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[TR] American Border Peak - SE Traverse Chimney Route 07/14/2018

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Trip: American Border Peak - SE Traverse Chimney Route

Trip Date: 07/14/2018

Trip Report:


Cascade Pass Road was still closed past the Eldorado parking area.  Well shit!  Time for plan B.  Or Plan A if you like an epic climb for the ages!  I texted DanO and asked if he was ready for some pain, he said sure.  I see several reports of American Border Peak being climbed in September and I thought, "Why not try it in mid July and take one for the team?". 

Twin lakes parking was packed because the weather was perfect and it was the weekend.  We arrived at the trailhead and were on the move at 11:30 am.  There were several patches of snow to cross along the way to High Pass which was a bit tedious but it was part of the glory of early season.  Once to High Pass we started down into the 1st gully.  A word of advise, stay low in the gully and wrap around the bottom of the rib through the trees to the 2nd gully.  We went high in the 1st gully to cross to the 2nd gully and it resulted in slow travel and a skinned ass, again adding to the glory.  

1st Gully from High Pass



2nd Gully looking toward 6300' Gully to Col


The second gully was quite pleasant, less rock and lots of green.  We aimed for the notch at 6300'. 

Getting up to the col and down to the 3rd gully required some patience with the loose rock. 


We reached camp at the base of the talus slope in the 3rd gully at 6:00 pm. 

3rd Gully from 6300' Col



Camp at the base of the talus in the 3rd Gully


DanO decided he was fine with hanging out at camp for summit day so I left for the summit solo at 5:45 am.  It has been said that this route to American Border Peak has lots of loose rock and that is the absolute truth.  Make peace with slipping constantly or it will drive you insane.  Rocks will be falling so if you are climbing in a group, keep it tight or spread out.  The terrain is steep to go along with the loose rock so make sure of your footing or pay the piper.  I topped out on the  6900' col at 7:15 am.  I was happy to see the snow was not an issue for the SE traverse to de Gaulle's gully. 5b617b77ede4a_Lookingatroutefrom6900Coltopof3rdgully.thumb.jpg.11caf56d152673caa10e891162e9f80f.jpg

After getting to the top of de Gaulle's gully, I had to take some time to figure the best option for crossing the snow covered, steep hillside as well as the snow filled gully up to the ledges.  It was gut check time.  I decided to climb down and diagonal to the base of the snow and edge along to the base of the snow gully.  The snow gully was steep and the snow was not in the greatest of conditions.  I followed some goat tracks up the snow gully carefully kicking steps and planting my ice axe.  I love mountain goats!  They always seem to be looking out for me on the mountain, like guardian angels.  I was very happy to make it to the top of the snow gully without incident.  5b617bf619aaa_ViewfromtopofdeGaullesGully.thumb.jpg.e7ea7aaac07148cbe809a9f828c0e8c9.jpg


Once to the top of the snow gully I could see the route had very little snow remaining. 


The ledges leading to the chimney were wide enough to move fairly quickly. 


There are 3 chockstones wedged in the chimney.  The bottom chockstone requires the most skill to climb. 


Since I was going solo, I decided to do the 4th class work around to get above the bottom chockstone.  The rest of the chimney is still solid 5th class so take your time.  Once to the top of the chimney you will have to go under the top chockstone and wiggle through a hole commonly referred to as the keyhole.  It is a tight fit so you will probably need to push or pull your pack through separately. 

There is a great camp site below the summit after the keyhole. 


The summit from the keyhole is class 3 to 4.  I finally reached the summit at 10:45 am.  The view was great and I was feeling good.  Time to head down.



I started down from the summit at 11:20 am.  There was a new rappel sling around the top chockstone complete with a donut, very nice.  I had a 40m static rappel rope that worked perfect for the rappel down the chimney.  There is a second rappel station halfway down the chimney.  I rappelled the majority of the way down the snow gully then worked my way across the ledges above the snow to get to the top of de Gaulle's gully.  The rest of the descent to camp was loose rock slipping and sliding but controllable.  I arrived at camp at 4:00 pm.  

DanO was happy to see me alive and in one piece.  The summit and back took a lot of time.  I needed to be back home the next day so we decided to pack up camp and head out. 


We made it back to the car at a midnight exhausted and happy to be done.  The night was beautiful and full of stars.  This is a challenging climb and I am glad that I waited a few years to get more experience on other climbs before attempting it.  This will go down as one of my favorite climbs.  

We are not freaky fast climbers and we are not super slow either.  Taking that into consideration, here are the times for the climb.

Day 1: 11:30 am (left car) to 6:00 pm (camp) - 6.5 hours

Day 2: 5:45 am (camp) to 10:45 am (summit) - 5 hours,  11:20 am (summit) to 4:00 pm (camp) - 4hr40min,  5:30 pm (camp) to Midnight (car) - 6.5 hours.  Total time for Day 2 - 18 hours

Doing this climb earlier in the year is a lot slower than later in the year.  If I had to do it again, I'd do it in 3 days and enjoy the experience.  We brought crampons, ice axes, trekking poles and a 40m static rappel rope and we used everything.  

Gear Notes:
Crampons, Ice Axe, Trekking Poles, 40 meter static rope, Helmets

Approach Notes:
Started from Twin Lakes parking lot.

Edited by Kuato
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Congrats on APB! That’s a burly Choss pile.  Don’t think I will be repeating that one, but glad that it’s in the bag. Don’t think it sees too much traffic.

thanks for the TR!

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Apparently the climb sees so few climbers they don't even bother with a summit registry, couldn't find one anywhere around the summit.  

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