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[TR] South to North Pickets Traverse- Goodell to Access Crks - Wild Hair Crack, East and West Fury, Luna 07/24/2019


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Trip: South to North Pickets Traverse- Goodell to Access Crks - Wild Hair Crack, East and West Fury, Luna

Trip Date: 07/24/2019

Trip Report:

Images stick with me.  So much so that often I'll plan a trip around a specific place that I've seen either on a screen, a print, a slide, or in just my mind, after looking at a map.  Frenzel camp is such a spot, its draw powerful enough to compel a 7 day traverse from Goodell Creek to the Big Beaver just to spend a few hours (well, a few more hours than planned) looking all around in wonder.  The yin and yang of such trips, at least for me these days, is that they aren't getting any easier.  Some of that is age, some of that is self-induced suffering from my own stubbornness of carrying a full frame dSLR and several lenses, NO MATTER WHAT.  I cursed this decision more than a few times on this trip, but when I slip that card into my desktop and get to work, it all melts away.  I know I was heard saying that I'll never do another 7 day Pickets trip, but.......

This one started like most- swatting bugs, dividing up group gear, and taking swigs from a bottle of Hunter stashed in the car.  Hey, this isn't the Olympics, and a whiskey morning jacket can do wonders for morale.  My pack was way too large, as usual, but it turned out I did an even worse job than normal of packing food. This would be apparent on day 7 as I packed probably 4 lbs of extra food out of the Big Beaver AFTER spending the week trying to give it away.  I really should be better at this by now.

Anyways, the pain began.... and continued.  By the time we reached the Chopping Block col I was thoroughly wrung out and cramping, trying to look as carefree as Tyler (who had climbed J'berg THE DAY BEFORE).  I wasn't fooling anybody though, especially myself. So, I went off to get water for the group and have a good cry (Well, maybe on the inside, a little).  Recomposed, I came back and guzzled some whiskey.  Much better.  Next, through the wonders of modern technology, I cheerily texted my wife to tell her how much fun I was having and that it was just an easy stroll over the ridge the next day. Oh, and maybe she could move the boat to a day later?  I was going to need it.

The easy stroll the next morning started with some talus side-hilling and steep snow traversing that led to more boulder hopping and a general team mutiny as we all sought a line that was superior to our teammates.  Somewhere in there we spooked a bear (surprising for all involved), met a party of ladies headed to Terror ("The Terror Twins"- not actually twins), and had some fun ascending the the steep snow and "loosey goosey" rock to the Ottohorn-Himmelgeisterhorn col.  Whew. Gearing up, we joked about who was going to lead the first pitch.  "Not I" came the reply from General Weakness (AKA me).  Tyler gamely stepped up and promptly gunned us all to the the false summit before we knew what happened, including a sparsely protected section of off-width that he exclaimed was "fun" as we all clenched our butts in solidarity.  It is quite a climb though, and my hat's off to John, Silas and Russ for establishing such a gem on probably the best rock in the Pickets.  Highly recommended!

Next stop was Frenzel camp after the usual moaty rappel shenanigans off the col. Suffice to say, the camp didn't disappoint, it truly is a remarkable spot.  I'll leave it at that.  Listening to the weather radio that evening, General Weakness declared that the next day the team would remain in Frenzel camp to wait out a squall coming through.  Coincidentally, it also meant that the General's load, which had to be carried over Outrigger and to the summit of East Fury, would get a tad lighter.  Post dinner activities that first night included feeling sorry for the Terror Twins who we could see having an unplanned(?), open bivy on the NF of Terror (photo below).   Tough ladies! 

The next day was spent lounging at one of the best camps I've had the pleasure of staying in, watching the weather deteriorate, and keeping tabs on the Twins as they ascended up into the mists. Packs were lightened, whiskey stores reduced, and tired legs rested.  It was a great spot to spend a weather day.   That night, the forecasted rain and wind arrived and we were all glad that we weren't up on the summit of East Fury.  This was especially true the next day as the weather continued to linger into the afternoon.  Fearing that our chances for West Fury were fading, we opted to pack up in the mist and grope our way over to the the summit of Outrigger just as the weather began to improve.  It was still harder than it should have been to get off Outrigger and ascend to the summit of East Fury.  The General arrived crabby and didn't relish carving out a platform in the snow, melting snow, and generally having to pretend to be a tough alpine climber.  Thankfully I had one of those  bourgeois NeoAir mattresses to insulate my sorry ass from the snow and provide some much needed rest.  I can't imagine spending THREE DAYS up here in a flapping megamid. 

West Fury.  Why?  Well, why not?  We were here, we had the time, and in the words of @Trent, "It must be climbed!".  And so we did.  It is actually a lot better than it looks from East Fury, but still takes some time and a rope (if you're partial to such things, as I am).  I think it was about 7 hours RT East Fury to East Fury, including about an hour on the summit.  We were the 20th party to sign in, I believe, but I don't think I saw @wayne in there?  So maybe it was the 21st ascent?  Anyway, always cool to see the complete ascent history in a register.

And then it was down, down, up, down, and over, over to Luna col and the comfortable camps there.  At this point a weight was lifted from the team since it was all pretty much downhill with the pigs and we were on friendly and familiar ground.  Watching the sunset, listening to tunes, and chatting with a team from Salem headed to East Fury the next day was a very civilized end to a few days of ruggedness.  The last few drops of whiskey sealed it- tomorrow we would set the alarms and watch sunrise from Luna.  Because, why not?

