Category Archives: Climbing

Mt Moran, CMC Route

Mt Moran, CMC Route

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2020

There’s a good chance that any climb requiring a canoe approach is going to be a good one, however, first we had to get the boat in the water. On a busy Saturday morning in July this proved to be the crux of the trip. After circling the String Lake parking lot for 20 minutes we ultimately found a spot to park the cars where we could gear up and get in.

So we finally set out on String Lake around 11am, paddling most of its length until we got out at the north end and portaged to Leigh Lake. From here we paddled past Boulder island arcing around the peninsula and straight toward the major gully in the middle of Mt Moran that terminates as an apron on the lake.

The canoe took about an hour total and it was a warm day in the end of July so after we pulled the boat out of the water we took our time to jump in and swim out to a small island of rocks just out past the shore. Finally, we geared up and began hiking the rough trail as it climbed directly up the mountain.

Down low the trail that was primarily a rock hop turned into small stretches of gravely paths first on one side, then the other in order to skirt various obstacles. Eventually the trail cuts left on to a small slab to bypass a waterfall and then cut back right to continue the loose path.

Rock hop with the East and West Horns in the background

The trail was pretty unforgiving and after jumping back and forth a few more times it finally cut hard left near 8800ft. We passed a “closed for restoration” sign below a high meadow and followed it as it wound up the cliff bands to our left. We arrived at camp at 3pm exactly 2 hour after leaving the lake.

CMC camp is at 9600ft and made up of no more than 8 “sites” for a tent. There is a spring nearby and the trees that enclose camp make for a nice wind break. Above the camp proper there are 3-4 more sites the highest being just above 9800ft and directly below were the scramble begins for the approach, however these camps do not have the same access to water as the lower sites do.

Multiple trip reports advise scouting the next days approach prior to attempting it in the dark hours of the morning, so we spent the afternoon scrambling the rock ledges directly above camp looking for the path of least resistance. In the light the route finding wasn’t too difficult. There are sufficient cairns to guide the way and the climbing is never more difficult than 3rd class. As a general rule of thumb we found that when the trail seemed to disappear while moving left it usually meant a hard cut back to the right often moving up onto a rock shelf.

We followed our way up until the trail broke left through some small trees and brush and onto a talus field and decided we were satisfied with our ability to retrace our steps the following morning.

We beat the other teams out of camp the next day leaving at 4:45am scrambling the approach through the dark. Sunrise was at 6am and we were treated a nice one as it broke on a clear day over Jackson Lake. Reaching the top of Drizzlepuss in 2 hours we dropped our extra gear and found the rappel anchors to the right and around the side of a horn at the top.

Double ropes will put you at the base of the climb in a single rappel. There is also an intermediate rappel station climbers to the right, a third of the way down that allows for descent with a single rope. For some reason we thought we would need two ropes, it wasn’t critical however and the second rope just became extra weight.

The climb itself starts immediately at the base of the rappels. We simul-climbed the route in 3.5 blocks starting by moving right traversing slightly away from Unsoeld’s Needle and then moving straight up though a weakness in the rock. The face can be climbed virtually any way you choose staying left of the Black Dike, we found our way up closer to the dike itself. We never found the climbing to be more difficult than 5.2-5.3 with plenty of 4th class.

Just before 10am we dropped our climbing gear on a small ledge and made the final scramble around a cornice that had formed on the top of the mountain. Mt Moran has a broad flat top with several windbreaks set up as bivies. We crossed the top to a small rise that is the true summit.

The Grand from the summit of Mt Moran

The descent path is a little unclear. Descriptions suggest both a rappel route and down-climb route. We didn’t see any anchors so we started the down-climb.

Our descent route went far skiers right on the face and as we got lower stayed on or as close to the ridge on the right side as possible. The down climbing never exceeded 4th class. We used Unsoeld’s Needle as a landmark to aim at.

3rd and 4th class down-climbing

Once we got to the needle we climbed over a small saddle from the south between it and the ridge. Here, looking back up and to the right we found anchor for a rappel down the north side so we strung up the rope and made a double rope rappel down a corner to a ledge. This is likely down climbed at 4th class but since we had brought the ropes all this way we figured we would use them. We made and exposed but easy traverse along the east side below the needle to an anchor that set us down at the base of the climb back up Drizzlepuss. This last rappel was short but steep. There is likely a way to bypass it down-climbing but we didn’t look around long enough to find it.

