|adet Peak, West Couloir, Ski Descent|
On November 19, 2005, Jason and Josh Hummel and I biked, hiked, wallowed and skied from Barlow Pass to Glacier Basin. The approach took longer than expected, and we promptly dumped our overnight gear and began slogging up Cadet Peak. We climbed 1,500 feet up a snow-filled stream gully, then angled left (northward) up the west face of Cadet to the final deep couloir that cuts through the summit cliffs. The couloir was somewhat of a shooting gallery with the warm sun melting snow and icicles off the cliffs. We wore our helmets despite the oppressive heat. At the half-way point, we encountered an ice cave obstacle that Jason surmounted by standing on a pack laid in the soft snow at the cave entrance. We reached the summit after 3:00 p.m. The sun was low, the colors were rich, and the views were wonderful.
The skiing was not. The upper couloir was soft and narrow, with a half-pipe shape that afforded tricky but fun turns. As we skied the bottom couloir, the sun dropped behind Wilmans Peaks, so for the last 400 feet or so things got really crusty and difficult. We camped in the basin and skied out the next morning, a little too tired, lazy, and un-enthused with the conditions to climb anything else. The ski out of the basin was about as horrible as snow can be—variable, bottomless slush on talus, crust—you get the idea.
Chair Peak, North Face, Ski Descent
After scrambling to the true summit and back, we put on skis near the notch at the top of the face. I did some side-stepping to get a feel for the crust then made several turns above the ice bulge 15 meters below. We made a 15-meter rappel from a tree just above this bulge. Below that, Eric down-climbed to another tree. I negotiated an icy runnel with a mental-security-blanket belay from Eric for the last few feet. I lowered Eric 30 meters on the rope from the second tree then made a 15-meter rappel myself. Eric down-climbed another 10-15 meters below the last icy bit then I side-stepped and kick-turned through this section.
The weather was quickly approaching a whiteout. On the lower half of the face, turns felt more reasonable. Near the bottom, a small jump over a bulge landed on harder-than-expected crust. Another small jump over the bergschrund led to never-ending crust on the moderate terrain back to the car. This route could certainly be done in better style. If more snow sticks, maybe a jump at the upper bulge could make possible a rappel-free ski descent.
Spider Mountain, North Face (right), Ski Descent
On my seventh attempt, Ben Kaufman and I skied the North Face of Spider Mountain on February 8, 2006. With Dave Coleman, we left Seattle on the evening of February 6 and began the approach up the Middle Fork Cascade River during the night. We slept in the woods for a few hours, then continued up the valley by daylight the next morning. Difficult snow conditions and route finding in the lower cirque made an attempt on Spider that day unreasonable, so we camped in a snow cave at about 5,000 feet, below Art's Knoll.
We packed up our skis and crossed the bergschrund at 3:30 p.m. Concerned about the snow conditions, Dave stopped a short distance above the bergschrund. Ben and I climbed the face as fast as we could and reached the summit ridge at sunset. The true summit was about 50 feet above me along the ridge, but skiing the route was the only thing on my mind. The snow on the face was perfect and had been wind-buffed enough not to slough. With each turn the snow exploded and caught us in a pillow. After the descent, we skinned back to Hurry-Up notch and found our snow cave by moonlight and headlamp. The next morning we returned to the Cascade River Road via Cache Col and Cascade Pass, skiing the snow-covered road most of the way to our car.
On February 12, 2006, I skied the NE Couloir of Argonaut Peak, after climbing it with Dan Smith and Bala Krishnamoorthy. The climb of the couloir went smoothly, and a tricky step led us to the upper snowfield. A beautiful snow and rock arête led to the summit. From 200 feet below the summit, I skied the upper snowfield, which had the best snow of the day, and made a rappel past the tricky step. My partners pulled up the rope. They descended to the south until they could traverse east and cross back to the north side of the mountain.
With considerable fear and second-guessing, I climbed over to a good staging area, kicked into my skis, and set off. I made some turns and found the snow hard but not too hard. I worked my way down the 45° to 50° couloir to a constriction about 200 feet above the bottom. The couloir was less than a ski-length across here. I could see someone better than me skiing this narrow bit, and in soft snow I might have tried. Instead, I anchored myself with my ice axes, put on my crampons (the snow became harder lower down) strapped my skis to my back, and set off. No problem. I don’t know why, but I’ve always been more afraid of down-climbing than of skiing. I skied to the similar constriction at the bottom of the couloir and repeated the process.
Once out of the couloir, I enjoyed 3,000 feet of perfectly pitched fall-line skiing back to our bivy site, where I waited for Bala and Dan. The Mountaineer Creek bridge had collapsed since our crossing the previous day, and the road down to Icicle Creek was an icy bobsled course after dark. I snow-plowed the whole way down.
