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[TR] Ingalls Peak - East Peak (Dike Chimney) to North Peak Traverse 10/5/2014

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Trip: Ingalls Peak - East Peak (Dike Chimney) to North Peak Traverse


Date: 10/5/2014


Trip Report:

In August 2013, my wife Steph and I finished grad school on the east coast and moved to Seattle for work. Having met climbing at the Gunks in 2009, climbing is a big part of our lives, and we were both super excited about the move.


When we arrived we started off exploring Index and Exit 32/38 -- it was so rad to have fantastic cragging within a one hour drive! A month later, in September, we finally headed into the proper mountains, bagging the South Ridge of North Ingalls in a great car-to-car adventure. We’d done a bunch of alpine climbing in the Sierras and elsewhere, and we were psyched to be living near so much alpine rock! Soon after that weekend the weather turned, and Index gave way to Vantage, which soon gave way to weekday bouldering at SBP and weekend skiing.


Come spring, we got back on track and stepped up our climbing game: Castle Rock, Outer Space, more Index, Squamish, Lake Erie, Banks Lake, Washington Pass, Prusik Peak. We ticked Infinite Bliss and the Backbone Ridge on Dragontail. A year after arriving, our climbing game was feeling great.


And thus, a seed that had been sewn back on the South Ridge of Ingalls began to grow. From the summit of the North Peak that day last year, we’d spotted climbers atop the East Peak that had summited via its Southwest Face. We watched them rappel their ascent route and then continue up the East Ridge of the North Peak. Neat. But wouldn’t it be much cooler, we thought, to do a proper traverse of the the Ingalls massif, from East to South?


Geographic context:

There are three “peaks” to Ingalls Peak. The highest summit is the North Peak. The East Peak lies to the east, with about 200 feet of prominence from the notch that separates it from the North Peak. Apart from these two technical summits, the South Peak is a lump off to the south that attracts many scramblers.


The Ingalls Traverse:

To the Beckey guide we turned. Beckey describes four established routes on the East Peak: the Southwest Face (what we’d seen climbed), two variations of the South Face (“Left Side” & “Right Side”), and then the “Dike Chimney and East Ridge”. About the Dike Chimney route, Beckey says:


The SE-facing Chimney formed by the prominent dike (actually a deep gully) can be clearly seen from Ingalls Lake. First known ascent by Donald N. Anderson, Dee Molenaar, Gene Prater, and Barry Prater on October 1, 1960; previously done, unknown party.


From talus above the lake, climb about 400 ft up the chimney to its intersection with the upper E ridge (class 3-4). Once on the E ridge, take several leads to the top (last pitch is class 5). Reference: AAJ 1961, p. 365. Mountaineer 1961, p. 102.


Reading this brief description, we thought a traverse of the Ingalls massif sounded rad -- to hell with elaborate SuperTopos! Let’s have an adventure!



Caption: Photo from the Beckey guide, with red overlay showing the intended traverse via the “Dike Chimney and East RIdge” of the East Peak, rappel to the East Peak-North Peak notch, climb the East Ridge of North Peak, and then rappel the South Ridge of North Peak.


Driving up Saturday afternoon (October 4th), we arrived at the Esmeralda Basin trailhead at 4pm. From there we hiked into Headlight Basin near Lake Ingalls and set up camp. We reached camp just as the last light was fading off the majestic face of Mount Stuart.



Caption: Mt. Stuart from Headlight Basin. What a peak.


As the last sunlight waned on Stuart, we watched some whipping lenticulars blasting over its summit at breakneck speeds, wondering if anyone was up there. We felt pretty pleased at that moment that we hadn’t set our sights on Stuart for the weekend.


We set our alarms for 6:45am, and the next morning we ate breakfast at camp and hiked the mile over to Lake Ingalls. After filling up on water, we left the lake around 8am, eyeing the ominous dike/chimney/gully above.



Caption: Obligatory headstand photo at Lake Ingalls.



Caption: Looking out at the lake from just below the East Peak Dike Chimney.


Our timing was perfect, with the sun just hiting the gully when we reached it. If, after reading this description you still want to climb this route, 8:30am-9:30am is when the sun hits the start of the route on an early October day.


As we entered the gully, a lump started to develop in our throats, as we realized that we were entering a veritable shooting gallery for choss. The gully is an eight foot wide rising ramp, with walls that rise hundreds of feet. Any rock let loose by a leader was going to have major consequences.


The scary adventure that follows might not surprise those who have taken the Beckey guide up on its terse two sentence descriptions of obscure routes before. As we scrambled up the gully, our pace slowed to increasingly measured steps. As the gully steepened, we definitely weren’t climbing what felt like “class 3-4”. We spotted an old fixed nut on the left side of the gully, indicating somebody before us thought it best to rope up.


