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[TR] Ridge of Gargoyles- Minaret, Lower & Upper Gargoyle, Boulder

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Climb: Ridge of Gargoyles-Minaret, Lower & Upper Gargoyle, Boulder


Date of Climb: 6/25-27/2004


Trip Report:

Blakej and I were undecided on where to go for weekend as the weather looked rather mixed everywhere. We settled on the Ridge of Gargoyles in the Olympics partially in support of Guidebook revisions, and largely due to our own curiosity about this seldom travelled ridge. We drove out to the Upper Big Quilcene trailhead Friday night (25th) and began our hike around 10pm. We hiked up the 2.5 miles to Shelter Rock Camp and bivied for the night. Next morning we worked our way up the creekside the 2/3 miles according to the existing approach description and found the mentioned rockslide on the far side and crossed over. This provided the first view of the ridge.


We then hiked up the creek which feeds off of Boulder Ridge (which branches into the Quilcene), through mostly open and easy forest, until reaching the water cascade mentioned in the book. This appears on the left (SE) side and is very obvious. From here to climb Minaret, Lower Gargoyle or Turret you must cut left (SE) to avoid a cliff band and then ascend steep brush to the basin below the N Face of Turret. We arrived here at 10:00am. Somehow in our enthusiasm for crashing brush we didn't think to refill water in the stream and were then too far above to desire going back down for the purpose. So we melted snow for the next 20 minutes and noticed that our clear, blue skies were slowly giving way to low, white puffy clouds. From here, though, we had a nice view of Minaret. Our appraoch would take us up the gully on the left with the small patches of snow.


We decided to leave a bunch of gear at the base, as we knew we would be returning this direction, the guidebook not recommending the traverse between Lower and Upper Gargoyle. We decided to follow route 1 in the book. So we went up the gully, which veered right and eventually topped out at a notch where there was a 50 ft., maybe 5.3 pitch to ascend over decent rock. There were a couple of good gear placements midway on the pitch and the top levelled out on a large bench.


By this time the clouds were here in full and we were immersed in the soup, with visibility at best about 200 feet, more often less than 100'. Route finding on Minaret was straightforward, however, as the lower E summit was easily scrambled to. After more scrambling down the ridge the promontory was soon found and we were forced to down climb 60 feet into the gulley which seperated the promontory from the final summit block/pitch. The last lead to the summit was a bit tougher than the 5.3 rating described in the route, maybe 5.6?, but then there were a couple possible lines. Gear placement was typical Olympic quality (i.e. poor, behind rotten flakes and suspect cracks). I took this shot looking back halfway up the pitch. You can barely make out Josh belaying below. No my lens is not dirty, that's the fog we were in.


The summit ridge on Minaret is somewhat of a knife edge, covered in that lovely black lichen, that somehow at the same time feels grippy yet slick. The summit register was filled halfway with water, and all pages within soaked. It had been placed by the Olympia Mountaineers in 1979, and had only 2 ascents recorded between then and now (1986 and 1991). Seems unlikely it has been 13 years since the last ascent, but who knows?


We then worked our way down the 4th class W side that reaches the saddle between Minaret and Lower Gargoyle. This is looking back at Minaret.


Lower Gargoyle went much as the desription reads, a basic scramble up through the loose basalt choss to reach the summit. The trail register here was in much the same condition as the one on Minaret, and had the same ascent parties mentioned with the addition of another in 1996.


We downclimbed the Lower and decided on taking the easier return route across the backside (S) of Minaret to regain the notch and gully of the 2nd photo above. This proved briefly problematic as we were slightly misguided by the guidebook's description of traversing the "Upper" cliffs, only to discover that we indeed had to descend to treeline briefly and work our way back to th notch. By the time we were back down to the base of the ridge it was around 6:00pm, so we decided to bivy there.


On Sunday we broke camp at around 7:45am and headed up to the saddle between Upper Gargoyle and Boulder Ridge. It is about 50% melted out at this point and easily hiked up to. We then made the ascent of Upper Gargoyle in roughly 45 minutes from the gully just below the above mentioned saddle. No summit register to be found here, except for an old glass pill bottle with a small piece of paper that someone had written a grim poem about "bones lying at the base of the mountain to bleach in the sun..." or some such crap. We scampered back down to the saddle and after a short break headed up Boulder Ridge into increasing clouds once again.


The limited visibility on Boulder Ridge definitely proved to be a problem. We worked out way up and down, generally moving West until the altimeter and bright red summit register tube told us were on top. However, deciding to continue along route 1 for the descent to Marmot Pass, we somehow dropped down a series of gullies on the S side (Charlia Lakes side) that took us nowhere quick. After some furtive attempts to regain the ridge, and one episode of me tossing my full pack 250 feet down a tight, narrow gully to avoid downclimbing a particularly hairy section with it on, we were forced to take a pig bite of humble pie and plan a retreat from whence we came.


Thus we found our way back to the Upper Gargoyle - Boulder Ridge saddle (after another brief wandering in the fog episode), and descended once again through the brush and creek to eventually retrace our steps and hike out the Big Quilcene, returning to the truck at 6:15pm.


An exhausting, though very enjoyable trip. Not a single person was seen once we were off the main trail.


Gear Notes:

Ice axes - helped on scree mostly, but also on firm snow up the chute to Upper Gargoyle.

Partial rack of rock gear, used cams up to 3 inches on the couple pitches which required it.

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John truly a thumbs_up.gifweekend though I must admit I got a bit sketched on the boulder ridge traverse attempt (possibly having to do with those nice hunks of rock you sent down with your pack to me). Simply nasty. Definately worth the time if for no more than the solitude. What next?!! As long as your buying the Taco Time I'm up for the drive. Greasy crisp burritos mmmmmmmmm.

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