So it had already seemed like I had been living out of my car for a month when Lane and I went on this 9 day trip to California. Since being off work in late May I have barely home for a couple of days at a time. I was a little cranky to say the least, but the incredible routes we did made for a whole lot of happy ( 6 big routes in 7 days). A miserable drive to the Needles proved to be very worthwhile. We did 3 amazing routes in 3 days, starting with the 3 pitch 10b named Airy Interlude. It is well named to put it lightly, also completely reeks of quality climbing. Weird weather on day 2 allowed us to do Igor Unchained , 3p, 9+. We saved the best for last with a day 3 ascent of Thin Ice, 2(long)pitches 10+. I can’t say enough about how incredible that route is. You just have to find out for yourself? The Needles is sure to amaze and challenge anyone who seeks its unique resources. Glad I finally checked the place out. Hike in on day 1, then after the day of climbing, Hang and leave your gear for the next days outings.
Next up was a couple of days in Tuolumne Meadows to do 2 stunning routes of renowned fame. I wanted to do Crescent Crack on DAFF Dome, but it was wet. Blown Away (4p, 5.9) made a nice plan B. It had a great variety of crack, slab, and exposure.
The route that was up next concerned me greatly due to its old school nature and difficulty. Oz (ounce) (4p, 10d), on Drug Dome was a classic test piece back in the day. Today, it still pushes modern climbers with its testy crux, and enduro corner pitches. It went smoothly for me, though glad I have decades of experience to see me through it. A must-do if I ever saw one.pics:
Last on the list of stunning classic climbs was Positive Vibrations. Many reports have glowed , justifiably, about the wonders of the route, so I will provide some drawbacks to it. It is more”alpine” than I thought it would be. Meaning, there are great rests and short cruxes with easier moves between. There is still some loose rock on it. It is not very steep in general. Dont be intimidated by it, the hard part is just enduring the whole experience of going up, and down it. I will also provide some pics to this right-of-passage route:
I have a new favorite route. Last minute planning brought Lane and I to the base of the Burdo/Johnson route they named The Hitchhiker. It rambles up the steep SE Face of South Early Winter Spire. Originally planning to attempt Gato Negro for the 2nd straight weekend, we opted for more sunshine instead. The switch was last minute, so I didnt have the anticipation nor expectations. I was blown away by the quality and positioning of the climb. It has every type of climbing as well as serious exposure to add to a full-plate meal of a climb! Dihedrals, led to slabs with thin cracks, flakes, (easy)wide sections, roofs wild traverses, you name it. Leading every pitch was stressful, as the climbing is thought provoking, but it was so fun, I didnt care. It took almost 8 hrs to do the 9 pitches. Each lead had its own surprise. Though the route has about 20 bolts, it still requires a big rack and I am glad I took 1 aider for the 3 short sections that I couldnt free. I know I write in superlatives but this route for sure is a gem. I hope to see more reports on this relatively newer route.
Great way to spend my 49th birthday. Thanks Lane and Christina for the cake and climbing party weekend.
Burdos book and these reports will have more beta, enjoy!
Cascadeclimbers description, very accurate!
Now for some pics!
This being my only weekend off since July 4th, I wanted a route with maximum fun, as well as minimum effort. I have been working overtime six days a week for months and am chronically exhausted. I picked the perfect route with the selection of Acid Baby in the Aasgard Pass area, next to Dragontail. It wasnt going to go smoothly however. Overnight permits on labor day weekend were scarce, and my partner bailed at the last minute due to injury. Cascadeclimbers to the rescue again. I found a dental student in the partners wanted section named Jon, and we were off. Not able to get a permit from the daily lottery, we crunched the trip into a long push.We did it in 5 long pitches ( +1 belay move), each lead was totally enjoyable. Its grade fairly @ 10d(+) a little strenuous in places, dicey traverses, and some wide stems. The climb is fantastic, both in quality and atmosphere. I give it four stars. It felt like I was finally home again after being away a long time.
Some stray notes:
We think we saw the accident site, and there are still loose blocks there to dance around, save a small yellow metolius for plugging in above the blocks. They want to be trundled but the base would have to be cleared of the endless hikers below.
