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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

 

 

Pics:

P1120443

Stuart from Ingalls Lake

P1120434 P1120441 P1120453 P1120468 P1120480 P1120484 P1120485 P1120489 P1120493 P1120496 P1120501

July 15, 2014 Posted by | Alpine climbs, Rock Climbs | Leave a comment

NWMJ Mongo Ridge Report

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

home
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.”

SUMMARY
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)

May 13, 2014 Posted by | Alpine climbs, Great Traverses | Leave a comment

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.

TRAVERSE SUMMARY
Party
Wayne Wallace
Josh KaplanDates
7/11/2005-7/16/2005

Summits (9)

Route
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.

Itinerary
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
Spectre
Phantom Peak

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

July 16, 2005
Hike Big Beaver to Ross Lake Boat

Difficulty
Grade VI, 5.7

May 13, 2014 Posted by | Alpine climbs, Great Traverses | Leave a comment

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!

SUMMARY
Mt Logan
North Cascades National Park
Elevation 9,087 feet
Itinerary
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.

May 13, 2014 Posted by | Alpine climbs, Great Traverses | Leave a comment

Gato Negro, Whine Spire

Wow! Had another great weekend in the Washington Pass area. This time we made it up one of the taller routes in the area. We tried the 1500′ Gato Negro last year too, only to have rain spoil the plan. I liked the idea of returning with  2 teams of 2 on the route to share big cams, stoke, and additional safety (except for the occasional rock-fall) . The plan was for me to turn on the jets after we shared ropes on p4. That way Lane and I could clear the descent with no parties above us. I combined p8-10 into 2 -61meter leads, and skipped the last one to save time.We did it in 9.5 hrs camp to camp. The route was very high quality, with several “money” pitches: p2, 4, and 8-11. Take the super-topos advice on the seriousness of the whole package. I took a full set of cams: 0-5,  with an additional half set of small cams. Stoppers were not very useful, but I placed a dozen clips of them. One was a small nut in the crux to avoid plugging a lock.  Beware the bad tat on the first chockstone on the crux pitch.

Lane, Tom, Daniel, and I had a great time sharing each others company, and living this amazing experience. Thanks again Guys!

The last 5 pics, courtesy of Lane.

Toms Report on cc.com

Tower Mt

Tower Mt

P1100511

Liberty Bell group

P1100513

Lane on p2, 10b

P1100521

Lane on p2, 10b, Tom, Dan below

Start of p4

P1100538

Looking down the crux on p4

P1100539

Selfie looking down the crux on p4

P1100541

Stoked selfie looking down the crux on p4

P1100545

Cant get enough Bells!!

P1100547 P1100548 P1100551 P1100555 P1100561

P1080083 P1080097 P1080104 P1080106 P1080123

September 4, 2013 Posted by | Alpine climbs, Rock Climbs | 1 Comment

The Complete Pickets Traverse

Here is Jen Holstens account of the most recent effort to enchain the entire summit ridges of the Pickets Range in Northern Washington State.

 

Here is Chads write-up.

I dont have much to say right now except for WOW!  To do all of that in cold and stormy conditions is just amazing.  While they were on the traverse, I would look out my window at the clouds and wonder just how bad it was up there.  Yes we had 1 day of the 6 in the Northern Pickets in which it did not rain or ice pellet, but it wasn’t that bad until the end. A 30 hours storm made the trip over Challenger and the hike out a miserable affair.

I will write more about this stupendous trip soon, Check back, Thanks, and honored to be friends with these 2 climbers!

July 25, 2013 Posted by | Alpine climbs, Great Traverses | , , | Leave a comment

The Passenger

Washington State has always been known as a great state for alpine climbing, but rock climbing has always seemed like an afterthought. There have been efforts to change that, with many high-quality routes added in recent years. Having traveled extensively this summer, I have found strong comparisons in quality climbs locally with states known for their great rock climbs. If The Passenger were in any other state, it would be highly publicized and renowned. Since this great climb is tucked away in the corner of the country, and next to Liberty Crack, it will probably remain relatively unknown.

I had always been intimidated by these modern routes until Lane and I did The Hitchhiker last year. Though difficult, they can be managed with a strategy that one would approach with any route. Just grind it out pitch-by-pitch, and dont worry about pulling on a piece of gear or 2. After reporting on the wonders of HH, several people chimed in about its sister route: The Passenger. After 2 full months of travel and quality routes, I set my sights on it. A week ago, Vern and I did the Boving Route on SEWS, and I thought I would be clever and leave my gear at the base of the route to return the next day with Shaun. Vern left and called Shaun to find out that he had broken his finger and would not be up for the route. So went my luck at the start of the campaign. I returned fresh with Vern the next week and we made quick work of the route in 5+ hours of climbing. We found the route to be extremely high quality, with short crux sections, good rests, and great protection. There are no endurance sections. The new WA Pass guide is fairly accurate, though the length of each pitch is not described after the first few, and a tough crux is left out at the top of pitch 3. Also use the belay at the tree, top of p2. Doubles  on cams to 1 1/2″, 1 set of stoppers. Pitch 5 is a bitch too, watch out for the loose block mantel to the belay. I like the Blue Lake approach. Enjoy the pics, and plan your send!

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July 17, 2013 Posted by | Alpine climbs, Rock Climbs | Leave a comment

Boving Route, SEWS

I must pay tribute to an inspirational climber that put up a set of truly amazing climbs. One can only imagine what Paul Boving would have gone on to do, if it weren’t for his untimely demise back in 1977. Here are a few of his best:

ROTC

Thin Fingers ( Did many times)

Boving Route, Dragontail

NW Face North Early ( I did it in ’03)

NW Face, South Early,  The route that Vern and I just did ,7-10-13!

The day before however, I did a solo of the SW Butt of Cutthroat Peak. I wish I could say good things about the route, but the views were spectacular.

Having only done a couple of Paul’s finest, I was wary of his route on South Early Winter Spire. It had the makings of a brawl with 3 stiff pitches, the first 2 are the cruxes. Never mind doing them in the cold morning shade. I took the first one, and found it to be techy, balancey, and insecure. At the last 20 feet of the lead, I got suckered into some chalk to the right, shoulda gone straight up and left of that finish. The 2nd lead also offered great pro, it is a core workout on rattly locks in a flared thin crack. Though a short lead it is also sustained the whole way, Super fun, yet the Boving Double Roofs offer another spin on the boldness of our past explorers. Just make sure your follower is strong, not a fun fall off this one.  We finished the route in a simo, and the summit is becoming a place of great celebration for me as of late. For Beta I like the Beckey topo over the Supertaco, simple is better in this case.

Thanks to Vern, Pro Mt Sports, and Paul,  for yet another great experience!

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July 12, 2013 Posted by | Alpine climbs, Rock Climbs | Leave a comment

California Classics

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.

pics:

photo-1

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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:

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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:

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July 4, 2013 Posted by | Alpine climbs, Rock Climbs | , , | Leave a comment

The Hitchhiker! S. Early Winter Spire

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!

CC Photo/topo

Sols Tr

Now for some pics!

Lane following p2

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September 19, 2012 Posted by | Alpine climbs, Rock Climbs | Leave a comment

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