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[TR] South East Mox Peak- The Devil's Club, First Ascent of the East Face 9/1/2005


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I debriefed with Mike yesteday morning at breakfast and it was like talking to someone who had been past the edge and returned to tell about it. It was awesome! I've never felt more stoked for a climb someone else did!! What an incredible adventure!


A word on the grade: 5.9+ A2 my ass! He told me the true identity and you'd better be FUCKING HONED for this Beast or you'll be beat down by THE DEVIL'S CLUB!!!


I've known Mike for a bunch of years now and when he says this is the second hardest thing that he's done in life, next to taking his board exams, that means it's the hardest climbing he's done in his life. Take a look at the climbing resume on his T-Shirt and do the math. Erik's no slouch, either, when it comes to pulling hard, he just a sport climber who can't tell the difference between Shuksan and Baker and just took part in a MAJOR North Cascades aplinism coup de tat on his first over-nighter. PUT THAT IN YOUR PIPE AND SMOKE IT!!!!!!!


And talk about QUALITY! In this day and age when people are picking over the SCRAPS for FAs, trying and doing climbs that are in my opinion PURE SHIT, just for the sake of getting their names in Red Fred, these guys march out into the middle of nowhere and peg the Burl-o-meter up an AWESOME wall with an AWESOME line. Note to everyone: TIME TO STEP IT UP!!!


We already got the bigdrink.gifbigdrink.gifbigdrink.gifbigdrink.gif out of the way, and I've got "Dumpling Burn" at both ends, but congrats again! You guys ROCK!!




(Prepare for Bannination in 3...2....1...)

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Hear hear, Justin or Harry couldn't say it any clearer, this is a major accomplishment. Full on salutes to the complimentary experiences developed by both individuals, just reading about it wore me out. bigdrink.gif


It's interesting to note the way in which one man, John Scurlock, has changed the face of NW mountaineering. The Cascades are such an obscure private range, not yielding to casual scrutiny, and John's prying camera and home built plane have changed that. Truly a worthy successor to Austin Post's mantle. I think he does in fact qualify as a third member of the team, this route would not have happened at this time without his love of our backyard.

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i explained in the tr i though?.


we got back to the tent at 3:30am just doing what we did, outta food, outta water. the summit didn't seem rappelable (stacked blocks) and we didn't want to commit to something we weren't sure we could get off of. if we summited and couldn't rap down (we were incapable of downclimbing it) the multisummit ridge traverse looked like another huge day to the col between the two peaks, and that still leaves the broken glacier to figure out. no sir, we wouldn't have made it back. but thanks for rubbing it in, wish we did. how about next time we push past the point of no return to satisfy questions like that? We did what we did. i can't talk much about things i didn't do. we didn't even know that summit was unclimbed, just the east face, and we friggin pushed the envelope to finish that.

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maybe's blake's too wasted like me mikey to have even finished the immense amount of verbage you distinctly constructed w/ admirable comic wit and desperate introspection - and skipped strait to the pix, flipping the volume switch of the dialectic on and off in an ecstatic frenzy until reaching the point that it's all about sometime.


does a lad good to cut loose n' again...portland will hurt but next summer's getting closer every day (i say this more for meself than for you)


whore with a heart of gold - a platonic form


beers for scurlock - you didn't have to give'm a hummer for a flight though, right?!? even if so, i think it'd be understandable


dogs fucked the pope - no fault of mine


to the death of summer!

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Meant no disrespect Mikey, I thought the summit was a short scramble from where you stopped pitching it out, I didn't realize that is was still a significant challenge to get up and back, and that you might have been commiting to a different descent route. Well done on that face... adventurous and hardcore climbing for sure.

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1st of all, Eric and Mike hats off to you guys! What a great and ballsy accomplishment. The stuff of dreams!




Where can I get a copy of That issue/volume of Summit? The Paul Williams mentioned in the article is my father in law. He just turned 80 last weekend. I'm sure he and the rest of the family would love a copy.

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Mike and Erik- Congratulations! Way to persevere. You're an inspiration. Thanks very much for posting the TR, it's been fun reading it.


That's a helluva first multi-day trip for you, Erik! Next time I'm stressed out on a climb, I'll try to remember your trip, and I'm sure I'll instantly feel like a pansy.


Cheers to you both. bigdrink.gif

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I disagree about Justin's comments on low quality new routes "just to get into red fred."


Alpine climbing without an instruction manual is in my opinion, the purest form of climbing, and you never know if a route is gonna suck or be awesome. i ignorantly believe that people who are doing F.A.'s or variations are doing so for the thrill of not knowing, not to get a name on a piece of paper. any new route is a thousand times better than someone doing a trade route.

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Wow! Great googily! Super job, guys!


Must resist attempt to place an asterick after the "FA". Must resist...


