all Peak, NW Face, New Route
Dave Brannon and I climbed the NW Face of Hall Peak by an enjoyable and varied route on January 30th, 2007. Hall Peak is a low-elevation summit located just west of Big Four with an impressive 2000ft NW face. Very easy access makes for a reasonable day trip in winter.
We parked on the Mountain Loop Highway just outside Silverton and reached the base of the route in just under two hours. The snowpack was very consolidated and the mountain held substantial quantities of water-ice. After ascending moderately steep snow on the lower face we followed an obvious steep couloir (Skubi Couloir) to a deep notch in the north ridge. From the notch we did a delicate mixed traverse across the east side of the ridge then followed a steep runnel of snow and ice for two pitches back to the ridge crest. One final exposed pitch led directly to the summit.
Abiel Peak, North Face, "Spindrift Daze", New Route
On February 2, 2007, Matt Cusack, Bob Masasi, and I climbed a new route on the North Face of Abiel Peak, south of Snoqualmie Pass. We picked a line between the North Face Direct (Hicks/Miller, 2006), but right of the North Face Couloir (1984 route). The route ascends the left of two icy slabs that lie between the aforementioned routes. The first pitch was the technical crux (AI3X) using rock and ice protection to a semi-hanging belay under an overhang at about 30m. Two more pitches of excellent ice to 80+ degrees eased into a steep snow couloir filled with mostly great neve. Trees provided adequate protection and belays for the upper part of the climb.
At some point when we were on the ice, snow started falling, then a freezing mist … then the spindrift started. The constant flow was almost comedic when one was sheltered from its wrath, but pretty miserable when in the firing line. We finally gained the North Face Couloir (1984 route) for the last 50ft to the ridge crest. With the weather continuing to deteriorate, we skipped the short walk to the summit and instead walked off via the West Ridge. A long and dreamlike trudge out the valley brought us back to the car in the early evening.
Grade III, AI3+
Snow Creek Wall, “A Swing and a Prayer”, New Route
On February 3, 2007, I followed Wayne Wallace up a new winter line following the North Dihedrals Direct route on Snow Creek Wall. The first two pitches connected ice ribbons and ramps via mixed moves steadily increasing in difficulty. An awkward dogleg ice runnel led to a wide but thin curtain and a belay beneath a steep ice pillar. The third pitch climbed the pillar, short but strenuous, and continued into a fun Scottish-style ice gully. The fourth pitch proved to be the crux, as the ice in the dihedral thinned, requiring delicate and desperate run-out mixed moves above manky pins. The fifth pitch drained all our remaining energy, with deep wallowing, bushwhacking, and the occasional tricky move. The route, along with the adjacent White Slabs winter line, fell apart from warm weather the following day.
Grade IV, WI5, M6 R, 300m
Mount Kent, North Face, New Route
On February 3, 2007, Scott Gullberg and I climbed a mixed route on the right side of the North Face of Mount Kent to the summit. The line starts in the obvious gully below the impressive ice pillar, ascending moderate snow and ice to a large bowl about a quarter of the way up the face. From the snow bowl, we bypassed the intimidating ice pillar to the right via two pitches of steep, difficult to protect, and sometimes brushy, mixed climbing, followed by an exposed traverse back left into the major gully. We continued to follow the gully as the angle eased off and then headed up and left through trees to the summit.
Grade III, M4
Three Fingers, NE Face, New Route
On February 3, 2007, John Frieh and I climbed a new route on the NE Face of Three Fingers. We approached up the Squire Creek valley to the basin under the East Face in the early morning hours. A steep gully breaches the cliffy cirque in the center of the basin. We traversed to where the climb began in a narrow gully on the right side of the face. A short pitch of WI3 led to easier climbing for several hundred feet. We exited the gully on the left wall via an easy pitch of ice that lead to a bowl under a headwall. The next three pitches ascend a 600-ft tier of water ice. The first of these is the crux, giving a sustained pitch of WI4+. For the second and third pitches we continued up the right side of the flow for long rope lengths of WI3+ and WI4. Above the headwall we traversed a snow bowl to a gully leading down from the North summit. We climbed the gully to the ridge crest and then followed a short mixed chimney and rimed ramp to the summit of the North Peak. After a short time on top, we descended down the North Face to the Craig Lakes basin.
Grade IV, WI4+, M3
(The opening photo on this page shows the crux pitch of the NE Face of Three Fingers.)
Oval Peak, First Winter Ascent
The Sawtooths are a group of summits in the North Cascades east of Washington Pass with summits between 8,000ft and 9,000ft. Being east of the crest, they benefit from less rain, drier snow, and much less brush below timberline than the Cascade Pass area. I’ve hiked and climbed around these peaks in the summer since I was in middle school but had never made a winter trip to the area. I knew that a high chance of sunny skies and deep powder awaited, so I talked my friend Chris Simmons into going with me. On February 16, 2007, we skied up the West Fork of Buttermilk Valley from Twisp River and camped north of Oval Peak. On the 17th, we skied and scrambled up the East Ridge, finding ourselves on top in gale-force winds. Chris and I descended to the south on beautiful snow and skinned across the frozen Oval Lakes. We camped between Courtney and Star Peaks, with plans for an ascent and summit ski from one of the two the next morning. However, we woke up to significant new snow, with more falling. After navigating to Fish Creek Pass in a whiteout, we skied down the valley and back to Twisp River in nine hours.
