Hyalite ’14

Felt very happy to spend 8 wonderful days in Hyalite. Driving out by myself, I was lucky to produce the following:

12-9-14 Feeding Cat, Matrix 3 p to wi4 m5 w/ Ari, Kristen

12-10-14 Scepter WI 5 1p+lap w/Ari, K

12-12-14 Climb Above Dribbles, aka Alex in Wonderland III- Wi5-M6 w/ Keenan

12-13-14 Monkey Ass Wall WI5 1p w/Jeff, Nelson

12-14-14 Panama Canal M9 with Marko, Ben, Bekah, and Mike

12-15-14 Champagne Sherbet, and Slot 2p WI4 w/ Kristen

12-16-14 Avalanche Gulch 5p III-Wi5 m4 w/ Keenan

I had been laid up for a month prior to this outing due to a couple of strange injuries. First I threw my back out on my last Friday before ending the Allen Brain Science Center project. I really wanted to finish that crazy building, but missed doing the finishing touches. I was due to return the following Tuesday, but poured boiling coffee on both legs.  It then took 3 weeks to recover from extensive 2nd degree burns from that fiasco. I cannot thank my very caring girl enough for her care during my recovery.

Motivated to stay longer than just during icefest, I decided to go alone and solicit various partners during my stay in Bozeman. Ari and Kristen were wonderful hosts and partners, along with Keenan being a stud for the harder routes. My favorites were: Matrix, Climb above Dribbles ( aka: Alex in Wonderland: phenomenal route), and Monkey Ass Wall. The routes stayed in good shape despite warm temperatures and large crowds. I think the dry air has something to do with that.

This was my best trip to Hyalite due to attending Icefest, World Cup Competition, great climbs, and spending quality time with great people. It was great to try new gear that I got from Pro Mountain Sports, like the new Laser light Speed ice screws! Huge advance in ice anchors for sure.

Now for a few pictures!

Avalanche Gulch

Avalanche Gulch



Yes, you.

Climbing would not be nearly as fun without being  with friends while doing it. People continue to be one of my favorite aspects of the sport. Thanks to many good friends, I have had countless great trips and good times along the way.

Thanks also to you the reader, and if we haven’t already, I hope to meet you along the journey. Thanks for making all of this “me ” sharing a more comfortable thing. It can be a weird idea to publish a personal journal in public, but I have never seen a negative encounter to cause worry.

Thanks to the climbing community. It is amazing what the collective can do at different times. I continue to see great eras,and great change occur, with renewed inspiration for the sport. So, just feeling extra grateful, thats all.

Squamish ’14

First, a couple of things about Squamish “14” It’s a shame that I will only get up here once in 2014, and a further shame I haven’t visited since 2010.  I was once again swept up into the resort-like atmosphere similar to Red Rocks, and Yosemite. Big plans were made and re-made to suit the situation.

I signed on with Alpine Mentors with my friend Steve because I love to teach, and I tend to do that anyway. I was happy to join our 3 (already very capable) students and 4 mentors to a perfect fall weekend in Squamish. Ryan was first to experience my “fail forward” approach, as we tried to find Bulletheads East, but ended  up on Krimo-Liquid Gold instead. We enjoyed doing the pitches without knowing the grade. It was a tough and fun outing.

Next up was Alex and Jon, and we had originally wanted to try Freeway, but came down to earth a bit and went for Borderline-Angels Crest-High Plains Drifter. This amazing link-up is the finest outing I have had in my 5 visits to Squamish. 15 or so pitches with distinctly different flavor, climaxing with the incredible position way up on the high plains. I let Alex and Jon do nearly all of the leading, but requested 1 lead up there. I got the 1st of the 2 on High Plains. It is an enduro hand crack that will make you wonder how much is left in the tank for the last pitch and its dyno for the top. Almost everyone struggled with it, and the leader cannot A0 through it either.

Of course I compared the climbing to my favorite local crag, and I must admit that I prefer the finer coarse crystallization, ambience, and the pitch for pitch wonder of my home crag. This will not keep me from more trips to the north for the long and beautiful routes I have still to see.


Laser beta for HPD crux: Dont go up the thin crack too far as you will miss the best hold for the reach to the right. Wind up and extend to the hold, but dont try to slap for a higher one. Step out right, then match hands. Rock onto foothold. the arete gets better up higher. P1120983P1120985

the extension

the extension

Solitude- Lookout Pt.- Index

I had just cleared the crux(s) and was going free again to finish the sustained , steep lead halfway up an obscure yet classic 5 pitch route. Pumped to all get out, there should have been relief at the top hand jams. A thorny vine wove through the crack that I could just barely reach. The spines dug into the skin, both sides of the hand, where some would stay for days after. 


I wouldn’t ordinarily write about a local route done at the crags, but I had to share this wonderful route with the hopes of hearing more good things about it. I think my friend Geoff first posted about a Mountain Project link to it. The pictures looked great and I am always on the lookout for sustained thin lines.

