basin. The route definitely didn’t go there. Staying on the ridge crest looked technical so we dropped back 10m and traversed across a good ledge below the ridge. We could soon scramble back up to the ridge crest. The crest looked 4th class from there so we scrambled a bit along it. We then moved to the left side and had to wriggle down a chimney to some dirty ledges that dead ended. Looking back along the ridge The terrain looked steep above but that was the only way forward. I switched to climbing shoes but this time kept the boots, crampons, and whippet. I didn’t want to get turned around by snow and ice. I ended up placing just one cam, then crossed the ridge and found a huge ledge system. I belayed andreas up and we packed up the rope. The crux technical section up from the notch From there we scrambled either on ledges to the right of the crest or exactly on the ridge crest. Any rock in the shadows was a bit sketchy since the ice hadn’t yet melted off. So we had to be very careful. We eventually reached a deep notch in the ridge and the terrain above looked technical. The right side of the ridge looked loose, chossy, and icy. I chose to climb directly up the crest from the notch. It was technical but at least not icy. Looking across the north basin I climbed some loose rock below then made a few low 5th class moves to a nice ledge. I noticed a slung boulder there so it appeared we were on the same route others had taken. I don't think this peak sees many ascents, though. I only know for sure of four ascents. I belayed andreas up then started up the next pitch. There was a piton down low, then I climbed a fun 5.7 corner. I eventually pulled myself up onto a pedestal and clipped an existing rap anchor that was a big black 11mm static line. This may have been left by Ginge. Climbing along the northeast ridge at the top of the 5.7 pitch That was the last technical section out of the notch. Andreas belayed me farther on 4th class terrain until I reached a chossy ridge. There we put the rope away and descended slightly to another notch with some snow in it. On the broad foresummit I switched to boots and we continued up choss, then talus, then 3rd class blocks on the other side. We eventually walked up loose slopes to a broad summit. A horn was slung and a sign saying Ucell and a bunch of Russian text hung from it. Slightly farther along the ridge we saw a huge cairn with a bamboo pole sticking out. That looked like the summit. Unfortunately it was along a technical ridge. So I put my rock shoes back on and Andreas belayed me one more pitch to the summit, which I reached by noon. Our route up Khazret Sultan I built an anchor, belayed him over, then we stopped to take in the view. Glaciated rocky technical looking peaks surrounded us. Far below were grassy valleys where sheep likely grazed. It was very scenic. The final pitch to the summit of khazret sultan I looked over towards alpomish and the four spires were meshed into one ridge because of the angle, but the peak location was obvious. I took out my sight levels and measured 10-20 minute angular inclination up to alpomish. This was exactly consistent with my previous measurements and confirmed alpomish is indeed taller than khazret sultan and is the true country highpoint of Uzbekistan. Taking sight level measurements from the summit I also took measurements with my Garmin 62s handheld GPS and my gps calibrated garmin fenix 6. Both measurements had khazret sultan lower so all measurements (ten in all) were consistent that alpomish was the true highpoint. Both on the summit I hadn’t bothered to take up the differential GPS since i hadnt been able to figure out which settings to change to allow it to start acquiring satellites. And khazret sultan already had a very accurate ground survey elevation from the 1981 soviet map. The next spire along the ridge that is the true summit I next took sight level readings of the different spires in the summit area and noticed the sharp spire with bird poop on top farther along the ridge was perhaps a few inches taller than the cairn summit. We each went over to tag it just to be sure. Hiking back from the summit After taking all the measurements and writing them down in my field notebook I belayed andreas back across the ridge. I had instructed him to leave all the pro in on the way over so he could easily reclip on the way back. I changed back into boots and quickly started back down the route. We could see rain in the distance towards Sarytog and a few snow flurries were starting to hit. This was just as Chris had predicted. I knew if the 4th class rock got wet it could get sketchy so we needed to get down asap. Rapping down the notch We scrambled down to the snowy notch then up the choss on the other side. This time we continued scrambling the fourth class ridge along to the top rap anchor. I backed it up then rapped down to the intermediate ledge. We then used the existing anchor there, backed up, and rapped to the notch. It was so much faster with these existing anchors than it had been descending alpomish! Scrambling back along the northeast ridge in deteriorating weather At the notch we packed up the rope and started scrambling. Luckily by then the ice had melted off the rocks on the north side so it felt a bit more secure. But the snow and wind started picking up and the rocks started to get wet. We got to the end of the fourth class section and I built an anchor to rap off the first bit we had pitched out. With the wet rock I decided to pitch out the final fourth class section also. I climbed up the chimney, across the steep ridge, and was finally back to a third class ledge. Final scramble section I belayed Andreas up and we finally packed up the rope for good. It seemed like we’d gotten off the steep part of the route just in time before it got wet. From there we descended easy 3rd class ledges to our stashed hiking poles then scree surfed back to the basin below. We hiked back on talus, reaching our camp by 430pm. The clouds looked very dark down towards Sarytog and it looked like we’d missed the brunt of the precipitation, but the summit still looked windy and snowy. Good views of the dikon glacier below We quickly packed up and headed down. This time we stayed on the left (north) side of the river and were able to follow nice animal trails down. We actually saw a few cows grazing up there. By 7pm we waded back across the river to our previous campsite. We picked up our cached food, set up the tent, and were asleep by sunset. Hiking back to camp Aug 26 The next morning by 630am we waded back across to the west side of the river and followed our ascent route down. Progress was fast and this time we used the bridge to cross back to the east side among a herd of cattle. We had to wade across a few tributaries but mostly followed good trails. At one point a shepherd caught up to us and he seemed amused we were walking instead of riding horses. Camp down in the lower valley He turned off at Sarikonda village while we continued back to Sarytog by 11am. We found the Dornish Guest House there that fed us lunch and one of the owners was able to provide a taxi ride back to Dushanbe. We made it to Dushanbe that afternoon and returned to the Green House Hostel. I was glad we had made it out ahead of schedule since all the next day it rained and thunderstormed in town with widespread flooding nearby. The power was out and running water cut off to the entire city! I heard in the mountains they were getting a foot of snow! The routes up alpomish and khazret sultan probably would be out for a while. Hiking out I later processed my measurements and, based on the angular measurements I took and the known distance between alpomish and khazret sultan, I calculated alpomish is 25m +/-8m taller than khazret sultan. So given khazret sultan has a surveyed elevation of 4643m from the soviet map this means I measured alpomish has an elevation of 4668m +/-8m. This is consistent with the measurements taken from the tarn. This means Alpomish is the true country highpoint of Uzbekistan. After we got back to Dushanbe we had just barely enough time to climb Ayrybaba, the Turkmenistan highpoint. This completed our five-year project to climb the Highpoints of the Stans – the country highpoints of Afghanistan (Noshaq 7493m), Pakistan (K2 8611m), Kygyzstan (Pobeda 7439m), Kazakhstan (Khan Tengri 7000m), Tajikistan (Ismoil Somoni 7495m), Uzbekistan (Alpomish 4668m) and Turkmenistan (Ayrybaba 3139m). Link to more pictures: https://www.countryhighpoints.com/alpomish-uzbekistan-highpoint/ Gear Notes: Standard rack to 3", doubles of intermediate sizes, 60m rope, lots of tat and nuts for rap anchors, glacier gear, survey equipment Approach Notes: From Sarytog village hike up Dikondara river, cross two 4000m glaciated passes near Uzbekistan border, access valley east of Alpomish.
  8. OVERVIEW This is an overdue report for several FAs. There certainly are other lines with potential and lots unexplored. Like most new routes, the rock here can vary in quality, though consistently solid granite. The vegetation has filled most cracks and lichen abounds. However, we did climb many stellar pitches without cleaning, and some with light excavation. Thar be lichen, wear some sunglasses for the overhanging cracks. Recommendation: Climb Ant and the Eel through Elevator Shaft roof for full value linkup. Whale and the Worm for a day 2 climb before heading home. APPROACH Ingalls Creek Trailhead, (see WTA), mile 8 or 9. There are maybe 2 or 3 nice creek camps between miles 8 and 10. On the way in, looking north (right) you should be able to spot the Elevator Shaft and roof, they stand out even in the ocean of of granite slabs. This is the crag. Once directly below the Elevator Shaft head ~45 minutes uphill total through brushy deadfall and talus, maybe 10 min to the talus field which you can follow almost all the way up. Either continue up to the wall then traverse right (some down climbing), or traverse through alder past a small waterfall just before the talus stops. Note there is a steep draw in this upper section, don't fall in while negotiating slide alder. These routes are listed left to right. ROUTES -Elevator Shaft, 11 something -Whale and the Worm, 10a/b -Ant and the Eel, 5.9+ The Elevator Shaft, 11 ? 2021 Sean Fujimori & Tom Beirne The stellar pitch is the 11a, which starts at the Big Ledge. You can get there via other routes, which we recommend. Seconding this route were Christian Junkar and Emma Sando, though they had more common sense than us to bail when the sun set. P1/P2 solo 5.6/5.7 slab with a view of the shaft roof. P3/P4 5.8 (broken up for rope drag) 5.8 corners ending at huge ledge. This was several years ago, but close enough to correct. P5 11? money pitch, Left facing corner, ~15-20' horizontal thin hands roof crack. Pull layback lip to a mellow slab and tree belay. No pictures - whipping on lichen ain't fun, so I was busy belaying. Sun set as I climbed, Emma and Christian bailed to camp. Sean - any pics of the roof? RAP: Short rap to fir tree 15m down and 10m climber right. Double 60m rap to elevator ledge, and from the last slab tree: double 60m to base. Whale and the Worm, 10a/b 2023 Tom Beirne, Sean Fujimori, Lydia Filipe Starts in the protected grove of the overhang with several rock benches and a large tree. Finishes on the Big Ledge connector. P1, 5.8 20m, Start on the right side of the diving board and diagonal traverse on top of the board into sideways squeeze chimney. Very strange, cool. Alternate direct start up short steep finger crack. Don't fear the drips, or the wet moss start. It gets better and remains dry afterward. P2, 10a/b 30m, Left facing corner crack, stay left at the split (two crack options, the right goes through a nootka rose). Fist crack trends left after the mantel to an overhanging hand/fist crack. Belay at the top to reduce rope drag. P3, 5.6 20' Traverse up and left through blocky 5.6 to the top slab. RAP: Small rap 10m to small pine at edge of slab, then double rope rap to base. Ant and the Eel 5.9+ Sean Fujimori, Tom Beirne, Lydia Felipe Start far right, walk a short 10m thru the greenery along the wall to a cave. P1, 60m, 5.9+. The Money Pitch! 3-star finger and hand crack, start at the entrance to the cave and follow crack up and left, when the crack transitions to fingers, reach far right for a jug ledge and mantel to continue the next crack system. Slab feet needed in crux mantel, very tricky if raining! This ends at the Big Ledge, so you can choose other routes from here. P2, 5.9+, 30m. Hand crack thru ocean spray bush with thoughtful mantels and slab feet with great hands and fingerlocks to bouldery top out. Belay at pine or dead tree. P3, 5.8 30m. Continue 20’ left past dead tree to wavy finger-eating crack, then traverse right in a nice finger crack under a small overhang. Pull onto ledge with some finesse. P4 5.7 70m, or break up into two pitches. Up the blocky slab, follow the veg direct via double chicken wing crack, to filled in finger crack and suffer or take the slab for an unprotected 15-20m runout. Over the small 5.6 roofs to a pine. Rap 1 From top of p4 pine, double 60 skier right to fir tree, 10m left of fall line. From fir, belay or walk down skier left 10m to next fir tree. This is the top of p3, dead tree left and pine on right. A double 60 could probably make it to the BIG LEDGE, BUT for rope pull ease and to reach the lowest pine on the edge of the slab for the final rap (which is a full double 60 to ground) we opted to: Rap2 30m to skier left or walk around low 5th moves to 15’ pine. Rap 3 Double 60 off pine to BIG LEDGE- to short pine skier right to fir on distant slab. Rap 4 Full double 60 to ground. Saddle bag and stay climber left of fall line ~5m going over the roof to prevent being in the tree. Free hang rappel to ground. Easy to get rope stuck in the tree, maybe worth trending climber right to avoid.
