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layton

first ascent [TR] F.A. "The Washington Pass Traverse"- Silverstar-Vasiliki 5.9+ VI 8/24/2005

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Climb: F.A. "The Washington Pass Traverse"-Silverstar-Vasiliki. (VI 5.9+)

 

Date of Climb: 8/24/2005

 

Trip Report:

Washington Pass Traverse. First Ascent Mark Allen and Mike Layton 8/24-8/26. VI 5.9+

 

Mark and I finally completed a dream of ours we’ve talked about, but never found the time between the two of us for the past three years It’s gonna be hard to write this up since my memory is terrible and I don’t really know how to begin. I guess I’ll start from the beginning...

 

Day One: East Ridge of Silverstar V 5.9+

 

We had 4am wake up at Mark’s unibomber cabin in Mazama, downed some eggs and coffee, shuttled a bike to Silverstar creek and dove the shaggin wagon to the Cedar Creek trailhead. It was pitch black out Mark realized when his petzel “weaka” barely illuminated his shoes as he tied them. It was calm and the stars were blazing. The Northern Lights pulsed across the night sky. Truly spectacular start to a long long trip.

 

There’s a horse trail that leaves the Cedar Creek trail about 100 yards from the start and is basically a wooded spur off the east ridge of Silverstar. We took the steep trail about 4 miles of uphill grind wondering the whole time, “where the hell does the east ridge of Silverstar start?”

 

Our hearts sank for the 1st of many many many times when we fist saw the beast, the East Ridge of Silverstar, put up by Childs in the early 90's. It’s only seen a handful of ascents and we had zero beta. Sweet. The climbing started TWO MILES from the summit of Silverstar along an exposed ridge with lots of scrambling and climbing. Our first two raps occurred after about an hour of climbing. We could see the ridge lead up steeply to junction of ridges that block our view. The summit must be just behind

 

Nope, our hearts sank again after we pulled off some really spooky exposed soloing when we saw the summit another full mile away up an enormously long and confusing ridge with an unbelievable amount of sub peaks and high points. Crap, our noon summit estimate is out the friggin window

 

Lots and lots of soloing up the ridge (up to 5.6) brought us to the base of the Silver Horn. We tried a new route up the east ridge, but we kept blanking out in 5.10 land in tennis shoes and a long way to go still. More raps and some traversing (below Berdinka/Thibaults route on the middle ledge section...looks great ) brought Mark and I to a steep chimney system that we soloed using full stemming between walls. Very exciting. We topped out on the Silver Horn, rapped back onto the ridge and wondered where in the hell folks were going on this ridge. All our raps were new ones, so we assumed that the people who were doing the regular E.ridge route avoided the silver horn. Who knows? Route finding is full on.

 

Hours later of continuous climbing (to 5.9+), rapping, mind blowing exposure, dead ends, heart sinking moments of “crap, we gotta find a way through this ), and making sure we stuck to the ridge to keep a clean line (unsure where reg e.ridge goes) we reached the summit. We had one hell of a time getting around huge gendarmes that block passage on the entire width of the ridge (a major problem on this climb) and there were lots more sub summits than we could have possible anticipated. Also there was fresh snow and frozen moss to keep us on our toes for when we were on the north side of the ridge.

 

Wasting no time (we took zero breaks during the climb on all 3 days) we dropped down to the saddle below the main summit. 11 hours of climbing, 13.5 hours from the car. The way we went on the east ridge was a grade V 5.9+. Full on climbing all day long. Time to bivy. We melted snow and filled our long dry bottles. It got down to 28 degree that night with a brisk wind, so our bivy pads of 8mm rope didn’t make too comfortable of a sleep. Luckily the whiskey I snuck in my pack helped. Then I burned my sleeping bag on the stove and had somehow lost my tape, so I had to ridge a down tourniquet with some perlon. Feathers float about as we slept on and off.

 

DAY TWO: West Peak Silverstar-Old Woman-All the Wine Spires V 5.9+

 

It took a huge amount of willpower to get out of “bed” as it was still in the high twenties when we got going. Mark chugged his water the night before while I hoarded mine. I started to make some more water when I got about 8 ounces before the stove quite. Fuck. Mark shoved his water bladder full of snow hoping it would melt against his back during the day. It actually worked

 

The “easy” west peak of Silverstar took way longer than we expected and we had to rap a few times b/c our crampon less tennis shoes didn’t really want to stick to the steep frozen dirt snow. The frozen dirt snow proved a constant pain in the ass. Then getting to the Old Women took longer than we thought. But when we got there and peered down the abyss 400 feet straight down to dizzying and impossible looking array of wine spires our hearts really sank. Both of us wanted to quit. Go home. Bail. Screw this, we’re gonna die. But we rapped off anyway on our nth rap we had to set up with the 50 feet of dwindling tat I brought.