The first thing I asked Alex on his lead was “Is there any chalk on it?”. He linked the first 2 pitches into 1 dream lead.  He said there was, but we didn’t see much after that. The climbing justifies more traffic though.


Pitch 3 packs a wallop, with a techy crux start to and very thin finger traverse left. I later cleaned the sticker vines out of the finish jams on rappel.

The Chimney after(p4)was short and fun.

P5 was another very fun, varied, and thin crack lovin’ affair. How many routes do you know of that end in a dyno for the summit? We felt like we had really accomplished something that day, and all in an hour and a half away from home. I cant wait to lead 1,2 and 5 on my next go, they are 2 of my favorites for sure. All leads have adequate rests along the way.

I hope the appeal of this route is enough to keep it clean. With the approach and other competitive climbs, it might not however. That is one of the reasons I chose to write about it. Have a go, and let me know how you like it. I think it is a classic, though many may choose to aid a few moves at the crux.


Update 10-20014: Found an early trip report of Solitude on RCNW. Also went back up to Lookout Point and did another Multi pitch route starting with Strange Boar and ending on Black Rock, both of which were very fun. Baby Tapir is real good as well.

Now for some pictures:



p1,2 Solitude

p1,2 Solitude

my thoughts after watching Alex's onsite of p1,2

my thoughts after watching Alex’s onsite of p1,2

crux p4

crux p3

crux p4

crux p3

obligatory chimney pitch.

obligatory chimney pitch p4.



p5 start

p5 start

p5 start

p5 start

p5 start

p5 start

p5 finish

p5 finish

p5 goodliness

p5 goodliness

obligatory selfie

obligatory selfie

Patriot Ford

Patriot Ford


Mikes new book is out!!


So my buddy Michael just released his second edition of his monster book: Climbing Faster, stronger, and healthier! Picture ALL of the “How to” books of climbing put into one! Also throw out all of the mundane beginner fundamentals. It is literally 12 books in one. Outstanding information in all of these areas:

1. Training Basics (my weakness)

2. Preparation and prevention, covers 99% of the body.( web discount codes for the other 1%)

3.4.  Exercises.

5, 6. The Mental aspects of climbing and training. Cant get enough on this subject.

7,8.  Health and nutrition.

9-12.  More than you can ever imagine on planning skills technical equipment, and trickery. These sections validate the old saying “old age and treachery will overcome youth and skill, every time” You will be a way more savvy climber after these chapters!

  I am lucky man to have such great friends. I tend to be drawn to intelligent  people. Though it seems unlikely to have an occasional conflict with such considerate and thoughtful friends, it can happen. I recall a heated argument that left me at odds with my best friend. I wanted to do The Fine Line on Elephants perch, but I did not want to have to lead all of its difficult pitches ( all 12 of them are difficult). I was lucky to find a person to swap leads at the base camp to replace my now upset friend. He was lucky that he found a partner as well to do an easier route. I felt bad for the move, but this is typical behavior for an ambitious nature/bastard. We later talked and made amends, but his argument had holes. I remember him saying: ” Well, you have gotten better” (as a climber). My reply was, ” well, ALL of climbing has gotten better”  ..and continues to. It is up to each individual to either keep up, or enjoy the easier routes with people that stay at moderate difficulty climbs.

I recall another argument I had with a younger friend. I do enjoy discovering when I take the wrong side of the agreement >in this case> We we talking about the harder routes and how after a climb like the Passenger gets done. I thought very few ascents occur annually say, 2-3. We later met that many at the Mazama store that had climbed it prior,  or had climbed it that weekend. “Its the new thing” he explained, everybody’s doing these routes that just a few years prior were thought to be sacred relics of difficulty!

People, the day is here when the crowded classics are no longer just the 5.8s and 9s of yesteryear! They are your dream routes, and they are getting done all the time.


   Throw in the aging issue, finding partners and keeping up with the culture of the area, you have your work cut out for you. How about the safety issue? The more fit we are the safer and enjoyable the experience.You wouldn’t even be looking for improvement and knowledge if you ware happy with where you are. It has been my pleasure to work on the several of the ideas in Michael’s book, through trial and conversation over the years, It makes me proud to be friends with a person willing to take on the struggle of amassing such a great body of work. I hope it invigorates your passion for the the next big adventure as it has mine.

There are so many reasons to want to be a more fit and efficient  outdoor person. How about just the joy of sending some amazing hard route? Setting  yourself up for that sick trad route? You’re first – first ascent?, or just looking good at the lake? How about living longer and a more fulfilled life , because, you will only get this one.

