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dberdinka

[TR] Slesse- North Rib 8/9/2004

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Climb: Slesse-North Rib

 

Date of Climb: 8/9/2004

 

Trip Report:

About six years ago I climbed the Northeast Buttress of Slesse. Like many other climbers, my dreams of Squamish quality crack climbing were quickly replaced by the reality of mossy, metamorphic funk. A lot of belay time was spent looking down on what appeared to be the high-quality granite of the North Rib, another moderate grade V climb established by Jeff Lowe about 30 years ago. I put it on the list of things to do, were it has patiently been waiting.

 

My friend Monkey is a mountain guide. Unlike many mountain guides he actually climbs for himself on his days off! Unfortunately his free time rarely coincides with my own. About a month ago we put plans together to climb the North Rib on Sunday and Monday, August 8th and 9th. After a wet beginning to the weekend we were fortunate to have great weather for the climb.

 

The Approach

 

The approach to the north side of Slesse has gone to hell, plain and simple. We parked just before the first waterbar, only a 5 minute walk from the major washout at 2 miles. The once benign Nesakwatch Creek has ripped out an enormous new channel, crossed on a skinny alder. Beyond here the trail, while still navigatable, is full on thwackage for the first couple miles. With time this approach will only continue to get more suck.

 

At the official Slesse Memorial Site we dropped down into the basin below the Northeast Buttress via more thwackage then crossed the avi’d remains of the pocket glacier to steep forest on the other side. A lot of aircraft debris is still in evidence in the basin, unfortunately we did not find the Chinaman’s Gold as we had hoped.

 

140SLESSE0002.jpg

 

The forest is STEEP! Monkey busted out his little north wall hammer, and I considered putting my crampons on. We nailed the approach and soon broken out into happy marmot-infested meadows where we got our first good look at the North Rib. AAackkk!!

 

140SLESSE0001_1.jpg

 

We reached the edge of the pocket glacier in about four hours from the car and quickly crossed this to the toe of the rib. A table-size rock went crashing down the glacier behind us, and scattered rock fall could be heard coming down either side of the rib. Not a good place to loiter!

 

The North Rib

 

The route started with 40’ of unprotected 5.8 slab on clean compact granite. This was followed by another 1200’ of unprotected 5.8 slab on somewhat dirty compact granite. A total of 8 pitches got us to the edge of the large snowpatch midway up the rib. We spent about an hour tiling a rough ledge with flat boulders until we had created a rather deluxe bivi site. Water was easily collected from the base of the snowpatch. As night fell we watched a party get lost and eventually bivi on the bypass variation of the northeast buttress. They seemed quite calm about the whole affair.

 

Monkey following the granite slabs low on the route

 

140SLESSE0003.jpg

 

Monkey at the bivi site

 

140SLESSE0001.jpg

 

While the lower part of the rib was more of a broad, rounded face, above the bivi it became a very aesthetic arête. While we were occasionally forced onto its right side, for the most part we followed the rib crest all the way to the notch. In total the North Rib itself took us 20 long pitches of continuously difficult climbing. This is serious business with hard route finding, oftentimes-sparse protection and some scary loose rock. On the other hand the granite is generally solid, there is a ton of great crack and slab climbing and the position is outrageous. I can’t emphasize how sustained the climbing was, almost every pitch was 5.7-5.8 with a 5.9 crux and only a pitch or two of 5.6.

 

Looking up the rib

 

140SLESSE0004.jpg

 

Looking down the rib

 

140SLESSE0002_1.jpg

 

The Summit Arete

 

It was 1:30 PM by the time we reached the notch, both feeling pretty damn cooked. It would be real easy both mentally and physically to bail down the southside from this point. Yet somehow we managed to suck it up and continue to the summit. The camera batteries were cooked as well so I got no more shots. The arête is steep, sustained, clean and for the most part solid. The exposure down the north face is gut clenching. Three pitches of 5.8 and a pitch of solid 5.9 got us to low angle terrain a pitch below the summit. We topped out around 5:30 PM on Monday after twenty-five roped pitches. I estimate at least 3500’ of sustained rock climbing, making it what must be one of the longest rock routes around these parts. Incredible! Just Freaking Incredible!

 

Getting back to the Car

 

We had originally planned doing the Cross Overpass descent. After coming up the lower part of it on our approach, I’ve decided I’ll go down that way just as soon as I dip myself in pig shit. Instead we took the knee-destroying south side trail.

 

We reached the trailhead and our bikes around 10:30 PM. A long, not as horrible as anticipated, bike ride back to the car commenced which was reached at 12:30 PM. We made it back to Bellingham by 2:30 AM, fuel tanks fully emptied.

 

Gear Notes:

A complete set of brass nuts and a nut tool will be your best friend. Medium rack to 3.5”. Pins not necessary.

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1200' of unprotected 5.8 slab!? Didja just solo all that or what?

 

OK, a poor choice of words. How about runout, marginally protected slabs. If I came across a good crack I stopped and belayed as that was probably all I would be getting...

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Thanks for the fine route report. It looks like a good, tough route. What, no moss and cedar pulling?

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Monkey is a nickname from college days. Monkeys like to have fun and always smile. the feces throwing part excluded.

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Gene, I don't think I ever told you this, but at one job I had in Bellingham I worked with a guy who was getting into climbing. He said he was learning from a pretty bad assed guy named Gene Pires.

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Monkey is a nickname from college days. Monkeys like to have fun and always smile. the feces throwing part excluded.
hey great nickname for a mountain guide!

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Yep, great name for you Gene.

Hell of a nice guy, in my circle you'll always be Gene, Gene the climbing machine.

 

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Yep, great name for you Gene.

Hell of a nice guy, in my circle you'll always be Gene, Gene the climbing machine.

 

I wish I still could act like that title but my foot won't let me put on a rock shoe. Hoping it will let me wear snowboard boots and ice climbing boots. maybe I can get it under control for next year.

 

tight achilles makes it worse. damn old achilles!

 

Now for a real Monkey, one needs to look at a real classy AMGA guide named Angela Hawse. She is married now to a woman named Monke sometimes called MonkeY. Real nice folks worthy as such a awesome animal title.

 

 

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