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[TR] The Adamants - West Buttress of the Horn, and 2 others 8/1/2014

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Trip: The Adamants - West Buttress of the Horn, and 2 others


Date: 8/1/2014


Trip Report:

Climbers: Jan D., Derek C. and Scott B. (myself)


Here’s the photo that was the impetus for two separate Adamants trips and a multi-year quest to climb the West Buttress of the Horn. Photo courtesy of the late David Trippett’s 2007 trip report. (http://cascadeclimbers.com/forum/ubbthreads.php?ubb=showflat&Number=712255'>http://cascadeclimbers.com/forum/ubbthreads.php?ubb=showflat&Number=712255)


Splitter crack in a remote and wild valley, we were hooked. “It’s like the Bugaboos, but there is nobody there.”


On our trip in the summer of August 2014 we made a rare ascent of the Horn along with a scramble up Colossal, a day-long traverse of Adamant, Austerity and Turret and Iron Man, and a separate route up Austerity. I’ve given a fair bit of detail on the Horn as it doesn’t get climbed much and route information would benefit from a bit of enhancement.


On the first trip in 2011, myself, Jan, and David flew to the Austerity Glacier and camped below Iron Man. Due to multiple factor (unsure about weather, shorter days in the end of August, groggy after sitting out a 3 day storm and a general feeling “potentially we may be in over our heads”) we didn’t get on the Horn that trip. We were able to climb some other value routes in the area, specifically the Gibson-Rhon and had an amazing trip. Unlike many parties we did not helicopter out, but hiked over the shoulder of Iron Man, down the rather complex Granite Glacier to the Bill Putnam Hut (fairy meadows), then a moderate-severe bushwhack out the Swan Creek “trail.”


Almost as soon as we got to the car the sentiment was there, “we need to go back and get on that thing!”


It took us a few years, but in 2014 we were back in the heli with a slightly different crew and a different plan. This time we flew directly into the Unicorn Basin below the Horn, leaving a food cash on the Austerity Glacier above. Our #1 priority was to climb the horn.


The Horn looks amazing from the basin below. It appears to be an unsupported sharp "horn" of rock that projects into the basin.


(1st and 2nd towers of the horn are visible. Photo – Scott B)



Colossal Scramble

On the 2nd day of marginal weather we scrambled the southwest ridge of Colossal. It was nice to get out of camp and we wanted to scope out the decent from the Colossal-Unicorn col back into the Unicorn Basin.


(The tongue of snow that leads into rock in the left foreground is the decent. The Horn is the multi-tiered ridge in the center of the photo. The climbing is much steeper than this photo suggest (especially on the 2nd tower) Photo – Scott B)



Decent notes from the Colossal-Unicorn col: walk down the snow and slabs to the apex of the tongue (still walking, not down-climbing). Find large slung boulder with a biner. 2 X 60m raps to the bottom. We had to scramble down ~10m in tall grass to find the 2nd station, which was less bomber, but still serviceable.


For anyone how is interested, I want to add a few things to the route description in the Selkirks North (David P. Jones) guide book. So here goes.



The Horn TD+ ~600m

The description of the approach from a camp on the Austerity Glacier is accurate. We did the approach on the 2011 trip and it was ~ a 3 hour hike from that camp. The ice-fall was fine, but slightly unnerving in the dark.


In 2014, our approach from the Unicorn Basin was ~ 30 minutes. We built a tiny plank to cross the shrund from wooden stakes the heli-ski operation leaves in its landing zones.

The book describes climbing the left side of a “gash.” The gash is a large prominent chasm seen in the bottom left of the photo below (snow patch visible in it). We found this to be a wet and loose piece of climbing. Head up the left side of the chasm then out onto a ledge after ~ 50 meters of climbing. The exit is the obvious when you’re there as it is the first and only easy place to exit the left side of the chasm. The book talks about a “piton belay at the true toe of the buttress,” which we did not find.


(1st tower of the Horn. Peak of the second tower is visible just to the right of the 1st peak. Photo - Derek C.)




(In the initial chasm, gearing up to go climb. Climber – Scott. Photo – Derek C)



We climbed a full 60m pitch in the “mossy v-grove,” simply staying in the predominant weakness and belaying on a ledge. This section was quite mossy and the protection was sparse, maybe a couple moves of 5.7.


(Jan heads up and left from there in the main weakness. Photo – Scott B)



From here, the book then talks about “climbing over a steep bulge into a right facing crack.” This was actually face climbing on flakes and cracks, trending up and left to a right-facing corner, which was climbed (5.9 ish), to the “giant block on the ridge prow.” We couldn’t see the giant block from anywhere until you pop onto the ridge prow, then it is obvious.