  We spring forth from the Earth, and it is always calling us back. Enjoy Michaels new book, Wayne

Gorillas in the Mist

7-12.13-14 Gorillas in the Mist, West Wall, Mt Stuart IV-5,11. With Jon T

A few years back, I was inspired by the efforts of 3 young friends of mine who finished the often attempted wall on the west face of Mt. Stuart. They managed to lead the route through difficult conditions from MUCH loose dirt and rocks, bad weather, forced frosty bivy, and severe route-finding issues. What they left behind is a high quality outing on one of the steeper walls in the Cascades, on one of the greatest mountains as well.

It had been on my list every since, and seemed like the perfect option on a weekend such as this one which was very hot. Not getting sun until the afternoon helped shade the sweltering heat of the long days. If only the mosquitos weren’t so insanely bothersome. Glad we brought a tent for that issue. Jon had just gone in there to do the upper north ridge, so he built confidence in me that this was the time to do this climb. We were very glad we did, what an adventure the climb is. Straight forward and hard at the start, it then takes twists and turns from there on. The route plugs along forcing you to go up or over the only way possible. This leads to long, rope-draggy leads that take time to figure out and rig for smooth rope lines.The gear is good and the climbing sustained. I would love to do the direct finish sometime as well, but I couldn’t find the info on it.

Here are some of the prior reports on it:

The first ascent: Jens, Blake, and Sol 2009

2011 GITM Direct Finish

7-2012 report

8-2012 report

10-2012 report, with topo

Mt. Project report





Stuart from Ingalls Lake

P1120434 P1120441 P1120453 P1120468 P1120480 P1120484 P1120485 P1120489 P1120493 P1120496 P1120501

NWMJ Mongo Ridge Report

Since the NWMJ lost its host, I grabbed this report and am posting it here for posterity.

Wayne Wallace solo on Mongo Ridge. Photo © Wayne Wallace
Mount Fury’s Mongo Ridge
By Wayne Wallace

Mhe climb began, as so many do, by looking at a map. Out of all of the USGS maps in the lower 48 states, I find the Mount Challenger quadrangle the coolest. The map displays both the Northern and Southern Picket Ranges. Long, serrated ridges, jagged peaks and shattered glaciers pack that topo like no other. The Pickets boast enormous vertical relief: airy 8000-ft summits soar over valley bottoms below 3000ft that are choked with slide alder and devils club.One of the biggest features in the Pickets, or anywhere in the Cascades, is the SW Ridge of Mount Fury’s West Peak. The USGS topo reveals that it rises 4000ft in about a mile, interrupted repeatedly by deep notches and towering gendarmes. In addition to its size, the SW Ridge is unsurpassed in remoteness in the notoriously remote Picket Range. John Roper, who has systematically bagged nearly every pinnacle in the Pickets, drew the line at the towers of Mount Fury’s SW Ridge. He mused that the final pinnacle on that ridge might be the most inaccessible point in Washington State, calling it “The Pole of Remoteness.” He never considered climbing it.

Mongo Ridge, Mount Fury. © Mike Layton
Mongo Ridge, Mount Fury. Enlarge. © Mike Layton

When Mike Layton and I topped out on the SW Buttress of Spectre Peak (“The Haunted Wall”) in mid-August, we gaped at the much bigger line on Mount Fury, which Mike dubbed the “Mongo Ridge.” We agreed that it was a monster of a grim fantasy, and I even ventured to say that it might never be climbed, for any number of reasons. But the more it held our gaze and speculation, the deeper the hook was set. All the possible approach routes would entail days of strenuous bushwhacking. But one night back home, as I lay in bed between wakefulness and sleep, the solution hit me. Instead of struggling through the jungle of Goodell Creek, why not climb Fury’s East Peak and then descend to the route? Compared to the alternatives, this approach seemed almost reasonable, apart from the fact that climbing a major route would be needed to reach the start of an even bigger one.

Idled at my carpentry job by a concrete strike, I had free time, but after a few days of trying, I couldn’t find a qualified partner. I attended Colin Haley’s slide show about a first ascent in Alaska on August 23 and left fired up. I couldn’t stand being idle any longer. As soon as I got home from the show, I started packing. At 4 a.m. the next morning, I departed alone.

My approach plan was to muscle my 60-pound load to the top of the East Peak of Mount Fury in two brutal days. This would require thrashing through the notorious brush of Access Creek on the first day. As usual, the Picket Range ran me through the gauntlet. After enduring a violent thunderstorm with rain, thick brush, and a bee sting that nearly swelled my left eye shut, I reached the summit of East Fury at the end of the second day (August 25) feeling utterly spent.

Despite my wish that the planet please stop spinning for a few hours, morning was soon upon me. Daylight revealed a fairly easy descent from the East Peak down southwest-facing slopes to the foot of Mongo Ridge. I wrestled with the question of whether or not I could get back to my summit camp in a day. Since a bivy seemed unavoidable, I decided that fast and heavy (45 pounds) would be the most appropriate style. I left my sleeping pad and food for the exit hike on the East Peak, but took everything else with me. As I descended toward the depths of Goodell Creek, my iPod echoed with the sounds of the Talking Heads: “My God! What have I done?”