...If you had continued to the summit, I estimate you could have "EASILY" (relative to what you had been doing) traversed to the main summit in an hour or two. Here is a picture of the east summit ("Hardest Mox") from the main summit:


Though perspective cannot be seen in this two-dimensional picture, I will say the following:


1. The rappel to the notch between the summits would almost go with only one 60m rope and would definitely go with two 60's. And, actually, based on other pictures I've viewed (including this one and this one), the rappel might even be downclimbable as it's low angle--especially compared to what you had been doing on the E. Face. The notch is where the shadow mark comes up from the right to near the center of the photo. The shadow is from an overhang (visible here just below the east point's top).


2. There appears to be a gendarme in the notch (again, see this photo) but it doesn't look that bad. The gendarme really makes the single notch two notches, with the eastern one the deepest. It is the eastern notch that looks the iffiest. ("Iffiest"? Is that a word?)


3. The foremost uncertainty for me while I was there was the west side of the notch (the main summit side) as I couldn't see it (I couldn't distinguish the gendarme either). How steep? Certainly a rappel could be made into the notch from the main summit side but climbing back up could have been next to impossible for mine or my partner Mark's skill levels (although we could have left a fixed line to prusik up).


4. There is a short knife-edge crest (about 60 yards) from the main summit to where the crest drops into the notch. The freaky thing is the crest overhangs to the south and looks as if it might fall over if one were to disturb it. This is probably what made me blench at beginning a traverse out onto that arete. Mike didn't want to belay me. So we gave up on the idea. I estimate the crest traverse to be anywhere from Class 4 to mid-5th. There will be mucho exposure, though, with blocks of uncertain solidness but certain licheness.


5. While not trivial, the standard descent from the main summit could be done without trouble if you have the route description with you. From the base of the snowfinger gully you could then continue downclimbing onto the south-side glacier and then circle back around the mountain. I have no idea of the problems one would face in late summer on this glacier.


Anyway, again, I want to take nothing away from your outstanding accomplishment. You have raised the flag to a new level on that face. Hopefully the next adventurers to come along will raise it all the way to the summit.


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wow, looks way different with that photo!


it seriously looked like an all day affair from our vantage point. the col seemed a 1/2 mile away...all traversing. even with 20/20 hindsight, i still would not have summited however. our objective was the east face, not the unclimbed summit (which we assumed was climbed already).


there's a lot more to go than what your photo shows b/c i've got the image of what we had left to do the traverse burned into my memory. but maybe i was so wiped, i was making a mountain out of a mole hill. we did have topos from the beckey guide for the possible descent with us, however.


anyway, if the goal is the summit of Hardest Mox, i'd suggest a differernt way up the face. both of us are really cheap and it takes a lot to get us to leave gear. whatever it was we saw (as your photo shows it from the opposite direction) it was way way longer than that.


our route is what it is, the east face of SE mox, nothing more, nothing less. i'm sure an extra day of low 5th would make it a full adventure for sure, but i don't think it would raise any flags to any new levels...just as i don't think our climb raised any flags to any new levels.


our climb is sub-standard in today's modern alpinism day and age. someone should have done this route a long time ago. runout 5.11 in the mountains is nothing new, and dean potter could free solo the thing in 4 hours probably.


the ONLY reason i posted this TR, or any other TR for that matter is becuase I enjoy writting about climbing and sharing adventures. that's all. i don't care about summits or grades. i only care about adventure and partnerships.


oh, and Klenke, this isn't directed at you personally...so don't be offended! if one person has a question, so does everyone else usually. well, except for your FA remark. WTF was with that?


after looking at all the photos you linked, i am now positive we did the right thing. it would have taken forever. sometimes low 5th class climbing takes twice as long as hard 5th...especially horizontal with gendarms in the way. i estimate 8 hours more climbing making it a grade 6.


i fully recommend someone goes and climbs the unclimbed hardest mox from Depot creek and future East Facers use our now fixed decent. i really belive the summit in this case is not worth it if coming from the east.

Edited by michael_layton
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i think this is our high point. it's really really hard to tell, where we traversed over just below the summit.

ick ick ick, i'd rather shit in my mouth than do that.


oh, and if you're wondering why i'm bothing to post so much on reactions to this, etc, etc... i'm not really that concerned actually. i'm so terrible exhausted i have only been able to leave the "house" a few times since saturday, and those small chores have forced me to take naps or breaks, so i'm pretty much stuck inside until i have my energy back, hopefully by tomorrow. posting on the internet is a low energy task and provides hours of countless entertainment and instant feedback. plus i have insomnia and once something gets into my mind, i really honestly can't sleep. sucks. so i don't get any energy back until it's late and i go out partying as that's the late night activity of choice for folks my age.

i'm going to go tubing down the methow to chill in the next couple days hopefully. i wouldn't expect any more tr's outta me for some time. i've eatten three dinners tonight and i'm still starving and i go into coughing fits everytime i laugh. so i guess the traverse and this really did take its toll on my mind and body, and i'm probably extra moody/sensitive so bear with me on my rantings and ravings.