From this point on the description is easy to follow.

The book talks about climbing “discontinuous face cracks leading to a steep overhang.” The light colored rock over Jan’s shoulder is actually orange in real life.


(Climbing out left around the steep overhang. I believe this is the spot in Trippett’s report where they went right and climbed a 5.11 variation. Climber - Jan, Photo – Scott B)




(This is already up the first “stellar face crack” and about to “face climb 3m right” to the 2nd one. It was actually a bit more than 3m I think. The offwidth slot that the book talks about can be seen curving up to the right skyline. Climber - Jan, Belay – Derek. Photo – Scott B)




(The second “stellar face crack.” Climber Jan. Photo – Scott B)




(Inside the slot, which is actually a perfect squeeze chimney. Good protection in the back. Climber – Scott. Photo – Derek C.)



This was the end of the first block of leads at the base of the “right-facing corner.” The book tells you to climb it for 20m then break out left and “belay on a large chockstone.” This section was probably closer to 40m and was sustained 5.10 climbing (awesome pitch).


(This is “breaking out left” onto the chockstone belay. Climber – Jan, Photo - Derek C)



This placed us below THE PITCH. This was what brought us back. Splitter hands on this hanging face way the hell up in the air. It was awesome.


(Sun was coming around the rest of the Adamant group and messing up our picture, but you get the idea!!! Climber – Scott, Photo – Derek C.)




(Derek stopped to take a photo of Jan following the splitter. Starting to get some exposure now)



The guide book talks about a piton at the top of the crack, then “thin face moves lead in 5m to a bolt.” There were a few bomber placements above the pin, and the face climbing to the bolt was straightforward (5.8-5.9ish). Lots of rope drag when you head left around the corner and onto the north face ledges.


(This is the end of the splitter pitch. Super-long slings are clipped to the bolt under the roof. Photo – Derek C)



Here the book is pretty accurate. It talks about climbing an “overhanging crack to the second ledge.” I didn’t think the crack was overhanging. It was more of a left-facing corner and the right wall was overhanging and pushing you left. Once on the “second” ledge it was way further around to the left (north) than I anticipated, maybe 20-30m. The ledges are significantly sloping and covered in rock fall debris. Eventually the bolt comes into view and you are able to see how you trend back up and right to the summit of the first tower. The book talks about “belly-flopping” onto a ledge. I just hand-traversed it. A couple balancy moves after.


(Jan with the alpine heel hook. On the “belly-flop ledge.” Photo – Derek C)



Additional notes on the 1st tower: Significant black lichen. Any of the harder climbing usually required clearing a spot for your foot. The rock was primarily solid, the only loose stuff was in the starting chasm and the debris on the north side ledges when gaining the summit of the first tower.



Once you move across the easy, but rubble-strewn ground to the second tower, things become a little less clear again. Now that you are on the north face and away from the ridge crest, the rock changes significantly. It is much more loose until you gain the crest proper again.


The guide book talks about climbing “steep cracks for 2 pitches below an overhanging hand crack.” We climbed the main corner (Jan following it in the photo below) and the rock was decomposing significantly. There are a few options here, but I think the best is to go in the main corner, being very careful, and then up a hand-fist crack that continues straight up when the corner jogs slightly to the right. We ran a full 60 m here to a kind of okay stance.


(The rock looks good here, but is mostly just stacked broken flakes. We pulled lots of stuff off. Climber – Jan. Photo – Derek C)



There is a much better photo of this section on Trippetts cascade climbers report. It’s the 6th photo down. http://cascadeclimbers.com/forum/ubbthreads.php?ubb=showflat&Number=712255


The “overhanging hand crack” above isn’t exactly how I would describe it. The next pitch leads in the same corner system to a big scoop, and you climb out the top of the scoop in the same corner. It is truly overhung here, but it is kind of fingers and stemming (because you are in a corner). Long pitch again, 50-60m. That puts you back on the ridge crest and away from the crappy rock. Two long pitches in total from the base of the second tower to gain the ridge again.


(Ridge crest on 2nd tower. Climber – Scott. Photo – Derek C)

The book description is straightforward for the remainder of the climb.



(Awesome and long Au-cheval sections. Great exposure below. Climber – Jan. Photo – Derek)




(This is the “large roof” the book refers to at the end. You can see the ledge system, which you climb around to the right. Climber – Jan. Photo – Derek C)




A bunch of easy climbing takes you to the summit!