We weighed our options, including both the risk of sending loose blocks down on a belayer and taking a long tumble if a hand- or foothold blew, and elected to set up a belay at the fixed nut. We switched to rock shoes. Because of the constant sense of the unknown ahead, we actually ended up pitching out the entire “Dike Chimney and East Ridge” route.


Pitch 1 (5.4, choss funnel, 80 ft):

Having roped up, Steph delicately maneuvered her way on lead up the remainder of the choss funnel, straining to avoid the frequent pockets of shrapnel and loose death blocks. As belayer I clung to the left wall, where the fixed nut is, barely protected by the wavy overlaps in the gully bedrock. At least that’s what I told myself. Belaying this pitch was the first(!) psychological crux of the route.


Where the bedrock of the gully gives way to a steep overhanging chimney, Steph headed up and left, making a few 5.4 moves on better-but-not-great rock to gain a big ledge. Once on the ledge, there are two independent pieces of rappel tat: one with rap rings and one without. Steph wisely decided to place the belay up and right from the tat, inside a cave formed by a bus-sized chockstone blocking the upward continuation of the gully, to protect her from potential rock fall from above.


To be clear, we weren’t observing any spontaneous rockfall, but after what we’d just seen below, who knew what the next pitch would bring. All our decisionmaking was focused on minimizing the consequences of the choss. While Steph had enough rope left to have continued climbing up the next pitch, she decided that the sooner I was out of the choss funnel the better.



Caption: The view out the gully from atop the first pitch. The first pitch ascends the 8 ft wide floor of the gully’s narrow start below.


Pitch 2 (5.4, solid and fun, 190 ft):

Having dispensed with the choss funnel and with Steph belaying from the safety of the cave, I headed up solid featured rock on the left hand wall of the cave opening. The rock was similar in character to the easy pitches of the East Ridge of North Ingalls, but steeper here, and fun! Easy to protect as well.


Atop the steep wall I headed around left on a ledge and up over a weakness to reach the base of a low angle scree gully, which continues until gaining the east ridge of East Peak. On the (climber’s) left hand side of this scree gully, an orange rock ramp provides a natural route up to the east ridge towards the summit. After gaining the east ridge proper, I set the belay close to an overhang, again to protect from loose rock when belaying the next pitch.


Pitch 3 (Easy 5th, solid, 190ft):

Steph headed up and left over a bulge (an optimist would call this a “false summit”, but the summit is quite a ways off) to gain an aesthetic ridge traverse on solid rock. Belay near the end of the ridge traverse, below (but not too close to) the headwall of choss that makes up the next pitch.


Pitch 4 (5.2, scary steep choss, 100ft):

I took the lead on this next pitch, delicately working up a steep wall of extremely friable rock. While the first pitch is stressful because of the risk of sending a microwave-sized loose block down the funneling gully, this second psychological crux is stressful because the rock you’re climbing on is consistently rotten. The climbing is technically very easy, but you have to check every handhold and every foot placement. There is no solid gear, and the little protection you can creatively place is going to be highly suspect. The three pieces I placed on the pitch might have held a falling pika. At least the belayer isn’t likely to be hit by any rock coming off.


After about 80 feet the “headwall” eases out to a lower angle ridge, and the challenge is to build a solid belay anchor. Possible, but tricky.


Pitch 5 (Easy 5th, still loose but low angle, 180ft):

Steph led this final pitch of easy climbing, following the ridge and the ascending the summit block straight on up to the top. The rock quality is still pretty bad for the first half of this pitch, but the low angle makes it tolerable, and the summit block features fun, easy moves on comparably reliable rock. A fine pitch. There’s tat around the summit block to belay from (but tat in such places should obviously be treated as highly suspect).


Summit of East Peak:

Woo-hoo! We’d done it! The summit register shows about 2 ascents a year, but none (since the current register was placed in 1987) explicitly mention the Chimney/Dike route from what we saw. There was one previous ascent of the peak this year (September 2014), then the one before that was September 2013, and so on. Mostly late season ascents, for what that’s worth. We topped out the East Peak at 12:30pm.



Caption: Summit shot before rappelling from East Peak.


Descending to the North Peak-East Peak notch:

From the summit slings, Steph belayed me to the visible rap tat atop the Southwest Ridge of East Peak. There is a large bulge just below the tat. We made a single 200 ft double-rope rap on climber’s right (skier’s left) of the bulge, reaching a platform in the North Peak-East Peak notch. From that platform I could see a horn with intermediate rap tat above us along the southwest ridge that suggests it’s possible to rappel the face on a single 60m rope in two raps, but to do so you would have to rappel on climber’s left (skier’s right) of the aforementioned bulge.