 

We traversed around to the East Face of Chablis and did the beckey route. Great fun. 2 pitches, some runout steep face climbing, and some simul climbing to the wildly exposed summit. We looked across to Pernod spire. How the hell are we gonna get up this? The east was sheer, the west was a huge ridge we’d have to rap forever to get to, and the south face rose impossibly up from the col. But the s.face did have cracks. I gulped and told Mark I’d give it a go.

 

I climbed extremely timidly up the vertical wall wondering at every moment if the cracks would continue and if I fell would my gear hold. I pulled the roof and ran outta gear. Mark came up and finished the pitch up a great handcrack/layback. We had no idea it had been climbed before.

 

More rapping, downclimbing, and climbing up a horrible horrible chimney/gully system took Mark and I to the North Face of Chianti Spire. My lead. This pitch was hands down the scariest, loosest, worse, most run-out piece of shit pitch I’ve ever climbed. The rock was “blow your brains out before you go fucking insane” shitty and scary. Mark called it “a life or death” lead. I was glad to be done. More rapping.

 

One more to go Mark did a terrifying pitch up the south face of Burgundy from the notch. An exposed fingertip traverse with 3 foot tall pedestals that we so loose you HAD to only push down with your feet. Unfortunalty those were the only footholds, and I stepped on the 1st one the wrong way and it started to totter over and fall, so I hooked it with my toes and tipped it back into place so I could 2nd the traverse. Two more pitches took us to the top. I forgot what Mark called this "new" route but it was also 5.9+ (see a trend?).

 

Four double rope raps and we were at Burgundy Col. 11.5 hours of climbing. Out of water once more. Mark and I were excited to be done and go home. Mark said he only had two days cuz he had to work the next day. But then Mark said something that changed everything “Yeah, I gotta work Saturday morning, tomorrow. Bummer” To which I replied, “Mark, today is Thursday” We had another day. There was still more to climb We took stock of our food situation...we had enough for a small dinner of snacks, and a couple bars for the next day. No water though. We bombed down burgundy col east toward Chianti and found trickles in the ice. Thank you whiskey bottle It was the only thing small enough to collect our water. With full bottles we slogged back to the col and had another minimal bivy. It was great

 

Day Three Vasiliki Ridge IV 5.9+

 

Vasiliki Tower starts it right off from Burgundy Col. We encountered some unbelievable shitty rock on this climb (from the south east ridge) and I had yet another hate filled vomit inspiring I’m gonna fucking die lead. My cams for the 1st part were probably more dangerous in the rock than running it out since when the inevitable ripped out of the rock if I fell, the block that would come down would kill Mark. Good times. Then I began gardening. All Mark saw was a waterfall of dirt pour down 75 feet up. He had the cam I needed in the belay too, so I doubled up in the same spot and went for it. Thank god it went too. Yet another 5.9+

 

The Acropils, Charon and Ares tower went down way easier than we thought and our hearts almost didn’t sink when we headed for the “final bit,” Juno-Jupiter tower. Jupiter was the before Juno and an exposed but easy crack took us to the top. Then our hearts sank. It was impossible to get to Juno tower. We tried a lot of crazy shit to make things go over the past three days, and this wouldn’t go. We had to do lots more rapping and very scary down climbing to the west Long ribs shot down boarded by deep gullies of shit rock and we climbed up rapped down them looking for a way up. By the time we found a way up we were past Juno. We were way outta water and food and getting up the remaining turds of horrid rock seemed so forced and contrived. So we got back on the ridge and finished the traverse . 8 hours of climbing on day 3. Bitch mode was on extreme by the decent, and somehow we found the energy to run the last section (the trail to the car) of the Silverstar creek decent. Mark got the privilege of biking to the car (made it back in less than ½ hour ) which I wanted b/c I get bored sitting and waiting.

