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Found 112 results

  1. My buddy and I are hoping to ski the Isolation Traverse Friday-Sunday, south to north and are looking for help with a ride or shuttle. Is anyone headed up the Cascade River Road Friday morning or willing to do a shuttle for us for $$$? We're hoping to leave a car at Pyramid Lake TH and get a ride to the Eldorado TH or have someone shuttle our vehicle from Eldo to Pyramid Lake TH. There are other ways to get creative to make this happen as well.
  2. I have permits for the XC zones for challenger and Luna June 15-21. Was planning to head up to challenger arm via Wiley/Eiley ridge specifically for photography, in particular astrophotography of the Milky Way over Luna if the weather cooperates; hopefully make my way across Luna cirque to do the same for the southern pickets from Luna Col. I might scramble Luna if I’m feeling strong after hauling all my camera gear around. I haven’t been up there, any knowledge if the log jam bridge survived the winter or other changes/obstacles I should look out for? here’s a random picture of a past outing just to make this more exciting than a bunch of text
  3. Does anyone have anyone suggestions for good climbs in North Cascades National Park off highway 20 that are safe to solo??
  4. Hey Y'all! Does anyone know of any recent trip reports for the North Cascades, particularly the Eldorado/Hidden Lakes area? Many thanks!
  5. I just finished AAI's Alpinism 1 & 2 and I have about a week left in Washington before I need to leave. I would love to get back into the hills and gain more experience while I'm here. I'm mostly interested in moderate glacier climbs like the Easton on Baker, Sulphide on Shuksan, Eldorado, Sahale, Glacier Peak, etc. Please reach out if you're interested!
  6. Trip: Mount Chaval - Standard Western Ramp Trip Date: 09/28/2018 Trip Report: Ahhhhhhhhhhh.....fall in the high country. Perhaps my favorite time of year. Crisp air, vibrant colors, no bugs, and long enough nights to actually get some sleep. Sure the glaciers are wrecked and the rock often damp, but it give you an excuse to head off the beaten path and do a bit of chossing! And chossing Kit and I did this past weekend on Chaval. We had the pleasure of zero trail between the car on the Illabot road and the peak, flavored by terrain that was always just a bit more rugged than the map would suggest. Given the modest altitude and barriers to admission, I was a little surprised that 2-3 parties a year climb Chaval. I guess its prominence from Darrington draws many potential suitors. At least one likely got more than they bargained for. We found a pair of Merrell boots neatly tied to each other and hung over a tree branch on the ridge leading to camp. Huh? We couldn't come up with a good reason to leave a pair of boots like that in the middle of such rugged terrain, or at least one that didn't involve a rescue. Just another Cascadian mystery that I probably will never find the answer to. And isn't mystery a big part of what draws us back to the hills time and time again? CHAVAAAAAAAAAAAAALLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL!!!!!!! Mount Chaval, "It's like rehab for fat people" . Kit pauses at infinity fat camp. It doesn't get much better for fall colors on the west side: There she be, from camp. Kit had steel, I had aluminum. One was better than the other. Snowking: This wasn't mandatory, but it sort of was, just because it was there. Kit just below the summit: The view east from the top of Chaval: Dome: Snowking: Trying to beat the sunset: Time to get out the headlamps: The gloaming has begun: Yes, it looked like we attacked North Korea: My favorite: Dakobed: Sloan, Monte Cristo Peaks, and Pugh from camp: As we hiked out, the rain began to fall: Gear Notes: Helmet, ice axe, crampons Approach Notes: Park on Illabot road, on the western end of the old clear cut near the bridge over Illabot creek. Diagonal across lower part of unit, cross small stream to gain rib which is followed steeply upward to the top of the old unit. Angle up and left to ridge, topping out near small tarn on USGS quad. Follow ridge, generally, to 6100' col where good camps lie with year round water. You'll need to deviate here and there from ridge as it is craggy in sections. Past 6100' col you'll drop off north side to glacier via crappy gully (late season) or steep snow. Follow glacier up to ridge again and the prominent ramp which splits west face of Chaval. Take that ramp all the way to summit ridge and summit via some exposed class 3.
  7. Trip: Inspiration Peak - South Face Trip Date: 09/02/2018 Trip Report: Before last weekend I hadn't been to Terror Basin in almost 10 years. Back then we had spent a week in the Southern Pickets, only seeing one other party in Terror Basin. How times have changed! This past weekend there were three other parties for a total of a dozen people in Terror Basin. Thankfully all the others were headed for West McMillan Spire so we had the decidedly unpopular South Face of Inspiration all to ourselves. However, like Alan Kearney, I really think it should be more popular. It is quite a route! But it is also not for the faint of heart. Steep, intimidating, with a bit of scruffy rock and so-so pro - it would have been a challenge back when I was in good rock climbing shape. And I am most certainly not in good rock shape these days! Luckily I had @therunningdog to gun my sorry ass up it. And gun he did, leading all the gash pitches. But there was plenty to keep my mind humming below- a chaotic glacier with some delicate bridges, slabby rock right off the glacier (should have put on rock shoes earlier), and an increasingly exposed 4th/low 5th class ramp that terminated in the intimidatingly steep "Great Gash". And thenn once you are on the summit, the involved descent awaits. 4-5 raps down the West Ridge, some ridiculously exposed scrambling, and then more steep rappels down the south face. It was about 12 hours camp to camp. But what a place. Even more beautiful than I remembered, perhaps due to the changing weather and swirling mists? The best pictures are never during the best weather, perhaps the same is true of our memories? I'll be back, but I won't wait another 10 years this time. Looking down into Terror Basin from the "trail" in: Looking out to Triumph, Despair, and the Chopping Block (L-R): Despair and the Chopping Block: Thornton Peak and Triumph at sunrise: The Southern Pickets!! Morning light on the South Face of Inspiration: Ptarmigan and grown chick: I should draw the line on this but basically you climb up the buttress to the left of the face to the prominent ramp that is followed right a long ways to the start of the "Great Gash", which shoots steeply up and left to the upper West Ridge. A pitch on the ridge finishes the climb. The Descent follows the left skyline to the col then down the steep face/buttress to the glacier: The glacier approach proved challenging, but we found a way that will go into the fall this year: No super dad friendly. Scrambling a lot of 4th and low 5th to the belayed pitches up the gash. I should have taken more photos but I was pretty focused on not screwing up! @therunningdog in his element! Did I mention that the South Face of Inspiration is steep? @therunningdog coming up the final bit to the summit: It is an exposed descent as well. Rapping the West ridge: On the first set of raps, before you drop off the South Face: Whew. Down on the ice! Or should I say gneiss? TEEBOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOONE! Despair in the mists: Triumph: Despair: This felt good after the punishing descent: Gear Notes: 60m half rope, medium rack to 2", ice axe, crampons, helmet Approach Notes: Terror Basin trail from Goodell Creek. 6 hours to camp. From camp follow the climber's path toward Inspiration and West Mac, picking the best line up the glacier to the toe of the buttress just west of the South Face. We roped up here for a bit until we gained the prominent ramp where we packed the roped and scrambled. It seemed about 5.6-5.7 for one ptich to gain the ramp, with low fifth below that. The "Great Gash" is about 3, 30m pitches, to ~5.8. I think we did about 12 rappels down the west ridge and west edge of south face right back to our boots. Stations are established for a single 60m rope. Bring tat since the route isn't climbed regularly.
  8. Anyone been up the NE buttress recently who can comment on the condition of the glacier? Mostly interested in the moat situation to get onto the ridge.
  9. Trip: Three O Clock Rock - Road to Nowhere, Mystery Tour Trip Date: 07/20/2018 Trip Report: Hey, a quick update about some new options up at 3 O’Clock Rock...for those that care. Year after year, it seems that over 95% of Washington climbers find zero appeal in hiking to easy slab climbs. But that just keeps the quiet experience for the dedicated regulars and newcomers. Andy and I added an easy (~5.3) slab climb a bit right of Silent Running that features two short pitches. Road to Nowhere has proven a fun outing for novice slab climbers. If you want more challenge, try it hands free (though the FHFA has already been done). You will need 5 draws and one 70 m rope to get up and down. If you’re up for a more difficult experience and/or other parties are lined up for Silent Running, continue another 4 pitches up Mystery Tour, which wanders to the right-hand edge of the North Buttress (topo below). The second pitch of Mystery Tour (5.9+) is the standout, featuring 58 m of very sustained slab climbing. From there, continue up the rounded buttress at 5.8 and then a shorter pitch that ties into Silent Running. More beta and gear details are below. Currently, the easiest descent is down Silent Running, though we hope to have a separate rappel route tuned up in the near future. Leah on Road to Nowhere, pitch 1 Matt approaching the rounded buttress on pitch 3 of Mystery Tour. Climbers below and left are one pitch up Road to Nowhere Route topo Gear Notes: For Mystery Tour, you'll want double 60s, a single set of cams to 2" and ~14 draws. About 80% of pro is bolts. Approach Notes: FS road #2060 to Eight-mile trailhead, then 45 minutes of easy uphill (standard 3 O Clock Rock approach)
  10. Trip: Central Cascades - NW Butress Sloan Peak FA Trip Date: 09/23/2000 Trip Report: Never did a trip report the mark b and myselfs first ascent of the NW Butress of Sloan peak, so I will do a short one now. Late September 2000 we started up the left side of the broad west face, on the dark rock slightly right of a sharp crest. first pitch is funky balancy climbing on not greatly protected rock(5.8+ish) heading for a dead tree near the crest. Pitches 2-4 climb up thru trees, a small rock step and a grassy gully(wet when we did it) topped by a large chockstone. climb up behind a huge rock pillar to a ledge to begin the teririble traverse rightward. luckily its short, until you can climb up blocky fun mid 5th rock to the top of the black rock.(great bivi) wish could have gone strait up the rock instead of the traverse but the rock looked hard (for us) and slabby. From the top of the black rock ascend just left of the pinkish, rotten rock slightly onto the northern face via easy rock, heather and small trees until you reach an obvious right facing corner/chimmney. starts easy(5.7) and gets harder as you go with the end being on small crimps with small cams for pro (5.9+ish?) Then follow the narrow heather bench rightward to the top of the steep west face(impressive bivi!) climb strait up the crux via cracks (fixed pin) to a small sandy ledge. From here it eases going up and rightish, many variations possible. We exited via a nice shortish hand crack (8+) to the upper mountain. scramble to sub-summit then the main summit. IV 5.8/9 It has 4-5 good pitches and 4-5 not very good ones, with 3rd and 4th class scrambeling Gear Notes: medium rock rack, small to 3 inches, 8-10 slings Approach Notes: same as for West face-Bedal creek
  11. Trip: Mt Shuksan - No-Fo-O-Fo Ridge Trip Date: 07/14/2018 Trip Report: Ok maybe the name's just a personal joke. Call it the complete southeast spur of the mountain. With a day off and the desire to wander around in some alpine ambiance I was extremely fortunate to cross paths with Chris Martin (Cfire) who was amiable to my somewhat weird idea of climbing the entirety of the ridgeline separating the Sulphide and Crystal Glaciers. The finish of this feature is the frequently climbed southeast ridge of the summit pyramid. Access was a harrowing traverse underneath the terminus of the Sulphide Glacier. Seracs, debris piles, rushing water and thin fields of snow over downsloping slabs. We ran and Chris still managed to take a sizeable block of fortunately slow moving ice to the thigh. The ridge itself was a lot of fun. Generally good rock along some choss. Lots of 3rd and 4th class along with a stretch of very exposed 5th up an intimidating tower. Some down climbing, a rappel and a particularly incredible “a cheval” section. Of course the views down into the chaotic bases of the Crystal and Sulphide Glaciers were the highlight of the day, creaking, groaning with the occasional collapse both seen and unseen. Recommended for the incredible position as well as some pretty nice climbing on the lower and upper sections of the ridge. Looking down the crux pitch. Another view of the same with Sulphide Glacier in background. The amazing a cheval stretch. Photo doesn’t do it justice. Top of the second part. Description III 5.6 Start just right of the toe. Solid 4th class rock and a short bit of 5.0 choss is followed by a transition to grey shist(?) below a steep tower. Traverse to the base then follow a ramp back up left to the skyline, a short blocky bit leads to a decent belay ledge below the slabby headwall. Start on the left then traverse right (5.6?) to a hand crack then easier terrain. From the summit of the tower traverse an amazing a cheval section then downclimb a steep, featured 4th class slab to a notch by snow. Continue scrambling up the ridge line until a 40’ rappel drops onto the Crystal Glacier. Bypass a small nunataq then climb the second stretch of the ridge by its left skyline. Looks chossy but turns out to be reasonably nice 3rd class rock. From the tip of this feature a steep downclimb on snow leads to the broad bench below the summit pyramid. Follow the excellent SE ridge to the summit. Gear Notes: Small rack to 2”. A doubled up skinny 60m rope was adequate. Approach Notes: Traverse below Glacier will be slow and (more) dangerous once snow melts off rock slabs. Go early summer most years.
  12. Trip: Sulphur Mountain - Old Lookout trail Trip Date: 12/14/2017 Trip Report: At the tail end of the high pressure last week, ski conditions weren't great, but you really can't waste a nice day in the winter around here. Unfortunately, all the usual supects were busy on my free day.....What to do? A mention of Green Mountain on the NWAC avy forecast the night before got me thinking about the Suiattle. The old lookout trail up Sulphur Mountain! I'd seen that trail on the map many years ago and always thought it would have a good view. But then the 2003 flood isolated the TH for a dozen years and I'd forgotten about it. I'm not sure what it was about the Green Mountain mention on NWAC that jogged my memory, but I'm glad I finally was able to hike this somewhat forgotten trail. It was worth the wait. Dakobed: Dome: Sinister: The old Sulphur Mountain Trail: Suiattle: Gear Notes: SNOWSHOES......sigh Approach Notes: Old Sulphur Mountain Lookout trail. Still in good shape and easy to follow. Looks to get periodic maintenance. Last week, no snow to 5000'! That is no longer the case, however....
