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[TR] Pickets - North Buttress of Fury (during Pickets Traverse) 08/04/2018


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Trip: Pickets - North Buttress of Fury (during Pickets Traverse)

Trip Date: 08/04/2018

Trip Report:

Lani Chapko and I were planning on climbing Mount Robson via either the Kain Face or North Face, but weather looked iffy so I came up with a new objective that I thought would be equally challenging. We totally sandbagged ourselves on this route. Neither of us looked to closely at beta or trip reports, we just knew that the buttress was often approached from glaciers on the west side and the rock was supposed to be 5.6 or easier. I figured it would be like the DNB of Stuart with a long approach but no 5.9 climbing...


The initial plan was to do a full Pickets traverse from Hannegan to Newhalem, climb Challenger, Fury, and maybe a Southern Picket. We set up the hella long car shuttle and started hiking to Hannegan Pass on Thursday afternoon. I screwed up big time and crossed the Chilliwack at the wrong point, and we traverse for an hour through steep trees to finally arrive at the faint trail up to Easy Ridge.


^ Getting lost on the way up to Easy Ridge

As the sun set we set up camp at Easy Ridge and hoped for a dry night despite a wet forecast. 

On Friday we traversed over to Challenger in low visibility conditions. The Imperfect Impasse was snow-free, making things quite a bit more challenging than when I crossed it in May. On the way back up out of the Impasse, we hauled packs for a section.


^ Crossing the impasse

We then crossed the Challenger glacier, also without any visibility. Lani was a route-finding pro somehow, and we didn't dead-end on any crevasses. Arriving at Challenger arm, the clouds cleared and we got our first look at our route up Fury *insert swallowing and stomach knots here*.


^Our route up Fury. Keep reading to know what NOT to do.

We set up camp in Luna Basin and talked a bit about life and death (mostly death), and whether or not we should draw a line somewhere with regards to alpine climbing. We woke up at 4:30am and started up the west side of the buttress. 


^The North Buttress in early morning

The first crack at the base of the buttress we avoided by going to the right on mid-5th, loose, unprotectable rock. We soloed up without packs and then hauled them up with our rope. This became a common theme on the "approach", the glacier-carved rock was largely devoid of cracks and it seemed futile to use a rope without gear. The next rock band was harder and longer, we mostly went straight up from the top of the first snowfield and I found just one gear placement in about 130 ft of climbing. I think going further left and clipping trees would have been a better option.

From here we excitedly got back on the steep snow and headed up toward the rock chute of doom. 


^ rock chute of doom

There was a big 'schund that extended out to the rock chute of doom (RCOD) forcing us to quickly cross the chute and head up the snow to the right. Throughout the approach so far we had noticed a couple small rocks coming down the chute but nothing worrisome. We climbed the snowfield and crossed the RCOD at a big boulder back onto the left snowfield/glacier. At this point it started raining lots rocks and ice, both down the chute and to the left and right of it, we quickly got under a big boulder at the base of the next rockband. We climbed the next rockband via the left side of the large boulder we sheltered under to avoid being in the shooting gallery. We looked down with distressed as more rocks and ice rained down on our approach path, meaning bailing would be a dangerous proposition as temperatures rose. 

Finally we scrambled up toward the buttress crest and excitedly put on rock shoes. We encountered a difficult 5.8ish step almost right away, which was not very well protected. 

We wanted to simulclimb a lot of the ridge, but with only a few cams and some nuts it was hard to climb for a long enough time to make simuling efficient. So we ended up doing a mixture of long pitches and soloing/scrambling. 


^ Lani after pulling a 5.9ish roof and finding a hand crack, one of very few sections of good climbing on the route. 

We climbed up rock for a while before arriving at the "snow crossing". We were able to skirt the snow on the right side, however, and avoid putting shoes/crampons on. 


^ "Is it hands?!?" - Me

^ "It's friggin hands Tyler!!" - Lani

More scrambling intermixed with 5th class led us up toward the snow arete. We noticed the skies were getting dark to the east after a remarkably clear day. After finishing a long pitch, I looked up at the rest of the route. At that moment, electricity rained down from the sky. The thunder and lightning occured simultaneously and sounded like a bomb, striking the mountain a stone's throw away. I looked down at Lani, "On belay?". We continued climbing to find a better spot to hunker down. 

By the time the storm looked like it was subsiding, it was about 7pm and we weren't sure if we would be able to top out in daylight. We found an almost tent-sized area with just a few thousand feet of exposure off the eastern edge of the buttress. After moving rocks to make a vaguely flat platform, we decided we would take up landscaping afterward and setup the first light as the rain started to fall.


^ Setting up camp in a rather precarious position

I slept comfortably despite having my feet over the edge, and we woke at first light with a plan I was not excited about. 

It was Sunday morning. Our car was in Newhalem and I was supposed to be at work on Monday morning. We had a bit of extra food but not enough to continue through the Southern Pickets. I told Lani we'd take the "fast" way out via Access Creek to Ross Dam. She didn't know what that meant luckily.

We climbed up the half snow-arete, half choss ridge.


^ On the second section of snow near the top of Fury


^ The final section of climbing to the summit area/false peak. I felt pretty maxed out in my approach shoes on this gradient

Topped out at about 7:30am. All we had to do was traverse steep heather/talus/snow to Luna Col, then up and back down to Access Creek, shwack out the creek to the trail, and then hike 17 miles out to the highway, and then hitchhike back to Newhalem to pickup Car #1, drive back to Hannegan to pickup Car #2, and then back home.

Our splits roughly:

4:15am - Wake-up from thunder bivy camp

7:30am - Topped out on Fury, called boss to tell him I may not be at work on Monday

1:30pm - Arrived at start of gully down to Access Creek

6:30pm - Arrived at Big beaver trail, made dinner

12:00am - Arrived at Ross Lake, made breakfast

4:00am - Arrived at HWY 20

6:00am - Got hitchhike to Newhalem

9:00am - Arrived at Hannegan trailhead

11:00am - Ate huge pizza in Glacier, WA

2:00pm - Crashed on a beach in Seattle, WA

We weren't moving particularly fast, but we kept moving! The Pickets are rough but soo addicting, I'm headed back this weekend :)



Gear Notes:
60m rope, a few cams, nuts, 1 axe each, crampons

Approach Notes:
In via Hannegan, out via Ross Lake Dam (not planned)
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You're a sick, sick man.  Wow.  After you realized you weren't making work on Monday,and got a call out to your boss, I'm amazed you pushed through the night.

Oh, and the last time I was by the toe of the buttress the RCOD rained enough rock to kill everyone in Marblemount.  More than once.  That memory was enough to permanently delete it from my list.   Well done getting through that in one piece!

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2 hours ago, JasonG said:

Oh, and the last time I was by the toe of the buttress the RCOD rained enough rock to kill everyone in Marblemount.  

Oof, glad I didn't experience that! The rock quality was poor, but the position was absolutely incredible. I think it's also possible to approach the buttress from the east/left side?

The hike out was all a blur, I just remember the pizza :)  

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