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Tom_Sjolseth

[TR] Johannesburg Mtn - NE Buttress 8/21/2011

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Trip: Johannesburg Mtn - NE Buttress

 

Date: 8/21/2011

 

Trip Report:

Johannesburg Mountain. Its N Face is one of the most striking facades in the North Cascades. A twenty-minute hike gets you to its base, but from there, the summit is a world away. In the 4600' of relief from the Cascade Pass parking area to the summit, this mountain has a bit of everything alpine - dramatic waterfalls, vertical brush, towering walls of rock, and eroding glaciers crumbling and falling to the valley below. Along with the sights, the sounds of Johannesburg are equally impressive. Rarely does a day go by where one cannot hear the mountain rumbling.

 

The last time I climbed Johannesburg, I told myself that I wouldn't be back for a while.. that there were other, new places for me to go visit and enjoy. But for someone who lives and breathes the challenge of the North Cascades, I silently waited for another opportunity to arise to climb this iconic symbol of our great range. When Wayne told me he was interested in climbing it after four prior, failed attempts, my ears perked up. I knew that Sergio was also interested, so I asked him to come along. Eliciting an emphatic "sure" from Sergio, we were now a team of three.

 

Wayne and Sergio met me at my place after work on Friday, and we were finally leaving Everett at 7:15. We arrived to a nearly-full parking lot just before 10PM, which was a bit surprising considering it was a Friday. We turned in soon after we arrived.

 

We awoke at 6AM and put on harnesses & helmets (an approach rarity). Crossing upper Cascade River was easy this time compared with the past two times I've done it, thanks to a snow bridge left over from this Winter's huge avalanche debris piles. Within a half hour, the approach was done, and the climbing began. On last year's climb with Steph (Steph's TR), we got onto the rock at ~4400' in the C-J Couloir. That resulted in a rather sketchy pitch of ~5.7 with sparse pro. This time, we got onto the rock at the very base of the couloir, and didn't need the rope (class 3-4).

 

I must have a bad memory or something, because the rest of the climb seemed a bit more difficult than I remembered - either by perception or reality, I'm not really sure. Wet brush and mud (and damp moss on rock) did make things a bit tougher this time around. But aside from conditions, the route finding seemed trickier, and whereas last year we didn't use a rope after the very first pitch out of the couloir, this time we roped up for a steep, loose, sketchy pitch just below the bivy site.

 

Once through the sketchy pitch (~5.8 loose, which Wayne led), it was a short scramble on the exposed ridge crest to the bivy site, which was still as magnificent as ever. Perhaps this is what keeps me coming back?

 

The next morning we awoke and continued up to the summit, with a few more challenges than I expected. A few crevasses and schrunds were open, and the arete was sharper in places than it was last year.

 

Nobody had signed the summit register since Steph and I summitted last July. The register dates back to 2008, and this was my third time signing it.

 

The descent was as expected, and we wound up making two rappels this time (on my prior two visits, I was able to down climb the entire descent route). I think some very careful rappelling is OK on this ridge, but a lot of the rock is pretty loose, so I personally feel that down climbing is safer.

 

Back to the cars at 4:00. 17.5 hours of total climbing, which is exactly how long it took Steph and I. If you plan to rappel the entire E Ridge and/or don't hit the route finding almost exactly right, I would suggest making this a 3-day climb.

 

The following photos are a mix of Wayne's, Sergio's, and mine...

 

 

 

 

 

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What have I gotten myself into?

 

 

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Half way through the approach.

 

 

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Low in the C-J Couloir.

 

 

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Typical scrambling on the NE Buttress.

 

 

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Sussing it out.

 

 

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Me scrambling.

 

 

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Slide Alder!

 

 

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Wayne and I in the brush, low on the buttress.

 

 

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A look up at C-J col from low on the route.

 

 

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Sergio and I scrambling.

 

 

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Sergio on all fours.

 

 

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Me scrambling just below the bivy.

 

 

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Looking down to the parking lot from high on the NE Buttress.

 

 

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Sergio topping out on the sketchy pitch.

 

 

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The steep, sketchy pitch.

