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landoclimb

[TR] Johannesburg Mountain - NE Buttress Solo 08/01/2018

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Posted (edited)

Trip: Johannesburg Mountain - NE Buttress Solo

Trip Date: 08/01/2018

Trip Report:

 

I overheard some friends talking about Bill Amos' solo of Johannesburg and was immediately inspired.  The allure of the mountain and style of climbing was too much to pass up.  Before I start my senior year of high school I wanted to do something really fun.  After binge reading trip reports and training for a few months, I felt psyched and ready.  I already have a decent bit of soloing under my belt so the climb just seemed right.  Fast forward to Monday night, I got in my car and drove out to Cascade Pass.  
 
I set my alarm for 7:00 but woke up at 6:30 (probably due to the anticipation).  The sheer beauty of Johannesburg is impossible to ignore; its imposing face shows so much promise.  After scarfing down a breakfast bar and some pop-tarts, I locked my car and began the arduous approach.  A grueling .2 miles down the road lead me to a dirt mound with access to the river.  Crossing over rocks and walking up a talus field put me at the first snow on the route.  The snow was rock hard so my crampons begrudgingly came out of my pack.  I was careful to move fast across the snow because I didn't want to get taken out by an avalanche.  A rock ramp to the left of the second waterfall provided seemingly easy access to the buttress.  
 
IMG_3343.thumb.jpg.4c63f9c6fe6507857dc4601209027a20.jpg
Looking up at Johannesburg
 
After some easy slab and low 5th class I arrived at the second snowfield.  Here's where I made my first mistake.  Once again, the snow was rock solid.  I put on my crampons to walk the 100 something feet across it to the rock.  Thinking more snow was soon to come, I clipped my crampons to my harness.  Looking for a good line through the trees, I decided to go straight up some 4th class rock and then traverse right later on.  This beta absolutely sucked.  The initial 200 feet or so was smooth sailing.  I soon encountered more and more trees, eventually reaching an impassible rock band within the brush.  From here I traversed right until I found a gully within the trees that allowed me to climb up.  It was hot, steep, and heinous bushwhacking.  Finally I could see the third snowfield.  At this point I was well above it but had a clear view of the 1957 route.  This snowfield basically cuts the buttress in half until they join up again high on the vertical rock.  Tired, I took off my pack to eat a probar and drink some water.  Looking at my harness I realize only 1 crampon is clipped on.  My other must have gotten eaten by trees earlier in the bushwhack!  Thinking about Jean-Christophe's rescue on Annapurna reminded me that I'm probably not going to die if I'm short one crampon.  
 
IMG_3355.thumb.jpg.906eeec615768db90bb7313de7978091.jpg
Slabs before second snowfield.
 
It's hard to describe how much the trees suck.  I found no evidence of a path and basically pulled on branches, heather, and devil's club the whole way up.  Things would frequently get caught on my rope or ice tools during this section.  Another hour or so of this put me at the heather slopes.  For about 800 feet I walked up some easy 3rd class slopes covered in heather.  The 70 degree heat made me really thirsty.  I brought 2 liters of water and realized it probably wasn't going to last all the way to the bivy.  Rationing out water was uncomfortable but that's life.  More scrambling finally put me on the rock.  What a relief!  Soon 4th class rock turned into low 5th and life was peachy.  It felt absolutely euphoric to move well on the steep slopes.  I didn't find loose rock to be that big of an issue.  I checked my watch and realized I was about 400 feet from the bivy.  Up ahead of me looked to be the "crux" rock section.  I traversed right from the 1951 route on to the approximate 1957 route.   I think this allowed me to skip some hard sections because I encountered maybe 5.6 rock up to this point.  Though the glacier was still obscured by rock, I knew I was close.  
 
IMG_3381.thumb.jpg.8d3534cb3da8194276d327324f6ea88e.jpg
Rock face. I stayed in the middleish left
 
My fatigue meant I wasn't climbing at my best.  I elected to take off my pack for the next 200 feet or so and just haul it up.  Some 5.8 face climbing through loose rocks put me on top of a small ridge.  I was at the glacier!  After bringing up my pack, I scrambled up some 4th class rock and was at the bivy.  I drank straight from the glacial runoff.  This was the first time in my life I was happy to see mosquitoes.  The struggles of the day melted when confronted with the beauty of the mountains around me.  After a warm meal and some relaxing.  I was sound asleep in my bivy sack.
 
IMG_3395.thumb.jpg.8241e3c69292ec94c04141426fdb6f51.jpg
Bivy of the decade
 
IMG_3422.thumb.jpg.5ea96388640188cc97e72b32328c77d7.jpg
Me stoked to be fed and hydrated

Waking up at 6:30 was kind of cold.  I didn't bring a sleeping bag but was pretty was comfy nonetheless.  After some packing and eating, it was time to get on the glacier.  This part was less than ideal.  The snow was luckily much softer than at the base of the mountain.  Despite only having one crampon, climbing up the snow to the arete was easy.  After carefully walking on the arete I decided going straight up the headwall would be hard.  I downclimbed a few meters to the rock ridge.  The rock actually went!  Easy scrambling and some short traverses on the snow allowed me to skip almost all of the glacier and headwall.  At the summit ridge I scrambled up right to the biggest peak.  I made it!  It turns out I was the first person there in almost a year!  The log could also use some more paper if anyone is going up there soon.  The feeling of being up there is indescribable.  Signing the summit log and snapping a few photos, I was ready to head down. 
 
