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[TR] Lincoln Peak - The Emancipation Proclimbation


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Trip: Lincoln Peak - The Emancipation Proclimbation - The Only Known Route


Date: 6/28/2008


Trip Report:



Whereas, on the twenty-second day of June, in the year of our Lord two thousand and eight, a proclimbation was issued by the president of the United States Orographical Society, containing, among other things, the following, to wit:


“That on this twenty-eighth day of June, in the in the year of our Lord two thousand and eight, four persons enslaved by their mindset of climbing every worthy peak in sight within any State or designated part of a State, the climbers whereof shall then be in rebellion against the naysayers, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free of the shackles of ineptitude; and the executive governance of the climbing society, including the authorities and wannabe authorities, will recognize and maintain the exaltation of such persons, and will speak no gossip or jealous flippancy, to repress such persons, or any of them, in any efforts they may make for their actual (or perceived) notoriety…”


And blaaaah blaaaah blaaaah…


Lincoln Peak (9080+F, 720P) is a member of the Washington Top 100 by 400 or more feet of prominence. By strange coincidence, just like Abraham Lincoln was the 16th President of the United States, Lincoln Peak is the 16th-highest peak in Washington on that list.





Lincoln Peak was 86ed from the Bulger Top 100 probably because the original Bulger list makers (Lixvar and Plimpton) were too scared of it. They somewhat arbitrarily set 800 feet for the prominence cutoff for volcano sub-summits* (The so-called “John Wilkes Booth Proviso”). Did they choose 800 feet because it is 2 x 400? If they had chosen 700 feet, Lincoln would have been the beast of honor on the list.


* In reality, Lincoln Peak is not a sub-summit of Mt. Baker because it was around long before Mt. Baker came into existence. It is more correct to say Mt. Baker (Grant Peak) is a child of the erstwhile andesite volcano of which Lincoln Peak is the remnant rim.


And thus the Bulgers generally have avoided the mountain. After Fred Beckey’s first ascent in July 1956 with Wesley Grande, Herb Staley, and John Rupley, the climbing history of Lincoln is a bit vague. We would love to hear from you if you made an ascent.. We (now) know of six ascent parties after Beckey’s:

Dallas Kloke and Scott Masonholder on July 6, 1975 [not written into register]

John Roper, Silas Wild, Dick Kegel, and Reed Tindall on June 25, 1989

Dallas Kloke and Scott Bingen on August 1, 2000 [not written into register]

Don Goodman and Juan Lira on June 8, 2003

Dave Creeden, Stefan Feller, Mike Torok, and Greg Koenig on June 25, 2006

Paul Klenke, Tom Sjolseth, Sean Martin, and Fay Pullen (first woman? at 65, the oldest person?) on June 28, 2008


Addenda (edited July 13) for updates...

As of now (July 13, 2008), only five persons have completed the Washington Top 100 x 400P (Roper in 1991, Wild in 2007, Goodman in 2007, Pullen on July 9, 2008, and Creeden on July 13, 2008). Martin Shetter, he has only Lincoln Peak left. The reason the total is so low is precisely because of this stinkin’ Lincoln.


Rewind to June 2007:

After having finished the Bulger Top 100 in 2006, Fay Pullen was egged into attempting to complete the 400P Top 100 by John Roper. But in order to accomplish that, she would have to assassinate her fear of Lincoln Peak. And then there’s me. I have to say I had always feared it too. But my resolve was no less than hers because I too have completion of the 400P Top 100 in the sights of my peakbagging pistol. And, yes, Sjolseth has the same desire.


Fast forward back to the present:

So here came four of us to make another attempt (for Tom, his third attempt after he and Sean failed in May). After having been on a non-clmbing vacation in Italy for the first half of June, was I even going to be in shape to raise my peakbagging pistol and take aim at Lincoln.


We parked at 3700 ft at the last drivable switchback after hacking away at slide alder leaning and stretching across the road. After this switchback the road bed has been put to rest. Stefan Feller in his trip report from 2006 said to avoid the road and go straight up the ridge to Pt. 4481. He spoke of horrendous alder that ate his Subway sandwich right off his pack and then chased it with his precious Deutschland climbing cap. Well we didn’t heed his warning. We walked the road. The first part before the first corner is bad but there is a respectable path blazed through it. Upon turning the corner (now onto the west side of the hill), we hit snow and thankfully so. For this snow was still matting down the alder. The road is shown to make a final switchback at 4100 feet. We didn’t take this switchback. Instead, a short spur led north to an end in a regrowth clearcut area. (This logged area abuts right up to the Wilderness boundary!) With the snowcover, we were able to easily walk through the regrowth to get to the bigger forest beyond. We angled up and over to the little lakes at 5100 feet (still snow covered, except for a small, icy pool). We angled NW across the basin to the far end then turned right (ENE) and more or less followed the broadening divide between Rankin Creek and Wallace Creek. At ~6100 ft on the far side of a little moraine we made camp.