  13. Trip: Lichtenberg Mountain - Standard route from Yodelin Trip Date: 12/08/2017 Trip Report: Mostly just testing out this fancy new software. Skied Lichtenberg on Friday from Yodelin, freaking beautiful once you got above the inversion but coooold while in it. The snow up top was nice to ski though it was important to watch out for pinwheels, but between the top of the inversion and the meadows at the base conditions were....challenging. Great to get out though. Gear Notes: The usual stuff Approach Notes: More creek crossings than usual due to low coverage
  14. Trip: The Pickets - Himmelgeisterhorn - Wild Hair Crack Trip Date: 08/25/2017 Trip Report: Well, it would seem that I completely missed larch season this year as we were gone yanking on tufas in Greece and now ski season seems to be well on its way. It was another fine year of climbing, the hustle was put on in the spring to tie up some loose ends on larger Cascadian objectives which was immediately followed by a great deal of Mountain Loop cragging in Darrington and a lot of heavy packing and choss chucking to bolt a new route up by Mile High Club. Amongst all of that I did accomplish a long standing goal in the Pickets with my good buddy Imran, a tick of the Wild Hair Crack on Himmelgeisterhorn. Wild Hair Crack is a route that was established by Silas Wild, John Roper, and Russ Kroeker in 1981. For all the information you really need to know about the route and the hilarious story of it's conception go to John Roper's site Rhino Climbs. There's a lot of other great info there too if you look around a bit. Years ago, on a short and brutal traverse of the Pickets from the Chopping Block to Luna with the Running Dog we briefly stood in the notch of Otto-Himmel Col and gazed up slack jawed at the crack, knowing that we knew what it was but not being able to summon the name. Regardless, we figured we should probably come back and climb it and headed off down the Mustard Glacier to Frenzelspitz Camp where we immediately got smacked by a standard Picket thunderstorm on an otherwise bluebird day. A few years of shameless peakbagging had gone by since then as well as other trips into the Pickets but I had not yet focused up to get back to that beautiful piece of rock. Imran and I set a date early this year, weather window permitting and waited for the weekend to arrive. We've done so many trips together at this point that communication went as it often does these days, we knew which guy was in charge of what and which version he decided to show up with was completely up to him. Park and Ride time was decided upon and the supply of whiskey was double checked, the weather was looking bomber. Northgate, Arlington, Darrington, Marblemount, and Newhalem all in a row, we snapped pics of guidebook photos and headed up the trail just about 8AM. We made our way down into Crescent Creek Basin past the Chopping Block a little after noon passing one tent at the divide. The clouds had lifted as we made our way across the Barrier and now we suffered the sunny choss as we contoured around Crescent Creek and climbed up below Terror, making our camp at the obscenely beautiful promontory at 6300'. We gutted our packs, piled rocks over the important stuff and took advantage of our lightened feet by scrambling up the West Ridge of Terror, tagging the summit right at 5PM. Back at camp we rolled cigarettes, set up the tent and sipped Laphroaig telling jokes and watching the sunset. The next morning we dropped a little elevation right out of camp and then contoured old terminal moraines towards the hidden couloir that leads to Otto-Himmel Col. Last time I had been through here it was early season and we had just strolled to the top, this time it was a whole different animal. We predominantly stayed in the moat on the left stemming between ice and rock until being forced through a portal in the snow to the right side. Below the huge chockstone we scrambled up the rock on the left side and then back across smallish ledges right until back in the gulley above the chock. A few more feet of vert brought us to the Col and a bit of a breeze so we added some layers and got our gear on. I started up the righthand of the two large cracks and climbed for a ways until it appeared as though the rock might be of better quality over in the left crack. Imran was shouting at me to stay in the right side but I figured I'd go check out the other one at about half pitch. I liked what I saw so I continued up, I suppose following the right side is what is shown in Red Fred but both variations were climbed in the process of seeking the first ascent by Silas, Roper and Kroeker so I figured I'd split the difference on the first pitch. Both lines will take you to the base of the next pitch in a little alcove/cave below the offwidth chimney. If memory serves me there was a small slung chockstone here with what must have been some tasty cordage that a varmint had chewed through as well as some other old webbing that was in slightly better shape. I threw in a cam as backup and made an anchor to bring Imran up. Once he arrived all smiles as usual I set about getting my nerve up for the next lead. It looked big, slightly overhanging, and I could not see anywhere that took gear less than eight inches; 5.7? I'll bite. Up I went, the holds were...amazing! All the stances, everything was like a dream. I almost forgot about placing gear, which wouldn't have mattered anyways because unless you have a Big Bro or a length of 2X4 it doesn't matter until you are at least 20' out. The first placement is a small cam in a horizontal crack to the right of the crack, the next, about 5' higher is a bomber #1 or #2. The angle eases off after this and the pitch rambles up a ways nearing the ridge. Instead of heading over the ridge to the left we opted to continue up towards the subpoint angling slightly right to a weakness and chocked chimney just below the subpoint. I belayed Imran up while sitting on the chockstone and we unroped for the next bit of 3rd and 4th class terrain up and over the subpoint and across the ridge towards the true summit. There is a nice flat col before the final pitch up to the summit and we threw our packs down here and put the rope back on for safety sake. I placed a 0.5 or 0.75 in a feature to protect a bit of exposure but that was it. We had reached the top of the "Horn of the Sky Spirit" and the horizon was smoke free, giving us views for days. The summit is pretty small, we looked around for a summit register but could not locate one despite Jason and Tim reporting on it during their FA of Stonehenge. We hung out up there for quite a while but eventually decided we were hungry and we needed to figure out how to get down. We knew we didn't want to rappel the lower three pitches of the Wild Hair due to a lack of anchors for our single 70M rope (FA was with twin 50M ropes) and we didn't want to end up too far down the N face and have to come back up the Mustard Glacier. We had spotted a pretty nice looking anchor backed up with a nut and some fresh looking webbing just below the subpoint on the north aspect so we figured we'd start there. I ran the rope through, tied knots and chucked each half into the unknown. Looking down the face everything looked pretty ledgey but also decked out with areas of obviously loose rock so I exercised considerable caution keeping the rope free of debris. At about 25M I came upon a double piton anchor joined together with some old webbing but decided to try and angle off back towards a large boulder out right (skier's left), suspecting a possible anchor in that vicinity. I came up on the knots right as I touched on a ledge above the boulder, I unweighted the rope removed it from my belay device and scrambled around the boulder to find a nice looking rap anchor. Imran came down and we set the next rap angling hard back over the ridge towards Otto-Himmel Col. We found another anchor over the ridge and were able to rap into a small depression almost at level with the col with a slight ledge leading back to the col, I believe this is the depression and ledge described in the N. Face route description. Stoked to have made it back down on our single 70 with relative ease we rapped down past the chockstone and continued to rap most of the gulley on old suspect singlepoint anchors composed around sketchy rock or attached to jiggly pitons in jiggly rock. Eventually we emerged back in Crescent Creek Basin and rambled back to camp encountering a rather large and healthy set of mountain goats along the way. Somewhat begrudgingly we packed up camp and made our way back across the hot red choss to the Chopping Block where we set up camp for the night and encountered a curious Stoat for a split second before it went back to hunting down Pikas and other alpine morsels. Sunset was amazing in all directions and the nice view of Teebone Ridge had Fallen Angel stuck in my head for the rest of the trip but thanks to 4G service at the ridge I was able to scratch the media itch. In the morning we climbed the NE ridge of the Chopping Block staying generally on route but adding in a few short harder sections at the bottom and top for fun. Rapping this route with a single 70 is a bit of a rope stretcher and requires attention to detail. Finally, we packed up for good and headed down the Barrier gorging ourselves on blueberries the whole way back to Terror Creek. Another trip in the Pickets with a head full of ideas for the next time. I had the good fortune to talk to all the members of the first ascent team at this years Bulger Party and I think they got a kick out of the kids taking such pleasure in their route, it is a real gem! Thanks to Silas, Russ, and Roper for putting up the line! Okay, Pictures! Coming up the Barrier with clearing skies Crescent Creek choss heat. Terror! With Luna in the background. Camp life. Sunset from camp. Highly recommended accommodations at ca. 6300' Himmelgeisterhorn Starting up the right crack, the chimney of P2 can be seen above the left crack near the top of the rock in the picture. Imran climbing towards the top of P1, minimal gear was placed on ascent but lots of opportunities existed. Last Pitch Sky Spirit! Taking the ledge back to Otto-Himmel Col Super Crack! Late season gulley shenanigans. Sunset from Chopping Block camp. NE Ridge of the Chopping Block Picket Stoke! Gear Notes: Single rack of cams #00-#2, medium nuts, long runners, 70M rope, crampons, ice axe, whisky Approach Notes: Terror Creek to the Barrier to Crescent Creek Basin
  15. Trip: Ulalach - via Squire Creek Pass Trip Date: 10/24/2017 Trip Report: Long live the mighty Cascade Climbers! My first TR on the new software, so we'll see how this goes..... Remember when it hadn't rained in months? When summer just didn't seem to end? This harkens back to that time, when the call of the fall spirited us away from work midweek. When nobody but us and the wolves roamed the high country of the Darrington hills (see below). It was also an excuse for Scott and I to harass the rest of our crew from a North Cascades summit via modern technology. This is becoming increasingly important, I hear. In case you're wondering Ulalach (think Ooo la la- Chinook for "onion") has great cell service. But more importantly, it is lonely up there. We didn't see much in the way of evidence of passage, and we honestly had to think a bit to puzzle the way to the top. It helped that I've started to not research climbs as thoroughly as in years' past. In this age of ridiculous beta, tuning out is a great way to increase the adventure, even on a day trip. Even if I had done some research, I wouldn't have found out that we could expect to see wolf tracks superimposed upon ours on the descent. Apparently this was news to the USFS, NPS and tribal wildlife bios that I consulted upon our return. Hopefully the Darrington locals can tolerate their new neighbors. Viva la mystery of the North Cascades! And the new software makes captioning WAY easier..... I'll actually label these, where it makes sense to: Darrington's version of the deepwater solo: Whitechuck from the trail below Squire Creek Pass: Ulalach!: Scott admires the mighty east face of Three Fingers from Squire Creek Pass: Whitehorse: Three Fingers: Salish Peak! North Peak of Three Fingers: Del Campo (L) and Big Four (R): Put Jumbo on your list!: The upper Squire Creek Valley, with Liberty on the left and Three Fingers on the right: Squire Creek Wall: Scott breathing deep the oniony glory of Ulalach: The hills are alive! There were pup tracks with the mama. They followed our tracks for a half mile or so, just below the pass.: Exfoliation Dome, perhaps the toughest summit to reach in WA under 5000': Gear Notes: Helmet. Ample opportunities for 5th class climbing off the scramble route. Approach Notes: Squire Creek Pass trail from Clear Creek road. From the pass follow your nose north. Stay on the east side of the ridge at first, until you can traverse into a saddle just south of the peak. From here, you will want to stay mostly on the ridge until forced to a right side ledge at a step. Follow weaknesses up and left back to ridge and finish on the west (left) side, pulling on shrubbery.
  16. Trip: Switchback, Martin, and Bigelow Larchiness - The Dog routes Date: 10/8/2017 Trip Report: Nagging tendon issues have kept me away from real technical climbing this summer. Thankfully, the Cascades are infinitely scalable, and I've been able to shift my focus to scrambles and easy mountaineering objectives. The latest peak bagging mission earlier this month happened to overlap with the Alpine larch insanity that grips the North Cascades every October and, most importantly, a weekend when my parents could watch our boys. As a bonus, Scott and Megan were able to join as well. Oh, and Lucas, MOUNTAIN DOG! My wife and I met climbing, but we rarely get out in the hills together any more. That's why it was a special treat on this trip to hang with good friends, tag some summits, eat chocolate, and share some drinks around the fire. Even after all these years, I'm struck by what a beautiful backyard we have. Especially during larch season..... Gear Notes: Standard hiking fare. We didn't feel helmets were necessary. Approach Notes: Crater Creek trailhead. We went clockwise, but the other way would be fine as well. We camped at Cooney and Boiling lakes. Switchback and Martin on Day 2, Bigelow on day 3 and out. We only ran into a few motorcycles and mtn. bikes on day 1. All were respectful.
  17. Trip: Vesper Peak - True Grit Date: 9/28/2017 Trip Report: My friend Sudha called me to let me know that she was driving from Squamish to Smith Rock, and asked if I wanted to climb anything on Thursday while she was passing through Washington. I immediately suggested Ragged Edge on Vesper Peak. We left Seattle around 6:15am and made it to the trailhead a little before 8am and started our hike. After an hour or so we reached the talus and began the slow slog up to headlee pass. Finally at the pass we could see our objective and made quick progress across the basin and up the slabs. According to the guidebook there is a bench at 5,800ft that traverses climbers right around to the north face so we kept going up the slabs until my altimeter said 5,800 and we reached a bench. we started traversing and hit a cliff. Looking down the cliff we could clearly see the ledge we were supposed to be traversing on about 200ft below us. A quick recalibration of my altimeter revealed we were almost 150ft too high and we back tracked until we found the approach trail. By the time we made it to the original start of the ragged edge there was a party of climbers starting the route. AND another party climbing it via the newer start. At this point we decided to do True Grit instead to avoid the traffic jam. As I hadn't climbed in almost a year due to an elbow injury, Sudha took the first lead. In retrospect I probably should have offered to lead it as it was by far the easiest pitch of the climb and would have been a nice, gentle reintroduction to climbing. While I had no trouble following this pitch the easy nature of the pitch didn't led itself to building up my confidence. As such Sudha led the next pitch as well. Some fun chimney moves lead to a well-bolted slab. The moves never felt hard and I arrived at the anchor eager to lead the next pitch. Sudha finishing the chimney on pitch two. Me belaying Sudha on the chimney. The third pitch starts out with some slab/thin face climbing. Overall the edges were fairly positive and the whole pitch felt very secure for a slab climb. I don't recall making any pure friction moves. Climbing pitch three. Sudha at the belay. Sudha got back on lead for pitch 4 to tackle the finger/hand crack. I found this pitch to be much more difficult than I expected. The crack is uneven and shallow in most places, and even when it widened to perfect hands I found I could rarely get my hand deep enough in the crack to get a solid hand jam. Perhaps with more traffic the dirt in the crack will get cleaned out and the climbing will get a little bit easier. It was once again my turn to lead, and I made quick progress up the slabby and overall unmemorable fifth pitch to the summit. The summit! After a short break to each lunch on the summit, we started the descent, and after a seemingly endless amount of time hiking down on talus we made it back to the car. Total time was just shy of 8 hours and 45 minutes. Overall I must say this was a fantastic route - especially pitches 2 - 5.