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Here's Mr. Major's dissertation i cut from another thread.


""Mox Peaks" were named in 1942 by Rudo L. Fromme, then assistant supervisor of the Mt. Baker National Forest. The name was submitted to the U. S. Board on Geographic Names, and confirmed shortly thereafter (USBGN, Decisions Rendered between July 1, 1941 - June 30, 1943). The name was reconfirmed by the Board in 1970 (Decision List 7003). "Mox" (variants: moxt, mokst) is a Chinook Jargon term, meaning "two, pair, second, double, twin."


The name ultimately originated with Fred (and Helmut). Fromme read his "Twin Spires" article in the Dec. 1941 Mountaineer annual (pp. 31-32, along with Helmut's adjacent article on Cloudcap Peak -- a rare example of Helmy's writing), and Fromme subsequently introduced both names on Forest Service maps, but in Chinook Jargon form. The term "Seahpo" signifies "cap." Fred has been griping about these two names for years, oblivious to the fact that their ultimate derivation lies with him.


(CAG-3, p. 128 is incorrect when it states that "Mountaineers in the 1930s and 1940s applied the name Twin Spires." Fred and Hemly named them in July 1940, as Fred himself has written, "Unnamed on the maps, we dubbed them 'Twin Spires,' and placed them on our list of future first ascents": Dec. 1944 Appalachia, p. 209. Fred has not always been attentive to detail, for even his 1941 Mountaineer article on Twin Spires opens with an incorrect assertion.)


The infamous Southeast Twin Spire (8504') is one of the few peaks that Fred has been genuinely terrified of (Challenge, p. 95). The peak nearly killed him on June 22, 1941, during the descent, when a piano-size boulder of unstable Skagit Gneiss he was standing on began sliding down a steep gully. He has had a few other close encounters with mortality, but this particular incident, occurring so early in the formative stage of his climbing career, left an indelible impression upon him. At the time, he characterized it as "perhaps the most difficult ascent yet made in the state" (Dec. 1944 Appalachia, p. 209). Sixty years later (CAG-3, p. 128), Fred still felt that "the summit of the Southeast Spire is one of the most difficult to attain in the Cascade Range." The original register was left in a Crescent cinnamon can which, along with one of Lage Wernstedt's Prince Albert tobacco cans, must constitute one of the most historic register containers in the North Cascades.


The higher Southeast Spire is only infrequently climbed today; and would be even less so, were it not for the fact that is one of the state's "100 highest mountains," and thus on the tick-list of peak-baggers. Even then, peak-baggers approach the Southeast Spire with great reluctance, and usually leave it as one of the last peaks on their "list."


The rock on the Southeast Spire is notoriously unstable and treacherous. It consists of the "banded gneiss" phase of the Skagit Gneiss Complex. This metamorphic rock (unlike plutonic granitic rocks) is not uniform in character, for it is comprised of alternating layers of schist (probably derived from the older Cascade River Schist) and orthogneiss (derived from earlier igneous sills). To render this rock even worse for climbing, it has been "baked" by the subsequent intrusion of the Chilliwack Batholith. The resulting lithology on the Southeast Spire is a rock that actually consists of two different rocks, poorly bonded together, dipping or inclined steeply, and rendered hard and brittle (and resistant to erosion) by intense heat. (This heating process has similarly produced great indurated rock faces elsewhere in the Cascades that are resistant to erosion, as well as being unreliable, unpleasant, and unsafe to climb on, notable examples being the upper half of the East face of Three Fingers, and the three peaks of Index.)


The intimidating 2500-foot high East face of Southeast Mox is one of the "Last Great Problems" of the North Cascades, and should probably remain so. For years, this new route stood high on the list in Fred's "little black book." In early September 1968 he ventured up the isolated valley of Perry Creek with three other climbers. While Brad Fowler and Dave Leen made the second ascent of the Southeast Spire on Sept. 4 (via the Mox Glacier and the upper part of the regular route), Beckey and Dr. Mike Heath made the second attempt on the East face, only to turn back at a point less than half-way up the left/south side of the face. (At the onset of this particular trip, Fred managed to stuff his unrolled sleeping bag inside of his backpack, thus finding himself regrettably unable to accomodate the rope, iron, and other heavy equipment of the trip --- no need for clinking conversation-starters in so isolated a place as the Perry Creek "trail.")


