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Trip Report    

Intermediate Alpine Climb - Le Petit Cheval/Spontaneity Arête

A worthwhile climb, despite the distance from Seattle. Strenuous, but every pitch is fun.

  • Road suitable for all vehicles
  • Approach is steep and requires good scrambling skills.  The crossing over Early Winters Creek should be possible on logs, even when the creek is high (we used logs, but the creek was only inches deep and a few feet wide) .

I'm the first to make a trip report on this climb.  But I know people other than my party of four have climbed it.

Time from Car to Car -- 11.5 hours.

1.75 hours -- Car to base of climb. 

5.75 hours -- Base to Summit.

2.00 hours -- Descent via gully from summit to base of Pitch-1, including rappel off the summit into the gully.

2.0 hours -- Base to car descent

We started at 7:00 AM, summitted at 3:20, and were back to car just after 6 PM. This was a worthwhile climb, despite the distance from Seattle. The topo from the Washington Pass Climbing book, published by SuperTopo, was invaluable for route finding, but also a little confusing.  It shows 8-9 pitches.  Other reports mention 7. Maybe some people don't count the two scramble sections. 

Approach -- There is a large pullout on Hwy 20 mile marker 165.  Near the southwest end of that pullout, there is a well worn trail that drops quickly down into the trees.  You'll see another trail on the northeast side of the pullout, but it goes down into the brush and I don't know where it goes.  But the well worn trail drops right into the trees where it becomes an easy path to follow down to a good set of log crossings over Early Winters creek. On the other side, we found the trail to the right of our log crossing, where it went up a small stream bottom, toward a white slab with a large cave above it.  That cave is visible from the road.  It's huge.  The path goes left of those features and then fairly straight up.   If you think the trail goes left, look to the right or upward to be sure.  There were cairns.  Soon, you'll find a slabby ledge with a good handline that can be scrambled.  We didn't use the handline on the way up, but did use it coming down.  Then there is another section of steep gravelly trail and then another little gully with a handline.  After the top of that handline, it isn't far to the base of the climb.  As most people say, if you hike into the gully, you went too far.  Look around a corner to the left for an old dead tree in the shape of a "U" and a place where it looks like people have belayed.

Pitch 1 -- As described in most beta guides.  It goes up a short blocky ledge to a tree, continues on a fist jam crack, and ends below an obvious roof.   If you go into the gully at the base of P1, you can see the roof above you, facing the gully to the right.  From the base of P1, however, it is not visible.  It's a good reference point for the ascent and descent.

Pitch 2 -- Climb under the roof (fun).  After you exit, go about 50 feet, past a couple ugly trees to belay at a better tree that then has scrambly terrain afterwards.

Pitch 3 -- There are variations.  Start out scrambling up the Arete.  There is a steeper block a couple hundred feet later.  You can pitch or simul-climb a 5.2 corner and keep scrambling the arete to an obvious tower.  Or, like we did, scramble down to the gully, past the 5.2 block, and then go back up on the arete to the base of the tower.  It's several hundred feed to the 5.2 block, and another couple hundred feet to the base of the tower. 

Pitch 4 - starts at the base of the tower.  Beta says it's a 5.7 hand crack over a bulge to a belay at a 10" crack.  We didn't find a 5.7 hand crack.  We found a more difficult and worn out flaring crack that wouldn't take much protection.  It was on the wall behind a skinny tree that seemed easier to climb than the crack. Instead, I climbed to the right, around a corner, to a shorter crack that took me to the top of the hump.  Then I continued up to almost a full rope length and belayed at the base of a short 10" crack, as most reports say.   We had only 20' left in the rope at that point.

Pitch 5 -- Up the 10" crack, placing pro to the left or up high.    Then climb 5.4 finger and hand cracks, through a shallow gully with bushes, and belay at a small flat spot off a tree. 

Pitch 6 -- My memory gets fuzzy, but I recall a left-facing dihedral that feeds up to a tall step that had a wide crack on the left face.  I used some chicken arming in that crack to get up the step.  It became less steep and gradually worked up to a large flat bench. You'll probably see a tree with rap slings just before the flat spot, but continue into the flat spot for a sturdier tree to belay from -- almost a full rope length.

Pitch 7 -- Up the blocks.  There was a left-facing corner and then a set of blocks.  This wasn't very long and ended at the base of what's called "Goldie Crack", which is on a face to the left -- pretty obvious.  Or there are blocks to the right, and another crack.  My team went to the right, and the other team took the 5.7 Goldie Crack.  They said the crack was totally worth it.  That tops out to terrain that can be scrambled all the way to the summit, so we coiled ropes and just carried them up. 

Pitch 9 -- Scramble to the summit.  The actual summit can be reached over the top of an exposed slab, or around to the left through some blocky scramble stuff.

 Descent.  There were slings on the summit, but we didn't use those.  Just at the base of the summit, facing the gully, we found a tree with some slings.   One single rappel got us to a ledge.  We scrambled across a narrow ledge to climber's right to get into the gully.  We followed the gully all the way to the base of Pitch-1.  Although the gully was steep and full of scree, it did seem faster than rappels, taking us 45 minutes from summit to base.  It was steep, and achy. At the base, we collected backpacks and followed the trail that we brought us on approach (not the gully).  The old terrible hand lines that you read about in other reports have been replaced with a couple good lines, so we used those to help us descend the two steeper sections and reached the cars soon after 6 p.m.

 Amazingly, when we reached Marblemount just before 8:00, the Mondo restaurant was still open and we could get some good food.  It hit the spot.

 It's an interesting route.  About mid-day, the weather threatened some rain with a large set of clouds that misted upon us. We were at the base of Pitch 4 and decided to go on up. From so many places, we could rappel or downclimb into the gully and bail.  Thankfully, that set of clouds faded and the sun broke through now and then.  But it remained very windy, forcing us to use radios to communicate through the noise.