 

 

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Wayne and his Mountain House. Judging from what I witnessed aftwards, he should probably stay away from anything containing chili.

 

 

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Wayne and I at camp.

 

 

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Mt. Baker at dawn.

 

 

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Good morning!

 

 

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The view from our bivy.

 

 

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Starting out from the bivy site.

 

 

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Sergio starting up the snow arete just above our bivy site.

 

 

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Wayne and Sergio.

 

 

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Wayne, Sergio, and the magical arete.

 

 

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Sergio negotiates some crevasses.

 

 

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Wayne end-running the bergschrund.

 

 

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Sergio kicks steps up the steep headwall below the summit.

 

 

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Me near the top of the snow.

 

 

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Wayne about to top out just below the summit.

 

 

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Sergio and I ascending the arete.

 

 

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Sergio and I pause to take in the sights on the snow arete.

 

 

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Sergio and I on the upper arete.

 

 

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A crevasse on the upper arete.

 

 

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That's my car way down there!

 

 

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Sergio and I about to top out on the snow.

 

 

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Sergio and Wayne scrambling the final bit to the summit.

 

 

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Sergio gives his victory pose.

 

 

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Hidden Lake Peaks and Mt. Baker.

 

 

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The Cascade Pass parking lot as seen from the summit of Johannesburg.

 

 

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Thanks for the climb!

 

 

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Sunlit hills below Johannesburg.

 

 

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Views from the summit.

 

 

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Sergio scrambling near the summit on the descent.

 

 

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Me pondering life on the descent.

 

 

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Spider, Formidable, and the Middle Cascade Glacier.

 

 

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Wayne and I down climbing on the E Ridge.

 

 

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Rappelling above C-J Col.

 

 

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Sergio frolicking in fields of wildflowers.

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Amazing photographs: looking at them, I could imagine what it might be like to climb that route. Thanks for taking us there vicariously!

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Thanks for the great pix and text. Brings back the memories. There really is no way to get up that route and get off the mountain quickly (and also be safe). I remember thinking to myself on the way up about the number of calories that I must have burned-- lost track after awhile, somewhere amidst the steep brush, steep choss, and steep snow...

Edited by bobinc

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Oh Yeah! That is a climb you won't ever forget. Great work! I remember that sketchy pitch well- somehow my ice axe came loose and went bouncing down, landing on a ledge. I had to get lowered down and climb the thing twice.

 

That bivy is tough to beat though. The calm in the eye of a hurricane.

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planning my own 3rd trip up this cascadian gem next month - stoke! :rawk:

 

is the plastic tiger still on the summit? :)

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@Scott.. not likely to climb it seven times, but I wouldn't rule it out either. I can understand why Dallas was so drawn to this great mountain.

 

@bobinc.. funny you should mention burning calories.. that topic came up for discussion on the ascent. Total body workout for sure.

 

@Ivan.. no plastic tiger up there either of the three times I've been to the summit. I look forward to reading about your trip next month.

 

Thanks for the comments.

 

*Disclaimer* If the photo you are looking at is in any way, shape, or form pleasing to the eye, it was probably taken by Wayne or Sergio. :brew:

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*Disclaimer* If the photo you are looking at is in any way, shape, or form pleasing to the eye, it was probably taken by Wayne or Sergio. :brew:

 

How can that be, I was taking pics of you two?

We all took some pics worthy of the adventure. I just took 398 of them before Tom got his camera out at the end.

great climb, but after my 4 prior experiences/attempts, I am looking at OTHER summits.

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I thought I recognized Wayne's face among the switchbacks below cascade pass. I was wondering what might have just been tackled. Nice job guys! You made it look good (?).

 

--N

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Great TR! The glacier & arrete look so exciting. I doubt I'll ever attempt Johannesburg. Is there something else that comes close to that snow experience, but without the sketchy rock & brushy half?

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It was fun looking at that route from across the valley and knowing you were on it. I have photos taken from the Tor-For traverse....I'll trade you!

 

BTW, early Friday morning, as the sun first hit the hanging ice on the slabs above the bottom-middle of the CJ couloir, a huge hunk fell off and just pummled the route including a huge rock. Anyone getting an early start to go up the CJ would unlikely have survived.

