Trip Report    

Intermediate Alpine Climb - Cutthroat Peak/Southeast Buttress

This is a Grade III+, 5.8 climb according to SuperTopo. You could probably do it in a day, but much more fun with a bivy!

  • Road suitable for all vehicles
  • Trail leading to the basin starts at the east end of the long pullout.  Some snow in the basin, but nothing requiring an ice axe.

We climbed as a party of 3, all experienced climbers, and it took us about 7:45hrs bivy to summit, then 4hrs summit to bivy (~12 hrs bivy to bivy).  We climbed on half ropes, with the followers following about 6-10' apart (i.e., NOT caterpillar style).  Weather was perfect, and I would call this route in the same league as the West Ridge of Mt. Stuart in terms of both route-finding and length/commitment.  Hardest moves are in the 5.7-5.8 range, but only in a few sections, some with no pro, so leaders should be confident.  It's more important that the party is competent at long mountain days, and moving efficiently in moderate terrain.

The SuperTopo topo is really good.  We ascended the climbers left gully (snow finger still present) and stopped at the square notch before a very large chockstone.  Climbed the face on the left and up to the first belay tree.  From here we simul climbed the wandery ridge until the end of the 5th pitch in the supertop map.  At the end of pitch 6 there was some question as to where we were, but the end of pitch 7 is unmistakable, you look up and see the huge chockstone you go under.

Above and right of the chockstone starts the first crux pitch (pitch 9).  We did this by taking the climbers left crack up, and then traversing over (#3 pro) a hand+ crack with poor feet.  Felt way harder than 5.7+.  The actually route may go up the second crack (on the supertopo labeled with "2-3" next to it).  The remainder of the the pitch protected well and had a fun exit move at the top.  From here, don't go directly up the slabby dihedral, instead, move climbers left towards a tree.  Up some ledges gets you to a tree at the start of pitch 11 (I think).

For the crux pitch (12), we did not go up the gully (5.8 stem?), but rather, stayed on the arete and wandered up that.  Felt easier than 5.8 getting up, but then requires an exposed traverse at the top of the gully (protect the follower), and a magical 2-finger pocket to help you down.  Wrestle with the rope drag up a bunch of sand to a tree, and extend you anchor so you can watch your follower ascend.

Then you are at the "humps" and the notch before the true summit.  Getting into the notch looks worse than it is (but we still belayed it, high consequence fall).  The "5.7+" boulder move is very committing, and has no pro, so a spotter is highly recommended! Then a short 5.7 layback, and up to the Offwidth, which protects with a #4 (if you brought such a thing).  Two moves gets you up and over the Offwidth. (for reference, I thought this OW was harder than what you find on Tree Route in Leavenworth).  There is also a chockstone in the offwidth to use at your discretion.

For the descent, first set of chains are on the NW side. 30m rap to the next chains (aim more skiers left), then second 30m rap to the skiiers left of the large gendarme. You are now on the West Ridge route, and can follow the SuperTopo for that.  Pretty straight forward, and the rule is just STAY RIGHT (skiiers right) and on the ridge, for a long time.  We simulclimbed this using a few slings and natural pro.  You will eventually come to a Carin, which marks where the first set of chains are.  Full 30m rap gets you to the next chains, and another 30m to the ground.

Then the fun of a "Cascadian Couloir" descend down sandy scree.  We did not find the correct descent path, and ended up with some sketchy downclimbing (or) another rappel (we stayed skiiers left of the notch where the stream was running).  In retrospect, the proper route may have been skiiers right of the water.  Not sure.

For gear, we had Green Alien to #3 BD, and doubles 0.5-#1.  Very happy with that selection!  A #4 would have protected the OW before the summit.

All in all, a really amazing route, but one not to be underestimated!  Highly recommend doing it with a bivy, although bring a critter-proof bag for food!  The Marmots and Pikas were very VERY aggressive!