1.0 5400 foot Traverse.jpg

Trip Report    

Basic Alpine Climb - American Border Peak/Southeast Route

This is a deceiving climb. The short approach distance of 3.95 miles; the relatively low net gain to the summit; the “simple” 5.4 Chimney rock pitch; and lack of need for additional technical skills beyond setting a handline, and rappelling all lend one to believe it is a straight forward basic rock climb. What is lurking in the shadows is that: • This trip is about 80% off trail and involves steep traverses on talus, scree and slippery forest duff • The summit bid is steep and trail less • Once on the red-face: o The climbing team will be dealing with hours of non-stop class 4 exposure and steep gullies with loose rocks to send down on the climbing team o There is a rather lengthy series of 8-9 linked faces, gullies, chimneys, scrambles, etc to get to the summit. All of these complexities make this an advanced, basic climb. We had a strong group of rope leads and students and as it was - even without summiting - we had an 18 hour day from the camp, to the turn point, and back to the trailhead. So Climb leaders beware! I recommend this either be done as a 3 day climb, or only with a very small, strong, competent group that is not fearful of prolonged exposure! If I was doing this as a private climb, I would do it as a 2-day climb and limit the group size to 2 climbers.

  • Road rough but passable

  • See trip report.

Saturday 8/20/16

  • First of all, the beta on summit post is amazing!  http://www.summitpost.org/southeast-route/336534  This was a huge help to make this trip possible!

  • Three of our four-person team met at the Marysville P&R at 5am.  We met our 4th at the trailhead at 7:30am.  We were boots on trail at 8:30 am.

  • The trail starts up at an easy rate, then drops a few hundred feet before rising up to the top of Low Pass.  From there it is a quick traverse to High Pass.  Distance was about 1.3 miles.

  • At High Pass, we took a left at a large cairn and dropped a few hundred feet to the Garret Mine.

  • From Garret on, we were off-trail - only the occasional goat trail. 

  • We left Garret and traversed the large talus slope to the SW side of Mt. Larrabee.  We side hilled on the talus, dropping to the 5,400 foot level to enter the forest.  It would have been better if we had dropped even lower and walked the creek.  We did this on the way back and it is easy walking.  (Figure1)

  • We then entered the forested rib.  It is very steep in here and the duff can be slippery.  It takes longer than you would think to come through this small forest.  We lost a few hundred feet of gain in the process.

  • We then came out of the forest and we were faced with the next talus slope to ascend on the West side of Mount Larrabee

    • Figure 2 shows where we came out of the forest.  There are some small meadows here – it is worth noting which one you came out of for the return trip.

  • Once out of the forest, we took aim at the notch at the far end of the talus slope at 6,300 feet.  See Figure 3.

    • You will see a island of trees below the notch.  Go below those trees, then hug the right side of the talus gully, going as high as you can. 

    • Cut to the left and make for the notch

    • Watch rock fall in here!

  • From the top of that notch we dropped back down a talus/scree slope to 5600 feet where we would camp (see figure 4).  There was a snow field for melting, but we found a water source 20 or so feet below camp where the snow was melting out and percolating through the talus

  • Not much for space at camp.  We struggled to find 4 bivy spots but with a little work we found 4. 

  • Total distance was 3.9 miles, and it took us 5.5 hours!  No issues with anyone in the party being slow, and we only took about 15-20 min of breaks along the way.  It was just slow going to traverse trail less talus, and we had to regain altitude several times.  I think we went up 2,000 feet, and down 1,600 feet for a net gain of only around 400 feet from the trailhead!

  • We hung around camp until around 5 or 6pm.  We then decided to explore the steep approach to the ridge that would put us on the face of ABP.

  • On this trip we would go up that slope twice, and down it twice, and in the four times we traveled it, we had different routes each time.  The moral of this to me is, pick the target notch at the top, and find the easiest way for you.  There are many options.

  • See Figure 5 for a reasonable approach.

    • Take aim from camp for the notch to the south of ABP at 6,800 feet

    • You can go up the gullies, or get into the woods.  The woods are open and offer better footing in my opinion

    • As you get in the various gullies on the way, you can ascend them until they get too slabby, then cut climbers left and go to the next gully.

    • Keep doing this until you get near a small tree island with a shark fin like rock outcropping above it.

    • Pass below the tree island, and traverse the final gully to a bit of greenery on a rib.  This is where we stowed ropes and such the night before

    • If you continue up this rib, you will find yourself in the 6,800 foot notch and ready to start the climb.

  • We were back to camp before sunset.  Dinner and bed.  Got an updated weather report.  Called for rain at 4pm.  10% chance.


Sunday 8/21/16

  • Team got up at 4:30 am and we were Boots on trail at 5:35 am.

  • We hit our cache by 6:35am took a quick break and went on the 6,800-foot ridge shortly after. Distance from camp was .56 miles, and it took us 90 minutes.

  • Here we started up the ridge. Roughly aiming for a feature called DeGaulle’s nose on the other side of the red face.  Not a bad goat trail.

  • We then crossed the red face.  This felt quite exposed.   See Figure 6

  • From here we went up the first of two 60-meter-long gullies.  Quite steep and climber initiated rock fall was an issue we had to be aware of as everything was loose.  Actually, rock fall was an issue for almost the whole trip from Garret Mine and back!

  • We topped out on the gulley, and had to go across a ledge traverse with sand covered rocks to another gulley.

  • This gulley had a snow block in it and was also about 60 meters long.  We went up that gulley and at the top could see the chimney.

  • The route to the chimney was a very airy ledge.  We elected to follow the summit post beta and put in a handline.  I led this with a 60 M rope that did not quite reach so Doug extended it with two correlates.  See Figure 7

  • I built a gear anchor to tie the handline into, and the team came across.

  • I built a gear belay anchor for the rock climb of the Chimney (See Figure 8), and about this time we noted weather coming in.  Black clouds were forming and they looked heavy with rain. 

  • We discussed this as a group.  Time of day was a few min past 11am.  Going on the rock faces had been efficient, but very slow.  We had gone 1.34 miles from camp.  It had taken us 5:50 min and we had ascended 2,000 feet.  We were right there.  But we could not see what was moving in from the west as it was blocked by the mountain.  We all agreed that we wanted the summit, but did NOT want to go back across all that open rock if it was raining.  We decided to call the climb.  It was the right thing to do, even in retrospect.  We would have made it up and back down/across the open areas without rain (it spit a few drops, but nothing major).  But we did not get back off the open portions of the climb and back to the ridge until 5pm.  Again, we moved pretty efficiently given the exposure, but we had two 60-meter double rope raps, and the hand line to contend with, and those always cost time.

  • We were back at camp around 6:10pm, broke camp and were back on the trail at about 6:40pm

  • The trip out involves 3 portions of uphill travel, and lots of talus, scree and forest bushwhacking to get to the trailhead.  Most of which is off trail.  So this was demoralizing for sure after a long day!

  • We were also pretty mentally exhausted.  We had been dealing with non-stop exposure/steep gulley travel from 7am to 5pm.  That’s 10 hours of solid concentration and very careful foot placement work.

  • We got to the forest section by nightfall.  We found that the GPS track that the other Lead had made really helped navigate the forested rib in the dark.  Rain moved in and was with us about half of the way (heavy at times) but did stop before we hit the cars.

  • We were at the cars by 11:00 PM, and on the road by 11:30PM.  Home by 2:30pm.  We had been climbing for 18 hours, and I personally ended up being up for at least 23 hours after doing the car ride home.

  • Given our slow time from turn to trailhead, we were all very happy that we called the climb when we did.  To a person.