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[TR] Argonaut Peak - NW Arete 6/2/2017

carl p

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Trip: Argonaut Peak - NW Arete


Date: 6/2/2017


Trip Report:

Mike, Laine, Andrew, and I climbed the NW Arete on Argonaut as a carryover.




Nearing the colchuck col. (L to R) Adams, Laine, Rainier, and Argonaut




Route: NW Arete on Argonaut Peak

Time: Friday night at about 8:45pm to Sunday morning at 9am.

Distance: 19-20 miles round trip

Elevation: ~6000' of cumulative gain.

Weather: Dark and clear and 40ish on Friday night, mostly sunny and high of 50 on Saturday, cloudy and foggy and 40ish on Sunday morning.

GPS: http://www.peakbagger.com/climber/ascent.aspx?aid=811894 (This only includes the portion of the climb that's off trail - aka the stuff we did on Saturday)





One of The only time in the cascades that the forecast has actually steadily improved heading into the weekend and turned out to be accurate. Because of the improving forecast and the fact that Saturday was predicted to be the warmest day, we decided to do a couple miles Friday night; then finish the approach, climb, and do part of the descent on Saturday; and then hike out whatever we had left (if anything) on Sunday morning.


Day 1:

So we hiked in about 3 miles on Friday night. We left the cars at 8:30pm, hiked to the colchuck lake turn-off, hid our trail runners in the woods, hiked another half mile or so toward stuart lake and found a nice bivy spot for the night. We dropped the packs at about 9:40 and were asleep by 10.


Day 2:

We were moving again by 5:30am and were soon greeted with the first view of our objective.





Shortly after this meadow, at a sharp right turn in the trail and 4700' of elevation (just as described in other reports) we found a faint climbers trail and began to follow it. We had 2 stream crossings right away, which put us off track a bit since we needed to find suitable crossings. (The first we crossed with a couple leaps. The second required a large downed tree). The trail appeared and disappeared for the next mile or so as we approached mountaineers creek. We ended up in a boulder field to the west (climbers right) of the stream for a bit, but we lost the cairns and could see that travel looked easy in the trees by the creek.

We followed the creek through easy terrain and crossed it when we found a good log.





Then we continued to trend south, staying East (climbers left) of any creek we found. Eventually we found the infamous slide alder, so we navigated a bit further west and were able to bypass the alder entirely.



go this way


We continued SE up the obvious snow slope. We lucked out and conditions were pretty much perfect on this section. Good snow coverage without being deep made for easy and secure step kicking. We took a short break at about 6200' to pull out the axes, put our crampons on, and travers a bit to climbers right to avoid a bergshrund forming where the snowfield steepened.





We found a secure (but thin) snow finger over some slabby rock that bypassed the schrund.





Then we continued across the basin to the obvious slope up to the notch. The route goes up the wide couloir right of center in the photo below. We stayed right of the rocks in the middle.





This put us at the base of the climb at about 11:00am, 5.5 hours after leaving camp.

We were glad that we didn't try to bivy up here since the bivy site looked almost entirely covered in snow. It would have required some excavating.

At the notch, we put on our harnesses, racked up, and had some snacks.






Tom Unger's description of the climb is excellent: http://www.tumtum.com/climbing/routes/01-05-13-Argonaut.txt


Based on this description and our experience on the climb, I put together a topo of the route. If you're planning on bringing this topo with you, I highly recommend reading his description as well. It served us well on the route, but I'm sure that was partly because I was familiar with his verbiage.





Before changing my shoes, I kicked 4-5 steps through the snow to the base of the route. Then I retreated to a dry rock, changed into my rock shoes and lead up the first pitch.

Mike was on my rope, and he followed the first pitch in his boots and changed at the first belay.

I started climbing right at 11:30am.


P1: As described. The right facing corner at the end of the pitch is low angle at first, but pitches upward near the top. 15' high.


P2: Super fun! The corner start is fun. And the two faces later in the pitch are good climbing. Just make sure you go up the far right of that second face.


P3: The 6' step and then the 15' slab are the only real climbing on this pitch. After that you scramble through boulders. This part could easily be done without ropes. In order to get high enough for P4, go up the gully/corner a bit at the end of this pitch. Don't stop at the bottom of it.


P4: Also super fun! So many jugs.

I didn't follow my advise above and cut the 3rd pitch a bit short (mostly because of bad rope drag over that boulder field). This meant meant Mike had to cut the 4th pitch (a full 60m pitch) short as well. He was able to get to a good ledge, but not to the right facing corner that starts P5.

Instead of moving the P4 belay (which we maybe should have done. we were on easy ground, but the exposure was bad) we agreed that if I ran out of rope on P5, we would simul for a short distance (Mike was following on very easy ground for the first 20' or so) until I could build an anchor.


P5: This pitch was an adventure - flakes, cracks, faces, exposure. Super cool!

I would recommend doing the flake as a foot or hand traverse. I cheval'd it, but it was less than graceful. Both Mike and Andrew did it as a hand traverse and Laine did it as a foot traverse. All of them found it quite secure.

After the flake, corner, and face I went up a challenging crack in a corner to the right (it's fun though!). But just left of that corner is a blocky gully with easier terrain.


We swapped leads throughout, which meant that mike got the fun 2nd and 4th pitches, and I got the less fun pitches 1 and 3. But I did lead pitch 5 which was awesome. Not a bad way to do it and end up with a fair split.


Follow the pitched climb with a scramble to the summit. I actually lead it out and placed a couple pieces since there was some snow up high, but it ended up being totally unnecessary.



Mike and I were on the summit at 3:30pm, and we soaked in the views while we waited about an hour for Andrew and Laine (they had to break the last pitch into 2 because of rope drag).


Once we had all had some summit snacks and we had taken a couple summit selfies, we began the descent.







Continue east along the ridge and eventually drop to the north side and continue traversing east through the snowfield. Once you hit the ridge running to the NE, you should find some rap slings.


We did one double rope rappel to a large ledge (at the top of the NE couloir route), and then had to do 2 more double rope rappels to get down to the snow on the east face.

The anchor at the start of the last rappel is 4 nuts, and BARELY had room for all 4 of us.

There may be a different area (further NE) to get down with fewer rappels.


We left the summit at about 5pm and and finished the rappels at about 7:00pm.


On the snow below, we made quick progress over to the colchuck col. We had originally planned to bivy near the col that night, but it was much colder than expected as the sun started to get low in the sky so we decided to continue down toward colchuck lake and hike out to the cars.


We made quick time down the glacier with a couple short sections of glissading.

However, by the time we got to the lake it was very nearly dark, and we were pretty exhausted. Since we had the gear and food for the night, we decided to bivy by the lake. We knew this was a permit only area, but there wasn't anyone in or near the camp site that we used to bivy, so we felt that it was a pretty low impact. In fact, no one even hiked past us that evening, and only one group passed us in the morning.


We were moving shortly after 6am on Sunday and back at the cars at about 9am.


Overall - it was a great climb! Not too challenging for a carry over, and well worth carrying the gear over to be able to hike out without much navigation.



Gear Notes:


- Cams from .3 to 3 and a set of stoppers (Consider bringing doubles in a few sizes. The pitches are long!)

- 9 double slings, 5 single slings (I would bring only doubles in the future)

- Aluminum crampons

- Ice axe


Edited by carl p
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