The climb back up Drizzlepuss is the most technical of the climb, at 5.5 it is made up of fun easy jugs back to the top. Looking at Drizzlepuss from the saddle the climb starts to the right on the west side.

I lost my water bottle when it ripped off my harness about half way up the climb so I was happy to get back to our bags and finally have a drink. After this it was reverse our path back to camp, pack up and descend back to the lake. About 4500ft on the knees. We were back to the cars by 7:30pm.

Mt Goode, Northeast Buttress

Mt Goode, Northeast Buttress

Wednesday, August 26th, 2020

Peak of the Week is back! And after a considerable hiatus. The adventures never actually stopped, the motivation to write about them stalled out for a bit. It was temporarily.

This year we wanted to utilize a long holiday weekend on the 4th of July for a long holiday climb. Our plan was to try the Northeast Buttress on Mt Goode in the North Cascades. We would go in via Bridge Creek at Rainey Pass, carryover on the climb and exit through Stehekin taking three days for the trip.

Mt Goode is characterized by its remoteness within North Cascades national Park with it’s NE buttress being one of the longer technical ridge climbs in the state.

Campers were lining up at the Marblemount Ranger Station for overnight permits when I pulled into the parking lot at 6:50am on Friday morning. Covid restrictions had the park operating with just one permitting station at a time causing a decent amount of irritation. Despite all of this, 3 hours later when they finally called my ticket number still no one had requested a permit within the Goode back country zone. Although we anticipated something close to that, it was also telling.

From there we drove the the Bridge Creek trail head just over Rainey Pass, and finally started our hike at 11:30am. Tim’s folks, Clay and Chris saw us off for the first 6 miles of the trip until they turned off at the the South Fork and we continued on our way. Crossing a suspension bridge at Maple Creek, turning north up the north fork toward Grizzly Creek Camp.

Andrew crossing Grizzly Creek

Here the brush got a lot thicker as this trail does not see as much use. We spent a few minutes searching for a suitable creek crossing over Grizzly Creek and finally cut off the trail after a few more miles to cross the North Fork to start up the south side of the valley.

It was about 6:00pm at this point an we had been setting a fairly speedy pace covering about 16 miles in 6.5 hours but now we had 2000 feet of elevation to climb and not even a hint of a trail to do it on. The climb up to camp is a bit of a dealers choice with a little bit of everything and a lot of tearing through various stands of slide alder. A snow apron down low helped to mitigate some of the hard travel early on but once we cut right to navigate up, through and above the slabs the brush closed in on us delivering a classic North Cascades experience for the next 1200 vertical feet.

The terrain is steep below the glacier and once you leave the creek down low you can count the number of level spots suitable for even a small tent on a couple fingers. We found one at 5200ft and squeezed two tents on to it comfortably, finally dropping our bags for the day at 7:45pm.

The next morning we were up by 5:30am, packed up and moving by 7am. The slabs below the glacier made for some enjoyable 3rd and 4th class scrambling until we ultimately roped up for the glacier crossing.

The glacier itself was in good shape with minimal hazards. Even moving from the glacier across the moat and onto the ridge at 6800ft was a straightforward experience. Now it was time for the main event. Stow the ice axe and crampons and pull out the climbing gear.

We had expected sunny weather for our climb day, however when we woke up in the morning the top of the mountain was obscured by clouds. As we climbed the clouds did as well, all the while offering a cooler day.

The first bit of climbing offers some reasonably steep moves before turning the corner and moving up onto a slab. From here we stayed more or less true to the ridge for the next 1500 ft moving through a variety of gniess ranging from 3rd to low 5th class in its grade, ultimately touching 5.5 for the last few hundred feet directly below the big ledge at 8600ft. This is where we decided to settle for the night.

I find these long ridge routes often feel deceiving because it can be so hard to judge your progress against the ridge itself. You spend hours climbing with seemingly little to no progress made toward your objective. After climbing for 8 hours that day we were ready to give it a rest as soon as we found a suitable bivy and the ledge proved to be that. Room for a couple tents, plenty of snow to melt for water, a perch that offered views in three different directions and for the first time on our trip the clouds had finally burnt off giving us a spectacular sunset. At 6:00pm we had the rest of the evening to enjoy it.