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Headwall.  I scrambled on the rock to the left
 
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Obligatory summit selfie
 
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Signing the climber's log
 
Staying to the south side of the gendarmes, follow a loosely marked carin path to the East face.  I opted to rap instead of downclimb initially.  8 bomber rappels brought me to some low angle heather.  It's important to aim straight for the CJ col.  There looks like other paths would be better but they cliff out.  About 600 feet of downclimbing brought me to the col in one piece.
 
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Looking up from the col
 
Now sidehilling ensued.  Going close under the buttress and heading straight toward Doug's Direct seemed to work best.  Walking through all the brush isn't fun but the ascent to mix up peak was easy.  About 1000 feet 3rd and 4th class scrambling down the north ridge of Mix Up brought me to Cache Glacier.  The climbers trail is visible from the top of the ridge; go there.  Walking down the climbers trail felt like one of those flat escalators at an airport compared to the rest of the climb.  3.7 miles of running and I was back to the parking lot. 
 
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Looking down from the top of Doug's Direct.
 
This was a climb to remember.  The beauty of the North Cascades is hard to forget.  I don't think I'll be back to Johannesburg for at least a few more months.  I would really love to try and get up it in the winter.  Shoutout to Steph Abegg and everyone else who has previously made trip reports.  I have mad respect for anyone who has done this climb.  Don't let your guard down when you get to the summit.  Johannesburg is the mountain that keeps on giving.   Now its time to get ready for Bear Mountain.
 
imageedit_3_8894385393.thumb.gif.63a5963ae1472ef0331d63ffcb9d0113.gif
Here's the general route I took.  I could have screwed up but I'm pretty sure this is where I went.

Gear Notes:
Took climbing shoes and chalk but didn't need them.

Approach Notes:
Walk .2 miles down the road. Cross river.

 

Edited by landoclimb
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That's a tough and insecure feeling solo (I can only imagine).  Strong work to get up and down without a serious mishap!

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Nice work! Did you consider the snow couloir up to the bivy? If it is in, it does make for a nice alternative to the 5th class rock.

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props - hopefully you didn't tell your parents? :)

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Does the route intentionally go right on the tree ramp or more strait up?  Isnt the route graded 5.6ish? or 5.8?  J-burg is a big mountain for sure.

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1 hour ago, kukuzka1 said:

Does the route intentionally go right on the tree ramp or more strait up?  Isnt the route graded 5.6ish? or 5.8?  J-burg is a big mountain for sure.

Going straight up and skipping most of the trees might go, but there would definitely be more 4th and 5th class rock. I encountered some 5.8 moves but I’m sure there are lines on the buttress with easier or harder rock. Most of it was low 5th however.

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When I was 17, I wanted to drink beer, cruise with my friends in their cars, and hit home runs.  You put me to shame!!!  You go!

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Great work, young man.  Seldom have I felt as relieved to be in the Cascade Pass parking lot (or any parking lot, post-climb) as when Bob Davis, Jim Nelson and I arrived there in the early evening on day two of what was supposed to be a day trip up the N.E. Buttress, in July 1999.  Aside from being "overdue," we had down climbed the CJ Couloir and were very lucky to avoid serious rockfall.  It was stressful.  Our relief was short-lived, however, when we heard and then saw the N.C.N.P. Rangers heading up-valley in a chopper.  After the whirlybird landed in the picnic area, the ensuing conversation with Kelly Bush is one I'll never forget.  She and I reminisced at Fred's memorial. 

Also, a shout out is in order for the late and great Doug Walker, who suggested the ridge crossing on a different trip to J'Berg.  I was skeptical but it worked, and the name "Doug's Direct" in my subsequent TR seems to have stuck.  R.I.P. Doug.

 

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2 hours ago, Juan Sharp said:

Great work, young man.  Seldom have I felt as relieved to be in the Cascade Pass parking lot (or any parking lot, post-climb) as when Bob Davis, Jim Nelson and I arrived there in the early evening on day two of what was supposed to be a day trip up the N.E. Buttress, in July 1999.  Aside from being "overdue," we had down climbed the CJ Couloir and were very lucky to avoid serious rockfall.  It was stressful.  Our relief was short-lived, however, when we heard and then saw the N.C.N.P. Rangers heading up-valley in a chopper.  After the whirlybird landed in the picnic area, the ensuing conversation with Kelly Bush is one I'll never forget.  She and I reminisced at Fred's memorial. 

Also, a shout out is in order for the late and great Doug Walker, who suggested the ridge crossing on a different trip to J'Berg.  I was skeptical but it worked, and the name "Doug's Direct" in my subsequent TR seems to have stuck.  R.I.P. Doug.

 

Thank you for sharing that.  May Doug rest easy.

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