daylward Posted March 1, 2005 Share Posted March 1, 2005 Climb: When Triumph Feels Like Failure -NE ridge FWA Date of Climb: 2/26/2005 Trip Report: [pictures will come later] I had a hot date planned for Sunday night; super cool girl. We’d been out a couple times before, and I was really looking forward to seeing her again. She was going to return on Sunday from the ski vacation she’d been on in Steamboat with her family all week. Then Colin called. When Colin calls, it means only one thing – weekend plans ruined. What was it this time? The NE ridge of Triumph hasn’t been climbed yet in the winter? And yeah, the weather forecast is perfect, and yeah, the ski season sucks and my season pass at Crystal is a sunk cost, and yeah, Triumph has been on my list for a long time (I made one attempt several years ago but got turned back by rain). But I have a date! I gave in. I told Colin we could go, as long as we make it back to Seattle by 8:00 pm on Sunday night. I convinced myself it was possible… the moon was nearly full, so we could conceivably climb a lot at night. Colin said we could drive all the way to the trailhead. And he’s fast. I made a schedule in my head… Wake up at 1:00 am, summit by noon, back to camp by 3:00 pm, back to the car by 5:30, then back to Seattle by 8:00. Ambitious? You think? Anyone else? Can we get a consensus here? No? I emailed said super cool girl in Steamboat. I sent her a link to the summertime route description and my planned schedule. I assured her everything would work out… and she assured me that I should definitely go for it. I met Colin at the Ravenna Park & Ride at 5:00 on Saturday morning, and decided to take my car because it has a CD player and Colin really wanted to listen to some political rap. There was some snow in places on the road to the trailhead, but by that time the music had changed to Rob Zombie and Marilyn Manson so we got through it fine. Colin realized he’d forgotten his sunglasses, but fortunately I had a pair of way rad purple reflective jobbies I could loan him… wearing those, he was unstoppable; even more than usual I mean. We left the car at about 8:00 am. The only people who had been up the trail recently had been on skis; we could see the remnants of ski tracks where there was snow, but certainly now there’s no way to make it all the way with skis on. Typical of late February days in the Cascades, it got hot very quickly and we had to strip down. For those keeping track of snowpack, after the 2-mile section of flat overgrown-road trail (which still had some snow in shady places), we didn’t hit snow again for another mile up the switchbacks, and snowshoes were still impractical until a mere 500 vertical feet below the ridgeline. We thrashed up a steep & deep hillside (must have been off trail there) to the ridge, then thrashed down a steeper and deeper hillside to the lower Thornton lake (off trail there too for sure). The Thornton lakes were frozen over, but the lower one definitely looked thin in places… We went for it anyway though, just ‘cause it’s such a pain in the ass to go around, and accomplished the transit with ease and without incident. By the time we got to the upper lake, it was so hot… We were standing there in the middle of a frozen lake, our shirts off, waves of heat coming off our foreheads, eating Clif bars, wearing way rad sunglasses. The hump up to “the col” (or alternatively “the notch”) had patchy snow, but the glacier beyond “the notch” (or alternatively “the col”) had snow aplenty, and we were very glad to have our snowshoes there. We found a flat spot on top of what probably would have been a cavernous crevasse in the summer, not too far below the approach gully for the NE ridge, and set up our camp there. We stomped around with vigor to make a tent site as flat and level as a billiards table. It was 3:30. Time to eat dinner & hit the sack! I lobbied hard for the 1:00 wake-up time. Colin lobbied hard for 4:00. I whined “But I have a date tomorrow night! If I’m late you’ll be sorry!” Colin said “No, you’ll be sorry, sucker!” We compromised on 3:00. Shortly thereafter, I realized I had left my harness in the car. And belay device. And cordalette & locking biners. “That’s interesting,” I said. Colin pointed to the wad of ½” rap-sling webbing I had insisted on taking and said “That’ll make a nice swami belt, sucker!” However after a bit of discussion, we decided he’d be the one to wear the swami belt and I’d wear his harness. After 4 hours of sleep spread sporadically throughout 10, I