(Left to right. Jan, Derek, Scott)



Descent: We made a short traverse over to the summit of Unicorn, and then headed down the north ridge. You can scramble the whole way down in the correct conditions, but we rapped once due to some snow on the slabs. Once at the Colossal-Unicorn col the descent is described above.


(North ridge of Unicorn. Climbers - Derek and Jan. Photo – Scott B)



There was no summit register that we could find. I believe Trippett’s ascent was the 2nd free and 3rd overall. Ours was potentially the 4th ascent and 3rd free. I’m not totally sure where the 5.11- would be that the 1st free party refers to. There was definitely some hard 5.10. I think our crew would rate it 5.10+. TD+ (you feel pretty out there on it). I am also not sure where the 1st ascent party aided, but maybe at one of the two bolts?


We left camp at 5:30am and were back by 6:30pm. Amazing day all in all!


Props to the first ascensionists. This was an amazing route and they put it up in 19 hours of climbing.


Gear notes: a couple of micro cams just in case, double #1 TCU’s, double .3 camalot to #2 camalot, #3 camalot, #4 camalot. You could go with less but this was a comfortable rack.



The rest of the trip

We moved our camp up to the Austerity Glacier and camped on the same boulder below Iron Man we had used 3 years before. This trip we also climbed the SW buttress on Austerity, and traversed the entire Adamant group from the south ridge of Adamant to the north side of Iron Man. We had another weather day in there somewhere also.



South-west buttress of Austerity 5.7-A1

High quality route! There was old school steep 5.7 on it for sure. Awesome position on solid rock. The A1 section which could be free climbed at 5.11. It would require some lichen removal to truly give it a go. Also memorable on this climb was a paper-thin flake that you grab and mantle onto. Not to be missed☺



The Adamant group traverse 5.8ish

This is “truly one of the finest lines in all the Selkirks.” Simply an amazing skyline traverse. Climbing up to about 5.8. Tagged the summits of Adamant, the Turret, Austerity, and Iron Man. Highlights were a bluebird day in a stunning setting, views of Sir Sandford, and the summit register from Adamant. An entry from 2003 showed Fred Becky and Colin Haley had climbed the SW rib of Adamant. Beckey was 80 years old at the time!


(Photo – Derek C)




(The adamant group. Photo – Jan D)


General notes on the Adamants

There is so much rock to climb in the area it is amazing. The most recent summit register entry was from 2011, the same year we had been there previously. There may have been a party or two in the mean time, but our bivy boulder looked the same as we left it and there were no new registry entries. I’m just saying, maybe 1 party a year. That is pretty awesome!



We hiked out the same way we had previously, over the shoulder of Iron Man and out. The hike is not trivial and takes two days, but we thought it adds value to the trip. Our other goals on the trip were to traverse the entire Blackfrier group, climb the south face of Iron Man and climb Supersickle on the Stickle. Alas, we ran out of time but had another amazing trip!


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Hey Stamati,


I had the first block of 5 that got us to the base of the right facing corner. I'd say that was the only part of the climb that has some runouts on it and I personally found it a mental challenge. While the climbing is easy in this section, it's quite mossy (excavating holds and some pro) and loose. I was definitely glad to be done with my block but in retrospect a good chunk of the mental game was also due to the vague line and not being entirely sure to be climbing a line that was gonna go somewhere.


The West Buttress is an amazing climb but it's not travelled much, so it has enough loose blocks, moss, and runout on it to keep you on your toes. Sure wish I was there now and not in this stupid office.


Cheers, Jan

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Hey CrackMeister, nice TR! The pictures seem to have broken though, any chance of fixing them? I am going in there this summer, and am trying to gather as much beta as possible. Cheers!

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7 minutes ago, cbjr said:

Hey CrackMeister, nice TR! The pictures seem to have broken though, any chance of fixing them? I am going in there this summer, and am trying to gather as much beta as possible. Cheers!

@olyclimber can you help Bhagwadminiwan? Looks like the missing images are hosted here, not due to the Photobucket debacle.

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Yes I'll try to get to this soon...the pictures are there.   I need to check to see if there is a way to fix programmatically. 

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Crackmeister, nice trip report. Sorry my description of the route was off on a bunch of pitches. I was more concerned about getting up and over than a good play by play. (I have a bad habit of this)

I aided one move after placing the second bolt. It was loose and dirty and not clear where to go. My friend Dave Lussier climbed through that and got the FA a bunch of years later.

im glad this route is getting some attention as it ranks up there with one of my best Climbing memories. Rodger and I felt grateful to have climbed it.



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