  18. Trip: Slesse East Pillar Attempt and SE Couloir Descent - Date: 9/26/2017 Trip Report: A few weekends ago, Jimmy and I spent two nights and days up at Slesse camped at the propellor cairn. Here are some notes from the trip that include details on our East pillar attempt and a descent of the SE couloir from the summit. Day 1 - East Pillar attempt I think Jimmy and I were more excited to just be away from life and the computer for a bit, so we both failed to set an alarm. Our plan was to wake up and climb the East pillar in a day, with an intention of returning down Marc Andre's new descent route. I opened my eyes at what was probably a good 530 or 6. The fact that I didn't know the time reflects our over-confidence and lack of planning, both of which we would pay for later. We did breakfast, coffee, then headed toward the approach to the route. [img:center]https://ci3.googleusercontent.com/proxy/17vM8_tAz5Vhtv5lMT_n1Zqa5OpddqTE83GPk4ZDJqkBHIs_x8NNWMz9bAWryeLqxrKOZsyknnKEU4_Jb1selr-TDErp2eZ9OC26fzrySOaM48X20rhBug6Mpq1dXGgcsZI1GWOvM8OjWfbAT1I-0mGf9qjDyHuu1aY=s0-d-e1-ft#http://chasingmastery.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/ridge-crest-below-east-pillar-copy-1024x682.jpg[/img] Jimmy nearing me where the ridge crest meets the East Face/Pillar. The propeller cairn is on the slabs in the lower right. Approach I was more interested in the direct approach up the slabs, then heading up what are supposed to be 3 pitches of 5.8-5.10 terrain to the start of the book pitches. This approach method is documented in Blake's book, Cascade Rock. I was less interested in the other option, which was to gain the ridge crest that runs down from the route to the notch used to access the NEB from the propellor cairn side. In the end, Jimmy and I decided to go with this second approach option, which was listed in other books (specifically Fred's red guide). It required a full 60m pitch + some simul-cimbing of what varied from 5.5 to 5.8 to gain the ridge 100m up from the notch. We then did another 5.9 pitch which passed left around a roof/capped ramp, over a slab with a piton or two (we found a second one on the descent), and up a one-move-wonder-but-still-challenging-in-approach-shoes-left-slanting-wide-crack to some small trees. From here we simuled and simul-soloed (placing faith in terrain belays) to reach the base of the first 5.10 pitch (pitch 2 in the Mclane guide). Most of the ridge crest from this point contained really easy scrambling on heathered slopes and boulders, but we simuled as I've promised myself lately that I would push for simul-climbing rather than soloing in an effort to reduce controllable risk. I'm beginning to believe that simul-climbing is actually a lot less riskier but not too much slower if done right. We would continue in this fashion through the initial 5.8 corner to the base of the 5.10 pitches. At the base of the 5.8, we found two rotting pitons which we would later use on the descent. The approach could be done in 2 hours at reasonable pass by a fit party. Route attempt Jimmy led the first 5.10 pitch in two, splitting it up mostly due to some route finding challenges above the left-facing corner and proceeding flake. His second lead deposited us at a belay under a small roof feature on two quarter inch bolts. This total first pitch is probably 40 meter in length, with 10 m of climbing after passing the bolt mentioned in several guide books. From this bolt above the flake, go up and move left around the small overlap/corner and then up through the small overlap. Though we had planned to lead in blocks, I took over the lead at the bolted station in hopes that I would be able to move faster as the better rock climber between the two of us. To my own dismay, I felt gripped and out-of-touch climbing up the technical face where I found protection via set space, rusty button heads. I clipped two, then reached the third after placing some small cams behind a hollow-sounding flake that did fortunately hide a great pin. At this third buttonhead, I gave paused to whether the route went right or left. Unable to find the fourth bolt marked on the topo to guide me, I traversed to the left, reversed the moves, climbed up, reversed the moves, then longingly looked out right to what seemed to be easier climbing. I started out right, but then stopped midway through some moves I didn't want to reverse . It seemed like the right path, but I didn't want to find myself well above the old rusty button heads on harder terrain. [img:center]https://ci3.googleusercontent.com/proxy/oAR5Df5go9Lf6n-7BKe47F3lFExU4QKGDSsYg5tJ_cIy3iW-OZK8eVQGyrcCquQHfDSy9YDjeftbVxGSdSWxXAjSi5WcP5pW7cLghYzXxR7XU-u8b1CXP8XR5LAd5Eq1=s0-d-e1-ft#http://chasingmastery.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/DSC08601-1024x683.jpg[/img] First 5.10 pitch route finding [img:center]https://ci3.googleusercontent.com/proxy/w6hblqExpQONFQaH5SUxyJlci9NPI0SAaEbZ5sqMI2_MYey4UglEUYlP-8ACD0ttQqq5y602YAbLourBa3-e6QyBCDF-vg90qCubPlR8JNXm5Y97h_gI=s0-d-e1-ft#http://chasingmastery.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/DSC08602.jpg[/img] Good pro! We were only two pitches up at this point, but Jimmy and I took tally of our situation. We decided that it was time to go down. While only noon or so, we were on track for a long route at our current pace. This followed by a long, complex, and unknown descent (the SE couloir descent I'll discuss below). Without any bivy gear whatsoever, we were both interested in coming back stronger and more prepared than pushing our way up into a forced bivvy. Learning from our failure In camp that night and in the following days we would discuss turning around. On one hand, with so much day left, it seemed a funny choice: why forsake a spectacular 'tick' because it would have involved a little bit of suffering? We were through some of the harder climbing already (there were just a handful of 5.10 pitches). Through consideration of our decision, I think we both have come to admit that we have moved past the glorification of suffering and epics, and become more willing to acknowledge mistakes in evaluating our preparation, skill level, the route. Suffering and epics are sometimes part of the game, but they are not what I enjoy about climbing. Looking back, I am thinking climbing through those moves encountered on the east face. I know I could do so with poise, BUT, it would take me more time to choose to accept the risk. I was unable to commit to that commitment under the time pressure. I think what I had failed to do, and a huge reason for the lack of confidence I felt in committing to moving up on my pitch (and more generally the route) was the huge gap between my expectations for the route and reality. I expected moderate climbing on discontinuous cracks that could be protected to a reasonably degree. Instead, I had found face climbing on marginal protection via hard-to-inspect in-situ gear. The situation was challenging to confront and reason through in that moment. Dissecting our failure on the route even further, I would also identify these other causes: Our lack of ability to build a set of expectations on what we would find from guide book literature. Cascade's Rock indeed describes the climbing on the East Pillar as an "inobvious line via face..." climbing. Somehow we read passed this. The time-and-place decision making due to our lack of research reduce our confidence: "should we take the direct approach or gain the ridge near the notch and traverse from there?" I think these sorts of discussions, when just starting the day, are a far cry from the excellence in execution often required for complex climbing objectives. Lack of the appropriate gear. Bivvy gear, pins, or bolt kit would all have made continuing up a more reasonable choice for us. Quite coincidentally, near the time of writing this, I found this article by Arno of the Rock Warriors' Way: https://warriorsway.com/the-importance-of-doing-a-thorough-thinking-process/. Arno's suggestion of defining a goal, the consequences and a plan seems like one way to consider taking a more calculated approach to planning an objective like this in the future. Whatever, the approach next time, I am excited to go back for the East Pillar. It represents a challenging climb from which I will probably learn a lot more. The "improbable" line it weaves just left of the East Face is appealing, the ambiguity of the features from afar leave me wondering what will be up there. It will be fun to return stronger physically and mentally. Day 2 - North East Buttress and SE Couloir descent option [img:center]https://ci4.googleusercontent.com/proxy/5XYdTTT3XRJ1-OUdjJzfFjM1S-g2JxY1fEnpA6xgKI5AEKtqxc1SeiubNK5PfUo_pHGDAjcjfyDY-Oy3-Hj1Fp3rAiIZfWZon2gFZ1jrcIgqmUsBn4rt=s0-d-e1-ft#http://chasingmastery.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/DSC08644.jpg[/img] The classic NEB shot Our feeling of lack of preparation then leaked into the rest of the weekend. We had headed up to camp at the start of the weekend with route information for North Rib, NEB, East Pillar, and Navigator Wall. The evening of day 1, we contemplated what to tackle with our remaining time and energy. The Navigator Wall seemed too ambitious given our experience that day on the East Pillar, and returning to East Pillar with a more developed strategy and set of expectations, though somewhat enticing, didn't seem logical. We had climbed the NEB before, and climbing the North Rib would required inventing a new approach from the propellor cairn (feasible, has likely been done before, but an unknown to us at that moment). In the end, we decided to climb the NEB, but then to investigate a new descent route pioneered by Marc Andre Leclerc. We brought a very lightweight bivvy kit so that we could try to link the NEB into the North Rib via the crossover if we reached the summit after the former in some ungodly time. With a minimal bivvy kit, we would be able to decide on the summit after the NEB if we wanted to push into the day and evening or instead just begin the new descent option. North East Buttress We left camp at 3am and got to the summit around 1030am after simul-ing the entire route, which I guess went in something like 4 hours after accounting for the approach. We did it with a 60m rope and a double rack between .3 and 1" cams, with a single #2 and single #3. We shortened the rope to 40m for most of the climb but used the entire length when simul-climbing through the 10a crux pitch. This allowed Jimmy to build a belay above on a nice ledge before I reached some of the more difficult climbing passing through the roof. We did five pitches total. In all: 1) one from library ledge to a book pitch below the 5.10, 2) one approaching and through 5.10 to next good ledge. 3-5) Then three more simul blocks, split as we met a friendly party of two near the summit. [img:center]https://ci4.googleusercontent.com/proxy/ilYWHJb1QzS2AmuTWPw0Jv7kaA63Kdav2SvOHaTqMDcFK-UxRt97w2Ay9L52CXagnLBYfj7ML8CHpo1ziRILy_fQKEML6iW7VPJat5NhPflzCP9tt_6_DOGzzufaGsRw=s0-d-e1-ft#http://chasingmastery.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/DSC08630-683x1024.jpg[/img] Jimmy climbing through the 5.10 pitch on the NEB SE Couloirs Descent While the climb took us 6.5 hours from camp at the propellor cairn to here, the descent took us about 7.5. It was long, complex, and much more technical than the crossover. Marc Andre provided more than enough information to tackle it, but I'll elaborate here to provide a second opinion for those that are looking. We chose to take the descent in order to understand the value it might add as a way down for future climbs on Slesse. Hopefully some details will allow you to descend it in a faster manner than we did should you choose to take it. First high-level thoughts on this descent option: The south couloir as a descent option is optimal for those who have a reason for getting to the back of the east side of Slesse or the propellor cairn. It is not necessary in any manner for folks headed back to the car without stashed gear. The crossover descent, while it feels long, is much simpler and more appropriate for most parties. Parties considering this route should have ability to rappel/down-climb hundred and hundreds of feet of complex terrain with lots of loose rock. The descent is much more complex than the crossover. There aren't many mandatory rappels, or maybe any, if you are comfortable down-climbing 5.7. There exist only a few n-situ stations or obvious paths to follow. Most of the descent is 3rd class at a minimum with many 4th and low 5th areas. I wouldn't call the route-finding difficult, but it requires making many small route decisions over its entire duration. I would break it down this way: Summit to base of 1st set of cross over rappels - We traversed along the summit of Slesse to the south, following the cairns to the two rappels made by most parties to get off the summit block. These rappels (or down-climbing) deposit you on scree slopes on the west side of the summit. To the north (skiers right) is the direction taken to the cross over descent. Here the SE couloir descent heads left. You must reach the col that can be seen below the South summit of Slesse. You can get there by down-climbing a couloir just to the left of the ridge crest straight down the hill in front of you, and then by wrapping around on 3rd, 4th, and 5th class terrain to reach this col. A faster way might be to create a new rappel station on the top of tower/out-cropping to skiers left, and then to rappel onto the scree slopes. From here you would then traverse to the col, having skipped some circuitous down-climbing. Col to summit of South Summit of Slesse - To reach the top of the south summit, you can do what I did - lead a crazy pitch of 5.10 on stacked blocks in approach shoes, or you can take the easy way around. I recommend the later. When Jimmy followed the pitch I did in approach shoes, he literally yelled "Jeennnnggaaa" as a good joke. To take the easy variation, scramble up the buttress beneath the south summit from the col on low 5th terrain. Traverse to the right when it reduces in angle. Do this INSTEAD of heading straight up through the somewhat attractive but steeper looking corners above. They are more challenging than appears from below.. Gain the summit. Scramble from the south summit of Slesse down to the SE Couloir - Relatively straight forward. Down-climb to the south on third class screen slopes and gullies until you reach a short 5th class step. I lowered Jimmy down on a belay through this final step after we spent a lot of time trying to find a good anchor. I then down-climbed on the far skiers right. This puts you in at the top of the SE couloir. [img:center]https://ci4.googleusercontent.com/proxy/M85fQGEfWOw5okFH8iDyvitt7LaK2HUUZEriElRg7m9kOXWOvQgzfXvV0hSSVEzWs8h3UhK12HMvzsx8CmuEXnaF3OG630VgXJQjdB4tnIryVNT6fvbj=s0-d-e1-ft#http://chasingmastery.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/DSC08651.jpg[/img] Looking up towards Jimmy as we down-climb the south summit of Slesse Descending the SE couloir to the split - Stay in the SE couloir until you can trend out on grassy ledges out left. Stay just to the left of the couloir on the grassy ledges, but do not wrap around the ridge to skiers left more than 20m or so from the gully at any point After descending 200-300 feet, we rappelled off a block or two on the grass ledges (4th class slopes). When the couloir split was about 50m below us, I lowered Jimmy the length of the rope so he could keep scouting ahead, then dropped the rope to him and started down-climbing. Here, one must eventually return to the main gut of the couloir to descend the last 10 meters to the split. [img:center]https://ci3.googleusercontent.com/proxy/f0NWO1nTIgrFsI5ZX-W_NgjbNuPJm59nB6gAMfi5ymw1u3sw9jTtWLOcFaLY-V8bQbNI42zh0I2eihDXSkdFTommmV7MFETt_OV4l6bz2LDOm1BAR27Q=s0-d-e1-ft#http://chasingmastery.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/DSC08656.jpg[/img] Jimmy headed down the heathered boulders just skiers left of the SE Couloir [img:center]https://ci6.googleusercontent.com/proxy/m_grz-onUqMKpLxgAM2jqnIxxxFd0-3OKcYjpUwQK8X4Ks3w-4H5Eni07i6kxMy2isEbmAmkf0pcxZzIWBXL860VdQG-zrTT5HJ1Vdp1FEm8uPkJf0RU=s0-d-e1-ft#http://chasingmastery.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/DSC08659.jpg[/img] Jimmy at the base of the SE couloir with just one last bit to go. From the split of the couloir to the slabs way below - Take the left split, which runs down underneath the navigator wall. Make 3 rappels, we left or found several single nut rappels that we trusted. These exist but it will require a careful eye to find them. The first is on the Navigator wall side of the couloir, the next two on the other side. A third 30m rappel puts you a short scramble from the heathered slopes directly beneath the Navigator Wall. Contour skiers left across these slopes aiming for the large rock horn. Traversing the last few meters to this horn is exposed and hair-raising. Rappel from this horn 30m onto a grassy ledge. From here, you must traverse skiers left and down again to more solid rock on heathered footholds and rock that is poorly held by the slope. Be careful. After your gain better rock down and to the left, begin looking for stations again. From here there are 4-5 rappels down to the slabs below. Some of them are older, some younger, and it seems they are for different rope lengths so take your time with this last part of the descent to make sure it is done right. I wish I had more pictures to go along with the above, but I think competent parties who have the right skill level for this descent will do great as long as they give themselves plenty of time. Link to my blog with this TR: Slesse East Pillar Attempt and SE Couloir Descent Chris