  9. Trip: Porcupine Creek Wall - Salad Days III 900' 5.10+ Trip Date: 08/20/2022 Trip Report: It did not go unnoted when Eric Wehrly moved to town. While our more noteworthy first ascents may be of a…umm…slightly different style, in my mind’s eye I generally enjoy any adventure far from the road particularly if it involves unclimbed terrain. Finding like-minded folks at a similar point in life, that is old, is not easy. So I assumed at some point we’d tie in together. It did not happen quickly. While phone numbers were exchanged and talk of getting out occurred, the years passed by. Maybe I came on too strong. During Covid there may have been a day at Mount Erie where I loudly berated Eric to be my “New Best Friend!” as he TR-soloed nearby. Clearly, I needed a better incentive than that. Halfway up the Pacific Crest Trail between Rainy and Cutthroat Passes a large wall of granite stands proudly above the trail. I first walked by it eighteen years ago with my then girlfriend. From a distance it had the obvious geometry and tone of good rock. A friend and I almost went to check it out but we made other plans and the idea was largely forgotten. This summer I strolled by it again, with my now wife and our two teenage children. Still there, still grey, still splitter. A week later I spent a solitary day circumnavigating Porcupine Peak. The summit was eventually attained, and, on the descent I found myself beneath this wall I had considered for decades. Carefully glassing it I became discouraged. As I walked away I thought “almost but not quite, the start may not go and the rest is just a bit too dirty and discontinuous.” However, it’s amazing what some grainy iPhone photos and a bit of selective memory can do. Furthermore I finally had the sort of incentive Eric might respond to. On Saturday August 20th we stood below “the start that may not go” and sure enough it didn’t. As this had been my idea, I felt obligated to get us rolling so I began a long circuitous pitch climbing easy terrain off to the side before a long downward traverse led to a committing mantle onto a vegetated slab above. Struggling with massive rope drag from the severely Z-shaped pitch, I encountered a recurring theme of frantically hacking away a clump of heather to find a small cam placement. Eric quickly downrated my estimated grade and then scrambled up more heather covered corners to the base of a steep, relatively clean layback flake. Perfect edges made the otherwise intimidating flake go quickly. Unfortunately, the intended route up a long “hand crack” above the flake turned out to be 100 feet of 4”-6” offwidth. The scale of the wall was turning out to be a bit larger than anticipated. Instead, Eric made a delicate leftward traverse before committing to a steep, broken crack formed in part by some precariously hollow fridge-sized blocks. Easy terrain led to the base of what had appeared to be a splitter from the base of the wall. Above I could only see a slammed shut seam covered in a thick crust of lichen, moss, and dirt. Eric proclaimed it to be a finger crack. I was highly skeptical. But on new ground there’s nothing worse than being the person who forfeits your partner's last proud lead by bailing off into indirect, unappealing terrain. I spent several minutes pawing at the start, muttering random negativities. After a few minutes I finally committed to the initial moves into the corner then rapidly hung on a nut. But it was started and despite my deep pessimism about there actually being a climbable crack under the filth I found myself inching upwards. Sand and pulverized lichen poured into my eyes, my nose, my ears, and my shirt. Aiding up in 8mm dyneema slings progress was dispiritingly slow as I cleaned out every single placement. Time oozed on and hours later I finally pulled the singular hand jam at the very top of the 150-foot crack and flopped onto a good ledge. Now relatively cleaned out, Eric rapidly followed the crack free proclaiming it 5.10+. Having climbed three pitches in five hours and 45 minutes, simple math suggested that our rate of ascent was significantly slower than the sun's rate of descent. While I did not yet suggest bailing, I did point out this obvious observation. Yet Eric confidently proclaimed that the “walk off” would in fact be a walk and that we would only need headlamps once we were within spitting distance of our packs. Regardless of attitude at this point, the wall kicked back a bit and the next pitch looked easier. No reason to bail yet so Eric headed out, moving quickly across a thankfully clean hand crack before moving out of sight into the corners above. Progress slowed, the rope stopped moving, I almost nodded off. The clouds continued to build as the rope made halting progress. A random inquiry on my part was met with a stern “Not Now”. Eventually Eric reappeared above having navigated some sketchy 5.10 face climbing to avoid an impossibly munge-filled corner. Moving left and right, up and down he eventually retreated to a blocky alcove from which we could reappraise the options above. With the rack refreshed the obvious direction was through an overhanging V-shaped corner. Chimney moves, flared jams, wide stemming and possibly some tension left me once again above my gear, hanging off a sloping rail, feet stemmed out on small dishes, surrounded by thick mats of grass and heather pasted in corners. With my ancient Chouinard north wall hammer wedged into a hummock, a brief struggle ensued between which would be pried off first, the hummock or myself. Thankfully the hummock released, revealing a perfect hand crack. The climbing relented and the rate of progress discernibly increased. As I neared the end of a lead the sky finally cracked open with a brief squall and a lovely rainbow filling the valley. Despite the weather I finally felt committed to the climb. Going over the top was now the path of least resistance. Almost every challenging climb you undertake has that beautiful inflection point, when hours, days or even years of uncertainty just melt away leaving you relaxed and in the moment. Eric climbed another beautiful corner with sustained finger cracks under the hummocks and dirt. The final pitch was a perfect finale. Shockingly clean granite with delightful climbing up to and around a large roof followed by easy, clean slabs to the top of the wall. The Cascades were bathed in a beautiful soft glow and views extended from Dome in the far distance to the sun setting off the shoulder of Mesachie Peak. The walk off was anything but, and had it been dark we would have been in for a genuine epic. Yet much as predicted headlamps only came out as we finally exited the talus onto delightful heather meadows not far from our packs. If you're familiar with Eric’s and Rolf’s first ascents on massive walls of less than stellar rock I’m sure you’ve wondered what makes them tick. My simple observation would be an extremely positive mental attitude with a surprisingly conservative aversion to potential loose rock. My successes have largely been built off an ability to separate the negativity of my dumb brain from the mechanical motions of moving upwards. It’s worked but doesn’t seem nearly as efficient as Eric's approach. I’d like to think I might adopt some of his positive mindset in the future. That said I’m pretty sure we influenced each other, as we headed out down wet talus with heavy packs Eric could be heard muttering “If you added a few bolts...”. Hour and twenty minutes from parking Lot Enter the Drag-On (forever) In my happy place (after the rain) Exiting the wall Views South and North Old Dirty Bastard and Mr. Clean Postscript After Eric graciously spent another day of his life reclimbing and fixing the first four pitches with me I went back for the Labor Day weekend and put in thirty hours of cleaning, creating fixed anchors and adding several variations to avoid indirect, loose or excessively dirty terrain. Rock is excellent and clean throughout. Rappelling is quick and efficient vs. the unsavory walk off. There is a pile of good climbing up there.
  10. First Ascent of Epiphany (10 pitches, 5.8) and Revelation Peak, Middle Fork of the Snoqualmie. <<< WARNING: Despite the moderate grade, this is a serious route. Expect to find loose rock, challenging route finding, runout slab climbing, unfriendly shrubbery, and questionable protection. If those don't deter you read on and be sure to bring gloves for the approach and descent. Your hands will thank you. Also, when descending off the peak don't go too far North. Backtrack toward the top of the climbing and rap steep SE-facing slabs. I'd suggest thrashing down the forest just right (East) of the major gully that heads NE. You'll inevitable be doing some rappelling through shrubbery and forest, but it's not dangerous. We think you're more likely to encounter loose rock or possible dead ends in the gully. You'll eventually intersect a NNW-SSE gully that provides easy rock hopping back to the trail. Maybe you can find a better direct finish or a better route off the peak. Be safe. Have a grand adventure! >>> On Sunday, 8/28/2016, Kurt Hicks and I (Rad Roberts) climbed a new route (Epiphany) on what we believe is an unclimbed peak (now dubbed Revelation) West of the Pulpit. This is about 2 miles south of Garfield Peak, a few miles north of Mailbox Peak, and a mile north of the Pratt River. Our line was ground-up, on-sight, bolt-less, and all-free, involving 10 pitches of climbing up to 5.8 and several hundred feet of simul-climbing and roped scrambling over 1300 vertical feet. Grade III. Old growth forest, a pristine alpine cirque, a large cliff, and an unclimbed summit make for a great setting. Climbers comfortable with off-trail navigation, sub-alpine scrambling, and runout climbing up to 5.7 would enjoy this route. Most pitches are 5.fun with just a few crux moves. A few well-placed bolts would make this a more user-friendly outing and allow one to stick to the cleanest rock rather than wander around looking for gear placements. This peak was added to the Alpine Wilderness in 2014, so bolting would need to be done by hand. ......... When I was eight, my friends and I explored the forests of suburban New Jersey, climbed trees and rocks, caught critters in creeks, and generally roamed free until it started to get dark and we had to head home for dinner. The excitement of finding new climbing trees, fishing holes, or hidden corners of the forest was incredibly energizing. I've gotten bigger and older since those days, but my passion for wilderness exploration still burns bright. Technology has changed the game. Poking around the internet one night this summer, I found a cliff near the Middle Fork of the Snoqualmie River that basic research suggested was large, clean, granitic, and unclimbed. On a sultry summer evening, I headed out to get a closer look. My initial approach involved a heinous section of prickly devils club and a tangle of rotting trees. This is par for the course in sub-alpineering, and I was prepared with gloves and long pants. I made it over to a tongue of old growth trees, swam through some alder, and reached a giant talus field in a sublime cirque below an immense granite cliff. The rock was so hot you could have cooked eggs on it. I sat under a tree, soaking in the silence, and spotted the obvious place to start: a hand crack in a giant, clean dihedral. I could only see the first 60 meters or so, but satellite images suggested this would lead to a clean slab below a maze of towers and ramps that guarded the summit. It looked like a worthy adventure. On my way back down to the trail, I found a much better approach line, with only 100 feet of bush whacking. I marked the line on my GPS, left a few cairns, and hiked back to the trailhead in the dark. Before driving home, I dipped in the cool Middle Fork river. I was so excited about going back I couldn't sleep, my mind going over and over how we might climb this sleeping giant. The next day, I pitched the adventure to Kurt with a few choice images and the lure of a grand adventure on a big unclimbed wall. Like any good sand bagger, I downplayed the potential for scary runouts, dense and prickly vegetation, and hazards on the unknown descent. Kurt has enough experience to know when he's being hoodwinked, but he still agreed to join me. We've climbed and explored together in research for his I90 corridor guide, which will hopefully be out next year, but this would be our first new route together. Climbing with Kurt is like hitting the EASY button. He is an AMGA-certified guide with many years of experience guiding clients in the Cascades. He quickly dances up all kinds of mountain terrain, keeps ropes neat and tangle-free, and rigs rappels and anchors in seconds. Plus, he has great hair. We left the Middle Fork trailhead at a very civilized 6:15 AM just two days after my recon mission. 