was relieved when the alarm finally went off. The moon was bright, the snow was firm, and Colin’s swami belt was tight. We soloed up the gully to gain the ridge; the climbing was easy. We stayed left of the crest at first, until we gained the top of a small side-buttress, then we roped up and Colin led a steep mixed pitch to the actual ridge crest. I think that way is significantly different than what would be feasible in the summer. The sky was beginning to get light as I took over and led a long simul pitch that was mostly snowy and pretty easy; there were a couple rock outcroppings I could get gear in. Finally, I went up a steep gendarme with a few hard moves, after which I decided it was time to belay. We pitched it out from there through the crux (with little bits of simul if the rope wasn’t quite long enough to get to a good belay position). The very edge of the ridge on the SE side was exposed rock, due to sun exposure, so often it was possible to walk along that and use ice tools in the snow on your right for balance. When we got to the crux it happened to be my lead (fancy that), and I opted for the right-hand variation. All of this climbing was on the NW side of the ridge, so it was really covered in flutings. Fortunately beneath the flutings there was water ice, or frozen heather, or positive rock holds… so as long as I could keep excavating, I could proceed. I took a rising traverse up and right, past the bottom of the 5.7 offwidth (which was choked with snow), around the corner to sort of chimney with more exposed rock. Gear wasn’t ubiquitous, but I could get enough in to remain confident. Above the chimney I had to wallow up some more steep flutings, which took a lot of time & effort (reminded me a bit of Watusi Rodeo!), but I eventually reached the large ledge that marked the end of the difficult climbing after about 55 meters. It felt good to suddenly be in the sun again, and there were rappel slings right there to belay from. After Colin followed the crux, he led one long simul pitch from the ledge, across the face to the left, up a 60º snow & heather slope, to the summit. It was 12:30! We were standing on the summit! That wasn’t too far off my schedule! Maybe we can make it! We just have to descend in 2 hours, hike out in 2 ½ hours, and drive home in 2 ½ hours! We can do it! Yeah right. The first decision we had to make at that point was which way to descend. Neither of us knew the south ridge descent route, but I thought it must have to be faster than going down the way we came up. It turned out that there was certainly less snow on it, it was rock almost the whole way. And it probably was quicker overall. But we only had one 60m rope, and I think we didn’t get the route exactly right, because we had to set all our own rap stations after the first three. We ended up going right down the south side of the east face, in a total of 7 raps, and eventually connecting with a ramp of snow that we could downclimb to the glacier. That put us almost directly above our camp, but in the end it took 3 ½ hours to descend, putting us at camp at 4:00. Hmmm… Schedule slipping… We packed quickly & were snowshoeing back to “the notch” by 4:45. The lakes were still frozen, fortunately, but there were definitely more holes of liquid water showing on the lower one than before! We walked across it anyway, skillfully avoiding the holes. It was deep twilight as we hauled ourselves up 400 feet of deep powder to the ridge, where we saw the footprints of… other people! We tried to avoid them, but finally succumbed to their direction. You know the drill from there… dark slog long knee pound occasionally satisfy hunger yearn for car hike fast through pain. Almost 9:00. That’s when we got to the car. Hey, 4 hours isn’t bad to cover all that distance, with the snow & all, eh? But that wasn’t fast enough for my date. We threw our stuff in my car and I rallied down the road, finally getting cell phone reception in Sedro Wolley, My phone beeped. “2 Messages” it said. I listened to them. “Hi Dan. I didn’t expect to get your voice mail. I’m back from Steamboat, but I don’t know where you are. I’ll try calling back later.” “Hi Dan. I thought I was going to see you tonight, but it’s getting late and I’ve had a long day and I need to go to bed. Hope you’re ok, I guess I’ll talk to you later…” Triumphant failure. Gear Notes: Small rock rack (1 Ti piton, several nuts, 6 cams to 2") Worked great. There was not enough ice for screws. 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