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[TR] Argonaut Peak - Northwest Arete 06/21/2020

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Posted (edited)

Trip: Argonaut Peak - Northwest Arete

Trip Date: 06/21/2020

Trip Report:


Climbed the Northwest Arete on Argonaut over this solstice weekend, with camp on snow in the north basin.  The rock climb was snow free, and the approach snow couloir was in good shape (though starting to deteriorate and with fresh rockfall - more on that below).  This is an enjoyable and under-appreciated route.


I'm posting this trip report mainly to provide an update on seasonal conditions as well as to alert folks to a hazard in the approach snow couloir.  The couloir is still very much "in", though a couple holes are starting to emerge as of June 21.  More importantly, as detailed in the photo below, there is fresh rockfall near the top of the couloir on the right side, with several microwave-sized (and a couple refrigerator-sized) boulders perched precariously on melting snow.  This rockfall has scoured the right side of the couloir and induced an avalanche below; the avalanche debris is not visible in others' photos (e.g., on WTA site) from earlier in June, so it is definitely recent.   Therefore, I would strongly recommend staying to the left side of the couloir if you attempt this route yet this year.  (I would guess the left side would be passable for another week+).    


We did the rock climb as 5 long(ish) pitches, and found it a terrific climb.  Though not sustained, each pitch has its share of solid 5.6 moves -- some of them steep, exposed, even thrilling --  but all of them reasonably protected and with straight-forward (enough) route-finding.  (If you need a bit more guidance than that, Tom's beta here is excellent, as others have noted.)

Finding the rappels is, contrary to some claims, also straight-forward, but if you'd like a diagram to boost your confidence, see also the annotated photo here.   Lastly, we found the gully we took on the descent to be arduous (due to loose scree) at the top, but then straight-forward face-in down-climbing, followed by plunge-stepping (glissadable for you thrill seekers) directly back down to the north basin (and our camp).


Gear Notes:
We took a set of nuts (very useful) and a single set of cams from fingers up to 3 inches, with doubles in the 1" and 1.25" (purple and green) sizes. Used all the cams on at least one pitch. Ice axe, crampons.

Approach Notes:
Beta on routefinding for mountaineers creek is ample elsewhere, so won't cover that here.  Up higher, snow coverage on the slabs below the glacier is just *barely* continuous, but we didn't feel like testing the tiny snow-bridges, so we did a short section of 4th class (low 5th?) wet slab/corner climbing as noted in the photo.  On descending the next day, we instead found (and reinforced) a rappel sling on a tree in the next weakness/gully to climber's left (north) along the slab, where one rappel got us back down to snow. 

Edited by pugetgold
Fix date in photo
  • Rawk on! 2

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Awesome.  Been on my list for a number of years....thanks for the reminder!

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