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What makes it classic? You decide

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I think that a classic is going to definitely be an adventure of some sort.

I think that I am definitely more inclined to say that a classic to me is more (not most) difficult too. That is because these are usually the ones that scared me or I had to work at to be able to do. I will not forget these ones for sure.

For me the feeling of accomplishment is part but not all of my decision. Other factors may be atmosphere,good partners, route quality, and overall memories.

I got this from an online dictionary:


Main Entry: 1clas·sic

Pronunciation: 'kla-sik

Function: adjective

Etymology: French or Latin; French classique, from Latin classicus of the highest class of Roman citizens, of the first rank, from classis

Date: circa 1604

1 a : serving as a standard of excellence : of recognized value b : TRADITIONAL, ENDURING c : characterized by simple tailored lines in fashion year after year <a classic suit>

2 : of or relating to the ancient Greeks and Romans or their culture : CLASSICAL

3 a : historically memorable b : noted because of special literary or historical associations <Paris is the classic refuge of expatriates>

4 a : AUTHENTIC, AUTHORITATIVE b : TYPICAL <a classic example of chicanery>

5 capitalized : of or relating to the period of highest development of Mesoamerican and especially Mayan culture about A.D. 300-900


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Classic routes:

In my mind, a classic route in the Cascades has several characteristics:

1) The experience on the route was trancendental.

My number one criterion for a classic route is, did I have so much damn fun, I couldnt contain myself? Did I look at the sunrise and realize that *this* is why I am in the mountains? Did I flow through the moves and think, I wish this route could go on forever?

2) It is superlative in many ways to other routes of similar technical difficulty in the range.

A classic route is one that is superlative, and one of the easiest ways to make the distinction is to choose from a set of routes with similar attributes. It is more difficult to compare when routes have dissimilar attributes; how to compare the Emmons Glacier with North Ridge of Stuart? Still, after climbing a number of routes with similar attributes, when you know that by popular consesensus or some other measurement (Beckey says so) this set represents a rounded selection of routes in the range, you find that one stands out in memory as a better experience than the rest, you may have a classic on your hands.

3) It is superlative in aesthtics in line and character

a classic route has purity of line and character. On rock routes this may mean following a significant feature, like the N Ridge of Stuart, or NW Butress on Sless. On a Volcano it might mean surmounting the Kautz ice cliff, or climbing Lib Ridge. This is why I have always thought Lib Ridge more "classic" than Ptarmigan - Ptarmigan is a bit contrived, going hither and yon all over the place. Lib Ridge is a straight shot.

4) It is varied and challenging, mentally stimulating.

I think the reason so many hard climbs get on a classic list (read "Favorite Routes" thread) is because varied terrain and mental difficultly make the experience and reward deeper.

5) It is not a certain success, it requires some work, skill and perhaps chance to complete

Climbing is about challenge, and classic routes are usually challenging routes. Whether your success is weather dependent like Rainier, or technical-ability dependent like NW Butress of Slesse, I believe the uncertainty in climbing a classic route can be very satisfying.

Accordingly, its no surprise that some of the following routes are classics in the Cascades:

* N Ridge of Stuart. Despite its "trade route" reputation, a bivy high on the N Ridge and the entire experience are really magical.

* Challenger. A casual glacier route, but an unforgettable setting and remote enough to be far from the maddening crowd.

* Liberty Ridge. A pure line up a big mountain, with lots of big mountain expereince waiting for you!


[This message has been edited by Alex (edited 12-05-2000).]

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Routes become classics for two reasons:

1. The route is outstanding in its region.

2. The route is outstanding in its category.

Every range has its classics. In a big range like the Cascades, sub-regions have classics too. For example, you might not consider Chimney Rock to be as good as some climbs in the North Cascades, but in the Alpine Lakes region it's a classic.

When you consider classics by category, you have to remember that there are many, many categories. "Alpine climb" is too vague to categorize climbs in the Cascades. Alpine climbers consider many factors in choosing classic climbs. For example:

* Approach: short/long, straightforward/grueling

* Climbing type: rock, snow, glacier, ice

* Difficulty: simple, moderate, technical

* Length: short, medium, committed

* Topography: ridge, face, gully, traverse

Combine these factors in various ways and you define categories. Some examples:

* Long glaciated approach, short easy rock:

Olympus, Blue glacier

Challenger, Challenger glacier

Dome Pk, Dome glacier

* Short, simple approach, short moderate rock:

Liberty Bell, Beckey route

Tooth, SW face

East Wilmans Spire, standard

Sharkfin Tower, SE ridge

* Long glaciated approach, long moderate rock:

Eldorado, West arete

Goode, NE buttress

Fury, N buttress

* Long approach, medium length technical rock:

Prusik Peak, S face

Cathedral Pk, S face

Gunsight Pk, E or W face

* Alpine snow or ice face

Buckner, N face

Redoubt, NE face

Fury, NE face

* Alpine snow or ice gully

Stuart, Stuart glacier couloir

Dragontail, Triple couloir

Goode, N couloir

* Technical ridge traverse

Stuart Range traverse

Torment-Forbidden traverse

Bonanza summit traverse

I could go on and on. I think all of these routes are classics in their category (I haven't done them all), but they are very different climbs. That's why I find it so hard to name my favorite climbs (besides being reluctant to make them more crowded). I have so many of them.

Lowell Skoog


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