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Kyle M

[TR] Bryant Peak, Melakwa Flows - Possible FAs: Ice routes on West Face Bryant Peak (WI4, 60-70 degree snow) and Melakwa Flows (WI4-) 01/27/2019

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Trip: Bryant Peak, Melakwa Flows - Possible FAs: Ice routes on West Face Bryant Peak (WI4, 60-70 degree snow) and Melakwa Flows (WI4-)

Trip Date: 01/27/2019

Trip Report:

On the warmest weekend of a warm winter here in Washington, Jacob Krantz and I set out to explore some undocumented ice lines near Snoqualmie Pass I had spotted earlier in the winter. We did some research on the internet, Beckey Guide, and WA Ice guidebook but found nothing about these climbs, so these are possible FAs or FRAs at least. We climbed an awesome 4 pitch route on the West Face of Bryant Peak to the summit and a fun 2 pitch route in an area I've been calling the Melakwa Flows. The Melakwa Flows are an incredible group of ice flows of varying grades near Melakwa Lake. It's mind boggling to think we could not find anything about climbs in the Melakwa Flows, considering they are probably one of the densest concentration of reasonably accessible ice climbs in WA, especially impressive considering the warm temps lately.

Hot Tubbs (WI4, 60-70 degree snow) West Face Bryant Peak

Although only 4-5 pitches, we thought this route was awesome, offering a substantial amount of moderate ice, steep snow, and wild exposed summit pitch. It packed a lot of punch for such a short and accessible route. We also managed to stay in the shade the whole time, starting around 10 am. We'd love to see others get after it and some other possible ice lines on the west face!

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  • P1: Climb thin low angle ice to the vertical WI4 curtain. Send the curtain then continue up easier terrain to set a belay in fat ice.
  • P2: Climb up progressively steepening fat ice to a WI3+ bulge. Above, continue up another 20-30m on 45 degree snow to a group of trees for the belay.
  • P3: This is a long pitch (~80 m). Simul climb up snow, trending left as the cliffs force you. Establish a belay on a snag at the notch on the spine of the North Ridge. Watch cornices here.
  • P4: Traverse right across wildly steep and exposed snow (60-70 degrees) on the north face, using trees for protection. At the third and tallest tree, make a few thin ice or mixed moves up a slab and continue straight up another 10-20m to the summit ridge.

Descent: hike down the west ridge a few hundred feet until it flattens a little, then make a single 60 m rappel off a big tree down to the bottom of the west face.

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Approaching the first pitch. Top of the flow is part of the second pitch.

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Jacob crushes the WI4 crux.

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Looking up at the second pitch. Navigating between the two pillars at the top felt like WI3+ to me on lead. The ice here was FAT!

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Simulclimbing bomber snow on the third pitch.

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Steep exposed snow traverse to start pitch 4 out onto the north face. It was super unconsolidated and unsupportive. Would have been terrifying if it wasn't for all the trees!

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Jacob finishes the last bit of steep snow to the summit ridge.

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Walking along the wonderful summit ridge of Bryant, Kaleetan and Chair in the background.

The Line of Fire (WI4-) Melakwa Flows

These routes are on a cliff band just north west of Upper Melakwa Lake, easily visible from the upper lake. They look like they have considerable avalanche danger above, so beware. Even though we approached in the dark from our camp Sunday morning at Melakwa, we still only got in one two pitch route before this face got blasted by the sun and snow started coming down. The ice was often pretty soft to take screws, but I imagine if you hit this area in a cold snap or even just normal temps it would be incredible! It is a total ice playground, with easily a dozen routes 150-300 ft long ranging from a rambly WI3 to free standing WI5 pillars! There were incredibly fat sections of ice by WA standards. We hope this inspires others to go explore this gold mine of WA ice climbs! 

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  • P1: find your way through mixed terrain or thin ice up to the base of the FATT pillar. The pillar is vertical or near vertical for 15 feet and super bomber, WI4-. Make a belay in some thick ice across the snow ramp above. You could skip this first pitch by ascending the snow ramp to the right.
  • P2: A long pitch (~150ft) of rambling WI2-3 terrain, with at least half a dozen WI3 steps one to two body lengths in height. It's choose-your-own-adventure here. Total type 1 fun. Except for at this point, I was on lead getting pummeled by huge clumps of snow. It was still awesome. We ended at a big tree anchor.

Descent: Single 60 m rappel down to the steep snowfield ramp, down climb as quickly as possible to get out of the line of fire.

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Climbing steep snow to the base. We took the pillar in center right of the photo.DSC00878.thumb.JPG.e040e6ae03715934942479b89947b8d6.JPG

Jacob led up this thin section to gain a ramp leading to the pillar. We don't recommend this start. There were other options to the left.

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Approaching the beautiful pillar. So big and wide.

