Sawtooth Traverse, Olympics 2004

I received an email asking about photos from the Sawtooth Traverse that David Parker and I did in 2004. The photos were no longer on the server so I thought I’d post them here with the trip reports that we did at the time. I don’t remember enough to caption the pics well, but I do remember it was a very fun trip.

from David:

Funny thing is, the whole thing is a blur. I don’t remember what cool pitch went with what pinnacle! I’ll be sharing the photos soon, so stand by.

Ok, here’s my brief TR: Sharpen the Saw

Last weekend, Wayne Wallace and I made the first ascent full traverse of the rugged Sawtooth Range in the Olympic Mountains. Well known for it relatively good rock (as far as volcanic goes), the ridge is comprised of 13 named peaks (some more like pinnacles) from Mt. Alpha to Mt. Lincoln. In all we figure we climbed about 20 doing our best to stay as close as possible to the ridge and climbing NE ridges or faces and rappeling SW ridges and faces, as that is the general direction of the Sawtooth Range. The most popular is the the highest and prominent Mt. Cruiser which graces the cover of the Olympic Mountains climbing guidebook and is generally the only and very worthy objective in the area. While we believe every summit had been touched, we are quite certain nobody has ever made the complete traverse in one single push. We approached 10 miles on a very wet Saturday and ended up at the base of Alpha with zero visibility. We bivied and hoped the skies would clear that night as forecast. Indeed they did, so we were up early and off. Alpha actually had 2 peaks, Cruiser was next, an un-named summit, some more ridge and then the Needle. After that came Castle Spires with 3 peaks. We ended the day by doing both the Fin and the Horn and then had to drop back down almost 1,000 feet to get water as there were no snow patches left to melt snow. We found a small pond and slept well in spite of relentless mosquitos and got back on the ridge where we left off early the next day. The second day (of climbing) was lower elevation and there was considerable vegetation (mostly pine trees) to get through in between pinnacles such as Cleaver, Slab Tower, Rectagon, Picture, Trylon and North Lincoln. We were then able to drop our packs and scramble over to the true summit of Lincoln and return where we finally dropped of the ridge around 2:00. The extremely steep chute of dirt was puckering, but mellowed to scree, then talus and boulders before we entered the forest to bushwack around a ridge and back to Flapjack Lakes. A few doses of slide alder and devils club reminded us we weren’t done yet and the 500 ft. descent in the forest to the lake was more of a controlled fall by hanging on to bushes and tree limbs until we almost splashed into the crystal clear water. A swim in the lake cooled and cleaned us for the 7.8 mile hike out to lukewarm beer and chips in the car. Fish and Chips and 6 Hood Canal oysters on the half shell fueled us for the drive home.

from me:

