Jump to content

[TR] Sperry Peak - East Face Gully Attempt 11/29/2019

Kyle M

Recommended Posts

Trip: Sperry Peak - East Face Gully Attempt

Trip Date: 11/29/2019

Trip Report:


Sorry I didn't post this for a few months, but basically I was scared of others going up there, turning around and seeing the massive ice flows on Sloan, and poaching our prize. But what's done is done so now I want to share what I learned from an attempt of the East Face Gully of Sperry over Thanksgiving 2019.


This trip report (http://www.nwhikers.net/forums/viewtopic.php?t=7980139) caught my attention and Sperry became the focus of my fall alpine efforts. The east face is a beautiful 3000 ft wall with just an hour approach! This gully looked absolutely sweet, like some moderate mixed/snow/ice route. This was the only report I could ever find, so it was hard to know what to expect.

Fall 2019 was very dry for us. At elevations below 5000 ft, there was no snow come mid November. Then, right before Thanksgiving, it dumped about a foot down to 3000 ft and got extremely cold (highs in the 30s in the lowlands). Good for ice right?


Sperry. Approach slabs on the left. Gully obvious in the middle.

Daniel and I drove up to the trailhead and hiked into Wirtz Basin around sunrise. We could immediately tell we were in trouble. The 3rd to 4th class approach slabs looked like they were covered in thin verglass and fresh powder. We started up them, but decided we wouldn't be soloing them (Daniel was pretty new to ice climbing at this point) so we tried going through the dense trees to the right. This was impossible, running into steep cliffs and powder on no base. We bailed back to the slabs.


Typical climbing in the approach slabs.

We broke out the rope and I led up the right side of the slabs on WI1-2 R where sometimes your crampons would bust through to the rock. It was very insecure, albeit easy. Just not what Hyalite prepares you for. I belayed Daniel off a small bush and then we scrambled up higher. Then to the right there was a little WI3 near vertical step for 20-30 ft that might have taken 6 cm screws. I now realize this was the "little icy step" Jim referred to in his trip report. Damn, those guys were tough. Another veggie belay brought Daniel up.

The next section involved climbing atop branches while getting soaked in powder. Then we traversed across more 3rd class slabs covered in fresh powder in crampons. My crampons were brand new and suffered dearly.

Finally, we were staring up the gut at the gully, around 4000 ft. It was near noon and the strong sun was causing snow to constantly cascade down the gully. It looked absolutely icy and beautiful! Certainly one of the most beautiful gullies I've ever seen, but we were too late to continue. The powder would have been heinious.



We stopped here. But the ice looked so good!


Sloan, with the lines already forming.

We rapped off trees back down to the valley floor. We took a walk further up Wirtz Basin and admired the incredible geometric features of Sperry. It is truly one of the underrated great mountains of the North Cascades. There were all of these cutting edge mixed ice routes that went 1000 ft up the SE face in the deep chimneys and cuts, but then they just petered out into nothing. There were even some chimneys like hundreds of feet deep and perfectly angular. I could just imagine Colin Haley deep in the darkness, climbing some great new route. I'd love to come back in the summer and climb one of the huge 2000 ft rock routes Beckey mentions that never get climbed anymore. I think the east face gully could be a great summer scramble, 3000 ft of scrambling with basically no approach. This is an incredible mountain. This looks like an incredible route. We'll be back!



Inspiring SE side of Sperry. I've seen another mountain like it.


Serious ice potential further up the valley.


Cool easier ice potential up on Morning Star.


Great north face of Sperry. Wonder if that route has seen a repeat?


North face Big Four.

Lessons learned:

* this is a tricky route to nail in proper conditions. If that low snow hadn't fallen, the approach slabs would've been dry (like they were for Jim), but would the gully had been filled in? Probably not this year. We needed more snowfall above 4000 ft. Or if just a bunch of snow falls to 3000 ft and consolidates, but you can still drive to the trailhead, that'd work also. Or just climb this route in mid winter consolidated conditions with a sled access.

* The approach slabs are really the only way to go. Don't try to go around.

* those old timers are tough mothertruckers.

Gear Notes:
A few screws, some rock gear.

Approach Notes:
Short, probably one hour if you can drive to the trailhead. But the slabs can be cruxy...

Edited by Kyle M
  • Like 5
  • Rawk on! 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Lovely. I've spent a lot of time looking at that face for reasons you might guess. It looked too ledgy and brushy and low angle to be of much interest for rock climbing, plus the fact that if you trundled things off the face they could easily hit people on the trail. Your ice line concept seems like a good idea. The window would be small each year given the seasonal road closure. I look forward to seeing more of your adventures up there!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...

In the mid 90's me and a partner tried unsuccessfully climbing the NE ridge in winter, with Marko and my brother making it aprox 2/3's up before bailing. I agree that in the summer it doesn't catch your imagination but during the winter, especially from the access road it's pretty impressive looking. Although in late September 2001 we did do a summer route that was left of the large ledge below the east face starting with a 5.7/8 twin cracks on a slabby face. It was long(we summited at dark IV 5.8).   the climbing was pretty good and brush free. I believe was part of the established route there but I thik we did some variations. I'd recommend it.  The above comment by Rad..... "plus the fact that if you trundled things off the face they could easily hit people on the trail." sums up the rape bolting/route setting generation. different times.  Marko and partner also "almost" completed a winter route on one of the North face gullies( I guess kinda insecure/scary?)

Edited by kukuzka1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 months later...
  • 1 month later...

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Create New...