The next morning the clouds were gone the sun was out and it was time to finish the thing off. We anticipated about 3 more hours to the top at 9,199, so we packed up and hit the gas. Were we had spent most of the previous day simul-climbing it seemed easier to pitch out the remainder of the ridge. The climbing and steepened up a bit and was pretty steady mid 5th to the summit.

We topped out at 10:30am on a gorgeous sunny Sunday, July 5th. From the summit you can see every major peak in the North Cascades and an overwhelming number of the minor peaks as well. Goode has a feeling of sitting directly in the heart of the region. We lingered just long enough to take a selfie before hurrying to start the process down. Our intent was to make it to Stehekin that night where we had booked a room at the landing and we had some serious ground to cover ahead of us.

Two rappels back down the way that we came puts you on a thin ledge that traverses around to the south side of the mountain to a notch at the top of the South East Couloir. This is the descent, more or less a straight shot of -5200 vertical ft to Park Creek.

Rappels turn into scrambling, turned into glissading, turned into down climbing and finally into a bushwhack through first burnout and then a sea of sword ferns until we finally a hit trail again at 6pm. It was the first trail we had seen in 2 days and now we had 12 miles to go on it before we had any hope of our day being over.

Goode from the south and our descent route

The pace into the Stehekin Valley was quick and we raced the sun as it set toward night time. The 12 miles we still had to cover was just to get to the upper valley where the road meets the trail at High Bridge. Past that is still another 12 miles to reach the landing at Lake Chelan where we had reserved a spot for the night. We reached High Bridge at 9pm, took inventory of our situation and decided the only option was to keep walking. (Often there is a shuttle that operates on this road but we were well past its sechduled hours) After about 5 miles on a dark empty road in the woods a car slowed as it passed and offered a ride for the remaining stretch. We enthusiastically accepted and thus finally ended our long trip.

This picture accurately captures the mood.

What a climb! It had all of the characteristics of a Cascade adventure. Soggy weather, remote setting, loose rock, route finding, glacier travel, engaging climbing, spectacular sunsets, berry pies at the bakery and a good group of climbing friends. I know it’s early but it may be time to start planning for next years trip.

Cochise Stronghold, Endgame

Cochise Stronghold, Endgame

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2019

Written by Timbo, copy/pasted by David

This was our first time climbing in Arizona. We had a couple areas to choose from but ended up selecting Cochise Stronghold for its unique climbing and adventurous reputation. 

Our first decision to make was where to stay. It is a 2 hour drive from Tucson making it a long day trip. There is camping on both the east and west side of the area which in fact is how the climbs are divided up. We stayed at the Shaw House, a historic stone cabin, managed by the Forest Service and 5 minutes from the trailhead; highly recommended for the convenience.

Since the cabin is located on the east side of the mountains, we focused our climbing on East Stronghold. An examination of the internet, Mountain Project and otherwise uncovered the highly-rated Endgame route on the End Pinnacle in the Rockfellow Group. This became our objective for the trip.

On the drive in you will pass the access points to several of the other major walls before the parking lot parking, most notably The Wasteland dome. You’ll know when you’ve reached the trailhead when you see the big boulder in the middle of the road. There’s about 10 parking spots, no fee required.

The approach to the Rockfellow Group is straight forward up the main drainage climbing a single track, past several big boulders, and a number of climbing walls. When given the option stay left and always above the creek until near the top where you travers out across a slab to gain the saddle. At the top of the drainage the trail flattens out and we began winding our way through the creek, around the north side of the group, to a major split in the trail that cuts left to End Pinnacle. The approach took us about an hour.

After racking up (about 18 quick draws, Camalots .5 to 1 and a set of nuts) I started up pitch one. This was a sustained and intimidating pitch. A mix of slab and face climbing. If you get through it you’re good, the rest of the climb will ease up. David took the lead on pitch two, big run outs at a moderate grade. Take note that the traverse after the first bolt stops at the arête. There is no bolt at the end of the traverse, instead just keep going up.

Tim leading pitch one.

Pitch three was the money, David and I both agreed this was one of the best pitches we have ever climbed. A long traverse underneath a roof with massive exposure and solid holds, well protected, with one spot to place the only cam we used that day.

David peaking around the corner from the belay at pitch 3.

David dispatched of pitch four quickly with a couple 5.9 slab moves and we both agreed pitch five felt a little harder than its 5.8 grade. 

Tim topping out on pitch 4

We finally topped out after five hours of climbing, walked down to the other end of the summit and found the large pine tree to rap off. You can do this with a single 70 in 5 raps. Just keep an eye out for bolts, working your way down through the large chimney. 

