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Michael Telstad

[TR] Esmeralda Peak - [FA] Moonlight Serendipity (WI2 M5+ 1,200ft) 11/21/2021

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Trip: Esmeralda Peaks - [FA] Moonlight Serendipity (WI2 M5+ 1,200ft)

Trip Date: 11/21/2021

Trip Report:

Last Sunday @Kyle M, Kurt Ross and I set out to investigate rumors of early season ice in the Esmeralda Basin area. A couple sizable blowdowns stopped our drive early, diminishing any hopes of even making it to our intended climb. With zero expectations, we decided to go for a walk up the road and see if we could get eyes on anything cool. We took our sweet time walking up the road, stopping to look through binoculars at everything that vaguely resembled ice. We nearly dropped all our climbing gear at the trailhead, but decided to keep it for “training weight”. Luckily we did, as we shortly got eyes on the NE face of Esmeralda’s NE peak. A discontinuous series of ice smears, chimneys and ramps seemed to form a potential route up the face, but we figured it was still too early. Possibly against our better judgement, we decided to “go scout the approach” and soon found ourselves scrambling up fun WI2 smears on the lower flanks of the face.

Our route followed easy terrain that angled left and then traversed hard back right to where the face steepens abruptly. A very convenient dike feature splits the face for almost its entire height, and proved to be the key to our success. I kept leading, and scratched my way up a fun albeit poorly protected section of chimney. From here I had my fill for a little bit, and let Kurt take over the sharp end. An easy connector pitch took us up to a decision point. The chimney/dike feature continued above us, but seemed to hold ever steepening iced up rock climbing. With the little amount of daylight we had left, we opted to bypass this to the left via a tricky and somewhat loose chimney that seemed like it would take us to easier terrain, and the summit. Kurt casually lead the pitch, seemingly unfazed by the toaster oven sized block he dropped on his head.

The sun set on us as we were following this pitch, and brought us to another decision point. We hadn’t prepared for a day of this magnitude and were running out of food and water fast. We could either bail now and call it a good scouting mission, or keep going in hopes of the summit, and a quick walk off. We opted to push onward into the night. 

From this point the climbing was largely on snow, apart from the odd rock step, or awkward bit of shallowly buried slab. Two more pitches brought us to an imposing headwall we hadn't seen from below. I was starting to worry that our climb was done there. While we could have likely found a route up the steep dry rock, it was far too late in the evening to start such drytooling shenanigans. Our last option was to keep traversing right to search for a way around it. Much to our surprise, a perfect rock ramp cork screwed around the summit block, taking us to the top of the wall. 

Once atop our little summit, we saw a long complex rock ridge that unfolded in front of us. Continuing to the true summit would have taken us several long pitches, and more hours than we had. We had climbed to the top of the wall we intended, and were more than happy with how things unfolded. The descent involved a couple pitches of down leading and about six or seven double rope rappels off trees and bushes. 

We hiked out hungry under the almost full moon, and got back to Seattle at two in the morning the next day.

Kyle will likely write a more in depth blog post in a couple days.

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While clearly not representative of the conditions we encountered, the topo below shows more of the wall than is visible from below.

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Gear Notes:
Single rack .1-3, nuts, beaks, KB's and a Spectre came in handy. Screws were not required for the conditions we encountered. 10's and 13's would be best.

Approach Notes:
Walk, drive or sled to the Esmeralda Basin TH. Hike up the trail for a little under a half mile before crossing the creek and picking your way straight up to the face. If you can drive to the trailhead, this climb is VERY easily accessible.

Edited by Michael Telstad
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1 hour ago, Marko said:

So, 'beaks' as in birdbeaks?

They go by lots of different names. Beaks, birdbeaks, peckers, tomahawks. I think we're thinking of the same thing though.

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Nice one guys, good on ya and all that, but no one reads cc.com or blogs anymore, and you lost me on the WI2 bit...no one climbs ice anymore, dry is the future in case you haven't heard.

  • That's funny! 1

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On 11/27/2021 at 8:55 PM, Doug_Hutchinson said:

but no one reads cc.com

I'm still here! :moondance:

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23 hours ago, JasonG said:

I'm still here! :moondance:

so is dougie fresh.  nothing like the alpenglow!  thanks for the TR, way to get after it!  you need to get a chainsaw for your rig.

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Nice find. I have wondered about that area over the years. How did the large gully immediately west of the TH look (probably lower angle than it looks head-on)? There is also a rumored ice climb up the west facing water streak not far south of the TH but catching that in condition might be tough.

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5 hours ago, rat said:

Nice find. I have wondered about that area over the years. How did the large gully immediately west of the TH look (probably lower angle than it looks head-on)? There is also a rumored ice climb up the west facing water streak not far south of the TH but catching that in condition might be tough.

That wall sees a lot of sun, so needs better temps. We hope to go back out there later this season.

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11 hours ago, rat said:

Nice find. I have wondered about that area over the years. How did the large gully immediately west of the TH look (probably lower angle than it looks head-on)? There is also a rumored ice climb up the west facing water streak not far south of the TH but catching that in condition might be tough.

The gully west of the TH (east gully of Esmerelda) looked pretty mixed, no real ice in there.

The west facing wall not far south of the TH had several very promising looking lines. Got up to the base of one but not in yet. Apparently one of them is a 5.10 sport climb in the summer with bolted belays and all.

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Thanks for the info. Yes, that west facing wall has 3 multi-pitch sport climbs (5.9, 5.8, & 5.10 from right to left) put up by Leland Windham & Co.

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On 12/2/2021 at 6:31 AM, rat said:

Thanks for the info. Yes, that west facing wall has 3 multi-pitch sport climbs (5.9, 5.8, & 5.10 from right to left) put up by Leland Windham & Co.

Is there any info on those climbs out there?

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