|ld Desolate, South Face
“Hang Dog Ally”
On July 24, 2004, I climbed a new route on the South Face of Old Desolate (Grade II, low fifth class, no protection). I haven’t heard or seen any other reports of this huge slab ever being climbed. Anyway you cut it, it is a fun route that allowed me to find deep mental focus. It has no cracks, so it must be free-soloed. I found that rock shoes didn’t work due to grit on the slabs.
The approach is via either Ipsut Creek or Sunrise to Mystic Lake (eight miles), above which the South Face rises 1,300 feet. The route offers bountiful views of the nearby Willis Wall and Liberty Ridge. A more sustained and probably more technical line can be seen left (west) that I assume hasn’t been done.
Amphitheatre Mountain, Ka’aba Buttress, “Pilgrimage to Mecca,” New Route
While the southeast buttress of Cathedral Peak may get all the attention, the north side of Amphitheatre Mountain has rock climbing every bit its equal. On July 27, 2004, after a leisurely afternoon swim in Upper Cathedral Lake, Owen Lunz and I made the five-minute approach to a tempting series of cracks and dihedrals on the left side of Ka’aba Buttress.
Our climb started from the top of a large and obvious block. A long hand and fist crack led to a hanging belay on a low-angle slab. The second pitch followed an undercling left into a left-facing corner and a short, steep 5.9 crux. The third pitch took a long, solid 5.7 finger crack corner to beautiful and steep double hand cracks. The final pitch avoided an obvious and intimidating off-width in favor of thin cracks just to its left. A short scramble led to the meadows atop Amphitheatre Mountain and a twenty-minute descent back to camp.
This climb did not match the description of the Doorish route in Cascade Alpine Guide, Vol. 3. While we saw no signs of prior passage, it’s hard to believe this route had not been climbed before. Regardless, it has some of the finest climbing at its grade in the Cascades.
On August 7-9, 2004, David Parker and I made the first documented complete traverse of the Sawtooth Ridge in Olympic National Park. With all the peaks we went over, David would later say that the whole trip was a blur. Climbing Alpha was like that for me, an experience all but forgotten once we saw Mt Cruiser. Its Northeast Face was a great introduction to the fun that lay ahead: steep and exposed climbing with sporty pro. For the first time, we saw the long road ahead that leads to Mt Lincoln.
After crossing a satellite peak, David was ready to get after The Needle. He thought it would be good to leave our packs at the base and scoot back around to them after we came down, but I had the feeling we‘d contend with a nasty chimney on the other side. Sure enough, we couldn’t even see down the crack, it was so steep. Above the notch on the other side stood one of the greatest leads on the trip, up a vertical face to an almost-overhung arête and the first of three summits on Castle Spires. The other two summits are a hazy memory, but The Fin remains vivid in my mind: a crazy angled face problem leading to a monster chimney. Now running out of time and water, we saw The Horn was not going to let us up the straight line along the ridge, so we compromised our pure traverse and went around to the standard route on the East Face. Our thirst drove us down to a pond at the base of the peaks, where we bivied under bright stars.
Monday we went right back up and followed the sharp ridgeline over two minor peaks with tin cans at their tops. After much tough travel, we climbed the Cleaver in another fun lead and rappelled to reach Slab Tower. Here was an obvious slabby arête that I begged to try, which may have been one of several first ascents we did on these many pinnacles. Our routes on the northeast sides of Rectagon and Picture Pinnacle also left us wondering if any had tried them before. The ridge was surprisingly accommodating to our effort to stay on its crest, except for on The Horn and now The Trylon, which would need extensive rappel-bolting to allow climbing on the ridge crest.
The North Peak of Mt Lincoln was a non-issue, except for the long, intense descent. After finding the base, we ditched our packs and ran for the summit of our final peak, Mt Lincoln. We enjoyed the view this time, looking back to the distant Mt Cruiser. Now we had to race back before my girlfriend called in a rescue.
We rate the complete traverse V+ 5.7 R (old-school). Gear: two ropes, medium rack to three inches, several small pins, rappel cord. The peaks we traversed are listed in the side bar.
Katsuk Peak, North Rib, New Route
A new route, the first on the north face proper, was completed by Jens Klubberud and Brett Bergeron on August 21, 2004. The route begins from the lowest point of the face, and initially climbs up the right side of the prominent rib for two pitches before gaining the crest. The rib is then followed to it’s top just west of the summit. Climbing consisted mainly of 4th and low 5th-class rock, with occasional moves to 5.7. Rock quality was best on the harder pitches (the first being the most solid, on beautiful white rock more akin to granite, and the last several pitches) but somewhat loose in the middle, easier section. The approach was made by a long traverse west from Easy Pass to the Katsuk-Kimtah col and a short scramble down to the glacier. Crevasses were minimal on the glacier, and no problems were encountered gaining the rib. Descent was down the standard south side route. Overall, the route is a fairly aesthetic line to the summit of a high peak, but the middle section suffers from the same rock quality issues plaguing other nearby peaks in the region.
“Tang Tower,” Sultan River area, New Routes
The 4800+ ft. peak a half-mile south of the outlet of Boulder Lake (Sultan River area) has been known to rock climbers as “Boulder Crags” and more recently dubbed “Fallacy Peak.” On the southeast ridge of this peak is a sub-summit that Gene Pires and I called “Tang Tower” on two recent trips to this area.