It was a 10 minute walk back to the backpacks, then we raced out to the car before nightfall. Our lovely partners Andrea and Maddie were waiting for us in the truck with a case (mostly) full of tecate’s. We are lucky guys. 

This climb and trip was a treat and already has us dreaming of our next Cochise adventure. Special thanks to David’s parents Julie and Rich for operating as our base camp/bacanora bar/Arizona family in the lovely town of Tubac.

Castleton Tower, North Chimney

Castleton Tower, North Chimney

Tuesday, October 16th, 2018

After driving half the day on Friday and most of the day on Saturday Ben and I got into Moab Saturday afternoon and went to climb Wall Street before it got dark. Climbing the sandstone of southern Utah is as similar to the granite of Washington as geography between the regions is. Crack climbing technique doesn’t change much, but unfortunately I have none of it. No matter though, we’re all warmed up now so we drove out to Castle Valley to camp at the trail head.

This was our big objective for the trip. Best to get it out of the way early so we can do other things. The third member of our team had a days head start on us but the Westfalia is actually a two day handicap so he rolled in to camp later that night. We all got up the next morning at 6am and beat the other potential climbers out of camp by 730am.

IMG_E3611

The trail heads straight up the wash from the parking lot following the cairns. Eventually it runs into a road and turns left to follow it before crossing and continuing on to the base of the tower. It took us a little over and hour from the car to gain the saddle just below the tower.

IMG_E3618

The base of the route was easy to identify because there was a team already there ahead of us. They would have served as a convenient point of reference except that they were tragically slow which meant that it was a little after 10 when we finally started climbing. The first pitch follows a great sustained hand crack up a corner. The crux of the route is a bulge at the top to pull through to reach the first belay. This was a little tight for three people.

The seconds pitch starts with a short off width section. A 5 or 6 camalot would be usefulhere  but we didn’t have one. “The bolt” seems decent enough to hang on but I wouldn’t feel great about falling on it. Climbing the chimney alternates between easy climbing and pulling several committing moves. The belay uses two large pitons fixed in the rock.

IMG_E3632

The last two pitches can be link together if you mind the rope drag. We did not. Climb up and left out of the chimney then step over and across it to the far side and climb up to the notch. Climb through it and meet up with the last pitch of Kor-Ingalls.

IMG_3640

The wind was ripping pretty hard when we topped out a little after 2pm. The other group was nowhere to be seen so we hung around on top for awhile enjoying ourselves and the wind. When we couldnt take it any more we started our way down. Rappel the North Face for the most direct way back. This takes 3 double rope rappels with a 6o meter rope. Then we were back on the ground.

IMG_E3648

 

April Fools Tower, Snow Creek Wall

April Fools Tower, Snow Creek Wall

Sunday, September 9th, 2018

Located on the north end of Snow Creek Wall, April Fools Tower is one of several towers in the immediate area and constitutes a long approach, a short climb and a spectacular rappel. If your goal is to climb everything in in the area it should definitely be on your list. If your goal is to climb the good climbs in the area you can probably wait on this one.

IMG_2958

Starting at the Snow Creek parking lot, cross the bridge and take a climbers trail to the right just after the aquaduct. Cross the river and continue up to the base of Pearly Gates. To the left of Pearly Gates wall a thin trail continues up through a loose gully to the top of the wall. From here gain the ridge in front of you by means of least resistance and continue up to ridge to a small grouping of trees where the tower will now come into view in front of you. Traverse the hillside up to the obvious notch between the tower and the hill. The climbing starts here.

IMG_2942

From the notch move left just below the ledge and traverse around the north side before climbing up to an obvious belay ledge. (P1)

From the belay a short chimney gives way to twin cracks. Climb up to the big flake slung with rap anchors. Continue right to the chains on top. (P2)

(5.8) Gear to 2″

Mt Hood, Cooper Spur

Mt Hood, Cooper Spur

Friday, May 25th, 2018

We’re standing on the top of Oregon’s tallest volcano which by itself isn’t that impressive considering over 10,000 people attempt the summit every year but our path was windy one and for awhile the whole thing seemed unlikley so for now we are just happy to be here.  The Cooper Spur route on Mt Hood doesn’t get traveled nearly as much as its cousin route to the south. The steepness of the route combined with its relative inaccessibility early in the season while Cloud Cap road is still closed, increase both the physical and technical factors.