  19. A few weeks ago, Eric Wehrly and I headed up to Half-Moon to attempt some sort of squeeze job between routes that already exist on the NW aspect. One of them, Digging for Dreams, made it into Cascades Rock and we were curious what else might still be lingering (see: http://blog.alpineinstitute.com/2012/04/first-ascent-diggin-for-dreams.html). Of course, Eric and I didn't make it to Half-moon because of our short attention span. We cut off early to Wallaby and climbed what may be new terrain (or really old terrain - we were not sure based on what I remember being Fred's non-descript descriptions, or maybe Stecks?). Regardless, it was an adventure for the soul. We left no trace of our passage, so the line's next 'first ascensionists' should have just as much fun as we did. One photo I captured makes the climb look worthwhile: During our adventure we spotted some interesting terrain on Half-Moon that I do believe is was climbed. I went back this weekend with Jimmy to check it out. We probably should have been concerned that the gaping Bombay flare would block passage to the stellar looking pitches above, but alas, we are young and stupid. With big cams in tow, Jimmy and I wandered up to the base of the West ridge of Half Moon beneath this feature. We climbed an approach pitch that turned out to be both harder and most interesting than expected. From here, Jimmy then embarked on his quest for glory up into the gaping flare, henceforth known as "The Maw." The Maw: Disintegrating footholds and a suspect nut placement that nearly pulled off the block when tested led to some decent small cams that allowed Jimmy to reach the roof. He then stemmed, crawled, and tunneled his way towards the light. After plugging the #5, Jimmy then "rode the sail" so to speak - exiting the chimney required placing full trust (both hands and feet) on a refrigerator door sized flake. Miracles worked themselves and around the corner he went to bring me up. Following this with a pack was not easy. In the end, our route ended up shorter than the neighbor next door to the left ('Digging...'), but we still found adventure to say the least. Beyond the Maw we found 3 more pitches of fun finger and hand cracks. P1: 5.8 (20m) Belay beneath the Maw in extremely suspect rock. It quickly turns to higher quality stone offering fun a fun thin hand crack. Belay on 1-2" cracks between glued flakes and blocks in the back of the flare. P2: 5.10- (25m) Enter the Maw. Climb right from the belay up past a few delicate horn features to find a few small cams in the broken face. Continue up into the upper reaches of the flare, then climb towards the light. Exit past the flake and belay on the second ledge beyond. P3: 5.10- (30m) Climb up a seamy crack to the right of the rotten chimney via delicate lay-backing of the arete. Continue up to wide cracks and a belay on the slab on large cams. P4: 5.10- (40m) Aim for the middle of the three cracks (finger-size), climb this, and continue up amazing finger and hand pods to a belay under a roof. P5: 5.9 (40m) Traverse right around the corner, and then up small hands leading to a #3 crack to the top. At the hand-traverse that finishes with a mantle on a rotten block, continue traversing right to reach the top of Choi Oi Tower. Though Eric didn't join us on this adventure, he was there in spirit. Because of the nature of the climbing and because we are skeptical of his boyish blond hair at 50, we've decided to name the route: "Uncle Wehrly's Toupee." It may share part of one pitch with Digging for Dreams, specifically the start of our pitch 3. More photos here
  20. Last summer, at a climber's get-together at Mario's house, i had the pleasure of meeting John Roper. For those of you who don't know of John, he is a towering figure of Cascades exploration, with thousands of ascents (including many first ascents) under his belt. He is also a member of the legendary Bulgers climbing group, and co-creator of the Bulgers Top 100 Peaks in Washington list. Suffice it to say i was enthralled, and managed to monopolize the conversation with him for much of the evening. A key question i asked him: of all those ascents, what is your favorite climb? Without hesitation, he said Wild Hair Crack on Himmelgeisterhorn. Its worth reading his writeup of that first ascent here here both because it is quite entertaining, and because it highlights John's reverence for the Southern Pickets. As something of a Picketeer myself, the conversation got me thinking: i had never been into Crescent Creek basin -- something i needed to rectify! As fall and then winter rolled in, i spent spare moments flipping through Red Fred, starting at the Challenger quad, and scouring the interwebs for lesser-known morsels about the Western half of the Southern Pickets. I also enlisted two good friends and climbing partners, Matt and Keith, in the project. Step one was equipping them with copies of Training for the New Alpinism. We are all mid-fourties to early-fifties, busy with families and careers, and so the luxury of getting in shape by actually getting out climbing a lot was out of the question. In its place, enter max strength box step-ups and weighted hill climbs. Less fun but quite effective. As our forth, virtual, team member, we had Mario, the person who introduced me to the Pickets 17 years ago, to act as my logistics co-conspirator as he recovered from shoulder reconstruction. I started brainstorming new lines during early morning training sessions at VW with Keith. Staring at Scurlock photos can do that to you. South Buttress on Twin Needles? Southwest Buttress on Himmelgeisterhorn? But what got me most excited was, while trolling through Roper's website, noticing mention of unclimbed peaks (peaks! not lines, peaks!) in the Pickets. What?!?! I homed in on Beep and Honk (named by John of course), two unclimbed sub-peaks on the unclimbed West Ridge of Ottohorn. That West Ridge, from the photos i had, seemed moderate and downright reasonable. An appropriate goal. Maybe. Wayne recommended to me years ago that to truly prepare for a Pickets trip, you need to get out on a couple of soul crushing training outings. We rounded down to one. On the Northeast Ridge of Triumph, on summit day I felt physically fit but mentally off, strung out after a surprisingly anxious night of non-sleep at high camp. Matt also wasn't feeling dialed in. The project seemed in doubt. As i get older, and particularly since becoming a father five years ago, risk and mortality are more mentally present when i'm in the alpine, sometimes to the point of making it just not fun. Had my ambitions outstripped my waning climbing ability and risk tolerance? We tempered our goals a bit, planning to climb Terror first, as a way to hopefully get some momentum before trying something new. This new framework got our team mojo back together, and with a reasonable albeit not stellar forecast, we headed off on our trip. In the afternoon Matt, Keith, and I began our hike in, loaded up on water after fording Terror Creek, and then headed uphill. We camped at 3600', to split the approach into reasonable chunks, which worked great. The next morning, with a mostly sunny forecast, we awoke in a whiteout. Here is how "Mostly Sunny" looks in the Pickets. We continued up into Stump Hollow, and over to the Barrier camp, and then sniffed out the correct place to drop off the ridge. We still had no views of the spires. But once we dropped in, the clouds started to lift, and by the time we arrived at camp below Terror, it was sunny enough to dry out and take in the scenery. That night the winds howled. Keith was nearly blown over during a nighttime pee run. We delayed our departure for three hours until the winds dropped. The weather turned fine as we hiked up to the Terror gully. The gully had begun to really melt out, and there was a tricky break in the snow (just above what is shown in this photo) that Matt led through with some nifty mixed climbing. I was happy to not have that lead! At the notch, after a bit of futzing around to find the best start, we began cruising up the enjoyable climb. Soon we reached the distinctive summit. On the descent, we used the skier's right side gully to bypass the tricky snow break. There was a rap anchor here, but it needed some love, so we beefed it up with a second piton and a better nut. It felt good to have Terror under our belts. So far, the trip was going right according to plan. The next morning, we hiked West below the spires, and gained the Southern Pickets ridge crest at the saddle just East of West Peak. We tagged West Peak, which is definitely worth a visit for the outstanding perspective. Here is Matt nearing the summit. You can see the goal for the rest of the day (the West Ridge of Ottohorn) laid out behind him. The summit views were outstanding (including Mongo Ridge over Keith's shoulder). Back at the saddle, Matt told us he was going to sit out the Ottohorn attempt. After talking it through, we repacked and Keith and I headed out into new territory. This picture taken by Matt a little later in the day shows the route over, from left to right, Beep, Honk, and Ottohorn. We began by hiking East along the crest. After a bit, it turned to a more defined rock crest, and i led a long simul-climb pitch to the base of Beep, the first tower. Here is me leading that block: and Keith following: Keith then led a steeper and somewhat heathery pitch up the start of Beep. I then tapped in for a fun pitch that began with thin cracks on a lichen-covered face, then worked up to dramatically positioned face climbing past a strangely shaped rock horn. Here is Keith following that pitch: And Matt, back at the saddle, watching us (look for the small red dot): Somewhere around this time, a helicopter flew by at close range, eyeballing us. We gave them peace signs and smiles. Not much later, a military jet blasted by right at eye level, less than a rope length out on the North side of Southern Pickets crest -- WTF that was loud! Keith then led us to the summit of Beep. We were pumped, an unclimbed summit in the Picket Range! That pump was only mildly deflated when Keith discovered that the sandwich he had packed for lunch was AWOL. It was 2pm and we had a lot more climbing to do. I led a intricate pitch of ridge traversing along the crest of Beep, and then located a lovely obelisk that could work as our rap anchor to drop off. A double-rope rap took us to just below the notch between Beep and Honk. Keith led a rope-stretching pitch up some of the finest climbing of the route, right to the summit of Honk. Unclimbed summit #2, check! I led a pitch that downclimbed delicately off the summit and traversed to the notch with Ottohorn, arriving at a comfy belay stance. This picture shows Keith as he was about to follow it. Keith arrived and we gazed up at Ottohorn above us. We were moving slower than desired, but were hopeful that the climbing would ease up. The belayed climbing so far had ranged up to 5.8, and we needed a bit easier ground to be able to move faster. However, hope is not a strategy... as we were immediately greeted with some tricky bits. Keith broke right around the corner. The pitch grew more challenging as he followed a set of steep steps upward. He followed that up with another strong lead that included a couple of 5.9 sequences, as he worked back to the ridge crest proper. At this point, it was abundantly clear that we were not going to finish the route before dark. Keith and i had "the talk" about bivying. Keith quoted the wise words of Mike Tyson: "Everyone has a plan... until they get punched in the face." We each have a couple of decades of climbing under our belts; i had experienced one unplanned bivy (with my now wife), and Keith had never had one. That clearly made me the expert, so i described what we should look for as we went home-shopping. We did one more traversy pitch along the crest. However, we then hit a notch where we had to rappel. The good news was that this rappel ended in a moat behind a snow bank. WATER! I felt smug as i filled my water bottles with snow. "At least we won't be dry at this bivy" i thought. Keith led one more pitch, and by the time i arrived it was time to hunker down. I explored and found a workable spot 15 feet below us on the North side of the ridge. After a bit of site remodeling, as the sunlight faded, i opened my pack to throw on some layers. I reached in, and to my horror, fished out a soaking wet shirt. I hadn't closed my water bottle fully (probably due to snow crystals in the threads), and it had leaked all over the pack contents. My puffy was wet too. It certainly wouldn't be dry at this bivy, all right. Keith reminded me of the mantra that both of our kid's preschools use: "you get what you get, and you don't throw a fit." I threw a small fit, and then moved on to laying down our two ropes as ground insulation. 10pm it felt great to be not moving, just talking. 11pm we tried to "sleep". Keith elected to use his pack as a bivy sack; i used mine as padding. We began hearing noises behind and above us. In my headlamp, i caught a large-eyed snafflehound chewing on my gear. Oh no you don't! I hung the gear from the anchor over my head. About every hour or two we sat up and talked about how increasingly cold it was becoming. We began to shiver and our toes got cold. Here is how we each looked in the morning. Finally it was light enough to start moving again. We were cold, hungry, dehydrated, tired, but in an amazing spot to watch the sunrise. We checked out of the snaffle-lounge, and got back on our way. Low-fifth climbing took us to the top of Ottohorn. You can see the excitement in Keith's eyes. Ok maybe he needs his morning coffee. We rigged a rappel off the Ottohorn summit ridge down to 3rd class terrain. However, as Keith pulled the rope, it got completely jammed. NO! I tried to get psyched up to lead back up and free it. A final desperate rope-flicking session by Keith managed to get it free. Meanwhile, Matt was starting to get worried. He had watched our progress on the ridge the day before, but hadn't seen us since late that previous day. Early in the morning he had hiked from camp back over to the base of the descent gully, and was yelling up to us. We yelled back, but he couldn't hear our responses, and so was beginning to fear that we were in real trouble. We scrambled down, gained the O-H gully, and arrived at the rap station above the giant chockstone. Finally, as we made that rappel, we established visual and verbal contact with Matt, to our mutual relief. Matt took this picture of us as we descended. Face-in downclimbing of the snow gully, tediously slow in our depleted state, took us down to Matt and the sunshine. We were wasted. And happy. And thankful. I declared my intent to retire from the sport. We rehydrated and refueled, then stumbled back to camp. Mr. Ed the camp mountain goat nosed around while Keith dozed in the tent. Matt hiked up to the shoulder of Degenhardt to stretch his legs. I sat by a melt stream and processed the climb we had just done. I felt a lot of gratitude and thankfulness. To Keith and Matt, for being great friends and partners. To my wife and daughter for their constant love. To John Roper for providing the nuggets of information that led to these first ascents. To Mario for his enthusiasm, coaching, and weather updates. To Wayne for inspiring me to think about unclimbed routes in the Pickets. And for the opportunity, as John said recently, for "rare FAs that were left unregarded in Paradise." The climb has exhilarating position and stellar views. The rock is sometimes loose, sometimes quite nice. As for the route name: since Roper had started a theme of cacophony, jumping from the 'horns (Otto and Himmel) to Beep and Honk, and since we were getting buzzed by aircraft on the route which added to the racket, we settled on "Bring The Noise". We enjoyed a beautiful final evening in camp. The hike back down to Terror Creek was surprisingly pleasant, as the threatened marine layer did not materialize. We managed to lose the path for a bit between the creek and the Terror basin trail junction, leading to a bit of 'shwacking around in the devils club. But what are the Pickets without a little brush? I think i may be done with the Pickets. But it was a trip i will always cherish.
