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[TR] Broken Top - North Face 03/04/2019


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Trip: Broken Top - North Face

Trip Date: 03/04/2019

Trip Report:

Broken Top Circumnavigation 3/3/19 – 3/5/19


Mallory and I decided to take advantage of the impressive snow coverage this year and attempt a route that probably doesn’t come in during your average Central Oregon winter: the north face of Broken Top.


On Sunday afternoon we skinned out to just north of Ball Butte and established a cushy basecamp in the rolling hills before Broken Hand. Life above the inversion layer was good and our stoke was very high. Alarms set for 4:30am, we fell asleep under the brilliant stars of the clear, cold night.


By the time we were moving Monday morning, the sun was cresting the horizon and providing some much needed navigational illumination. We cruised around No Name Lake and glided our way onto the Bend glacier with little difficulty. Espying a likely looking couloir with two noticeable steps, we skinned up to its base and dug a snow pit to assess snowpack stability. Green light: send time. 9am.


Our first crux was encountered very quickly: a gaping bergschrund at the terminus of the Bend glacier. I was surprised to find it so open with all the recent storm snow but no matter: we roped up and Mallory led up a suitable snowbridge. I took the next pitch, quickly fired up 20M of moderate snow and found a bomber ice screw placement in a flow on the right side of the couloir. I wanted to get to the base of the first step but our 30M rope ran out, so we simul-climbed another 30M and I dug out a stance to bring Mallory up.


While I furtively prayed against getting a pair of crampons to the face and attempted to shield myself from the barrage of ice and snow giving way to Mallory’s masterful axe swings above, he scrambled his way up 15ft of ice and fired in a mediocre screw: “It’s a bit thin up here, I’ve got the screw about half way in, what do you think?” “Clip it, don’t whip it, bud!” He sent the next 10ft of the step and continued onto the snow above, sunk a picket, and brought me up. The ice step challenged me, and looking at the rock step ahead I was pretty skeptical. Mallory grabbed the rope without hesitation and set off on pitch 4, placing another picket below the step but was completely unable to find protection in the 20ft rock groove. No matter, he’s a crusher, dry tooled his way up, and buried his axe to bring me along.


It was about time I started pulling my weight so off I went, laboriously breaking trail up 60+ degree powder snow. From below we’d scoped deeking climber’s right above the couloir, but looking at the snow to the right which was even steeper than what I was on, I decided the exposed rock slope to my left looked more inviting. An absolutely worthless orange Metolius gave me the mental fortitude to quest into this vertical unknown, alternatively yanking blocks of volcanic cascade choss off the mountainside and finding some of the most bomber jugs I could possibly hope for.  This absolutely gripping pitch (not suitable for your budding 5.8 leader) led me onto more steep snow slopes above, upon which I simul climbed with Mallory once more until the snow got deep enough to dig out a stance and belay him through the rock section.


We were nearing the top of our route but time was ticking, and fast. Getting ready to take off again, I said, “I’m going 30 meters and I’ll place a picket. Start climbing with me, and after another 30, I’ll put in another picket. From there, I’m going to the summit.” 120M later, I crested onto the NW ridge and threw Mallory a long-awaited belay. We were ecstatic with the send, but very aware of the descent ahead, the setting sun, and our immense hunger/dehydration. 5pm.


Letting go of the true summit 60M above us and our dreams of steep descents into the Crook crater, we guzzled some water, split a Clif bar, and started down the NW ridge. We quickly decided on traversing the west bowl above Green Lakes, the SW slope, and the Crater Creek drainage back to basecamp. We transitioned at lightning speed and I took off to find a way through the mini ridges that populate the top of the west bowl. “No, stooopppppp!” I twist around and see one of Mallory’s skis rocketing down the slope, blatantly ignoring the engaged ski brake. At least I got some nice turns down to Green Lakes, and we resigned ourselves to the headlamp skin. Basecamp provided the essential shelter and water, and our exhausted bodies drifted off to a blissful sleep under yet another beautifully clear, starry night. 9pm.


We skinned back to Dutchman on Tuesday morning. The one hitch in our trip: we couldn’t turn on phones and notify friends of an extended stay in the backcountry. A huge thanks to those who were concerned about us on Monday night.  Upon return to civilization, we heartily enjoyed one of the most delicious burrito I’ve ever tasted at the Bachelor nordic center. An epic adventure chock full of unbelievable views, great friends, astounding courage, dogged perseverance, and most of all that deep feeling of humility in the mountains that relentlessly tugs at the heartstrings and brings us back again and again.

Gear Notes:
We took 2 pickets, wanted 4. Took 2 screws, could have taken 3. Went way too heavy on the rock gear.

Approach Notes:
Watch out for the cliff NW of No Name Lake
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