If you’re coming from Hood River the route follows the skyline up the left side of the mountain in what is obviously a desirable ski. We drove down from Seattle on Friday afternoon, stopped for dinner and started hiking by 11:15pm that night. We we’re concerned about rock fall up through the chimney at the top so we wanted to summit early before things started heating up.

The road is currently closed at the Tilly Jane Sno Park so that added an extra 3.5 miles and 1500ft to the day. Climbed up to 8200ft by 230am and we encountered 40mph winds and low visibility so we bivied to wait for the sun to come up. It was very cold.

At 6am we moved camp up to the bottom of the “climb” at 9k despite continued poor viz. At 830am we decided to bail on the summit because we didn’t feel comfortable snowboarding a route that we couldn’t see.

We had dropped about 500ft when suddenly everything blew off and the weather cleared. At this point we decided to go for the summit after all so we turned back around and finished the climb.

The final 2200 is a fairly sustained 50 degree pitch that requires front pointing with two tools. I only had one, so things were slower for me. The objective hazard from rock fall was mitigated by the wind keeping things cool. We opted to not rope up as an unarrested fall would have been potentially fatal for the whole team due to the exposure below.

We summited around 130pm riding the line down that we climbed. It hadn’t really softened so the top 2000 ft was fairly icy. It made for a pretty gripping descent.

The corn skiing was decent between 9200 and 7500ft and mush after that. We got back to the car by 4pm.

It was a 17 hour day with about 11 hours actually moving. A very aesthetic natural line on the mountain with nice exposure and great climbing in that last 2k feet. It wasn’t the basic route to the summit and it wasn’t our typical climb but the results were great all the same.

Inspiration Peak, East Ridge

Inspiration Peak, East Ridge

Thursday, September 14th, 2017

This year Tim and I decided we wanted to learn the true meaning of Labor Day so while we could have spent our three day weekend climbing anywhere we chose the Pickets, a range in the North Cascades known by climbers for its remoteness and inaccessibility. In 1931 when all of the major peaks in the Tetons had established routes the Pickets saw their first recorded technical ascent. When people talk about the wild of the North Cascades they are talking about the Pickets.

So we decided on the east ridge of Inspiration Peak, a route first climbed by Becky and company in 1958. We started from Upper Goodell Creek Campground at 10am on Saturday morning. The first 4 miles follows an overgrown road bed along the east side of the creek until it abruptly ends, signaled by a cairn and turns uphill. From there it was an unrelenting 5000 ft charge uphill on what is generously called a climbers trail. But even that doesn’t tell the full story, in a place where an approach is better measured in time rather than distance. And 8 hours later we made camp following a well traveled trail into a gravel basin  at 6000 ft with a meadow at the bottom and plenty of water to make up for the lack of it on the approach. Big views of terror basin the  the southern Pickets took some of the hurt off from the approach and reset our motivation.

IMG_1284

The moon was so bright at night that I woke up and ask Tim to turn off his headlamp and I saw the big dipper sitting right on top of Inspiration Peak. That must have been around midnight. Four hours later I woke up to make breakfast and by 4:45am we were on the trail picking our way around boulders and across massive rock slabs on our way up to the glacier. We tried to follow the cairns across the outlet of a lakelet and then down and across a bigger ravine that we made note of because the scramble up the other side was a little tricky but also tough to identify from the top. (note: It may be easier to swing way up high on this one and cross over the creek around 6400.)

When we hit the glacier we roped up for some fairly straight forward glacier travel up until our final crevasse crossing. We navigated it by down climbing off of a snow bridge onto a lower ledge and climbing out. And then we stood at the bottom of the route, 7,400 ft above the ocean, four hours after we had started. We simul-climbed the first “two” pitches following a series of gullies and ledges trending toward a notch between the east ridge and a small spire to its right. The climbing gradually turns into a blocky face that we broke out into two 5.7 pitches as we worked our way onto the east ridge.

IMG_1292

The next two pitches are the ones we came all the way out here for. The layback pitch starts exactly how it sounds climbing right around the roof and then straight up to a roomy belay at the bottom of a splitter hand crack. The crack climbs straight up and offers the occasional face hold but mostly excellent hand and foot jamming. At the top we cut out right aiming at the notch in the rock around the roof and then up and left to a belay.