  21. Trip: Glacier Peak Wilderness Blast - 11 Bulgars - Date: 7/14/2017 Trip Report: For this 10 day trip, Josh joined me for an epic journey through most corners of the Glacier Peak Wilderness, with a planned route that josh envisioned to connect 11 Bulgar Peaks (12 for Josh since he hadn't done 7 Fingered Jack and I had), as well as a quick warm up day in the Chelan Sawtooths. This trip report will feature three parts, with this first installment depicting the first 4 days. Before beginning, I will give an overview of what we did for anyone looking for a condensed version of the whole trip. In order, we climbed: Warm up: Switchback Peak Martin Peak Cheops Main Event: Emerald Peak Cardinal Peak (and its South Peak) Saska Peak Unnamed Peak 8040+ Pinnacle Mountain South Spectacle Butte Seven Fingered Jack (Josh only) Mount Fernow Copper Peak Flora Mountain Martin Peak Bonanza Peak Dark Peak Linked below is a map of our route. Red is day 1 with the darker purple being day 9. Follow the rainbow color sequence, and click on the icons for additional info! Map July 5th Day 1 - After Josh and I celebrated the 4th, we took a leisurely morning and went food shopping, got gas, and drove to the Chelan Sawtooths, arriving at the Eagle Lakes Trailhead at 2pm. We hiked up Switchback Peak, then traversed over Martin and Cheops to Horsehead Pass and hiked back, returning to the car at dark. July 6th Day 2 - Took the Chelan ferry to Lucerne, Josh waited while I took the shuttle bus to Holden to stash half our food, rope, a few cams and slings at Holden to be picked up halfway through our trip. Returned on the bus back to Lucerne and began at 2:30pm, and hiked up the Domke Lake Trail. Trail was mostly fire destroyed from the lake onward the majority of the way to Emerald Park, making for a very hot, dusty hike. Camped shortly beyond Emerald Park. 8 miles & 4,900 feet gain July 7th Day 3 - Finished hike to Milham Pass, dropped packs and climbed Emerald Peak, Cardinal Peak, and since I couldn't tell which peak on Cardinal was higher, I traversed over to the South Summit as well. This included a short 5.7 overhang I solod. The register on South Summit had been there since the fifties. Josh had to hold my feet for me to downclimb the short crux then we crossed the valley and climbed the SE ridge of Saska, and utilized a key ledge to quickly return to the Emerald/Saska saddle and back to Milham Pass. Grabbed our packs, and camped in the unnamed basin just NW of Milham Pass. 8.5 miles & 7,000 feet gain July 8th Day 4 - Hiked to a small saddle directly east of Pinnacle, and traversed over Point 8,040+ and around to Pinnacle Mountain, with much side-hilling on loose rock. Descended to the Entiat River (Borelis Pass Trail 100% destroyed) and forded the river utilizing a logjam for most of the crossing. Followed the Ice Lakes Trail, which was destroyed until it crossed to the creeks' south side at 4800 feet, at which point it was mostly usable. Left trail when the creek opened up into a boulderfield, and hiked into the basin west of South Spectacle Butte. ropped packs at 6600 feet and went to the pass between North and South Spectacle and attempted the NW ridge. This was a mistake as a hidden gendarme with large drop blocked passage. Josh recalled the standard route was the SW ridge, so we dropped a steep loose gully to the snow and traversed over to the standard route and scrambled to the summit, topping out at 8pm. Returned to our packs and camped at Lower Ice Lake. 12 miles & 6,600 feet gain July 9th Day 5 - Hiked past Upper Ice Lake (both of which were still frozen) and traversed into Leroy Basin and around Maude and 7FJ. Josh convinced me to let him run up 7FJ real quick while I waited an hour and a half at the 7,600 foot pass enroute to Fernow. He ran up the west slopes and met the standard south ridge while I enjoyed the views. We joined back up and descended past the small tarn and ascended Fernow, meeting up with Tom S, Josh H and Luke S who had just returned from Copper, and were packing up their bivy at about 8300 feet. Their tracks helped a lot, and the whiskey Tom offered us reduced our pain (although gave Josh a buzz)! We packed over Fernow, then descended the glacier on its NE flank, crossed the key 7200 foot saddle and into the basin East of Copper. We dropped packs at 7500 feet and ascended Copper on steep snow slopes which took us to the upper NE ridge, which was an incredible scramble, especially with the improving late afternoon lighting. We topped out at 7:30pm, returned quickly yo our packs (thanks for the steps Tom!) and camped on a somewhat flay knoll at 5800 feet in Copper Basin. 9.5 miles & 6,900 feet gain July 10th Day 6 - Finished descending Copper Basin to Holden, with a bit of bushwhacking to traverse rightwards to meet with the Copper Basin Trail. Reached Holden and ate a shitton of food which included milk, cereal, sandwiches, fresh fruit, muffins, salad, soup, ice cream etc. Rested 4 hours in Holden, organized out gear cache and continued up the Tenmile Creek Trail and camped in the burned forest at the base of the slope leading to Tenmile Pass. 5.5 miles & 2,200 feet gain (Rest Day!) July 11th Day 7 - With day packs, ascended over Tenmile Pass (trail destroyed) and met the good Devore Creek Trail on the other side. Descended nice switchbacks to 5250 feet and crossed Devore Creek on a log, and bushwhacked into the basin north of East Riddler Peak. Reached the 7100 foot saddle and scrambled the mostly open ridge to Flora, except for traversing the snow slopes north of Point 7670 to bypass it's time consuming ridges. Returned to same camp in the Tenmile Creek Valley. 12.5 miles & 7,700 feet gain July 12th Day 8 - Packed up the remainder of Tenmile Creek and found the trail in the meadows below Hilgard Pass. Switchbacked up to the pass, then hiked west over the small hill to the unnamed glacier on the east flank of Martin Peak. Went to the 8000 foot saddle just north of Martin Peak and "scrambled" up the NE face which went at very, very loose Class 4. We had to use extreme caution to avoid dislodging microwave size boulders on one another. We then descended the west ridge to Holden Pass to camp, which we reached at a leisurely 5pm, enabling an earlier bedtime. 5.5 miles & 4,000 feet gain July 13th Day 9 - Woke up earlier than any other day at 5am, and climbed the Mary Green Glacier Route up Bonanza, which went smoothly. Topped out just before 9am with some marine layer clouds providing a nice change to the hot cloudless days we had every day since.Enjoyed the summit for 45 minutes and began the traverse west to the sub-summit, which involved a short 15 meter rappel, and some serious traversing on unstable ledges, one of which exploded under Josh, and he took a small pendulum fall following me, injuring his fingers when rocks came down. Luckily he was ok, and was able to bandage his fingers up and continue. We did a total of 2 roped traverse pitches until the rock quality increased and scrambling difficulty relented a little. We then were able to both solo scramble the entire traverse to Dark peak, staying right on the wildly exposed ridge crest the majority of the way, deviating on ledges only twice. Once shortly before Dark Peak to bypass a large notch and a second to pass below a couple small gendarmes. At about 3pm we reached Dark Peak, the final peak of our trip and celebrated on the summit with a nice break, since we were both mentally exhausted from dealing with so much exposure for that many hours. We ran down the Dark Glacier to the small swampy meadow at 5000 feet, at which point my worst nightmare came true. There was no trail of any kind descending Swamp Creek. See part 3 of this installment for more details, but we found a place to camp at about 3800 feet right as it got dark, which capped a 16 hour day. 7 miles & 4,200 feet gain July 14th Day 10 - Finished the now more manageable bushwhack down Swamp Creek and met the Agnes Creek Trail (PCT) and hiked 6 miles out to High Bridge, where we caught the shuttle bus to Stehekin, and the ferry back to Chelan. Jumped in the lake to clean off, and ate 2 beers, 2 pizzas and 2 ice creams myself in Chelan. 10 miles & 800 feet gain Trip totals: 78.5 miles & 44,300 feet gain, plus the distance and gain for our warm up day which isn't included here Detailed Report: July 5th Day 1 I ended up meeting up with Josh at his place for some fireworks for the 4th of July, since I took the day off from climbing. I had just returned from an awesome climb of the SW buttress of Cathedral Peak and the nearby scrambles, and a day of climbing in Squamish and needed a day off, so I helped my dad finish the new deck he is building at home and rested. In the evening, I drove from Renton up to Lynnwood to meet Josh and have some beers and watched fireworks, as his brothers had a full array of stuff to display. I crashed the night at his place and we drove out to the Chelan Sawtooth Range the next morning, after some grocery shopping. We realized we didn't want to wake up at 4am to try and catch the Chelan Ferry at 8, so we pushed the full Glacier Peak Wilderness trip back a day and decided to warm up by hiking Switchback, Martin and Cheops, the last 3 major peaks I had to still climb in the Chelan Sawtooths. So we drove all the way to the Eagle Lakes Trailhead at 4700 feet and started hiked the 7 miles to Cooney Lake at 2pm. It was a nice walk on a gentle trail all the way to the lake, that featured just one small creek crossing. Since the snow was pretty much gone throughout the Sawtooths, we wore light tennis shoes, and just carried water and a few snacks in one day pack between us. We made quick work hiking around the north side of Cooney Lake and hit the Switchback/Martin saddle and dropped the day pack to run up the final 400 feet of east Class 1-2 to Switchback Peak. From there we were able to see the Saska Group and many of the peaks we were about the embark on. It was still well over 70 degrees on the summit at 4:30pm without any clouds or wind. We then continued on the easy ridge up the the small sub-summit, at which point some Class 2+ scrambling began. We passed through a small notch and topped out on Martin Peak as the sun began to dip a little lower in the western sky. We didn't stay long because we decided we had time to traverse over Cheops as well and hike out the other trail via Horsehead Pass. Scrambling over Cheops involved a lot of Class 3, and with the route variations we took we found some nice Class 4. The ridge was quite nice with many solid spots. By 8ish we topped out on Cheops and descended the long, sinuous ridge to Horsehead Pass. As we began hiking down the Eagle Lakes Trail, the sun was beginning to set, and Cheops was lit in a bright orange glow. Shortly below the turnoff for the Upper Eagle Lake, we passed the large group of backpackers we ran into at the trailhead. Comparing their pack sizes to our 3 pound combined day pack was pretty hilarious. 30 minutes after it was pitch dark we reached the car, and managed to find an open gas station for dinner. We crashed off a FS road near Chelan and set a 6am alarm so we could get to the ferry dock in time to buy tickets. July 6th Day 2 We woke up right at 6am and began organizing our food and putting it in bags, and packing up our gear cache to be left in Holden. We got our ferry tickets, and got a return ticket for July 15th, one day later than our planned time of departure to have a day buffer in case something came up. At 8:00 we took off on the slow boat for Lucerne, which we arrived at around 10:30. I got on the shuttle bus up to Holden with our gear cache, while Josh waited at Lucerne and took a nap. I had Emailed the registrar at Holden to ask if it was ok to leave a gear cache there, which they gladly allowed, and even held it safe for us! So upon arriving I was able to simply drop it off in a safe storage spot that I could access after hours in case we were too early or late. I grabbed a quick bite to eat and some ice cream before taking the bus back to Lucerne with the visitors that were leaving that day. At 2pm, Josh and I began hiking, from a measly low 1,200 feet elevation on the shores of Lake Chelan, in temperatures around 90 degrees, with our full 30 pound packs! Eek Initially, the hiking was going well; we found the bridge over Railroad Creek, and located the start of the Domke Lake Trail and hiked the nice switchbacks up. Despite the entire region being devastated by the Wolvering fire in 2015, the trail was in good condition. We were sweating buckets however and exhausted our water bottles before reaching the junction for the Milham Pass Trail. When we reached this junction, we got our first realization that the nice trails Josh had promised may not be that nice after all. We turned right at the junction, and began following the very faint trail around and above the west side of Domke Lake. It didn't take us long however to lose it entirely, and despite Josh having the trail marked on the GPS, it was impossible to find, and we determined it was completely destroyed by the fires after we could find it for two hours of criss crossing it up and down. We gave up on the trail and continued plowing our way through the ash, down trees, and the occasional sinkhole from tree roots being burned out. It was a hot, tedious hike southward towards the creek descending from Milham Pass. In hindsight, we should have just hiked along the lake shore if we knew the trail was gone, because the side-hilling was annoying. We finally reached the creek however, and dropped 100 feet to fill up our water bottles and chug a couple liters. From that point we continued up the steep slopes, off trail until we eventually found the trail again around 3,500 feet elevation! As we got higher, it was just barely discernible much of the way, albeit way overgrown. This saved us a lot of time though, and we were able to follow it to where we reached unburned forest at 4900 feet. Here the trail was easy to follow, but still overgrown. We reached the beautiful Emerald Park around 8:30pm, but it was way too buggy to stay long, so we snapped a few photos of the large meadow and continued another 20 minutes or so to a nice spot at 5550 feet right where the trail made a sharp right turn to ascend to Milham Pass. We camped here and put up the tent as the sun was setting. July 7th Day 3 By 7am the next morning we were on our way up the now great trail to Milham Pass. It was nice to have the switchbacks, and an hour or so later we reached the 6700 foot pass where we hung our packs on a tree and threw some things in our day pack. The goal for the day was to climb Emerald, Cardinal and Saska Peak. We agreed to alternate carrying the day pack throughout the trip, when we didn't have to carry our full packs. We traversed more or less horizontally south towards the basin below unnamed Lake 7230. Some steep class 2 took us to this lake which was still snow covered, and easy snow slopes led to a Class 4 rock step to reach the 7590 foot saddle between Emerald and Saska Peaks. We decided to do Emerald and Cardinal first, then cross back over to finish on Saska, so we began scrambling the ridge east towards Emerald. We deviated from the crest to its south To save time and avoid Class 4 terrain, eventually reaching a gully that looked like it would lead to the summit. I climbed a solid rock rib just left of the gully to avoid loose rock. Luckily we guessed the right gully and we reached the summit area, and scrambled the final few feet to the top. Our first summit was in the books! The wind was still whipping a bit, and it was certainly cooler than the first day which was nice. After a quick snack, and gazing over at the Chelan Sawtooths, we descended a gully further south and descended some class 4 steps to reach the slopes below the rugged cliffs guarding Emeralds' south ridge. We reached a low spot of 7300 feet before entering the open snow covered basin on the northwest side of Cardinal Peak. We were able to hike up moderate snow directly to the summit ridge and scramble the exposed ridge section to the top. To my dismay, I looked to the south and saw a second summit that looked potentially higher, or at least the same elevation. I told Josh i was going to go check it out so I traversed over to it, which involved a bit of Class 3 and a traverse in a moat. When I reached the base of the summit rocks, I completely circumvented it looking for a 4th or low 5th class route but the easiest place to climb looked like a 5.7 overhang. Since it was only 20 more feet I went for it, and climbed up the two moves (which required me to stem my feet on some small ledges and pull myself up). After topping out, I immediately regretted it since I knew I wouldn't be able to downclimb that unassisted, so I called Josh to traverse over and assist me a little. As he worked his way over I looked in the summit register, which was placed in 1965 and featured only a handful of parties! Apparently the south peak is indeed lower, if only by a few feet, but it was well worth the trip over. I signed it, and Josh made it over. He scrambled up to the big ledge at the base of the 5.7 overhang, and guided/held my feet, while I made the two critical hand movements (luckily they were mostly jugs) to lower myself down. From that point we returned to the main summit, and ran down/glissaded the snow slopes and descended into the 7000 foot level in the valley. I almost lost my phone on the glissade, which I was luckily able to find by hiking back up just a few minutes. We crossed the valley, filled our