-If you get the odd numbered leads, you will get all of the best pitches and cruxes too. All leads are very fun though.
-Make sure your leader is not pulling for slack, while he is actually falling!!
-Hats off to my friends -Mike, Rolf, and Dan- who did the first ascent of this amazing climb!
Faced with the possibility of working 6 days/week all summer is not a fun prospect. I wanted to have a trip with sun, fun, and full value routes. After considering several options, I went back to the Sawtooth Range of Central Idaho for an ass-whooping 4th of July 2012. While Lane and Christina (X-tina Princess Warrior) did the the Mountaineers route, I joined forces with Nic H. on Fine Line. It may be the most amazing rock climb I have ever done. Boasting 10 steep, sustained, and amazing pitches, there is some special movement with every lead. Nic, a local Idahoan, provided a strong partner for swapping the leads. I will have to come back again to this route to try to free the 3 places I “aided” on the first pitch.
The next day after, Lane, Nic and I teamed up to dispatch the spectacular Sunrise Book on the shorter West face of Elephants Perch. It offered 5 crazy pitches up a dead vertical and overhanging corner. This intense route ended in a giant chimney/roof that was one of the all-time sick finishes. The Elephants Perch is fast becoming my favorite alpine wall! Enjoy the photos, and go there someday!
The Fine Line/Sunrise Book slideshow:
Faced with a 1 day weather window, and deep snow in the mountains, Beau and I headed for the friendly alpine playground of Illumination Rock. We did the most reliable and fun route on the sunny South Face of the I-Rock, It is a route I named after my girlfriends late pet: Rime, our Scottish Deerhound. I had done the route a couple of times before, it is worth repeating for sure. It offers 4 short pitches of outstanding easy mixed climbing at a moderate angle. It also now has a rap anchor at the finish that gets you most of the way down to the South Chamber with a single rope rappel. We had a blast! Mikes tr, under thin conditions
Jule and friends at Oregon Field Guide did a wonderful half hour special on climbing Mt Hood. Last year she invited me to do an interview and asked for some of my photos and video of various new routes that I was involved in on the mountain. Her team did an outstanding job capturing the experience. See for yourself.
They use my voice-over several times, the interview occurs at 18:43 and again at 24:25.
Nov 6-2011. I recently went to Europe for my first time. It has been a dream of mine for as long as I can remember. My favorite climbing book in our grade school library was a huge glossy photo coffee table book from Gaston Rebuffat. The birth place of the sport has called me and I cant wait! I had this trip planned for feb of 2011, but I got a surprise job offer then, and had to put it off.
The flight was quicker than I thought it would be, going through Iceland (13 hrs). I arrived in Paris without sleeping on the plane. Traveling alone, I jumped the metro train to Paris. Once I got into town, I went into the 1st info booth to get directions to the hostel. Behind me a great commotion started. 5 guys were trying to break through the glass doors that myself and another guy were enclosed in. The other guy was trying to keep the doors from breaking loose and glass was flying everywhere. They persisted and it was truly terrifying to watch. Eventually they left, and I found out they were trying to mug the other guy for his cell phone. The Police came and I left to find my room. “Welcome to Paris” the other guy told me.
My first run through Paris was great. 24 hrs in one of the worlds great cities was not going to be enough. The weight of the history pulled at my psyche tremendously. So many stories. I was glad I had Josh talked into exploring the place further at the end of my trip.
I had plans for Chamonix coming up and it was off on a plane to Geneva. This is where the trip first turned into a struggle. As Tom and I approached the N Face of Le Doites, I began to feel a cold coming on. Auto-bail at 2 am-> to the trains again. Too bad, as the weather and conditions were optimal.
On the train between Geneva and Zurich, my main large duffel was stolen from the luggage keep.. Stuck in Zurich to file a police report left me wandering the station all night . It was my 2nd night without sleep as I refuse to pay big bucks for a hotel in one of the most expensive cities in the world. Losing everything, being sick, and delirious from lack of sleep, I was ready to pack it in and bail a week early. It was up to Michael in Munich to keep me from cutting the last week out of my trip. Of course his stoke got me back on track. We had a great 3 days in the Innsbruck and Dolomite areas. Micheals Trip report on the Dolomites.
