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first ascent [TR] Golden Horn - East Face - F*@$ The Pain Away (FA) 6/27/2015

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Trip: Golden Horn - East Face - F*@$ The Pain Away (FA)


Date: 6/27/2015


Trip Report:

Eight years ago, I just wrapped up an awesome week of climbing CBR, Girth Pillar, and TRL (aid) with my buddy Kyle and was keen to check out some other areas around Washington Pass. I hiked in the 10 miles along the PCT from Rainy Pass to scramble Golden Horn with Ty, Jaga, and my wife. We had just started dating and she had never climbed or scrambled, so I thought I'd throw her in the fire and see if it worked out - I guess it did!


A short report is also up at Alpinist.com: Crumbling Holds and Expanding Cracks: Sambataro and Schilling's New Route on Golden Horn.

From the ridgeline, you get a sneak peek of the impressive, unclimbed east face. Around the corner, Gordy Skoog and Jim Walseth did the first ascent of the Northeast Arete (Class III, 5.8) in 1979, with Lowell Skoog leading a KOMO-TV film crew to document the climb a year later. I knew it would involve some choss from my recon and rumors afield, but I’ve been eyeing those photos since we got back from our 5-year stint in Colorado.


My partner Jason "Spiceman" and I have spent the last couple winters making the drive to climb ice in Cody, but this would be our first alpine trip together. We started hiking in via Swamp Creek off Highway 20 at 5:00 PM on Friday after work, involving some easy bushwacking and a steep sandy slope to gain the PCT. It required only 3.5 hours and 5 miles to reach camp at Snowy Lakes vs the 10 mile hike along the PCT. We left camp Saturday morning around 4:30am, scrambled up scree from the southwest and dropped down the east side via a snow couloir. Crampons and a tool/axe made the descent straightforward. We traversed to the base of the east face and started climbing at 6:30 am to allow enough time for the 1000-foot face, but this meant we were baking in the sun for over half the climb. Our 5 liters of waters just lasted to the summit. We hit the summit around 5:30pm and opted to stay an extra night in camp to rehydrate and recover.


Pitch breakdown -I led the odd pitches, Jason even. We each onsighted our leads and followed clean:


1. 5.7 off snow to large bench, moved belay

2. 5.9 good cracks

3. 5.10+ linked intermittent cracks and finished with a boulder sequence on slopers – good rock

4. 5.10 R good rock led to a 20 foot stretch of kitty litter and poor protection, dubbed “Pitch of Terror”. It reminded me of the “Rite of Passage” pitch on King of Swords of the Diamond and my pitch on McNerthney Pillar of Mt. Waddington where a block fell in my waste. Kudos to Jason for committing to the terrifying expanding cracks and decomposing holds to top out this pitch clean!

5. 5.8 leftward ramp

6. 5.9+ on good rock

7. 5.10 intermittent kitty litter

8. 5.10 crack and bouldery finish

9. 5.8 corner/gulley

10. 5.6 gulley continued

11. 5.6 scramble to summit block


First Ascent of East Face, "F*%# the Pain Away," 11 pitches, 5.10+ R. The name is an inside joke from listening to Peaches on our 13-hour road trips to Cody. For a good laugh, check it out on

.For the first alpine climb of the season, it was quite the adventure with a strong and equally crazy partner.


Topo of our route and the NE Arete climbed in 1979. Photo by Lowell Skoog.



Our approach line from the InReach GPS/messenger



The approach up the Swamp Creek drainage





View of the East Face from the ridgeline at sunrise. Getting stoked!



Tower at Sunrise



Views from Snowy Lakes of Tower, Hardy, and Golden Horn





Approach down the gully



Jason at the base, ready to take on the hot sun



Me starting up the first pitch with the east face above



Jason starting up the second pitch on clean granite




Jason following pitch 3, a highlight of the climb and the 10+ crux is shown here, transitioning from a crack around the corner to slopers.



Jason heads off into the unknown of Pitch 4 with the soon-to-be-terrifying kitty litter above him



Jason following Pitch 5



Me coming up pitch 6, and psyched to get a break from the hot sun



Me heading out into the unknown of pitch 7, starting with another band of loose rock and doing his best to hold the rock together and get some pro


And last but not least, the summit shot - the classy version!



Gear Notes:

Double rack to #3 would work well. We also carried #4 and #5 cams (largely unnecessary), knifeblades (but never placed any), and didn't leave any gear or anchors as you descend the standard scramble route. Tool and/or crampons for descent down gully.


Approach Notes:

Swamp Creek approach. See topo map.

Edited by sambataro

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Oh yeah! I was waiting for this. Nice work keeping it together on a stupidly hot day. The "Terror Pitch" is sure to keep the crowds at bay.

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Thanks for the TR and for inviting me on this climb. It's the closest I've ever come to heat stroking in the mountains. And leading the 'terror pitch' was quite an out of body experience. The rock was really good in parts. And when it was bad, it was awful.

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right on, nice work pioneering a line up that face.


having climbed the NE Arete, I'm familiar with the good and bad (loose blocks, kitty litter, oatmeal) rock of that peak--pretty intrepid pulling .10 moves on that rotten stuff! but if the NE Arete is any indication, you also enjoyed some sweet climbing on good rock. guessing there's a bit more traversing than the distant white line suggests? your tr compels another visit to that place/face.

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Well done mates! And, nice write-up, Joe! I got schweatty palms just reading about the Pitch of Terror.


Pitch of Terror. Jeezus. Now that really makes this route enticing for me!


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Super cool Joe! Glad Spice did not melt in the heat. Any photos for the Choss Dawg calendar?

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