Categories
Climbing

Smith Rock, Pioneer Route

Last week I was able to get out of the rain for a two day trip to Smith Rock. The weather was perfect – low 50s and sunny during the day – also known as sending temps, bro. After a long winter of climbing plastic in the gym, our first day involved Keith and I getting reacquainted with climbing real rock. We jumped on a few moderate routes, mostly 5.8s and 5.9s. We were even able to snag an ascent of five gallon buckets without waiting in line!

We got up early the next day to try and beat the crowds up the Pioneer Route on the Monkey Face. As we approached we saw a pair of climbers cruising up the bolt ladder – but nobody else. Little did we know, those two were guides that were setting up a Tyrolean into the Monkey’s mouth for 27 clients.

Smith Rock 3/23/16

A busy day on the Monkey Face. You can barely see the tyrolean in the upper left.

The guidebook gives a good description of the route but it involves an easy (5.5) trad pitch up to a ledge with multiple bolted anchors. This puts you directly below a line of about 20 bolts that Keith aided up and I got my first experience jumaring behind him. Once into the mouth, we were able to climb the top pitch in between clients coming through. This pitch is definitely the money pitch, with steep, juggy, and crazy exposed 5.7 climbing. After taking in the views of the central Oregon volcanoes we used the guided parties’ rap line for the free hanging rappel. 2.5 hours after we started we got back to the packs and enjoyed a sandwich. We climbed a couple of cool-down sport pitches on the way back to the car and went back to the rain in Portland.

Keith following the first pitch of the Pioneer Route.

Smith Rock 3/23/16

Sam’s summit pose on top of the Monkey Face

Categories
Climbing

The Grand Teton, Upper Exum

It has been a bit since any peaks were logged on the peak of the week. So The Grand is a good one to break up the drought. The climb was going to happen several different ways, including an original plan to camp overnight in the meadow and climb the Full Exum Ridge on the second day, but I was told that the weather in Jackson has been grey for a lot of the summer and the week of our planned climb was not an exception. Since Thunderstorms were threatening on Wednesday we decided to forgo the Lower Exum Ridge and try to climb the whole thing via the Upper Exum on Tuesday.

Me and Nick started off from the Lupine Meadows trailhead at 4:15 am. The early hours in the dark always goes quick and we were rounding the corner into Garnet canyon by the time the sun was coming up a little after 5:30 am. From there we started checking off the various campsites as we went by. First the meadows, then the caves, then a detour right, up to Jackson Hole Mountain Guides camp were they corrected my course and I reunited with Nick down at the moraine camp. It is kind of hard to get off track here but I saw the guide huts up on the hill to the right and figured they were on route. As it is, the trail stays low and runs pretty much a straight shot up to the saddle.

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From the moraine it is about 900 ft up to the lower saddle at 11,650 ft where the Owen-Spalding and both the Exum and Petzle Ridges really come into view. We stopped to refill the water bottles at a garden hose that utilizes a spring and then headed north up toward a black dike in the rock. At this point you have options for what you want to attack. The Owen-Spalding continues the obvious trail to the upper saddle. The Lower Exum access cuts way right to a chimney you can see on your way up.

We continued toward the upper saddle and then cut right at 12,500 ft across a big gully to Wall Street, a big ledge on the west side of the ridge. Here we roped up for the rock section of the climb. It was around 10:30 or 11:00 am at the point and the ledge is in the shade until you come around the corner to the jump off spot. It is a fairly easy move but very exposed. While doing it, it is wild to imagine Glen Exum leaping over it in his original 1931 solo climb of the route.

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The next few pitches included the Golden Stair and the Friction, which aside from those two we simulclimbed much of. Nearing the top we cut left, and climbed the V pitch, my favorite of the day. After that we wandered around until we hit the summit, topping out around 2:00 pm.

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Categories
North Cascades Climbing

Vesper Peak, The Ragged Edge

Heading into the first weekend of August, Sam, David and I knew we wanted to climb. After heavy traffic on the Tooth and bad weather on Ingalls, we were looking for something less traveled with high quality rock, 4+ pitches and more challenging moves. On Vesper Peak The Ragged Edge route passed all criteria with flying colors.

