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[TR] Nooksack Tower- North Face (Bertulis/Davis) 7/24/2005

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Climb: Nooksack Tower-North Face (Bertulis/Davis)


Date of Climb: 7/24/2005


Trip Report:

(i'll add photos very soon)


Ivan and I climbed the North Face(North Ridge) of the Nooksack Tower the other day. Finally! This was my SIXTH time attempting something on this side of the mountain (three towers, three Price). Perserverence pays off i guess!


2000-attempt #1. Price Glacier. Lyle and I try the Price in late october. Soft snow and mangled route turn us around.

2001-attempt #2. Price Glacier. Matt and I attempt the Price Car to Car and i sprain my knee on the approach.

2002-attempt #3. Price Glacier. Necro and I attempt the Price car to car. Arrive on lateral moraine at dawn and it's alread 100million degrees out. This ends my fascination with the price.

2004-attempt #4 Nooksack Tower. Jay and I bungle the approach and the record setting heat sends us home crying

2005-attempt #5 Nooksack Tower. a certain partner of mine gets the fear just after doing 1/2 of the glacier crossing. 1st pitch only a few hundred yards away.

2005-attempt #6 Nooksack Tower. Ivan and I finally get it. The story follows...


It took a certain amount of will power to head up there once again, but I had Ivan and it didn't take much convincing for him to join me in my obsession. Plus, I brought a lightweight alpine partner gun. I told him i was packing, and he'd better not bitch. Luckily the gun never was deployed.


The Approach:

Ivan can describe the horrors of packing in a Bellingham park. It's old hat to me, so i can't do it justice.

I needed to turn the brain to "off mode" so I popped a gram of vicodan. I almost regretted this decision as I stumbled down the trail, but by the time I reached camp, I had no recolection of the hike! The approach went smoothly, concidering I had it totally and completely wired. The grueling part is the 3 miles of flat trail along the rive with not a single view. Then comes the infamous log crossing. I've seen the log move up stream over the years, as floods destroy the old logs and make new crossings. The new crossing is about 200 yards upstream now. Keep your eyes PEELED the moment the trail turns into old growth for a faint path down to the nooksack river. It should occur within moments (just after a slight rise in the trail with cut logs).

Schwack down and upstream (munching Salmon Berries along the way) to the log and walk it. Don't be a pussy and hump across it or wear your crampons. It's just not cool.

Now follow a faint path with some happily added new flagging tape (not much, but enought to let you know you're not totally fucked) very carefully. Take the time to stick with the trail. You wind up following the very edge of the price creek after some time. Then the trail becomes vertical dirt, and you claw and kick your way up.

Try not to go charging for the ridgeline up to your left, you'll get there soon enough.

After a bit you enter some mossy old talus. You should only be on this talus for a very short bit. The talus soon turns into the lateral moraine, high above Price Lake.

Note: Kevin McLane's guidebook has you on the lakes edge and following its shores to the head of the lake, and then scrambling up some cliffs. DO NOT DO THIS! you will be so fucked you'll feel like the only girl at an antarctic research facility.

Okay, now you follow the moraine FOREVER even though it looks like a short walk. Look for a cairn when the morain peters out just below a cliff. Root grab violently up to the top of the ridgeline. There are some pools of water on top, but i'd filter that shit. There is fresh water a bit farther (1st water since car). I forgot to mention that immediately out of the car you gotta cross a stream. Bring sandals and stash them on the other side.

Back to the ridge. Follow the ridge FOREVER again, cross a narrow connecting spur, and at the last cliff, traverse aroudn the left side. Cross the stream and scramble up 3rd class mossy waterfalls to the upper ridgeline and granite bedrock. IF you keep hiking to the upper most section of ridge that connects to the glacier..as far as you can hike on rock, there is an awesome and super flat bivy spot. Note, flowing water is strangely hard to find here, but it's there. 5 hours to this point.


Crossing the Glacier:

I made a good call and brought my trange ice boots instead of the usuall tenis shoes and strap on poons. Thank god! The glacier is a mess, and i would never concider doign the Price Glacier route anymore. It is very broken, but more so threatend by major serac fall for the upper 1/3 of the route. Not worth the risk for such a low angled glacier slog-a-thon. Crossing to the tower is quite manageble however.

Now it occured to me many many times that Ivan is roughtly three times my size and weight and coupled with the fact that we had no snow protection and I was using a childrens ice tool (the fisher price My 1st Ice Tool), that if he or I was to fall in a crevasse or slip while downclimbing at any time, we'd both probably be dead as doornails. I even made a song about this, much to Ivan's delight!

McLane mentions that it's about 1/2 hour to the base of the route from the glaciers edge, and there is a good bivy ledge at the base of the 1st pitch. Wrong wrong wrong wrong wrong! It took us 2.5 hours to cross the glacer to the 1st pitch. Much sketchyness was had and most of the details are now lost in the alpinist amnesia that occurs when put under the gun.