On February 12, 2006, Stephen Packard and I climbed the NW Chutes of the Lake 22 Headwall, located 1/2 mile WSW of Lake 22 and to the left of a major gully separating towers from the main wall. After eleven years, including six attempts, we have at last completed a route on this north-facing 2,300-foot wall. We believe this route to be new; it has held our thoughts and aspirations ever since a recon hike in 1995.
We left the trailhead at 3:00 a.m. and were at the base of route and geared up at 6:00 a.m. For the first two pitches, we climbed up rocky right-trending ramps (AI2), with screws, pickets, and assorted vegetation for protection, ending at tree belays. Stephen led pitch three, a somewhat scary traverse over steep terrain. The ice was noticeably thinner than when we were there in 2003. Stubbies, pickets, trees, and some hope led to a tree belay. We then simul-climbed two rope-lengths of steep snow. An AI3-4 pitch led to a semi-hanging tree belay on an exposed rib. Stephen had the crux seventh pitch, with bulging AI4 for 100 feet (screws and pickets for protection, ending in tree belay). Above, the gully steepened and constricted. We simul-climbed the next pitches in the gully, placing pickets. On pitch ten, I placed some rock protection and set a piton belay (KB and LA). We thought the climb had ended at the ridge, but two more pitches of “Gentlemen’s Highway” with pickets led to a tree belay and the top.
We topped out at 4:30 p.m. to nice views of Rainier, Pilchuck, Vesper, and Index. We thought about rappelling the route but decided on the “walk-off” as described in Kloke’s Winter 1-Day Ascents. Overall, the descent we took via Hemple Lake basin returning to Lake 22 entailed about two miles of corniced ridge hiking, seven hours, 15 headlamp-driven 115-foot rappels, and many vertical-to-overhanging ravines and gullies. We would strongly recommend descending the climbing route, bringing an extra zip line, bail webbing, pins, and extra headlamp batteries to get off this “low-elevation sub-summit”.
Gear: 70m rope, 10-12 screws, screamers, 2 KBs, 2 LAs, #1 & #2 Camalot, set of nuts, lots of slings, rappel gear.
Grade IV, AI4, 13 pitches
Mount Index, West Face, “Murphy’s Law”, New Route
We climbed higher, but moved left too early, essentially mistaking a lower snow patch for the upper one described in Jim Nelson’s Selected Climbs in the Cascades. The route we took leaves the EDM approach couloir and climbs an ice step before heading up an ice runnel on the left side of the couloir. This leads to a snowfield level with the EDM bivy site (as marked in Nelson). We bivied on top of the snowfield, below a rock buttress.
Continuing up the runnels was not possible, the next pitch being discontinuous snow-ice. Failing upwards, we traversed left about half a rope length across the snow patch and climbed another ice system on the left side of the buttress. From there the route stays to the right and climbs steep snowfields and ice smears for four pitches. It finishes immediately to the climber’s left of the North Peak; another rope length leads to the summit.
After a brief trip to the summit, to make sure we were descending the right way, we traversed the ridge to the false summit of the North Peak. This requires a short but awkward rappel to get across a notch in the ridge. We made it about 60 meters below the false summit before nightfall and bivied. The following morning, we descended per Nelson’s description, rappelling off trees almost the whole way.
Gear: Rock protection to 2in, knifeblades and Lost Arrows, ice screws, many slings, 60m ropes
Grade V, snow and ice to 80 degrees, steep mixed ground
Slippery Slab Tower, NE Face, First Winter Ascent
On February 19, 2006, Scott Anderson and I climbed the NE Face of Slippery Slab Tower, a popular rock climb in the summer. We approached via the Surprise Lake trail, because the parking area is plowed in winter. After approaching the route the day before, the morning of the 19th found us at the base of the Tower at 11:00 a.m. We were disappointed to find no ice at all and were glad we brought rock gear. I led up steep snow, in what is a fourth-class gully in summer, to a belay at the top four feet of a 20-foot tree. On the next pitch, Scott was stymied by the slick dihedral and I took a fall after taking over the lead. I finished the pitch, past rappel slings, to a belay shortly before the summit. Three rappels brought us back to the ground.
Whitehorse Mountain, East Face, First Winter Ascent
After a short problem over the bergschrund, we led about seven 60-meter pitches before simul-climbing about four pitches of steep snow to the summit. The climbing was a mixture of good névé and water ice and entertaining snow-ice. Pete had a couple fine but short sections of vertical to slightly overhanging snice. Protection and belays were good to adequate. We recommend the route.
Downclimbing and two rappels led down the South Face and SE Ridge. Being tired of downclimbing, I convinced Pete to rappel the first east-side descent gully we came to, though we both knew we could walk down the next one to the south. Anyway, my stupidity won the day, and we did three more rappels before arriving back at the tent late in the afternoon. We initially thought the route might go in two days roundtrip, but we opted to sleep instead of thrash. Ten hours of sleep and a few hours of walking took us back to the truck.
Grade III or IV, AI4
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