Gaining the crest of the ridge was my first challenge. I free-soloed the first 400-foot wall, with complicated route finding. I had to take off my pack to pull an overhang at one point. Confident that the moves were doable, I didn’t anchor in. I just pulled the pack up on the rope after a few 5.8 moves. Several pitches later I reached the ridgeline and saw that the lower route had four pinnacles instead of the three I’d picked out in the photos.

A long 4th class ridge led to the summit of the first pinnacle. I made the first of what would ultimately be a dozen rappels along the ridge and continued climbing unroped to the top of the second pinnacle. I kept saying a few mantras to myself. First, every mountain has a way up—I just have to find Fury’s. Second, I’ll just keep going until I can’t go any farther (without knowing what I’d do in that case). And third, if you live through this, seek help. With each succeeding rappel during the long day, retreat became harder to imagine.

Shadow of Wayne perched on The Pole of Remoteness. © Wayne Wallace
Shadow of Wayne perched on The Pole of Remoteness. Enlarge. © Wayne Wallace

My fourth rappel of the day (a long one) brought me to the base of the 400-ft third pinnacle, which would be a major summit if it stood by itself. I traversed right across the face of the tower with thousands of feet of exposure to reach a steep prow. I’d managed to climb unroped to this point, but after a bit of 5.9 climbing, I decided to break out the hardware. I clipped the rope and my pack into the anchors and climbed unburdened up a 5.10 pitch that I hoped was the crux of this enormous route. I rappelled back to retrieve my anchors and pack, ascended the fixed rope, and repeated the process for hundreds of feet until I surmounted the third tower.

Rappelling down the backside of these pinnacles was becoming almost routine, but what a routine! I dangled in space most of the way down the third pinnacle, then contemplated number four, another soaring tower of granite. I resumed climbing unroped, but found the climbing consistently taxing. After a scary leftward traverse, I had to stop and shake out cramps in my hands. My focus was intense, but I was able to appreciate that the rock and the climbing were of fantastic quality, some of the best I had ever experienced.

Reaching the top of the fourth tower, I felt like I had already climbed the Northeast Buttress of Mount Slesse, yet I could see that I was only about half way up the route. My concentration ebbed a little, and I was glad I’d brought bivy gear. Time seemed to speed up as the afternoon slipped away. I grappled with a knife-edge horizontal traverse, which I likened to a rooster comb. Like working along a gymnastic apparatus, it required constant attention. I ended the traverse with another double-rope rappel, this one diagonal and awkward.

Evening was approaching as I neared the final obstacle, John Roper’s “Pole of Remoteness.” Roper’s theory about its relative inaccessibility would get no argument from me. Amazingly, The Pole was the only tower on the ridge that allowed me to traverse around it. I was glad to accept this gift, because the direct headwall to the top looked like 5.11 climbing. From the notch behind the tower, its summit was reasonable 5.7 climbing. At the apex, I let out a long, pent-up scream that echoed from the walls around me. Yet somehow I sensed that the The Pole was not finished with me. As I descended from a marginal rappel anchor, a loose rock fell and chopped the rope. Fortunately I still had the second line.

At sunset, during my 13th hour of climbing, I reached a small snowfield on the right side of the upper ridge. The moat at its upper edge offered security and shelter for the night. I melted snow for drinking water, arranged flat rocks to form a bed and sacked out to enjoy the warm night air. Finally I could relax. As I drifted off to sleep, I reflected on the day behind me, grateful to live in a place that could still provide adventure like this.

Wayne Wallace on Mount Fury. © Wayne Wallace
Wayne Wallace on Mount Fury.Enlarge. © Wayne Wallace

In the morning, 500ft of much easier 4th class climbing led me to the West Peak of Mount Fury around 10 a.m. I was tired but not about to let down my guard. The journey was far from over. I had forgotten the complexity of getting from one peak of Mount Fury to the next. Ahead of me lay more rappelling and lots of ridge traversing. After reaching Fury’s East Peak, I retraced the glacier and ridge route to Luna Col then collapsed, emotionally spent. I spent my last night there, eating, rehydrating, and crying whenever a sad song came on the music player. On the fifth day, I completed the long walk out to Ross Lake.

The joy and satisfaction I felt on Mount Fury’s Mongo Ridge made this climb the highlight of my climbing life. The qualities of remoteness, climax scenery, and stellar climbing leave no wonder why the Picket Range is so revered. My recent trips to the range have renewed my enjoyment of climbing and my appreciation for truly wild places. Climbing, by its very nature, compels us to stretch higher and to continually improve. Everyone who accepts this challenge in a wild setting, and does it safely, can experience what my friend Erik Wolfe has called, “The trip you never fully come back from.”

