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rocketparrotlet

[TR] Johannesburger and Fried - C-J Couloir to East Buttress 8/5/2013

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Trip: Johannesburger and Fried - C-J Couloir to East Buttress

 

Date: 8/5/2013

 

Trip Report:

“I would rather be dipped in shit than climb this mountain again.”

 

These were the words that stared out of the page at me regarding Johannesburg Mountain, that steep massif which throws its shadow over the Cascade River Road. Josh and I had hatched a plan to climb “the mighty J-burg” and maybe toss Cascade Peak in as well while we were up there. After reading numerous trip reports and researching the route, I felt I would be prepared for what the mountain would throw at us. Oh, how wrong I had been.

 

I picked Josh up in Lynnwood at 5am and we arrived at the Cascade Pass trailhead by 8. We crossed the river to the base of the Sill Glacier, grabbed crampons and ice axes, and began to head up the route. As soon as we started up the glacier, a boulder careened down the gully, casting an ominous shadow over my enthusiasm for this route. We continued to the base of a rock buttress and made plans to attack the thin gully in short, quick bursts, taking rests behind buttresses where possible, to minimize our exposure time in the bowling alley.

 

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Start of the route

 

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Waterfall on Cascade Peak

 

Eventually we reached a tough decision: a snow bridge across a giant moat was cracked and broken, and we had to find a way around. To the left was a terrifying moat which made Josh’s face turn 3 shades paler as he tried to cross, then reversed. I looked right, and we built a belay then I started up a class 3 rock ramp with water flowing over it. I traversed back onto the gully and up, and we began simulclimbing. Soon, however, the rope came taut and did not move for minutes. The pull increased, and I dropped into arrest position, fearing the worst. I was on top of another broken section of snow, holding on for what I felt could be both our lives with only one picket between us.

 

rXmfqxLh.jpg

 

Broken part of the snow gully ahead

 

After a few minutes, the tension released. I found a good spot to belay and brought Josh up. He told me that he had climbed too high initially and could not make the traverse to the rock ramp, so he was forced to carefully climb over the broken snow bridge. Sheesh! We unroped and continued up the suncupped snowfield to a short snowy headwall and then to the col at 12:30. Josh and I flopped our packs at the unusually serene spot and decided to head up Johannesburg first and Cascade the next day, a reversal of our original plan. We also decided to not descend that couloir at any cost, because the price was likely to be our lives. Doug’s Direct it was. Doesn’t sound so bad, right? At least, we didn’t think so at the time.

 

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Suncupped snowfield

 

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Mount Formidable from camp

 

We headed to the “White Staircase”, an interesting feature of 5.2 climbing and the most solid rock on the route. Protection would have been very limited in effectiveness, so we didn’t bother roping up. This was to be a trend for the rest of the route. As we soon found, bringing rock pro on the East Ridge of J-burg is much like using birth control with a pregnant woman; sure, it might help you feel safer, but it won’t really do you much good in the end.

 

vPQwynUh.jpg

 

Looking up J-burg

 

3rd class heather slopes led to a small plateau and then to a 4th class gully which continues up and around the false summit to the left. This led to what felt like endless ridge traversing past gendarmes and some of the loosest rock I have ever had the misfortune to stand on. If you do not feel comfortable soloing constant loose class 4, stay away from this peak.

 

Finally we arrived at the true summit. Standing on the peak of the imposing mountain which I had always looked at and feared was quite the moment, for both of us I am sure. After signing the register and taking a break for some food and photos, we headed back along the ridge. Reversing the ridge was quicker than going across it for the first time because we had some idea where we were headed with fewer false leads than we had encountered on the way over. We eventually arrived at the gully and the first rap station and set off.

 

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Looking down on the snow arete of the NE Buttress

 

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Machu Picchu?