 

All told we did 24 high points/summits and 28 rappels, took 3 full days of climbing, and did 4 miles of rock climbing (not including the approach or descent). It was a major traverse of the longest unbroken section of ridge in Washington Pass, thus the name “The Washington Pass Traverse”. We feel confident in our grade 6 rating, and our 5.9+ is a conservative estimate of the pitches of “not quite 5.10 . We needed two ropes and about 100 feet of tat. God only knows how many "pitches" We stuck to the ridge crest as much as possible, dropping off the ridge only when absolutely necessary...sometimes sticking to the ridge too much We had a full rack up to a 3 cam and emptied the rack on several pitches. Future parties can add to this traverse by climbing the E.ridge of the silverhorn, and figuring a way up Juno to the south. We weren’t very sad about not tagging juno, 1/24 of the climb and ten feet from the summit we were on anyhow...not such a big deal for us. We are very happy about the whole thing and will be happy to provide beta, or get beta from past ascensionists of some of the more obscure peaks and routes we climbed. And before you (you know who you are) start bitching and wining and thinking of little things to say to call our bluff, go climb it yourself. Mark and I tried doing this climb in the best style possible, no stashes, carrying everything, no topos execpt for chianti and chablis. We made it up as we went along.

 

Hat’s off to you if you read the whole thing. That’s a feat in itself. Photos are coming soon. Some are really good so please check back.

 

if someone can email me or post a topo of silverstar-vasiliki i'll photoshop in the line.

 

-Mike

Edited by michael_layton

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a small dinner of snacks, and a couple bars for the next day. No water though. We bombed down burgundy col east toward Chianti and found trickles in the ice. Thank you whiskey bottle It was the only thing small enough to collect our water. With full bottles we slogged back to the col and had another minimal bivy. It was great.

Real Alpinism rockband.gif

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Shit that's a lot of climbing!

 

Spectacular effort. However, I call bullshit on the VI rating. I don't believe enchainments should be rated as the sum of the parts since the roman numeral grade is supposed to be about commitment, not just how long it takes to do the route. By my reckoning, this would be three Grade IV or V routes done consecutively.

 

If you try to do 5 Grade III climbs in one day, you can bail off with a few raps anytime you want, so I don't think that changes the roman numeral grade.

 

Whatever. Blah blah blah.

 

Nice work! Looking forward to the pics.

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I'm still awake and can't sleep so I'll respond to that. I agree if these were seperate climbs. But this is one long ridge and a complete route but for some reason they get different names. The whole thing should be just the silverstar massif.

 

All the ridge traverses that are rated grade VI (like the picketse or sierras) need to be downgraded to a fuckload of grade I's then.

 

Anyway, two posts in and it's the peanut gallery nitpicking. gimme a break.

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All the ridge traverses that are rated grade VI (like the picketts or sierras) need to be downgraded to a fuckload of grade I's then.

 

Yup.

 

I just don't think the roman numeral grading system is appropriate for traverses/enchainments. How about "XXXX vertical feet of 5th class climbing" and leaving it at that?

 

Anyway, two posts in and it's the peanut gallery nitpicking. gimme a break.

 

Yup. Welcome to cc.com. wave.gifwink.gif

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"Yup. Welcome to cc.com. "

 

yellaf.gif Sorry, although I'm cursed with insomnia, i'm still never used to it and get surly. and it's fun to argue.

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Here's a pic alpinfox emailed me. the east ridge (1/3 of the route approx 2 miles of climbing) isn't show, it goes straight back from this photo, and the rest of vasiliki isn't shown.

wsprridgelabel.JPG

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Well good job Mike and Mark, I Kept the secret guarded all this time. May have to do the 2nd assent. Worthwile? Gonna be in pdx this weekend?Ill be at browns

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Hat's off to you Mike, excellent effort, and perhaps the proudest traverse done this year.

 

I have to agree with Alpinfox, though. Since when did linking up multiple sub-6's become a grade 6? Well I realize it’s been going on for a while, but it seems a bit ridiculous. In this case (and especially in the case of the big Pickett traverse last year - linking multiple grade 3s !?!) claiming a grade 6 is bogus. There are too many points where you could walk off the "climb". It’s also pretty ostentatious to climb existing routes, throw in a couple new pitches, and then name the entire thing like it’s a complete new route. If I go to Burgandy col and bust my ass out of there for three days in a row and climb as many grade 3s and 4s as I can, is that a grade 6? I realize you had bivy gear with you, so what if I just took all my gear with me, does that count? Where do you draw the line??? Too many people climb for the numbers, and I’m afraid you’ve fell victim.

 

I don’t want to hijack your thread, so perhaps this discussion should be moved to another thread, so you can get the untainted golden shower here.

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Fuck yeah

rockband.gifrockband.gif

Nope, our hearts sank again after we pulled off some really spooky exposed soloing when we saw the summit another full mile away up an enormously long and confusing ridge with an unbelievable amount of sub peaks and high points. Crap, our noon summit estimate is out the friggin window

I love it when that kinda stuff happens...I think we're coming up to the summit here...oh shit there it is way over there.... yelrotflmao.gifcantfocus.gif

rockband.gifrockband.gif

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Hat's off to you Mike, excellent effort, and perhaps the proudest traverse done this year.