Mount Fury, SW Ridge
“Mongo Ridge,” New Route
August 26-27, 2006
• Wayne Wallace
VI, 5.10
Mongo Ridge Itinerary
• August 24-25
Ross Lake to East Peak Mount Fury via Access Creek.
• August 26
Descend to and climb Mongo Ridge to bivy 500ft below summit.
• August 27
Complete Mongo Ridge, traverse to East Peak of Fury, descend to Luna Col.
• August 28
Return to the Ross Lake.
Mount Fury, West Peak Chronology
The West Peak of Mount Fury was considered the Last Great Problem of the North Cascades at the time of its first ascent. Attempts to reach the summit by traversing from the East Peak failed repeatedly due to the length and complexity of the route. The peak was climbed for the first time (via its West Ridge) in 1958. Three years later, the traverse from the East Peak was finally completed.1937, Early September
1st ascent of East Peak, via Fury Glacier
• Bill Cox
• Will F. Thompson1940, Summer
Attempt on West Peak, via traverse from East Peak
(Failed due to lack of time)
• Calder Bressler
• Ray Clough
• Will F. Thompson

1958, August 19
1st ascent of West Peak, via West Ridge
• Vic Josendal
• Maury Muzzy
• Phil Sharpe
• Warren Spickard
• R. Duke Watson

1961, Summer
2nd ascent of West Peak, via 1st traverse from East Peak
• Joan Firey
• Joe Firey
• Don Keller

2004, February
1st winter ascent of Mount Fury, East and West Peaks
• Roger Jung (solo via Goodell Creek)

NWMJ Northern Pickets Report

The Northern Pickets Traverse
Part 1, by Wayne Wallace

Oo matter how satisfied a climber feels after reaching a summit, the compulsion to gaze to the next climb is irresistible. We had just completed my dream traverse over all fourteen summits of the Southern Picket Range in the North Cascades National Park. Even before our high-fives met on the summit of Frenzelspitz, our eyes were working out the intricate ridge of peaks to the north. We had scarcely finished consummating our Southern Pickets obsession when the next epic began to take shape.Fred Beckey has described trips into the Picket Range as “expeditions.” The peaks themselves are daunting enough without the long approaches and legendary brush. William Degenhardt and Herbert Strandberg were the first to respond to the call of these summits in 1931, when they climbed the central peak of the southern group, later named after Degenhardt. The next year, with James Martin, they returned to climb Mount Terror, the highest of the Southern Pickets. In 1936, Phil Dickert, Jack Hossack and George McGowan explored the northern end of the range when they made the first ascent of Mount Challenger. The following year, Bill Cox and Will Thompson ventured into the heart of the Pickets, nabbing the first ascents of Luna and East Fury during a trip that also summitted Redoubt and nearly climbed Glacier (later renamed Spickard). In 1940, the teenage Beckey brothers made two trips, one from the north and the other from the south, climbing eight summits, including four first ascents.

Wayne Wallace on 2004 traverse attempt. Photo by Josh Kaplan
Wayne Wallace on 2004 traverse attempt. Photo by Josh Kaplan.Enlarge

This wild place has long had a special attraction to the legendary masochists of Northwest mountaineering. The Firey family made repeated trips into the Pickets. Joan Firey, a member of the 1978 women’s Annapurna expedition, climbed most of the peaks in the Southern Pickets, including the first winter ascent of Terror, before being stopped by cancer, which claimed her life in 1980. Ed Cooper and Mike Swayne, followed later by climbers such as John Roper and Silas Wild, continued this pattern of exploration into the present century.

What is it about this place that brings adventurers here again and again? “It is truly the wildest and most rugged place there is,” says pioneer climber John Roper. “There are still great things to be done here. There are still unexplored corners left, and this assures an adventurous outing.”

I found a new level of both joy and pain on my first trip into the Pickets. The elegant Northeast Buttress of Mount Fury was everything I could ask for in an alpine climb in 1995. The climb became my measuring stick for future ascents. In 2001, I got my first taste of Picket traversing. The mountain was Challenger, and we wanted to see both sides of it. I conceived the idea of sending another team in from the other direction to meet at the summit, exchange car keys, and continue out without backtracking. Traverses soon dominated my thoughts, developing into an obsession when I learned that the Southern Pickets had not seen a Croft-style summit-ridge traverse. My mind locked onto the idea like a vise.

The usual new-route doubts flooded my planning: Could it be done? Could we carry everything necessary? Would it be worth doing? Could I find a capable partner? Colin Haley took to the idea, answering the last question, but to my horror, his enthusiasm led him to attempt the project before I even had a chance at it! He traversed seven of the summits with Mark Bunker before typical Picket weather shut them down. After a couple of failed attempts myself, a stable high pressure system developed in July 2003, but I had no one to go with me. I again approached Colin, only to learn he was already planning another attempt with Mark! I begged and groveled and insisted that now is the time!


