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[TR] Mt Buckner - North Face 7/29/2012

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Trip: Mt Buckner - North Face




Date: 7/29/2012


Trip Report:

Got an email from a friend looking for a third wheel on Buckner. It took very little convincing that I needed to find the time to make it work.


We passed on the forecast the weekend prior but it looked promising for a good clear run so we left PDX Fri eve and arrived at Cascade Pass TH reasonably early Sat AM.


Hiked up through clouds all the way to the Pass and even a few up Sahale Arm, but from there out it was blue skies and sunshine.


Sahale Arm sunshine:



We got up and over Sahale in modest time, dropped to the Boston-Sahale Col and headed up Boston per Nelson's description. A bit before the summit, there is a bit of a ledge leading out and around the summit massif and we headed out that. It does look improbable, but with a little imagination it leads nicely across to the Boston Glacier.


Over Sahale:



Looking ahead:



It was late afternoon, it was warm and the snow was steep and possibly crevassed (couldn't see from the uphill vantage) so downclimbed the ridge quite a bit before dropping onto the glacier. Most of it would have gone fine but there is a yawner across the upper-most end of it.


Once on the snow, we descended to where the ridge flattens out. There was a pair of bivy grooves chopped into the flat of the Boston but we scouted the dry, exposed ridge and found spots on the rock for three of us. A quick dinner got us early to bed under a gorgeous night sky.


Lower on the Boston Glacier, bivy site in the rust-colored rock on the ridge:




From the bivy, we were an hour from the base of the climb. Staying close-ish to the base of the ridge did get us over there without crevasse difficulties and without losing much vertical.


Looking back across the Boston Glacier:



The face is large. And steep. It certainly feels like more than the 45-50° purported in the guides. Looking down at my feet during the climb though, I would guess that's pretty accurate. The snow was in great shape though and everything was quiet. The clear night let everything firm up exceptionally well.


The schrund looked spicy on the right so we went full left and were able to negotiate it without much difficulty. For the rest of the face, we stayed out in the open on the snow. It was stable and the footing was good so we only kept a single picket in the rope between the three of us (we brought three total). We had some sling and two small cams with us. We never touched rock on route, never used the cams at all. Our hands were generally occupied during this phase... no pics. We topped around 930 and casually made our way off the summit.


Summit shot:



Officially topping out:



The descent off the S side is still pretty steep and we took our time coming down. We were off the steeper stuff by 1 or 2 but clearly not making the time we needed to get out and back to Portland that night. We found a perfect bivy spot for the three of us just past the mine entrance and called it a day around 330(PM). We were also very concerned about the exit from the cirque. The traverse out crossed under a very broken up (Davenport?) glacier which had been quiet for our visit but was clearly shedding itself in the summer heat. Additionally, the view across the cirque to the exit ridge made it look as though the eastern lobe of the Sahale Gla was calving right over our exit (yes, it was the first time there for all of us).


Taking a break on the way down:



View across the cirque:



Turns out the exit ridge is a feature up and out of the way of the calving glacier so the only objective hazard was the first traverse out of camp. The following morning we crossed the bench and headed up the exit gulley (still about ~90% covered with firm snow), gaining the ridge in under an hour. We picked the wrong way to get the top of the ridge (keep going left, don't head up too early; there was some sling in what we guess is the proper one), but once on the ridge, it was a straightforward hike out and up across the Sahale and back to the trail.


What an awesome and enjoyable route in a gorgeous area! I haven't been on a real route in probably 3 years and had forgotten what I'm missing. It has an excellent alpine ambiance and it was a pleasure to climb with Chris and Sapphire again.


Chris and Sapphire at the Ripsaw Ridge bivy:



As an aside, I did try this one other time, years earlier, and the weather was marginal- we never made it off Sahale Arm. That was a good thing: we had HORRIBLY underestimated the magnitude of the climb. People can do it in two days, another party was right behind us on that schedule. My advice? Take your time, plan three days, enjoy the ride. You won't be disappointed.


More pics...


Gear Notes:

Team of 3

50m single rope

3 pickets

2 small cams

1 med screw

small selection of slings


Used the pickets & sling, didn't use the screw or cams.


Approach Notes:

Go up over Sahale, almost to Boston. Hang a right before Boston's summit massif, traverse to the Boston Glacier. Find a sweet bivy. Stay high for the traverse (at least it worked for us), you will gain the base of the face at ~7700'.

Edited by ckouba

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It was great meeting you on Sahale - thanks again for leading the way up the scramble route! Here's the summit photo.



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