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[TR] Bear's Breast Mountain- traverse 8/21/2005

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Climb: Bear's Breast Mountain-traverse


Date of Climb: 8/21/2005


Trip Report:

Short Version:

I summited Bear's Breast via many of the pointy things that make up the massif. I descended the standard route (SE face).


Long(winded) version:

Four AM, driving on I-90 toward Mt. Stuart a news "story" comes on the radio about the high price of gas. I change my plan to an objective with a shorter drive, Bears Breast Mtn via the Middle Fork Snoqualmie Road.


A couple years back, hiking up the Dutch Miller Gap trail, I noticed that it looked like a pretty easy scramble up to the most western of the many spikes that make up the Bear's Breast massif. Today I needed to be back home by 8pm, so I figured I could head up the west side and tag as many breasts as I could before my turnaround time. I set my alarm for noon, and was hiking at 6.


The Dutch Miller Gap trail is beautiful and beautifully maintained (probably easier hiking than the Middle Fork Road would be!). I took the Williams Lake turnoff and followed it until it opened to a clearing below talus and cliffs leading up toward the first objective.


After much zigzagging through obstacles I was confronted with some more difficult climbing to reach summit blob. Switching to rock shoes I made a somewhat harrowing solo (lots of loose rock) to the first goal ~9:30.


The next summit looked quite precipitous, and the main summit a long way off. This was pretty disheartening, but I figured just stick with the plan and poke along. One bright side was the presence of an easy gulley down to the north which would allow me to avoid reversing much of the recent climbing.


The next summit, though quite improbable looking, turned out to be a fun exposed scramble up a precipitous ridge to probably the first of the 4 major spikes mentioned in Beckey. Still plenty of time left, I continued East.


Climbing along the ridge, popping over, traversing, repeat, I knocked off a couple more minor spikes. Whenever it appeared I was going to be hung up I'd peer around a corner to find another convienent ledge or crumbly rock bridge to extend my outing.


Heading toward the next two major spikes I rounded a corner and realized that I was just a short bit of downclimbing to some ramp and ledges that lead to what looked like must be the standard ascent gulley, above which was the main summit!


I checked my watch, 11am. I had an hour, so I bypassed the next two summits and headed for the goods.


It was a long traverse, but I made it to the ascent gulley as evidenced by a cairn. Here the rock was way better. Fun scrambling on solid white rock, and summit fever helped to reenergize me, but time was getting short.


I popped over a notch, breathless, and there was the summit block, looking just like the Beckey sketch. Quite surprisingly, I also saw a bunch of packs strewn about.


A team of four climbers were ascending the route. I greeted a pair waiting at the base and prepared for the final obstacle. I changed back into my rock shoes, put on my harness and downsized my pack to carry only the rap setup and summit necessities.


I was jazzed that I might actually summit the main peak. I worked my way up to the lowest climber, who was now alone belaying, and asked politely if I could pass. He wasn't up-front enough to actually use the word "no"; but, he hemmed around, looked pained, and said he'd be real quick. This got across the message that he was refusing my request.


I was a bit perturbed, but when I took hold of a giant piece of rock which surprised me by sliding down the mountain a foot, I could at least understand his point of view. A couple of missles dislodged by the three climbers above emphasized the point, and also had helmetless soloer me thinking that maybe this was all for the better.


I did some standing around, listening to the comic interaction between this guy and those above.


belayer: "TWENTY FEEEEET!!"

from above "what?"


from above: mwom mwama muhbbbbmayttt

belayer: "WHAT WAS THAT? (to me) Did you understand that?

above: mwa mway mwomj mawywyy blubbub fwaaahuuuh.


(stage direction: no movement of rope)

from above: --off be_ay --

belayer: "WAS THAT YOU JACK?!"

from above: mwa mwu maa maaa....


So anyway, you get the picture...this would have been pretty amusing, but at that moment my watch alarm went off. I was going to miss this summit because I picked the one day in 700 where I'd run across another party up here, and I timed it perfectly!!


Quickly rationalizing that I now had a much easier descent route than the way I came up, I decided I had a bit of time to burn. I began scouting an alternate route.


I eventually found something out to the right. I believe it's the alternate mentioned in Beckey. It was a nice slab, then some steep cracks which would have turned me back had there not been bomber constricting handjams at the length of each reach. Above the steep cracks I was able to traverse out right over an exposed bulge (with perfect stairstep footholds but no hands) to easier ground.


Interesting summit register contents:

First, there were not many entries dating back over many years.

Second, two entries from parties (LW(2), BB, JM; well-known NW climbers) who climbed the mythical East slabs of BB mountain. Both entries were quite positive about the route. They described it as "mega slab, 3000 feet sustained 4th class, one bit of 5.4".


Summit festivities and time to go. I was hoping to rap the established route (I lugged a damn rope all this way), but the fourth climber had still not arrived. After a bit of waiting and not much movement I backtracked and downclimbed the summit block via my ascent route without incident.


The standard route was good, but a bit hard on my now weary knees. It was very clean and solid, but quite exposed. I now understood why the climbers up top had been pondering alternate descent possibilities. More than a few nervous downclimbing sections, one involving a succession of long dead trees as holds, got me to the relatively flat base near 3 pm. Crashing some bush and avoiding some cliffs got me to Lake Ivanhoe, a good trail and WATER!!!


Made it home at 8:10pm (late, but within limit of acceptability).



Gear Notes:

hiking shoes

rock shoes

rope (didn't use)

harness + a few doodads (didn't use)


Good climbing approach shoes would have been much better as I burned much time switching shoes 3 or 4 times, and also ended up climbing more technical stuff than I'd have liked with my hiking shoes.


Also should have brought a camera.


Approach Notes:

Middle Fork Road quite rough after Dingford Creek TH. High clearance probably required. 4wd advised.

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No, I didn't bring a camera because I was originally planning on visiting over-photographed Mt. Stuart. frown.gif

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Great one, chucK! Strong headed solo effort.


I went there a long time ago up the Middle Fork road, and we bivvied at the base after a long hike. Your approach route astounds me.

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"Crashing some bush and avoiding some cliffs..."


Ah, grasshopper-san, you learn the ways of the Element. wink.gif

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