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[TR] The Himmelhorn - South Face-"Stonehenge" (FA) 7/6/2015


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Trip: The Himmelhorn - South Face-"Stonehenge" (FA)


Date: 7/6/2015


Trip Report:

The Himmelhorn, South Face First Ascent (“Stonehenge”) Jason Schilling and Tim Halder. 7/6/15.

5.10, 8 pitches 1400’




“We were born too late. Roper’s already been here. We’re just picking up his scraps.” Tim mused as we gazed up at the unclimbed South Face of the Himmelhorn. Maybe so, but he nor anyone else had ventured onto the big face in front of us. We wondered if there was a reason for its neglect as we tried to agree on a safe but proud line while lounging amongst the wildflowers of the Crescent Creek basin.


I’d like to think that I’ve paid my dues in the Pickets. I spent three nights stormbound on the summit of Mt. Fury in 2008 with Donn Venema and Steph Abegg. Donn and I wore parallel sleeping grooves into the ice during that first bout of Picket's purgatory and I’d often wake up with his legs draped over mine or with his hot breath on the back of my neck. Fortunately we got along well. He invited me into the range for three extended trips in two years and became an alpine mentor and great friend to me.



Donn and I sampling the bourbon at Perfect Pass during happier times (photo by Steph Abegg)


The next year I was back with Donn and Steph and new partner Steve Trent. The trip came to a crashing halt when Steve was injured badly in a fall on the North Buttress of Mt. Terror. I stayed behind to care for Steve and help with his helicopter rescue and ended up spending four dark days in a coffin-sized crack waiting for another storm to clear. Although it took a while for me to recover phsychologically from that episode, I eventually emerged with a renewed passion for the mountains and climbing and a profound reverence for partnerships that make the alpine experience so worthwhile for me. That event changed my life in many ways. It exposed me to a wider circle of climbers and brought several people into my life that have since become dear friends. Tim was one of them.


Tim and I were supposed to go the Sawtooths this summer to climb some of the classics and fish in the alpine lakes. A gentleman’s trip of alpine leisure. But when I asked him if he was interested in a week of route exploration in the Southern Pickets, he succinctly responded “yes sir!” Tim likes to sell himself short as a mediocre rock climber, but he has several things going for him which make him an exceptional partner on remote and unknown alpine trips. He’s an elite endurance athlete with an incredible motor. He’s also an elite joker. His accents on one pitch can range from Russian to British to Indian. But most importantly, he’s a gamer. Put him at the crag, and he’s bored and disinterested. Put him on an unclimbed face in the cascades or the Himalaya, and he steps up to the plate, big time. He’s an alpha choss-dog who’s quite capable of pulling a difficult technical move at 20,000 feet with an overnight pack on. A perfect partner for the Pickets.


We shouldered monster packs on July 3rd and headed up through what Tim describes as a “medley of suffering” from the jungle of Goodell creek to a bivy at the breezy and scenic col below the Chopping Block overlooking the Crescent Creek basin and its namesake spires. Snow was scarce in the basin approaching the col and the water situation later this summer could be grim for that spot, unless the snowfield on the slopes above persists.




We had our eye on the easternmost tower of the Rake as a warm up. Wayne Wallace informed me of it a few years back in the Index parking lot, mentioning that it was unclimbed as far as he knew. It looked short enough and reasonably solid. We were wasted from the approach and needed a short introductory objective to get acclimated with the Pickets.



The Turret, right of center, above the Terror/Rake col


After a leisurely morning at the col, we moved camp into the Crescent Creek basin amidst a collection of large boulders scattered about the heather. We were perfectly situated next to a stream with intimate views of the Crescent Creek Spires. Some snow persisted in the gully leading up to the Terror/Rake col, but soon we were directly beneath the tower, scouting our options. The rock directly above the col appeared compact and difficult, so Tim led off slightly left on loose ground.




I followed with an exciting and airy pitch on improving rock. Tim took over on the final pitch as we simul-climbed easy 5th class terrain to the summit. We saw no evidence of an ascent and figured we may be the first to climb the tower. John Roper has since informed us that he had climbed it back in 1984, naming it the Turret. We were indeed picking up his scraps. Nevertheless this was a good introduction to what lay ahead.




We spent the next day lounging and recovering at camp and took a leisurely stroll through wildflower meadows to scope the south face of the Himmelhorn.







The South Face of the Himmelhorn, center



We even had time to sew


It probably sees an ascent every other year or so, by either the standard route put up by Ed Cooper, George Whitmore, Glen Denny, and Joan and Joe Firey in 1961, or the highly regarded Wild Hair Crack climbed by John Roper, Silas Wild, and Russ Kroeker in 1981. The face looked complex, but had several options. We considered the far left line that would lead past an interesting and steep dihedral before mellowing out on a long traverse of the summit ridge and its various pinnacles. The direct line looked most interesting to us, finishing on the summit tower and I was thrilled when Tim suggested it. Our plan was set for the following morning. Having nearly melted off of the first ascent of Golden Horn’s East Face the week prior with Joe Sambataro, I wanted to avoid another flirtation with heat stroke.

