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Val Zephyr

[TR] Mesahchie - Icefall and Couloir 10/16/2010

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Trip: Mesahchie - Icefall and Couloir

 

Date: 10/16/2010

 

Trip Report:

Mesahchie (meaning “wicked” in Chinook jargon) is located near Rainy Pass in the North Cascades and reaches 8785', making it one of Washington's highest 100 peaks. Even better, it is surrounded by other huge summits like Goode and Logan. We weren't after a summit this time though. Instead, Ian and I decided to team up for an ascent of Mesahchie Peak's icefall and couloir route. I have been interested in this route since I went on a scrambling trip along Mesahchie's east ridge with Evan J and Kevin S in fall of 2007. We randomly ran into Jim and Obadiah who had found a much more interesting way to tackle this peak than ourselves. We scrambled along the east ridge to arrive at the top of the icefall and couloir route just as our fellow UWCCer's were finishing the steep couloir portion.

 

Jim and Obadiah ascending Mesahchie glacier in fall of 2007:

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So earlier last week, Ian and I began discussing our own attempt. The conditions were good, the weather was great, the only problem was that we would have to miss the UWCC fall campout :( Of course the thought of a one-day attempt instantly crossed my mind, but I quickly shot it down. The route is involved and the approach/deproach are tedious. Not to mention daylight hours are quickly dissipating. The following morning I got an e-mail from Ian “I'm in 98.98% but I have another proposal... possibly silly and I'm fine if you don't like it. Now, light and fast with bivy gear is not as light and fast as doing it in one push without sleeping gear.”

 

Do two silly ideas equal a good idea? The route description on summitpost also had an opion on the matter.

 

“My opinion as a day trip: It's a long way, a lot farther than what a map might show because of the terrain encountered. Ergo, I wouldn't recommend it in a day--especially if doing the ice route. Ice climbing necessitates bringing heavy gear, so it's not as if one would travel really light for the traverse. A two-day endeavor with a bivy at either of the bivy sites would be the best option. In this case, get an early start on the second day to ensure ample time to get out before dark. Climbing to Mesahchie Col and then descending to near the start of the ice climb should not be a problem in the early morning crepuscule. If the other climbers in your party are not fast or as competent, then a day hike is out of the question. A two-day hike may even be questionable depending on the time of year and the number of daylight hours.”

 

Hhhhhmmmm.... well, my favorite trips always stem from silly ideas, so this ended up really being an easy call. Every once in a while two silly ideas can add up to a great one!

 

We left the trailhead at 4am Saturday, made Easy Pass by 6am, and the col by 8am. We took a nice break at the col in the morning sunshine before we dipped onto the north side and shadow for nearly the rest of the day.

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The snow finger no longer reaches the col on the left side, so we opted to rappel down to the glacier below to prevent accidently falling into a deep moat.

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We hiked along the glacier and were beginning up the icefall by around 10am. This was the crux of the route for me: solid blue water ice for ~90m. Good climbing! I put in 2 screws and found a good two screw anchor at about 60m. The angle mellows considerably after this for another 30m of ice then I ran out the rest of the 70m rope on good snice! Ian lead a simulclimbing pitch up the mid section of the glacier to the base of the couloir. Arriving at the top of the glacier to find a deep moat, he attempted to butt-scoot the final few feet to a good belay. This was hilarious! The final difficulty was gaining the couloir. This currently involves climbing into and back out of a small berschrund. I ran out the 70m rope again, finding some nice rock pro along the way. Ian finished to the top and we were back in the sunshine be 3pm!

 

First view of the route (couloir is not yet visible)

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Ian on the first pitch

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Second pitch

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Ian scooting to a good belay. The couloir is now visible on the left.

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Final climb up the couloir

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We decided to forgo the summit. It didn't look any more inviting than the last time I had been here.

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Instead we booked it back to the trailhead, arriving at 8:30, giving up plently of time to get back at sit around the campfire with the rest of the UWCC!

 

Ian, thanks for being a fantastic partner and tipping the scale for a one-day climb!

 

 

 

 

Gear Notes:

5 ice screws

4 pickets

small assortment of rock pro

 

Approach Notes:

Light packs were awesome for the approach/deproach!

I'd recommend this as a one-day trip with a trailhead bivy.

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Great Photos. Climb of the month evidently.

 

The north ridge offers a nice 4th-class or low 5th-class completion after getting through the icefall. The rock, while not great, is plenty firm and much better than everything else on that mountain. Some stellar bivi sites on the ridge crest as well.

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Great Photos. Climb of the month evidently.

 

The north ridge offers a nice 4th-class or low 5th-class completion after getting through the icefall. The rock, while not great, is plenty firm and much better than everything else on that mountain. Some stellar bivi sites on the ridge crest as well.

 

How long would it take to get from the top of the couloir to the summit (and back down)? Would you simul-climb it or is there a need to pitch anything out?

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Flavor of the week for sure -- Rat and I climbed it this past weekend as well. It took us 2.5 hours from the top of the couloir to the summit and about the same amount of time back down. We soloed most of it but roped up for the last three pitches to the summit, which turned out not to be really necessary. We downclimbed all of it except one very short rap and two ~30 m raps.

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It took us 2.5 hours from the top of the couloir to the summit and about the same amount of time back down. We soloed most of it but roped up for the last three pitches to the summit, which turned out not to be really necessary. We downclimbed all of it except one very short rap and two ~30 m raps.

 

I think we saw your green tent on the way out.

 

I was wondering what the rest of the peak was really like. It sounds like it would have been a long day with no beer and campfire afterward. I think we made the right call :)

However, good bivi sites on the north ridge... that might be worth checking out someday. I do love the alpine bivi.

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