45 minutes later, we left the trail on a faint path, dived into the undergrowth at the appointed spot, and were ascending among old growth trees just a few minutes later. We managed to avoid the slide alder, crossed cleanly to the upper talus, and soon found ourselves at the base of the route. Easy. I started up the first pitch dihedral a little after 8 AM. The rock was polished and clean with a few moves of damp 5.8 hand jamming at the crux. I stopped around 30 meters because our larger gear, which I'd already placed, would be needed for the next section. Kurt fired off some nice clean 5.8 moves early in the second pitch and cruised up easier ground on clean rock with sparse protection, a theme that would repeat for much of the line. I climbed up to a slightly steeper section and cruised off right, lured by splitter hand cracks that promised some protection. It turned out these "cracks" were under, behind, or alongside blocks or flakes that seemed poised to pitch off the wall if a cam or climber's hand pulled hard on them. So I slung some shrubbery, went back onto the main slab, and continued to a crack with a few good cam placements. Kurt lead a lovely low angle slab for a pitch and I led another nice pitch with great rock, aiming for a small tree on the left of the giant granite bowl. This slab climbing was mostly 5.fun but required attention due to the sparse protection. Right near the end of the rope I found two of the best cracks of the day for the anchor. After two more slab pitches we were at the base of several steep rock ribs separated by deep, dark clefts. We followed clean rock for two more pitches up and right toward a treed ramp I'd spotted on satellite images. At the right end of the ramp, we swam through dense, short trees a hundred feet right to a break in the cliff. It looked possible to climb a steep step to the next tier. But when I climbed up to try, I found the one inch tree I planned to sling for protection had roots behind a block that moved immediately, and there were no cracks nearby. No good. I backed down and moved right toward another steep section of cliff. To get there, I had to step out onto a giant detached block on a sloping ledge with a crack behind it. I was careful not to dislodge the beast with my foot or place gear behind it. But the rock band above it was harder than it had appeared from below. It would involve a strenuous vertical lie-back on a rounded licheny edge with a one inch tree in pine needles for protection. There was no obvious protection above, and the moves would not easily be reversed if it turned out to be a dead end, so I backed off again, unwilling to risk a dangerous fall. So we moved another 50 feet right where the vegetation ended in a drop off below a wide vertical arete. There, we found a 30 foot feature with fun, airy 5.8ish moves with a nearby tree for protection and stemming. It was a nice rock rib in a great position. Kurt then scrambled right and climbed an exposed ramp to easier ground. We simul-climbed and scrambled about 200 vertical feet to the crest, moved right to bypass an imposing tower, and continued up toward the top. The final section was a narrow rock rib split by a lovely crack in a truly outstanding setting. And then we were on the summit. There were no cairns or other evidence of prior human passage. Any route other than ours to the summit would involve technical terrain and significant bushwhacking. These factors, combined with the absence of signs of prior human passage encountered on our ascent or descent, make us think this peak had not been previously climbed. For curious peak baggers, the topo shows the summit just under 3900 feet. The saddle with the Pulpit Peak to the East is at 3540, for a prominence of about 350 feet. We may never know whether we were the first or not, and perhaps it doesn't matter, but that perception enriched our experience. We soaked in the late afternoon light for a few minutes before rappelling down steep, clean granite on the Northeast side of the peak, aiming for a gully on the North side of the peak I had seen on my recon mission. Three double rope rappels and a single rope rappel put us down in the target gully. We followed it until it seemed prudent to move into the forested rib to the right. It turned out this was a bad idea. The brush was fairly dense, the woods were pretty steep, and we had to cross several stands of dense Devil's Club over our heads. At this point, I should mention that the gloves I'd loaned Kurt had large holes that exposed his bare fingertips. He ended up spending the next few days pulling tiny spines from his swollen digits. Sorry, Kurt. My gloves were quite new, but the spines still found unprotected flesh to prick. Sub-alpineering at its finest. Down, down, down we went. Eventually it got dark enough that we had to turn on our lights. We did three short raps off trees over drops too steep to safely downclimb. Finally, we arrived in the creek bed I'd ascended two nights earlier. This boulder-strewn drainage was easy to descend, and we soon made it to the trail and hiked back to the trailhead. The night was capped with a cold beer and a cool dip in the Middle Fork around 10 PM. In a world that seems to tug us in a dozen digital directions at once, it is a great luxury to find focus leading rock pitches and have long uninterrupted conversations on the trail. We felt grateful to have shared an amazing first ascent to a virgin summit less than an hour from Seattle. The climbing was quite moderate, the rock quality was good to excellent, and the position and summit were outstanding. Climbers aspiring to repeat this line should understand that there is a fair amount of loose rock to avoid in places, protection is sparse and sometimes tricky to place, and the descent is non-trivial. We have ideas for a better descent and may return to hand-drill a few bolts that would allow climbers to stay on the cleanest rock and mitigate runouts. Message me for suggestions and for help finding the painless approach line. Epiphany and Revelation are part of the 2014 expansion of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, so please tread lightly. Anyone who has climbed Infinite Bliss on Garfield, which is about a mile or so to the North, knows the rock changes from clean granite down low to shattered rock up high. That never happened on Epiphany/Revelation. The climbing may look rather scrappy in photos, and I won't suggest it's perfect, but we were continually surprised at how solid the rock was and how much fun the climbing was. I loved the days of my youth in the forests of central New Jersey, but my body, spirit, and aspirations outgrew those woods. I am very, very grateful to have a host of majestic wilderness adventures hiding in the mountains of our backyard. Revelation Peak from the MF road. Note the lower 3 pitches are obscured by foreground trees. Approach via Pratt River Trail. 2.2. miles. Ascend x-country to the start. Our descent back to the trail. It might be better to rappel back down the Southwest Face. MF forest on my Friday recon The lower cirque in the afternoon sun. MF SnoQ in the background. The cliff. When you enter the forest you're aiming for a giant fallen cedar log. Follow this to a second and then up into open forest. Passing a large cedar in open forest. This approach is about as friendly as sub-alpine x-country travel gets. Pitch 1 Pitch 1 Pitch 1 Pitch 2 Pitch 2 Looking back down pitch 3. Starting up pitch 4. Looking back on the start of pitch 5. Later in pitch 5. Looking back from the top of pitch 5. Better two lobes than none? Looking up pitch 6 Pitch 7 (8 for us as we went to the left to look at those deep clefts) Finish pitch 7 at a tree belay reminiscent of the one at the base of the Split Pillar on the Grand Wall at Squamish. Looking down the large slab from the middle of pitch 7. Pitches 7 and 8 from a vantage to the left of the line. The tree upper center is the belay. The traverse pitch 8. End of the traverse pitch 8. The top of pitch 9, the arete by the tree, with some wild towers in the background. Steep scrambling above pitch 10. Scrambling above pitch 10. We bypassed this tower by heading down and right on the NE side of it, traversing, and then ascending again. The final rock rib to the summit. So how do we get off this thing? The second double rappel. Third double rappel. It's not sub-alpineering unless you are rappelling through dense shrubbery in dark. Actually, we now believe this can be avoided.
  11. On Friday Feb 17th, 2023, Tom Beirne and I skinned out to Snow Lake in snowy weather. Andreea Gabor was supposed to be with us, but unfortunately she was sick, otherwise she would have been with us! I started from the car at 5:45 AM and reached the Slot Machine base around 8:20 am. We saw two other skiers out there, enjoying the fresh snow, taking the N Slopes of Chair Peak. The line we were looking at starts to climbers right of the Slot Machine, climbing two pitches to a snow ledge that can be connected to the base of the ice climbing on Slot Machine. Tom had made an attempt on the line a couple weeks ago, in worse conditions, and he knew the first pitch had a good screw belay, albeit a hanging one. The base of the ice climbing is up a steep snowy couloir, which we skinned up as far as we could to avoid wallowing in chest deep snow. It was snowing pretty heavily. Tom offered me any pitch but I asked Tom to lead both the first pitch and the second pitch. The second pitch was the hard mixed crux, and I didn’t want to sit a double belay on a hanging ice anchor and get cold. Instead we would both belay shorter time periods to keep moving. Tom dug a trench up the snow to the base of the ice, traversing far left to avoid the randkluft/rimaye/moat that was about 2 feet under the snow, and pretty darn deep. When he got to the ice, he cruised up, finding solid placements in the ice under the snow. Typical PNW, the ice was kind of funky and harder than it looked. He build a belay with three bomber screws under the roof and brought me up. I raced up as fast as I could, knowing we were already running low in time, despite our 3:30 AM departure from Seattle. I didn’t even bother taking off my belay puffy or belay gloves. I was making tons of moves I’ve never do on lead, trusting the snicey sticks, but it was effective, I guess. Tom took over again for the next pitch, that started with a couple inch-thick ice smear exiting the roof on the right. It looked like the next belay would be fairly close at a big tree. Tom made some mixed moves, finding the ice that was solid, but the feet kept disappearing as they fell off with the snow. As always, it was steeper and trickier that it appeared. An apparently thick spot of ice provided bottomed-out stubby protection, and then some mixed climbing to the tree. The tree was directly to the right, but appeared to have died in all of the places that were reachable. It had the effect of a bunch of downward sloping fragile spikes barring access and preventing upward movement, instead of providing any protection. Tom hammered in an angle, and wished we had brought the lost arrows that we discarded in the car. Then he placed a .5 and and a pink tricam followed by a magnificent knife blade piton that I was unable to retrieve (so it’s still there!). There was another mini roof to pull around, after getting some dirt sticks and weaving through the tree roots. Luckily there was a nice bit of ice pouring around to the left, and it make it possible to pull around and protect with a very tight .75. As I was belaying in the protected roof alcove, bunches of snow, ice and dirt kept pouring down. We had radios, so I buckled down when I heard the tree was not a belay option. Then needles, twigs and branches started raining down. I was very glad I didn’t lead that pitch, despite the fact that it looked like it would be simple and icy at first glance. Past the tree was about 15m of deep, steep snow wallowing to the next tree belay. We were both slightly concerned about the slope stability, and wallow factor when we analyzed it from the ground, but on inspection of a side view of the slope, it looked climbable, while we also determined it is not accessible from the top, or by climbing around. Tom finally burrowed through the snow slope to the top and I was so cold by that point, I said I might have to turn around. He also was soaked and cold at this point, so instead of wallowing across to Slot Machine (where we would have to rappel the adjacent couloir and then wallow back up to our gear cache) we decided to rappel. We rappelled from the tree, leaving cord and a biner, and then made a naked V-Thread under the roof, making sure to pull it quickly so the rope didn’t get frozen in the wet ice. Back on the ground, the sun poked out a teased us for the first time all day. But knowing that we were running out of time and didn’t want to ski down in the dark, we abandoned the idea of climbing my project, the ice pillar next to Steppenwolfe. Slot Machine would have been cool to climb, although it is probably spicier than it looks. Fantastic day out there, thanks for the full on adventure out there, in worse weather than I ever go out in. Your stoke kept us going, if not keeping us warm. We have discussed the rating, and it is hard to rate things in WA because things are never in good conditions and probably this will not be in as good condition again. Steepness does not indicate the level of scrappy-ness or commitment you need. We gave Gambler’s Fallacy a WI4+ M6+ (protects well) Steep snow (X, no pro, would whip the whole pitch), 65 meters, 2 pitches. Gear: Note: Lost Arrow should replace small angle, making much better placement (not pictured: the knifeblade I left in place. I tried to take it out, but a mini rock roof prevented hitting it up and down. Please re-hammer it to ensure it is secure before using)
  12. Trip: tower mt. - northeast face: fra "tower of babble" (III, 5.10-) Date: 9/5/2011 Trip Report: a little bird told me that blake recently posted something on his blahg regarding tower mountain so i thought that i add to the babble. asslunger and i hiked up to snowy lakes via swamp creek on sunday afternoon and stashed some gear at the col northwest of tower mt. an early start with some cramponing and downclimbing brought us to the base of the lower northeast face. fra route description as follows: 1. start at buttress toe as kellie mcbee and i did in 2009 (5.7ish) or get on the rock from the right approximately 1 pitch up as asslunger and i did. 2. 5.7/5.8 face and cracks up the middle face/buttress for 60+m. 3. 4th class rubble for 60+m to just below the mid-face ledge. 4. 3rd/4th class up and right to the base of the rightmost buttress on the upper face distinguishable by some spectacular left facing corners. 5. climb left facing corner (use face to avoid the loosest blocks under a roof) to a squeeze chimney. climb chimney to good belay. 50m, 5.10-. 6. step left onto a ledge and start up double cracks. switch to right crack which becomes an offwidth/squeeze. ascend ow and surmount blocks above to spectacular belay with view through the pillar to golden horn. 50m, 5.9. 7. step left again then up some gravel to a series of nice flakes leading to a belay on the buttress crest. 50m, 5.9. 8. short bit of 5.6 face to crest of northwest ridge. 9. scramble nw ridge to single rope rap to the notch immediately above the rotten white wall of the west face gully. continue along ridge to summit. we belayed 6-7 pitches of those described above. the route lies right of what we thought was the doorish route. a series of extremely steep corners and roofs lies left of the doorish route and might provide some very bold on-site free climbing. lunger might post some photos when he gets time. fra of lower face: kellie mcbee and rolf larson, around 7/4/09. fra of full route: eric wehrly and rolf larson, 9/5/11. Gear Notes: pro to 4" and 1kb Approach Notes: kellie and i approached via pine creek. the swamp creek/northwest col approach is preferable if you plan to climb the whole route.