I can say that there is shit for bivy sites at the base, and we spent a good hour trundling rocks to make two sloping, SUPER EXPOSED (CHRIST ALMIGHTY!!!!), coffins...er bivy spots. My ledge was right at the base of a loose rock gully that kept spilling down onto my head. I had to find some large rocks to make a barrier. I wasn't too pleased after the climb to return to my spot and find it slightly re-buried. I didn't sleep so good. Ivan had similar issues. Every time he or i went to visit each other's coffin, or go to the "kitchen", or our 3rd world bathroom, we'd send down a shower of rocks onto our respective bivies. Fucking awesome.



Since we did the glacier crossing already, we didn't get up till 6am. That's when the sun hits the route, so it was nice to be warmed outta bed, having laid awake in cold fear all night long. We dicked around and finally got our asses on route at around 7:30am. A respectable time to start, vs the inhuman early hours of pre-dawn.

The 1st pitch was just like the instruction manual said, and strenous 5.8 chimney and jam crack. Easy to find and start up. We did a few pitches and then I took off simul-climbing, until i got bored and had to poop. Ivan got the next stretch and took us to the base of the upper headwall.

I took a different way than the users manual stated. The manual wasn't too verbose on where to go, and we tried to follow a natural line without peaking the dial of the contrive-o-meter. We follwed the ridge to around the right side of the peak, and I did a vertical and sometimes overhanging face to jam crack. I slung a block, and laughed my ass off when Ivan cleaned it not by undoing the sling, but simply picking up the block (easily) and pulling off the sling. Bomber! Ivan was almost crushed several times by rope-induced rockfall on several of the leads. Sometimes there was no gear for a hundred feet, sometimes there was. Interesting rock. Better be careful!!

We topped out after 6.5 hours of climbing, and read the summit register. I recognized a few friends on the list, and some names i've heard of before. It was cool.



We had the looming lurking overshadowing fear the whole entire trip of the dreaded descent. "Takes as long as the climb" we heard....and we heard corerct!

Thankfully there's a shitload of tat all over the beckey route (which btw looked like one of the shittiest routes i've ever seen), but that didn't stop the ropes from tangling on every low andled talus covered rope chopping partner axing rappell. We did about 7 full double rope raps until we got the the super dreaded enterance couloir that was bordered on all sides by deep moats, shitloads of crevasss, and a big looming wants to eat you bergshrund. We both we thinking how the fuck are we gonna downclimb this steep snow with yawning crevasses everywhere? It took a lot out of us to get by this section, and we had to leave some gear to rap past some major sphincter pinching sections. Long long long way to fall.

We had to unrope and free solo across some icy snow onto a gravel ledge for one last rap. I went down 1st only to have the rope end (with stretch) just a few feet from the bottom, just above the major bergshrund! Ivan was too far up to yell instructions to, so I said "fuck it", put in a "bomber" cam, and hung off it after yelling for Ivan to come on down! Ivan was not too pleased with me, or my anchor, or my idea for him to just jump across the moat and bershrund. I finally convinced him and he lept to non-safety on the other side. I quickly joined him.

It was a scary traverse below the mountain back to our not-so-much-fun bivy spot. We ate a cold dinner and went to bed with worried smiles.

Waking up at 8:30 was the only consolation about having to downclimb that goddamned glacier one more time. I don't really want to remember this bit, so i'll skip it.


I was on 4 different types of drugs by the car, and 5 in the car. Pain and worry free, we sailed the car back to Bellingham


Ivan can go into more detail on this, the cliff jumping water bouldering, alchohol binging party that night with 3 ericks at once, my run in with the crack dealers (more than one), etc etc etc etc.


Good times, but glad they are over. I alread miss this beautiful place, i feel almost a part of it now, having spent some much freakin' time there. Sooooo beautiful!!!



Gear Notes:

rack of cams, a pin or two, poons, a tool (or two), two ropes...basic stuff.


Approach Notes:

bring a bike if you're not worried about being caught or pissing hikers off. we didn't, but it would've been nice on the 1st 3 miles of actual trail.

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The Tower



The Log



Necro on one of the many times up there:



Approaching Camp:



The Kitchen



My Bedroom:




Pretty sunset. The views of the surrounding peaks up north is unbeatable. Truly amazing mountains we've got in the cascades and coast ranges.





Ivan on pitch 2



Me about to enter the crux pitch




Ivan Climbing



High on route:



Rapin' off



Harrowing descent:



"I don't wanna go down there!!!"



A special place for me. I miss it already.