Sharpen the Saw

The Complete Traverse of the Sawtooth Ridge

Olympic National Park, Washington

Always on the lookout for new adventures, I found The Sawtooth Ridge to be a great possibility for an aesthetic traverse. I use the word “aesthetic” because I have found not all alpine ridges lend themselves well to a full crossing from end to end. Some have nasty deep clefts or shaky blocks or, like to Northern Pickets, they can be just too much. So when a natural and fun ridge comes along, its time to lose some shoe rubber! I found The Sawtooths when it came time to look for fun climbs on the side of the water I now call home. David Parker had told me had Cruiser in his sites. That led me to look into The Climbers Guide to the Olympics where I found Cruiser to be the crown of a very serrated ridge system. Having a rough year for climbing, David immediately caught fire on the project. It was fun doing the research on Cascade Climbers.com. We had no idea which was the better approach though into what the folks were calling the “Olympickets”. We did find it had the best rock and the sharpest summits in this wild range though. It was interesting to find the place also had a bad combination of steep –ass rock and sparse protection.
Heavy rain made us nervous as we drove off that Friday. Was the forecast going to magically turn things around for us so quickly? We needed to get part of the ridge behind us on Saturday to have a chance of getting done an to work on Monday. A stop at the last tavern before the park was to water down our apprehensions. The stupid rain was still there when we left the place though. David had the shady yet effective idea of finding some vacant cabin carport for a dry bivy. After working on our explanation to any arrivers,, we slept to the noise of the downpour.
Saturday morning, It was still overcast as we hiked the 10+ miles into Flapjack Lake. We gave up all chance of getting on the climb that day when it was very thick at 6 pm.. Serious concerns crept into our ambitious plans. It appeared we would need Monday if we wanted to finish. It was great to see it finally clear as we want to sleep at the base of our first objective: Alpha
With all the many peaks we went over David was later to say the whole trip was a blur. Alpha is one of those for me too except I do remember it was about getting to that big tree in the gully and barely 5th class to get over its 2 summits. Whatever it offered us was forgotten once we saw Mt. Cruiser .Its Northeast face was a great introduction to what fun lay ahead: Steep and exposed climbing with sporty and little pro. For the first time we saw the long road ahead that leads to Mt. Lincoln. It would not be easy or quick to get through.
After a satellite peak was crossed, we found David ready to get after The Needle. He thought it would be good to leave our packs at the base and scoot around the base after we come down. I had the feeling there was a nasty chimney to contend with on the other side. Sure enough we couldn’t even see down the crack on the other side it was so steep. 5.11 chimneys must be just grim. Above that notch lay one of the greatest leads on the trip. The first of 3 summits on Castle Spires led up vertical face to an almost overhung arête! We were so stoked to find such quality and charm to a peak we did not even expect to be on! The other 2 Summits fall into the blur category. The Fin Though is always a vivid and amazing memory. A crazy angled face problem led to a monster chimney. This made the adventure all the more complete.
Now running out of time and water. We saw the Horn was not going to let us up the straight line along the ridge direction we wanted to take so we compromised our pure ridge traverse here and went around to the standard route on its east face, which was no disappointment for any aspiring 4th class climber, really? 4th class? Our thirst drove us down to a pond at the base of the peaks where we made our second and last bivy under very bright stars.
Monday we went right back up and followed a sharp ridge line over 2 minor peaks that both had tin cans at their tops. After much of tough travel we found the Cleaver to be yet another fun lead and rappelled to the great Slab Tower. It had an obvious slab arête the I begged to give a try. It may have been one of several first ascents we did on these many pinnacles. The Rectagon and Picture Pinnacle were more leads that left us wondereding if any had tried its Northeast side as well. We really made an effort to stay with the ridge and its crest. The ridge was surprisingly accommodating too except for the Horn and now the Trylon too would need extensive rap-bolting to stay with the line direction. I am not sure the place is ready for that, but establishing this would make it an incredible Traverse that I would put near the top of the list for the country we share.
The North Lincoln Peak was a non-issue except for its intense and long descent. After we found its base, we ditched our packs and ran for the summit of our final peak. We enjoyed the view this time looking back to the distant Mt. Cruiser. What a long and fun climb it had been! What I had to do now was race back before my girlfriend called a rescue for us. I had mentioned it could take an extra day but was she listening at the time? The “trail “ down to the lakes may have existed but all we saw was the usual slide alder and devils club to round out the trip. The still cold brews would lessen the pain from that too as we happily reached our car again.

Sawtooth Ridge Traverse Grade V+-5.7 R (old school;)
August 7-9, 2004 Wayne Wallace (40), David Parker (44) .Both from Bainbridge Island.

Peaks include:
Alpha 1
Alpha Beta
Mt Cruiser
The Blob (Ok some of these we took the liberty to give our own names)
The Needle
Castle Peak 1
2
3
The Fin
The Horn
Tin Can 1
2
The Cleaver
Slab Tower
The Rectagon
Picture Pinnacle
Trylon
North Lincoln
Lincoln Peak

Gear : 2 ropes , med rack to 3”, several small pins, tat cord.

