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TR: Ice Cliff Glacier


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Ice Cliff Glacier


With a rare 2 days off to play on the weekend, I started asking the usual suspects what the plan was. Consensus was that Forbidden, Little Tahoma, skiing the Sulphide, or something of that nature would be interesting; then people started backing out of anything that might require 2 days. So Ice Cliff Glacier in a day car-to-car it was to be.


Of course, for an ice route with hazard like this we didnt want to be particularly late on the route, and with the approach we figured that a 3am start from the trailhead was in order..which meant a midnight start from Seattle. It had been 95 degrees in Chelan the day before, and we all agreed that if it was hot and there was activity on the route, we would opt for Sherpa Glacier - West Ridge of Sherpa instead.


We left the car at 3 and made good time. Only one of us had been on this approach before, but we found the bushwacking mild and made it to the base of the route in 3 hours. The route looked to be in fine shape, with no significant bergschrund problem or cornice guarding the exit. We didn't wait around, and climbed through the lower ice cliff on an AI2 weakness on the left.


We were all climbing very slowly at this point, starting to feel the effects of the approach and altitude. The seracwall started coming alive about an hour after we passed it, but by then we were tackling the schrund on the left and started motoring up the final couloir with perfect step-kicking conditions. Dan showed us where he had fallen and almost died 4 years earlier. His gear was all still there, and he climbed up a short ways and retrieved the lowest piece, a #3 camalot. We were climbing faster again, unroped up the couloir, and we topped out at 10:30. A cold wind was blowing, and hordes trudged up the steeper slopes at the top of Cascadian Couloir without ice axes.


We had all been to the summit of Stuart, and our plan was to climb the West Ridge of Sherpa. But the weather looked unsettled, and we were all pretty pooped. So we abandoned all that and headed down.


The decent route was found after traversing rotten oatmeal snowslopes for 10 min to an obvious col. Looking down looked a little intimdating, and I briefly argued that it wasnt the right one for some reason, but thankfully no one listened to me very much. Once in the couloir, the downclimbing was very casual and quick. We decended to the flatter glacier and roped up for a short time, to where the rock slabs began. From there it was plunge stepping to the base of the glaciers.


The long return to the car found us bonking through the boulderfields back towards Stuart Lake trail. Between the mosquitos and the fatigue, the beauty of the route and environs was dulled a bit. We got back to the trail in 2 hours or so, and motored back down to the trailhead. Surprisingly few people on the trail!


We reached the car at around 4:30; me, slower due to some swollen feet, at 5:00. Plenty of time to head over to Gustavs and eat some fatty calories before the sleepy drive home.

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Good job guys. I sure wish we had had sunshine last weekend. Since we were on the route in a bad storm and had severe conditions most of the night while bivying on the ridge (planned bivi), the whole thing took on a more serious tone. Glad you guys did not have a repeat of that scenario.


I wasn't sure what to rate this one. Would you call it III AI2 right now?




John Sharp

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How wet did the approach pitches to the base of Girth Pillar look?


Also all you Ice cliffer dudes... As you were climbing up the left side of the route and about a 1/3 of the way up, did you look up or touch some of the rock that leads up to the ice cliff arete' route? That rock looks awesome. Highly featured, steep, and solid. some of the best cragging stuff I've seen in the cascades. Kind of like the face climbing at Castle rock but better. Lots of glacial polishing, It wouldn't really justify itself to put 1 pitch crag routes up on it and it is to far for cragging, but the steeper stuff looks uniquely cool. any geologists/ glaciologists reading?

[big Drink]

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The approach pitches had some small snow patches and seepage, but looked climbable. Real shitty, sandy and loose but climbable. I'm sure you noticed that half of the Girth Pillar formation itself had fallen off sometime since the first ascent. Makes you wonder how stable the other half is.

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Jens, yes the rock in the lower cirque seems to be real nice. This and a few other places in the Cascades (Challenger, West and Middle from the South) inspire me to hump in a big load, base camp it for a week, and just do new routes. If you broke up the approach and return by a few days, even the boulderfields on the way would be comletely tolerable. And what a great place to camp!


As to GP, man, it looks like a chosspile. Dan and I have both though about it in a day car to car, but to be honest it looks pretty uninspiring.

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If you wanted to hump loads somewhere and do a bunch of stuff on clean granite you could head back to Gunsight. Just don't look to do the East Face as it appears to have met the same fate as Girth Pillar.


Here is a shot of the back side of the peak just south of the Main peak of GS. Notice the huge cannon hole.



Hydromatic spire over by Dome looks pretty cool too:


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