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Sam planning happily on Friday night

We left the car at 9:15 am and even then, the hike up Trail 707 to Hardlee Pass was hot, exposed and beautiful in the morning light. We crested the pass at about 10:45 am and got a nice long look at the granite summit of Vesper Peak as we traversed the talus field directly after the pass.

The trail then crosses the outlet of Vesper Lake and climbs out of the lake basin toward the peak (scramble route). At some point, we decided that we should have left the scramble trail at the lake outlet. We could see a very direct looking couloir to our right. We down climbed to the base of the chute and powered to the top.

Looking down the couloir to the outlet of Vesper Lake

As we huffed and puffed our way out of the chute, the trail was in sight and several people we saw earlier in the day cruised by. Evidently, this “direct” grind did not save any time. That didn’t stop us from breaking from the trail immediately, veering toward the eastern flank (hiker’s right) of Vesper Peak. This turned out to be a good move.

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Sam and David head north east

After about 10 minutes of rock hopping, we arrived at a saddle on the north eastern side of the mountain where we gained outstanding views of the glaciated valley below. The rest of the approach wasn’t clear immediately. From this col, the approach traverses west under the north face of Vesper Peak. This is high consequence terrain, take your time and watch your step. You’ve reached the base of the climb when you can’t go any further without getting on rock. 2.5 hours to here.

Hugging the north face of Vesper

We geared up at the base of the first pitch and were sure to leave nothing behind. The Ragged Edge is a relatively new route (~2 years old) and while the rock is solid the climb took a bit of way finding. In some ways, this was complicated by the fact that the first two pitches trend west across the face.

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Sam takes stock at the top of pitch 2

After pitch 3, the route really starts to shine. The exposure is phenomenal. They call this The Ragged Edge for a reason. The route heads up a jagged, blocky rip in the middle of the face.

Scaling the edge on pitch 5

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David cleans the final piece

The Ragged Edge exceeded our expectations. It presented a lot of opportunities to learn without unnecessary risk. Climbing aside, this area is an absolutely spectacular section of the Cascades with plenty of exposure to alpine splendor.

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After a quick walk off the summit and dip in the lake, we were on our way. The car was a welcome sight at 7:30 pm. Another great day in the mountains.

Refer to this map to avoid our mistake:

Categories
Climbing Touring Central Cascades

Ingalls Peak, South Ridge

Hungry for some rock pitches, Tim, Andrew, and I set out for Ingalls Peak on Saturday 7/25. We weren’t going to let a 70% chance of rain/snow and 30 mph winds slow us down!

The approach follows the very pleasant trail towards Long’s Pass before heading West, up and over Ingalls Pass. None of us had been to Lake Ingalls before so we were all excited about the new terrain. It sure felt like a beautiful place from the few glimpses we got, but we mostly were looking at clouds. In fact, the entire Ingalls group was masked in clouds, so we had one false start and headed up a boulder field towards the wrong notch on the ridgeline. We soon realized our mistake and had a mini adventure finding our way to the start of the climb.

Route finding

In typical fashion, the rain picked up as we arrived at the base of the first pitch. Finding shelter under a small overhang we racked up and soon Andrew was plugging his way up the fun, gigantic cracks that comprise the first pitch. Tim and I were basking in our wind protected belay stance but could hear the howling up above. Andrew brought us up to the first ledge and the shivering commenced.

The first pitch…with extra rope drag!

The second pitch was a short one to the base of the final slab, which has a beautiful, easy crack up the middle. Well, it was actually nasty and wet and felt pretty hard, but in our sunny imaginations the rock  was great and the climbing easy. On top we took in the clouds for about 2 minutes, snapped some photos, and got out of there. Two double rope rappels got us down. A couple nips of whiskey and an hour and a half of hiking got us to the car, right in time for the sun to start shining.

