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[TR] Cabinet Mountains - Multiple 03/21/2020


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Trip: Cabinet Mountains - Multiple

Trip Date: 03/21/2020

Trip Report:

I just wanted to share some photos and descriptions from the last couple ice seasons in the Cabinet Mountains.  Anyone who got the 2019 AAJ or Alpinist 64 might have already seen pictures of the area.  There have been a handful of Spokane area climbers putting up routes over the last couple seasons.  All the climbing has been done out of Granite Lake which is near Libby, MT in the Cabinet Mountains.  The climbing is quite varied, from single pitch WI3 to 1000ft hard ice and mixed routes.  The area has been divided up into 3 big areas….A Peak, The Thunderdome, and Three Tiers.  A picture is worth a thousand words so I will just resort to numerous pictures instead of more text……let the stoke begin for next season!!


Looking across Granite Lake with A Peak towering 4000 feet above.  The Thunderdome is the large sub dome in the center of the picture.



The Thunderdome!!  Some of the best ice routes anywhere around.



Scott Coldiron and Matt Cornell on the first ascent of Mad Max, WI5+ (8 pitches).



Nate Kenney climbing a steep skinny pillar called War Boys, WI5+.  



Scott Coldiron climbing a crazy pitch called Underworld, WI3.  This route is 20m long and entirely inside an ice cave 500 feet up the Thunderdome!



Another view of the spectacular A Peak and the upper wall of the Thunderdome.  The big ice in the center of the wall is Road Warrior, WI5, M5 (8 pitches).



Looking up the huge gash on A Peak.  Scott Coldiron and Jess Roskelley put up the route Canmore Wedding Party AI5, M7, 750m, which ascends this central gash.  The climb got nominated for a Piolet d'Or in 2019. Note: the large sheet of ice on the bottom rock band is still unclimbed as of 2020.



Looking up the wide start to the "Blaster Routes".  Blaster, WI4 is five pitches of ice while Master Blaster WI4, M5, (10 pitches) continues to the top of the Thunderdome.



Looking up from the lake at the "Three Tiers".  These cliffs have about 20-25 ice and mixed routes that have been done.



A closer view of the the ice (during a fat season) on the center of the 2nd Tier with the 3rd Tier above.



Scott Coldiron on the first ascent of Toast, WI5 on the 2nd Tier.



Zach Turner leading The Dag, WI3 on the 2nd Tier......a super fun mellow corner.



A shot of some of the 3rd Tier routes.  Gyro Captain, WI4, goes up the ice on the right while Pig Killer, WI3, takes a line up some of the ice on the left.  Multiple possibilities exist for mixed routes connecting the lower ice flows in the center up through the rock to the hanging ice above.



Zach Tuner rappelling off Max's Bloodline, WI4, with the impressive routes on Thunderdome in the background.



Jonathan Klaucke climbing funky ice on Cheedo, WI3-4, on the 2nd Tier.



Looking across at the right hand end of the Three Tiers from the Thunderdome.  The wide flow in the center is the start of Tomorrow Land, WI3+, 3 pitches, while the ice up on the right is Devil's Brownies, WI4, 2 pitches, and then farther right is Scales of Justice, WI4/5.



Zach Tuner on the skinny pillar start to Splendid Angharad, WI5.  The flow farther left is called Capable, WI4.



Looking up the 2nd pitch of Tomorrow Land, WI3+ on the first ascent.



This fat climb called Nightrider, WI4, 3 pitches, is on the far left of the Thunderdome.  It is a bit longer of a hike from the lake but the route is a stellar moderate!



Scott Coldiron climbing the crux 2nd pitch of Nightrider, WI4.



Brian White starting up the classic Toast, WI5 on the 2nd Tier.  The ice beyond him is the route Cheedo, WI3-4.



Zack Turner on the sharp end during the first ascent of Grease Rat, WI4....a really fun route on the 3rd Tier.



Matt Cornell working through the crux of Sarcophagus of Lies, M6.  The route continues up and left until you can stem between the rock and the ice dagger above.  This is a stellar line on the 3rd Tier with "quality climbing as good as Come and Get It" according to Matt.



Brian White putting up a short route called Mystery Gas, WI3 on the 3rd Tier. 



Syd Atencio and Nate Kenney climbing up Devil's Brownies, WI4, on the Three Tiers.  Granite Lake and the surrounding basin in the background.



I think one of my favorite things about the climbing here is the views....it just never gets old!!  Every time I walk across Granite Lake I have to pause and just look up.  Hopefully this will get some people stoked about climbing up there because it is a beautiful spot with fantastic climbing.  Happy to answer any beta questions or run them through Scott.

Gear Notes:
Ice screws......rock gear for mixed routes.

Approach Notes:
All climbs are best accessed from the Granite Lake trailhead. In winter it is a 9 mile hike/skin into the lake with about 2000 ft of elevation gain. Count on 4-9 hours depending on conditions. From downtown Libby, take Highway 2 east one mile to Shaugnessy road. Take a right and follow this for .7 miles before turning left onto Snowshoe road. After 1/2 mile take a right turn onto Granite Lake road. In .8 miles stay left on Granite Lake road and continue for 4 miles. This is the end of the pavement and where the snowplows stop in the winter. The Granite Lake trailhead is still another 3 miles but you will have to walk/skin/snowmobile that distance in the winter. There is usually plenty of room to park several cars just be mindful not to block the road or any of the neighbor’s driveways. From here follow the snow covered road for 3 miles to the actual Granite Lake trailhead. The road is mostly level with a few gradual climbs (400 feet of elevation gain in 3 miles). From the trailhead hike/skin the trail 6 miles up to the lake.
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I just wanted to say that despite 2022 being a thin year overall there is still great climbing to be had at Granite Lake.  And there have been multiple groups over the last couple weeks in there so people are getting after it!  We climbed Mad Max (WI4) and Road Warrior (WI5, M5) in back to back days last week.  The original crux pitch of Mad Max (WI5+) still hasn't ever come back in but the corner adjacent to the face pitch is in every year.  This still climbs the line but keeps the grade at a moderate WI4.  This route is probably the best long WI4 route I have done (7 pitches).  Road Warrior was pretty challenging as the crux mixed pitch didn't have enough ice to protect or swing into but just enough verglass to make drytooling VERY hard.  Be prepared for some awkward chimney/offwidth moves with tools and crampons!  Or just climb Blackwell Falls (WI5, 4 pitches) and keep it on the ice!



Adrien starting up Road Warrior (Blackwell Falls is the name for just climbing the ice).  The ice over on the right is the Mad Max Line.




Adrien starting up the crux M5 pitch of Road Warrior with the chimney looming above.



Adrien leading pitch 5 of Mad Max a super cool thin ice WI4 pitch.

Edited by mthorman
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