 

I have to agree with Alpinfox, though. Since when did linking up multiple sub-6's become a grade 6? Well I realize it’s been going on for a while, but it seems a bit ridiculous. In this case (and especially in the case of the big Pickett traverse last year - linking multiple grade 3s !?!) claiming a grade 6 is bogus. There are too many points where you could walk off the "climb". It’s also pretty ostentatious to climb existing routes, throw in a couple new pitches, and then name the entire thing like it’s a complete new route. If I go to Burgandy col and bust my ass out of there for three days in a row and climb as many grade 3s and 4s as I can, is that a grade 6? I realize you had bivy gear with you, so what if I just took all my gear with me, does that count? Where do you draw the line??? Too many people climb for the numbers, and I’m afraid you’ve fell victim.

 

I don’t want to hijack your thread, so perhaps this discussion should be moved to another thread, so you can get the untainted golden shower here.

 

Actually the only people that climb for the numbers are the people that actually care to take the time to bitch about them! I am just reporting the legnth using a scale system, the same scale system that Peter Croft and Secor use and many other guidebook authors use as well. I didn't feel like re-evaluating the entire grading system and critically challenging the current system in use last night or on the traverse. Mark and I just climbed and used the tools to report it that are in practice in the climbing community.

 

if folks want to bitch, bitch about Infinate Bliss some more.

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if folks want to bitch, bitch about Infinate Bliss some more.

 

No we must have something new to bitch about. hahaha.gif

 

I'd looked at that ridge line a few weeks back and thought it would make an impressive traverse.

 

Good effort no matter what the grade. thumbs_up.gif

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Here's the topo thanks to Chuck. I drew in the line with my shaky hand on the touch pad. This is just the basic idea i'm sure i totally f'd up the whole thing.

Mark Allen is way into this kinda shit so i'm sure he'll do it up nice with titles and high points etc...whenever he gets the chance.

136silverstartopo.JPG

Edited by michael_layton

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Nice climbing. "F" the naysayers, that is a crazy amount of adventure climbing. How about a one day grace period before people start critcizing a nice climb that Mike and Mark have a right to be proud of.

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Sweet job, guys. Who cares what they are bitching about. That ridge is a beauty! thumbs_up.gifwave.gifbigdrink.gif

 

And I agree with what Mike said...if you don't agree with his grading, go repeat it! I'd love somebody to go downgrade the N pickets traverse too while they are at it! wave.gifhahaha.gif

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although it sounds like the individual days are more like IV, IV, IV, overall this sounds like it should get a VI - as a two-bivy route it qualifies. The difference between this and the Ptarmigan Traverse is that this route actually follows a continuous ridgeline whereas the Ptarmigan Trav. is just mountaineering with side tours to summits, not continuous climbing

 

Likewise if you did the traverse of Vasiliki Ride and then hiked across the valley and traversed the Lib Bell Group that would be linking two III/IV ridges but b/c of the hike in between it wouldn't be a Grade V.

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cool.gif Congratulations fellas, that sounds incredible. Way to climb the traverse in style as well. Also, the naysayers need to check themselves, get off their couches and repeat it BEFORE disagreeing with someone elses grade...pathetic.

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Nice work guys. I agree, all these fat ass, has been naysayers need to STFU. Really, these guys go and bust thier asses and all you can say is nice work but...(insert some lame ass alpine theorist comment) Go climb it then downgrade it if you want. Until then the_finger.gif

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i'm just amazed dru is backing me up on this one

 

Dru throws down the respect occasionally. wink.gif I'm pretty sure glassgowanger will have plenty of reasons why you are a huge pussy tho. rolleyes.gif

 

 

I look forward to when I (hopefully) get some real technical rock skillz. This looks like something I would really want to do.

 

Have you guys figured out if any of the individual climbs up the "major" towers are FAs?

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medium commitment, but lots of climbing. VI seems like a pretty reasonable rating. Supercool trip anyway you rate it.

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i'm just amazed dru is backing me up on this one

 

Dru throws down the respect occasionally. wink.gif I'm pretty sure glassgowanger will have plenty of reasons why you are a huge pussy tho. rolleyes.gif

wow fuckface- don't put your words into my mouth. i think the grade VI is legit. this is not only commitment grade, but also over all effort used to do a climb. you can bail off the nose on elcap any time- the rap stations are all fixed. so according to you it should be a grade IV or V, since a competent party can do it easly in a day? there are plenty of places to bail from Mike's climb, but i am sure there are pleenty of spots, where bailing would be a serious matter. and this grade is for sure more about energy expended then anything else.

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