  13. Trip: North Hozomeen Mtn - Zorro Face, IV 5.9 Date: 8/31/2013 Trip Report: “squamish?” Written at the end of a planning email for Hozomeen which addressed some nagging details, this would become our refrain throughout the trip. Labor Day offered a nice climbing window, and our list of objectives included just plain ol’ good times at Squamish, which typically promises immediate rock, clean rock, solid rock, protectable rock—all conspicuously (or suspected) absent at our objective. Most likely, many of you are aware of the opening passage in Jack Kerouac’s Desolation Angels: “Hozomeen, Hozomeen, most beautiful mountain I ever seen, like a tiger sometimes with stripes, sunwashed rills and shadow crags wriggling lines in the Bright Daylight, vertical furrows and bumps and Boo! crevasses, boom, sheer magnificent Prudential mountain, nobody’s even heard of it, and it’s only 8,000 feet high, but what a horror when I first saw that void the first night of my staying on Desolation Peak waking up from deep fogs of 20 hours to a starlit night suddenly loomed by Hozomeen with his two sharp points, right in my window black – the Void, every time I’d think of the Void I’d see Hozomeen and understand – Over 70 days I had to stare at it.” Later in the novel: “The void is not disturbed by any kind of ups or downs, my God look at Hozomeen, is he worried or tearful?... Why should I choose to be bitter or sweet, he does neither? – Why cant I be like Hozomeen and O Platitude O hoary old platitude of the bourgeois mind ‘take life as it comes’…” “take life as it comes” indeed. This is a useful mantra when approaching the west face. We had suspected an approach from the N down a gully would grant us access—Colin Haley’s blog post seemed to confirm this suspicion. However, this approach is nontrivial; the initial gully third-class down-climb, while loose, and dangerous, pales next to the shenanigans required to cross several precipitous ribs to our targeted launch point. A slip at any point spells an unpleasant end in the valley a couple thousand below. The approach took us a tedious and painstaking 4.5 hours (this after a first day of humping heavy loads 11+ miles to a camp just N of the peak.) Camp in that basin; S and N Hozomeen left to right, with the west (Zorro) face mostly out of view; some of its northern margin on the right skyline. Our approach continues down (out of view) from the furthest notch on right. Views during approach included the Picket range. Approach soloing; downclimbing skills or funeral bills. squamish? “take life as it comes”, also a useful mantra when trying to piece together leads up loose, sometimes friable and/or vegetated and/or wet, mostly welded shut (read: sparsely protected) metamorphosed basalt. The stuff is also called Hozomeen chert and was valued by the Salish for making knives and arrowheads. Hozomeen apparently is native Salish for "sharp, like a sharp knife." Looking up at much of our (foreshortened) route, which tends left to the central summit in this pic. Finally at the base, we decided to take it one pitch at a time, figuring we would try to retain the option to bail. squamish? Rock, paper, scissors, Rolf wins first lead this time. End of rope. I follow and gain an appreciation for the climbing challenges this Hozomeen chert will proffer; sparse pro and selective handholds will be the order of the day. I lead up a second long pitch to the only evidence of human visitation: a ¼ inch bolt and a bail ‘biner. Someone came, saw, and turned around; foreboding. (We did not see any other indication of passage higher than this.) After a couple pitches of metamorphosed basalt, we were talking about turning around too. But we could see trees on ledges above, and figured we could still bail in a relatively safe and reasonable manner. squamish? The land of milk and honey beckoned us. The third pitch required an exposed step-around with muddied feet; expletives drifted down to my belay. No pics. My pitch 4 went steeply up to a ledge, and traversed left; we were somehow making our way, and could still bail. Rolf’s face at the pitch 4 transition betrays some of our uncertainty. During his pitch 5 lead, some curses and words in the wind, “I wanna go home”. It was probably just the wind; he would’ve said simply, “squamish?” I’d like to forget pitch 6. I was forced up a steep 5.9 corner/arête with a paucity of gear. And what few pieces there were went into mungy and rotten fissures. Loose rock abounded, and without gear, there was no way to constrain the ropes from sending it down. Rolf didn’t get hit, but reported that he dutifully tied knots below his brake hand in case he was knocked out—so sensitive to my needs. I grunted up to a fat ledge, and Rolf managed to follow without getting shelled. Then Rolf drew one of the plum pitches, the seventh. 5.9+, climbs a nice corner (but with a section of unavoidable decking potential), then a tricky traverse to another corner, up and then traverse again to the only belay opportunity. Again, only so much gear and rope management was possible; missiles flew by my safe belay spot, but a few also threatened while climbing—somehow, no carnage. This wouldn’t happen in … Rolf up the p7 corner. Hand jams!?! Pitch 8 had a couple steep sections. Here Rolf discerns which holds to clean and/or trust. Pitches 9 and 10 stretched the ropes, continuing up the “corner” system we had identified as a weakness. More 5.9 (mostly easier) runouts. At the belay at top of pitch 10 I placed the only iron we used, a crappy pin to back up a solid piece and a marginal piece. For pitch 11, Rolf raced the sunset to a ledge. Uncharacteristically, this pitch didn’t stretch the rope; he thought we should take the bivouac bird in hand. I thought we were close to the summit and could possibly manage to climb to the top in the twilight-soon-to-be-night. He pointed out that idea was risky, and his logic prevailed. In retrospect it was definitely the right move. “take life as it comes”, also useful for shivering through the beautiful folly of an exposed bivy on a sloping ledge one nasty pitch from the summit. We’d brought some warm clothes but could have been warmer. All in all, the bivy wasn’t so bad, and definitely not as miserable as our unplanned bivy on Lemolo Mox across the way. Hozomeen wasn’t done with us. In the morning, I put together a long and winding pitch on some of the worst rock and pro conditions on the face—one strong cup of coffee, scary to the last drop. But it got us to the summit ridge! Unfortunately, the only spot to belay again made rope-disturbing rubble unavoidable. On the finishing moves, Rolf got clocked right in the helmet with a softball-sized rock, but was ok. Shudder. Top of our climb, just North of the summit, shortly after getting rocked. Glad to have done it. Another Scurlock masterpiece. Our route makes its way up to the left-facing corners directly below the summit. Our bivy occurred on the relatively large snow patch right below the summit. In the background is the Southwest Buttress, climbed many years ago by some hardcores. Kerouac again: “And I will die, and you will die, and we all will die, and even the stars will fade out one after another in time.” But we won’t die on Hozomeen. Hopefully not in Squamish either. But I will climb again at the latter. Both Rolf and I have mildly obsessed over this face for years, and were gratified (gruntled, even) to execute our vision. I expected technical demands exceeding 5.9, but given the challenges of Hozomeen chert, was glad for the limit. Probably half the pitches had some 5.9 moves, depending on what you trust for holds. We stretched the rope for most of the 12 pitches of pure adventure. I am fortunate to have a teammate like the curmudgeon: rich in experience (old), strong (for his weight), solid (old), and somehow able to check my relentlessly positive delusions. Thanks hardcore. A couple summit shots: And more pics. BTW, we descended the North Face route, rested, ate and drank, packed up and marched to car. The mosquitoes for the last couple miles were some other $#!+. Gear Notes: Single set of nuts. Tricams up to hand size v useful. We took lots of small cams, but the doubles would actually be better in the mid-range. Approach Notes: Nontrivial. Day 1, due to tons of rain the day before, we elected to take the scenic Skyline trail instead of the steep bushwhack. Day 2, follow your nose and low sense of self-worth.