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An abundance of options on the second pitch. There's even more rambly ice to the left out of this photo.

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Me leading some awesome WI3 fun. This was right before I started getting pummeled I believe.

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Looking down from the top of P2. It looks like mostly snow, but you cannot see all the little ice steps from above. It was very high quality.

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Approximate location of the flows.

As temps cool down next week, I think these climbs will just get better and better. If there's awesome WA ice on a blistering hot weekend like this, it ain't so bad! So get out there and send, WA ice climbers!

Want more beta and photos? Check out my full trip report at https://kyleandkylie.com/2019/01/27/new-snoqualmie-pass-ice-climbs/.

Gear Notes:
We used 9 screws of varying lengths (much of the ice is quite thick actually, but still bring the stubbies), 1 picket, 8 slings, a few nuts. Double 60 m ropes are nice for the rappels, but there are walk off options also. Prepare to make you own rap anchor if you don't fine ours. We brought cams and pitons also but never really used them.

Approach Notes:
Either approach up the Denny Creek Trail to Melakwa Lake or over Bryant col (north saddle of Bryant) via Great Scott Basin from Alpental like we did. It took us 3 hours with overnight packs from Alpental to the West Face of Bryant, and about 3 hours from the Melakwa Flows back to Alpental with similarly heavy packs. Note there is considerable avalanche danger on these approaches, so proper gear and training is recommended.
  • Snaffled 1
  • Rawk on! 4

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Nice going guys! And thanks for an excellent TR. I can hear a bunch of files rasping in the audience.

 

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sweet!  and the Bryant photo appears to show at least two more well-defined lines! (rasping file & heavy breathing...)

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Great find - thanks for sharing! Kudos to you for making the discover and getting after it. My hunch is that it probably takes the somewhat unusual combination of conditions that we've had recently to bring these lines into shape, and that may have at least something to do with the lack of activity. Having said that - you had the boots on the ground, so what do you think? Are these lines that will reliably form up and be in condition most winters?

IIRC - there was an area that was discovered in the early 2000's that seemed to get lots of interest at the time, and I haven't heard much about it since. Not sure if it's because the conditions needed for it to form up were kind of ephemeral, or that I haven't swung a tool since 2008. Maybe some folks that have been more active can chime in.

http://www.alpinedave.com/ice/ice_climbing4/ice_climbing4.htm

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Thanks! Although I do not have multi year evidence, I think the Melakwa Flows will come in regularly each winter, unless it is super cold or ridiculously warm. The large snowfield above it to feed meltwater, its direct solar aspect, and its relatively high elevation of 5000 ft mean that it will likely experience extensive freeze thaw cycles at some point during the winter or spring and form. They might not be as fat many years, but I would expect them to be there. They were already forming in mid November this year when I first saw them. The line on Bryant Peak I see to be more ephemeral and probably a result of the warmer temps we have had this winter. It needs probably many weeks of good freeze thaw to form, but it does always have that snowfield above to feed it.

The routes on Lennox that Alpine Dave discovered look very cool and hopefully I will get out to them in time. I believe they are just as good as when he climbed them, but people are conservative and generally like to follow where there are recent trip reports and where others are going. The climbs on Lennox have a few things not going for them: significant approach (compared to say, Alpental ice), significant avalanche hazard, and you cannot see them from a major road or trail. That last point is maybe the biggest factor. Almost all popular ice climbing in WA (and maybe elsewhere, but cannot really say) is easily visible from a road or trail. People don't want to potentially "waste" a whole day carrying their tools and rack around and not get to climb anything. If we assume that ice forms in the same density elsewhere in the Cascades as it does in the established areas, then there's hundreds of lines waiting to be climbed out there, even without snowmobile access. Part of our goal with these climbs was to show what potential is out there in our backyard and inspire others to explore. We are not by any means good or even experienced ice climbers, but we are young and naive, and that naivety led us to think that there was more ice out there than just the Alpental Valley, even on a 50 degree weekend. And it was only one valley over...

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Having eyed the flows above Melakawa Lakes while doing the Chair Pk circumnav on multiple occasions, I would say they form often, if not every winter. I believed they would offer some fun climbing, but, being a bit long in approach for a day trip in the short daylight hours of winter, and the prospect of hauling camping gear and ice climbing kit seeming like excessive effort, I contented myself with admiring them as I skinned by. I might have to reconsider. Hats off to you guys for getting after it.

Edited by bigeo

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Good to hear some multiyear perspective! Skinning by the look interesting, but I did not realize how big and awesome they were until I got underneath them. They make the ice routes in the Alpental Valley look short and thin by comparison (although the Alpental climbs are coming in well this week). They're definitely worth the approach in my mind.

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The stuff above melawka lake I've never heard of anyone climbing nor have I climbed them (though I did the stuff lower down, keekwulee falls etc) so I'd say good job getting out and climbing something! 

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