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[TR] Mount Terror - North Face (Stoddard Buttress) 7/27/2013

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Trip: Mount Terror - North Face (Stoddard Buttress)


Date: 7/27/2013


Trip Report:

The name alone is enough to give one pause, but for our party a planned ascent of the North Face of Mount Terror had special significance. Several years ago the mountain had almost claimed Steve's life in a freak rockfall accident, which resulted in a member of his party spending four unplanned nights in the Terror Hilton. For those that would like detail on the accident and aftermath, Steph has a page dedicated to the event on her site. It was only with fast climbing and a lucky cell phone call placed by Steph and Donn, that Steve pulled through.


It took a better part of a year after the event for Steve to heal completely from his many injuries, and soon he talked of returning to Terror. For a variety of reasons (were we all still too afraid?) the return ending up taking four years to materialize. While I don't know what Steve and Gord were thinking, the accident still weighed heavy on my mind as we made plans to head up on a focused mission to climb the North Face of Terror over three days. Though none of us expressed any misgivings aloud, I think we all felt that this wasn't going to be an ordinary climb, though hopefully safe.


Knowing that we had a strenuous approach ahead of us on day one, we got a decently early start, stopping at the ranger station en route to the new Goodell Creek TH. The old road was in better shape, brush-wise, than I last remembered it, and about 1.5 hours from the car we were embarking on the dreaded Crescent Creek climber's path. Fortunately for us, this "trail" has seen a lot of use in the last five years and was much, much better than I last remembered it. Even still we had to pay attention to stay on it, but really there isn't much bushwhacking to speak of any longer. Still, with 6K of gain to Terror camp, we didn't exactly fly up. I think it was about 7.5 hours to Terror camp (space for two small tents).


The next day we got up at 0400 and were away by 0500 towards the Ottohorn-Himmelhorn col. This was the first challenge of the day and it wasn't that easy in the mid season conditions we found. Hard steep snow, 4th class choss, a couple raps, and some moat action later and we were established on the Mustard Gl. and could begin our weave towards the route. The Mustard was already pretty broken, more so that we were expecting, but we were able to find our way over to the route without too much trouble.


The first bit off the glacier was mostly 3rd and 4th class and we scrambled to the left edge of a permanent snow patch and roped up. I'm not sure what time this was, but the approach had taken a long time. Steve led the charge up and left to the crest, gaining it a few hundred feet below the accident site. As a team of three, we had one leader just off the middle of the rope and the two followers behind. This forced us to simul probably more than we would have otherwise, hopefully speeding up the large amount of climbing on this route. While the climbing was pretty easy on the lower buttress, it was steep enough with just enough pro to keep us on our toes. Immediately below the accident site, we did a rap off the crest down to easier ledges to get around a particularly steep step in the ridge (Beckey talks about this).


On the way to regain the crest, we ran smack into the "Terror Hilton" and the gear left from the accident. We stopped for a break and quietly contemplated the scene. I have to admit that it was spooky and didn't do much to lighten the mood, considering our position on the wild north side of the Southern Pickets. After a bit, Steve and I grabbed some gear (some still remains) and off we started up into the unknown, past the fall site and above. The buttress began to steepen and we made sure to take our time to keep everyone safe, considering the somewhat sparse pro and looseness (though in general the rock is pretty good). Where the original NF route joins the Stoddard buttress we had to scratch our heads for a bit to figure out the right way (I won't ruin it for you), but we continued to find a moderate way through some hard looking sections. This kept the suspense high all the way to the false summit, and I won't lie to say we were all relieved we joined the standard west ridge route in the evening.


The wind was rising and mists were swirling as Steve, Gord, and myself dropped off the false summit and climbed on steep 4th class ground to the true summit. What a summit! The whole summit area looks to be ready to fall down the north face, and you are right in the middle of the crazy fence that is the Southern Pickets. The sun made a brief appearance right before sunset and it was one of the more dramatic summits I can ever remember. All the tension of the day was beginning to wash away, then I looked at Steve who had his phone out, checking for a signal.


"No Service", Steve said. Ohhhhhhh, right. It ain't over yet, and the sun was fast setting. We didn't waste much time scrambling down the west ridge until we could make a couple 30m raps into the notch. From here a chossy gully, steep snow, overhanging chockstone rap, and more steep snow brought us back to camp, in the dark, about 17 hours after leaving (in the dark). Although we were too tired to really celebrate, the Canadian Hunter went down real easy with our belated dinners and we just sat and savored the twilight, stars, and Milky Way. We had faced the mountain of our fears and came away intact, in every sense.