Another bout of Labor Pains

Ah early season. Stoke runs high, conditions are weird, and people forget to bring things. Plan “D”is often in play. Due to unfamiliarity and spectacular snow cover, it can be such  an amazing experience though, just good luck figuring what to do. Limited possibilities can crowd routes, but this Memorial Day, the weather kept many parties away. Monday was the only day it wasn’t snowing, so we made for the shorter West facing lines that got sun once it warmed up in the afternoon. We had picked Free Mojo, but the sun wouldn’t hit it before 1 pm. Labor Pains it was, even though Lane and I just had done the route last September. Would it be as fun as I remember?

I was rusty and the rock was damp, so I was not as relaxed as last time. The gear felt worse too in the damp cracks. I combined the last 2 crux pitches this time, and had the worst rope drag possible. Barely able to pull the crux and exhausted with drag of the 2 ropes, I still say that it is a great climb with a chip on its shoulder. I wish the pins could be replaced with bolts, and a good belay could be added to the last 2 pitches. It is dangerous to move off that belay there now with the way the bolts are. Don’t let my whining take it off your list though. Just bring long slings, Revolver carabiners, and some nerves.

click images to enlarge.

 

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“The Circumvention”, aka Fan-Wallace new mixed route

P1170105There we were in thick fog, trying to find a thin, mixed route that had not been climbed before. We were lucky to find the start after wandering back and forth in the deep, and steep snow. I figured it would be a 2 pitch affair, so I asked Laurel to lead the first. (p1)She had a real treat going up the thin mixed corner on cams, pitons, and a screw. After 20 meters she stopped at an offwidth crack. I would recommend to future parties to finish the 1st pitch with the wide crack, so as not to (possibly lead fall, and) land on your belayer. There is a fixed pin there now just above where she belayed from and no wide gear is needed with the gear found in the chockstones deep in this classic section. (p2)After grunting up the short wide crack, I pushed the belay up to a place where one could watch the leader for the last pitch. Once again Laurel was game to swap leads, and get after the steep finish! (p3)Thin, rotten ice led around the detached ice candle. She opted to do an exciting mixed finish to the right rather than try to campus up the rotten candle. What an effort she paid, right up to the finish, where she came off before she could grab the M5+ tree limb at the very top! After regaining the overhanging block, she then pulled to the top of her first, first ascent.  Nice work, Laurel! The Alpine Mentors are proud of you.

   I had been eyeing this line during many prior visits to the Alpental Valley. We in Seattle are lucky to have fairly reliable ice venues so close to town. Its nice to be one hour away from such fun.

Specifics: “The Circumvention”, aka. Fan-Wallace is located above Source Lake area, on Bryant Buttress. To the right of Flow Reversal, and Resistance Is Futile, yet left of where people skin up to Chair Peak. Best approached from the Flow Reversal area, up and right, reaching a sweet thin gully with turf hooks and thin ice. When it gets steep, there could be an exciting direct finish to the pitch, or the obvious off-width crack to the left. We did it in 3 short pitches, but best to do it in 2. Move the belay high enough to see the leader either finish on the ice daggers, or the exciting “Fan” finish to the steep ramp up and  right. 2-60m ropes just reach the bottom in 1 rap.  Pins, stoppers,cams, screws and specters are all handy.

Other Snoqualmie Fun:

Snoqualmie mt. N. face part 1

Snoqualmie Ice part 2

Kurt Hicks Topo

Mt proj

Gallery, click to enlarge, some photos by Laurel.

 

P1170018

Squamish 15.3

I am very excited to have gone to Squamish 3 different times this year!! What a great venue for long routes with low commitment. I can see why so many people are flocking there to climb and live. I hope the town and area handle the growing pains ahead.

I just finished 3 weeks off from work and was frustrated by the weather and lack of partners. I was able to get a great trip to Leavenworth, and finally a great trip with Lane to Squamish right at the end of it.