 

Andrew on the final slab
Andrew on the final slab.
Timbo summit shot
Timbo summit shot.
Andrew rapping
Andrew rapping.
Another great day in the mountains!
Another great day in the mountains!
Categories
Climbing Touring Central Cascades

Dragontail, The Enchantments

This one is a bit over due. I wasn’t planning on writing anything on the Dragontail hike, but it was such a rad trip and I was kind of thinking that it deserves its own place in the log of peaks here.

We started around 8 am from the Stuart Lake trail head, leaving the splitboards at home for lack of snow. I had been up to Aasgard two weeks before with the intention of snowboarding but the snow is scarce below 7800 ft.

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2 hours up to Colchuck Lake. Stopped for a long lunch and another 2 hours to the top of the pass. Plenty of snow up top but not much below. It was the first weekend of permitting in the Enchantments for the season so we saw few people throughout the day. From the top of Aasgard we hiked along the North side of the basin on mixed snow and rock until about 8400 ft  where you take the obvious traverse up to the saddle at 8500 ft. From there it is just a rock scramble up the south face with great views of Iron, Earl and Navajo Peaks, to the top where the rest of Washington comes into view, a little less that an hour from the top of the pass.

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The trek back to the trail head is probably the hardest part of the day after the water runs out and the dogs start barking, but the scenery never gets tired, and the four of us, Shawn, Maddie, Alex and I made it back the the truck by 7 pm. Plenty of light left.

Categories
Climbing Touring Mt. Rainier

Mt. Rainier, Disappointment Cleaver

It’s hard to get things on the first try, especially in climbing. That’s kind of the allure of the sport when the difficult routes, and less technical ones, can have similar success rates when conditions and other factors don’t line up. For me, Baker, Stuart, and The Brothers have all been failed first attempts. As it turned out on Saturday I kept this streak in tact by not summiting Rainier.

John, Micah and I started off on Friday morning from Paradise amid a thick fog and a full on search and rescue for a missing climber on the upper mountain, making it difficult to acquire climbing permits, as all hands were on deck for the search. A couple trips back and forth between Paradise and Longmire and we were three climbing permits richer, and set off about 930 am. Snow started just below Panorama Point, and if you’re looking to ski on the Muir Snowfield anytime soon the snow is continuos by the time you get to the top, around 7000 ft.

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Between 8000 and 8400 ft we finally broke out of the clouds to a warm and sunny day on the mountain. We took our time getting to Muir stopping first for a long lunch and later to shed layers and just generally enjoy the scenery, showing up at camp around 300pm. Anticipating high winds on Friday evening, we spent some time digging a pit for the tent and I was calling it a night by 730 pm.

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The wind did turn up at night but we stayed fairly warm. At 1130 pm we got up, anchored the tent, and were going by 1230 am. It was a super nice night, clear and a little cold. I was struggling to keep my harness tight around my waist most of the way up, so at Ingraham Flats we stopped for the first of many times so I could re-adjust it. From there the snow started to break up and just below the cleaver a ladder had been set to cross one of the wider holes in the snow. We went up the Cleaver and at 12500ft we started cutting over to Gibralter Rock, crossing a second ladder and then a fixed rope for about 150 yrds. The sun was starting to come up now and I was starting to feel the altitude kick in, causing me to slow down significantly.

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From Gibralter Rock we  went straight up the mountain, stopping at 700 am around 13400 when the altitude really started messing with my head. I decided that was enough for the day and any further was going to be a sad time for me. The day was getting nice at this point and as hard as it was to keep going, it was almost harder to turn around. When you get a window where the conditions line up as they did, it is a shame not to capitalize on it but such is life at elevation.

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The snow on the mountain is really breaking up now so there are a lot of cool formations on a huge scale. We followed our same route back down to basecamp and after a short break packed up and headed back to the car. Typically these trip reports are reserved skiing but as we are in full on summer mode now, the touring set up for this trip seemed like it would be bulky and the turns seemed like they would be slow. We did see some folks still skiing the Nisqually Chute though, which is still continuos from the top but turns into a bit of a white ribbon down low.

So no skiing, no summit but it was no problem, because I think we all had a fun time and for my first time on the upper mountain at Rainier it was great, still it would have been nice to get it on the first try.