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[TR] Mount Slesse - N.(D)E. Butt 7/17/2017


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Trip: Mount Slesse - N.(D)E. Butt


Date: 7/17/2017


Trip Report:

Considering my ongoing battle with small arms and big legs, I tend to choose lines that look pretty over those that contain great climbing. Fortunately for me, the NE Buttress of Slesse has both the looks and the charm, so it's been on the list a long while now.


Timmy and I decided on a light and fast mission, opting for the carryover descent, a liter and a half each, no bivy gear, no real insulation, a single 60m, and a shamefully thin rack. We nailed the "light" part; it was the "fast" that could use some improvement.


Driving up from Portland, we used Steph's beta (huge thanks to the Queen of the Cascades for this...and about a dozen other routes she's got us up), cashed a mountain bike and some bivy gear at Slesse creek, and got an hour or so of sleep before heading out nice and early. We were at the propeller cairn in 1:35 and across to the bypass ramp in just over 2 hours from the car.




Pleased with our progress and full of naive exuberance, I proceeded to make a sharp left up some runout slab with a healthy covering of vegetables and grime. Had I looked around a bush and seen the class three ramp continuing for another several hundred feet, I might have saved us two hours, a brand new sling, and our position in front of the three other groups on the Saturday Slesse Send Train.


Assuming this would (of course) be the only thing that went wrong all day, we charged ahead with some mild apprehension at the late hour. The climbing was varied, interesting, and spectacularly exposed. It climbs a bit like the north ridge of Stuart, on steroids.




With the exception of the usual route finding shenanigans, the climbing went well. We simuled most of the route, stopping to pitch out roughly the same stuff Blake references, using a combination of his beta and the old Becky topo. On the way, we ended up congenially tangled with a competent and strong four pack from Seattle, with whom we'd soon become quite well acquainted.


We topped out a few minutes after 7, and were off the rappels from the summit pinnacle by dark with our new friends hot on our heals. Having planned for a long day, we intended to take the easier descent down to Slesse Creek and our mountain bike. They had planned to do the crossover descent, but given the late hour, decided to join us on the "easy" descent.


Just as we found the descent trail the weather moved in, and within minutes we were in a less-than-ideal situation, climbing blind on 45 degree wet heather with less than 15 ft of visibility and a nice breeze to boot. It got bad enough that we could hardly see headlamps pointed straight at us from less than 100 feet away...it was creepy being able to hear each other in normal speaking voices over the whistling wind, while being totally unable to see the headlamps that accompanied the sound. After some colorful language and some close calls, we were able to gather each other up to a cave we had passed at the base of the summit pinnacle.


It didn't take much discussion to come to the conclusion that we were going nowhere until the morning. So we all made do with our little cave and shivered the night away. As these things go, it wasn't so bad. We had a nice cave and great company, even if we were ill prepared and, of course, out of water.




With the sun we rose, moaning and creaking our way down to the crossover descent, which we decided to take given that we were now going down during the day (God help anyone who tries to figure that thing our for the first time at night).


The descent felt like a grade IV climb in itself. It was complex, technical, scary, and spectacular. Not the lease unnerving was the significant amount of steep snow climbing in approach shoes with no crampons or axes! A huge thanks is also due to the Seattle boys for the beta on getting down.




After all this, we limped back to the car to find that (1.) We had a flat tire, and (2.) Somebody had parked their car ON TOP of the small rock under which I had hid my key. It took about 20 minutes of frantic digging with a nut tool to pry it loose.


God I love the Cascades.




Gear Notes:

Not enough


Approach Notes:

No problem. It't the descent that sucks.

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We ran into a police officer heading up the road toward the memorial trailhead. He told us there was a rescue underway up there. We had just been saying the day before what a nightmare it would be to try and longline off of that thing. I am amazed and impressed with those SAR folks. Angels on our shoulders.

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