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[TR] Sherpa Peak - West Ridge 7/7/2012

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Trip: Sherpa Peak - West Ridge


Date: 7/7/2012


Trip Report:

For the Boealps Alpine 3 climb, Monica, Chris, Laura, and I were quite excited that the weather was finally in our favor for a weekend climb. Our objective: the West Ridge of Sherpa Peak. Saturday morning, the weather indicated that we had a slight chance of thunderstorms – mostly on Sunday – so we kept an eye out. Turned out we didn’t see any lightning, and had no rain throughout the trip.


We departed from Seattle just after 7am on Saturday, arrived at the Esmeralda trail head just after 9. There was snow pretty early, which distracted us from the actual trail. We ended up following the snow up a gulley for some time, and then contoured north until we intercepted the true trail to Long’s Pass.


Once at Long’s Pass, we easily stepped down onto the snow (no moat) and glissaded down to the trees. We found some edible flowers, and made our way down to Ingalls Creek. We crossed a tree near the camp ground at 4860. We took Ingalls Creek Trail to where it intercepted the Beverly Turnpike Trail, and then back-tracked about 100’ to the climber’s trail heading up west side of prairie. The trail splits at the top of the prairie, and we continued right towards the stream.


We had two options on how to proceed once we intercepted the stream. There was some Mountaineer’s beta from early 2000’s which suggested staying left of the ridge, and right of the stream until 5800, then contouring across the ridge heading east to the basin leading to Sherpa. The other beta was from a more recent route from the UW Climbing Club, and they contoured while slightly ascending across the ridge much earlier than 5800. On Saturday, we opted for the latter.

Between 5200 and 5660, we had to bushwhack and navigate through some thick forest. It was not fun, and the heat made us burn water quickly. We finally found cairn which lead us onto the talus at 5960. All beta said stay left of waterfall (@ 6540) to approach the high camp at 7200, and that’s what we did. The climb was easy and gradual.


High camp was at 7200 near a talus field, on an awesome boulder, which easily accommodated the 4 in our party. There was a stream of plentiful running water just south of camp 50-100’. We also got a great view of the right-most notch we’d head to at first light the next morning. The mosquitos were aggressive and numerous.


We left camp at first light, between 4-430, and we arrived at the east notch of the Sherpa/Stuart col an hour later. I led up first with Monica belaying. We simul-climbed for a good 150’. The rock was quite solid and took protection well. After reaching a nice ledge, I found a chimney that looked impossible, and a crack to the left. Apparently the true route traverses climber’s right over an airy step, but instead climbed the left-most crack. In mountaineering boots, this likely 5.7 was quite difficult, and so I sewed it up and belayed Monica up. I wasn’t the only one who had made that mistake before, as the ledge above the crack/chimney had a few slings and some lost gear.


After that, we made it over to the south face, traversed, and missed another airy step around – instead opting for a crack with a nice roof for my long arms. I quite easily pulled myself over and setup another belay station. I belayed Monica in and we had a single pitch to the sandy benches just to the base of the crux-pitch. At the crux pitch, I opted to take the flake/chimney route, which I treated as a lie-back, and sailed up to the summit. The other team with us, Chris and Laura, were a little behind us, and made it up safely after struggling with leading the crux move. Quick summit tags for team two as Monica and I setup the first rappel for the trip down.


We followed the Mountaineer’s beta and did 2 single-rope rappels (70m seemed ideal for the 2nd of those two single-rope rappels) to the sandy benches – and rather than protecting it, we just scrambled carefully along to the false summit closest to the west ridge. There was a great rappel station dropping down to one visible and another hidden rappel station. Thanks to Monica’s scouting efforts, we ended up finding the ‘hidden’ one just climbers right and down from the visible one. We thought it would provide us with a better chance for an easy double-rope rappel down to the col.


We tied knots in the end of our ropes, which caused a snag when flaking the ropes towards the west ridge, rather than along the fall-line which was north of the col. Monica graciously went down and pulled some “gnarly” moves to free the ropes and the second rappeller negotiated them into the correct path for an easy final descent.


