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[TR] Columbia Peak, WA - SW Face 9/23/2017

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The weather was looking good for the weekend so I texted DanO, we decided to hit Columbia Peak. The peak was supposed to be mostly class 3 with some class 4 sections, according to what I had read, which sounded perfect for late season. We parked at the gate of the new road going to Monte Cristo and started riding our bikes at 7:30am. We arrived at Monte Cristo and parked the bikes. We made it to Poodle Dog Pass at 10:30am. 5aa0b428b77dd_Dan@PoodleDogPass.thumb.jpg.4893e807fe14d1860e6e097c268bfa50.jpg

The weather was perfect, classic fall hiking.  We made it to the turn off at 5100' at about 12:00. 5aa0b4f4e3889_ColombiaPeakfromTwinLakesTrail5100.thumb.jpg.c875de5237653fc99eaa54f80c448309.jpg

We were making good time so we decided to bag the summit on day 1 while the weather was holding out. We dropped all non-essential gear and started for the summit at 1:00pm.



We started hitting snow around 5300' on the route. The climber's trail was half covered in snow. 5aa0b5ebd1fa0_UpperRouteMapped.thumb.jpg.91911a07f3a6aed14c5bf6fe6198f491.jpg

We were in solid snow by the time we hit the base of the 1st gully. The rock step to get to the 1st gully was solid 4th class maybe low 5th class for about 20 feet.5aa0b679a737d_1stStepinto1stGully.thumb.jpg.d7c5687c861c0ba745e971ccfac021f2.jpg

The gully itself was basic class 2 on loose rock (thankfully covered in snow).  5aa0b6cde8fb7_1stGully(2ndClass).thumb.jpg.fc748404e0290168e90d1cf6b40ed70e.jpg

Once to the top of the 1st gully we ran into a ledge heading to the right toward the SW Face. The ledge was also class 2, but snow covered, so travel was slow and steady. The ledge went around the corner to the base of the SW Face.


There was an 8 foot section of low 5th class rock to get into the SW Face gully. The SW Face gully was partially covered in snow and wet rock. The rock in the gully was down sloping, loose and steep, combined with the wet snow, the SW Face had our full attention. A slip would have been bad so we traveled slow and sure. We stayed to the left side of the gully as much as possible since it had the best options. 5aa0b7d7765df_SWFaceGully(Class3-4).thumb.jpg.6da586144e112253e5f9cd63e5da9e1e.jpg

Clouds started moving in and covering the gully and summit block.

We made it to the base of the summit block and attempted to corkscrew around to the top (per the standard route) but the snow was making the route up dangerous with a piss poor runout to certain death. DanO decided he was happy making it to within 50 feet of the summit and elected to wait for me to summit via the SW face of the summit block. I found some decent holds going up the middle of the summit block on what looked to me to be low 5th class. I went for it. The summit view is supposed to be fantastic. The only view I had was of the inside of a cloud, but the summit was achieved at 5:30pm.


We started down carefully making sure our holds were good since the traction was less than ideal. We made it across the ledge at the top of the class 2 gully just as the sun was going down. The view was incredible as the sun split between a high and low bank of clouds. 5aa0b8bb8be10_Sunsetfromtheledgecrosing.thumb.jpg.e8e76a7fa866615a748f9e4baa5e77ec.jpg 

I imagined this is what the dawn of time must have looked like as life was birthed into the great vastness of existence. I could not help but smile and nod my head at the display we were witnessing. One moment in time I will never forget. We broke out the lights and worked our way back via GPS to our gear stash at 9:30pm. We worked our way back to the main trail on the ridge to setup camp. We left camp at 11:00am and were back at the car by 3:00pm.

This climb is commonly rated as a class 3 with sections of 4th class, I'm assuming in dry conditions sans snow. I would rate the climb we did as having more class 4 than class 3 with sections of low class 5. The rock is loose, steep and down sloping. I would not recommend doing this climb when it is wet.

Gear Notes:  We brought overnight supplies, mountaineer boots, trekking poles, ice axes & crampons.  We didn't use the crampons.  I was glad that I brought a water proof shell layer as the temp dropped and the wind picked up heading to the summit.

Edited by Kuato
adding pictures

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