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lunger

[TR] Phantom Peak, Northern Picket Range - West Ridge IV 5.7+ aka "WHAP" 07/30/2021

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Trip: Phantom Peak, Northern Picket Range - West Ridge IV 5.7+ aka "WHAP"

Trip Date: 07/30/2021

Trip Report:

"We have a problem" stated the leader of pitch 6. He had encountered an airy and cruxy 4’+ gap in the ridge and simultaneously observed a fresh plume of wildfire smoke erupting in the distant valley that marked the return home. His partner – who could not see him or his immediate problem, but could see the smoke – shouted “What?”, seeking clarification regarding which of many possible problems they had.  The leader re-shouted “WE HAVE A PROBLEM”, apparently as if over intervening seconds, a realization intensified that perhaps this was a more general statement, one readily applied to anybody that comes to this place. The first step is acceptance...

They quickly concluded that bailing halfway up the ridge would not really impart any advantage to dealing with the new (to be named) Bear Creek Fire, so continued tackling the climb. The pitch 6 problem, a long span across a hundred-plus-foot gap in the ridge, was easily the hardest technical move on themostly 5.7+ route—bound to be a “classic of the range”, as oft proclaimed at each belay. 

The route takes the right hand skyline to the summit spike well left of center (link to an album w/ annotated pic):

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The leader used a nut and a sling to create a handhold for tension and a more certain move across the gap. The second on this pitch cleaned the gear, and with the benefit of long legs and a top-rope, made the balance-y stem across the gap and the next move across – probably a V0 or V1 boulder move (5.10ish), depending on leg length.

Two pitches later the duo topped out on a tower and rappelled approx. 100' into a notch. Pitches 8 through 10 were on generally solid rock with a pleasurable position. A total of 10 pitches of roped climbing gave way to ~400' of soloing to the summit ridge and traversing a sharp ridge to the summit -- exhilarating. 

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The untimely arrival of the Bear Creek fire compelled us to forego other plans for the area and head homeward. As it turns out, a rainy afternoon through the next morning would have largely scuttled those plans anyway. That same weather pattern allowed us to exit via our entry route, as the fire was a bit north of our return route--thankfully, as the other exits would have involved an even more unsavory amount of distance and logistics.

Folks with a certain taste might opine that we picked a plum with this route, as it offers mostly solid rock, modest vegetation, and enjoyable movement. Some high-hanging fruit is rotting on the vine, but this one was perhaps only a little overripe.

More pics below.

Looking up at part of pitch 1 and a fair bit of the rest: 

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Rolf on pitch 4: 

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Looking down pitch 6 at a chimeric rat-beaver, a fin on the ridge, and Mt Despair in background left:

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From the summit ridge, a nice view of Crooked Thumb and its subpeak Ghost, w/ the many peaks of Challenger in near background:

cHZnUWS2ZLTm08JekmisCxRfJNXnCc0p1gSWI5jk

 

Invigorating soloing on the summit ridge: 

9Vh73tsI2FVt6QoHB_ICWWvmIWgnG-eZ-kLIE5kP

 

From Perfect Pass, the fabulous Baker River drainage, filled with smoke:

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One in the party -- not gonna say who -- repeatedly urged a fire exit of the northern pickets via the brushy Baker River, convinced that his charm and/or good looks (yeah, after two days of bushwhacking) would score us a ride back to our car. The other was deeply skeptical of this strategy.

The return along Easy Ridge under an increasingly smoke-veiled sun; don't worry, if you tire of loose talus and scree, many more paranormal modes of travel await:

glIwfvArQpvcTyR_e0yMfcEAQEhVVNIk3CMmQjFf

Here's a link to an album with more pics.

Summary: Rolf Larson and Eric Wehrly establish a new route on Phantom via its West Ridge, aka We have a problem IV 5.7+.  10 pitches plus soloing.

 

An obligatory John Scurlock photo of the ridge, extending toward the viewer:

610f7a1a76282_phantomwandsw.jpg.340c8a01c84a546ab729b8effdc53603.jpg

 

Gear Notes:
Standard alpine rack. Also made use of tri-cams from fingers (black, pink) to thin hands.

Approach Notes:
Find the larger truth of the Easy Ridge approach – easy only in the middle – or take other long options. Making liberal use of granny gear with heavy-ish packs, over Wed/Thurs we took roughly 20 hours from Hannegan Pass TH to a moraine camp under Crooked Thumb/Ghost Peak. Generally budget 2 days, +/- a half day.

Edited by lunger
picstuff
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"Classic of the range" that just needs a little traffic to clean it up.....

IV?! Only because someone is pretty damn slow, not gonna say who.

Gotta say that Mike's & Wayne's ascent of Spectre, while not directly up the SW buttress, was a very impressive feat.

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The Dynamic Duo returns yet again to harvest from the orchard!  Thanks for sharing the meal- we all look forward to the next installment!

And, I must say, an exit down the Baker River??!! 

That conveys the apparent seriousness of what that plume must have looked like.....to one of you.  :battlecage:

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Looks like a nice route! Good job you guys. 