View of the Pickets Traverse. Photo by Josh Kaplan
View of the Pickets Traverse. Photo by Josh Kaplan. Enlarge

Joining forces, we three Picketeers hiked up Goodell Creek for what would be one of the greatest experiences of our young lives. We soon dispatched the approach and surmounted the first three summits, the MacMillan Spires. The climbing and camaraderie were wonderful as we worked and played our way along the ridge for the next two days. We completed the fourth and final day of the traverse with an overwhelming sense of fun and satisfaction. Four days, 50 pitches, 25 rappels, four FA’s, and countless smiles left us so jacked that we hardly felt tired from our efforts. (See “Walking the Fence” in The American Alpine Journal, 2004.)

As any obsessive-compulsive will do, I was soon fixating on the northern end of the Picket fence. My fellow Southern Picketeers weren’t as hot for the idea. The rock quality wouldn’t be as good, and the traverse would be much longer. The website CascadeClimbers.com introduced me to a character named Josh Kaplan. I could see he had the spirit for the project based upon his discourse on the site. He took to the idea immediately, and we planned it over the phone, eventually meeting in July 2004 on the departure day for our first attempt. A friend of a friend suggested we start the traverse with the North Ridge of Whatcom Peak, an aesthetic start to twelve miles of alpine ridge. This turned out to be bad advice.

We hiked eighteen long miles the first day to Whatcom Pass. The next day we flew up and over Whatcom and across the broad Challenger Glacier to the summit of Mount Challenger. The ridge became nasty immediately after we left the summit. The “grain” of the crest worked against us as we tediously labored along it for slow mile after mile. Short and long rappels burned though all fifty feet of our tat cord, and the deteriorating weather made us doubly nervous. Struggling in a whiteout and desperately tired, we made a camp that we dubbed “Anxiety Bivy” just below the summit of Ghost Peak. It was a thirsty and frightful place as we wondered what the hell we were doing up there. All we could see was fog threatening to turn to rain in the morning. After we decided to bail, we somehow made our way down the huge face below Phantom-Ghost col. With tails firmly between our legs, we trotted over to Luna to call the boat company for an early ride out. I didn’t think I would be back for another attempt.


Wayne Wallace on Pickets Traverse. Photo by Josh Kaplan.
Wayne Wallace on Pickets Traverse. Photo by Josh Kaplan.

After our memories of fear and pain began to fade, we started talking about the traverse again. We agreed that starting from Challanger was the wrong direction. Among other lessons, we concluded that we had tried to do too much in our first couple of days. As the next season drew near, I maniacally began planning. I bought weight scales and scrutinized every piece of equipment, paring more ounces. I found that my tent could stand with ski poles instead of tent poles. Remarkably our packs this time started out less than thirty pounds each, and we were ready for seven long days.

On July 11, 2005, Josh and I embarked on our second attempt. The Ross Lake boat ride and Big Beaver Trail led us to Luna Camp, which was also our cache. Leaving tennis shoes and luxury food behind, we made our way up Access Creek the next morning. Our second camp was at the start of the ridge itself. The view from Luna Col is one of the most incredible I have seen. Unfortunately, this 360-degree spectacle was tainted by two things: the weather sucked again and we faced a choice of either bailing due to the unexpected cold weather or somehow managing the trip with just one small canister of fuel. I tried to reassure Josh by offering a revised plan that didn’t include melting snow, hot drinks, or real hot meals. “We can still do this,” I said meekly. Our drinking tubes were to prove their value many times during the traverse, collecting water from trickles.

e started the long alpine section of the traverse on our third day. We felt like two nervous intruders making their way up the East Peak of Fury in thick fog. The “commitment zone” lay ahead. From here, climbing would be difficult and treacherous and bail-out opportunities scarce. West Fury was uneventful, except when we began descending the wrong ridge into the west drainage. Thankfully the clouds lifted just enough for us to see this terrible mistake in the making. We returned to the top and launched into a series of rappels that beggared our imagination. The final rap went down a huge vertical cliff that required the full length of both ropes. We were glad that we never had to face climbing that cliff during our previous attempt. Afterward, we climbed several difficult leads along the ridge before rapping onto a glacier in a col beyond West Fury, where we made a camp on snow in a wind hollow. A rock patio provided some insulation from a freezing night; we dubbed this camp “Ice Station Zebra.”

Camp Ice Station Zebra. Photo © Josh Kaplan
Camp Ice Station Zebra. Photo © Josh Kaplan

We rejoiced at clear skies the next morning. We thought we might actually catch a break, until we saw the first high clouds. “DAMN! We have 12-24 hours,” I screamed to Josh. We didn’t enjoy hurrying over loose and dangerous rock, but we relished even less the idea of being caught up here in rain. Racing over the remaining small peaks and maze of ridges, we reached the Spectre plateau and found an easy route up Swiss Peak. Phantom Peak provided some off-route fun, as we climbed over and back via the “Cub Scout Salute,” a spire that resembles a two-finger salute from the west. The spires of the ridge continued; steep snow traverses brought us to the summit rocks of these remote formations. Approaching our end-point from the previous year, we realized that we would have to bivouac again. We found a beautiful spot in the Phantom-Ghost col, our previous end-point, and camped early, determined not to tire ourselves too much before the last day’s push. I rationalized our shortened day by thinking, “All we need is six good hours to finish the climb.” We got four.