Other Climbs of Interest
The south summit of Granite Mountain, NW of Paddy Go Easy Pass, has a steep granitic NE Face with several distinct buttresses. The central buttress climbs to the summit, the left one ends at a small tower, and the right one tops out on the NW shoulder of the peak. The wall actually has several lesser but distinct buttresses in addition to these three. Peg and Bill Stark, who established the Scottish Lakes High Camp and named many features in the Enchantment Lakes, noted the wall on one of their mountain rambles and mentioned it to Fred Beckey. Beckey added a cryptic note to his guidebook but apparently never visited the area. Bill Stark described the face to Matt Perkins, who hiked in and climbed the central and right buttresses in the mid to late 1980s, first alone and later with partners. Perkins called the face the Bill Stark Wall. On the central buttress, Perkins finished two ways, first via the obvious escape gully in line with the the lower part of the buttress, and second, via a rib on the left (between two gullies) moving left to finish at the summit. On August 20, 2006, Dan Cappellini and Rolf Larson climbed the central buttress in six pitches. The first four pitches were 5.9+/5.10- face climbing near the crest. The 5th pitch surmounted a roof via an oversized fist crack (5.10+/5.11- or A0). The 6th pitch climbed a small arete just left of a gully. The Cappellini-Larson ascent largely followed the earlier Perkins route, but may have varied somewhat in the final two roped pitches.
With its quick access and long history, one might assume that the Snoqualmie Pass area was thoroughly skied out years ago. A full accounting of ski routes in the area has never been done, so skiers can imagine they are blazing new paths or following well-worn ones, according to their preference. Recent reports have highlighted a few possibilities for skiing off the beaten track around the pass.
On January 13-15, 2007, Kirsten Hauge, Nate Riensche, Becky Bradshaw, and Pete Alderson skied from Alpental to Snow Lake, then over the divide between Roosevelt and Wright Mountains to Upper Wildcat Lake and Lake Caroline, where they camped. Their objective was Preacher Mountain, about six miles NW of Alpental. The party skied two couloirs on the SE side of Preacher, above Hatchet Lake. The first couloir was entered from high on the east ridge just below the summit. The other was just south of Preacher’s summit along the south ridge. The group returned to Alpental on their third day out.
On February 11, 2004, Jan Kordel and Bruce Jahnke skied the Twin Lakes Couloir, which is tantalizing when viewed from the Cold Creek road between Hyak to Olallie Meadow (“Windy Pass”). The couloir starts just west of Point 4902ft and descends at 40 degrees for 1100 vertical feet then veers right for an additional 500 feet to the outlet of lower Twin Lake. Kordel described the line as straight-forward and aesthetic.
Between January 2004 and March 2006, Jim Sammet and partners completed a “Kendall Ridge Couloirs Project,” skiing chutes on the east and NE flank of the ridge above Silver Creek. The most interesting section of the divide snakes for 1-1/4 miles between the summit of Kendall Peak and Point 5441ft east of Kendall Peak Lakes. Sammet and friends skied at least 14 separate couloirs along the scenic, rock-ribbed divide. Some of the lines had probably been skied before, but records are unknown.
During the winter of 2007, several parties skied an hourglass shaped couloir on Rampart Ridge that tops out about 1/2 mile due west of Lake Lillian. The line is reached from the Gold Creek valley. The couloir has a constriction at about 4800ft. Above the narrows is a triangular snowfield below a 5640ft+ summit crag. From the snowfield, skiers can climb to the ridge either north or south of the crag. In January 2006, Jason Fiorito and Adam Gorski skied the south variation. In mid-March 2007, Fiorito, Gorski and Aaron Riggs skied the north variation from the top of Point 5600ft+. Riggs described the descent as 40-50 degrees for 2500ft on a consistent fall line.
On February 10, 2007, Jason Hummel, Sky Sjue, and Eric Wehrly climbed and skied the SW couloir of Chikamin Peak from the Gold Creek valley. They climbed SW facing slopes from the valley and surmounted the 7000ft+ summit horn from the south. During the descent, with skis on, they shimmied down a short rock step near the summit that would probably be snow covered later in the year. Below this obstacle, the rest of the descent was moderate, with slopes up to 40 degrees.
On July 1, 2006, Loren Campbell and Jens Klubberud climbed Willis Wall on Mount Rainier. A large bergschrund blocked direct access from below and Klubberud had seen an ice-avalanche sweep the area a week earlier, so they climbed lower Curtis Ridge and bivouacked out of the line of fire where they could traverse onto the wall. In darkness, they wandered back and forth on the lower wall and nearly returned to Curtis Ridge. As it began to get light, they climbed a short rock band before traversing right again toward the Central Rib. The face came alive with rockfall when the sun hit it. Both climbers were showered by pebbles and small stones at times, but larger stonefall was rare and they dodged from one spot of relative safety to another. On the "Traverse of Angels" they found it necessary to climb a rock step before regaining the upper snow ramp and surmounting the serac wall above. One more steep pitch reached gentler slopes at 13,600ft and easier travel to Columbia Crest. The NWMJ editors believe the Willis Wall receives few ascents and know of none in recent years.
On July 2, 2006, Shaun Neufeld and Drew Brayshaw pioneered a steep route up the South Pillar of the false summit of Mount Rexford. They had climbed the lower part of the pillar in 2005, but found a preferable start that included a spectacular 5.11 finger crack. The “Patagonian Headwall” on the fourth pitch was climbed via a 5.10+ crack that widens from fingers to a chimney. The route totals five pitches of 5th class climbing plus scrambling to reach the false summit and is tentatively rated Grade III, 5.11.
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