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John Frieh

first ascent [TR] West Witches Tit - West Ridge "No Rest For the Wicked" (FA) 5/28/2014

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Trip: West Witches Tit - West Ridge "No Rest For the Wicked" (FA)

 

Date: 5/28/2014

 

Summary: First Ascent of the West Ridge of the West Witches Tit on May 28-29th 2014. John Frieh and Jess Roskelley. “No Rest For the Wicked” WI6 M7 A0

 

No Rest For the Wicked ascends the left hand skyline of the left hand peak

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Details: Nearly five years ago I made my second trip ever to Alaska where Dave Burdick and I made the first ascent of the West Ridge of Burkett Needle. That climb made a huge impression on me and I began making a list of climbs I wanted to return for. One of the lines I found in John Scurlock's excellent gallery was the West Ridge of the West Witches Tit. John's photo made it look like a series of easy granite ramps and the Ice Cap manager confirmed it was still unclimbed.

 

In August of 2013 I flew with a group from Portland intent on attempting that line; unfortunately a lean winter followed by a hot summer resulted in impassable glaciers so the team opted for the 50 classic East Ridge of the Devils Thumb. A nagging injury from earlier in the season forced me to sit that one out and delivered me my first Stikine shutout. I had to return.

 

I did this year and on May 28th Jess and I flew from SEA to PSG where we obtained our Stikine Ice Cap permits from the Manager and then flew to the Devils Thumb massif's single landing zone SE of the Devils Thumb. We scouted part of the approach before turning in early. The following morning (May 29th) we departed camp around 3:30 am and began the long traverse around the Devil's Thumb massif to reach our proposed route on the West Witches Tit.

 

After 8+ hours of traversing multiple glaciers and ridges that required climbing and rappelling we finally reached the West Ridge which we were "pleasantly surprised" to find was anything but easy granite ramps. We took a brew stop and debated our options; if it had been any later in the day I doubt we would have tried. In the end Jess said "why not?" and we launched just before noon.

 

Almost immediately we were faced with stout mixed climbing. I kept thinking "that had to be the crux!" only to be faced with another hard pitch. Roughly halfway up the route Jess led arguably one of, if not the hardest pitch I've ever seen in the mountains. 15 inches wide give or take; perfectly smooth and would have been unclimbable if not for the ice in the back of the chimney. Exiting out required lying back a giant flake with your feet above your head to attempt to get sticks in shit snow. Stout! As the pitch took nearly 2 hours to lead my sense was to bail at this point but we couldnt let such a proud pitch go to waste. More hard climbing followed; all told I recall 3 or 4 solid M6ish pitches and one solid M7 when it was all said and done. Near the top we crossed over Bill Belcourt and Randy Rackliff's rap line from their original first ascent of the West Witches Tit in May of 1995.

 

We summited around 11:30 pm making the fifth overall ascent of the West Witches Tit. We discussed our options; though we were told a rap line existed down the south face that would make our hike back to camp shorter we were very worried about finding it in the dark and then rapping down new terrain. In the end we opted to rap the Belcourt/Rackliff line as we knew were it started and had some good beta from Randy and Bill about it. It turned out to be the right decision as their excellent line took us down very steep terrain on a single 70m rope. As an aside their unrepeated line on the SW face looks amazing.

 

We hit the glacier sometime around 5 am; at this point it all gets foggy for me as all told we were awake and on the go for 36 hours on a measly 3000 calories each. We likely would have laid down for a brief shiver nap but with the weather window rapidly closing we death marched our way back to camp where Wally promptly snatched us up.

 

"No Rest For the Wicked" is my fourth first ascent on the Stikine Ice Cap in the five years I have been climbing there and one of, if not the hardest route I have climbed ever anywhere. I am proud of our effort.

 

Thanks to Wally of Temsco Air for the superior service; Dieter Klose for continuing to tolerate my flagrant behavior in the Stikine and of course Jess for being a great partner.

 

Thanks to Randy and Bill for the great beta and encouragement as well as John Scurlock; I lost count how many FAs his pictures have provided me.

 

Thanks to the great people of Mountain Gear and the Alta Group for supporting local climbers like us.

 

Finally many thanks to my Gym Jones family for teaching me how to suffer and the power of self image. Onward.

 

Pictures:

 

Morning Coffee

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One of the more involved approaches I have done

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Foreshortened view from the col

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Stout pitches early on

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About to finally get some sun

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Cruiser

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Le Crux

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Another stout pitch

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High on the route

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Summit

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Hour 30: Starting to break down but still 6 more hours to go

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Those crampon front points look nicely worn in the last picture. Intimidating and inspiring.

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That is inspiring climbing and you guys are tough as nails. 36 hours and 3000 calories, next time I think I'm doing something hard I'll use that as my mantra. Atta boys.

 

...36 hours....3000 calories...tough as nails...36 hours...

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Awesome climb, congratulations.

 

I was a little surprised to see the #4 and #5 cams on your rack, as they tend to be left behind by many climbers unless they are known to be necessary for a route. Can I ask what prompted you to take them, and did they end up being useful?

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Thanks guys

 

I was a little surprised to see the #4 and #5 cams on your rack, as they tend to be left behind by many climbers unless they are known to be necessary for a route. Can I ask what prompted you to take them, and did they end up being useful?

 

When repeating something I will leave behind anything I know I won't need which usually includes the #4 and #5. When attempting an FA like this one I will take a larger rack as I don't know what the route will require and often I leave a good portion of the rack as rap anchors getting off. We did place both the #4 and #5 on this route though if someone was repeating it I would say you could likely get by without the #5.

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Those crampon front points look nicely worn in the last picture.

 

Considering how much I've put those points through in the last two years including this route (3000' of granite) I'd say they're the best crampon I've ever owned. The Lynx is solid and climbs amazing.

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