water bottles in the creek, and began ascending the SE ridge of Saska. By this point the 1400 more feet back up after coming down off Cardinal took a little time to get my legs going again. We were able to stay mostly on Class 2 terrain on the ridge and reached the summit mid afternoon time with more sun and less wind. As we ascended Saska, we saw a fighter jet whiz by and down the valley, which is apparently a common thing in the GPW. We descended the SE ridge to 7700 feet where I earlier noticed a nice ledge that would dump us much closer to the Emerald/Saska saddle allowing us to cut right below the east face and avoid extra elevation loss. We were able to traverse easy snow and reach a low point of only 7400 feet and regain only about 200 feet to reach the saddle again, at which point we made quick work down the snow past the small tarn and back to Milham Pass. Since we had some daylight left, and there was no water at the pass, we agreed to continue into the small basin off to the northwest, and set up camp at 7200 feet on a grassy knoll among beautiful slabs with an awesome view of Saska for the sunset. July 8th Day 4 We had a fairly long day doing 3 Bulgars in one day, but that would pale in comparison to this day. We woke up and quickly got going, ascending easy slopes to a small 7600 foot saddle directly east and across from Pinnacle Mountain. I realized we would have to traverse al the way around to get to Pinnacle, which involved us climbing up and over Unnamed Point 8040+ which definitely was class 4 the way we went. I had no idea if the other side would go, and even from the summit of this small peak it wasn't discernible. I spotted a hideous loose gully though and started down it, and amazingly it went! We were able to drop onto the loose south facing slopes opposite the ridge heading the Mirror Lake Valley. Lots of hideous side-hill traversing on ball bearing scree underlain by hard pan dirt ensued which surely ate up lots of our energy, but we eventually got to the 7850 foot saddle just south of the summit of Pinnacle Mountain. From that point we ditched packs and ran up the slopes to the summit. We were able to see the Unnamed peak we stood upon earlier that morning and its imposing west facing cliffs, as well as South Spectacle Butte Across the Entiat River Valley; our next objective for the day. We descended back to the packs, took a snack break and began descending easy snow towards the Borelis Pass Trail, which we would soon determine also no longer exists! When we reached where the GPS said it would be located, nothing even resembling a trail was visible. Luckily the area was very open and cross country walking was easy so we just made a bee line descent on the path of least resistance in the general direction of where we needed to go. It was slightly over a 4000 foot descent to the Entiat River, and the ash covered ground and downed trees got worse the lower we went. When we finally reached the Entiat River Trail, it was barely visible under the 100s of fallen trees. It took us a solid 15 minutes to just reach the river. We located a nice logjam that allowed us to cross most of the rapidly flowing river but for the final few steps we had to remove our shoes and wade in knee deep water. There we tried to locate the Ice Lakes Trail, but amidst the total devastation of the forest throughout the entire Entiat Valley, we couldn't find it either. I was beginning to get rather annoyed with constantly climbing over downed trees and being exposed to the hot sun in all the burned forests, and was thinking how sad it was that the entire regions' forests were destroyed. It would take years to clear and rebuild all the trails! We were able to more or less follow the path of least resistance around, and into the Icy Creek Valley, where we passed an exceptionally bad section of burn, where literally everything was reduced to ash, and no logs or roots were found on the ground. This part was exceptionally hot and dusty. Beyond that, we crawled over more logs, and often would string them together and walk on top of them at times connecting 5-10 different logs! This proved easier than walking on the soft ground as well. Somewhere around 4700 feet we entered healthy forest once again and was able to follow the trail, cross Icy Creek twice (first time had to wade, second time the old log bridge was still intact), and reach the big opening in the creek at 5600 feet. Rather than ascend the boulders along the creek as one would do to go directly to Ice lakes, we turned right and ascended the steep tree covered slope heading eastward towards the basin below the west face of South Spectacle Butte. At 6600 feet we ditched the packs and headed for the saddle between North and South Spectacle Buttes. I had envisioned us climbing the NW ridge based on simply what I saw from upper Ice lake 10 days prior. From there it looked like the NW ridge was an easy scramble. Josh only had word from Adam that the SW ridge was the standard route, but I for some reason thought that was a bad idea since I saw numerous deep notches in that ridge. We ascended to the 7300 foot saddle between the two peaks and began up class 2 talus until we reached an impassible notch and gendarme I couldn't see until I was right on top of it! Baffled as to why I couldn't see this from Upper Ice Lake, I begrudgingly admitted Josh was right and we descended a loose gully back into the small basin and traversed snow over towards the SW ridge, and climbed a steep snow gully to meet it at 7400 feet, making the detour only having done an extra 700 feet. Once on the SW ridge the notches I saw from the basin were actually easily passed on the south side of the ridge crest, and the so called Class 4 ledge traverse crux was only Class 3 in my opinion, and quite simple. We topped out shortly before 8pm and enjoyed the view of Maude and 7FJ the most. Ice Lakes below us were still frozen but this wasn't a surprise to us. We didn't stay long though as I really did not want to be on that ridge after dark, and I ideally wanted to get to Lower Ice Lake before needing headlamps. So we quickly scrambled down the ridge and ran down the snow to our packs and made quick work of the traverse to Lower Ice Lake where we stumbled upon a perfect camp spot right as it got dark, complete with flatness, devoid of rocks, roots and sticks, and very close to running water! We were moving for 15 hours, and managed to get both Pinnacle and South Spectacle Butte in the same day with two unplanned detours. I was amazed, and remember commenting to Josh i hope all the days are not this long haha! July 9th Day 5 After the long day climbing both Pinnacle Mountain and South Spectacle Butte, we got a decently early start from Lower Ice Lake and hiked past the upper lake and over the 7550 foot saddle and crossed into upper Leroy Basin. We decided to descend and stay as close to the lower western shoulder of Maude as possible, and managed to only drop to 6400 feet, before starting an ascending traverse around the west side of 7FJ. Josh was pitching his case for me to let him quickly run up 7FJ but I was leery because I knew we had a long day to get over both Fernow and Copper and I didn't want to get caught on Copper in the dark. I allowed him to go though, and I waited on the 7,600 foot pass just above the small tarn on the route around to Fernow. I was able to relax there enjoying the view of Glacier Peak and company for an hour and a half while Josh scrambled up the lower west face, and met up with the standard south ridge of 7FJ. I was able to watch him much of the way up and down due to my good vantage. Once he returned we quickly started the descent into Gloomy Basin where we found ourselves below a series of very impressible rock faces, none of which looked probable at all to ascend Fernow. I commented to Josh that Fernow is the one on the far left and we agreed on a route through the basin. We located the Class 3 ledges needed to gain the gentle upper basin to allow us access to the ledge traverses around the south ridge. At first the route looked very steep, but as we approached it appeared much more reasonable. The scrambling up the ledges was wet at times due to a waterfall cascading down the middle, but we were able to keep our feet dry, and soon enough we reached the permanent snowfield above, where I was shocked to run into someone! At first I thought I had caught up to someone also going up, since he was wearing a helmet and was walking but I quickly saw two additional people, and what looked like their bivy. It was Tom S, Josh H and Luke S and they had just then returned from traversing to Copper, and were packing up their camp on a small ledge at the base of the snow. We chatted for a few minutes and Tom offered us some whiskey, which I was reluctant to accept knowing Joshs' state of constant dehydration but he was more than willing to partake, so I took a sip as well. Thanks guys for the tracks over to Copper! We continued up the snowfield and reached the south ridge of Fernow, and easily located the ledges leading towards the summit due to the many cairns along the route. We dropped our packs just 60 feet below the summit and scrambled up the final Class 4 stretch and topped out. It was a beautiful summit view with the north sides of both 7FJ and Maude staring at us from across the upper Entiat Basin. We didn't stay long though as we had a long traverse to Copper to complete, and I was getting worried we wouldn't have enough time to make the ascent. Tom had mentioned a slightly cooler and windier forecast was in store for the next day, plus I didn't want to ascent Copper early in the morning when the snow was harder since we both only had lightweight hiking shoes and microspikes for the trip. Regardless, we descended the gentle east ridge of Fernow with the jaw dropping cliffs dropping sometimes overhanging off to the north. We had to drop all the way to 8240 feet in order to get onto the small glacier on the NE flank of Fernow. We were able to run down this glacier a ways before the snow thinned, and began to expose harder ice beneath, slowing our pace. We also encountered some large ice blocks, and small crevasses to navigate around. We were both comfortable continuing though and Josh put his microspikes on to aid his progress around the cracks and down the small glacier. None of the crevasses were serious luckily, and the snow never really exceeded 40-45 degrees. With care, we made it to the key 7200 foot notch allowing easy passage into the next basin over to the north, which drops steeply below the east face of Copper. From this point we traversed over to a nice spot we could leave our packs that we would return to in order to descend Copper Basin. I saw their tracks zig zagging up the various snowfields on the east slopes of Copper Peak, terminating at a point high up on the NE Ridge. Since we made such great time traversing to this point, and it was only about 6pm, I agreed with Josh that we had enough time to make the ascent, so long as we moved extra fast. We quickly packed up our day pack and started up the first of three snowfields. The first one was a gentle rightward traverse up to a steep muddy gully, continuing to a flat bench. From here, we made a sharp left and followed near the crest of the lower east ridge for maybe 100 feet until the cliffs forced us right onto the steeper snowfield covering the lower tier of the two tiered upper east face. We ascended this 300 foot snowfield which maxed out at about 45 degrees, however the bucket steps already in place were a big help allowing up to very quickly ascend to the grassy ledge at 8200 feet, which sits just above the small steep set of slabs separating the two tiers of the upper east face. We made a right traverse on this grassy ledge, which included a short descent until we were able to scramble to the crest of the NE ridge, which we met at about 8250 feet. The final scramble up this ridge was a beautiful route up mostly perfect rock to the summit. The crux involved a short Class 4 slab on the right of the ridge to bypass a step in the ridge, while the rest of the scramble was mostly exposed Class 3. This was my favorite peak of the trip so far up to this point. We made the summit at 7:30 and had amazing lighting on Glacier Peak and the Entiat Group, as well as across Railroad Creek Valley as the sun was low in the sky, and low clouds began to roll in. I was reminded of our summit view from Boston Peak. We thoroughly enjoyed the summit for 20 minutes before quickly descending the route, picking up our packs and descending upper Copper Basin. We tried to pick the best way down through the moraines, slabs and bushes, but it was getting dark, and we were not able to descend all the way before dark. I spotted a somewhat flat knoll at 5800 feet where we could make a camp for the night, and the sunset as we dropped down was absolutely gorgeous. July 10th Day 6 This would be the day we passed through Holden! We slept in a little, and began descending into Copper Basin avoiding bushes whenever possible. At one point we followed a small dry stream bed and hiked under a large patch of slide alder, and utilized the steeper slabs which were free of brush when they weren't too steep to scramble down. We passed by a huge waterfall that cascaded down from the small glacier we descended off of Fernow, and crossed the main Copper Creek where it formed three braids allowing up to jump across each braid without removing our shoes. Shortly below that, we had to move sharply right (east) to meet up with a narrow band of talus allowing easy passage to the Copper Basin Trail above. I decided to up climb some steep mossy slabs covered with brush in hopes to avoid the slide alder down below. About 25 minutes of annoying bushwhacking laterally got us to the narrow band of very loose talus, which we ascended for about 200 feet and met the trail. From there it was a quick hike down to Holden, which we reached just after 10am. In Holden, I went to the registrars office and located our gear cache, and purchase lunch for the both of us. While we waited for lunchtime, we ate various things from their "tea time" menu which included muffins, milk+cereal, tea, plus the oreos I had in the food cache. For lunch we had homemade cream and broccoli soup with fresh salad, then went across the road to get ice cream. It was a glorious buffet that I desperately needed to regain some of the energy from the past 4 days. We also chatted with many different people (visitors of Holden) about our adventure, all of whom probably thought we were crazy. At about 2:30pm, we started hiking the trail towards Tenmile Falls, which was downright luxurious for the single mile that it lasted! A short ways above the waterfall, the trail all but disappeared due to...you guessed it...the Wolverine Fire! We spent the better part of the next few hours weaving around fallen trees, burnt forest and ash covered ground until we reached the base of the slope leading to Tenmile Pass. We located a somewhat flat spot without too much burnt roots or shrubs and dug out the ash to make a flat tent spot. This is where we would camp for the next two nights. By 6pm we were both asleep, and since we ate so much in Holden, we didn't even cook dinner that night, and slept over 12 hours. It was a much needed rest day. July 11th Day 7 We were both amazed as to how long we slept, and at 7am got up to start hiking up Mount Flora. The initial hike up to Tenmile Pass was a steep grind, but since we were not in the sun, and were feeling great after the rest day we made great time ascending the 1600 feet to the pass, despite not finding any resemblance of a trail. From the pass we had an amazing view of both Tupshin and Devore Peaks up close. Locating the Devore Creek Trail on the opposite side of the pass was easy, since that valley hasn't yet burned, and we followed gentle switchbacks down for about 1200 feet to about the 5200 foot contour where we left the trail and crossed Devore Creek on a high log (certainly didn't want to fall!). We endured about 600 feet of bushwhacking under the shade of the trees aiming towards the valley descending down from East Riddler Peak. We hit a boulderfield which made travel much easier, and filled all our water bottles at the small creek before ascending the snow slopes to the small pass immediately adjacent to the impressive east face of Riddler Peak. From here, we left our ice axes and began a long ridge traverse over to Mount Flora. We ascended 700 more feet to an unnamed point, then onwards, and below the north side of a second unnamed point across snow slopes. Bypassing this point was much faster than scrambling the Class 3-4 ridge crest up and over, and likely saved us nearly an hour in each direction. We did have to negotiate through a group of small light colored rock pinnacles just before the final slopes to Mount Flora though, and involved some narrow steep gullies and traversing along their base. This area was an interesting place and looked like something out of Bryce Canyon. After another short break, we finished the Class 2 talus slope to the summit, which we reached around 1:30pm. I was very impressed with the view we had looking down Lake Chelan, which verified my suspicion that we were looking right at Flora from the boat when we rode in to Lucerne. The view of Lake Chelan from Flora was the best I had seen from any summit I have climbed in the whole area. Most peaks are set back too far to actually see the lake. After a 30 minute summit visit, we began the long hike back, and