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[TR] Sherpa Peak - West Ridge 6/27/2015

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Trip: Sherpa Peak - West Ridge


Date: 6/27/2015


Trip Report:

Hoping to avoid the blistering heat predicted for Saturday, our BOEALPS ICC team of Meredith, Laura, Lisa and I left the Esmerelda trailhead at about 8:30pm Friday night so we could hike up to and bivy at Long's Pass. We arrived in late dusk, about 10pm and were surprised to be immediately attacked by swarms of mosquitoes even though there was no water in sight and little vegetation.


We left camp at 5:15am on Saturday and began the long approach. We passed Ingalls Creek, stopping briefly to refill water, and continued on to meet up with the Ingalls Creek trail. From there it was a 20 minute walk to the correct climber's trail up a meadow. (If you take the climber's trail up the first meadow instead of the second, it goes up the Cascadian Couloir.) The correct turnoff is at N 47.45402, W -120.89633.


We took the turnoff into the meadow at about 6:30am and followed a good climber's trail until about 5000' at which point it petered out and we simply did an ascending traverse right up the meadow. We then bushwhacked directly through the thick vegetation around the creek at about 5100' - the bush was quite thick but only lasted perhaps 100 ft and then we were through to the other side.


Past this bushwhack, we followed beta that said to ascend the gully, staying left of the ridge until 5800' and then traverse over the ridge into the next drainage. We did this, keeping the creek on our left and the ridge on our right and generally had a terrible time up steep loose sand, dirt, and rock, although we managed to avoid any bushwhacking. We thought perhaps staying closer to the creek for longer might have worked better, or even ascending on the left side of the creek, but it was hard to say. We also weren't sure if there was a particular reason that 5800' was the best place to traverse over - we didn't see any obvious cliffs but felt it was best to stick to a route that we knew would go.


Once we hit 5800' we traversed over the ridge, then descended back down a bit into the drainage, coming down at about 6000' where we happened to find a cairn. From there we could see Sherpa peak and the infamous balanced rock and the col with the bivy rock where we planned to drop our overnight gear. We worried about being cliffed out if we went directly up the climber's left side of the drainage, so as we ascended we traversed climber's right where we could see that the talus connected the whole way. (On our descent though we made it go without such a large detour to climber's right.)


We finally arrived at the bivy rock at 7400', dropped overnight gear and left at 11am. We were running almost an hour behind schedule at this point, partly due to the navigation being more challenging than expected. We made our way to the notch closest to Sherpa - there were isolated patches of snow but most of us were in approach shoes so we stayed on the talus. We left our packs right before a steep but short scramble that led up to the notch itself.


We started the actual climb at about 12pm. From here, the pitches were pretty much as advertised. We had been hoping to simul-climb the first four pitches, but struggled with rope drag and ended up pitching most of it out. We found the pitch 5 crux to be surprisingly difficult - it certainly didn't feel like 5.4 but perhaps we missed easier moves - the crux for us ended up being good hand jams in very in cramped quarters, and felt more like 5.7 at least. Our whole team of four was finally on the summit at about 4:30pm, much too late to scramble over to balanced rock and give it a go as we had been hoping.


For us, the descent was:

- a short downclimb from the true summit across exposed slab to a good rappel anchor

- a single rope rappel to the top of the crux pitch (p5)

- a single rope rappel to the bottom of the crux pitch

- an unroped scramble back to a rappel anchor at the top of p3

- a single rope rappel past an obvious rappel anchor further down and skiiers left to a somewhat hidden rappel anchor. This anchor was on the North side of the ridge whereas we had climbed up on the South side.

- a very short (~10m?) single rope rappel around a corner skiiers left to a rappel anchor, which put us back on the top of the open-book face of pitches 1/2. There was an awkward move to make it around the corner on rappel, which is why we stopped the rappel there instead of continuing to an anchor further below, but maybe we could have combined this section with the earlier rappel.

- a double-rope rappel down the open-book face back to the notch. (This could easily have been two single-rope rappels but we had two ropes and it was pretty straight down so we made it a double.) We were very worried about getting the rope stuck but were able to walk far enough away on the ridge to keep the knot from getting stuck


We got back to camp at the bivy rock at 9pm. We were once again surrounded by personal clouds of mosquitoes, which followed us all the way down from the notch and set up camp with us at the bivy site. I personally spent about 2 minutes total outside of the bug-mesh safety of my bivy the entire evening, strongly considering skipping dinner so I wouldn't even have to spend that long.


Sunday morning we left camp at about 6am, accompanied by our personal clouds of mosquitoes. We generally followed our approach route, although we stayed climbers right down the drainage and mostly found talus that connected the whole way, with a very small amount of bushwhacking. We ended up traversing back over the ridge a little lower than we had on our approach, but still near 5800'. On the descent down the gully, we tried descending down climbers left of the stream and mostly found the same horrible loose dirt, rock, and sand we'd found on our way up, so eventually we went back climbers right of the stream and stuck to our approach route. We got back to the Ingalls Creek trail at about 10am, suffered up and over Long's Pass in the sweltering heat, and were back at the cars by about 1pm.


Approximate timeline:


- TH to Long's Pass: 1.5 hrs

- Long's Pass to Ingalls Creek: 45 min

- Ingalls Creek to turnoff to climber's trail: 20 min

- Climber's trail to entry to drainage: 2 hrs

- Ascent up drainage to bivy rock: 2 hrs

- Bivy rock to notch: 1 hr

- Notch to summit: 4 hrs



- Summit to notch: 4 hrs

- Notch to camp: 45 min

- Camp to Ingalls Creek Trail: 3.5 hrs

- Ingalls Creek Trail to TH: 3 hrs



Gear Notes:

(For one student/instructor pair)

60m rope

Gear .3-2", odd nuts (5-13)

6 single, 6 double alpine draws, 2 tied doubles

Approach shoes and rock shoes

No ice ax, crampons, or pickets










GPS Track here: https://www.gaiagps.com/public/7Mb1UnJdCzksELkAS1T7oa7h/

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