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Trip Report    

Mount Cruiser/Southwest Corner

This climb took place on August 16-17, 2014.

On the 16th hiked into Flapjack Lakes. Uneventful hike hike to the lakes. It had just rained the day before and everything was still pretty damp. The bugs weren't that bad and once we gained some elevation the blueberries started to emerge... dry and sour down low but much sweeter as we got higher and into areas that got sun. Found a camping spot at the lakes which could be a challenge on a buy weekend even with the permit system in place. I was told there were 30 people at the lake that weekend, although I certainly didn't experience that number of people.

On the 19th we were out of camp at 4:45am heading out by headlamp. In the dark we missed the turn to Needle Pass and wound up at Glady's Divide which was no big deal since it is right next to the turn-off. We scrambled up and back to the base of the gulley. There was only a small patch of snow remaining which was easily bypassed. We found fair scrambling contouring the climbers-right wall of the gulley. We experienced rockfall ascending the gulley which we later determined was caused by goats above us. The gully seems prone to rockfall with small stones recruiting friends and family for a party all the way down to the bottom. Extreme caution is warranted under these conditions!

The traverse from Needle Pass to the base of the climb was uneventful even if it was fairly exposed 3rd and 4th class scrambling. I am not sure I would take basic students on this climb, or at least ones that didn't have prior scrambling experience. We scrambled up the ridge, trending to climbers left until I found a drop-down to a flat area with trees and a gunsight-notch we were able to scramble through to a grassy ledge. From here the rest of the scramble was easy but still very loose.

We opted to scramble the chimney up the "cannon hole" at it's top. It was a very easy and secure climb but certainly closer to 5.0 and some may want to rope up.

When we got to the climb we found a group of 5 Mazamas were already climbing but on the 5.7 face not the 5.0 route. We asked their permission to climb the opposite face and share use of the anchor. They graciously agreed.

Our first rope team reached the summit before them. I led out and placed gear to the summit, downclimbing on belay and unclipping but leaving the gear in place. My partner then led up clipping into the gear I left behind. Then he downclimbed and cleaned the route. the climbing from the anchor up is super easy and likely 4th class but it's very exposed and a slip would most certainly end in tragedy.

By the time we got back to the anchor the Mazamas were piling up on the belay ledge. We were out of their way on a hanging belay off the anchor but it was getting crowded. So we set up a rappel and told them we would wait until they were done to send our second team up. We also asked if they would want to use our rappel line to exit the summit. They agreed to this and this sped things up considerably.

When the last of this team finished their rappel our second team went up. Their climb went smoothly and soon we were all back at the base of the climb.

There was a rap anchor at the base of the climb that looked we could have used it with a double rope rappel to reach the bottom of the chimney. However, the sling was wrapped around a constriction on a boulder that was basically sitting on the edge of the cliff. The thought of rappelling on this anchor was chilling and we avoided this option. Instead we downclimbed the chimney to a series of flat boulders with rappel anchors. However, the anchors were were just as unsafe. The primary anchor had a few slings and a rap ring on it, however it was wrapped around a constriction between two boulders that wasn't really a constriction but more a small chockstone loosely wedged by dirt against another larger boulder. The webbing was also hardened and discolored, although the rap rings seemed in good order. We move the rap anchor higher up to a more secure location, replacing the webbing with fresh 1" and re-used the rap rings. A single-rope rappel took us to the base of the chimney with only a little rope to spare.

The hike out was uneventful. After we got back to the scramble down to needle pass we opted to traverse higher to a tree with many slings wrapped around it. The webbing was worn and the rap rings were hardware-store grade quick-links that were rusted. We left them in place and built a new anchor above them with fresh 1" webbing and a new rap ring. The rappel went well and a single rope (with knots on the ends!) was JUST enough to reach a ledge where one could easily scramble down to needle pass.

We started to rig a rappel from the rock horn going down needle pass. We figured a double-rope rappel would get us down to less steep terrain and help us manage the risk of rockfall. We quickly realized this was a bad plan and pulled the ropes. It was much safer (and faster) to simply downlclimb the way we came up. While difficult, we didn't have to have a person on rappel in the center of the gulley (where the worst rockfall from above occurs) and we spent less time overall in the pass itself. We kept the group close and tight and while tedious overall went well.

The hike back to camp was uneventful. As were were breaking down camp a group of climbers we saw near the base of the climb told us that a goat made off with their backpack that contained their car keys. They asked if one of their team could ride back with us while the other remained at the ranger station. There was only room for one more person in the Subaru we carpooled in. We gladly agreed. We hiked out with them and left the climber stuck at the ranger station an MRE I kept packed in my car.

The hike out was uneventful although long and tedious.

I missed looking at my watch and noting times but I estimate 11-12 hours camp to camp for the climb. We lost about 1-2 hours waiting on the other group we encountered. It was a very long day for sure.

Brought but we didn't use: Crampons, ice axes, pickets and I think one of the climbers brought some ice screws. The snow is basically gone from this route! However, we likely would have been glad to have this gear had the gulley been full of hard snow or even alpine ice...