Well, I could think of a few reasons when my alarm went off the next morning.  But I gamely tried forget all of them and keep @tylerhs01 in my sights as he streaked for the summit like a well-chiseled alpinist fired from a cannon.  I failed, of course, but arrived on the false summit in time to capture the scene pretty well.  Like most places along our trip, though, pictures really don't do it justice.  But no matter, the summit of Luna has 4G now (??!!) so you can pretend that the pictures you're sending everyone are EXACTLY HOW IT IS, RIGHT NOW.  No wonder the Luna XC zone is full most weekends in high summer.

Listening to the weather radio again at Luna col, more rain was on the horizon so we broke camp and headed down into the head of Access (Axes? Pickaxes?) Creek.  Again, this turned out to be a good move, driven home our final morning when I awoke to find my mattress floating in a bass pond while rain pounded on the fly.  D'oh!  Access creek is brushy, but at least it was going to be wet.  We were long out of whiskey as well, so it was going to be a character building descent which, in the case of General Weakness, might actually be a good thing.  But that extra character was never beaten into the weak General since Tyler had a gpx track that he had recorded a few weeks prior WHEN HE CLIMBED LUNA (??!!) on a casual three day romp with some family friends (a record for shortest time between Luna ascents?).  We even found bits of a trail!  And a couple large logs across the Big Beaver!  And a freshly logged and brushed Big Beaver Trail!  It was all just so reasonable, right down to the customary dip in the lake while waiting for the water taxi.

 I guess there is always hope that the General will get some character beat into him on the next one.  Until then....

(Captions refer to the photo(s) below the words- seems to work for scrolling? Let me know if not)

The Mac Spires:


John approaches camp:


Der Shuksan:


"Has the General always been this weak?":


@tylerhs01 photo of us headed up to the O-H col, on the fun part (it ended in less fun when the snow ran out):


Wild Hair Crack!!  Tyler gunning us up the crazy good rock:



Almost at the summit of the Himmelgeisterhorn... @tylerhs01 and @Trent contemplate the drop off each side:


@Trent on the way to Frenzel camp


I think this is the West Peak of the Southern Pickets?  I could be wrong:


The top of the "Thread of Gneiss" remains unclimbed to the summit of the East Twin Needle.  Will you be the one?:


For the full story behind this photo (and you really need the full story, trust me), read THIS:


The Terror Twins building character:


While the General fluffs his pillow:


Looking past Terror to the NF of the Mac Spires:


Frenzel Camp:


Jack as the weather comes in:




Watching the storm brewing on Fury.  Glad we aren't up there!:


But this is the next day and it wasn't a lot better. Getting wet and wild on the way to the summit of Outrigger:


Figuring out how to get off Outrigger as the weather begins to clear. Luna behind:


The team approaching the summit of East Fury:


(L)Uh, does this really need to be climbed?  "West Fury MUST BE CLIMBED!"


Summit camp lyfe on East Fury:


Well, I guess it is time to climb this thing:


Auspicious start to the day, looking east from the summit of East Fury:


@Trent photo of @tylerhs01 and the General leaving the summit of East Fury heading west:


@tylerhs01 posing effectively:


The FA party carried a brass can and this register up there.  Impressive!:


Much of the way to and from West Fury is better than it looks, but still requires care:


I was much faster back then:


Larrabee and American Border Peaks:


@tylerhs01 on the true summit of Luna at sunrise:


Fury at first light:




McMillan Spires:


Worth waking up early for every 12 years whether I want to or not:


You really should go climb both North and South Hozomeen:


The Big Beaver pointed right at Jack:


West Fury (L) and the team walking towards Elephant Butte (R):


I think I saw an old Crowder or Tabor photo from this vantage many years ago.  The hook was set:




Last Camp:


Dark Eyed Junco with a good meal:


Mount Prophet.  The prominent rib on the right is known as Jacob's Ladder :wink: :


Good times crossing the Big Beaver.  PM me for a GPS point if you need one:


Gear Notes:
The full kit- ice axe, Al crampons, helmet, whiskey, etc. One 70m half rope sufficient for Wild Hair. Medium rack to 2"

Approach Notes:
Crescent Creek climber's path to Access Creek Climber's path. Both are getting more defined by the year. Expect Shenanigans between the two.

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1 hour ago, Alisse said:

Definitely one of the most entertaining TRs by you that I've read

I like the qualifiers!  :lmao:And that your quote made me realize how terribly I proofed it.  Fixed that, thanks!

OK party people, captions are pretty much done, though likely with errors!

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Thanks @wayne, glad you liked it. 

We had more than a bit of time at Frenzel camp to contemplate your mind melting ascent of Mongo Ridge.  So rad, and so out there, and so scary!  It will stand the test of time no doubt, maybe even more audacious than those mythical Doorish routes.

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whoa, neato trip, entertaining write-up, and fantastic pics!  that Frenzel camp looks five star--both in your pics and from Himmelgeisterhorn a few years ago--must get there one of these days.  any berries to feast one along the way? 

hope the Terror Twins made it out ok.  and, hahaha: "You really should go climb both North and South Hozomeen".  General's orders like that ensure mutiny.

appreciate you taking the time for the report.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Wow! A great TR. Your story adds a really nice human dimension to the fantastic visuals, which we all have come to expect from you. So no more pics-and-done TRs, @JasonG, you've set a new standard for yourself! Thanks for putting in the time and effort.

I miss the Pickets. Must get back. Will get back. But the depth of suffering and density of objective hazards give pause.  Only true masochists and seasoned alpinists need apply.

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