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JasonG

[TR] The Brothers - Traverse South to North- FSA 6/1/2014

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Trip: The Brothers - Traverse South to North- FSA

 

Date: 6/1/2014

 

Trip Report:

Trent's triumphant return to alpine climbing, post stomach removal, has been an amazing thing to watch. Aside from having his pockets stuffed with food, and a few more snack breaks, you wouldn't know that he is nonchalantly notching FSAs across the land. At least, I can only assume. Is anyone else out there climbing without a stomach? I know I am only able to haul myself above treeline by ingesting large meals at frequent intervals. If I had to limit myself, I think I would be much closer to the fridge.

 

But I digress. This is a TR about the Brothers Traverse, a route that has very little in the way of info in the cc.com database aside from an ancient TR from RobertM from some years ago. It's a shame, because Kit, Trent and myself all agreed that this trip could be considered an (relatively) unknown classic. While it is described in the Olympics climbs guide, and the Mounties have long led it, it doesn't make the all important select guides out there. You can see the effects of this in the summit register. Placed in 1974, the register (a cool old brass one) records many ascents annually through the 80's and early 90's. Lots of familiar names in there- Skoogs, Brill, Kloke, Pullen, Venema, etc.- and then about 1996 onwards there are big gaps. Lately, the North Peak sometimes goes years between recorded ascents, and usually only gets climbed once a year.

 

It might be because these type of mountaineering trips aren't really en vogue anymore. It isn't very technically demanding (steep snow and 4th class rock), nor is it on an imposing peak. But the ambiance of the ridgeline, the solitude, and the mystery about passing the gendarmes makes for a memorable outing. I won't spoil it for you, but I will offer a bit of advice. I think it is easiest, from a routefinding perspective, to go from South to North. Getting out of the Great Basin is a lot easier than getting into it, and it is better to get moving along the snowy ridgeline (climb is best in the spring) in the early AM. Even topping out on the South Summit a little after 0600, the snow was getting very soft by the time we got over to the North Brother. I think it took us about 3 hours to traverse the ridge, but a lot will depend on conditions. It's a lot of fun, the whole way from the South to the North Peak.

 

Just don't expect to get the FSA.

 

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The Brothers (on the left) from the Kingston Ferry

 

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Beware the Goats! The NPS should've culled these bastards years ago. Just ask Kit.

 

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Brothers shadow at sunrise (Trent Photo)

 

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The Traverse to the North Brother! (Trent photo)

 

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Kit and one of the steep snow downclimbs from the South Brother

 

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Alpine climbing at its best

 

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You can't see the big drops off either side of the ridge that are present along the traverse. Between Kit and Trent is a hole that drops through the ridge with hundreds of feet of air beneath.

 

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The North Summit is the right hand rock.

 

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Climbers on the South Brother

 

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View NE from the summit of the North Brother

 

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Downclimbing the North Brother

 

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Devo downclimbs (Trent photo)

 

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A few of the Silent Men

 

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Erraticism

 

Gear Notes:

Crampons, Ice axe, light rack (tri cams, chocks), 1-2 pickets. Gun for the goats, rocks are ineffective.

 

Approach Notes:

Follow the masses to the South Brother. Bivy ~5500'. Climb to the top of South Brother, stay on the ridge to the North Peak, dodging gendarmes on the path of least resistance. Sniff your way back across the great basin to camp.

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More Xanax for your camera! Sounds like your buddy is having a much fuller recovery than anticipated. Nice to here some positive climbing related news.

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Nice job! Great to hear about Steve's return to the alpine environments and bagging the coveted FSA.

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Nice report. Good to see some more activity in the Olympics. My buddy and I are gonna head up there in a few weeks. Where did you guys camp?

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Jason: Awesome pictures as usual! Thanks for dragging me along and getting me the much coveted FSA!

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Awesome photos Jason!!! A thoroughly enjoyable weekend with fantastic company. Thanks to you both.

 

I can't recommend the route though. With 21st Century smog, the views were not as expansive as advertised. The trail is too switchbacked. And the goats. They are assholes.

