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Basic Alpine Climb - Yellowjacket Tower/East Flank

Two pitch alpine rock climb with an airy move at the top, which calls for a blue tricam. Variable weather and lots of loose rock in the gully.

  • Road suitable for all vehicles

Our group of seven left the turnoff on Icicle Creek Road at 8:30 AM. We crossed the metal/wood bridge and walked briefly through the private driveway to get to the TH, where a sign that reads "Yellowjacket" marks the climber's trail. The trail is steep but straightforward up to the gully. Once the gully is in view, the trail weaves right for some mild scrambling. Our students felt comfortable on this portion at the time, but in retrospect, it may have been a good place for a hand line. After the small scramble, we navigated left into the gully and could see the large car-sized chockstone further up the gully on the left. Given the high risk of rockfall, our group stayed together and were very mindful of our steps.

Once close to the large chockstone we bypassed it climber’s right and up a short 4th class move, up another step, then left around a corner to get back to the gully via a short slabby section with some exposure - take extra care with the sandy grit that can be on it.

Now back in the gully above the chockstone (identifiable only as a drop off from above), we hiked beneath several down trees that cross the entire gully until we could view the tall "Chickenhead Wall" above us on the right. When feasible we moved right to reach the Chickenhead Wall at 10:30 AM (2 hours).

Once we got to the Chickenhead Wall, we were able to identify the "Hidden Gully", which is also marked by a rappel station on a large tree. We harnessed up here and left large packs attached to the tree in case curious goats arrived. One of our leaders ascended up the Hidden Gully (on belay) and set up a hand line. About halfway up the Hidden Gully, there is a difficult section with options to either go left into a large crack between two rocks or right onto a slab. Some people struggled with this section, and most chose to go up the left option between the rocks. At the end of the Hidden Gully, there are two bolts with webbing (rap anchor) where the hand line was fixed for the hidden gully. The start to the first pitch is obvious on the climber’s right side.

The first pitch is mellow and enjoyable, with the first couple moves being the most challenging. There is a very downward curving live tree on the route, which is great for slinging a runner. Navigating around the tree with a backpack can be a little cumbersome. At the top of the pitch, we went past the higher much larger tree (rap station) and set up a gear anchor on the ledge. There is room for a large group in the area and all felt safe to untie here allowing to regroup and easily get situated before ascending the second pitch. All three teams reached the top of the first pitch at 2:30 PM.

The second pitch is very short, and more of a scramble until you reach the exposed horizontal crack. A purple cam fits perfectly in the horizontal crack, and then in order to protect the exposed airy few moves to the summit, a blue tricam is necessary and perfect to place in the pocket. This pocket in the rock used to be smaller, and previous beta calls for a pink/brown tricam but this pocket has gotten larger over time and a blue now fits perfectly! Once you make the airy moves up past the pocket, the bolts/chains are in reach.

We had planned to set up a top rope on the summit for efficiency (it is so tiny!) but weather moved in quickly and we decided to descend. One leader and one student reached the summit at 3 PM (6.5 hours). The others descended straight from the top of the first pitch.

Together we did a single 60m rope rappel from the large tree with slings at the top of the first pitch down the route climbed. Note it is exposed to get to this anchor and with the howling wind and driving snow opted to climb underneath the large boulder next to the tree and shelter a few at a time there. The second rappel (not counting the summit block) was from the bolts at the top of the hidden gully/start of pitch one. We set a 60m double rope rappel here and went skier’s right of the hidden gully for less chance of getting the rope stuck and were able to reach the base of the hidden gully and the gear we had left here.

Our third rappel was another 60m double rope rappel from the large tree with slings at the base of the hidden gully. This brought us back into the main gully above the large down trees. Being mindful of rockfall (which there is plenty) all parties (once off rappel) moved to skier’s right out of the fall line.

There is a clear path to walk down on skier’s right in the gully and we bypassed another large tree with slings. Once past the large down trees half the group decided to downclimb the route we came up (on skier's left, outside of the gully) and the others decided to do our final fourth rappel from a large tree with slings on the (skier's) right, just above the car-sized chockstone. We were mindful of rockfall here, again making sure when off rappel to move outside the fall zone.

The team descended the steep sandy climber’s trail back to the trailhead together and returned to the cars at 8:30 PM, putting the total trip time at 12 hours car to car. It was a long but rewarding day! Walkie talkies were very helpful; and make sure to check for ticks!

 

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