From that platform atop the East Peak-North Peak notch, we made a mistake. We somehow thought that the East Ridge of North Peak began farther down and left than it did. Credit this mistake to our “we don’t need no stinkin’ beta” mentality for this adventure. From that platform we could have rappelled (or perhaps down-climbed) just 30 feet to a platform that’s 3/4 of the way up P1 of the East Ridge route, but instead we rappelled down and (climber’s) left beyond that platform, diagonaling to avoid a gully and following (we soon realized) the exact route of P1 of North Peak’s East Ridge route. We realized the lay of the land when we consulted a beta photo at the bottom of the rappel.


Climbing the East Ridge of North Peak:

After a clean pull of a double ropes (phew!), we headed back up the line we’d just rappelled around 1:45pm, pitch 1 of the east ridge of North Peak. Having regained the notch on the other side of the chockstone, we cruised up the east ridge on solid rock. A great route! The crux is short and everything else is very easy. We topped out the North Peak at about 5pm. By that point we'd done 11 pitches across the two routes, plus the rappel to link them.



Caption: Summit shot on North Peak.



We rappelled the South Ridge of North Peak, and by the time we were on the ground it was just after 6pm. Without too many hours separating us from the start of the work week back in Seattle, we decided to forego the scramble up the South Peak and pat ourselves on the back for what we had accomplished. Back to camp to pack up and head out!



Caption: Descending to Lake Ingalls.


We were back at the lake at 7pm, packed up and departing camp by 8pm. We motored down, reaching the parking lot at 9:35pm and back in Seattle before midnight. All in a day’s work!


Food Deprivation Footnote:

As an aside, Saturday was Yom Kippur, the Jewish day of atonement and fasting. My wife is Jewish and fasts for cultural reasons, and since we married I join her to share in the experience. So we ended up doing the hike in on Saturday afternoon on an empty stomach, and cooked a big break-the-fast meal at camp that night. For some reason, the sudden nutrient bomb hit my stomach wrong, and I ended up vomiting it all up within 20 minutes. Totally weird, and what a waste of food! As a result I was feeling pretty weird Saturday night and Steph had to take care of me as I slowly ate some other food, but when the alarm went off Sunday morning I felt fine, so we charged ahead!


Post-adventure research:

Ordinarily I’m all about collecting ample beta, but for some reason, we didn’t do any internet research ahead of this endeavor. I think we were pretty set on having an adventure. That said, after completing the climb, I’ve managed to collect the following information.


The original 1961 AAJ entry, cited by Beckey, is actually quite helpful, and seems more realistic to us than Beckey’s characterization:


This route, first climbed on October 11 by Don Anderson, Barry Prather, Gene Prater and me, ascends the prominent ‘dike chimney’ in the south face of the ridge. This chimney offered grade IV climbing, with several short nearly overhanging pitches, while the remainder of the ridge provided scrambling on rather loose serpentine rock.


It’s a little unclear to me if the mention of the chimney offering “grade IV climbing” refers to the YDS “grade” (length and seriousness of the route), or some other early use of “grade” that references difficulty that might have been common in the 1960s. Does anyone know?


Allowing for speculation, the disagreement between this description and Beckey’s description may be that Beckey is basing his report for the route on an early season ascent (his own or someone else’s), when pitch 1 may have been under snow. This AAJ description is pretty accurate, at least for October. Actually looking it up after seeing the reference in the Beckey guide would have aligned our expectations much better with what we found.


Next in the post-fact research tour, there are two mentions of the Dike Chimney here on CascadeClimbers. In 2001, this thread indicates a party bailed after what seems like the first pitch of the Dike Chimney, finding it very unappealing. In 2010, this thread indicates a party climbed the lower East Ridge of East Peak, and they then descended the Dike Chimney. They surveying the upper East Ridge from the top of the Dike Chimney, and the sight of the choss headwall pitch is probably what turned them off, so they descended.


I’m guessing these two parties are responsible for the two sets of tat we found at the top of the choss funnel on pitch 1. I’d like to emphasize that rappelling the route would involve quite a bit of rockfall risk, and note that the 2010 party said they had each person downclimb the remainder of the gully and exited it between rappellers. How did they decide who went last and had the pleasure of pulling the rope? Not an advisable rappel route.


But it does it look like this traverse has been done before. In the 2010 TR, kukuzka1 said he’s done the traverse from the Dike Chimney to the East Ridge of North Peak in the past, and calls the gully pitch “scary”. We totally agree. Also, from a broad internet search I found indirect photo evidence of an ascent of the East Ridge of East Peak in 2000, though it’s not clear if they climbed the Dike Chimney or came up the East Ridge proper.