 

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Looking down the East Ridge

 

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Mr. Cool himself

 

A mix of rappelling and downclimbing sent us down the gullies along the face until we arrived at the heather benches. The sun had just dipped behind the ridge, and we scrambled down quite quickly until downclimbing class 4 ledges straight back to camp as dark began to hit. We began to cook and congratulated ourselves on a successful ascent.

 

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Alpenglow on Sahale

 

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More alpenglow

 

The stars were beautiful in our serene campsite, and the experience was marred only by what Josh described as “the biggest rat he has ever seen” eating our stuff. Josh roaring at the rat would wake me up from time to time and we brought all our stuff into the tent with plans to sleep in and melt water in the morning.

 

We woke up and, running out of fuel, decided to melt rather than boil our ice worm-infested water. Despite tasting reminiscent of dead sea creatures, we both remained miraculously unaffected over the next few days. After a lazy morning, we packed up camp and traversed down to the base of Cascade Peak at 12:30. Just a quick class 3 gully, right? That’s what Beckey said, anyway.

 

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Mount Formidable again

 

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Torment-Forbidden traverse across the valley

 

Loose low-5th terrain up mixed rock and plants to an even looser gully convinced me once more that Beckey’s ratings are a pile of choss. This felt like doing Johannesburg again, only it was shorter and more straightforward. The rock quality was abysmal. After a couple hours, we arrived on the summit of Cascade and looked across the valley to our route up J-burg, took some pictures, and looked through the ancient register. Dallas Kloke sure loved this peak, as his name was on more than half of the listed ascents! I, on the other hand, will never climb this loose shitpile again. To each his own, I guess, and Dallas Kloke has far larger balls that I by the number of entries in that register.

 

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Our route on J-burg from Cascade

 

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This is what tries to kill you in the C-J couloir.

 

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Basking in success

 

Descending Cascade was not too great either. I accidentally started a rockslide down the gully when a 100-pound rock I stepped on gave way underneath my feet. The cascade of death below me provided a hint to the naming of the mountain. After another couple of hours from summit, we had returned to our packs and began the Doug’s “Direct” descent.

 

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Route up and down Cascade

 

To those who do not know, the Doug’s Direct involves traversing the base of not one, not two, but THREE separate mountains and then back again. And the only trail you get the misery that will trail behind you as you sidehill endless heather, go up and down like an amusement park ride, and (in our case) get lost and cliff out. After arriving on the complex terrain below MessedUp peak, we could see Gunsight Notch gazing down at us, and constant loose cliffs and buttresses above and below and on both sides. My thin veneer of “this is okay” began to fade as I set up a rappel from a tree down a loose gully (seeing a trend here?).

 

I began on rappel, nervous about making it to the notch before dark. Suddenly, my rope knocked down a football-sized rock from about 15 feet above, which slammed into my shoulder. Pain exploded across my vision and I began to feel panic, but luckily my shoulder was not broken. I traversed to a ledge and came off rappel. With my vision swimming, the entire 200-pound ledge gave way underneath my feet as I moved left with as much care as I could produce. “I’m not dead. I’m not dead. I’m not dead.” I repeated this mantra in my head over and over. Some more downclimbing to a small bench followed by some class 3 traversing took us to a place to refill our water and for me to refill my confidence.

 

Josh found a gully to bring us to the heather slope which would take us to the notch with about 80 minutes of light left. Success! We blasted up the slope and to the notch, then quickly descended the Cache Glacier, refilled our water one last time, and found ourselves on the climber’s trail for MessedUp Peak. No more fear, just hiking. The Doug’s Direct is miserable, but I feel like we would have escaped death even more narrowly (or worse, not at all) in the couloir. We arrived at Cascade Pass right at dark and breathed a huge sigh of relief.

 

An hour of hiking down the Cascade Pass trail brought us back to the car and all the comforts within. I vowed to never return to these two mountains, which are scarily like playing Russian roulette (at least in this season). Having reached two summits in two days via rock looser than a Las Vegas hooker, crossing snow bridges thinner than my confidence, and nearly dying in a rockslide on the descent, I had made up my mind about Johannesburg:

 

I would rather be dipped in shit than climb this mountain again.