This took much longer than we had anticipated, but we still felt good about making it to the cars by sundown. We got to camp, glissaded down until we reached talus (finally got to use our ice axes!), and exited at 6060’ to the dirt/rock trail.


This is where things got interesting. Earlier I told of two options for getting between the two basins. We decided to try the other option and see which was better. The old Mountaineering beta that we had said it was optimal to traverse along the ridge at 5800. Knowing how difficult the terrain was (and how frustrating the bushwhacking is), we thought it had to be better. From the talus/trail across the ridge, it was mostly a meadow at 5800 (+/- 100’ and you’d miss it). But, once we got close to intercepting the stream on the west side of the ridge, the area became a bowling alley of loose scree on dirt that could easily take someone down. We had a few close calls, so we all were glad to get the heck out of there.


We concluded that the best route between basins was probably a combination of the two plans… When heading towards Sherpa on Saturday, we should have first contoured east after the stream crossing (at 5220), to the ridge and then climbed up the ridge directly up the fall line to meet the meadow (at 5800). That way we would have had minimal bushwhacking and we would have avoided the bowling alley.


The rest of the trip was pretty uneventful. We found the reverse path to be pretty straight forward. One team didn’t look to be so happy, as they likely took the route east of Long’s pass (which looks awfully similar). They made it to the top of that ridge, but had no easy path down.


All in all, it was an awesome climb, great weather, and we came out of it with a lot of good knowledge for next time.



7:00 Eastgate P&R

9:15 Esmeralda TH (Trails #1229, #1394)

9:42 (4240’) Left TH for Long’s Pass

11:30 (6200’) Arrive at Long’s Pass (went off trail, see below)

13:17 (4860’) Crossed Ingalls Creek via log near camp sites. Great log.

13:33 (4880’) Found climbers trail to Sherpa.

13:52 (5220’) Crossed stream, contoured to climber’s right across ridge.

15:10 (5660’) Passed ridge, exited thick brush.

15:40 (5960’) Found talus & approach to Sherpa.

16:30 (6540’) Stayed left of waterfall to get to high camp.

17:28 (7420’) Found high camp on awesome flat rock. Fit our team of 4 with plenty of spare room.

19:30 (7420’) Escaped the mosquito swarm – sleep!


04:30 (7420’) Departed camp for Sherpa/Stuart col.

05:17 (8100’) Arrive at notch closest to Sherpa. Belay is on!

09:10 (8605’) First team of 2 summited!

11:07 (8605’) 2nd team summits! Set up rappel, on way down.

13:27 (8100’) All teams rapped down to col.

14:54 (7200’) Left camp, quickly packed up our gear.

15:22 (6540’) Passed waterfall, mostly glissade.

15:51 (6060’) Spotted cairn, exited talus west to trail.

16:08 (5800’) Began to contour across ridge between basins.

16:40 (5700’) Entered ‘bowling alley’ where contour met with climber’s trail on west basin between ridge and stream.

17:50 (4860’) Crossed Ingalls Creek again heading towards Long’s Pass.

19:45 (6200’) Arrived at Long’s Pass. Met up with a Mountaineer’s group (they did west ridge of Stuart).

20:45 (4240’) Back to cars!





Sherpa Peak from south basin with waterfall.



High Camp at 7400'



Beginning up the west ridge.



This was the obviously incorrect crack on the right (5.7?)



Famous balanced rock near summit.



My proper summit pose!



Monica's proper summit pose!



This was the double-rope rappel -- we had to guide the rope further left in this picture to get us onto the col.




Gear Notes:

60m and 70m ropes – 70m came in handy for 2nd single-rope rappel.

Gear to 3” + standard nuts

6 sewn, and 6 tied doubles.

No crampons, no pickets, could have left the gators at the car.

Ice axe or poles – axe came in handy for steep snow fields.

No climbing shoes – only mountaineering boots.


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