  14. Trip: Johannesburg - “Flight of the Bumblebee” FA of the sit start to the NE Buttress of J Berg TD 5.9+R 1500’ Trip Date: 08/27/2022 Trip Report: This weekend, Kyle and I climbed the sit start to the NE buttress of J-Berg. We ended up rappelling due to injury after linking into the ‘57 route on the NE buttress. We added about 1500’ of steep and challenging climbing. The sit start climbs a tower with a bit of a distinct summit, so I don’t feel too bad claiming an FA. Becky likely wouldn’t have given us credit for anything, so judge it how you will. If linked to the summit, it would likely be one of the biggest monolithic climbs anywhere. TD+… ED…? Only one way to find out. This is likely a one and done for me, when we topped out the lower buttress I thought to myself “the climb we did so no one else had to”, but rapping where we did leaves the door open for at least one suitor to up the ante. The lower buttress in moody, morning fog We had a late start sat morning. The uncertain weather had us sleeping in and waiting. Lani and I had attempted the line a couple years ago and ultimately bailed because the climbing looked like it was going to be far more time consuming than our 2 day itinerary would have allowed. This time around, kyle and I packed a couple taco portaledges in case we had to bivy on the steeper lower wall. The approach involves a good bit of blueberry and devils club laybacking in high exposure. We came prepared this time and had leather garden gloves to grab the clubs… Kyle on the approach The approach is a bit of foreshadowing for what to expect on the rest of the buttress, but simply steeper… The first pitch was a long moss gully with difficulties that felt about like 5.7. For the second pitch, we discovered a sick splitter hand crack. Too short and too easy… Starting up the second pitch The third pitch was ledgy and mossy hand crack steps that fed into the main gully/corner that defines the route. This was the previous high point. starting up the third pitch The fourth pitch is what intimidated Lani and I off the route before. Steep, mossy overlapping roofs and steep corners loom above. This time around we were prepared to aid if needed and had a good bit of iron and a real hammer. We didn’t end up using the ladders and battled the moss with a nut tool and clawed our way up the slightly overhanging corner past a roof to a sloping ledge. We decided to start hauling the leaders pack at this point and ended up needing to tag the iron up for this belay. Kyle on the traverse above the P4 roof pitch 5 was more of the same, but with a chimney. Pulling through the chimney made me happy about the decision to haul packs. I ended up climbing a steep crack on the face to diverge from the main corner. To make faster upward progress, Kyle ended up climbing the thorn bush corner. He ended up unintentionally releasing about a ton of gravel when he stepped in the wrong spot. That reinforced the decision to take the spicy looking face. We ended up setting up a bivy at the top of this pitch. Glad to have the tacos as it was completely hanging. heading into the chimney on P5 kyle following the choss corner at the end of P5 chilling at the bivy in a super taco looking up at the upper corner from the bivy The next few pitches were actually pretty fun. Steep face and corner climbing on surprisingly solid rock. starting up P7. 5.7R up to the roof. kyle following the roof at the top of P7 The 8th pitch was the start to the sting in the tail. We climbed a runout face to the right of the corner. This took us up to the edge of the wall. The wall pinched off to a blunt, knife edge arete. A 5.8 downclimbing traverse into a rock scar was probably the most dangerous point on the climb. The last piece was maybe about 60 ft away and around the arete. A fall would likely chop the rope along the arete. Strong R. The rock scar was overhanging 5.9 stemming on less than ideal rock but with good gear. climbing up near the arete on pitch 8 kyle finishing up pitch 8 Once on the prow of the wall we had a few options. None of them looked good. The chimneys above looked truly awful, so we opted to traverse the arete to the right and found a mossy ramp that took us out onto the NW face. I belayed short for communication and to help make decisions. The next pitch was bleak, dead vertical terrain everywhere and so much munge. We ended up making a huge S shaped traversing pitch to work our way up moss covered 5.8 sketch blocks. We named this pitch “Phil’s Traverse” as we were intending on calling the route “the land of confusion”. The sting in the tail continues… kyle following the zag on Phil’s Traverse A long pitch of overhanging 5.7 tree climbing spat us out on a decent ledge where we transitioned out of rock shoes to prepare for the Forrest. I was nearing the end of the rope on a classic J-Berg tree pitch and grabbed a tuft of moss, as you do. This particular tuft was a bees nest. I felt stinging and saw a few on my right hand and about 100 bees shot out of the hole, dead set on face fucking me off the mountain. I let go in a knee jerk reaction and went for a slow motion, sports action highlight style whipper. I kind of wish I had a video camera on as it had to have been funny to watch. I ended up grabbing, and swinging off a tree on the way down, making a single rotation tomahawk and falling onto my feet as the rope caught me. Glad I took a lead belay. I ended up rolling my ankle and was otherwise unscathed. I belayed Kyle up and we weighed our options. We decided to find a place to bivy and wait until the morning to make any decisions. We ended up climbing up another 300’ of forest munge to the top of a heather slope. The top of the slope was a comfy knoll that marked the summit of the lower tower, and an awesome bivy! This was our summit and the first point where it was obvious we had linked into the ‘57 line. kyle rapping a steep section of the wall Waking up, my outlook was pretty grim. I could barely hobble around, so we decided to descend our route. I couldn’t really put weight on my ankle so I ended up glissading the last 100’ of 35 degree heather. Once back at the tree line we began rapping. We ended up rappelling about 1800’. Primarily rapping on trees and using an escaper we were able to get away with only leaving a couple gear anchors along the way. Traversing the talus back to the car was kind of miserable, but manageable. My ankle is starting to feel better already, crossing my fingers for a minor sprain. For the aspiring munge warrior, here’s pitch notes P1 5.7 180’ head up moss gully on the left to a big ledge with trees. P2 5.7+ 180’ traverse to left edge of ledge. Head up good hand crack. Traverse slab to the right and climb a nice finger crack up to a large ledge on the ridge crest. P3 5.8 150’ head up into the large mossy corner. Climb up to a distinct roof with hands to fists gear for anchor. P4 5.9 100’ continue up the corner. Mossy crack climbing leads to a rightward roof traverse. Pull past the roof onto the large sloping ledge. Two beaks in place for anchor P5 5.9 100’ continue up main corner on clean slab. Past a short chimney and a crack on the right face (5.9+). Belay at uncomfortable stance below a striped roof in a good crack in the main corner. P6 5.9+ 85’ continue up main corner past a small roof (crux) to an alcove at the base of the massive looming roof above. #4 critical for belay. P7 5.9+ 70’ climb the face to the right of the corner (5.7R). Up past an off width section to a section of steep crack/stemming on good rock. Belay in a cave. P8 5.9+ 160’ traverse out of the cave. Climb the face on the right up to a knife edge arete (5.8R). Traverse the slab rightward into a steep rock star (5.9+ spicy). Continue up past low angle broken terrain. Belay by a bush on a small ledge. P9 5.7 60’ head up and around the arete to the right. Traverse over on mossy ledges and build an anchor P10 5.8R 100’ “Phil’s traverse” traverse right. Up mossy blocks to trees. Traverse back left to a big tree for a belay. Heinous drag. P11 5.7 150’ climb the belay tree. Then continue up until rope drag stops you. P12 5.6 200’ trees up to the ridge crest to join ne butt route. Gear Notes: Double Rack .2 - 1 Singles 2 - 4 no nuts placed. Pins in place. Approach Notes: Park at cascade pass. Traverse talus to the base of the “munge cone”. Traverse to the right up steep ferns. Gain a steep ramp that cuts up and left on 4th class devils clubs. Mandatory devils club laybacking. We brought leather gloves for this. Traverse the ledge to an exposed perch by a steep gully.
  15. Trip: Holliway Mountain - North Face Route (aka "Scary Bear Attacks") D 5.9+ new route Trip Date: 08/14/2022 Trip Report: Let's start with a John Scurlock photo of this (likely) previously unclimbed face; Holliway's north face is on the left, Golden Horn background right: Here's a shot I took from the trail: Rolf Larson and I bring you a cautionary tale about this attractive nuisance. Our main candidates for an ascent were the two longest ribs that lead up to the two high points you see above (the true summit is on the left, and appears lower). The one on the left had a series of towers that led to the brilliant white -- and largely blank -- spike that forms the summit, while the one on the right appeared more straightforward. We kicked steps up firm snow to the footing of our preferred rib on the right. After futzing around with a difficult moat pitch, and finding a barely passable anchor poised below what looked like a difficult and very spicy next pitch, Rolf wisely downclimbed back to the snow. This cost us 3+ hours. We wandered left on the snow to "scout", and spotted some snow leading up to easy access to the rock, below the second-best left-hand rib and just right of a garbage-chute gully. Standing on the still-hard snow, contemplating the idea of beginning the route at 11:30am, one of us asked "You wouldn't let us do something stupid, would you?". This was a stupid question directed at the wrong person. So both stupidos headed upward to scout. Looking up; we began climbing off on the left, below the high point of the snow, where it makes a prominent triangular nose pointing right. Our false start was the furthest right high snow point. Our top-out on the sub-summit is the high point to the right of the V-notch; the true summit is the white spike on the left. I got the first pitch (5.9+) and it was fantastic, and would be popular if it were at a crag--fun climbing with a little bit of everything on solid rock. The uphill was all downhill from there. Rolf's second pitch (5.8?) went up a chimney that had some fun moves, but also some loose killers that he danced around. Our next several pitches took a left-hand ramp above the gully splitting the two main ribs, a couple more in/across the gully to take ramps on its right, and then we found a way to leave the gully rightward to gain the originally desired right-hand rib to the sub-summit. After pitch 2, the climbing in general wasn't too steep, but there were occasionally difficult moves; and, it was often run out and loose, requiring careful rope management. A few pitches after gaining the right-hand rib, we stood on the 7,920' sub-summit and took in the sunset. We were 9 hours on the route. We descended to the south, hemi-circumnavigated around the east side of the mountain (via headlamp and moonlight) to get back to our packs, then thrashed down to our pleasant camp at the river, arriving at around 2am. Not that anyone will bother, but FWIW, happy to provide details for the descent -- including a plausible more direct route with daylight -- upon request. After the first pitch, due to the loose rock and scarce anchors, bailing would at minimum be risky and costly. Future parties might enjoy exploring the many features on this corrugated face, but should bring a bolt kit and a sense of humor. The line required 10 pitches total. Approx route: More pics here: https://photos.app.goo.gl/zTcs4kQdwBFhEdKc7 Here's the namesake bear (there's a video series of same name too, and on the approach was bear scat and a bear hunter): Gear Notes: We had doubles through 2 when including tri-cams, a single 3, and pins. Rolf used one pin at a belay. A single 70m rope. Approach Notes: West Fork Methow River trail, then PCT (total approx 10 miles) to camp on Methow River; then up a couple thousand feet through brush and forest
  16. Trip: Selkirks - Lionshead - Circle of Life 5.11b/c, C1 FA Trip Date: 08/08/2022 Trip Report: I just finished putting up a project I have been working for the last couple years. It is on the north face of Lionshead up in Selkirk mountains of northern ID. I first heard about the potential line years ago but wasn't climbing hard enough at the time. Then 2 years ago I started investigating and scrubbing it. Finally after many hours of scrubbing it came together this weekend. I do want to thank the numerous friends that I dragged up there who patiently belayed me and also spent hours cleaning and scrubbing the route. The climb is 5 pitches long and contains a lot of really good 5.10 and 5.11 crack climbing. There is 10 feet of pretty blank rock that earns the C1 rating. It is straight forward aiding on a cam and a couple of fixed nuts. For those inclined to try and free it, I would guess it goes at mid to hard 5.12?? So go get the FFA and let me know! The crux pitch would be a classic at most crags complete with really good 5.11 finger crack to some steep laybacking/hands. The descent is to rappel the route which helps make the route feel less committing, and anything in the 5.11 range can be pulled through (although that would be most of pitch 3!). Pitch 1 - 5.9 Pitch 2 - 5.10b Pitch 3 - 5.11b/c, C1 Pitch 4 - 5.10+ Pitch 5 - 5.11b I personally would say it is on par with the classics at WA Pass for quality of climbing although it contains a little more lichen due to lack of traffic currently. I would definitely recommend doing it. The north face of Lionshead in the evening light. The line is marked in red. Starting up pitch 1. Looking up the start of Pitch 2. Starting up the crux Pitch 3. Looking back down the top half of the crux pitch 3. Such good climbing!! Nearing the top of pitch 4. The crux 5.11 roof on pitch 5. Gear Notes: Doubles from .2 to #3 with triples in the .3 to .75 and a single #4. A single set of nuts (offsets more useful than regular). Also a .3/.4 and .4/.5 offset cam come in very handy. 2 ropes for the rappel. Approach Notes: Take the normal approach to Lionshead. The route is on the north face about 100 ft to the right of the route Lion Tamer.