Time = 2 hrs, 45 minutes from the car.










We awoke early in the morning and were heading out just after 3:00am. In about an hour-and-a-half we reached the first difficulty: the lower bergschrund. Tom led up through the schrund at about its middle.








We then angled up and left on 40-degree snow to get to a large rock island I call “the pillbox.” There is a snow arête that stretches a 100 yards uphill from this rock island. The arête divides two high-angle drainage basins, the one on the left being funnel shaped. It is necessary to ascend to near the apex of the arête to where it is feasible to get off of it to the left and commence a horizontal traverse (on ~45-degree snow) left to the steep, narrow gully coming down from the left.




A second, but lesser schrund guards entrance to this gully. Sean led over to the rock outcrop at the left entrance to the gully below the schrund. He climbed Class 4 rock (with crampons) to a sturdy anchor (an anchor we had used in past attempts). We belayed each other up.




Tom then set out up the steep gully (~55 degrees at its worst), which was in good condition (some soft snow and some weak ice, but for the most part nice Styrofoam—especially when climbing up the scoured snow runnel.




The top of the gully fans out into a snow slope. The snow on this slope was very rotten and certainly would not hold a picket. Tom belayed Sean up to the left while I continued to the right to reach the sometimes wicked arête that marks the boundary between two different master gullies of the peak. The exposure is already bad leading up to the arête but the other side is twice as steep.




From this point you can see the final, narrow gully that leads to the ridge crest just left of the summit.




I used an old picket from May’s failure (one of six old pickets found on the route this weekend) to bury a deadman before rolling leftward off the arête and onto 60-degree snow for about 70 feet to a small rock island and a horn thence to a bigger rock island and a bigger horn. From here it is only about three pitches of steep snow to the top.






There isn’t much in the way of cracks on the walls in this gully. There isn’t much in the way of cracks on the entire mountain, for that matter. The rock is like reddened concrete with big, round nodules in it. It’s actually fairly solid but quite unprotectable.


Rather than waste time setting intermediate deadmen pickets, with the exception of one good cam and a horn, I simply ran out full 60m rope lengths for the final two pitches. I belayed Fay up from the summit and Tom did the same for Sean.

Time from camp = 9 hours including breaks.




We hung out the summit for a good two hours waiting for Scurlock to drop us a six-pack. We saw plenty of planes flitting about but not one was the telltale bright yellow.






There were plenty of flea-like specks on Mt. Baker. And there were plenty of views all around. The atmosphere was very clear. Even Mt. Olympus was visible.




Seward Peak:




We rappelled our up-route all the way down to the rock outcrop at the entrance to the steep gully. We had strategically left the up-climb deadmen in the snow for use on the way down. There were some close calls with us moving out of the way of rockfall and/or sluffalanches but for the most part things went smoothly. Of course the double rappels came with plenty of rat’s nests.




Only one rappel was sketchy/awkward/intimidating (whatever you want to call it) and this was the one to get back over the upper snow arête. This was an angling rappel where a pendulum was a distinct possibility. The rappel was further complicated by the fact that on the way up Fay had to simulclimb from the arête deadman with me for 20 feet in order for me to get to the horn. This meant a double-60 rappel would be just short of reaching that deadman. This really wasn’t a problem: I just had to dig a new deadman above the out-of-reach one.


When we got back to the steep gully, we were all surprised how quickly it had melted out in sections. It seemed like the mountain had gotten “out of shape to climb” as we were climbing it.


What's different in these photos?





For the final rappels to get back to safety, we opted to go straight down the funnel instead of traversing back skier’s left to the lower schrund.


At the top of the last rappel. Over the edge is the maw...



In the remaining rays of daylight we did our last rappel…


The Last Rappel

Now I think all four of us would agree this was one of the most memorable rappels we had ever done. I will attempt to describe my experience of it…


It was nearly dark. It was like rappelling into the maw of death…with the tears of Nancy Hanks pitter-pattering in a cacophonous clatter on my helmet. 80 feet of free rappel seemed to go on forever as I slid past curtains of frozen tears. At the last second I stepped right to avoid being swallowed down the hole in the snow.


The Next Day

We hiked out. We left Seward Peak for another day. Trivia: William Seward was Abraham Lincoln’s Secretary of State. Schuyler Colfax was Ulysses S. Grant’s Vice President. And of course, Grant Peak is the summit of Mt. Baker.


Thanks for keeping us honest, Abe.







The Route




This peak ranks right up at the top as being the hardest summit to attain in Washington by its easiest route. What are some other WA peaks that might be harder? I’ll give away a five dollar bill for the best answer.





