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Trip Report    

Basic Rock Climb - Yellowjacket Tower/East Flank

A successful and fun rock climb on a mostly gorgeous (though slightly smoky) day with a team of Basic students getting in graduation climbs.

  • Road suitable for all vehicles
  • On this dry, temperate day, the route was exactly as we’d expected: a very steep half mile bootpath hike; a steep scramble through a dirty gully with rock fall danger - including a few C4 boulder moves; a hidden gully; a first pitch of 50’ with a combo of dihedral, crack, and face climb; followed by a 25-30’ tower climb. Due to recent fires, there was a presence of smoke rated as Moderate, which we determined was acceptable to proceed.

After extensively monitoring smoke reports all week from recent fires (highly recommend WA Smoke and, our group met at the Snow Lakes trailhead by the bathrooms at 7 then caravanned 2 miles up Icicle Creek Rd to the Yellowjacket pull-out on the left at 47.54442, -120.74418. There were many many many cars and hikers in the area preparing to do the Enchantments through-hike or larch-hunt. As a group, we briefed and determined that we were okay with proceeding with the current amount of smoke.

We crossed the bridge, and made our way to the beginning of the steep initial hike – being mindful that the bridge crossing area is on private property, so we kept voices low.

We entered a band of smoke around 2100’, which affected one party member, but we agreed to proceed and entered what I dubbed “nature’s garbage chute”: consisting of branches, limbs, dirt, sand, scree, and every other thing under the sun. After picking our way through, we went right of the large chockstone and climbed a few Class 4 boulders, which are spicy enough to recommend coaching if necessary. We made our way up the gully toward the base of the infamous chickenhead wall (arrow), where you’ll find the start of the “hidden gully.”

Aim for the chickenhead wall

Chickenhead wall

At the base of the hidden gully (below), we dropped packs, roped up, decided on a plan, and the first rope leader led and set a handline for the remaining group while he proceeded up pitch 1 and then the summit pitch.

the hidden gully

Allowing leader 1 to continue without waiting for everyone at pitch 1 keeps things moving, saves time, and also keeps the base of pitch 1 clearer. There is a Class 4 move in the gully, where we found tacking right to be a good option.

Pitch 1 (below) is the “real” first pitch, a 50’ face with a well defined crack on the left. A dihedral so sure foot holds are key early. Other trip reports have documented the route well, essentially, we found it to be a tricky first 10’ that can be easily protected with 3-4 cams, then a slightly exposed traverse to the right, sling the live tree halfway up, then tack left at the second tree to the wide belay station for the summit. Bring up your second there and re-group.

pitch 1

For the summit (below), leader 1 set an anchor, got lowered, then swapped out to top-rope the belayer. We left the rope for the subsequent two pairs. We snacked and set up the first rappel as others were summiting.

A note on the summit tower: there is a mantel move in some exposure to get to the climb proper, then we found the best first move was to place a left foot on a flake low then push up to easier hand-holds. (Can protect with a silver #.4 or tricam.) From there, it’s 15’ to a good position of balance, where you can put in a quad anchor to two very solid chains. Gorgeous views at the top and room for one person to sit and take it all in!


Once everyone had summited, we did a classic single-rope rappel off a big tree to the right with plenty of slings. Rappel #1  - with a super-fun overhang! - puts you right back at the base of pitch 1.

hanging rappel

We did another rappel til the end of the rope, then scrambled down the dirty gully a bit to the hidden gully and our packs. Another obvious tree with slings here takes you to a combination of scrambling and rappels - keep looking for trees and slings. Do be mindful that the descent of nature’s garbage chute (below) is perhaps the crux of the climb: rock fall danger is high – if students, review rock fall procedure and especially how to call out ROCK clearly and emphatically.

dirty gully

Our rappel game was mostly on-point, and we scrambled the final 100’ or so to the turn-off point. Here, we gathered, took a group photo, and made our way down the steep dirt hike. I was mindful of a slight ankle sprain today, and the First Aid lead did a great job of checking in to make sure things were good with all the satanically sliding dirt.

group photo

One note: as we came off the trail, I saw a family on a golf cart, who asked me if I was in a group then informed me this was private property. I said, of course, we’ll keep our voices down. But it occurred to me that perhaps this person wasn’t aware that this was a well-used route that even includes a "Yellowjacket" sign tacked a tree. Don’t know what this means, just a note for future leaders to be aware during that short section from the parking pull-out to the beginning of the trail.

Today's climb took 8:15 (7:28 am-3:43 pm) - right around where I wanted to be. We did a good debrief in the lot, including a discussion about dealing with rock fall, everyone had acted as a team, we were in good spirits, we congratulated the two students on their rock credit, and I was happy to get in my first mentored rock climb without incident. (Thank you to my mentor!) We then departed to enjoy this beautiful, unseasonably warm October day.