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marc_leclerc

[TR] Slesse Mountain - Northeast Butress Attempt 7/18/2008

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Trip: Slesse Mountain - Northeast Butress Attempt

 

Date: 7/18/2008

 

Trip Report:

I had wanted to climb the Northeast Butress of Slesse ever since I saw it on the approach to Rexford in 2006. When I watched a video about the climb that theron welch had posted on his website the route was put right at the top of my 'hit list'. Mike, Reinhard and I were going to team up to do the route but Mike had to bail due to work at the last moment.

Me and Reinhard got a ride up Nesakwatch Creek road with my dad on Wednesday night and hiked to the memorial plaque in the fading light and bivied. (I litterally slept on the edge of the plaque, it is very flat) Our fist glimpse of the bypass glacier in the evening gave us hope, 'it looks more or less like a snow slope with a couple crevasses', I said and Reinhard agreed.

The next morning we set out for the prop cairn below the East face of Slesse. From here we could see that the East face glacier was a horrific jumble of ice cubes. Our route went below this jumble of ice and through a notch in the East Buttress. We ran accross the slab (don't linger here) and as we started heading into the notch a small ice avalanche obliterated where we had wlaked accorss only moments before. We should have heeded to this warning and backed off because of the danger. we reached the notch and could see that the glacier would be tricky but it looked like if we could croos two or three crevasses it would be smooth sailing to the ledges.

After rapping out of the notch we started accross the glacier, it was very easy at first until we reached the crevasses halfway up the middle of the glacier. We weaved a path through them and then saw another challenge ahead. 'okay, if we can get through this icefall on the right we can take that easy ramp to the ledges'.

I managed to find a relatively easy route throught this section but collapsing seracs to our left were making me a bit uneasy. We then reached the base of a large leaning tower od ice that was blocking our way onto the ledges. I tried to lead the rock up to the ledges on our right but it was wet and impossible to protect, leaving us with one option. We speed climbed uner the tower and traversed and climbed onto the upper shelf of the glacier where we assumed we were home free.

I walked over to the edge of one more small crevasse and then suddenly the undercut edge collapsed, I managed to propel myself forward and land on th the other side in self arrest position but I knew we may be in trouble. Up to this point the route through the glacier was reversible, even if we didnt care for it much, but now we couldnt get back accross this crevasse bacause the other side was undercut and above us. It was easy for me to direct Reinhard accross to my side but I was already worrying about how we would get down if necesarry. But we had perfect blue skies and a 0% chance of precipitation forcast for the next three days so I wasnt to worried.

We got some water and made our way throught one last easy broken section to the bypass ledges. We were already roped together so we just simul-climbed up the ledges and through a bunch of trees on the butress to a major gendarme.

From here I leasd some really easy stuff around to the left and then up an easy but unprotected slab to a tree belay on the crest. Reinhard followed the pitch and I set off through a bunch of cracks and ledges that were tricky to climb with a pack on. This pitch ended with an awesome overhanging stemming corner and fist jamming (felt harder than 5.7/8, so I was probably a bit off-route) I brought Reinhard up and he said, 'that was hard, but a very good pitch'!

From here Reinhard took the lead and climbed some esay low 5th ledges to where the route by-passes the crux on the north face. It was getting late however because the glacier had wasted som much of our time and we decided to bivi on a nice little ledge. We were very excited about the next day of climbing on the butress and the finla summit tower piches.

After a good sleep we woke up to a surprise , 'why the hell are we socked in clouds'? I ask and Reinhard says that we can't continue in this weather in case it rains. After two and a half hours of waiting for a sign of clearing we begin rapping down. The first few raps back to the gendarme went fine but I knew that we could not go back accross the glacier we had come up on.

After trying to find a way down we decided to rap down to a large grassy ledge and then to the north glacier below. It took two raps down tothe ledge of slung horns and a nut for backup then we walked towards te north rib on the ledge and I managed to find a good tree to rap from down towards the glacier. This is where things went from bad to absolutely terrible.

I managed to get to a tree above the overhanging wall that stood above the glacier. The only way down, because the cliff was too big and there were no anchors to be found on this featureless rock, was to ties our ropes together end-to-end and do a super long, single rappel to the clacier and leave our ropes. The big problem with this was by-passing the knot in the middle and getting to the second rope. I managed to do this very akwardly on prussiks and had to saw through a jammed sling while being extremely careful not to cut the rope I was hanging on.

I felt like A mix between Toni Kurtz on the North Face of the Eiger, with a knot jammed in his rappel so close to safety, and Joe Simpson hanging over the glacier from touching the void, I even had a huge bergshrund directly below me to boot. After managing to get around the knot Reinhard came down and after a long time of prussiking and hanging he bypassed the knot and joined me.

Then I asked, 'hey, where did you put the rack'? and he replied, 'oh you have it'. In our nervousness and stress about getting down we had left a bunch of cams (5 of mine) several biners and a set of nuts + some nice runners on the butress somewhere. I was pissed off, I had spent so much time and money accumulatibng my rack and now a bunch of it, and my only rope, was gone.

We cut the excess rope off, which turned out to be about half my rope, and had to rap off a bollard, into a gap between another leaning ice tower and the cliff, and I made an intense ice lead up the near vertical wall with no crampons. Luckily the wall was only 20 ft high and we were on the safer glacier and walked out to where the crossover descent comes down throught the woods.

