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Cascades classics (and otherwise good climbs)


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In mid- to late May a partner and I are planning to spend about 10-14 days in the Cascades. He has limited experience there and I have never been. However, we both have experience in the Tetons, Rockies, Sierras, and Patagonia. He also has some experience in Alaska.


Having never been, at the moment I'm just trying to figure out what the options are. I'd be psyched to hear recommendations for good climbs, classics or not, for everything from walk-ups to WI3+/4, M4/5, 5.7, mod. snow/glacier in difficulty. (I'm assuming that in May we won't be breaking out rock shoes, but if those sorts of things end up on the list, rock up to 5.10 could be good, too.)


So, what's good in mid-May? What are your favorite peaks/routes? Any places we should *avoid* that time of year? I've got some ideas, but I don't want to taint the responses by offering up my thoughts just yet.


Many, many thanks in advance.

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hey DM:


This is just my opinion, and it's actually not that constructive, but I think it might help you choose some good climbs.


When you said you were going to be here in may, I thought "That sounds early..." And then I had to check myself because I know there are lots of great climbs at that time, just not the climbs I dream about. So aI can't recommend many climbs, but I can offer these randomly selected TRs from May this year. Check 'em out. It will give you an idea of what to expect in the mountains in may.










Personally, I'd be looking for the steep snow and ice routes combined with the foothills cragging.




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Mid may can be a great time for alpine rock climbing, especially south-facing stuff. If you can get ahold of some A/T skis, I would just go ski/climb at WA pass. You'll likely be able to ski from/to the car and have the spires to yourself. Here are a few good earlier-season alpine rock objectives:


Anything in the Lib Bell Group

Anything on Prusik

Acid Baby

The Valkyrie

Ellen Pea (Supercave Wall)

Girth Pillar on Stuart


There is also potential for north-facing snow and ice routes (Triple Couloirs on Dragontail, Stuart Glacier) to still be in shape.

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Depends on the snow year but as Blake said south facing alpine routes can be really good by mid/late May. And stuff lower down will definitely be snow free (snow creek wall at Leavenworth etc). I climbed Eldorado Peak by the East ridge last May and would recommend that. Also depends on snow conditions but end of May could be the beginning of the season for Rainier (meaning the guide service usually gets the DC wanded about that time). Have fun in your research!

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May is usually kind of the shoulder season. If you get sun, as noted, can be good for alpine rock. But if trying snow / ice objectives snow usually isn't consolidated by then so be careful of early season dangers, like wet isothermic snow slides, cornice collapse, etc.

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for the amount of time you're proposing, I'm thinking you'd get the most bang for your buck by looking for a concentration of climbing in one area. somebody mentioned the Liberty Bell group, and I would second the Washington Pass area. I'd also suggest the Stuart Range, but focus either on Stuart or around Colchuck Lake. in May you could have warm alpine rock, classic mixed, or couloir ice -- depending on the year. The fattest ice I've ever seen on the Triple Couloir on Dragontail was the first week of June one year back in the nineties. I've seen the same climb "bare & dry" at the same time of year. - depends on the year. I have found relatively dependable "classic mixed" climbs on Dragontail and Stuart in May, but these are "seasonal" lines, varying from year-to-year - not the sort of climb to be found in a guidebook, there-one-year-gone-the-next. With Patagonian and Alaskan experience, I'm presuming you have well-developed avalanche safety skills, and the ability to pick a line and climb it without a topo. Without those skillsets your options may be pretty limited.

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Monty has the word! Take heed of the above-noted comment about the dreaded isothermal snow, though. If you are not from 'round here, this may be a new "pleasure." Apart from the slide hazard, it just plain sux to travel over (through) the "mushout" snow. That said, May can be and usually is really awesome here for some kind of thing - especially skiing! (I wouldn't expect good ice climbing anywhere but, maybe, the north side of the highest peaks like the Stuart range, although I WOULD expect to find some good conditions on something big and cool somewhere, if you look around; the snowpack will make many objectives more attractive than they would be later in the season.)



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