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good times. my own personal highlights:

-fear of sudden drowning death on log bridge 15 feet above a raging series of rapids (fear of shame from lord layton that made me walk the log instead of pussy-hump it)

-sketchiest bivy i've yet done w/ ludicrious exposure below my 2 foot wide down sloping ledge

-45 meters into my first lead commiting onto a totally pro-less slab (what can you do? a bullshit cam and a half-driven, tied off knifeblade and a lot of goodwill got mike up right)

-the 20-some-odd occasions shrieking death from dislodged rocks rushed by me (managed to only get hit once, by a softball sized nugget - already entered the grievous wound to my "serious injuries list for 2005")

-our names the first in the register for this year, only 4 last year, including iain and nick

-endless raps off the top (first the red rope's a coily little bitch, then the green, then both of them - bastards!)

-using pack above head as a shield when mike was rapping

- motherfuk'n frightening last rap onto a 6 inch wide ledge, 3 feet above and 3 feet away from the glacier, with a hungry 80 foot moat just below

-grateful dead rocking the mp3s in the frosty bivy the second night

-endless march out

-cliff diving at some meth-head shithole in b-ham - super awesome in the raging torrent boulder problem to get to upper pool - almost drowning in said pool - hitting feet onthe bottom on second dive - witnessing a drug deal go down in the park on the walk in

-drinking way too much beer downtown - arguments over names n' avatars - a huge burrito - "hey man, you wanna buy some crack cocaine" on the walk to the car (my response "no thanks", mike's "hey, FUCK YOU!")

-the most hateful drive home ever - beer wobblies and half-heaves on mike's living room floor followed by sunblasted interstate of death for 5 hours through rush-hour traffic, fighting the urge to just crash into a gas-truck to make the pain go away...


so yeah, an awesome time - don't anybody else go do it, it's too dangerous!

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sweet guys! Great TR and glad you got it. I think i just kicked this mountain off my "want to do" list smile.gif

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sweet guys! Great TR and glad you got it. I think i just kicked this mountain off my "want to do" list smile.gif


No! Put it back on the list!!!! I had a lot of fun.

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nice work- 6 times a charm!


you need to write a book with all your crazy TR's!!!



Hey, 6 times worked for Marek! Nice work, Mike. bigdrink.gif

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Yes, I'd keep it on your list. There are not that many routes in Washington that provide a real alpine experience like that and the rock climbing, while long and loose in places, is never exceedingly difficult. Nooksack is a cool destination and that North Face route is really fun.


Don't go there unless you and your partner have done some other long routes and are at least somewhat well schooled on loose rock and ice, though.

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Mike - wasn't there a good bivvy on that knob a couple hundred feet below the base of the climb?

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a few hundred feet lower there was a flatish area of snow, but still w/ a lot of exposure, and preventing an immediate start on rock in the morning. we made it work - it was just wierd.


seriously, this is an awesome route and should be done by all non-suckers.

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Mike - wasn't there a good bivvy on that knob a couple hundred feet below the base of the climb?


Matt, i knew you did this route and was thinkin' of ya on the way up! What year did you do it in?

As for the bivy, one of the instruction manuals told us that there was a spot right at the base of the route. when we got there and realized the knob was the spot of choice, we weren't too excited about going back down, and having to re-climb back up in the am.


The rockclimbing was the easiest part of the climb. Hardest climbing was only 5.9 and the "5.7" pitches were cruiser. The 5.8's were a bit runout in spots. A full package!

I should point out, like most of the longer routes i've done, was the 1st long route my partner and i had ever done together! So much for the shakedown. I trusted Ivan from our "committing" crag routes we've done toghether at beacon and broughtons! cantfocus.gif

Edited by michael_layton

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OK, back on the list it goes smile.gif Sounds like I'll have to bivy at that knob mentioned by Matt as I doubt I could sleep worrying about getting pegged with a rock all night. I'm sure the rasta bivy was much required.

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I did it maybe six or eight years ago. We camped way down below treeline and it was a LONG day from there. Like you, I've done plenty of bigger climbs with guys who I never even met before, but the point about this one is that it is demanding and dangerous enough that you want to be sure your buddy is going to be solid - at least read their resume first. Nooksack Tower is not like another Mt. Goode or Forbidden Peak or something. For a "moderate" route, it packs some punch.

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How often has the traverse from Nooksack tower to the summit pyramid of shuksan been done? That looks like a fun alpine trip that would also avoid going back down the not-so-fun-sounding descent of the tower.



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Josh, there was a report of traverssing that ridge on cc.com a couple of years ago, though I think they may have accessed it from the gully just past Nooksack Tower. The answer to your question is, I think, very rarely or maybe it has not been done yet all the way from Nooksack Tower to the Smmmit.


I thought The descent was tricky as Mike describes, and we were downclimbing fairly hard ice over a huge schrund in the dark, but it wasn't anything truly our of scale with lots of big mountain alpine descents -- it is just that there are few if any other climbs in Washington that require that kind of thing to get off (there must be one or two, but I can't think of them at the moment).

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