Archive for: July, 2016

Prusik Peak, West Ridge

Prusik Peak, West Ridge

Wednesday, July 13th, 2016

The great debate, skiing vs snowboarding, Hillary vs. Trump, is OJ Simpson innocent? And then the big one; to approach Prusik Peak from Snow Lake or from Colchuck Lake. Certainly there are merits to both but in this increasingly partisan world, people have picked their approach and climbing teams all over the Northwest and beyond have been ripped apart by their inability to see the other side.

On one hand you have Colchuck Lake; less mileage and slightly less elevation but a grueling climb up Asgard Pass gaining 2200ft in less than a mile. On the other hand Snow Lake; nearly 6 miles longer but a much more gradual elevation gain, a well marked trail and significantly less snow and ice this time of year.

Fortunately Whitney and I are rarely consumed by such mindless bickering so after weighing our options carefully, I won and we went from Snow Lake.

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Personally, I wasn’t keen on trying to tick this one off in a day, but we didn’t like our chances for getting a permit in the Core Zone so Whitney suggested we just go for it. So we did, starting out from the trailhead at 5:15am. The spillway at Snow Lake was running about ankle high when we crossed at 8am, stopped at Lake Viviane for an early lunch and made the turn off to Prusik Pass at 11. From here the trip gets better.

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The snow is patchy beginning in the upper lakes becoming fairly consistant by the time you hit Perfection Lake. Trying to find the high point on Prusik Pass we lost the climbers trail in the snow and started on the route a little early. In this way we got an extra pitch in on some mossy rock that wanted climbing. No doubt we are not the first climbers to climb this desperate crack. From there the climb was as follows.

Pitch 1

The longest pitch, it ran through just about all 70 meters of the rope but its fairly soft climbing trending left until you hit the ledge.

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Pitch 2

This one was a quicky. You jump over to the north side and up a short slab until you hit the piton and slingable block right before the crux.

Pitch 3

The crux is really only 3 frictiony moves that feel exposed because theres nowhere to protect. Whitney clipped the piton and pulled the crux like a pull tab. From there, climb high and right traversing the south side with excellent exposure, until you hit the notch and then back over to the north side. Communication was a little tough here and rope drag was bringing us down so we stopped to belay.

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Pitch 4/5

From here you scoot out onto a series of wide ledges back on the north side. They can really just be done as a casual scramble to set you up at the bottom of the final pitch. This is where the climbing gets really jazzy. Climb up a dihedral on the left then move right to a big lay back flake. We skipped the obvious wide crack directly above and instead climbed right around the corner to two smaller chimneys to make the summit at 4pm.

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From the top it is 5 raps down the north side to the base. We traversed back around to where we stashed our gear at the start and were on our way out by 530pm.

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We hit Snow Lake at 8pm. Nada Lake at 830pm. Car at 1050pm. The last couple miles were dark and pretty slow. A brutally long day but an absolutely classic climb, for hotdog and hamburger lovers alike. Next time we’ll try it from Colchuck.

Cutthroat Wall, Easy Getaway: No Surrender

Cutthroat Wall, Easy Getaway: No Surrender

Friday, July 8th, 2016

20 years from now, Sam and I will say we were there, there at the birth of a classic… I’d be lying if I claimed that thought was going through my head as I down-climbed towards the middle of pitch two after an ill conceived foray and subsequent fall in lichen laden territory on the Cutthroat Wall. As Sam belayed from above, and I placed gear on our retreat, the team next door was rapping after two pitches on Perfect Crime (5.9). Was Easy Getaway (5.9) an instant classic?

To answer this question, I must draw upon my extensive knowledge of Washington multi-pitch alpine routes of the grade. To be frank, I’ve climbed one other, Outer Space, which is an indisputable classic of West Coast rock. After the classic, I know what it takes. Sustained, steep, splitter. I’ve been on it. Case closed, right?

Easy Getaway is none of these things, not to be confused with nothing at all. It is dirty and wild and broken in a way that engenders intimacy. You can see the line up Outer Space from a mile away. On Easy Getaway, you can’t see the line for the lichen, ahem trees, when it’s six inches from your face. Crystals stud the rock in the afternoon sun while water rushes over a granite bench in the distance. Go for the rock quality, the setting and the adventure, but don’t expect a straight shot to the top.

Approach

Park at the Cutthroat Lake Trailhead a few miles east of Washington Pass. There are free campsites on the creek side, if you need a place to crash. Follow an overgrown road bed climbers left of the main trail. Cruise this for longer than you think but no further than the creek. Bushwhack up left along the path of least resistance. Trend right. The base of the wall is level with a set of broad waterfalls. The base is characterized by a large granite bench.

Disclaimer: Sam and I were off route for portions of this climb. Some of our pitches were shorter, some of them were longer than described elsewhere. Let it be a warning and an example of the merits of the route.

P1

Head up and left from the granite patio to a corner that takes pro. Cruise this towards the small roof, which is easy to send in a move over to the right. Climb up slab/crack. We belayed from a horizontal crack at the base of block. Probably could have ended earlier.

P2

Lead up and right from the belay into a clean orange corner. Beware, the corner continues with nice, albeit filled in, cracks to the base of a block above. Don’t go that way. Head right out of the corner shortly after you enter it.

We overshot the corner and had to down climb back to the top of P2.

P3

Really nice layback crack on this one.

P4

Up and right to the small overhang (1 or 2 moves). Ride the corner all the way to where it dead ends in the overhang. Undercling and step out along horizontal cracks that lead out of the corner. We belayed at a small tree right at the exit.

Sam climbs towards the first root, headed into the Zebra Corner.

P5

Sam took a burly lead through dirty slab up and right from the belay. I’m pretty sure we were off route here, but he did a great job. Great hand cracks up to a tree belay.

P6

More fun and engaging climbing up through a deep blocky crack. I managed to squirm my way up the left crack. Sam found face features just left of the block system that got him through. Easy climbing as high as rope length/drag will allow.

Descent

Scramble up and to the right from the top of your last pitch if it’s not too hairy. Contour around until the head of a gully with a rap station. Rap. Sam found an old rope jammed in the chockstone at the end of the first bench. Our 60m rope didn’t get us all the way. We rapped again from cordellette and an old biner at the second bench.

The scramble down from here is steep and loose. It funnels into a bedrock gully where it’s quite easy to release rocks. I wouldn’t want to do this with people above or below. Pinball alley.