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bedellympian

[TR] S Pickets - Himmelhorn - Wild Hair Crack? 08/20/2022

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Posted (edited)

Trip: S Pickets - Himmelhorn - Wild Hair Crack?

Trip Date: 08/20/2022

Trip Report:

 

Went to the Pickets with Adrien Costa. Our plan was to approach to the Otto/Himmel col day 1, rap and climb N Butt of Terror and traverse the ridge back to the O/H col day 2, or maybe bivy on the Blob just past Ice Station Dark Star and finish the next day, then hike out. 

 

We made it to the col first night but it was definitely a lot of moving. The O/H col approach gully is pretty precarious snow right now (thin, 5m high ridge of snow, undercut n many places). The approach down to the rap anchor for the Mustard Glacier access was a heinous steep sandy choss gully over a drop-off to similarly covered ledges. We could have made an earlier rap station to avoid the worst of it but it looked kinda awful either way and I spent the night thinking about whether or not I really wanted to do it. 

In the morning a cloud layer was just below us and we could not see the rap anchor or the glacier. After waffling for an hour while eating breakfast the clouds were still there. We didn't want to risk a low vis navigation on the Mustard Glacier so we decided to just climb Wild Hair Crack since it was there and looked fun. We climbed the left of the two cracks to the base of the OW pitch and then moved left to a big groove instead of the OW as we only had gear to 2"... 3x 50-60m pitches lead to the summit ridge and then we traversed to the summit in a short simul block. During this time the clouds cleared and we could see that the glacier was broken off back to the toe of the N Buttress of Twin Needles. We didn't really want to walk under the ice cliffs or try hop blocks right at their edge to get to the N Butt of Terror so we ruled out going off the N side completely. We rapped back to the col and down the gully to Crescent Basin and hiked over to Stump Hollow for the night.

Both feeling tired and somewhat unenthusiastic about more choss we hiked out the next day. 

My thoughts after this trip: The Pickets are beautiful and totally worth a visit. It's a very long approach for mostly shorter routes on low quality rock. I would rather go technical climbing elsewhere and just do scenic 3rd/4th class routes if I went again. The N side of the S Pickets have their glaciers in a nasty state of recession right now, I would consider N Butt of Terror an earlier summer objective at this point to avoid this. It seems that snow gullies and glaciers either need to be accessed early enough to avoid crevasses and other sketchiness, or they need to be totally melted out for a few years to give the gross choss a chance to settle and stabilize. We talked to a couple who had climbed Terror via the 3rd class gully to the Terror/Rake Col, which I had heard horror stories about after it melted out but they said it wasn't bad now... everything is relative though so who knows? It seems like the S Pickets Traverse is something that works better as an approach shoe/rock traverse, and the N buttress routes are more of snow/glacier cruxes on the approach which would be much better earlier season with boots.

Of course I've only been in the Pickets a couple times so I would be curious to hear from people with more experience what they think about all that...

Here are some pretty pictures... 

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Crescent Basin, pic by Adrien

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H/O Col bivy, pic by Adrien

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H/O col bivy

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Wild Hair P2, not the OW, pic by Adrien

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Coming up to summit ridge, pic by Adrien

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Three guys we met at Stump Hollow the previous day on top of the West Twin Needle after climbing something on the S face.

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Obligatory Fury/N Pickets shot

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Shuksan from Stump Hollow bivy

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Chopping Block from Stump Hollow bivy

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Oooh pretty

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Goats

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Huckles

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Terror Creek crossing... approach was not as bad as we had expected if you really try hard to not loose the trail. 

Gear Notes:
The usual

Approach Notes:
Standard

Edited by bedellympian
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Gorgeous pics. Thanks for the update on the state of things re. Mustard Glacier/O-H col, etc.

Maybe it's because I have no ability to climb hard anymore, if I ever did, but at least these days I definitely see the draw of the Pickets more as just being there than in the difficulty of the route. 

Also, Adrien Costa is badass.

 

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You captured several elements of the Pickets experience nicely in your TR. Thanks for posting. I also agree that it's an early season game wrt glaciers.

On every Pickets trip, I have found myself having to move over sketchy 3rd/4th class terrain = loose/slippery w high consequences. The rock is generally either choss or compact and difficult to protect. Good cracks are so noteworthy they get names. That said, it is a wild, rugged and beautiful mountain wilderness that touches the soul in a memorable way.

Maybe the hazards are part of the whole mystique. At some point, I may decide that the risk reward ratio isn't right for me any more. Then, I'll be delighted to read reports like yours and recall my own meager adventures.

Thanks again for posting.

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Nice photos! I’ve been meaning to do basically that same itinerary, but as you saw, early season is the way to go for the north side.

After weighing too many options for too long, I think I’d bivy somewhere in the basin, past the chopping block notch, maybe near the start of the terror-rake couloir. And do both N butt and the rake-Otto traverse as day climbs, to keep it light. I use approach shoes + light crampons for almost all glacier travel but have seen reports of that snow on N side being bulletproof, so that would be sketchy. I might pack boots for Stoddard. I really like the idea of doing both the traverse and Stoddard in one trip but the logistics are not awesome.

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Nice TR. We had an almost identical itinerary 3 weeks ago - hiked in to Terror camp, left early in the am on day 2 with hope of climbing Stoddard butt camp2camp; saw the steep choss to get to rap the anchor to get to Mustard gl, contemplated setting up a higher anchor, then reevaluated our time plan and pivoted to wild hair crack (bailing on dropping down to the N side). Wild Hair Crack was super fun, but we left feeling a thirst for more after spending a 3 day trip just for 3 pitches. hope to return in the future earlier season to get the stoddard butt

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That route looks really enjoyable! Wish it had been part of the traverse. We downclimbed a ways down the choss gully on the N side to the Frenzelspitz access ramp. It wasn't all too bad, and we passed one or two good looking rap anchors. I can't really imagine committing down that in a cloud though...That would be scary. 

Climbing Stoddard into the traverse would be so much fun! 

On 8/24/2022 at 12:14 PM, bedellympian said:

It seems like the S Pickets Traverse is something that works better as an approach shoe/rock traverse, and the N buttress routes are more of snow/glacier cruxes on the approach which would be much better earlier season with boots.

I agree here. We barely touched our axes on the traverse. It wasn't until descending the H/O col that they were truly needed. I bet if you climb it late enough in the year with a low enough snowpack, you could get away with no axes. However you'd also have no water soooooo. 

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I have a question for you Picket-teers.  When I first visited the S. Pickets in late July 1987, we took a gully from Terror Creek Basin up The Barrier to access and climb the NE Ridge of The Chopping Block.  The gully was pretty steep snow for the lower maybe 2/3 and forked at the top.  The left fork was dry compact mud - we descended this way and it was attention-getting.  The right fork, which we used on the ascent, had a tree that we climbed and then lunged for the lip of a cliff that required a full body, do-or-fall and get seriously fucked up pull up at the top.  I may or may not have dry heaved after that move.  Anyway, it seemed like the only obvious way to get up and down The Barrier.  Is this gully still a thing or does everyone now use the Crescent Creek Basin approach?  To put things in perspective, the Goodell Creek approach took us two and half days in a driving rain before we even saw the Pickets as the skies cleared.  There was no trail.  At all.  The last time I went in there for McMillan (fourth summit) the trail was a relative freeway.  

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