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[TR] Blum - North ridge 08/15/2020


JonParker
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Trip: Blum - North ridge

Trip Date: 08/15/2020

Trip Report:

 

A few thoughts from our climb of Blum’s north ridge last weekend.

 

Arrived at the ranger station around 10:30 on Friday, with a budget of about an hour for waiting for permit. I started about 30 places back in line and made it to about 24 places behind in that hour. Doing the math it was an easy call to just head out to the unpopular Blum zone sans permit rather than wait another 2+ hours. Would be nice if NCNP got their shit together with the permit situation someday.

The approach hike is short on views but it’s a beautiful forest. Its shade was much appreciated this hot weekend. It’s very difficult to keep on the climbers trail. A lot of it is pretty faint but distinct enough, but it seems to abruptly disappears in several spots only to reappear later. Especially during the relatively flat traverse around 4400-4800’ I never noticed a path. At least the forest is more open in that part. Impressed by the determination and passion of those who found their way up these hills without gps or any trail. I was glad to have screenshots of tracks here for reference https://www.nps.gov/noca/blogs/mt-blum-north-glacier-july-12-2016.htm
 

Bivy at the lake was lovely except for the voracious mosquitoes.

We got an early start next morning in the hopes of avoiding groping around the bush in the dark on the way back to the cars. Headed off a little before 6am. Passed a beautiful reflection lake and what looks like a remnant of an antenna or something? This, one piton, 1 chewed up piece of tat, and the summit register were the only evidence of humanity that we saw past the bivy lake.

I had assumed the start of the N ridge would be more obvious. There were actually 3 distinct ridges coming down the the glacier. The first one furthest west was clearly not the right one. We took the second one but there was more further left that we didn’t really explore.

I took the first lead up and diagonally right. There was one long runout but plenty of jugs in that area. I encountered a difficult move with a wide crack roof just above and right of a finger crack. There was a piton nearby and the crack took cams well, so this crux seemed like it could be on route and was reasonably well protected. It could be 5.9, maybe harder, especially if you’re short.

Anchored off a boulder up and right after nearly a full 60m. After this it was some scrambling up the ridge, ending in a dirty gully. We started to wonder if we were off route then. But this led to a really nice low 5th ridge traverse that we sailed up. We passed a nearly flat polished section of rock and arrived at a tower that seemed too tall and featureless to down climb  (10-15’). So we backtracked past the flat spot and took an exposed traverse climber’s left into another gully. The traverse ended with a handrail into a low angle wide crack right facing corner. Pretty sure this wasn’t standard because it would take a #3 to protect it. We didn’t have a #3 but the crack wasn’t very long. Including it we did 2 short meandering pitches up and left to gain another ridge, which we took to its end. There was another tower that seemed to block the way and we surveyed a sketchy looking down climb left into another gully but found instead that the tower could be bypassed on its right. Cresting here we took off the rock shoes for the last ridge section leading to the summit.

The summit views are . . . Real nice. We were the 4th party to sign the register this year. 
Always nice to descend without having to do any raps. More beautiful scrambling on the way down, passing a jade lake still holding some snow, and rusty polished granite slabs everywhere.

The first gully after that lake’s outlet stream was unappealing so we continued west but found uglier options. One at a time we picked our way down a rotten sandy gully before crossing back over into a better one to get back to the bivy lake.

We cooled off in the lake and hit the ‘trail’ a little before 5, which didn’t leave much time to get back before dark. Route finding was generally a little better on the way back, but my phone died at the last inscrutable section after I pocket dialed a long video of the inside of my pocket. So we no longer had a track to follow.

We thrashed down and right after the trail disappeared at a flag around a little cliff and stumbled upon a faint path again. We could follow this down to Blum creek before it vanished again and we traded back and forth between boulder hopping adjacent to the creek and being forced back into the bushes. We reached the wooden bridge and gravel path that marked the end of difficulties. Well, almost. From here back to the car seemed so much longer than the day before. The last hour of hiking down the hills in fading light had sapped all my energy. It took 4 hours from the bivy to the cars. And although it wasn’t a terribly long day as far as these things go, I was truly spent.

Worth it? Yes, amazing scenery and plenty of good rock. In no rush to repeat that hike though.

Gear Notes:
Crampons (didn’t use due to laziness but would be useful) Ice ax Cams in the .4-.75 range were most useful. Single #1, #2 was fine

Approach Notes:
Good luck

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Edited by JonParker
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I really liked that route, but almost didn't survive to start it. When @therunningdog and I were gearing up after getting off the glacier, a few car sized chunks broke out of the icefall and obliterated our tracks leading up the glacier.  We missed getting the chop by about 10 mins.  And I didn't even register any icefall hazard on the approach!

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On 8/25/2020 at 8:12 AM, JasonG said:

I really liked that route, but almost didn't survive to start it. When @therunningdog and I were gearing up after getting off the glacier, a few car sized chunks broke out of the icefall and obliterated our tracks leading up the glacier.  We missed getting the chop by about 10 mins.  And I didn't even register any icefall hazard on the approach!

Yeah really glad you weren’t in the wrong place at wrong time then. Thanks for the warning in your TR, it was definitely on my mind during our approach. I never saw anything concerning, but it was a different time of year and I’m not certain we started the ridge climbing in the same place as you.

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