  17. Trip: Crescent Creek Spires, Southern Picket Range - East Twin Needle - North Buttress 5.9 D+ 2,000’ Trip Date: 07/31/2022 Trip Report: Sam Boyce and I climbed the North Buttress (aka the Thread of Gneiss, as coined by John Roper), on July 31, 2022. The buttress rises 1,800 vertical feet and our route took 9 pitches, the majority of which were ~250’ due to simul-climbing–we estimate around 2,000’ feet of roped climbing. Some of you might be curious about this (probable FA) given there are no reported ascents, although a couple parties have reportedly tried. I had tried and failed on this line before, and it had really got under my skin. This time Sam and I started the line in a more sensible place, and it went smoothly. Here's some art by John Scurlock showing the E and W Twin Needles from the north. Our line begins lower right and works its way up the north buttress trending left, eventually squeaking by the sub-summit spire on its left to hit that highest left skyline: The lingering snowpack made the approach relatively easy, for the Pickets. From our camp near the Chopping Block, after traversing the snow, slabs, and talus of Crescent Cr basin, we cramponed up to Otto-Himmelhorn col. From there, the descent of the Mustard Glacier required only one single-rope rap from an established station ~150’ below the col. Gawking up at the very steep and intimidating looking summit spires, we figured that we would need a lot of time to reckon a way to summit. As a result, our route-finding choices generally favored efficiency, as we wanted to be as expedient as possible to save time for expected difficulties up high. As it turns out, our concerns were largely needless. We started climbing a little below the outlet of the gully splitting the E and W Twin Needles (aka, the Thread of Ice), gaining E Twin Needle on its right-hand side, not far up from the buttress toe. A pitch-plus of glacial-flour-covered mid-fifth was followed by a pitch-plus of nasty gully travel with some mid-fifth work-arounds, and that landed us at a notch above the first pillar/tower on the buttress. Future parties should take the rib to the left of the gully on pitch 2 for better climbing, and top out on the pillar—an approx. 20’ rap to the notch might be required, but this would be much better than the loose gully. Our start, from near the buttress’s toe: In the above pic, we gained the rock left of the gaping 'schrund, up to the brownish left-slanting gully, up that thing to the notch between the indistinct pillar and the next tower at the sun-shade line. (Again, likely better to stay on the rib to the left of the gully.) From there, Sam led through some blocky 5.7 terrain that backed off to more low-fifth scrambling. For pitch-plus 4, I continued on pleasant rock at low-fifth class, nearly to the top of another gendarme. For pitch-plus 5, Sam then easily gained the next notch and continued on some solid and fun 5.8 that relented to mid-fifth. For pitch 6, I led an airy 5.7 traverse left of another tower. This was one of the few pitches that did not stretch beyond a rope length. Going up and over this tower would probably be just as fun. Sam’s lead of pitch 7 was a long simul affair involving grassy ramps for about 400’ with difficulties up to 5.7. He finally pulled up to belay at a spot that gave us options for tackling the summit block. My lead of pitch 8 involved a chimney, a leftward-rising traverse of a face, and then working around and up an exposed and somewhat insecure arête to near the summit. This long pitch was the proverbial sting in the tail, requiring some careful and sometimes licheny 5.9 moves. Fun and spicy. (There were certainly more spicy options to gain the striking sub-summit, but we leave that for future parties and variations.) From my belay Sam scrambled to the summit, at perhaps 5.6. Descent: We descended the south face. From the summit, there is a short down climb to an established rap station with a fresh sling from the Wrights’ traverse a few years back. This was a full 30M rap that took us to Eye Col (the notch between E and W Twin Needles). From Eye Col we scrambled down the main south gully, exiting rightward when it got steep and traversing skier's right over 2 or 3 minor ridges to find easier terrain to down climb. After a bit of sandy 4th class, we identified a convenient point to rappel from (cord now in situ) that landed us back into the main gully with its (currently) hanging snowfield. This was a full 60M rap. After downclimbing and traversing right off the snow, we found ourselves at a notch that splits the two main gullies described in the Beckey guide. We decided the gullies looked unpleasant and scrambled the ridge between the two, trending rightward as we went down–our route traversed above the skier’s right gully. This was straightforward 4th class. When the ridge got steeper near another notch we made another rap. This was another ~60M rap down lower angle terrain, which could probably be downclimbed somewhat reasonably with a couple steep steps. From here we continued downclimbing to the moat below the ridge. There was not a comfortable-looking transition to the snow so we rigged one more single-rope rap to clear the moat and get back onto the snowfields in Crescent Creek basin. Once in the basin, it was a quick romp back up to our camp at the Chopping Block col. A handful of pics: Sam on pitch 3, E Twin Needle's sub-summit spire lurking behind immediately left: Me on pitch 4, with the Eye of Sauron menacing behind: Here I'm following pitch 5, Fury and Luna background: For pitch 6, at this point I decided to head left for an airy traverse versus the up-and-over (that's W Twin on the right): Sam shot this pic of me on pitch 8, about to swing around to the exposed arete: A couple of Sam following, first the chimney, then on the arete, obviously having fun: Sam and I really enjoyed this climb. While Sam had impressively climbed three Pickets routes in under two weeks, for me it had been too long since I'd climbed alpine rock, and this was a much-needed alpine shot in the arm. Except for the uncharacteristically somewhat-heady last pitch, we'd recommend this as a "Pickets moderate". Parties comfortable with alpine 5.9 should take a ride on this climb. The Crescent Creek Spires from our camp; the Twin Needles are the pointy ones next to last on the left, and the upper gully snowfield that we rappelled and downclimbed as part of the descent (before veering looker's left on a ridge) is visible dropping down below Eye Col: Gear Notes: Double cams fingers to 1", single 2 and 3, supplemented by tri-cams and nuts. Double/twin 60M ropes. Approach Notes: Crescent Creek basin approach to Chopping Block col.
  18. Trip: Mount Shuksan - Northwest Arayete III 5.9 Date: 8/6/2007 Trip Report: On August 6th Matt Alford and I climbed an enjoyable rock route on the northwest side of Mount Shuksan. The route follows the crest of a fine arete on good rock for nine pitches to the summit of a prominent horn above the White Salmon Glacier. Though dirty at times, the position is incredible, the rock is solid and every pitch is sustained for it's grade. I had first seen this arete at least twelve years ago while descending the glacier and thought it both beautiful and improbable due to a lack of features. Ever since the idea of climbing it has been knocking about in my head. I'm not sure what took so long but it was great to turn that idea into a reality! As it worked out the rock here (Green Schist) is horizontally banded and the rock is just littered with positive jugs and pockets that allow moderate climbing up imposing walls. We left the car at first light and reached the base of Winnies Slide four hours later. From here a short descent led to the base of the arete. There was significant shrund that made accessing the rock a bit problematic. We end up rappelling off a bollard to reach a ramp on the left side of the arete. A good ledge system on the right side could probably have been used as well. Matt takes the first pitch. Fun, juggy face climbing was followed by a 100' of 5.8 friction right up the crest of the low angle arete. The gear grew increasingly sparse until he had to run it out maybe 40' to the belay. A second short easy pitch led to a much steeper wall. P1 Frictioning up the crest of the Arete The third pitch exemplified what makes establishing new routes such an amazing experience. We're at the base of a steep blank wall. On the left is a filthy corner system full of grass. Out right a few weaknesses lead towards a steep arete and the possibility of good climbing around it's edge. The grassy corner will go, but the climbing will suck. The traverse out right is a total mystery. Will it go? Is there any gear? Whats on the other side? What if I can't make it? P3 Working things out on the crux traverse Intending to head up the corner I find myself heading out right instead. Focusing on protection I find that the apparently blank wall has a few narrow seams obscured by lichen that allow me to place several solid pins. Soon I'm at an obvious crux move. Cleaning some loose blocks off a small ledge I watch them freefall to the glacier. Hesitating I close my eyes, focus on my breathing, feel the chill in the cool shade, listen to the ice creaking and groaning below. Eventually I just run out of reasons to stand still so I commit, stemming wide, finding a small uncling, shifting over and reaching for the crest of the arete. Grabbing solid jugs I pull over the corner and find myself on a beautiful wall of clean, orange rock. IT GOES! P3 Matt pulling around onto the beautiful orange wall So many intense experiences tend to just slide away. Things no longer "stick" like they once did. But this one is different, this one set deep. I'm going to remember exactly how wonderful it felt to pull around that corner for a long time. The fourth pitch was the best of the climb, awesome juggy 5.7 climbing on near vertical rock with great gear. Soon we're at the base of the imposing upper arete. The climbing looks improbable but once again the rock turned out to be covered in positive holds. Staying about 40 feet left of the arete Matt is able to climb more or less straight up the wall on 5.7 rock to a belay in an alcove. P4 More Arete P6 Starting up the steep upper wall Climbing through a grungy 5.8 roof I find super featured 5.6 rock on the crest of the steep arete for a full ropelength. Matt quickly leads another long pitch of fun corners to a fixed pin belay at a small roof. A final short pitch up clean slabs ending with an easy arete brings us directly to the summit. Unreal, the route unfolded far better than we could have imagined! P7 Stellar climbing on the crest of the Arete P9 It Ends like it Begins…. It's late in the day so we snap a quick summit shot and get moving. An easy scramble down the backside gets us to the Upper Curtis Glacier. After following some mountain goat tracks we picked up the boot track leading back down the mountain. In my exhausted state the entire descent seemed somehow timeless as if it took no more than half-an-hour. Yet many hours and a beautiful sunset later we reached the car with the last of the dieing light. Well there's already a Northwest Arete and a Northwest Rib on the mountain so Matt (grudgingly) agreed to name our route the Northwest Arayete after someone I know. Gear Notes: Rack to 3.5" with a double set of very small to medium nuts and small to 1” cams. A few short knifeblades and bugaboos recommended. Approach Notes: Follow Fisher Chimneys Rt to edge of White Salmon Glacier (bivi sites) then descend a few minutes on steep snow or ice to the base of the arete. Potential Shrund problems getting on the rock.
  19. Trip: Whatcom Peak - “Castle in the Sky” FA of the South Buttress of Whatcom 5.10b TD Trip Date: 08/06/2022 Trip Report: Yeeehaw! What a weather window it’s been! From Aug 5-7th Lani and I climbed the first ascent of the south buttress of Whatcom. This route came as a suggestion from Wayne. Thanks! It was excellent climbing on great rock in the most perfect of settings. I would say it’s one of the finer alpine routes I’ve had the pleasure of climbing in the cascades! We would highly recommend the route! There is certainly some choss and some runout but it is the pickets. I have to start work today so a hasty trip report will have to do. Here’s a link to the report I wrote up. Sorry for the forced click through, I’m rolling out the door and don’t have time to format photos for CC. Thanks for the stoke y’all! Go get it while the gettins still there! https://www.theclimbingguides.com/post/castle-in-the-sky-first-ascent-of-the-south-buttress-of-whatcom-peak-iv-5-10b-td Gear Notes: Single rack .1-3 doubles .2-1 full set of nuts. Optional #2 and 3 KB’s. Single 60M rope Approach Notes: We took easy peak to the imperfect impasse.
  20. Trip: Spectre Peak - “Spirited Away” FA of the S Ridge of Spectre Peak 2000’ 5.8 Trip Date: 07/26/2022 Trip Report: Joe Manning and I just got out of the Northern Pickets. We did the first ascent of the South Ridge of Spectre Peak. We had excellent weather and were out for 4 days. I’m having trouble loading any photos from my phone on here so this will be super brief. For extensive photos and whatnot check out my trip report on our blog… https://www.theclimbingguides.com/post/spirited-away-first-ascent-of-the-south-ridge-of-spectre-peak-2000-5-8 Gear Notes: Singles .1-2 doubles .3-1 light rack of nuts and optional 3. 40-50ft of cord and a single 60M rope. Approach Notes: Easy peak to improbable impasse to perfect pass to challenger col to phantom to pickle pass.