On October 3, 2004, we drove the Sultan Basin Road and hiked to Boulder Lake. From the lake, we thrashed through thick brush and up slippery talus fields to reach a high col above the North Fork of the Sultan River. We made two rappels to the south and then traversed westward around a corner to find a complex granite architecture of smooth buttresses, a clean tower, slabby basins and exfoliated corners. On this trip we climbed long low-angle slabs to reach the west arete of the tower. The final arete is split by thin cracks that lead directly to the tiny summit, where we found an old cairn. Our climb involved six pitches, with some simul-climbing, on clean solid granite. We descended by down-climbing the east ridge. “Sine your Pitty,” III 5.8+
On October 14, 2004, we returned to climb the large south-facing buttress just southeast of the same tower. The climbing involved hollow flakes, licheny slabs, and an occasional rock scar to carefully negotiate. After five long pitches we reached a deep gap and a mandatory rappel. Here we found an ancient, sun-bleached sling. After the rappel we traversed a krumoltz-covered ridgeline to the base of a final blocky and brushy buttress. Short on time, we escaped to the east to return to Boulder Lake. Unnamed Buttress, III 5.10
Mount Maude, West Couloir, Winter Ascent
On December 23rd, 2004, Dave Burdick and I climbed Mount Maude (9082 feet) via the slanting couloir on the west face, making the first recorded winter ascent of the peak. We snowmobiled up the Chiwawa River 23 miles to the summer trailhead, on a road groomed to perfection. We used skis on the Phelps Creek valley bottom, and then switched to snowshoes for the climb to Leroy Basin, where the snow was deep and powdery. Luckily, the couloir was swept clean, and offered straightforward climbing on icy 40-45 degree snow. Closer to the summit, the snow changed to breakable crust on sugar.
We reached the summit at around 12:30 p.m in peaceful weather with beautiful views of the snow-clad peaks. We descended the standard route down the south ridge (which had animal tracks everywhere) and then back west into Leroy Basin. We reached Phelps Creek near dark and skied the remaining three and a half miles to the trailhead, arriving at 5:30 p.m. (12 hours snowmobile to snowmobile). The ride back to Fish Lake in our exhausted and sleepy state, was very long, slow and cold in the frigid nighttime temperatures.
Mt Blum, NW shoulder, Ski Descent
On the morning of January 30, 2005, Jason and Josh Hummel met me for a day-trip to Mount Blum. I knew the approach was strenuous but I wasn’t sure what route I wanted to ski. The glacier to the east of the North Ridge seemed like a good candidate. We drove to the end of Baker Lake and began our hike in the predawn mist. We skinned a ridge above Blum Lakes through the fog. The map made it look like following the Northwest Rib to the summit would not be too difficult, so we decided to try that given its proximity, the late hour of the day, and poor visibility. We crossed to the rib to its north side and made an ascending eastward traverse. We climbed an icy 60 or 70-degree gully to regain the rib from the head of the glacier. Steep slopes above the gully lead to a permanent snowfield and a steep chute. The chute ended where the Northwest Rib and North Ridge meet a couple of hundred feet below the summit. We were out of time and nothing was skiable above us, so we made our descent from that point in a whiteout.
Considering the depth and diversity of the Cascades some great peaks tend to get ignored. White Chuck Mountain is one of them. On February 2, 2005, Dave Brannon and I climbed the Northeast Ridge Route. In poor visibility we reached the “down-sloping gully” described in Beckey’s Cascade Alpine Guide. It is better described as a steep bowl. We followed a thin band of firm néve along it’s right-hand side. A step of water-ice then more snow led to the ridge crest. The crux, a smooth downsloping slab of greenschist, was rated 5.2. Covered in more verglas and snow, and with massive exposure down the east face, it was one heck of a pitch of 5.2! Above the crux more steep snow led to the Northwest Ridge crest 300 feet from the summit. We descended the standard Northwest Ridge Route. While not technically difficult, when covered in snow this is genuine “don’t screw up” territory. As Dave summed it up: “That route had everything but a bivouac…thank god!”
On February 9, 2005, Roger Strong and I climbed a new route up the longest portion of the Northwest Face of Mount Snoqualmie. We approached from the Alpental parking lot, ascended the Phantom Slide to the northwestern shoulder of Snoqualmie, dropped into the Thunder Creek drainage, and then traversed beneath the New York Gully area to the lowest toe of the rock buttress. The first pitch started just left of the lowest point of rock and climbed a thin slab of ice hidden in a long right-facing corner (WI3+ R). After this pitch we trended up and left, pulling steep heather into a mixed gully leading to a tree belay beneath a rock headwall. The superb third pitch climbed the steep right-facing corner to a tree belay (M6 with good gear). Pitch 4 led up and right into snow and trees. The next pitch squeezed through the trees and traversed right to a 5.8 rock step that led up to a tree belay. We then continued up easy mixed ground to a flat ledge beneath the huge headwall that guards the top to the Northwest Face. We then traversed easily along a spectacular ledge system rightward to join the last two pitches of New York Gully. In total, we did nine long 60-meter pitches. For gear, include a couple of thin pitons along with cams to 3” and many slings in the rack. IV M6 5.8 WI3+.
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