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Matt Christensen

[TR] Little Tahoma - West Ridge 1/1/1980

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Trip: Little Tahoma - West Ridge

 

Date: 1/1/1980

 

Trip Report:

Paul Cook and I summited Little Tahoma by the West Ridge 33 years ago today (it is prominently pictured on the home page of Cascadeclimbers). I have never heard that it has been repeated but considering todays talent someone might want to give it a look. The setting is breathtaking, the climbing always interesting and the location pretty accessible for the Cascades in the winter. We thought it was probably AI3, M3, 5.7-A0 and grade V traversing nearly a mile of exposed terrain. There were 18 belayed pitches all but three led with crampons. We placed 27 protection anchors and made three rappels along the ridge crest. The rock that we climbed was incredibly solid with the crux being the first of five consecutive fifth class pitches on the final rock step.

 

We had hiked to Muir in a storm and waited for two days for the weather to clear. On the third day the predicted high pressure set in and we left at 3:00 AM with a stove bivy sacks and food for two days. We made it to the final rock step just after dark and dug a ledge in the snow at the notch and spent a long cold night in down parkas. The weather held and we summited at around 2:00 in the afternoon watching multiple teams summit Rainier during a very spectacular windless blue sky day.

 

We arrived back at Muir an hour after dark and were invited into the guide shack by George Dunn who Paul had worked with at RMI. The propane heated cabin felt very posh after our previous evening of shaking in the cold air at 10,500+ feet for 10 hours. Thanks George! I wish Paul were hear to celebrate New Years and the anniversary of our climb. Sadly Leukemia took him some time ago but I will always remember him as a very special person that I was lucky enough to share a very exceptional climb with.

Edited by Matt Christensen

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Matt,

 

Thanks for sharing that story. Old school/hard core...

 

It made my day.

 

d

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Climbing this route in mid-winter in 1980 with an on-route bivy stands, in my book, as one of the most significant mountaineering accomplishments in the Cascades. The climbing difficulty, route finding, length of route, logistics issues, short days, and cold combine to make this route...well, it's unrepeated for a reason.

 

I've studied it pretty extensively, as it's the kind of route I really like. I've always wondered whether you used snowshoes to approach and return, and how you descended and returned to Muir.

 

Props to you for having to vision, skill, and courage to send this thing. And thanks for posting this TR.

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I dont know how to add pics but posted in the gallery the only existing photo of the climb. I sent the rest to Mountain Magazine with a story and it was not printed and the photos never returned. Repeat the rout and you will find three fixed pins that I can remember and three slings on horns that we rapped from along the route. Thanks for your interest!

 

Matt

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We snowshoed to Muir and left them there. We did some sinking en route to the ridge from Muir but not bad. We descended the standard Tahoma Route and ascended the Cowlitz Glacier back to Muir on windpacked consolidated snow. Thanks for the interest and I posted the only photo of the climb in the gallery. It was taken on the first third of the climb.

 

Thanks for the Interest, Matt

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Thanks for the story Matt. Great climb.

 

CAG-1 gives the dates of the climb as 12/31/1980 and 1/1/1981. Did Fred get the year wrong?

 

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I dont know how to add pics but posted in the gallery the only existing photo of the climb. I sent the rest to Mountain Magazine with a story and it was not printed and the photos never returned. Repeat the rout and you will find three fixed pins that I can remember and three slings on horns that we rapped from along the route. Thanks for your interest!

 

Matt

 

The loss of the pictures is awful (I have no doubt you climbed the route). I have a bunch I've taken over the last few years from both the north and south sides and can see my way all the way to that last headwall where you bivvied. From there it looks like a whole lot of hard.

 

Here are two I took from near the top (we actually finished on the West Ridge) after Gator and I climbed the south face.

 

IMG_2137-Medium.jpg

 

IMG_2138-Medium.jpg

 

I wonder how much of the rock you climbed has peeled off in the intervening 33 years...

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jesus, i'd be amazed if l'il tahoma is still there in a 1000 years - seems to be falling apart as quickly as sir isaac newton will allow!

 

btw, hope none of my extraordinarly witty humor makes it seem like i doubted or hated on the accomplishment - you old boyz drank motor oil in place of gatorade :)

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Paul and I guided the mountain a lot the year after your climb; he was quite nonchalant about ridge, but when digging he'd explain how tough it really was. He spoke highly of you Matt, and it was easy to tell he was excited about the accomplishment.

 

Lots of history in your post; thank you for reminiscing w/us!

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