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cascadazepam

[TR] North Cascades - Bear Mountain - Direct North Buttress 8/11/2016

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Direct North Buttress - Bear Mountain

 

Dates: 8/11 - 8/13

 

Synopsis:

Incredible route on a huge face in a remote, rugged, classic NW setting made for a trip of a lifetime.

 

Approach:

From the parking area at the end of the Chilliwack lake road, the first 1.5 or so miles follows an overgrown road. From there, the trail slowly deteriorates over the course of a couple miles until it becomes essentially non-existent just before the border, and bushwacking beyond this point is a slow, futile study of marshes and sharp, pointy botany. On the way in we spent hours searching for markers in vain trying to stay on the "trail." On the way out we waded through a steamy salmon orgy from the outlet of bear creek until we were within 500 yards of Chilliwack lake. For future parties approaching this route, we would STRONGLY recommend not even bothering with the trail. Instead, once you're about a half kilometer beyond the south end of the lake simply take your pants off and wade the rest of the way to the Bear Creek camp. This might not be as easy earlier in the summer, and water shoes (stashed at bear creek camp) would have been very nice. Once at bear creek camp, there is a nice trail for the first 500 ft or so of elevation gain up the ridge. After the trail ends, it's another 1000 feet or so up nice old growth before waging battle with 500-750 feet of elevation gain through thick 3rd-4th class slide alder. I began questioning my life choices near the top of this, Eric kept his composure. Once above this it's straightforward to the notch at the base of the W ridge of Bear. We bivied 100 ft or so below the notch and found a stream just below our camp for water.

 

Route:

We climbed 6 pitches and a short simul block to the snow patch (the 10a pitch was Eric's self-proclaimed proudest lead yet in the mountains). Another 2 pitches above the patch brought us to the point where the 1967 Beckey route traverses in. The Beckey bypass that joins the route at this point looked fun if your idea of fun is dodging rockfall and scrambling up unprotectable 4th class ramps covered in scree. Another 2 pitches brought us to the offwidth. We climbed 15 feet up the chimney at its base before bailing right onto easier terrain. Another 3 pitches above this along the ridge crest took us to the top of the buttress. A quick traverse below the summit pyramid and a fun ridge scramble brought us to the summit with 1.5 hours of daylight to spare. World class views from the summit and making it back to camp with 20 minutes of daylight to spare capped off one of my most memorable days in the mountains yet. Base of the route to summit took us about 11.5 hours.

 

Gear:

Double rack from 0.5-3 camalot, a single #4, a single 0.4, and blue to red Totem basic cams. Small set of nuts. #4 came in handy enough to justify its weight. 60m single rope. Water shoes, mosquito hats, gloves for the devil's club and alder, napalm, and a lack of interest in self-preservation are not necessary but recommended.

 

Eric expressing his feelings for devil's club

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Bear Mountain summit in the distance

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Eric on the 5.alder approach pitch, wondering why he moved from Washington to Massachusetts a few years back

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The route coming into the sun (we chose to save weight by not taking sunglasses or sunscreen up the route. We chose poorly)

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Eric on the lower crux pitch

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Eric on the pitch above the snow patch

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World-class belay stance

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Sam on a pitch high on the buttress

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How could you not be smiling in a place like this

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Summit!!!

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Eric becoming the first person to ever LEAVE the United States by wading across a river

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Edited by cascadazepam
  • Rawk on! 1

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That approach is no joke, I still think it is the hardest in the range- at least to a "select" route. I love, love, love that last photo of you or your partner with the Sockeye. That, more than any other, says Bear Mountain to me.

 

Thanks for the report, I have much respect for anyone who climbs any of the north face lines on Bear (we wimped out and climbed the easy summit ridge).

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I have been dreaming of this route for 8 years now and every summer my trip gets foiled. Thanks for giving me a glimpse of my just-out-of-reach dreams.

It truly seems like a classic cascad ian adventure.

:)...

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Nice work. A couple years back (3?) we were able to follow trail probably 80% of the time with some serious thrashing in between but it was still awful. I think the river seemed a bit deep and swift for wading at the time but it was early July. Would still like to go back for the full DNB. Sounds like late summer is the ticket.

 

Any snow getting to the buttress?

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We were able to avoid snow until the last 100-150 vertical feet below the toe of the buttress. We had light crampons and axes, which we used for this section. An axe was probably not entirely necessary, but we were glad we had the pointy bits on our feet.

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