Reports from climbers who have encountered the banded Skagit Gneiss on the Southeast Spire, and elsewhere, are not reassuring:


During a visit to the regular route on the Southeast Spire in August 1969, Craig Lingle observed that "Each hold required testing --- most pulled out like drawers. Pitons could not be solidly placed, and firm projections for runners did not exist --- all ledges were piled high with loose rock. It seemed that one had only to locate and pull out the keystone, and the entire mountain would collapse into a heap of smoking rubble. What, we wondered, was holding this precipitous pile of junk together?" (Sept. 1970 Summit, pp. 11-12).


With respect to the rock on the East face of the Southeast Spire, Dr. Heath informed me thirty years ago that "every crack you find -- and they're pretty scarce -- means that something's ready to peel off the mountain."


Fred, loath as usual to disclose beta on one of his "projects," wrote laconically in October 1968 that "I tried the big East face. No good -- bad rock & limit where cracks go. Too bad."


Here on cascadeclimbers.com, Drew Brayshaw has remarked that the rock of the Southeast Spire "is the famous Skagit Gneiss. Don't like a handhold? Just dig until you find a nice one. Throw your discards down to your belayer. It will give him something to do, as he won't be able to catch you if you fall" (Route Reports - North Cascades - Twin Spires/Mox Peaks, post #116071 on Dec. 17, 2002).


Judging from a view of the Southeast Spire from the North (CAG-3, p. 129), the as yet unclimbed east peak (8501') constitutes a huge separate block of Skagit Gneiss, in contact with, but yet detached from, both the main west summit (8504') and from the east face by two shear zones. There are a number of higher unclimbed peaks/points remaining in the North Cascades, but none as difficult, dangerous, inaccessible, and potentially deadly as point 8501. Most climbers on the Southeast Twin find the route normale harrowing enough, without having to add to one's difficulties by tackling the unclimbed east peak.


The best available published photograph of the 2500-foot East face (featuring the prominent banding) appears in the May 1960 issue of Summit, on page 21, with the route of the 1958 attempt marked with a dashed line --- a reference which CAG-3, p. 128 neglects to list (CAG is not infrequently negligent when it comes to expressly providing climbers with ideas and information pertaining to remaining unclimbed routes and potential first ascents in the North Cascades.) Both the lower one-third and the upper one-third of the face slope are less steeply inclined. (A smaller photo of the east face, with clarafications as to the location of the peak, appears in June 1960 Summit, pp. 22-23).


It is in the central one-third of the potential route (about 800 feet in height) where the real climbing problems lie, and this is where previous attempts on the face have been thwarted. The irony of the August 1958 attempt is that four climbers from Portland, Oregon, with minimal experience in the North Cascades, and who did not know just exactly where they were, or even which peak they were climbing ("clouds made it difficult to get a clear view of the summit route" p. 20), managed to reach a point on the right/north side of the East face some 200 to 300 feet higher than did Fred in 1968.


The 1958 Portland party observed that: "The lower half of the [East] face is steep, but the rock is strong, solid gneiss and is so well-banded many pitches that look impossible turn out to be staircases. Also there are quite a few handy ledges that allow easy traverses while looking for a route through the next band. We stopped abruptly at the 'big bulge.' The next 700 feet or so is probably all fifth and sixth class, and we did not feel qualified to make the attempt. However, the rock is so good, and there are so many piton cracks we spotted several routes, all of which should be feasible for a strong party. The final 700 feet to the summit [the east peak at 8501'] is probably a stroll, though there may be a pitch or two of climbing" (May 1960 Summit, p. 20).


There is an obvious discrepancy here in the evaluation of the climbing quality of the rock. The 1958 party does correctly describe the rock as being of banded gneiss. However, their attempt on the East face was confined to the lower right side, which slopes at less of an angle than does the left side where the Beckey attempt of 1968 took place. The 1958 route on the right-hand lower one-third of the face appears to have taken place in largely 4th class terrain, whereas the 1968 route on the left-hand lower one-third of the face appears to have more rapidly gained entry into 5th class territory.


There are routes of great difficulty, which should be climbed only once, and there are routes of such great danger and unfeasibility that they should never be climbed. The central 800 feet of the East face of the Southeast Twin Spire probably falls into this latter category. The Northwest Spire has already proven to be deadly. The Southeast Spire has an even greater potential."


so, what are some other "last great problems" of the cascades. Zorro face on Hozomeen. anything else?

how tall is the zorro face from the talus anyways?

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Hopefully the next adventurers to come along will raise it all the way to the summit.




One man's floor is another man's ceiling.


Yeah, seriously...no shit.


I have to disagree with Klenke that hitting the true top of that spire will be raising anything to a "new level." That face WAS *the* level - they did the real deal. If somebody else goes and follows but goes all the way to the top, I still consider that a smaller accomplishment and less adventurous. They, quite literally, went into the unknown. THAT is the adventure.


In other words, what is that summit without that badass face? Another pile of seriously fucking remote rocks but that is about it.

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