Jump to content
  • Announcements

    • olyclimber


      Help keep cascadeclimbers.com going!  Please consider donating so we can keep this site going.   We have set expenses right now but no revenue.  We do hope to getting a sponsor to help out, but for now we just need funds to upgrade the site and pay for hosting and licensing. See the "DONATE" tab in the top menu.
Sign in to follow this  

[TR] The Pickets for the Old and Slow - McMillan Spires 08/19/2022

Recommended Posts

Posted (edited)

Trip: The Pickets for the Old and Slow - McMillan Spires

Trip Date: 08/19/2022

Trip Report:


Reading the internet makes it seem like everyone who goes into the Pickets is a total badass doing FAs or enchaining the whole damn range in record time, so here’s a TR for the AARP-eligible among us who perhaps were never all that fast or talented to begin with. Don't expect any useful information.


I harangued my friend Gordy into committing to a Pickets trip this summer but he was too busy to go until late season, so mid-August it was. We made a leisurely approach on Wednesday, sweating buckets as we slogged up the hill in the high 80s. Terror Basin was gorgeous in the sunshine.


(Note nearly all the photos in this are Gordy’s; he has an iPhone and I have a digital camera from 2009, so his pics are way better.)

After a ridiculously civilized wake-up time of 6:30 the next day, we wandered up the slabs to start our day’s objective: East and West McMillan Spires by their SE Faces. This was made more interesting by the necessity of making a free hanging rappel off a snow bollard to access the rock on East Mac.  Quoth Gordy, who has at least one FA in Alaska to his name:  "I've rapped off a snow bollard twice in my life, and both were in the Pickets." 


The climbing went quickly as the majority of it was unroped fourth class, and soon we were snacking on the summit looking over at West Mac. We can’t climb enough peaks in a day to make it even remotely necessary to count our summits, so I held up fingers for letters instead. E is for East Mac.


We saw a rap sling at the gendarme between East and West Mac, suggesting we should rap down the moat between the snow and gendarme and traverse low, but explored higher and it was easy climbing to get around the gendarme and arrive at Beckey’s “200 feet of fourth class” up the corner, then as I was pulling around the “5.7 bulge” up onto the ridge proper, I looked up and saw this gorgeous local denizen. I didn’t have my camera accessible but he was still hanging around when I brought Gordy up, who snapped this shot.


Gordy made me pose for this shot: “Now turn your hips a little that way….”  W is for West Mac.


The next day we woke to intermittent light sprinkles, which turned to flat-out rain a little before noon. Before it started raining in earnest, we roamed around the basin a bit and spotted the elusive seal of the Pickets. The wildlife there is truly not to be believed.


(My photo, you can tell by the crappy quality.)

After all the rain on Friday, we decided to just go for Little Mac on our last day as neither of us had done it before and we already had the approach dialed. We made it more interesting by (1) not having any descent beta other than “rap to the col and continue traversing East McMillan spire” and (2) convincing ourselves that the lower vegetated ramp was probably just as good as the higher one and soloing increasing sketchy fourth class until a bit past the point where we should have roped up. I scored the money pitch, which was the nice crack straight up from the ramp. It even had a good spot for a rap anchor, which eased our minds a bit about how we were going to get back down. Gordy following the crack:6304f70c354d0_10GordyfollowingcrackpitchLittleMac.JPG.c32bd784158fb91366316d459af03080.JPG

Gordy led up the final pitch to the top, where we took our last summit shot. L is for Little Mac.  At least in this case.


We made our way down, adding two rap anchors in the process, packed up and got the crap gully up to the notch behind us before dark, in order to make the last day a tiny bit shorter and so we wouldn’t be above or below anyone else on Sunday when we assumed the other parties would be leaving. A nice camp by a waterfall up in the meadows gave us a stellar view of the Chopping Block in the sunset and rounded out the trip nicely.


Gear Notes:
Should have taken alcohol. Did take a book (a slender volume), which was nice for the rain day.

Approach Notes:
The trail to Terror Basin is a highway now, it would take serious effort to lose it.

Edited by tanstaafl
  • Like 1
  • That's funny! 3
  • Snaffled 1
  • Rawk on! 3

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Old and slow? That's in my wheelhouse.  I like the "who wore it better" between you and the goat on stacks of rocks! 

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

You guys were having fun, no doubt about it. Glad you are making the most of August!

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Hey look, I got curious and found that Gordy's Alaska trip was actually recorded here as well. 



Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites


In my experience, the Pickets offers plenty of type 2 fun interspersed with some type 3 fun. Almost no type 1 fun, but it sure looks like you had a good outing. Thanks for posting!

That seal is an unbelieveable find!

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites


It was easily the smoothest outing I've had except for maybe doing Inspiration in 2008.  The first two times I tried to do anything in the Pickets I never even set foot on rock.  Of course the first time I tried it was Memorial Day weekend and snowing sideways.  I wasn't very smart back then.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

From my perspective as a fellow AARP-eligible person, thanks for an entertaining TR.  Nice ambiance in the pics. 

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

Sign in to follow this