We left our camp at four the next morning under clear skies and some of the warmest pre-dawn temps I’d ever experienced in the pickets. We were on the snow at 5 and started up easy ramps and ledges. The climbing was straightforward and fun and took us to a grassy col where we finally pulled out the rope and rack.


Jason picking a line low on the South Face.


Above us lay a feature we called the shield. It was three pitches of impressively solid rock. Tim led out on blocky, intermediate terrain for the first pitch and I followed with an attempt on an incredible looking dihedral.Route_Start.JPG

Tim start out on blocky ground on the first pitch of Stonehenge, the South Face of the Himmelhorn.


I had to clean the lower part of the crack to reveal perfect hand jams but soon dead-ended at an unprotectable and flaring wide crack. I traversed left onto solid face climbing followed by a brief lieback and great hand jams.


The rock went from solid to excellent as we moved higher.





Jason encounters varied and solid climbing on the second pitch of ‘Stonehenge’ on the South Face of the Himmelhorn.



“Tim’s Flake” on the fourth pitch



Tim works past the incredible flake on the 4th pitch as the summit tower looms above




Soon we were at the base of the summit tower and I lobbied for going straight up it to the summit. Surely we could find something that would go and take us to the top in 2 pitches or less. The rock was compact and steep. I had a cruxy traverse with poor feet but good protection down low and then the protection vanished. I aimed for a salvation crack 40 feet above my last possible piece of protection. The climbing was exhilarating. Pushing my fears aside, I moved past the runout difficulties to steep and joyous cracks and a belay 2/3 of the way to the top of the tower.





Jason leads up the steep and runout 6th pitch.




We were confronted with steep rock and sparse protection above, so Tim opted for a wild traverse on solid but unprotectable pock-marks to a notch between the summit tower and a pinnacle.



Following the airy traverse of the 6th pitch


The difficulties were over! He let out a whoop after reaching the notch and brought me over to his scenic belay overlooking the Mustard Glacier and wild McMillan Cirque. From there it was one cruiser pitch to the summit on low 5th class on deteriorating rock. It’s funny how so many of these N. Cascades peaks turn to rubble right at the top. I spied an old Kodak film register whose vintage seemed to be way before my time. We were amazed to find the original summit log from 1961 in the canister as well as the Roper and company’s chronicle of the Wild Hair Crack.



The original summit register from 1961


We lounged on the summit for an hour, reveling in the views and the warmth, overjoyed with the climbing that was now behind us. I was overwhelmed with gratitude for this moment and the shared creative experience with Tim felt like a gift. The rest of the trip was all downhill, more or less. We spent our last night at the Chopping Block bivy, partying with the meager libations at hand, and watching Spinal Tap’s “Stonehenge,” in honor of our new route’s name. I could finally relax with the satisfaction of successfully returning to the range where I had learned and suffered so much. And it was reassuring to know that Roper had left a few blank canvases untouched and that more await for those who are willing to put in the effort.




Summit or Siberia!



















(somehow my rotated photos reverted to their orignial state once they were uploaded to this server)



Gear Notes:

Double ropes, Double-cams from .4 to 3


Approach Notes:

Goodell Creek to end of road, cross Terror Creek, then up up up like little hobbits to the Chopping Block ridge bivy.

  • Rawk on! 1
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Jason are you gonna do the photo shoot for the Choss Chippendawgs 2016 calendar?

Is the Mazama Golden Boy gonna be cover material?


I'm not sure but I think David Lee Roth may have done the South Face of the Himmelhorn in the 80's. The Choss Dog archive team is checking the records now.....


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What an awesome trip, and a great write up! Thanks for sharing the photos, and some of those features look like great climbing! After the last few trips, hope you enjoy fishing, swimming, and looking at beautiful women for the rest of the summer!


Oh, and nice ass by the way!

Edited by BrettS
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"The rock was compact and steep. I had a cruxy traverse with poor feet but good protection down low and then the protection vanished. I aimed for a salvation crack 40 feet above my last possible piece of protection. The climbing was exhilarating. Pushing my fears aside, I moved past the runout difficulties to steep and joyous cracks and a belay 2/3 of the way to the top of the tower"


It should be duly noted that this pitch described above was an awesome, bold lead. The holds were all there, but there gear was not. It was exhilarating just to follow this pitch, and huge hats off to Jason for completing the lead in style!


It was an amazing trip with a great partner and one of my best friends...doesn't get much better than that. I was truly honored to be the guy to heads back to the Pickets with Jason after all these years.


The mountains. The friends. Life is good!

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right on guys, looks like you found some good climbing rock up there. did you descend via the Wild Hair Crack line, or some other way?


what a fine place to hang out for a few days. and yes spinal tap is timeless entertainment, about time someone tapped its rich cultural content. waiting for a route named "this one goes to eleven".

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Eric, we rapped the gully system climbers-left from the wild hair crack. From summit, single rap, scramble, single rap, double rap, scramble traverse, single rap gets you to the O-H col. At least that's what we did. There may be people down-climbing O-H col below you, so beware as you knock down the inevitable rock. This rap route is the original Firey climbing line, I believe

Edited by therunningdog
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