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[TR] Sloan Peak - West Face "The Sloan Slither" 01/29/2023


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Trip: Sloan Peak - West Face "The Sloan Slither"

Trip Date: 01/29/2023

Team
@Tucker_Merrill

Trip Report:

 

Sunday January 29th Aaron Minton and I attempted an ice route on the West face of Sloan peak.

 

The climbing involved difficulties up to WI4+ and we eventually linked up with the upper portion of the Superalpine route to attempt the summit. We reach 200 vertical feet below the summit before turning around. From photos and a scouting trip earlier that week I thought that a line would go following ice flows and traversing snowy ledges up the west face. I was able to convince Aaron to come try this line with me. We met in Darrington the night before organized our rack then headed to the TH. We found the road to be fairly clear. Someone had come and cut down the trees blocking the road up Bedel creek. As we drove our cars up NF road 4096 the minivan struggled but Aaron was behind me with his Rav 4 and gave me a push with his car up the steep sections. It worked surprisingly well. We drove our cars up to about 2400ft before we couldn't continue due to snow.  We parked, finalized some packing, and went to bed. We woke up at 2:30 and left the cars at 3:15. I knew the conditions were primed for booting and skies would just slow us down on the way up so we left them at the car. We followed the approach beta from the Superalpine TR from Porter McMichael and Kyle McCrohen (Thanks guys!) and the boot pack I had put in previously that week with Jeff McGowen. 

 

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PHOTO CREDIT: JOHN SCURLOCK

a photo of our line to our turn around about 200ft below the summit

We arrived at the base of the route around 7:20. It was quite cold as we unpacked and racked up. We took off around 8.

 

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Aaron heading up the snow gully

The first section involved a snow gully with some low angle ice. Aaron dragged the ropes up easy terrain to the first steep pitch at the base of the amphitheater. There is a selection of ice flows at the start but the best option we decided was the one that took us directly to the next steep ice pitch. Aaron took off leading the first pitch finding hollow aerated ice. A great way to wake up the nerves in the morning! First pitch went at WI3 with less than ideal ice screws. After topping out the ice Aaron had to cross a snow slope to reach a rock belay. probably ended up being a 60m pitch maybe 62m (unsure if we simuled or not). Once at the belay it was my turn he handed over the rest of the rack and I traversed 15m over to the second steep ice pitch and took off finding another WI3 pitch with aerated ice and dispersed ice screws for protection. The top out puts you right at the next ice flow but I didn't want to belay right underneath it so I chose a rock belay to the right. The rock was a little less than ideal but you could manage to find better gear if you dug around. image.jpeg.df40df29e6a412e7e90cd6c622337ff9.jpeg

Starting up the 2nd pitch of steep ice

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Belaying Aaron up the 2nd pitch

Next Aaron took over and ran the ropes up another short ice step and across some snow to belay staring up at the beautiful hanging dagger. With the dagger in full sun we were a little skeptical about climbing directly underneath it so we looked around at our options. There was another ice flow looking around WI5ish about 150ft to our right which we debated over. We finally decided to take the WI3 ramp for the sake of time and honestly neither of us were super psyched to lead a WI5 with questionable pro being weighed down by a heavy rack and packs. (definitely a sweet option for a stronger party!) We romped up the easy ramp as quickly as we could to get out of the overhead hazard and got to the big snowy ledge traverse. Aaron being the fearless monster that he is on snow traversed through a tunnel of trees and rocks, which turned out to be good fun! This ledge took us to the bottom of the money pitch.

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Aaron romping up the easy ice past the overhanging dagger

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Belaying up the easy ice with the hanging dagger just out of frame above the photo

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This is the best shot I have of the rock leading to the dagger

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Aaron heading into the rock and tree tunnel

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Looking across the snow traverse to the money pitch $$$

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Looking back across the snow traverse

I will mention the higher we got on the route the ice quality improved a lot. 