Gear Notes:

Twin 60m ropes

Ice axe (maybe two)


An assortment of cams and nuts (maybe 10 total pieces)



Approach Notes:

Take the Middle Fork Nooksack River Road (FR-38) to its end where it turns uphill and makes several switchbacks up the slope southeast of Rankin Creek. The switchbacking portion of road has got some big berms and a bit of brush up to the 3,400-ft level. The next half-mile to 3,700 ft is overgrown but drivable by a 4WD whose paint job you wouldn't care about scratching all to hell. After the switchback at 3,700 ft the road has been decommissioned.


Note: the Middle Fork Nooksack Road (FR-38) is supposedly gated until June 15 at Wallace Creek (there is a gate there) about 5 miles from roads end. But when Tom & Sean and Mike went in there in May the gate was open.

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Thanks for the kudos, guys. Not bad for a rush job. Maybe I ought to be a journalist instead of a boring engineer.


Darrin: Nooksack Tower is a good example. We had thought of that one too.


I guess when I was asking about hardest peaks to attain by their easiest routes, I was more speaking of alpine climbs to significant summits (either with or without 400+ feet of prominence). I understand the line gets fuzzy between alpine climb and a trad climb of a spire in an alpine setting.


For instance, is The Flagpole a significant summit (peak)? I would have to say no. That in no way diminshes any climb of it (such as recently done by Mark and Kyle). It's just not in the same category as Lincoln Peak. One way to look at it is this: The Flagpole spire is no higher than the height of the Leaning Tower of Pisa on Lincoln. The LToP has not been climbed and it's probably a lot harder than The Flagpole, and doesn't even take into account getting to the base of the LToP. Another one is Assassin's Spire on the NW Ridge of Lincoln (see the first Lincoln Peak photo on this page. (To my dismay, Assassin's Spire can not be seen from the summit of Lincoln. I was hoping to get a look at it.)

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I'm embarassed to have even written a TR after reading Klenke's masterpiece. Nice write-up, Paul.


Since the question has been posed, I'd like to put in my two cents. Having climbed N Hozomeen, I can say it is easier than Lincoln by a long shot. Fay has climbed both Hozomeens (and is closing in on 2000 summits) and she said Lincoln is the single hardest peak she has ever climbed. N Hozomeen can and has been climbed in a fairly normal day via the border swath. I challenge anyone to make a daytrip of Lincoln.


Having also climbed SE Mox, I can also say it too is much easier. The E Peak of SE Mox might be harder, however -- especially the Layton/Wolfe route, but that's not the easiest route on the mountain which is what Klenke's question is about. Of course the approach on the Moxes is much longer, but I don't remember a single time where I was stopped on an approach. I can't say the same about an actual climb.


I'd also say the best answer to Klenke's question is Nooksack Tower.


I haven't climbed in the N Pickets yet, so I guess I can't compare. I'll let you know in about 12 days, though.

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Hozomeen Peaks and any of the central/middle summits in the N. Pickets are harder due to approach alone.
The Pickets may have an individual summit that is harder by its easiest route. I'm nescient on those possibilities.


Agreed, Picket approaches are more difficult and that lessens Lincoln's difficulty by comparison. But what is the hardest Pickets summit to attain by its easiest route? And why is this peak (probably) climbed three times as much as Lincoln? Why is Lincoln so forgotten?


Lincoln is a big mountain. Put it anywhere else in the Cascades and it, at over 9,000 ft, would be a major objective done by many. But its proximity to Mt. Baker makes it overlooked. Strange.


Last year when I entered the WSW basin of Lincoln I was immediately struck by the scale of the walls on either side.

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Great TR. Thanks, Mr. Klenke.


Nooksack, if not the hardest summit to attain, certainly gets a lot of coolness points. It is a stunning looking thing. Maybe something along the crest of the Picketts is harder, but I'm not sure.

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Strictly by the rating:


North Early Winter Spire (sw face: 5.6+)

Lexington Tower (east gully: easy 5th class)

Minuteman (east face: 5.8/A1 or 5.10)

Liberty Bell (beckey route: 5.6)

Burgundy (corkscrew route: 5.6)

Chianti (north face: 5.6)


but it sounds like you are put more stock in the overall grade... yes? If so then potentially:


Goode (have to climb at least 5th class to summit via any route)

Challenger (have to climb at least 5th class to summit via any route)

Himmelhorn (have to climb at least 5th class to summit via any route)

Inspiration (have to climb at least 5th class to summit via any route)

German Helmet (have to climb at least 5th class to summit via any route)

Dorado Needle (have to climb at least 5th class to summit via any route)

Gunsight (have to climb at least 5th class to summit via any route)



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That's a pretty good list, John.


If it were my $5, I think Inspiration or Nooksack Tower would win the prize. Klenke might just be out $10 ($5 to Berdinka for Nooksack [or me since that's what I said when he asked the question on the climb] and $5 to Sky for Inspiration).


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