followed mostly our same path but rather then traverse back up and over our first point above the saddle we left our axes at, we crossed directly through the small valley, by dropping 400 feet or so. This also allowed us to fill our water, and traverse around the first point, actually saving us some elevation gain! The return back to our camp in Tenmile Creek was uneventful, and we got back with plenty of daylight to cook and relax. July 12th Day 8 After successfully making the long traverse to Flora the previous day, we planned to pack up and over Martin Peak to Holden Pass for this day. I dreaded once again continuing up another burned valley with numerous deadfall, however linking up the logs, as we had been doing prior really paid off and I didn't have to crawl over and under quite as many. It still took awhile, and we only managed to find the trail for very short 30-40 foot segments where there weren't many trees for the fires to burn. We eventually made it to the head of the lower valley where we entered a large beautiful meadow, and since we actually were able to utilize the trail, we decided to make things easier for us and take the switchbacks up to Hilgard Pass, then cut sharply left along the gentle ridge towards the East face of Martin Peak. The alternative was to head straight up the steep slopes west towards Martin Ridge, but when faced with the option to have a nice switchbacking trail which may add a little distance, versus steep scree with packs on, we chose the former. Besides, we knew the distance we had to cover today would not take all day and we had plenty of time to spare. We reached Hilgard Pass around noon, and took a nice 30 minute lunch break, and eyed Martin Ridge. It looked gnarly and I was starting to wonder how we would ascend Martin Peak from the east side, when our only beta was some random guy who wrote a report that was literally just "follow the ledges...it's Class 4". Certainly confidence inspiring especially upon looking at the rock on Martin Peak, it was that classic orange schist...err should I say sh##! Continuing on the east ridge over a couple small humps, we reached the snow leading towards the 8000 foot saddle on the north ridge. We made quick work hiking up the moderately steep snow (thank goodness this was all snow covered...the talus beneath the snow would have been total misery!) Once we reached the saddle, we put helmets on and I scouted around the north side of Martin, as I noticed the ledges on that side were not downsloping, however I quickly realized that I was going to get into Class 5 terrain on the absolute crappiest rock I may have ever touched (and I have a ton of experience on loose rock). Looking up from this tiny ledge I was on, weighting each foot and hand hold a very specific way as to not dislodge them from their spots that seem impossibly attached to the mountain, I saw a huge vertical cliff guarding the upper north face, and no ledge system around it. So I backtracked, back to the saddle, and at this point Josh had began to scout a route trending towards the NE face. A snow finger was still stretching up a steep gully on the NE face that we were able to use to access a series of downsloping ledges above. So we climbed in the moat of this snow finger, then traversed across it. Luckily the snow was soft so the 45-50 degree steepness wasn't an issue with just our tennis shoes. We reached somewhat more manageable ledges on the far side of the snow, and I saw what looked like a series of ledges, albiet totally covered in huge loose boulders and scree, that would take us around to the east rib. This rib then provided passage around the left side of the cliffs above, and to directly to the summit! So we slowly continued upwards, gingerly scampering our way around large boulders we didn't even want to think of touching, and climbing sustained Class 4 terrain until we reached a nicer ledge where we could legitimately rest for a few minutes. We made sure to always stay out of one anothers' fall zone, because no matter how hard we tried, we still dislodged tons of rocks. One at a time, we went in segments until we reached the east rib, at which point the rock improved ever so slightly. It was just 150 feet more to the summit from here, and the rib dumped us right at the top. I was somewhat relieved to be done with that climb, as it was probably one of, if not the loosest 500 feet I have ever done. The one peak I have done that compares to it is Mount Alice in Alaska, but since I solod that I had much less to worry about regarding dropping rocks on my climbing partner. After another nice 30 minute break on the summit, reveling in the views of Bonanza, we started down the West Ridge. Let me be the first to tell everyone reading this that the west ridge is not...I repeat, NOT loose! It is downright solid resembling that of perfect granite....when compared to the NE face We actually had fun scrambling down the Class 3 and 4 segments of the west ridge and found the route very intuitive, which was nice because neither of us researched it at all (story of the trip really haha). The cairns on route helped a bit as well. The only annoying part was the final 300 feet down the scree to reach the first saddle before Holden Pass to bypass the cliff in the ridge crest. From that first saddle, it was an unfortunate circumstance that we had to re ascend 200 feet to go over the small hill to get to Holden Pass. Upon reaching the pass though, we found an amazing place to camp (that apparently Fletcher and Jake also used just a couple days ago). It was nice and flat, and we still had over 2 hours of daylight left. We had a nice dinner and went to sleep early. I really enjoyed the afternoon views of Martin Peak as we hiked into camp and recall it as a very aesthetic looking mountain. Unlike many people doing the Bulgers, I actually enjoyed Martin when it was all said and done. July 13th Day 9 This was going to be the grand finale day, where we ascend Bonanza and traverse the exposed rugged ridge all the way to Dark Peak. We lugged the 50 meter rope and 5 cams the whole second half of the trip (after picking them up in Holden) for just the traverse to Dark Peak. We both had hopes of potentially making it back to High Bridge by the end of the day, but little did we know we were in for a surprise. We woke up at 5am and quickly picked up camp and started up the little trail leading up towards the Mary Green Glacier. We made it up to the waterfall slabs in good time as the sun rose over Bonanza, which was a stunning sight to behold. I took tons of photos. Copper Peak across the Railroad Creek Valley also caught my eye, as that is a peak I won't soon forget. We scrambled up the waterfall slabs, which were way easier than Josh led me to believe, and roped up for the glacier. We ascended the glacier in one single push without stopping in about 45 minutes until the bergschrund, which was easily bypassed by stepping onto the rock just below it. The pre-existing tracks made things easier. I noticed that as we ascended the glacier, clouds began to engulf the summit of Bonanza, then when we crossed onto the rock, we became shrouded! I honestly didn't mind though as this was a nice break from the hot cloudless days we had every day since. I also knew it was just the morning marine layer extending a little further east than normal, and it would burn off later. So in a near white-out, we scrambled straight up the upper rock face, trending left as we went higher and passing rappel slings along the way. I remember thinking "why would anyone rappel this...the loose rocks will get pulled down by the rope!" I thought it was only Class 3 as well, however to spice things up, we stayed on the rib longer than most people and I did some low 5th class since the basement rock was so good (even if it was covered in bits of scree). As we approached the summit, the clouds began to lift and when we topped out, they mostly cleared out! We summitted at 8:30ish and I told Josh we needed to stay on this summit for an hour and really enjoy it, since I thought we would have plenty of time. It was much cooler, and I actually put my coat on that I had lugged around the whole trip but never used. We signed the register inside the ammunition box, and I thought it was funny that someone left gum inside! I really enjoyed the views of Glacier Peak which had clouds surrounding its lower slopes with the peak sticking above. We put on our harnesses and I gathered the climbing gear we brought and began the initial descent west, but it is only 50 feet down or so until we reached a sling and short rappel. I inspected it and deemed it ok to rappel from so we made a 15 meter rappel down to a small ledge, and I led a traverse/downclimb pitch on the south side of the ridgecrest connecting small ledges, and gingerly testing everything I touched since the rock was pretty bad. I placed three cams until I reached an excellent ledge to anchor myself with my last cam and belay Josh across. Just as he started traversing towards me though, one of the ledges he weighted exploded and he took a small pendulum fall, weighting my first cam I placed. I knew exactly what foothold broke too as soon as it happened because I was studying it extensively when I placed my foot on it. Some of his fingers also were cut up from when some additional rocks from above hit his hands. Luckily he was able to patch them up and continue, as it could have been a lot worse. I was thankful I placed a cam early on that traverse so his swing fall was minimal. I led an additional two short traverse pitches that Josh was able to easily follow, the first one taking up over the crest to the north side, and the second being right along the crest across a couple au chaval knife edge spots! We then reached a spot we felt comfortable unroping and solo scrambling the rest of the way to the false summit of Bonanza. The rock quality improved slightly, and the climbing difficulty eased up a bit (although everything was wildly exposed). Upon reaching the slightly lower west summit, it was interesting to look back at the true summit. That traverse was so short in overall distance, but took us an hour to do! I was surprised to then notice that there was a very long Class 2 descent down the north ridge of the false summit on large talus, which immensely sped up our progress descending to the low point on the traverse to Dark of about 8350 feet. Apart from one scary part, where dozens of car sized boulders moved regardless of what we touched shortly below the false summit, we made quick work to the low saddle between Bonanza and Dark hopping down Class 2 boulders. The views across to the SW summit of Bonanza really were awe inspiring. Just beyond the low saddle, the ridge narrowed up again, and we would spend the next 3 hours or so scrambling mostly right on the ridge crest, with deathly exposure on both sides, up and over Point 8580+ (which oddly enough is actually higher than Dark Peak). Everytime the ridge appeared like there would be a huge drop coming up, there would be some magical way we could just continue scrambling. Numerous knife edge sections, weaving around small towers and the occasional "sidewalk in the sky" were all had, adding to the beautiful fun. In fact, we only deviated from the ridge crest twice. The first time was after crossing over Point 8580+ by following a nice ledge on the east side of the ridge, then climbing steep Class 4 to regain it. This allowed us to bypass a distinct notch in the ridge halfway between Point 8580 and Dark Peak. The second time was right at the end of the traverse, right before we reached the easy class 2 terrain just before the summit of Dark Peak, where we connected talus strewn ledges on the west side to bypass a few gendarmes at the end of the traverse. Once we reached easy terrain, I was pretty mentally drained from dealing with so much exposure for hours on end. I was happy to have the easy 5 minute walk to the summit of Dark Peak at the end, and we topped out on Dark at 3pm. [ It was a real thing of beauty, to have completed all the peaks we set out to do! I remembered looking from Bonanza at our whole route, and being so amazed as to how far we really came. We congratulated one another, and took in the views one final time. Looking down the Company Glacier and down the massive Company Creek Valley was a sight to behold as well, then we looking north, down the Swamp Creek valley, which we would use to descend...not knowing at the time it would put the bushwhack I did in the Pickets last year to shame. So...we began the descent, with high hopes of making it back to civilization for some real food. Alas, it didn't quite happen that way. We did however make very quick time descending the Dark Glacier for 3000 feet to the 5000 foot meadow at treeline in the Swamp Creek drainage. The snow was perfect for plunge stepping down, and we were easily able to pick a route down skiers left side avoiding all the crevasses and staying on moderate slopes. Although my foot did slide out from beneath me a couple times...
  22. Castle Peak: "The Drawbridge" First Ascent of the Middle North Buttress (5.10+/A1, 10p) (Schilling-Zentler) Morgan Zentler is a baller. Last year he finished the Bulger list with a frenzied push. His suffering knew no bounds in his quest for completion. I've seen him pass out without a net or tent in a hideous swarm of mosquitoes and picked him up after an epic Stehekin-Phelps Creek traverse with Tim Halder that was the alpine equivalent of 4 marathons in a row. My tolerance for choss is limited, so it's infrequent that we can find overlapping objectives. With his choss appetite satiated, his palette has become more refined. He set his sights on an extension of the bulger list, the top 100 Washington peaks with at least 400 feet of prominence or the P400. We ticked Colfax via the Cosley-Houston in May and he followed that up with a rare ascent of Lincoln several weeks later. So when he texted and asked if I wanted to try for an FA on the north face of Castle, I couldn't refuse. It was the last peak left on his list and I was due for a good N. Cascadian adventure. We approached from Canada via Lightning Lake in Manning Park, which involves a climb up and over Frosty Mountain. Encountering deep snow at tree line, we gained the crest just short of Frosty's summit and had our first views of Castle's N face. It was obvious that the face was bare enough for an attempt, so we descended, crossing back into the states and into a snowy Princess Creek basin before traversing up on snow up to the Princess/Crow creek divide. Dropping into the Crow Creek drainage we set up camp on the only dry spot on the ridge, 2/3 of the way down to the glacier at the base of Castle's North face. We scoped the face in the last few hours of light and worked out a reasonable line up the middle north buttress. A formidable list of cascade hardmen and women have walked by this buttress over the past 30 years, and for whatever reason, passed on it, to put up first ascents on other buttresses on the complex face. We agreed on a safe and clean-looking line that surpassed the obvious roof that guards the lower third of the buttress. The approach to the face was easy at first light and we were on rock less than an hour from camp. Gearing up, we were paralyzed by the whizzing sound of falling and exploding rock overhead. The first rays of sun had loosened up choss on the upper slopes and sent down a barrage of stones. They sailed overhead and cratered on the glacier. We hustled up easy fifth to get out of the firing line, setting up a belay at the base of an incredible looking dihedral and multi-crack system. Morgan took the lead on what would be the hardest pitch of the day. Progress slowed as he encountered hard (11b) climbing after 20 meters and had to aid a short section. He traversed out of the dihedral on a tricky flake with thin pro and was soon at a flat ledge with a good belay. I traversed left up a ramp and into a crack system that led through the roof. A delicate slab (with a good nut) led into the roof, which was surmounted on the left on fun but hard cracks and stemming. The pace slowed to a crawl as the next two pitches involved a lot of cleaning. When things turned desperate, we pulled out the nut tool and excavated a crack. Where there was moss, there was often pro. The angle had eased off a bit here, but it was difficult to get good feet on dirt and moss covered slabs from the unearthed cracks. Mercifully, at the top of pitch five, the face deteriorated and we followed the obvious route in a short traversing pitch to the ridge proper. The rock quality remained sound on the ridge and the cracks no longer required excavation. With the exception of one short harder hand/fist crack, the climbing was more moderate and less stressful. In typical Cascadian fashion, the last technical pitch involved dancing delicately around teetering blocks. After ten pitches of climbing, we emerged onto moderate snow slopes 400' feet below the summit and unroped for 3rd and 4th class terrain up the ridge to the top. We lounged on the summit, 14 hours after starting the climb, and took in the views of the Pickets, Hozomeen, and the lonesome peaks in the heart of the Pasayten. The walk off of the south side and east ridge was breezy and we were back at camp as twilight faded. We celebrated with scotch whiskey and tunes on the speaker. Morgan had finished a compilation of mostly chossy peaks with a first ascent on great rock. The walk back to Lightning Lake the next day felt entirely downhill.