Gotta give big thank you to Michael and his family for the great hospitality I felt better staying with them at their place in Munich. They moved there a few years ago from Seattle. Miss you guys already.
After a few great days in Munich, sampling the bakeries, and 30 m climbing gyms, I was looking forward to meeting up with Josh in Paris. Nice to know I wasnt the only one who struggled with the trains. He jumped the wrong one and ended up in the slums before getting back to the hostel we were in in Montmartre. Over the next 3 days we did a thorough march on the city visiting the great sites of Versailles, the Louvre, and the Eiffel tower were just a few. I was particularly smitten by the amount of work it must have take to do so many vast great works. Despite its peculiarities, what an amazing place to travel.
Gotta give huge high fives to a few key people in this adventure!
Lane B., financier
Tom G. for a chance at Chamonix greatness as well as Davide for the connection
Jim at Pro Mt Sports for helping me replace several thousand $ worth of gear.
Michael S and wife Kris for every good day after the last bad one!
Josh for meeting me yet again in a crazy place
Thank you to Bill at NW Alpine for the salopette bib pants! They are the perfect weight fabric for the legs. They may still have free shipping. Let the winter stoke begin!
The Southern Pickets
“Because of the rugged terrain, the Picket Range has remained the wildest and most unexplored region in the North Cascades. It is not an area for the wilderness novice ; its isolated brushy valleys and jagged ridges are a test for the most seasoned mountaineers, The length of climbs, combined with steep terrain and variable conditions ,demands all around competence and fitness”
Fred Beckey – Cascade Alpine Guide
I could come up with many words to describe the Southern Pickets. Some are flattering, some not so. They are pleasing to the eyes, yet terrifying to the aspiring climber. They are highly accessible, but offer few route that are traveled with ease. They offer some the the most amazing alpine climbing in the states, yet there are very few routes to choose from. Thousands of climbers know about this fantastic range yet it is rare to see another party (outside of W. Mac, Insp. area). Very accessible in winter, yet only a couple summits have been done during that season. It epitomizes our very idea of rugged mountain exploration yet, there has only a few recorded new routes the last 23 years.
It seems to stand in defiance of our modern sports culture.
There have been many brave adventures here though over the years. Beckeys books, NWMJ, and a few other publications have picked over the history well those earier exploits. I hope to just add to some personal and more recent flavor of the Southern half of our proudest range.
It wasnt until 2003 that I first got into the Southern Pickets Range. Lane and I went in in that summer and went from West Mac to Inspiration. The going was difficult but very doable. Once I found that out, the gates broke loose on an idea I had formulated a couple of years prior.
I was hoping nobody had previously done a complete summit ridge traverse of the range in a continuous push. My queries led me to believe it hadn’t. The idea went forward. I came back looking for partners who I felt could handle the task. I found a couple of partners that had some rivalry over the idea, but when we teamed up, the Summit Ridge Traverse was a dream come true for us, and many other people ( I was to find the Fireys had this vision decades prior). I can say it was, for me, a true highlight of my life.
- It recently has seen a repeated effort to not only do the Southern Traverse, but add the Northern on too! Jens, Sol, and Dan did 12 of the Southern Pickets summits, getting the 2nd ascent of Sou. Pickets Summit Ridge traverse. They then pushed into the Northern group to summit Outrigger peak and Luna!
- Here are their awesome reports:
Sol W. CC Report
Between the 2 succesful traverses on the Southern range, I know of at least 3 attempts on it that fell short. Also in the same time line there were a few other new routes done on other summits in the group:
Alan K MacMillan Report.
Rolf and Peters MacMillan (Cant find) Report.
Other useful S. Pickets links:
Stephs amazing Pickets Page
Summit post Page, again, mostly Steph
Cool Photos here
Which only leaves to question: What possible new routes may be left?
Warning, there are some patches of real bad rock in this range! Descents from nearly All summits are serious affairs!
Route to the right of the South Face line on Inspiration.
S, Face of Himmelhorn.
Several unclimbed faces of Frenzlespitz.
N.face of Pyramid.
N face of MacMillans in Winter.