IMG_1340

Now through the crux we simuled the last “three” pitches to help ease the rope drag on a wandering climb across the top. From above the hand crack drop on to the north side and then up and left and around the south side of the east summit. We crossed the ridge down climbing to the base of the True summit and then and easy low fifth class scramble all the way up checking in at the top at 4pm.

Now the good part. Three double length rappels down the West Ridge. Raps are easy to find. Three more double length rappels down the gully. Lots of loose rock with very little protection offered from above. This took us 3 hours. Then we were standing at the upper glacier trying to figure how to cross a massive moat to get up on top of the snow. As it was, we climbed down underneath the glacier through a tunnel and popped out on a ledge in a crevasse. It was dusk now and we were loosing light, so with no great option to get out we front pointed straight up and out which was a less desirable approach with a lot of exposure to what lay below but ultimately better than turning around and finding another route out in the dark.

IMG_1336

The rest of the trek back was long and circuitous in the dark, but generally uninteresting. Back at camp at 11:30pm. We had stashed a couple beers in the creek that made the hike back slightly more bearable and made dinner slightly more enjoyable.

Slept in on Monday but the smoke came in that night to punished us in the morning and then on out hike out. We made it back to the car in 6 hours. It doesn’t get much more Cascades than this. It may take awhile to forget the approach and head back into the heart of darkness that is the Pickets but we did well in honoring the holiday.

The rest of the photos

Prusik Peak, South Face, Beckey-Davis

Prusik Peak, South Face, Beckey-Davis

Monday, July 24th, 2017

The reviews are in, Prusik peak is as good as they say. Chase and I climbed it last Thursday (7/20) via the Beckey-Davis route on the south face. I would summarize the route as sustained alpine granite fun. The following is a summary of approach/descent and a pitch-by-pitch recap of the climb. Hopefully this helps the next aspiring Beckey wannabe find their way up the route.

Approach – we started from Snow Creek TH at 4:30 AM, got to lake Viviane by 8:30 AM, filled up our water bottles, and maneuvered around the east side of the lake to the base of the climb. We started climbing around 9:30 AM.

Pitch 1 – The Chimney (5.7), probably the least enjoyable pitch of the climb. Just general awkward stemming up the thing, good pro though. If I were doing this again I would go up the 5.8+ wavy crack to the left of the chimney, it looked more enjoyable and you can traverse over

Pitch 2 – (5.7?) We went far right from the belay ledge above the chimney and got into some face climbing and hollow flakes. Not great.

Pitch 3 – (5.7) This is where the climbing gets good and the exposure starts. fun blocky climbing to your pick of belay ledges. This pitch would be easy to pass a party if needed. We didn’t have anyone else on the route with us.

Pitch 4 – the Traverse (low 5th) – traverse down a steep step, then up another steep step to a tree belay, now you’re at the base of the crux pitch, but you could climb another 10-15 feet if rope drag is managed.

Pitch 5 – the Crux (5.9) – super fun and positive laybacking in a right-facing corner, then a left facing corner which ends us getting really hard, at which point you have to make a step across to the left and easier climbin. Great pro. This route just eats big pro (1 to 4).

Pitch 6 – (5.7) fun climbing to the “notch” at the base of the true north summit.

Pitch 7 – (5.7) a low-angle ramp on the north side of the peak will take you to the top! the 10a variation looks fun too but we were worked.

 

Descent – Descend via the north face rappels (took us ~6 rappels with a single 60m). Then its a quick walk around to the base of the west ridge and one more rappel gets you to the south face. took us 2 hours from summit back to packs. Then a long walk back to the car. All in all is took us 21 hours car to car. Fun and exhausting day capped with Tim’s Jalapenp chips, the best there is. Great climbing Chase!

 

North Face of Burgundy Spire, Washington Pass

North Face of Burgundy Spire, Washington Pass

Friday, July 21st, 2017

The plan was do to a Paisano Burgundy link up, but nothing that day quite went according to plan. Andrew, Tim, James and I slept at the trailhead 4mi east of WA pass, and were walking by 5:45 Saturday morning. The trail starts by scrambling down past cairns to Early Winters Creek, then weaving up through the woods to the bivy camp. The camp is roomy and has excellent views of the Liberty Bell group – next time I’ll block a few more days and plan to stay here. The trail up the spires is steep, and at times the footing is poor on marbly rocks. It is relatively easy to follow with regular cairns.

