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first winter ascent [TR] White Chuck - East Face Couloir FWA 2/27/2005

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Climb: White Chuck - East Face Couloir


Date of Climb: 2/27/2005


Trip Report:


Look at the pics then read Justins post "A Message from Necronomicon:" a little further down the page. It's far better than my slop


In the beginning of February, when Dave Brannon and I were finishing up the Northeast Ridge, it became readily apparent that the east face of White Chuck was big, steep and split by a very deep coulior. With a little help from John Scurlock I managed to get an excellent photo of the east face.


Ummmm....that looks good.





Gene Pires, Justin Thibault and I climbed the route on our second attempt on February 27th.


First climbed in September 1970 by Ron Miller and Ben Guydelkon, it had all the making of an un-classic. The CAG admonishes, "best climbed in late summer when dry", "scare protection" and "hard hat recommended". In a veil of ice and neve we figured it might be a very good climb. On the first attempt too much new snow and too little time turned us around before we even saw the face. Though the weather had become unseasonably warm we returned over the weekend to try again.


On Saturday morning Justin managed to coax his truck up to 3100’ on FSR 2435. From there we slogged up logging roads and a scenic wooded ridge reaching the basin below the south side of the peak in the late afternoon. At around 5000’ temps in the shade hovered around forty degrees. But north-facing slopes still held fine powder snow giving me some sweet turns, and us hope for decent conditions in the shady couloir. Justin and I passed out in the sun while Gene summoned the energy to pack down part of the approach for the following morning. Just before sunset John Scurlock made a serious of terrifyingly fast and tight circles around the peak in his yellow rocket plane.


Sunday we left camp at 4 AM and traversed up to a “chair-like” pinnacle on the southeast ridge of the peak. We dropped down a very steep ramp to the base of the face and began a long, miserable traverse through breakable crust. At first the route appeared to start with a blank rock wall. As we ascended the debris cone at its base a beautiful ice-choked chimney appeared, leading up to the left.


Starting up the first pitch




Ultimately the climb was far better than we could have imagined. With occasional simu-climbing we broke the climb into seven long pitches, the last ending forty feet from the summit. Two pitches in the middle consisted of steep neve. The other five were primarily beautiful runnels of water ice sometimes no more than 1’ wide. While a majority of the climbing was WI3 or easier the second pitch had a difficult crux of vertical and rotten snow covering thinly iced chockstones with hard-fought protection that felt pretty serious. All photos by Justin Thibault.



Below the long, beautiful runnel of pitch 3




Leading off for the summit




Descending the Northwest Ridge




One of the boyz below P6




We topped out maybe eight hours after starting the climb and took a long rest before beginning the exposed and tedious descent back to camp.


Justin, Gene and I all felt that this route was quite classic and deserving of repeats. During a normal snow year there would likely be more wallowing, less ice and a big cornice to surmount at the top. We thought a fair rating in current conditions was WI3 mixed 5.8 R.



Gear Notes:

Plenty of screws


Pins - KB to Baby Angle

small rack to 2.5”

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Justin is a far better writer than I am smirk.gif


A Message from Necronomicon:


TR - I'm Frosty for Prosti-Tots


I'm no hardman, but I've done some stuff, and this is

by far THE BEST alpine climb I've done in twelve years

of climbing.


When Darin sent me John Scurlock's picture of the

face, I pretty much creamed my jeans. The line looked

CLASSIC. Awesome colouir splitting a huge face.

Unclimbed in winter. FUCK YEAH!!! But you can't see

into the gully in the picture, the top looked bleak,

and you can't scope the route until you get to the

base, after climbing around the entire mountain.

Would it go?


Act 1: Snow wallow on skis.

Everyting I hate about climbing, except for the views

and the friends. Exhaustion, equipment failure, deep

snow, and we didn't even SEE the route. I especially

enjoyed being repeatedly assaulted by my pack on the

descent, re-learning how to ski in leather boots.

Build speed/try to slow down/lose

balance/crash/turtle/pack off/skis off/skis on/pack

on/ repeat ad neaseum. Fun?


Act 2: This is why I climb.

Wake up screaming at 3 a.m. after nightmare of being

chased by demonic forces in a cramped earthen basement

while covered in painful insect bites. Fun? The

alarm went off at 3:15.


Dropping down from the Chair Col in the dark over

steep snow. "Could we climb back up this shit?"

Controlled plummet past hidden bergschrund. Fat man's

misery busting through breakable crust.


"How's it look Darin?" "Looks like a blank wall."



Look to the East and the Sun begins to touch the sky.

"How's it look Darin?" "There's a gully!!!...I think

it's gonna go!!!"


And it did.


The normally mild Darin at the crux mixed chimney with

iced-up over-hanging chockstone and failing snow

mushrooms: "Fuck. I think I fucked myself. Fuck.

FUCK. I don't think it will go. We're fucked. Fuck.






And it was.


Pitch after pitch of INCREBIBLE climbing. Ice, neve,

snow, mixed. Simul-climbing on narrow ice runnels

through tight chimneys. Always challenging, never

desperate. Spin drift avalanches, try and wait them

out, balanced on front points, pack pulling you down,

but they don't stop. You could wait forever, so fuck

it and climb through. One swing styrofoam. Good ice,

shitty ice, good snow, shitty snow, good rock, shitty



Past the point of no return conversation with self:

"Will it go? Will I die here?"


Yes and no. A reprieve in the Sun then the hidden

gully past the cornice and to the summit. We did it.


The route, the summit, the friends, the views...gifts

from the Gods.


"IV WI3 5.8R Mixed, 1600'." TOTAL FUCKING CLASSIC!!!


We gave the route a secret name and went home.


This is why I climb.


Later, bitches. See you in the hills.



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THat looks great! That narrow water ice looks like a lot of fun. I can't believe you can drive to 3100' on a forest road tho. shocked.gif

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Bump. I bet this is in good shape right now. Hope someone gets on it but you will need good skiis for the long logging road.

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