 

 

Gear Notes:

Light rock rack (didn't use), 2 ice screws (didn't use), 2 pickets, excess of confidence and lack of intelligence

 

Approach Notes:

Park at the Cascade Pass trailhead, cross the river to the base of the Sill Glacier, then turn around and climb Forbidden Peak instead.

Edited by Off_White

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Great adventure guys. That campsite at CJ col is one of the best around!

 

FYI - Doug's Direct doesn't go around Mixup towards Gunsight, it goes over the northern summit of Mixup. If you need to use a rope, you're in the wrong spot. Glad you made it out ok.

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Great TR Mark, the two of you have come a long ways since you first showed up on this board. I edited the tag for the "here's what tries to kill you" photo so it shows up, what a great shot down onto that dying pocket glacier.

 

Sounds like with all your research you neglected to looks closely enough at Doug's Direct, there are some pretty good photos with lines to show where to go, I think its not all that obvious.

 

One could also descend around the other side of Johannesburg, which involves a bunch of off trail side hill up and down and then a long steep timber descent. I've been that way and would definitely take it over an afternoon descent of the C-J couloir, I think you guys made a good judgement call in avoiding that.

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J-berg was definitely Dallas' favorite peak. It combined easy access with some of the most challenging terrain the Cascades have to offer. I think that his record of seven summits of the peak will not be surpassed anytime soon.

The C-J couloir is definitely a sketch-fest; I had my finger broken by rock-fall there!

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"much like using birth control with a pregnant woman; sure, it might help you feel safer, but it won’t really do you much good in the end."

 

One of the funniest things I have heard all week. Thanks!

 

"Suddenly, my rope knocked down a football-sized rock from about 15 feet above, which slammed into my shoulder. Pain exploded across my vision and I began to feel panic, but luckily my shoulder was not broken. I traversed to a ledge and came off rappel. With my vision swimming, the entire 200-pound ledge gave way underneath my feet as I moved left with as much care as I could produce. “I’m not dead. I’m not dead. I’m not dead.” I repeated this mantra in my head over and over."

 

The reason I have all but given up on summits. I would rather climb more "technical" and "safer" ground any day!

 

Strong work lads! It has been quite the time watching you two grow as climbers and alpinists. Keep it up!

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Congrats! You guys are lucky, when I did the C-J there was a waterfall halfway through the couloir

 

Ah, doug's direct. Don't you love climbs that are uphill both ways?

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I'll second the report to look a little closer at the beta for Doug's. If you nail it, it's class 2-3 the whole way, and pretty enjoyable, though longer than the CJ.

 

J-Berg is no gimme, so congratulations are in order!

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Reading this story, I am reminded of when I first heard of Johannesburg Mountain, through tellings here about Mr Kloke's affinity for it. I did not know him. Nor have I climbed it, yet. I've checked it out and can see it is the real deal. Your story also got me to thinking about one of my favorite quotes...

 

“How to get the best of it all? One must conquer, achieve, get to the top; one must know the end to be convinced that one can win the end - to know there's no dream that mustn't be dared. . . Is this the summit, crowning the day? How cool and quiet! We're not exultant; but delighted, joyful; soberly astonished. . . Have we vanquished an enemy? None but ourselves. Have we gained success? That word means nothing here. Have we won a kingdom? No. . . and yes. We have achieved an ultimate satisfaction. . . fulfilled a destiny. . . To struggle and to understand - never this last without the other; such is the law. . .” George Mallory

 

Thanks for sharing your story. Glad you were able to meet the challenge of this fine mountain, and hope your shoulder isn't hurt too bad and heals well.

 

d

Edited by dougd

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Very cool. Every time I read a Jberg TR I am reminded why this mountain is NOT on my list!

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i suspect, a few months from now, your interest in jberg will return - now that you've got the descent all figured out, it's time to climb the north east buttress! :)

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