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:
Here is a link to a 19 minute long set of pictures from 4 first ascents I participated in the Picket Range. Included is a short video while getting rained on approaching Mongo.This show is dedicated to the efforts, friendship and memory of Chad Kellogg. Enjoy, Wayne
Since the NWMJ lost its host, I grabbed this report and am posting it here for posterity.
|he 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.
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.
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.
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.”
|o 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.
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!
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.
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.
Since finding out that NWMJ lost its host I grabbed the content from the wayback machine and am reposting it for posterity.
|he 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.
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.
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!
|Logan from the NE showing the long NW Ridge along the right skyline.|
|©2004 Northwest Mountaineering Journal|
|Site design by Steve Firebaugh|
Given the highly volatile nature of west coast weather, necessity demands flexible (last minute) planning to be successful. I am lucky that Vern called me and asked what my plans were, because he knows I am off work and driven to make the most of it. We settled on an idea that neither one of us ever considered. Drive all the way to Vegas!!!!!! The weather even this far south was sketchy, but nothing compared to the pounding the west got this week. While staying in Vegas, having a rental house to stay in was a fortunate thing! (Thanks Mark and Rosey!)I must admit to a cold windy belay, or 6, but we made the right call. Logging in many multi-pitch routes day after day was the dream we had hoped might come true.
The drive down was endless, but we still got to the crags at 4pm the next day. Then on day 2 we had an amazing trad day linking Triassic Sands, Wholesome Fullback, and Our Father. Cant beat that for a start, but it then got even better! Another rest/sport day and its off to Unimpeachable Groping, a steep and relentless 5 pitch route that is simply one of the best! Day 5 , and we wanted to go up Risky Business, but it was too cold, so we opted for an amazing “alpine day” and did the complete Dark Shadows to the top of Mescalito. Cant describe how fun it was to do 10+ pitches in 4 long simo- blocks!!! Day 6, of course is a rest/rain day . Day 7, we were able to get 6 pitches at Black Corridor, then begin the monster drive back to Washington. It ended up being my best trip to Red Rocks (35p). It is a wonderful climbing destination, and I will be spending much more time there. Thanks Vern, Mike, Steve, Alasdair, Nate, Lisa, Fred, Randy, Aaron, Mark, Daisy, Abbey for keeping such great company, and Pro Mountain Sports for always having that last minute item!!
My 5th trip to the Utah desert yielded some great adventures. I thank Mike and Brinte for again being gracious hosts. Mike, always an agreeable and fun partner, did only 1 route with me that he hadn’t done prior. They were all great classics, and he got to swap the leads that he followed on his prior ascents. We started off in the Red Rocks Canyon. After a warm up day of sport climbing in the Calico Hills, we set our sights on Levitation 29. An astounding and steep route, it lived up to its stout reputation. I think the route is getting harder with the sandstone now offering fewer footholds in critical sections? At any rate , I enjoyed it and got up it with only pulling on a couple of draws. Great deproach too, down a scenic valley to the West (no leaving your stuff at the base, and carry 1 rope). We were excited to spend the night at the base of Rainbow Wall route, but the temps were too cold for us in the morning to enjoy our first time up that route. Retreat back to a cheap casino for showers. Next time..
Zion was one of the last major western areas that I had yet to climb at. It was covered in snow last year when I had the time. This was my best chance, with moderate daytime temperatures and stable weather in mid-March. Iron Messiah was first on the list, what a fantastic route! All types of adventurous climbing and long leads made for a great intro to the park. Next up was the monster route called Silmaril on the Watchman. Mikes tried and true strategy was to fix several pitches on day 1, then on day 2, jug and finish the route. With the strenuous and long pitches, this was a critical move. We were humbled by the first 3 pitches. Right off the ground we did a short section of aid, then a full power finish to a 50m lead. My lead on p2 started off on a set of huge blocks that had a set of blocks behind that shifted while I was jamming them. I was just able to keep it together and get beyond this dangerous section with some serious self-talk and breathing. Rocks were tumbling down the cracks, and my cams were expanding in the right hand crack. Be careful on this section. Mike did the 3rd straight hard lead with small amounts of aid, and with 1 69m rap we were on top of the original route pinnacle. Another 30m rap and we were back on firm ground. Day 2, we hiked back up and did the steep jug back to our high-point. The most memorable pitches after that were the 10+hands endurance corner and Mikes resilient off-width lead. Both days were exhausting and I can’t imagine doing the whole route in a day! It was my hardest sandstone route to date, a medium I am learning to respect. 1 sandstone lead can equal 3 on granite. A given hard lead can take hours to get up.
After such body-wrecking , It was nice to enjoy more reasonable classics. Monkey Finger and Smashmouth are 2 of the best. They made a great trip even better. A must do pair of routes for sure. I had never cragged in Little Cottonwood either. Mike showed me around for a couple of days before I flew back home. 55 pitches in all, 5 multi-pitch routes. Cant wait till next year! Thanks Mike and Britne!!
