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[TR] Black Peak - NE Ridge 08/24/2019

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Trip: Black Peak - NE Ridge

Trip Date: 08/24/2019

Trip Report:

We climbed Black Peak via the NE Ridge, camping at the TH so we could get an early start.

GPS Tracks

5am - Leave TH
8am - Leave Wing Lake (after filling water)
9:30am - Arrive notch
10am - Start climbing ridge
10:30-11:30am - Deal with being off route in a shooting gallery
1:15pm - Summit
3:30pm - Wing Lake
6:15pm - TH

Leave from the Rainy Pass TH
Hike along the trail to Wing Lake (~4.5 mi, ~2500' gain, ~500' loss)
Strike out towards the saddle on the NW side of the peak (~1200' gain)

Gaining the saddle
In snowy conditions you can just kick steps straight up, with a short section (60m?) of particularly steep snow. See my previous TR on my attempt during snowy conditions.

In dry conditions (what we had today), it's mostly a scree climb, with a short section of blocky 3rd/4th class scrambling. We crossed two small snow patches, though we might have been able to avoid the second one. We hit the snow around 9am so it was firm but not icy. All four of us had ice axes and approach shoes and two of us had microspikes. The microspikes were definitely helpful, but not totally necessary. The ice axes were also a nice safety backup, though perhaps could also have been left behind. The steeper snow patch was short and would have run out onto the rocky patch below, but not over a cliff. 

Once through the snow, we headed up the climbers right side of the slope leading up to the saddle, staying on relatively solid blocky terrain. We trended up and slightly climbers left, eventually working our way along a high ledge to the left to the saddle. Word on the street is that if you attempt to gain the saddle by starting on the left side of the slope, there's much sketchier terrain, with more kitty litter over rock.


The climb
Once on the saddle, we walked across some scree and then soloed up a short 4th class step. We then walked across a wide ledge and more scree around the left side of the ridge until we hit a gully. There we roped up and started simul climbing, as two rope teams of two, each on 30m ropes.

We headed straight up the gully, which was mostly solid rock, until we gained a small notch. From here, we made a major routefinding mistake, dropping far back down the left side of the ridge and traversing along some easy terrain. We realized we were too far below the ridge (maybe 60m below?) and took a sharp right up a gully. Unfortunately, this turned out to be steep, loose and hard to protect. We were in two rope teams of two, and the rope movement of the first rope team dropped a ton of rocks on the second. Our last climber was hit in the helmet with a baseball sized rock. We had good communication between the teams though, and we eventually made it up the gully.

Once back on the ridge, the rest of the climbing felt overwhelmingly better. We just stayed on the actual top of the ridge absolutely as much as possible, almost always climbing up and over gendarmes instead of around them. I don't think we dropped more than 10-15m below the ridge line for the rest of the climb. It was mostly 4th or low 5th, extremely exposed climbing along the ridge. There was one ~15m steep section of rock, maybe 5.5 or 5.6. There was definitely some loose rock, though not nearly as bad as the rock in our off-route gully, and overall I found the climbing to be fun and engaging with excellent views. Near the summit, the angle eased considerably and we were able to pass quickly along 4th class terrain on the right side of the ridge until we reached the summit block. From there we soloed up to the summit. 

We did the climb essentially in two long simuls, though frequently with only one piece per rope length.

The descent

We downclimbed the same north side of the summit we'd come up, then walked around to the S ridge descent. We looked closely for cairns on the entire descent, and we were able to make the whole descent without once needing to use our hands to scramble (the first time I climbed Black via the S. Ridge, I remember I ended up doing a short section of scrambling - turns out that was unnecessary).

Gear Notes:
- 30m rope - 0.3 to 2 - doubles: 0.4 to 0.75 - 10 nuts - 8 singles - 7 doubles - 2 tied doubles - 2 cordalettes There was no place where large gear was necessary, but I was happy to have my #2 in reserve a couple times just so I could quickly place and move on. A few more pieces might have let our simuls be less run out, or we could have placed more often and done it in 3 simul pitches instead.

Approach Notes:
  • Rawk on! 2

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