As we approached the base of Paisano around 8, it became clear that we would have to wait for a few other parties to climb before our two parties of two could jump on. Weighing our priorities for the day and recognizing that a delay may mean we couldn’t complete the link up, we decided to push on to Burgundy. We scrambled up to Burgundy Col at 7720’, roughly 3600’ above Early Winters Creek.

At the col we left our bags, and started scrambling to the base of the climb. We had planned on climbing the original route that heads directly up the north face of the spire. However we struggled significantly with route finding, and ultimately opted for what now seems to be the most popular route. This option traverses right at the top of pitch two. If I described the climb how we did it, it would be a messy and confusing string of climbing, rappelling, traversing, and so on. I will instead pitch it out how I would climb the North Face of Burgundy if I were to do it again.

P1. After scrambling slightly right and up from the col, rope up where the 5th class climbing starts about 45m above the col. Climb the right facing corner on the left side of the amphitheater without swinging around to the east side. Chossy rock. 5.7

P2. Trend back right to find a crack system with numerous flakes, ending on a large ledge. 5.8

Traverse right 50m, under a large block, to a long ledge to start the third pitch.

Belay ledge for P3

P3. Easy climbing in a left facing corner, then swing right, setting up an anchor roughly 25m above the last belay. 5.5

 

P4. Follow a fun corner hand crack with good pro, sling a horn and belay from a small stance at 30m. 5.8

Belay stance at top of P4

P5. Trend left, stepping around a bulge into a tapering left facing crack. A move or two of offwidth then good hands higher up, and a slightly overhanging jug to pull onto the ridge. Belay from the ridge to avoid rope drag, then scramble left to the summit.

Summit ridge

Descent: Two 60m ropes made for a relatively quick decent. We doubled up to rappel climbers left of our route to the next station. Another single rappel brought us to the ledge at the bottom of the third pitch. Rather than following our ascent path, we cut left down to a rappel station just after walking back under the large block. Three more double rappels brought us back to the col.

Southwest Rib w variation, South Early Winters Spire

Southwest Rib w variation, South Early Winters Spire

Monday, July 3rd, 2017

Tim and Andrew beat us to the same summit up the same route two days earlier, so David and I rolled into Monday with some helpful beta for the climb. In hopes of a warmer climb we opted for a later start, leaving from the trailhead at 7am. We followed the Blue Lake trail for 1.5mi, until the terrain opened up and we had views of the Liberty Bell group. From there we took the obvious climbers trail that branched left, headed up towards Concord tower. The trail dwindled, and we got off track trending too far left, getting almost to the base of Concord before cutting back right. A high traverse across snow brought us to the base of South Early Winters Spire.

There were two parties ahead of us, so we waited at the high ponderosa hoping the sun would come over the ridge soon. When the route cleared, we scrambled climber’s left to rack up at the Y-shaped larch.

Looking back up at the approach at the end of the day

P1. The crux pitch starts mellow, then has a few 5.8 moves to get past a bulge. Protects well. 5.8

P2. The Wavy Crack – quick climbing up onto a ledge, then follows a wide left facing crack. 5.8

P3. We opted for the 10.b variation, traversing right 20m to a left facing corner. The seam starts as tight fingers, then widens slightly toward the top of the corner. The climbing gets easier further into the pitch, but has some boulder moves higher up to get over a bulge. Once over the bulge, you’re on the Nervous Nelly pitch and can look up to Bear Hug. Climb through Nervous Nelly to the ledge below the Hug. 5.10b

P4. The Bear Hug – The hug itself is only about 5m of super fun climbing. Protection felt adequate with one 4 at the bottom, but the crack would have taken a 5 and a 6 higher up. From there traverse right to a large south facing corner ledge. 5.7

P5. Easy but exposed climbing on an arête, minimal pro. Stay on the right side of the arête to find a small belay stance before the base of the gully. 5.6

David belaying from the bottom of pitch 6

P6. Low 5th class, drop down and right into the sandy gully before the ridge steepens and would require a rap to get into the gully. Belay off a tree in the middle of the gully. 5.2

 

P7. From the notch at the top of the gully climb the obvious crack system right to the summit. 5.6

Summit photo for mom

Descent: Down the South Arête. At the top trend left to avoid dropping down the gully. There is a tight gently sloping chimney to descend, this awkward move is somewhat easier without a pack or rope on your back. Continue down the arêtes to the first of three rappel stations. After these rappels you are at the base of South Arête, and can walk back to the base of the Southwest Rib.