  21. Trip: Lemolo Peak (erstwhile Hardest Mox) - NE Buttress ("After Hours") V 5.10- R Date: 9/12/2008 Trip Report: Summary: On 9/12 and 9/13/2008, Rolf Larson and Eric Wehrly climbed the NE Buttress of the 8501' summit to the E of SE Mox Peak. The NE buttress on right division of dark and light, John Scurlock photo: A shot from the other side on our descent: From what we can tell, our route shares several pitches with Layton and Wolfe's E Face line "The Devil's Club", somewhere in the middle third of the ascent. "After Hours" (appropriate for several reasons) takes a direct start on the NE Buttress toe, and ends at the summit of what some have referred to as "Hardest Mox", the apparently heretofore unclimbed peak to the E of SE Mox. We continued to SE Mox Peak from there, adding a bit more engaging climbing. I believe that we are the first ascentionists of this peak, and hence can derive a little fun naming it. If this is the case, in keeping with the naming convention of Mox ("twin") Peaks, we propose Lemolo Peak; "Lemolo" is Chinook jargon for wild, or untamed. Klone (Chinook for "three") Peak would also be appropriate, but is already taken in Washington. If this summit is not worthy of a separate name, then no sweat--I already had my fun. I think that Rolf (aka the Bard of Leavenworth) is crafting a TR in iambic pentameter; until then, the following must do... Overview: Day 1, approach from Little Beaver to c. 5000' bivy in Perry Creek basin; 9 hours. Day 2, finish approach to 6000' rock start, and climb to 8200' bivy; 13.5 hours. Day 3, proceed to 8501' summit, then ridge traverse to SE Mox 8504', and descend to camp via gullies and unnamed glacier SE of Mox; 9 hours (ish?). Day 4, thrash homeward; 7 hours even, every minute fun. More detailed notes and pictures (I took all pictures; when the Bard isn't writing, his other job is male supermodel): On morning approach day 1, Jack Mtn and Nohokomeen Gl: Early part of roped climbing on day 2, somewhere around 7000': I was pretty worked from the day 1 approach, and started to get some hand cramps about 1000' into the climb; so Rolf took up the yoke and led the majority of the steep headwall in the middle third of the climb. He drew the crux pitch, which among its cruxes, included pulling a roof over suspect gear. Rolf reached into his puny reservoir of Solid and cruised the pitch—-one of the most impressive leads I'll witness. It was here that I believe he threw an alpine berserker gang-sign. No time for pics, but after following the pitch, I took a shot back at its traverse element: You might be able to make out some tat from MnE's rap 3 years ago. Additionally, looking at this pic from Mike's report, I surmise that while those guys went up and left from that point, we went up and right, cutting back left eventually. Here's Rolf making his way through more roofs: Some exposure from this belay, looking down at the buttress: At about 7500', I led what we jokingly referred to as a "comeback pitch" left and then up one of the few clean splitters we encountered, very exposed, then Rolf zagged back right across the buttress crest: The climbing was exposed and a lot of fun; I like the Bard's term for it, "cerebral", ha. Another shot a bit higher, ~8000': We had enough daylight to search around for bivy sites between 8000 and 8300, and settled on a then-windless site at 8200'. Temps were dropping a bit more steeply than we expected; we'd left our sleeping bags in favor of a lighter jacket-and-backpack bivy, and paid for our insouciance. We were so giddy about our situation, that we giggled convulsively through the night. Here's the alpine rat burrowing in for Led Zeppelin's "you shook me" all night long: Took some solace from the views; underexposed Picket Range: After the sun came up and I drank from my partially frozen water, we scrambled up and roped up for teetering stacked blocks to the summit (Mt. Spickard background): Last pitch to the yet-unclimbed 8501' summit: Shot of Pickets from tippy-top: Now we have to go over there--SE Mox: The traverse involved a 60m rap, a scoot around a gendarme, then a few more pitches of climbing on a ridge--actually very cool climbing. Even more pics, first is looking back at Rolf and the gendarme, I think: Then Rolf leading toward SE Mox, Mt Redoubt background and NW Mox foreground: Finally, views of 1) Lemolo from the summit SE Mox; 2) Challenger et al; 3) Bear's NF etc.: Then the ultra-brutal chossy galore descent of several gullies to the glacier: This tried our dessicated patience. Staggered into a deserved camp celebration of the finest 2-course meal (I guess everything does taste better with tuna), brews, bourbon, chocolate. Last day parting shot: And then beers and plunges at Ross Lake while waiting for our boat; deeeeluxe. I can now fully appreciate and salute Mike and Erik's journey into the unknown 3 years ago. Pretty certain I'd not take 4 days off to go after this big endeavor without their information posted here--thanks fellas. I remember reading about the brotherhood you guys shared, and held hope for similar with Rolf--nope. Our partnership is built on mutual disrespect and loathing; we share a vile and putrid love, and feed most from each other's misery. I'm not happy until you're not happy. Nevertheless, the Bard is a solid partner and I look forward to future adventures--this was an exceptionally stellar one. Gear Notes: -medium rack, with pins that did not get used. tri-cams employed often. -while no metal used, much extracted; our route intersected rap stations enough such that we bootied bountifully. -no plants were harmed in the development of our product. Approach Notes: Jungle fever Nihilism (or Zen Buddhism, according to one’s preference)
  22. Trip: snoqualmie mountain - possible fa: the turf testament Trip Date: 03/31/2018 Trip Report: marko and i went kickin', scratchin', 'n stabbin' yesterday and unearthed a previously unheralded book of the bible: the turf testament. start a few hundred feet up the slot couloir at the large right facing book. pitches 1-2: two 60m pitches up rock & turf in the corner and some thin ice on the right face. pitch 3: climb a short corner, move easily left to the next book, & climb it to tree belay (<50m). [pitch 3 alternatives: a. possibly rightward escape on a treed ramp (may dead end on the ridge bordering the slot), or b. finish directly up very difficult looking roofs above.] pitch 4: climb up shallow right facing book with overlaps to difficult exit moves overlooking the roofs directly above the second belay (30m). [pitch 4 alternative: straight up through a short squeeze chimney to a difficult looking roof in main corner.] hike up the ridge between the slot and crooked couloirs to the summit rock band. pitch 5: up central chimney/gully to exit immediately left of cornices (30m). a pretty good photo of this route appears in martin volken's "backcountry skiing: snoqualmie pass". the route is very obvious to anyone skiing the slot so i would not be surprised if it has been climbed: any info would be appreciated. the route cannot be seen from the start of pineapple express. however, a party could climb the first 4(?) of p.e., then scope the route from there. if interested, they could cross the slot to the turf testament. if not, continue up p.e. are you ready to testify? Gear Notes: rock gear to 4"; screws to 13cm (for us); your choice of turf gear; a few pins (not used) Approach Notes: best via standard approach to nw face. dropping down the slot may work but has drawbacks (can't scope the route, pissed off skiers).
  23. Trip: Posthole Peak - [FA?] North Face Right Side (WI3 M4) Trip Date: 01/16/2022 Trip Report: My motivation to spray has been dwindling lately, as such this trip report is a couple months late and will not be as detailed as past reports. In mid January Kurt Ross, Erik Richardson and I ventured into the WA Pass area with plans to repeat the Keena-Williams on Silverstar. While driving over on Saturday night, Kurt and I got word from Erik that the route wasn't in, and his recon informed us that both skiing, and booting conditions were far from ideal. We nearly turned the car around two or three times, but the prospect of a break from the W-side rain kept us on course. As we waffled over what to do, I remembered some cool N-facing walls behind Blue Lake that might hold some potential. The straightforward access and low commitment made this an easy decision. The next morning Erik towed us up the highway, and we skied from the blue lake TH up to the lake. Upon laying eyes on the faces, the main things we noticed was A: they look really cool in the winter, B: a distinct lack of ice (duh), and C: All of the coolest lines had big(enough to kill you) cornices hanging over them. The overhead hazard and warm temps gave us real pause, and we doddled around the base for a while trying to make a call. Eventually we decided on a mellow looking smear on the right side of the left wall (posthole peak). This route had the smallest cornice, and seemed like it would climb the fastest to limit our time in danger. The first third of the route consisted of good low angle ice that somehow wasn't covered in snow. I lead an 80+m pitch of mostly WI2 with a single vertical 12ft step to a screw belay. My next pitch started with some more easy water ice in a groove up to a snowfield. This pitch ended with some trenching to get to a bad rock belay (beaks and KB's). Kurt took over the lead here and lead us most of the way to the top in one ~140m pitch. The first half was snow with an easy mixed step up to 50M of fun albeit very snowy M4 to just below the ridge. I took over the sharp end again and lead a funky pitch of tree climbing and trenching in steep/deep snow up to the ridge crest. At this point we unroped and continued scrambling along the ridge with hopes of reaching the summit before sunset. About half way along the ridge, I fell in a hole while breaking trail, while Kurt was either coming over to laugh at me or help me out, he triggered a large cornice break presumably by just plunging his tool too far to the left. Luckily we had both stayed far enough to the side that we were both safe, but it was a great example of how far back cornices can break. There was roughly three feet of flat rock exposed by the now missing chunk of snow. Poor Erik was out of sight and likely assumed we were both gonezo. With the sun now fully set, and plenty more complex ridge ahead of us, we opted to turn around and investigate our descent options. The ridge took us down to an easy couloir that would be really fun to ski in better conditions. For us it was rather firm booting down to our skis at the base. Large chunks of cornice debris covered our skin track from earlier in the day, solidifying our choice to avoid the more threatened routes. The ski out was err... character building. To the best of my knowledge this was a new route. If anyone has info on previous winter ascents on these walls I'd love to hear about it. Kurt (left) & Erik (right) Following P1 Kurt Leading out on P3 Erik following the snowy mixed awesomeness Questing into the night. Goode in all it's winter glory above Erik's head. Gear Notes: Standard winter alpine rack w/ maybe a couple extra 10-13cm screws Approach Notes: Sled to the Blue Lake trailhead. Skin or boot up to and across the lake.
  24. Trip: Esmeralda Peaks - [FA] Moonlight Serendipity (WI2 M5+ 1,200ft) Trip Date: 11/21/2021 Trip Report: Last Sunday @Kyle M, Kurt Ross and I set out to investigate rumors of early season ice in the Esmeralda Basin area. A couple sizable blowdowns stopped our drive early, diminishing any hopes of even making it to our intended climb. With zero expectations, we decided to go for a walk up the road and see if we could get eyes on anything cool. We took our sweet time walking up the road, stopping to look through binoculars at everything that vaguely resembled ice. We nearly dropped all our climbing gear at the trailhead, but decided to keep it for “training weight”. Luckily we did, as we shortly got eyes on the NE face of Esmeralda’s NE peak. A discontinuous series of ice smears, chimneys and ramps seemed to form a potential route up the face, but we figured it was still too early. Possibly against our better judgement, we decided to “go scout the approach” and soon found ourselves scrambling up fun WI2 smears on the lower flanks of the face. Our route followed easy terrain that angled left and then traversed hard back right to where the face steepens abruptly. A very convenient dike feature splits the face for almost its entire height, and proved to be the key to our success. I kept leading, and scratched my way up a fun albeit poorly protected section of chimney. From here I had my fill for a little bit, and let Kurt take over the sharp end. An easy connector pitch took us up to a decision point. The chimney/dike feature continued above us, but seemed to hold ever steepening iced up rock climbing. With the little amount of daylight we had left, we opted to bypass this to the left via a tricky and somewhat loose chimney that seemed like it would take us to easier terrain, and the summit. Kurt casually lead the pitch, seemingly unfazed by the toaster oven sized block he dropped on his head. The sun set on us as we were following this pitch, and brought us to another decision point. We hadn’t prepared for a day of this magnitude and were running out of food and water fast. We could either bail now and call it a good scouting mission, or keep going in hopes of the summit, and a quick walk off. We opted to push onward into the night. From this point the climbing was largely on snow, apart from the odd rock step, or awkward bit of shallowly buried slab. Two more pitches brought us to an imposing headwall we hadn't seen from below. I was starting to worry that our climb was done there. While we could have likely found a route up the steep dry rock, it was far too late in the evening to start such drytooling shenanigans. Our last option was to keep traversing right to search for a way around it. Much to our surprise, a perfect rock ramp cork screwed around the summit block, taking us to the top of the wall. Once atop our little summit, we saw a long complex rock ridge that unfolded in front of us. Continuing to the true summit would have taken us several long pitches, and more hours than we had. We had climbed to the top of the wall we intended, and were more than happy with how things unfolded. The descent involved a couple pitches of down leading and about six or seven double rope rappels off trees and bushes. We hiked out hungry under the almost full moon, and got back to Seattle at two in the morning the next day. Kyle will likely write a more in depth blog post in a couple days. While clearly not representative of the conditions we encountered, the topo below shows more of the wall than is visible from below. Gear Notes: Single rack .1-3, nuts, beaks, KB's and a Spectre came in handy. Screws were not required for the conditions we encountered. 10's and 13's would be best. Approach Notes: Walk, drive or sled to the Esmeralda Basin TH. Hike up the trail for a little under a half mile before crossing the creek and picking your way straight up to the face. If you can drive to the trailhead, this climb is VERY easily accessible.
