On August 13 and 14, Rolf Larson and I -- henceforth little and big jackass respectively -- pioneered a line on the North Face of South Hozomeen (properly: Hozomeen Mountain, South Peak). If you've seen it, you know this thing is intimidating and steep. (By some objective measures, this peak is one of the steepest in the lower 48, and "... the South Peak ... has the steepest North Face of any peak in the Northwest.")
We'd gawked at it from N Hozomeen three years ago, speculating that a massive, slanting dihedral feature might be the only feasible route for mortal climbers. Turns out it was feasible, just. Our line begins directly beneath the overhanging summit, travels more or less straight up to gain what we've dubbed (in respectful honor of Fred) the
feature, and then primarily grinds up the right-hand facet of the giant corner to reach the summit ridge a couple/few pitches from the summit. ( BTW, big props to Beckey bros and crew, who summitted this beast in 1947 via the SW route. Inspiring. A movie honoring Fred worth sponsoring, if you somehow missed it:
North Face, IV+, 5.9. 13 pitches to the W ridge, plus a short pitch to join the top of the SW route and then take in its crux pitch. We shiver-bivvied on a sloping ledge 11 pitches up, perched on the exposed right margin of the dihedral, a couple thousand feet above the basin--pretty cool. As far as we know, no other route has been established on this face. The pitches went 5.8, 5.8, 5.8, 4th, 4th, 4th (80+m, some simul-climbing), 5.7, 5.7, 5.8, 5.8, 5.8, 5.9, and 5.7. The last half+ (7 pitches) followed the Pissburger Dihedral. Then an easy pitch on the crest, and the "5.6" final pitch of the standard SW route.
[Apologies for so many words and so few photos--album link below. Google recently shut down Picasa, with which it was easy to re-size and embed photos--the new product lacks functionality, and I lack time for extensive photo shenanigans.]
This photo courtesy of Jason Griffith; belays marked w/ circles:
For context, here's a shot of both Hozos taken from SE Mox Peak a few weeks ago. S Hozomeen is on the right, its north face is in shadow: https://goo.gl/photos/LpzJ1EdPNKHfLpDr5
And a shot of little jackass climbing high on the route (p. 11):
Should note that the moderate technical difficulty ratings belie the comprehensive difficulty of the route; this is not straightforward climbing, and careful route-finding and hold selection is mandatory. Some of our 60m 'moderate' leads took well over 1.5 hours! As mentioned above, the first three pitches go straight up to an easy ledge system that then yields the long dihedral. These first three pitches were quite solid and a lot of fun; a recommended crag with easy access . But the corner ...
In an effort to give you a flavor for climbing the Pissburger Dihedral, here's a too-common scenario: launch from the belay, hope to protect it soon, find a crack behind a meager flake maybe 15-20' up. Maybe you put in an appropriate-looking nut, but a yank pulls right through as the flake expands. You slot in a crappy cam with a 1 in 50 chance of catching a leader fall, though if you whip it might slow you down, so you leave that mostly ornamental gear hanging there and hope for more soon. You wend, hem and haw to and fro and yonder, tapping and kicking holds to test. Up and right, back down; up and left, decide right is better; then up and right again. A number of deliberate, committing moves and 30-40 more perspiring feet above the ornament, you spy a small patch of vegetation in a faint corner. Out comes the compact ice tool. Scrape, scrape, scrape at this scratch card hoping to reveal a prize, only to find a shallow, flaring "crack"; try a nut, a sideways nut even - nope - maybe the tricam trick that 'worked' earlier will go here - nuh-uh. Poop your pants a little. Search the horizon for anything. Resolve to continue, ensuring you can reverse the moves. Higher still another ornamental piece gives you the false confidence to continue ... ok, so it's pretty much soloing.
The 5.9 crux pitch (p. 12) above where we spent the night was stimulating in this manner too, and magnified thanks to the way it traverses above some large overlaps/roofs (and well above a tiny tri-cam).
Overall, we can't really recommend the route. Had hoped the giant dihedral would hold a nice crack system. It had a crack, but for the most part it was comprised of very rotten and decomposing rock, or filled with copious humus. Not appealing; on one of my leads I ventured to the corner only to be rebuffed in horrific fashion by the rock peeling away at the slightest touch. So we were forced to find our way up the right-hand facet of the corner via sparsely-protected face climbing. Only near the top did some splitter briefly reveal itself. Squamish.
The album for our trip, in not-so-great Google Photos (click on "i" to see captions): https://goo.gl/photos/SmEcZZ2r9BhFy3ZTA
And the photo linked below courtesy of - who else - John Scurlock; shows an oblique view from the east, and our line rises to the first bench/notch to the right of the summit. https://goo.gl/photos/Z25Bs4QdRM7z2Tnq9
Thanks to little jackass, we onsighted the descent of the standard SW route, which felt long, exposed, and tedious, especially after a sleepless night and many hours of hyper-vigilance.
My impish spouse tried (with some success) to implant this earworm as we departed in the evening:
... so every once in a while the cheeky, existential lyrics would humorously rebound in the Pissburger. A rewarding trip, with many fun/funny moments, and a fair bit of suffering; the whole package arouses that fight or flight instinct. Feel fortunate to have solved (and survived) this problem.
We brought a large rack to 4", doubles to 2", large set of nuts, and definitely bring tri-cams through hand-size; used the small black tri-cam more this trip than I have in all previous combined.
We had pins and used two to augment our shiver-bivy anchor. Did not bring a bolt kit but wished we had.
Double ropes. Compact tool, but no crampons required.