You alpine climbers know the rest of the story- a late start, looking back over your shoulder at the peak on the deproach, the endless road walk, cotton!, food!, BEER!, loved ones, shower, bed, and the rude alarm Monday morning.



Steve concentrates on the Terror Creek log crossing. The big cedar of years past is now underwater.



Above the worst of it, but still with a long way to go



Feeling it, ~6K above the car.



Gord checking out Terror for the first time



At Terror camp, the team contemplates the day ahead.



Rapping into the Mustard Gl.



The Stoddard Buttress is the left skyline.



Gordo low on the route, Fury behind



Gord at the "Terror Hilton". Not a very welcoming spot to spend four nights. Note the rope that caught Steve's fall in the foreground, and water from the NPS that helped sustain Jason in the background.



McMillan Spires



Steve and Gord at a belay high on the route. Which way?



McMillan Cirque is a wild place. McMillan Spires on left, Degenhardt on right, Inspiration in the middle.



Nearing the summit, now climbing on the normal route



Looking beyond Picket Pass to the Northern Pickets



Steve on top of Terror after a very long journey.



Looking down into Goodell Creek, past Terror camp, to Despair (L) and Blum ®



Mists swirling around the fence



Sunset on the Chopping Block and Triumph







Gear Notes:

60m half rope, medium rack, Al crampons, helmet, ice axe, tat, rock shoes (if you don't like 5.7/.8 in boots).


Approach Notes:

The Crescent Creek Climber's path is getting surprisingly well-defined. That said, you need to pay attention to keep on it. Took us about 7.5 hours to Terror Camp

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Much thanks to Jason and Gord for being great partners, and especially Gord for leading the crux when I felt shaky. I think that one of the best things about alpinism is the quality people that you have the opportunity to meet and climb with. This climb reminded me on a real and tactile level the sacrifice and excellent planning and execution demonstrated by Jason, Steph, and Donn, my partners on the fateful climb. Without people of that caliber, I would not be here now.

Edited by Trent

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Way to finish some business. That part of the Pickets has a very remote feeling regardless of how close it is to Highway 20. Especially if you cross to the North side.

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Great TR Jason,and way to go Choss Dogs! All I can do is sit on the boat here in the Bering and wish I had been able to be around for this one.

Leave it to Steve to "Never say die" and have to come back and slay the beast! He was in good company.

I recall getting the call here in AK from Wade after the big fall, at that time I don't think any of use knew what was to become of Steve, we were just relived he was was alive. Less thean a year later we went off and climbed Hungabee in the Canadian Rockies, a testament to Trents will power and strength. Dude, you are the Man!

Many thanks to Jason S, Steph, and Donn for making sure Steve got a chance to have another go at Terror.

And Thanks Steve, Gordo, and Jason for being great climbing partners and better friends.

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Glad to see Steve could break out a smile on the summit, sounds like a pretty somber outing. Great TR and photos, congratulations on many levels all around.

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All of this nearly brings a tear to my eye. Congrats, Steve, on slaying that demon.


Actually, I just started crying :cry: :cry: :cry: because I realized I missed what would have been an awesome trip with you handsome guys.


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We had faced the mountain of our fears and came away intact, in every sense.


Overcoming our fears to succeed in the mountains provides a greatly enhanced sense of accomplishment, and the lessons learned are carried forward into life.


Success to me is defined as a safe return with lessons learned.


Good job team, especially Steve.



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Thanks for photos/report. Nice job. Congrats Steve - always difficult to swallow hard and return on something like that.


Especially with a peak nammed Terror - :brew:

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What an incredibly gratifying TR to read (and, as always with Jason’s TR’s, amazing photos). Steve looks sooooooo much better in that summit shot than he did last time I saw him on Terror! I will probably continue to avoid, as I have for the past 4 years, thinking about how badly things could have gone back in 2009 had we not had the breaks we did. But reading this does a lot to cast that memory in a much better light. Big congratulations to Steve for getting back on this one, and big thanks to Gord and Jason for being the friends and partners you are. The only thing that would have made this better would be if Jeff and I had run into you guys in the area. I think our tracks on the Mustard would only have been 4 days old when you came through. Great job guys!


A morning shot of Terror from Swiss. Five days before your climb.




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Alas, yes....along with a couple wee kids and a VERY understanding wife. I used up many of my hall passes early this summer and have spent the last month or so hiking at a very slow pace and untangling fishing lines.


But thanks for thinking that I'm a dirtbag.....I can still dream.

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