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Timcb

Merchant Peak

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So- I was up on the slopes of merchant peak and couldn't find anything of a decent route. Anyone have some beta they could share? So my friend and I found the cobbly drainage off the trail to start up, and followed that through the two waterfall/rock steps. A couple hundred feet above the rock step we came to what I only assume is the steep-walled gully/basin with the stream entering in on the right. We dicked around there for a good bit of time- trying to ascend immediately up and on the left side of that right-entering stream (which ended up being a dirty waste of time) and then trying to climb the steepening heather ledges immediately above the same stream. That ended up getting a little too sketch, so we backed down there, and crossed to the right (southeast) side of the stream (below absolutely beautiful waterfalls).

 

We then climbed exposed 3rd class rock/easy 4th up the rock overlooking that intense looking slightly overhung canyon- right across from the steepening slabs we'd previously tried. Due to lateness in the day and no definite sign that this attempt would go through to the top, we descended steep trees and ledges slightly south of the open rock we had climbed to our last high point.

 

Finally, more or less defeated, we returned all the way to the main approach gully. but from there we could see what looked like another side gully exiting up and to the right above the steepening ramp that had been our first attempt. So we headed back up for our third and last try. We entered the side gully through talus and other assorted loose rock until it opened up to a broader heather covered slab. It stayed fairly steep, but never threateningly so for about 100 vertical feet, until it tapered slightly, making it apparent that we were on top of the cliff that bordered our first attempt to the northwest. We stopped at the top of the slabs, still not seeing any sign of the "inobvious climbers trail," before the climb briefly entered a stand of trees leading to another rock knob.

 

I suspect that this last attempt might have been the best/easiest route to the top described in _Climbing Washington's Mountains_, but am not sure. Anyone have any other experiences to relate?

 

By the way, aside from not actually getting very far at all, it was a great day. The rock (outside of the gully bottoms) is really pretty solid with abundant holds. The view across Barclay ck of the north face of Baring is absolutely spectacular and the cascades of the right-entering creek I keep mentioning were fantastic. Ijust wish I'de gotten an earlier start/could have found some sign of a consistent route.

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Below is an excerpt from my notes:

 

As described in the guide book, the key to finding the route is to locate the right hand turn out of the first gully at 3,870ft. Look for the really obvious cave at the cliff bottom, the route goes right underneath it. A short scrappy dirt-rock-snow scramble past the cave cliff and we were in the final gully leading up to the bowl under the south face.

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You were off route. The turn off from the main gully is not difficult. There is a 15' 4th-class step in the main gully. That is the hardest piece of the whole ascent.

 

Of course there is no guarantee you were in the right "main gully" either. The main gully and the right-hand subsidiary gully both show up in 1:24000 USGS topos.

 

 

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from climbing journal notes 5-12-90: ...at 2nd waterfall work up to the right onto a ledge system that gets you past the waterfall but stays in the same gully. At about 4100' a 3rd waterfall enters the gully on the right side. Here you exit the main gully. Then you head right along an overhanging cliff face. Heading east, along an intermittant path, you work into another broad gully then head NE up to the saddle between Merchant's main peak and the east summit.

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My recollection was that the main gully very obviously petered out above the large (2nd, 3rd?)waterfall. We went around this large waterfall on the left side. Passing that, it would be very easy to continue too far up. The cave on the right was a good clue. I think the main gully continued for another 50 odd meters (above the turnout) before steepening. Following that line eastward did eventually require some grunting to get over heathery slabs, but nothing too sporty. I don't have my notes handy, but I can look them over tonight to see if I had anything useful jotted down. It's a straightforward route, but parties have consistently had trouble with it over the years.

 

-t

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tread_tramp said:

...At about 4100' a 3rd waterfall enters the gully on the right side. Here you exit the main gully. Then you head right along an overhanging cliff face. Heading east, along an intermittant path...

 

Ok, I'm with you to here, but where (with reference to the stream/waterfall entering on the right) do you leave the main gully? the overhanging cliffs that you mention- are they the cliffs that are immediately above (and to the northwest) of the stream? And you're supposed to climb the ledges right above these cliffs? We tried that first (and got a look at them from the side further up) and they definitely didn't go anywhere.

 

We also didn't see the cave mentioned by the other responses- maybe we turned right out of main gully way too early? but then we would have been climbing a good way past that right-entering stream and the main gully still looked like it was going to be fine for a ways.

 

thanks though- this is helpful

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Tim_ I pretty much stated what I have in my notes. It was 13 years ago so the memory is a bit fuzzy. I think we passed below the cliffs and picked up the intermittant tread. I'm sure you can fish it out. I've done it a few times. I'm out of work now so if you want to go back up there during the week next week let me know.

From checking the Baring USGS quad it appears that what I referred to as the east summit is SW of the main peak. cantfocus.gif

 

Edited by tread_tramp

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I climbed Merchant yesterday, thanks to you guys for the beta (I printed this page out in lieu of a topo map hellno3d.gif). I left the trailhead at 12:45, and reached the summit at 4:15. My god it was hot in the lower gully, I left a trail of sweat. I was hobbled by clunky snow boots for a reason to stupid to go into now. Suffice to say you don't even need an ice axe for the one snowfield just below the summit. I thought the hardest climbing was scrambling around the 2nd waterfall on the right. The trail beneath the cave was obvious, and everything worked out naturally.

 

This route has a lot of tedious aspects, and next time I go will be when it's snow covered. The good parts for me are 1) scrambling around key corners to keep the route, 2) the upper heather basin is very pretty, 3) the summit ridge scrambling is solid, with unique views.

 

But I suggest an early start - foolishly baking in the hottest part of the day will make you question your motivation a measley 500 feet above the forest floor!

 

I saw lightning over Mt. Daniels, and sheets of rain on the Index Peaks.

 

Thanks again! bigdrink.gifHCL.gif

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I know but I forgot my rock shoes for that sheer overhanging cliff!

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