I had been crazy for this route since Steve and friends climbed it last season. Picture , and video of last years Rainbow Serpent. Not only did the stunning Rainbow Serpent come in this year, but so also did Fearful Symmetry. We went in with 4 people, hoping to do a quality photo shoot for Ben Herndon. We were prepared to do a 2 team ascent for top-down photos. The wind and cold did not allow for such shenanigans however. Leaving the 2 Bens at the base, Jess and I split it into 4 pitches to save on rope drag and stay more active. The wind swirled with crazy might in the Recital Hall, at times cracking like a whip. It sent horrendous spend-drift down on the climbers and left the base team to chop away at the huge ice blocks that fell from old icefalls to stay warm. The Hall is an earned and temporary position, with the easiest entry up a multi pitch WI4 just to get to it. (Aquarius)
…also of note the snow drifts before the Big Hill are large enough to need a big rig currently. We couldn’t do it with a Tacoma 4wd! Adds 1-2 hours to the approach. Still worth every step.
1-11-14 -Rainbow Serpent.
Pitch 1 is an easy short way to get to the start of the pillar. 25m, wi3. The lower pillar had crazy mushrooms stacked out into space above you. We found a doable way up the right side, yet the rope drag made progress halt just short of a wild roof formed when a dagger broke off days prior. I got the roof lead,(p3) feeling like I had to do bouldering to get through. A great cave belay left Jess with the 40m finish endurance pillar, (p4, for us, A better party would combine 2 of our pitches). It was a longer route than I expected(The book says 70m, more like 100m), the exposure was tremendous at a few places, and the ice brittle. Despite suffering from the elements, it was a fantastic climb that I will never forget. Thanks Jess, BenH, Ben E.
Stay tuned for Bens Pictures in the coming days!
2-6-2014- Banks came in in a flash again this season, sporting brittle, chandeliered, and thin ice. Sounds just wretched but can be very exciting if your head gets into it. We (Jess, Ben, and I) started by tope-ropeing the Cable route, a deceptively long and difficult route. It is full on for 50 meters, and if in thin shape, the scale can go up dramatically. I was just barely able to get it on tope-rope, feeling like it was the hardest ice I may have ever been on. Super technical(in thin shape), and always steep, it is a mind boggling route. There is a nice 2nd pitch above, that is seldom done. Be REAL careful if you try to set up a tope-rope on this one! The traverse is very exposed.
2-6-13- Jess, Beau, and I head for Zenith, hoping it was in good shape, and more importantly, the high-ever-threatening-ice-dagger would hopefully be gone. We pulled up to it, and noticed it had grown into a enormous 60’+ free hanging monster the size of a large tree. The tunes drowned out the noise of the collapse, then Jess first noticed it was suddenly gone in a cloud of dust. With that good omen in the bag, we were still humbled by the amazing Zenith. It is yet another route that you can just throw the grade system away with, depending on the conditions. I don’t remember ever leading such a long and difficult single ice pitch in my past. I even did a take after the crux. If brittle and thin, it too, is nowhere close the rating offered in the guide book.The other routes in the area look gamey as well, so be careful out there.
1-25-14 Tunnel Vision ,Angora Grotto. GM to Heart of the Country, LTW Index w. Shaun , crazy fun 4p.
I have been blessed to live in areas that enjoy great climbing venues within a 1-2 hour drive of home.
Portland, Oregon has decent cragging, boasting 4 areas minutes from the city. Beacon was always the prize day out. The scene and route selection can be cumbersome however. On the day-trip/weekend radar , you always have Smith and 50 other crags to enjoy. Viva l’Oregon! Great place to live for sure.
A huge step up at the time for me was moving to Tahoe and having Donner Summit and the lake environs to enjoy solid granite. Sierras were the standard weekend fair, and seldom disappointed.
One could build a great case for moving to The Vancouver/Squamish area…wish I had done that.
Seattle took time to develop, and continues to a dozen years later. I have well-plundered Leavenworth, Vantage, and half of Tieton. I keep finding myself stunned by the routes at Index! You can’t easily find such a collection of sustained and inspiring climbing. The character of the pitches in the 5.10-5.11 routes suit what I like in a route. I enjoy thought-provoking, balancey, sustained, quality, tricky, and insecure movement. You WILL get that here, and it is humbling at times. Some moves feel impossible at first go. Then there is some secret laser beta you get, and then.. oh I get it. Tough place to onsite., hope you like a challenge. I used to avoid Index because of Hwy 2 traffic(it can be an issue), and a reverse snobbiness about the place. Glad I got over it and can get down to business here again! No wonder the parking lot is always full now, Thanks AAC and WCC for the work on that. See you out there! Thanks for reading.
Its fun to compare the areas and the climbs they offer. My nature is to climb everything out, then move to another locale if possible. Not gonna be easy at Index. I seem to be fairly entrenched in Seattle for a bit, so its great to have new wonders waiting . Looking forward to some time off work now as well!