The Ingalls Traverse “sit start”:

So. In the eyes of traverse purist, and even in my own eyes, the Dike Chimney is a cheater’s start for a true “Complete East Ridge” traverse. If you’re contemplating an Ingalls Traverse adventure, the observation that the Dike Chimney is heinous might justifiably convince you that the real way to do the traverse is to start on the east end of Ingalls Lake and do a proper “sit start” traverse, reaching the top of the Dike Chimney gully via the lower East Ridge of East Peak. You would still have to contend with the choss headwall that was “Pitch 4” of our route. But you’d be ticking yourself a pretty righteous skyline and avoiding the choss funnel.


To conclude this very verbose TR, I’ll note that I considered keeping it much shorter in order to maintain the sense of adventure for other parties that might head up the Dike Chimney. It’s pretty cool that a route from the 60’s has no more than two short paragraphs written about it, by Beckey and in the AAJ. But with this route, we felt that it’s worth communicating a clear picture of the sketchiness in store for anyone contemplating what is, at the end of the day, not the most advisable route.



- Courage and helmets

- A pair of 60m doubles. Possible to do the rappels with one rope, but will be trickier. It was nice to have doubles. Being from the gunks, we just plain like doubles.

- Single rack of nuts and cams to 2 inches. Doubles of 0.5/1/2. A #4 for the crux of the East Ridge of North Peak. We could have gone a little lighter, but there were times when we used both doubled pieces, and the #4 was nice to have.

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Great 2nd post and TR. Like the aside about Yom Kippur and barfing.


Regarding your question on the Grade IV climbing, there is a "UIAA" grading system that Grade IV equates to YDS 5.5, pretty close to what you describe. Hope that helps.

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I have done variations of that traverse three times and enjoyed them tremendously. In 2007, we did a complete South-North-East traverse that was probably one of my most enjoyable trips. We hiked to the South Peak from the Lake Ann side and then continued up the South Ridge of the North Peak, down-climbed the East Ridge and then climbed the Standard Route on the East Peak. Two years later we did a South Peak/North Peak combo that was a ton of fun as well.

Great Job on the Adventure!!

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Just a few comments. Having done this traverse a few times, including by the dike chimney, I find it one the more enjoyable enchainments and have taken several Cascades neophytes on it who all enjoyed it.


I also married a nice Jewish girl. We got married in Scottsdale, AZ where her folks winter. While my bride and soon to be mother in law were making last minute preparations, I grabbed my shoes and harness and headed to Pinnacle Peak state park which boasts clean Joshua Tree like desert granite monzonite cliffs.


I walked up to a group of four folks, introduced myself and asked I may join them. They agreed and we spent an enjoyable afternoon climbing the sharpest rock ever and getting to know each other. I mentioned I was visiting from Seattle and was in town to get married on Thursday evening. The husband and wife looked at each other and heartily congratulated me with a 'mazel tov'.


We chatted about Seattle, my bride to be (Rachel), and other things. As evening approached and the park was nearing its closing time, we began our short hike to the car. The couple ran into their friend, Maury, and introduced me. "This is our new friend Daniel. He is getting married this Thursday to his finance, Rachel".


"Mazel tov" responds my new friend Maury, who proceeds to engage me in conversation as we hike. "Let me ask you Daniel, which movie did you like better, Shindler's List or the Pianist?"


Apparently I had accidently discovered the secret handshake of the chosen people.


I hope you both enjoy all the great things the Cascades has to offer. And to those of you who are not fortunate enough to have a Jewish mother in law, you don't know what your missing.



Edited by DPS

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Edit: After reading this trip report you mentioned: "In 2001, this thread indicates a party bailed after what seems like the first pitch of the Dike Chimney, finding it very unappealing."


That was me and Aidan Haley. Apparently I have not done the traverse via the dike chimney.

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Great TR.

I was wondering if you and your lady were standing on your heads again in the summit pics?

This summer a couple friends and I did the north peak, south peak, and kept traversing the entire ridge south until we reached the pass back to the ingles lake trail. Nothing too hard but a great way to stay in the gorgeous 360 views you get up there and highly recommended.

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Bronco: thanks for the UIAA grade pointer: yeah UIAA grade IV sounds about right!


YakCLimber: Nice! Sounds like I should get back to Lake Ann and approach from that direction for variety next time I'm in the area.


DPS: Great to hear your tales! Have you done the lower East Ridge of East Peak? I thought the "Aidan" in the 2001 thread might be the younger Haley. My wife knows Booth/Colin/Sarah through common close friends, though we haven't crossed paths with Aidan.


Mountainsloth: we really wanted to wrap all the way around the basin like you describe, but slower than expected progress kept us from it. Next time!


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