A direct route up the s. ridge of E tower or The Blob/Rake. Promises to be stellar. SP Ridge traverse takes a “Thank God Ledge” around it, left.
Only W Mac, Inspiration, Terror, and the Chopping Block have been summited in Winter.
People have been enjoying”Mini Traverses” along the ridge, bagging several summits on the way., The 3 Macs, and W. Mac to Inspiration are popular.
The truth is, except for the North side, The Southern Pickets are relatively easy to get into. The Goodell Creek Trail is a quite manageable ,if you stay on it.. The Terror Creek isnt too bad, but it helps to have someone with you who has done it before, it has great spank potential. Again, the only option is to stay on the trail.
Enjoy the Southern Pickets, but a few words of advice: Permits are required and may fill up certain weekends. Pack as light as possible, it has to be good weather anyways to climb there. Watch for loose stuff and slippery lichen, it is almost everywhere. Get as much info as possible on the objective, and by all means Go Fast!
Every now and then, I run across a route that challenges me to the near-fullest.
I cant think of more that 10 free routes that I have done that compare to SBA in terms of difficulty and length. A few come to mind: Sunshine on Snowpatch, Scenic Cruise in the Black Canyon, and Liberty Crack are in the same league. The league or 2 above these routes would be the Nose on El Cap. Hard, classic, and exhausting climbing from start to finish, nearly every pitch must be taken seriously. In this case we did 13 pitches of outstanding crack climbing up the Southeast Face of Les Cornes, this on our second attempt. The route must be started by doing the the first 3 pitches via the Sprungc_ock Erect start. That makes it a full day of steep fun. Easily one of my favorite routes of all time.
We thought we were going fast until it went dark back at the car, and home @ 12:30am monday. I would suggest being on strong rock-climbing shape when considering this gem.
Even with the mosquitos, we were happy that we bivied in the talus 400m below the route. The approach is easier, I am sure, in the light of day. We found the way though the alder, and once it got too thick on the road, we headed up through nice big tree ridge easily spotting the next flagging and cairns.
On climb day we got up at 5 am and on route at 7, topped put @ 3:30pm. The pitches take some time to figure out and the route finding is weird only in a couple of places. The most difficult place to find is the 5.8 hand traverse. It is preposterous at 1st glance. It goes around the left side of the ridge. We tried a couple of alternatives and I had to back off a 5.11 crack on one of my new stoppers. The climbing is spectacular almost the whole way. If it is hot, fill at least 2 q./person of water, as the route bakes in the sun.
The crux move is hard, but easy to pull around on a fixed stopper. There is lots of good beta on the route online, Here are a few, thanks to Jesse and Lane:
Thanks again to Jim at Pro Mountain Sports for helping build the big rack needed for this route.
My prior J-berg experiences:
My first attempt was in winter way back in 199o. sigh. Such dreams of grandeur ended at the top of the base cone in utter awe of this new scale of wall I hadnt yet conceived of. It was humbling for a while until hell year, when I just didnt care much about surviving. I was in the middle of a divorce when in May 94 ,I made a reckless solo attempt that ended in me getting hit by 2 avalanches on the way down from half-way up the N E Rib route . It was then that I figured out that my kids need me no matter my silly ambitions. This mountain became a symbol of my ambitions vs cold mountain reality. Not to give in too easily it rained the next time I scurried around its base.
The very next year though it let me get up the C_J route all the way to within a few hundred feet of its top only to start raining again. My demons roared in dismay yet I was satisfied with that for the next 16 years. This year I began to notice that I was picking off many routes that I had logged sooo many attempts on prior, and J- berg was about the last one standing.
With all of the grim tales I have heard about and been through, I was amazed to find a partner that had climbed it twice before over the last 2 years! this mountain truly has a hold on some deep primal, poorly understood need. Tom also knew another tormented soul who had this angst -ridden drive. Sergio was key, as the rope bearer that got us rolling yet again to the Dark Tower. This time the trip went great, despite me being a bit of a post trauma tight-ass. We did joke and had fun the entire way. The route was more difficult than any of us remembered from prior attempts. There where so many different extreme environments, it was surreal and disorienting. Here are a few photos, Tom used a bunch of all of ours on his tr.