We were tired and made one last bivi here and then made the easy hike out to the road in the morning. My Dad picked us up and we went back to Agassiz where Reinhard picked up his car and drove home. I'm glad we got off okay even if it cost us lots of gear and we should have backed out when we first saw the glacier, This trip was a harsh learning experience for me. The rock climbign itself was fine and great fun but we should have taken more care and caution when we crossed the glacier, it is a trap that appears to get better but just gets worse the further you go. I'm not surprised many people have been killed here. So far Slesse has got from me: a set of nuts, a few slings, 5 cams, several carabiners, half a rope and a sure promise to come back and get 'er done. (when the glacier is gone)

 

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Gear Notes:

A full rack, no doubles neccesary.

 

Approach Notes:

Take trail to cairn, cross slabs to notch, cross glacier to ledges, cross ledges to butress.

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I'm sorry you lost your gear, hopefully someone will find and return it.

 

Sounds like a very dangerous epic, fortunately we all tend to live through a couple of those when starting out. Save Slesse for the end days of summer when the ice is all gone (might not happen this year?) and you can approach in tennis shoes without having to roll the dice.

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Thanks for posting. Sounds like several near misses.

You have reaffirmed my decision not to go in there until that dang pocket glacier is gone completely.

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That glacier looks freaky. Glad you made it through OK. Too bad the weather didn't cooperate but that seems to be the way it goes with alpine climbing.

 

I hope that glacier goes soon so that you can get your gear back. I know how much it means to you. At least you got a good pitch in.

 

Right now I think I'll go and practice passing a knot on rappel ;)

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i gotta say that is pretty ballsy taking photos of yourself while in the bowels of that beast. maybe you took the photos in safe locations, i don't know...but i would be hauling ass to get out of the way of that thing.

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yeah... I stopped in the okay-ish places to take pics... we were trying to haul ass but it still took us forever... I think the Glacier is what makes this a grade V route on the commitment scale...

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Glad you're okay. Gear is just stuff.

 

It would be a community service if future guidebook writers would swear off the term "pocket glacier" when referring to Slesse's NE buttress. It's not a glacier and thinking about it like a glacier will continue to get people killed.

 

How about "seasonally disintegrating snow patch"?

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Glad you're okay. Gear is just stuff.

 

It would be a community service if future guidebook writers would swear off the term "pocket glacier" when referring to Slesse's NE buttress. It's not a glacier and thinking about it like a glacier will continue to get people killed.

 

How about "seasonally disintegrating snow patch"?

 

Even as late as the 1980s, it WAS a glacier. It now slides out more years than not (6 of the last 8 if my count is correct) but still forms ice and hence cannot be called a "snow" patch.

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Marc,

You'll have to pardon my armchair quaterbacking here, but I don't see any reference in your TR to PITONS. Maybe you had 'em, but if not I highly suggest that you never leave home without 2-3 KBs in the ol rucksack, even on traderoutes.Glad you escaped the clutches of the Silesia Fang with only your rack lost.

Edited by jordop

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Having bailed off Slesse myself in the rain, I can say that pins are not necessary to bail from this route - that's what the many trees are for.

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We made it to the bivi ledges in 98 and got rained on until we were back at the cars. Unlike you though, we found and crried out approximately $800 worth of booty - gear, a pack, down jacket, goretex jacket etc. - which had been dropped from much higher up the route or in the case of gear, left in plce as stuck.

 

It was in August though, and the entire pocket glacier had slid and melted out. We walked on rock all the way to the base, water was in short supply.

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I still cant get over how Reinhard let you head into this place in the sun.

 

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yah.. very sketch... where we went around this area wasnt nearly as bad... we weren't in much danger of falling seracs... my concern was the plugs of rubble filling holes and crevasses could collapse underfoot... in the area pictures (we didnt go there) there were often seracs collapsing and making lots of noise..

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Glad you got off the thing with your skins intact!

 

Quick question: Is it necessary to deal with the glacier issue if doing the direct start to the route? Is the direct start or the approach to the direct start threatened by seracs?

 

The route was one of our main goals last summer but the weather never cooperated, so we spent enjoyable days cragging in the Washington Pass area instead.

 

Thanks,

 

Brutus

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Does this picture he posted help you..

 

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Start off the avy debris..

 

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Is your partner the Reinhard Fabish of North Face - Robie Reid fame?

 

While the direct start is heavily threatened by serac fall from both sides of the buttress, the approach to the North Rib crosses an apparently much more stable "glacier" and has very little if any exposure to crevasse fall. For a lot of reasons it's the better climb IMHO.

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My experience with Slesse was on the complete route. We stayed off the hanging glacier; this year the avi debris may have made that impossible though.

 

I did have an interesting experience on the West Ridge of Forbidden back in the 80s. I know the West Ridge BFD, but we were young and due to the weather we got a late start for the climb. We planned on descending the East Ridge, but none of us had really looked at the route description.

 

Anyway it was late when we summited, and we started rapping down the exact East Ridge (mistake). On our second rap we cut one rope halfway through. No big deal though you just tie a knot and one of us had a set of jugs, so you could transition around the knot midrope. Time went by, and we couldn't figure out the correct way to descend, so we ended up on the South Face.

 

It got dark and the ropes got stuck. We couldn't unstick it, so three of us spent the night on some crappy ledge like spot. In the morning Chris jugged the rope and unstuck it. We then rapped until we were about 220 feet from the glacier. The slope there goes over an overhang and then free hangs to the glacier. At that point we tied off a single rope with a knot free hanging about 50 feet below us. The first guy down set the jugs around the knot. I was the last down. I clipped around the knot and grabbed the jugs. We got to the glacier and walked away leaving a single strand of rope hanging on the face.

 

Looking back it's pretty funny to remember some of the dumb stuff 19 year olds do.

 

I'm glad you guys made it out ok. :tup:

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