The money pitch is a sweet 30m WI4 flow with good ice and an engaging bulge at the top which leads me to give it a WI4+ rating. As I climbed I found myself enjoying the exposure and good protection. After pulling the bulge there was another 50ft of WI3. As I was putting in protection to climb up the last ice step I bumped a half placed ice screw with my tool and knocked it down to its final resting place somewhere up on the west face. Finders Keepers! After climbing up the final step I got 2 good screws and belayed up Aaron. He wanted to call the ice bulge WI7(satirically) because I had knocked the dagger I used as a foot off when climbing it and he had to pull the bulge at a much steeper angle than I did. We topped out the final ice flow and joined up with the Superalpine route. 

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Working my way up the crux pitch! Really high quality climbing with good pro.

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Belaying Aaron up the crux

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Looking at the upper slopes of Sloan. Superalpine goes up the obvious snow slope on the right. 

To our advantage we found really good snow conditions up top. The wind had blown off any new snow and the freeze thaw had produced really nice snow climbing conditions. We took off simul climbing up to 200ft of the summit. We pondered taking it to the top but ultimately decided with the setting sun and the fact that we hadn't done the descent turned us around to go search for the rappels of the Superalpine route with the last of the daylight.

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Quick selfie before turning around

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Starting our down-climb. Someone solod up the corkscrew route and those are their tracks above. we did not make it that far. This was immediately after we decided to turn around.

As the sun set the winds began to pick up sending spindrift down on us as we began rappelling Superalpine. This spindrift followed us all the way down the rappels. BRRRR! We made about 7-8 rappels using V-thready, a piton anchor we had to make because lack of ice at the end of a rappel, and a small shrub. This brought us back down to our trekking poles. Tired cold and wet we repacked and began the slog back to the cars. We eventually reached the cars at 1:15am for a total of 22hrs on the go.  

I subsequently drove the dirt road until I hit pavement parked at a random pullout slept for 3 hours then finished the drive to arrive at school just before class started. 

Overall this climb was my first of this kind where I wandered up unknown terrain with just a photo and psych. It was a really enjoyable experience and I hope this TR can inspire others to check out this awesome zone! 

Idk if it can be called an FA because we did not reach the summit, and we joined up with a pre-existing route. maybe a variation? All the more it was an awesome day out with good company and lots of stoke! 

 

 

 

 

Gear Notes:
We brought a hefty rack singles .1-#2 rack of nuts and micronuts 5KBs 10 screws 3 (10cm) 4 (13cm) 2 (17cm) and 1 (21cm), 2 60m half ropes

Approach Notes:
See Kyle and Porters TR they have all the beta! Also plenty of running water in the drainage up to 4500ft

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Congratulations! It is cool to see someone take on that big, complex face. There are certainly so many more variations and hopefully we'll continue to see cutting edge ascents out there! 

I think this definitely qualifies as an FA, as most of the logical routes join together in the upper face and there is nothing special about the upper slopes. There was one party last April that climbed Superalpine all the way to the summit and descended the SW ledges instead of rapping the route.

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Very nice job writing this trip report, I am glad to see you post it here. If you had fun and made it to the car then it was a good trip, fa or not.  Keep climbing for you!!

P.S Check with  Jens Holsten on FA he has done a bunch in the cascades if it is important to you. You can google his blog. 

Edited by Lostbolt
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On 2/1/2023 at 6:27 PM, wayne said:

The bar keeps getting raised! Nice to see a couple of “Worldly” people on the big local venues!

now, when does that Rock-wall get bolted?

That hanging dagger is too good not to climb! I think it deserves at least an attempt on gear before we start tossing bolts in. 

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I added photo credit for the first photo, it was taken by John Scurlock.    It is important that we do this for John's photos (as well anyone else's).  He works really hard and  and spent a lot of time, energy, and money on his photos.  If you don't have a copy of his book you should get one to support his work!

https://www.jaggedridgeimaging.com/snow-spire-the-book

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4 hours ago, olyclimber said:

I added photo credit for the first photo, it was taken by John Scurlock.    It is important that we do this for John's photos (as well anyone else's).  He works really hard and  and spent a lot of time, energy, and money on his photos.  If you don't have a copy of his book you should get one to support his work!

https://www.jaggedridgeimaging.com/snow-spire-the-book

Thank you for adding the photo credit. I forget that that is an important part of using other peoples photos.

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