  25. Trip: Northern Pickets - Mt. Challenger Middle Peak & FA of SW Ridge of Challenger 5 (Peak 7,696) Trip Date: 08/18/2021 Trip Report: Northern Pickets, image pulled from publicly accessible Google Book Preview of Cascade Alpine Guide, Vol. 3. The SW Ridge of Peak 7,696 is the righthand skyline. Fair use intended. TL;DR: Climbing partners Joe Manning (manninjo) and Joseph Montange ventured up the wild and rugged Baker River valley in mid-August 2021, seeking a shortcut into the Northern Pickets. After several days of travel, we climbed a very fun, new, five pitch, 750', 5.7 route on the Mount Challenger massif, the Southwest Ridge of Peak 7,696 (aka Challenger 5). Baker River Mandatory wading on day 1 starts several miles upriver Time to go to the beach! It’ll be fun: miles of sandbars and loads of deep blue swimming holes. Wading up the river in tennies. Getting to curl our toes in the sand. Sounds promising as a way to approach the remote and reasonably inaccessible Picket Range. Relaxing, beachy-type vacations are not my norm, so the Baker River seemed like the best of both worlds. Get the summertime water fix AND have an adventure scoping out the “direct” route into the Northern Pickets. The approach, documented in the 1968 Tabor and Crowder guide, has no record of folks actually going all the way in that way in the last 50 years. I’m sure some folks have, only to be swallowed by brush and never seen again. Mike Layton wrote in 2006 that John Roper “thoroughly sandbagged” him and Wayne Wallace on their approach to Spectre Peak by suggesting the Baker River. Following “six hours to travel a mile and a half along the Baker River we bailed. Ahead were three more miles of rain, brush, and swift water followed by a 5000-ft climb to the ridge… after our eight-hour false start, we dragged our soggy asses and 25-lb packs to the Hannegan Pass parking lot to restart the trip.” Pioneer Ridge (center-right) and the confluence of Bald Eagle Creek and Baker River For our part, we wanted to push beyond the Pioneer Ridge version of the Baker River approach and continue up the river, to the confluence of Picket and Mineral Creeks. From here, a spur ascending all the way to the Mt. Challenger massif would provide an escalator into the alpine. In fact, after all the beach time, we’d probably need to burn off some of those beach-induced calories. In all seriousness, there’s really no easy way into the western side of Northern Pickets. For a fit and competent party, stocked with full climbing kit and several days of food, Easy Ridge, Whatcom Pass and Peak, Eiley Wiley, even carrying over Fury all take at least two days. Sometimes fast and light parties get to Perfect Pass in a day for a two-night blitz of Mt. Challenger. But if you want to do something on the west side of Spectre, Phantom, Ghost, Crooked Thumb, anything on the south side of Challenger, it's two days just to get there (and two more to hike out). It was with this knowledge that we set off up the Baker River, hoping to find the equivalent of the Northwest Passage into the Northern Pickets. While we may not have found quite that, we did get to spend several days in one of the most rugged, wild, untrammeled and primeval wilderness areas this side of Alaska. The fact that access started less than a 90-minute drive from home was remarkable. The sheer quantity and apparent quality of the granite cliffs spilling off the sides of Pioneer and Mineral Ridges is mind boggling. It’s a beautiful looking mix of Index town walls, Squamish, Darrington, Yosemite, name any notable granite bigwall area. Were it not for a lack of trails and fixed anchor ban in the park, this zone would be a serious destination. As it exists today, it's worth admiring the incredible views every step of the way in. Just don’t forget to watch your step along the way. For folks who find off-trail travel “not so bad,” the stats are compelling. It's less than half the distance of any other way into the range, and less than half the elevation gain. There is no penalizing elevation loss. The approach lacks the objective hazards (e.g. icefall traversing around Whatcom Peak) and subjective hazards (e.g. exposed, loose scrambling over Whatcom or across the Imperfect Impasse) one would find coming in from other directions. The Baker River is a late season approach - the river needs to be low enough to regularly ford and wade. Most of the river walking we did was shin to knee deep. A pair of low top mesh approach shoes worked perfectly to hike in and out of the river. We got waist deep in the river once or twice, though that may have been avoidable. Make sure you line your pack with a garbage bag or other waterproofing. Sections of mandatory bushwhacking punctuate the river walking There is unavoidable brush, including some that registers as “BW5” on the Cascade Brush and Bushwhack scale. As with most off-trail approaches, the bushwhacking was far worse going in than coming out. Only a handful of times did patience grow thin and tempers flare due to frustrating travel conditions. Another dead end in the brush led Joseph to remark that “it wouldn’t be an adventure if there were no doubts.” At this point, with the hour growing late on the first day, we were having some serious doubts about the viability of the approach. After a breather and channeling the power of positive thinking, we made it through the worst of the brush and found ourselves a mossy camp in open forest next to a brook and several large boulders. With full packs loaded for climbing out of a base camp, it took about the same amount of time to go in this way compared to past experience with the more-frequently documented approaches. The crux of the approach, encountered on day two for us, was the wooded spur above the confluence of Mineral Creek/Baker River and Picket Creek. The wooded spur with approximate line and color showing slope angle It starts out innocuously enough. Low angle, brush-free walking past ancient cedars the size of skyscrapers, some well over 15 feet in diameter, soon gives way to steeper and steeper hillside. In what could be the toughest 2,000 feet of elevation gain anywhere, you’ll fight insanely thick brush, mostly saplings and huckleberries, all at a gradient of over 30 degrees, while dodging cliffs including a significant band at about 4,000 feet elevation. Helmets and dirt-ponning may feel necessary to descend safely. Steep huckleberry Typical brush thickness on the wooded spur Several cliff bands are hidden in the brush of the wooded spur Perhaps the effort overall is greater going off trail, though that is going to vary individual to individual. Climbers with their brushmaster degrees, good route finding skills and smaller, lighter packs could conceivably make it to the Challenger 4/5 col or Phantom alp slope camp (or pretty close) in a single big day via Baker River. We broke out of treeline on the afternoon of our second day, hiking into a thickening misty fog. Wonderful camping exists there on grass patches among the heather fields next to perfect 250 gallon tarns. Bring a water filter for the tarn water. Camping on a natural grass tent pad next to water around 4,900 ft Our third day, we woke up to driving rain - not the forecast we hiked in with. It broke into a light drizzle by midmorning and up the alp slope ridge we went, reconning for a higher camp. By midday, an updated forecast gave us a limited window to climb the next day only, August 18th. Chance of showers returned the afternoon of the following day, August 19th. Being well provisioned for several days of rock climbing, the change in weather was disappointing but we’d have to make due. Resigned to the revised forecast; Mineral Mt. in background As I’ve learned in the Pickets, 20 or 30% chance of showers is pretty much 100% chance of rain and low-to-no visibility. We ended up moving camp on day three just a half mile further up the ridge, to a larger patch of grass with an even deeper little tarn and mystifying views of Whatcom Peak, Mineral, Shuksan, Baker/Kulshan and numerous other mountains. We elected to leave base camp there on the ridge around 5,200 ft and go light above. Camp 2 on the ridge, Whatcom Peak in the mist and Perfect Pass at center right We had big (for us) ambitions for our week, yet somehow even the best-laid plans seemed to get waylaid by weather and slowed down by river crossings, vine maple, cliffs, huckleberry, and route finding. Southwest Ridge of Challenger 5 (Peak 7,696), 5.7, 5 Pitches, 750’, Grade II Rock climbing can be just plain Type I fun. You’re outside, with good company, in good weather, using your brain and body to briefly overcome gravity, dancing with the minerals, having a jolly ‘ol time. For whatever reason, granite especially lends itself to this kind of climbing. Joseph contemplating existence on the summit of Mt. Challenger's Middle Peak After scrambling Mt. Challenger’s Middle Peak on day four, Wednesday morning, August 18th, and considering different options for more climbing, we circled back to the south face of Challenger 5 to scope out some pretty neat looking rock. The granite was white to dark with a golden burnt orange in places, peppered with blocks, flakes, and large chicken heads. Fun scrambling to contour back west under Challenger 5's south face Anywhere else these cliffs would be stacked with moderate trad lines. We contoured all the way around the south face until there was nowhere left to go. The southwest ridge dropped off down the imposing west face. Above, a distinct ridgeline ambled up towards the summit. Belay at start of route The route started from a broad, jumbled, and blocky ledge system roughly where the seasonal snow line of the SW ridge ends and the more black, lichen-stained rock begins. If you were hiking directly up the ridge from below, it might be possible to add another pitch for fun, but we cast off from the highest “scramble accessible” point. Climbing on pitch 1 The first pitch went up slabs, followed by a left-facing corner with a laughably fun 5.6 hand crack. Above the corner, a good stance on a ledge set up a short finger crack to another ledge. The rock was exceptionally solid and remarkably splitter, with bomber gear exactly where you might want it. Topping out pitch 1 Starting pitch 2; camp, approach ridge, and Baker River all lower left The climbing went for four more pitches like this, ledgy yet exposed ridge climbing punctuated by fun crack segments. Every roughly 40 - 45m pitch ended at a spacious belay ledge with a slingable horn or solid crack for gear. Views and position on the peak were something to behold. Climbing on pitch 2 Pitch four was the standout, with an improbable and slightly intimidating step right onto the exposed face after a short offwidth pillar. A horizontal traverse with a few hundred feet of exposure led to a straight up crack system culminating in another perfect hand crack, which started at red camalot and ended with a good little stretch of near-vertical number 3 jamming. A final mantel ended on a flat ledge big enough to park a bus on. Awesome exposure and jamming on pitch 4 Huge belay ledge at top of pitch 4 The final 60m pitch cut hard left, off the ridge and onto the west face via an unmissable ledge system. A blocky and slightly loose gully led directly to the summit, with the headwaters of the Baker River 4,000 feet below nipping at our heels and Shuksan and Kulshan swirling in the clouds to the west. Final climbing to the summit As soon as it came in, our weather window was on the way out. Within 15 minutes of arriving on top we were getting engulfed in the mist. We’d left our axes and crampons at the base of the route, and not knowing there was a scramble route off the peak, we elected to rap the south face from the summit and contour back to our gear. In hindsight, had we carried glacier travel gear, we could have descended to the north and potentially gotten back on the glacier, climbed back up to the col, and returned that way. In any case, two raps with two ropes got us off the steep terrain. We retrieved our gear from the base and headed back down the ridge to our 5,200 ft camp, arriving just in time for an incredible sunset as the clouds broke once again. A view of our route from the approach ridge Descending on the approach ridge Back at camp Deproach With the chance of showers in the forecast, we felt good about two summits, a new route, and three nights camped out on an incredible ridge. Now all that was left to do was to reverse miles of steep, trailless wilderness back to civilization. 40 degree huckleberries on the descent Finding the "secret passage" through a major cliff band; we were prepared to rappel, yet managed to avoid it on the way down We camped at the beach for our final evening, near the confluence of Bald Eagle Creek and the Baker River. There was enough sand to walk around barefoot and relax, taking in views of Scramble Creek falls and the North Ridge of Mt. Blum. Surprisingly, someone had camped there in the days we were up high and had left a fire pit, complete with charred logs. One might think the novelty of wading down a river would wear off by the last day of the trip, but surprisingly it didn’t. Out the way out, we knocked over a handful of cairns we made for ourselves on the way in. The only other sign of people we saw was the fire scar and some fishing line at the final campsite, which we packed out. It'd be great to keep it that way for the future. My opinion is this approach is destined to remain in obscurity when “easier” approaches exist, but it is a truly direct and viable way in to the Pickets. Having the right attitude about brush would help immensely. Walking in the river beat the heck out of the alternative Take only pictures, leave only footprints In the days since, I’ve been dreaming about the walls back there, packrafting part of the deproach, scheming about another trip back into the wilderness of the great nearby. It’s adventures like these that, for me, climbing in the Cascades are all about. Many thanks to Joseph for the great company, partnership, use of photos, and willingness to try something different. Gear Notes: Extra shoes for wading, rock climbing gear to #3 camalot, crampons/ice axe for glacier travel Approach Notes: Starts from the Baker River Trailhead. See Tabor and Crowder's "Routes and Rocks in the Mt. Challenger Quadrangle" and Beckey's "Cascade Alpine Guide, Vol. 3" for more approach details.
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