At the top of the list was Life on Earth on the SW Face of Mt Habrich. We took the Sea-to-Sky Tram which takes you just over half way up the mountain. A few easy miles, then long steep up-hill trail, leads to the split heading to the right in the trail, then the base of the route. Look for a red rope heading up to the base of the climb. The first pitch is very fun with cracks and face moves. The rest of the route has an occasional hard face moves with decent rock the whole way. We were surprised to see many parties up there even on a Friday, but we never were slowed down. We teamed up with the party behind us to double up our collective ropes and rappel the route. Much better option than going down the other way in rock shoes. Thanks to Gary and Elise for the option. Great day in the mountains.

Next up on Saturday was the big prize: Milk Road and its legendary 4th pitch endurance corner. It was wet at the start of the route, but still fun going up the 2nd pitch with its arch and face moves.. but before we knew it, I was headed up one of the best pitches in Squamish determined to on-site it. It got to where it seemed silly to do it in the best style because I got very tired, and the lead took a long time. I should have just hung on a piece of gear, but I was not giving in, and got to the top under what was left of my own power.. The rest of the route was pretty forgettable except for the super crazy 8th pitch. What a wild ride it is, with delicate foot mantles and insane exposure. Once again I was determined to get it clean, and thanks to a great climbing season, I did!!

We topped the long weekend off with Bulletheads East, a 4 pitch romp that has great fingers and hands the whole way up on good rock. I am very grateful to have had such good weather and climb 3 long routes as I am headed back to a work project that will last 12 months with no more breaks. (regular) Life goes on.

Habrich Beta Mt. Project.  cc.com report

Milk Road beta

Bulletheads East mt proj

click images to enlarge…

 

Der Sportsman, Prussik Peak

In the last few years I have done climbs in the NW that make me wonder why I travel far to find quality rock climbs. Yes it is fun to travel and visit these great places, but why go hundreds/thousands of mile when we have some of the best routes in the world right here?

Der Sportsman is one of those routes that I would put up against any other in terms of quality, setting, and pure excitement. Be drawn up this amazing route, and puzzled by the difficult sequences it requires. It is, for sure, one of the top 10 climbs in the Northwest. Sustained, strenuous, and tricky, it remains wonderful the whole way once you get 40 feet off the ground. Enjoy amazing Washington State.

Labor Day ’15 had all the trappings of an anguishing weekend. Bailing partners, and worsening weather forecasts sent me in a tizzy to find a new plan. The internet helped me to find a couple of good people and new plans were made last minute. A bright young man named Matt,  from Marysville/Dartmouth, met up with me to crag at the very fun Ozone Crag in Leavenworth on Thursday, and we did Orbit on Friday. I had wanted to repeat this classic climb for some time, and it was a nice conditioner for what was to come…

I had a back up plan of climbing with friends at Tieton, but as I complained to the internet:” I want to climb bigger routes”, Laurel( my Alpine Mentors compatriot) asked me if I thought Der Sportsman was big enough? I was hooked immediately to the idea, but concerns about the weather and pushing the route in a day seemed like a lot to ask of my knee.

It was. We had to though because the weather hit hard on Sunday and pushed our schedule to do it all on Monday. 6 new inches of snow was still there in the high country when we came over Aasgard Pass on our way to Prussik Peak. The South face was just getting into the sun when we arrived, but it was seriously cold. With numb fingers. We did the first of many amazing sections. Laurel and I felt lucky to have Zac along. He just destroyed the first 2 pitches in freezing wind-chills, while we belayed in partial sun. Clouds sent us into our puffies at every belay too. Laurel did the middle 2 money pitches, and then I was the finisher, getting the very strenuous 5.11 flared hand crack. The glow from this route will not wear off any time soon. Neither will the pain from the long loop we finished going down the trail to Snow Creek parking, 21 hours, and 80,000 steps later.

Beta and Pictures follow:

Sols amazing 2nd ascent report

Mt Project page

Jens’ early trips

Ultimate link-up Alpinist

Audrey Sniezek 

click to enlarge images..