The weather deteriorated on our fifth day. I noticed moisture starting to condense on the rope as we simul-climbed over Ghost Peak. The knife-edge arête of Mount Challenger became desperately slippery as the rain began. The wind gusted up and the rain switched briefly to ice pellets. Our mood turned grim. We knew we were in a risky environment. Josh climbed with his gloves on to combat the cold. We no longer trusted our wet boots on the slick footholds and we relied almost entirely on handholds to grip the rock. We reached the end of the traverse not with a sense of triumph, but with numbed relief. I couldn’t talk or think clearly and I saw the same look in my partner’s face; we had survived. We had pushed ourselves into a zone of commitment and risk that some might criticize, but we had also lived our dream of a most amazing mountain odyssey.

We had no time for celebration on this summit, exposed as we were to the elements. A thirty-hour storm was upon us. Two days would pass before we would feel dry and warm again. Tough-guy Josh had left his rain gear at home, relying only on a down jacket. Facing a wet bivy, we wanted to get as far down Wiley Ridge as possible. We marched along the tortuous ridge as the evening hours slipped away. Not comfortable descending the last three thousand feet to Beaver Pass in darkness and cloud, we stopped in the gloom.

A miserable and long night slowly passed; I dreamt of flooding, swimming, and rescue. The sickly light of sunrise barely penetrated the storm clouds to reach our chilled and aching bodies. We finally began to warm up during the steep plunge downhill into the brush and forest. At the valley bottom, the Big Beaver trail felt like a lifeline drawing us toward home. Warmer air allowed us to relax, and we could finally begin to celebrate our success. What joy we felt after so many days of intense concentration!

Hoping to get home a day early, I took much of the weight and let Josh run ahead to try and catch the boat. Luck was with us when we recovered our cache and snagged an early pick-up after six life-changing days. We had gone over sixty miles, ten of them, from Luna Peak to the glacier by Eiley Lake, fully alpine. We had traversed over the summits of nine remote peaks of the amazing Northern Picket Range.

Wayne Wallace
Josh KaplanDates

Summits (9)

Approach via Ross Lake, Access Creek and Luna Peak. Traverse Northern Pickets, climbing along the ridge surrounding Luna Creek headwaters to Mount Challenger. Descend via Wiley Ridge back to Ross Lake.

July 11, 2005
Boat up Ross Lake
Hike Big Beaver to Luna Camp

July 12, 2005
Hike Access Creek to Luna Col
Luna Peak

July 13, 2005
East Peak Fury
West Peak Fury

July 14, 2005
Numerous small peaks
Swiss Peak
Phantom Peak

July 15, 2005
Ghost Peak
Crooked Thumb
Descend Wiley Ridge to Big Beaver

July 16, 2005
Hike Big Beaver to Ross Lake Boat

Grade VI, 5.7

NWMJ Logan Report

Since finding out that NWMJ lost its host I grabbed the content from the wayback machine and am reposting it for posterity.

Self Portrait of Wayne Wallace on Logan
Coming to
Terms with
Mt. Logan
by Wayne Wallace

Ohe following is a story of two forays to Logan that tested my endurance. The first is a tale of acquainting myself with my physical limits of climbing in a 24-hour day. I left in the evening of July 31st, expecting to cover just a few miles. Instead I carried a micro bivy for 15 miles that Monday before collapsing in a nervous sleep. The ranger lady had me freaked out about bears, and scat was everywhere, proving her point.

NW Ridge Logan
View down the NW Ridge of Logan. © Wayne Wallace. Enlarge

After dreaming of collapsing bridges, I found I had overslept to the “late” hour of 4:30 in the morning. I still had many miles to go and much elevation to gain. The bushes were loaded with water from the previous day’s rain. I tried to knock them dry with a stick, but after a few miles, I resigned myself to being soaked. The way had heavy debris and was hard to follow. The climb would have gone more quickly, but a foggy whiteout got me miles off route. I wished for any type of a view, but the veil was thick and I felt lucky to have made it at all.

Logan seemed a remote and seldom-visited mountain; I was surprised to find myself the apparent first to summit in the 2003 season. The summit brings another realization. The problem with long approaches is that one must hike an equally long way out. Not excited about this fact, I took a shortcut on the way down. This “shortcut” proved to be insane but manageable with only creative down climbing involved (no rappels).

I didn’t expect to try Mt. Logan in a day until I glanced at my watch on the way out. (With a little planning, a much shorter round trip time is quite possible.) Now hot on this idea, I started moving very fast and at times was flat out running. Never having pushed myself to that extreme, now witnessing my body break down was interesting. Of course I had the usual foot pain, but new and terrible things were occurring too. My quads were actually going numb, and I didn’t know what to make of the horrendous pelvic pain. It left me glad that males cannot get pregnant.