  23. On Sept. 14, Chris Mutzel and I climbed a ~1,000' new route on the NNE-facing arete of Fallen Angel: Act like you're having fun III 5.10+. (John Roper, who climbed the peak from the S side decades ago, has an area-appropriate name for this striking feature: the "Grim Reaper Arete".) After a 100' or so of soloing, we climbed a total of 8 roped pitches to the summit. The pitches went 5.6, 4th, mid-5th, 5.8+, 5.10+, 5.10, mid-5th, and 5.9 (although there might be a mid-5th alternative for the last traversing pitch). Big-picture photos from John Scurlock and John Roper, respectively, below. In Scurlock's, the line drops towards the viewer (along the clean arete), and then winds a bit through the ledges to the left; in Roper's, the line initially drops down the right skyline, and ultimately foots to the left of the tree in the foreground. Approach notes: I took a gamble and lost on this one. Looking at satellite imagery, I had hoped we'd be able to approach from the north by tying into some suspected old-ish growth timber (there was some) on the climb up from the W fork of Newhalem Cr to the basin below our objective. If it worked, it would cut off a lot of distance and 1000s of v.f. vs the S-side approach from the Monogram Lk / Lookout Mtn trailhead. While we did quite well from the car at Newhalem Cr to the final climb from its W fork to the basin, above that we encountered just about every terrain obstacle the subalpine Cascades have to offer--somewhere high up on the BW scale, perhaps even establishing "New Wave" Bushwhack Ratings. A physical, but not mental, respite was offered by a sustained stretch of moss-coated 4th class frog-chimney that got us through the lower cliff bands: (I'm advancing my "little buddy" walking/bashing stick ahead of me.) Bottom line: approach from the south and enjoy a longer but scenic alpine tramp, unless you want to embrace the aforementioned travel and route-finding challenges. (I’ll buy good six-packs for anyone that repeats our approach and reports back with an optimal way up to that basin.) The climb itself was great. The rock, even the junky-looking first pitch, was quite solid and clean, requiring only sporadic, expected alpine gardening. The harder technical climbing, all ~3 pitches of it, was high quality, fun climbing on bright gneiss. Some was downright Index-like. We swapped leads, with Chris drawing the crux 5.10+ pitch 5--spectacular--which traveled near and then on the edge of the arete. On this pitch he expertly avoided a belayer-slayer that I inadvertently trundled while following, which marred our otherwise pure ascent as I weighted the rope to avoid a crushed foot. A reminder that you can't afford to lose focus for a second out here. Chris climbing the crux: Me following the crux: My 5.10 pitch 6 was more like a 15' boulder problem followed by scrambling on the arete's crest. Then we had two more pitches of rambling peppered with boulder moves over a sub-summit and the summit. We didn't find a reported register, but probably just overlooked it. Summit views from this western outpost of the N-Central Cascades were unique. Descent: from just W of the summit, we used a single 70m rope to make 4 rappels (all slung horns) down the South face; first directly down a rib, then angling skier's left to alight on an exposed ramp that you can down-climb E, which is where you need to go anyway to gain a notch that gets you back to the basin. (Unless you approach from / camp on the S of the peak, which I recommended above.) We were back at the bivy by 4pm, drinking big cans of beer. Given the complexity of the return route to the car, we decided to spend another night at comfortable bivy rather than risking the descent in fading light or night. Despite the extra workload imposed by my approach mistake, we had a blast (particularly on the rock) and recommend this route. Origin of the route name: C is relentlessly ebullient, so high on the climb it felt appropriate to yell the eventual route name before snapping a photo--this provided both a good belly laugh, and a mantra for the long 'shwhack back to the car. There are a few more photos in the gallery. And over here are even more photos, and a phone video Chris took of me trundling and muttering "explosion". Gear notes: Medium rack; tri-cams were money, brought pins but didn't use them. Compact ice tool useful for the occasional gardening. We didn't bring crampons, but you would want them earlier in the season, or when sensibly approaching from the south.
  24. On August 13 and 14, Rolf Larson and I -- henceforth little and big jackass respectively -- pioneered a line on the North Face of South Hozomeen (properly: Hozomeen Mountain, South Peak). If you've seen it, you know this thing is intimidating and steep. (By some objective measures, this peak is one of the steepest in the lower 48, and "... the South Peak ... has the steepest North Face of any peak in the Northwest.") We'd gawked at it from N Hozomeen three years ago, speculating that a massive, slanting dihedral feature might be the only feasible route for mortal climbers. Turns out it was feasible, just. Our line begins directly beneath the overhanging summit, travels more or less straight up to gain what we've dubbed (in respectful honor of Fred) the feature, and then primarily grinds up the right-hand facet of the giant corner to reach the summit ridge a couple/few pitches from the summit. ( BTW, big props to Beckey bros and crew, who summitted this beast in 1947 via the SW route. Inspiring. A movie honoring Fred worth sponsoring, if you somehow missed it: ) North Face, IV+, 5.9. 13 pitches to the W ridge, plus a short pitch to join the top of the SW route and then take in its crux pitch. We shiver-bivvied on a sloping ledge 11 pitches up, perched on the exposed right margin of the dihedral, a couple thousand feet above the basin--pretty cool. As far as we know, no other route has been established on this face. The pitches went 5.8, 5.8, 5.8, 4th, 4th, 4th (80+m, some simul-climbing), 5.7, 5.7, 5.8, 5.8, 5.8, 5.9, and 5.7. The last half+ (7 pitches) followed the Pissburger Dihedral. Then an easy pitch on the crest, and the "5.6" final pitch of the standard SW route. [Apologies for so many words and so few photos--album link below. Google recently shut down Picasa, with which it was easy to re-size and embed photos--the new product lacks functionality, and I lack time for extensive photo shenanigans.] This photo courtesy of Jason Griffith; belays marked w/ circles: For context, here's a shot of both Hozos taken from SE Mox Peak a few weeks ago. S Hozomeen is on the right, its north face is in shadow: https://goo.gl/photos/LpzJ1EdPNKHfLpDr5 And a shot of little jackass climbing high on the route (p. 11): https://goo.gl/photos/3ooZbpTG3An1Faah6 Should note that the moderate technical difficulty ratings belie the comprehensive difficulty of the route; this is not straightforward climbing, and careful route-finding and hold selection is mandatory. Some of our 60m 'moderate' leads took well over 1.5 hours! As mentioned above, the first three pitches go straight up to an easy ledge system that then yields the long dihedral. These first three pitches were quite solid and a lot of fun; a recommended crag with easy access . But the corner ... In an effort to give you a flavor for climbing the Pissburger Dihedral, here's a too-common scenario: launch from the belay, hope to protect it soon, find a crack behind a meager flake maybe 15-20' up. Maybe you put in an appropriate-looking nut, but a yank pulls right through as the flake expands. You slot in a crappy cam with a 1 in 50 chance of catching a leader fall, though if you whip it might slow you down, so you leave that mostly ornamental gear hanging there and hope for more soon. You wend, hem and haw to and fro and yonder, tapping and kicking holds to test. Up and right, back down; up and left, decide right is better; then up and right again. A number of deliberate, committing moves and 30-40 more perspiring feet above the ornament, you spy a small patch of vegetation in a faint corner. Out comes the compact ice tool. Scrape, scrape, scrape at this scratch card hoping to reveal a prize, only to find a shallow, flaring "crack"; try a nut, a sideways nut even - nope - maybe the tricam trick that 'worked' earlier will go here - nuh-uh. Poop your pants a little. Search the horizon for anything. Resolve to continue, ensuring you can reverse the moves. Higher still another ornamental piece gives you the false confidence to continue ... ok, so it's pretty much soloing. The 5.9 crux pitch (p. 12) above where we spent the night was stimulating in this manner too, and magnified thanks to the way it traverses above some large overlaps/roofs (and well above a tiny tri-cam). Overall, we can't really recommend the route. Had hoped the giant dihedral would hold a nice crack system. It had a crack, but for the most part it was comprised of very rotten and decomposing rock, or filled with copious humus. Not appealing; on one of my leads I ventured to the corner only to be rebuffed in horrific fashion by the rock peeling away at the slightest touch. So we were forced to find our way up the right-hand facet of the corner via sparsely-protected face climbing. Only near the top did some splitter briefly reveal itself. Squamish. The album for our trip, in not-so-great Google Photos (click on "i" to see captions): https://goo.gl/photos/SmEcZZ2r9BhFy3ZTA And the photo linked below courtesy of - who else - John Scurlock; shows an oblique view from the east, and our line rises to the first bench/notch to the right of the summit. https://goo.gl/photos/Z25Bs4QdRM7z2Tnq9 Thanks to little jackass, we onsighted the descent of the standard SW route, which felt long, exposed, and tedious, especially after a sleepless night and many hours of hyper-vigilance. My impish spouse tried (with some success) to implant this earworm as we departed in the evening: ... so every once in a while the cheeky, existential lyrics would humorously rebound in the Pissburger. A rewarding trip, with many fun/funny moments, and a fair bit of suffering; the whole package arouses that fight or flight instinct. Feel fortunate to have solved (and survived) this problem. Gear notes: We brought a large rack to 4", doubles to 2", large set of nuts, and definitely bring tri-cams through hand-size; used the small black tri-cam more this trip than I have in all previous combined. We had pins and used two to augment our shiver-bivy anchor. Did not bring a bolt kit but wished we had. Double ropes. Compact tool, but no crampons required.
  25. Trip: Twin Sisters Range - Little Sister - North Face - 5.4 3p (FA) Date: 7/24/2016 Trip Report: Last weekend, Lisa and I went into the Twin Sisters range to check out the area. It was our first time there and we were inspired by recent beautiful photos from the area and the mention of many moderate routes in the new guidebook. On Saturday, the weather was much worse than predicted and we arrived at camp near Green Creek soaked from bushwhacking through underbrush. After looking up at the hills around us covered in clouds, we decided to set up camp. As the afternoon wore on, the weather improved a bit and we climbed Green Creek Arete. This route has some fun pitches towards the top, but is a lot of work to descend back down. It would make much more sense to climb this route and then continue on the north side of the ridge to climb the South Twin as part of a traverse of the range or something, rather than descending back down to Green Creek. Starting the descent: For Sunday, we wanted to head up the glacier and go climb something up there. To get up the glacier, you don't just go straight up the drainage to the base of the glacier, as there are cliff bands there that would make ascending difficult. Instead, we scrambled up slabs to the left and then traversed onto the glacier fairly high up: The views of Baker in this area are gorgeous: Up on the glacier, we ran into Darin and his partner, who were off exploring some unnamed peak in the area. At this point, we were still deciding which line we were gonna climb. Darin pointed out some lines on the N/NE side of the Little Sister that as far as we knew, had not been climbed and looked to have some good rock. So Lisa and I figured we'd check it out. We ended up climbing approximately this line, which as far as I can tell is likely a first ascent: It consisted of three pitches of climbing up to 5.4 in difficulty. The rock was remarkably solid with remarkably little loose rock strewn on the route for something that hadn't been climbed. There are many possible variations on this route on both the right and left. P1 (5.4, 40m): Start on the slabs just left of the top of the snow finger on the N face. These slabs are criss-crossed with cracks everywhere and can take all kinds of pro. One could follow the slabs further left to the Arete, but I wanted a bit of more vertical climbing. I found this by going straight up to where the slab hits a bit of a headwall. The headwall was very blocky, and while vertical, was probably only about 5.4. After the few moves up that, there was a few more slabby moves until I reached a belay just below another steep section. Looking back from near start of P1: Coming up on the headwall, with some easy blocky moves just left of center: P2 (5.4, 40m): This pitch started up another steep bit (5.4) through a bit of offwidth/chimney-type terrain, then you go up a big easy corner and then eases off into some lower angle slabs and scrambling up and right to reach a nice belay ledge. Looking down from P2: Higher on P2: Belay ledge with a view: P3 (5.0, 70m): From the belay ledge, scramble/climb straight up slabs to the summit, probably mostly 3rd/4th class but the exposure made it feel like some 5.0 climbing. From the belay ledge, our 60m rope did not reach the rap anchors near the summit and we simuled for ~10m. Looking up at P3 towards the summit: Lisa following up P3: Descent: We rappelled from the slung anchors at the summit back down the N Face. After that 1 30m rappel, we scrambled down a bit of a corner system to the ledge where P2 started. From there, we scrambled down skier's left and traversed across a deep gully onto the NW ridge. We did another 30m rappel here from a horn we slung and that brought us down close to the snow. Nice views at the top: Gear Notes: We had a single rack 0.3-2 and it was plenty. The glacier is mostly low angle and could be done without crampons/axes if the snow is not too firm, though we had both and found them helpful. The last bit of snow up the snow finger to the base of our route on the Little Sister was steep enough that I definitely wanted an axe, but this could potentially be bypassed by getting onto the rock lower. Approach Notes: Here's our approach track: The crossing near the cars is on some narrow logs lashed together with thin cords by climbers: The climber's trail after the Elbow Lake turnoff is copiously marked with blue ribbons and reflective blue diamond markers on trees. It's probably the best marked climber's path I've ever seen anywhere, someone put a lot of work into it. However, the last section just before you get to the Green Creek crossing is still quite overgrown and a bit scwhacky. This might improve over time as the area seems to be getting more popular (we saw 2 other parties in there).