Labor Pains, NEWSpire

So lets just say that your to-do list at Washington Pass is getting low. (It could happen!) I have a great, unheralded climb for you! The Labor Pains route on NEWS is an engaging, fun, and spicy outing for sure. I just kept imagining the FA party squeaking their way up this discontinuous line. Not quite the spook-fest that the guide book suggests, it does take tiny cams and stoppers quite well. It doesn’t have an “enduro” section, or big run-outs either. It does have tricky moves that require a bit of “go-for-it”. I absolutely loved the quality of climbing, position, and atmosphere of the 3 tough pitches of the route. Adventure calls! Add it to your dwindling list of outstanding climbs there.

 

I started a Mt. Proj Page 

We enjoyed the new Matrix Crag in Mazama too. Beta at http://www.goatsbeardmountainsupplies.com/ or at their gear shop in Mazama.

Southern Man, SEWS

I find that if I spend ALL day Saturday in bed, resting, I can do something amazing on Sunday. I know everybody thinks their respective job is tough. As a Union Carpenter- Local #30, I am no exception. We are hustling through a mega- project in Bellevue. $1.5 billion will buy you 2 million square feet, and with today’s engineering, it will not come easy.

Not having to work last Saturday, I rested, then headed up to Washington Pass once again for its amazing, and long climbs. Having checked off Supercave, the next on the list was an obscure yet very wild route up the sunny side of South Early Winter Spire with Steph. Named Southern Man in by 2 acquaintance’s of mine on their ’08 FA of the climb, It was later cleaned, and freed by a later party. I was amped to try to free the 5. 11d/12a route, but my physical-state demanded that I take an etrier, and a fifi hook or “old man gear” as I call it. To my utter satisfaction, I freed all but 10 feet of the route, and what a great route it is. It is steep, and exposed for several hundred feet with jagged, sharp thin crack climbing the whole way. Whoever thinks the feet are bad needs to climb at Index more. The feet and locks are good, just a few are reachy. We did combine a couple of pitches, since the belays are not fixed yet and all. The guide book raves about the quality of it, but really it is a knotch below a Passenger or Supercave type outing. It is still a very rewarding and exiting climb.

Steph’s amazing report

Supertopo

Original TR

Blake

Ian

 

Click images to enlarge.

 

Supercave! Ellen Pea Route, M+M Wall

In my typical bungling-along style, Jon and I eventually succeeded in climbing most(6p) of the amazing Supercave/ Ellen Pea route, Located on an obscure 1000 ft. wall near Washington Pass, there is a growing chorus of climbers that say it is the finest climb in the state. Yes, the whole climbing package is astounding, but how often do we get to try a tough climb that has an enormous cave in the middle of it?

Beta page, squamish climbs

Beta page, Blake

Ellen Pea, and Tiger route, Blake

Mt Project 

sc9

1st  attempt was last year with Paul. after mistakenly going way past the start of the route up the approach gully, we bailed disgusted with how involved and somewhat dangerous the approach appeared. 2nd attempt was done early in the snow year to try to avoid the bad slabs by walking atop the snowpack instead. The only problem with that notion was that Jon and I found the upper part of the route to be very wet- april 19th , lesson learned.

Attempt# 3 just happened June 7 of 2015, and it was just dry enough to climb it. We knew heat was going to be an issue on the South-facing wall so we left the car at 4am! We swapped the lead order and that left me leading the money pitch (p2) which is quite a pitch.   The pitches(2-5) are strenuous and make tough onsights.  Pitch 3: The Arch is amazing, P4 the crux was 1 of 2 pitches that we couldn’t get clean. The cave of course is just crazy, as is the pitch to get out of it! I’m pretty sure a pterodactyl used to live in that cave.  Bring long runners, patience, and fitness, Know that there are stances between tough moves and fair grades. Have a blast on Supercave, it lives up to the hype!

click image to enlarge.

 

 

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

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)