October came in with nice weather. I was again between jobs and without a mid-week partner. Feeling restless for adventure, I began looking over topo maps for something new. My eyes couldn’t believe what I saw on Mt. Logan: The Northwest Ridge looked to be the biggest and longest ridge feature in the whole North Cascades. Huge serrated gendarmes soared all along its mile-long spine. Alan Kearney made an ascent up a face below its north flank but never even got to the crest of the ridge itself. It truly appeared to be untouched, and for good reason! Little did I know that I was about to be tested to my core physically, as on my first trip to Logan, but also mentally.

In my many decades of climbing, I have found no greater reward than going alone into the unknown. It seems one must really enjoy climbing for climbing’s sake to choose this way. Remove the comfort and camaraderie of having a partner, and what remains is just you against yourself and this big scary goal. An entirely different atmosphere is created. Confidence is the only currency accepted here. Leave your credit card at home.

NW Ridge Logan.
Back along the NW Ridge of Logan. © Wayne Wallace. Enlarge

Not willing to let technical difficulties hold me back, I slogged in with full climbing gear, including a rope, full rack, Soloist, hammer, and even pitons. Because it was October, I added a sleeping bag, stove, and bivy sack. With all of this weight, I was hoping to be able to return to a camp at the base where I could leave the bivy gear, but I could not even figure out how to get into the valley to reach the base of the ridge itself! This gateway to the ridge was the most protected valley I had ever seen, rimmed on all sides by large cliffs. I put away the topo map, hoping for a bit of luck.

Heading up the now familiar Thunder Creek was still a beautiful journey. I decided to leave the trail at Junction Camp, fully knowing a major bushwhack was ahead. I went light on the water, and was parched when I reached the ridge, west above the Logan Creek valley. Seeing a lake 400 feet below did not help; a cliff separated me from its quenching shores. Further up the ’whack I saw another more reachable lake that led me to water of course, but also deer tracks that led from the lake toward the Logan valley. Curious to see where the tracks went, I followed them to where I could overlook a bizarre triangular fracture in the valley wall. It seemed the whole side of the valley, for a couple of miles, had actually collapsed to form two micro-valleys. Here was my luck in accessing the route: One fracture led down to the valley proper, and the other led me right up into the beautiful Logan Creek valley where I could camp and then gain the base of the Northwest Ridge. This feature I called “The Wrinkle in Time.” I found the two valleys stunning despite the ubiquity of bear scat.

I decided a plan to climb and return to camp was impossible, so I carried a heavy load onto the ridge. This Northwest Ridge was the longest of any ridge that I had ever seen in the lower 48 states. The 4th-class climbing went on and on for hours until rappelling became necessary down the backsides of many of its gendarmes. These pinnacles showed no signs of human travel as I wrapped sling after sling over them. The pinnacles got larger and more difficult as I went along. I was growing concerned as less and less rope was reaching the bottom of each rappel. The last two gendarmes proved to be the most stressful in terms of difficulty and route finding. Well past the point of no return now, I was exhausted and scared shitless — a bad combination. My thoughts were occupied with escape and survival bordering on desperation. There simply had to be a way up the thing, but the rock was somewhat loose and offered almost no protection even if I felt the need for the rope. My hands where jarred from all the hours of thumping on the questionable holds, and my nerves were shattered when I slipped while down climbing. I later discovered that I had broken ribs when I slammed my chest into the rock from the slip.

After 8+ hours of endless climbing I reached the wafer-thin final ridge. It relented to better rock but overhung slightly and was unbelievably exposed. Mantling onto the summit ridge brought me to a true knife-edge ridge of shattered rock and missing blocks. Negotiating it took great care. The summit meant more to me this 2nd time; I was now released from the grave danger of the free solo of the very long and stressful climb. I cannot describe the relief this mountaintop now provided. It felt as if the peak itself had a foot on my heart and my task was to struggle free of its weight. This Logan rematch left me feeling a special bond with its lonely mass of rock and snow.

The way out was hindered by my decision not to take crampons. I sketched along vast glaciers in my tennis shoes worrying about taking “the great slide.” Twenty miles of trail did their best to work out the remainder of my reserves on a hike split by a sleepover at the old mine. The descent was demanding yet closed a very satisfying trip. I hope you, the reader, can find adventure and joy in these wild places; perhaps Logan is waiting for your feet as well. Here’s to your trip. Cheers!

Mt Logan
North Cascades National Park
Elevation 9,087 feet
July 31 to Aug 1, 2003
24-hour climb of the Banded Glacier.
October 2003
First ascent, solo, of Logan’s complete NW Ridge.
Logan from the NE showing the long NW Ridge along the right skyline.