 

Also, if anyone found a single trekking pole on the South Brother, please shoot the goat. Thanks.

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Great photos as usual Jason. Looks like a fun outing.

 

Steve, amazing recovery and so good to see you in the mountains again.

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Nice, I love real Olympics climbing TRs! I keep meaning to do that traverse too, haven't been up in that particular corner in too many years.

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Did this traverse north to south in the early 90s with Richard Jackson, Tom Kirschner, Don Goodman, Rich Fitzgerald, and Scott. Beckey describes this traverse as "sporty" and indeed it is. We forgot to rope up and made amazing time, going from the north to south peak in a little over 2 hours. My memory is of a little more snow than you show, quite a bit of the route from the north peak to just before the notch was on a knife edge ridge. When we got to the notch and were all busy studying our shoe laces under the unrelenting gaze of that imposing snow face up to the south peak, Don intrepidly jumped on it and away we went. What a fabulous memory of a classic alpine climb, thanks!

Edited by kascadia

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We saw your name in the register! With more snow it would have been even more classic, and I can imagine how sporty it felt without a rope. I was a bit surprised how good the the traverse was, given the lack of recent TRs out there. Hopefully more folks get out each spring and experience it for themselves.

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Awesome, I've been wanting to do this for a while now. This reminded me that I should go do it. And I love that hike through the Silent Men.

 

Great TR, great pics.

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Fantastic photos. Would have loved to see more of the Great Basin. I'm very envious. Attempted the North Bro, approaching from the upper East Fork but was shut down by poor visibility & avalanche concerns. My stomach was in a huge knot that day. Perhaps that is one small advantage to not having one. Cheers to your health & a beautiful Olympic day.

 

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When we did the traverse in 1987, we went from south to north, then reversed the route back to the south peak. At the major pinnacle on the route, we followed easy ledges around the east side, which provided a fast and fairly level route to the notch north of the pinnacle. From my journal, it appears that we had four people simul-climbing on a 50m rope. The traverse went pretty fast in both directions (under two hours).

 

I could have done the traverse with Gary Brill and several others in 1975 but I thought it would take too long, so I waited for them on the south summit. It DID take too long, and by the time they traversed over and back from the north peak it was getting really late. As I remember, a ferry worker woke me up on the trip back to Seattle. I almost slept through the unloading process and my ride home.

 

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Interesting that you guys went back and forth on the ridge. Given that it took us at least three hours to get from the north peak back to camp, that might not be a bad way to go if the snow conditions stay firm. Of course, as Gary's group demonstrated in 1975, it can take awhile to do it that way as well!

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I'm impressed. Great pictures, great climbing, an adventure you will remember for a long time. Good job guys. Wish I were there.

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I went back and dusted off the few slides we have from the trip, and one taken of 2 of the party ascending to the south peak clearly shows our route in the area of the gendarme/notch problem. We stayed on the ridge to that area (not dropping and traversing low on the west side as shown in the attached route description/picture posted above). In the area of the gendarme, we dropped on the the east side of the large squarish rock block in the center of your traverse picture and clustered above it on a small ledge, a rappel debate ensued. We ultimately were able to traverse back 100 feet or so on the west side of the ridge and then found a place to drop down and access the notch. We then crossed over to the east side and took the beautiful snow to the south summit. We had hard frozen snow (excellent cramponing)across the Great Eastern Basin and up the steepish ascent to the north peak. It had softened by the time we began climbing out of the notch. I will get the slide scanned and posted here for comparison (only slightly more snow than what your pictures show - we did it in June also). I mentioned the time of the traverse because at the time, there had been a recent horror story of a group that dropped too far down on the west side to try to cross the notch and had ended up benighted before being able to finish the route the next day! The reputation was the route finding. For us, it was a day when the mountain gods smiled upon us, the doors opened, and we had "flow". Oh happy day.

 

http://cascadeclimbers.com/plab/showphoto.php?photo=97481&title=approaching-the-south-brother&cat=504

Edited by kascadia

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