 

Btw, I am currently working air ops on the Bear Creek Fire; the main part of the fire completely incinerated the normal approach to Bear Mountain’s north buttress route. The fire appears to have started at Bear Creek Camp, which is where you would ordinarily leave the Chilliwack trail to start the long uphill thrash to the ridge. The fire went off to the races uphill from there, and that whole slope is now charred snags and ashes. The area is of course closed currently as the fire remains active, but it will not be a place you’d want to be in the coming years. Probably a direct approach up Bear Creek may end up the safer and preferable way, but depends on how much more area the fire burns. 

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WHAP....well at least he didn't inadvertently use an acronym that the snowflakes would redact. I mean who's against whaps? Yeah, he probably shouldn't list it on his CV.

As one who works in the woods, I have a lot of respect for how fast a fire can move. Luckily, the start zone, wind, & overnight showers were in our favor. The Baker River deproach would have been an adventurous cake walk if necessary but someone, not gonna say who, thought it was nuts.

Thanks for the info, Mark. If one wanted to roll the dice with falling snags, the fire might improve the approach to Bear Mt. until the brush returns. However, I bet the NPS closes it next summer due to safety concerns.

Edited by rat
pc
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Holy smokes! Another classic from the dynamic duo! Y'all are impressive. 

Guess I'll have to cross NB Bear off my list. 

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Snag danger might take a few seasons and some windstorms to stabilize, until then I’d stay well outta that zone. 
I remember climbing and descending that slope when we did the route in 1998; on the way up we actually found a faint climbers trail for the first couple hundred feet but then it gave way to  old growth jungle warfare, climbing over and under huge fallen logs and curtains of moss, and brush, for thousands of vertical feet. The Chilliwack trail in from Canada, while followable, wasn’t good back then; last I heard it’s completely grown over and gone, not to mention that the border is closed since 9/11, and patrolled. 
 

Baker River de-proach would’ve been…interesting….

Edited by W

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Great work Eric and Rolf! way to make it happen. that step across sounds spicy. or smoky? 

glad you got this ridge done! ;-) we made two attempts on it over the years. In 2011, with this as our objective, Mario, Keith, and I hiked in with a solid weather forecast, only to get hammered at Perfect Pass big time. we called Sandy on the sat phone for a weather update, and he said "wow you must be enjoying the sunshine up there" ... that was about when i was trying to keep my tent from collapsing. we had no extra days and so that was that. 

in 2015, Matt, Sandy, and I went for it again, and made it to the base of the Phantom West Ridge, but we just didn't have the gumption to tackle it once we got there. we ended up doing the standard route on Phantom instead. writeup on that trip here: 

 

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9 hours ago, Summit_Rolos said:

Great work Eric and Rolf! way to make it happen. that step across sounds spicy. or smoky? 

glad you got this ridge done! ;-) we made two attempts on it over the years. In 2011, with this as our objective, Mario, Keith, and I hiked in with a solid weather forecast, only to get hammered at Perfect Pass big time. we called Sandy on the sat phone for a weather update, and he said "wow you must be enjoying the sunshine up there" ... that was about when i was trying to keep my tent from collapsing. we had no extra days and so that was that. 

in 2015, Matt, Sandy, and I went for it again, and made it to the base of the Phantom West Ridge, but we just didn't have the gumption to tackle it once we got there. we ended up doing the standard route on Phantom instead. writeup on that trip here: 

 

I met Mario (and you?) for the first time at Perfect Pass in 2011. That place certainly makes its own weather. 

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Thanks Mark for the news of, and for working on, the fire. I fought forest fires for a couple seasons way back when, and was relieved when we determined we could hike out, but we definitely had our eyes open.

Yeah Seth I read your report in prepping for this trip. Seems you guys got plenty of consolation--pretty inspiring place to climb rock.

And Rad re: Perfect Pass: for sure, I think that any forecast showing a nonzero chance of precip (say, 10-20%) for that area should be read "periods of certain drizzle or rain".

For the record, the only intended double entendre of the acronym was the meaning of the actual word, "whap", which means to be hit hard, or the resultant sound of same. A Northern Pickets trip will often smack you down, or at least leave a mark -- and/or an impression. There's so much still to do there.

I encourage repeats of this route. My hasty pictures did not do it justice. Wish I'd taken photos of the void step-across, and more of the good stretches of climbing, but we were pretty intent on making time. 

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You guys are the Doorish and Cudkowicz of our time, quietly plucking the finest lines on the wildest peaks of the range.

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I remember approaching the Flag Pole in a failed attempt, up from Ingalls Creek, and we wallowed a short while through a recent burn. It wasn't that bad or that far, but I would definitely not do something again like that by choice.  Give me sweet, clean slide alder.

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Awesome, nice work! Looks like it was worth the [20 hour?!] walk. When are they breaking ground on the gondola up there? :D

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On 8/10/2021 at 10:42 PM, Rad said:

You guys are the Doorish and Cudkowicz of our time, quietly plucking the finest lines on the wildest peaks of the range.

Kind words but hopefully made tongue- in-cheek. We are for the most part just the cleaners for many previous greats and, in our case, often for Mike and Wayne (cue the Winston Wolfe clip).

Mannijo, I can't honestly say it was worth the approach and certainly not a classic in any ordinary sense. 

Onward....

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