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That first picture says it all!...classic. I hate to admit I've had that look a few times. Superb pictures and TR. It appears the approach is scarier than the actual route...typical North Cascades fun. Thanks for sharing a great climb.

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@Scott.. not likely to climb it seven times, but I wouldn't rule it out either. I can understand why Dallas was so drawn to this great mountain.

 

Can't imagine climbing anything seven times over...

 

Always been ready to move on to the next thing.

 

I can definitely relate to revisiting a climb to share the experience with good friends.

 

Enjoyed the TR and pics. Thanks.

 

d

 

 

 

 

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A note on the C-J couloir....the 3 times I have been up and down that route I have witnessed rock fall. Cascade peak seems to be constantly shedding, having climbed the peak with Dallas and A2THEK I can attest to it rottenness.

A few years later A2THEK and Trent and I were back for an attempt on J-berg and Trent was struck by rockfall in the CJ couloir. I do not recall how may surgeries it took to put Trents finger back together but it was a few, thank God for the whiskey as pain meds, the dude is tough...

When Dallas and I climbed J-berg in 99 he swore that it would be his last time up that peak, yet he went back with Trent some years later and climbed it again. He loved that mountain and after 50 years of climbing in the Cascades there is bound to be some repeats, especially with young guns looking for there own first time up Cascade test pieces, its hard not to get sucked into someone else's enthusiasm. Dallas was talking about going back for trip number 8 up J-berg the day he died, some peaks just call you back.

 

 

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Good job guys. Any sign of an empty grape soda can that Jim Nelson casually tossed over his shoulder on our 1999 ascent, or the titanium pin at the point where you either rap into the snow gully or venture out to the scary 5.8 pitch (that was described as being 5.3, even though we didn't go that way; oops)? J'Berg looked fabulous from the summit of Goode on Sunday.

 

Bob: We couldn't have burned that many calories because we didn't take very much food. Too heavy, as I recall.

 

John

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Just found one of Toms cans from last year. Funny coincidence that Tom told me the other can story upon finding it. try looser underwear.

Got my trip loaded despite loosing all of my photos due to some glitch in transferring them to Big T . Gotta watch that guy.

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Too funny about the cans - I remember you telling me that story when I ran into you about 10? years ago up at Terror Cirque.

 

I had some empty, crushed Busch cans in the side pocket of my backpack left over from a cragging trip just prior to last year's ascent. The side pocket of my pack ripped on the brush (unbeknownst to me), spilling the cans (2). We found one of them this year (unfortunately, the other one is still on the mountain somewhere). I didn't notice the hole in my pack until I got to the bivy last year and noticed I only had one of three cans left.

 

Is there something else that comes close to that snow experience, but without the sketchy rock & brushy half?

 

There are no peaks I can think of off the top of my head that replicate the snow experience found on JBerg's upper NE Buttress.. it's definitely one of a kind in my experience.

 

 

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Great work gentlemen!

 

Hands down the best set of photos from a climb of this route I can ever recall seeing. Kudos to all three climber/photographers!

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Nice!

I love that mountain!

Way to sport the Millet pack.

 

I actually bought it on your recommendation, and it's a great pack (and relatively inexpensive). Thanks. :tup:

 

@Val.. I think most of us who've climbed it have felt that way at one time. I procrastinated quite a while before getting on it, but am glad I did. It's a serious route though, so you definitely want a strong team.

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Nice!

I love that mountain!

Way to sport the Millet pack.

 

I actually bought it on your recommendation, and it's a great pack (and relatively inexpensive). Thanks. :tup:

 

@Val.. I think most of us who've climbed it have felt that way at one time. I procrastinated quite a while before getting on it, but am glad I did. It's a serious route though, so you definitely want a strong team.

 

I want to climb that bad boy...

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Is there something else that comes close to that snow experience, but without the sketchy rock & brushy half?

 

There are no peaks I can think of off the top of my head that replicate the snow experience found on JBerg's upper NE Buttress.. it's definitely one of a kind in my experience.

 

 

The North Butress of Fury has a very similar snow arette at the top. The approach is a tad longer though!

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