Trip Report    

Mount Formidable/South Route

Successful early season climb with significant snow coverage.

  • Sat, Jul 4, 2020 — Mon, Jul 6, 2020
  • Mount Formidable/South Route
  • Climbing
  • Successful
  • Road suitable for all vehicles
  • Mostly snow covered.

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FYI - Video splash screen date is mistyped, its July 4-6 - not June.

While everyone on the trip are Mountaineers it was a private trip due to the difficulty being outside the bounds of what we can lead for the covid guidelines. Just getting the trip report in the system for future reference.

We had a Fri-Sun trip planned but switched to Sat-Mon due to the weather. Good call as one day either way would have been a no-go. We lucked out with the one day with sunny and calm weather for the summit day.

Overall it was about 26 miles and pushing 10,000ft gain for the whole thing car to car. About 7 hours to camp, 19 hours for the climb day and 6 hours hike out.  The climb day broke down to about 2.5 hours from camp to the col looking at Formidable. 5 hours col to summit, 8 hours summit to col (extra time due to an additional handline, softer snow coming down and rappels for 5 people), 3.5 hours col to camp.

5 of us took off from the gate 2 miles back from the Cascade Pass trailhead adding an extra 4 miles and 1000ft gain to the trip starting around 8:30am.

From Cascade Pass 99% of the rest of the trip was on snow with only an occasional bit of trail or rock islands to cross. Steep snow with bad runout in places along the way to Cache Glacier but not bad. There is a huge cornice forming across the entire width of Cache Col. That will not be pretty when it collapses. We had to hit it on the far right and traverse under the cornice to the rocks on the other side and a loose scree/rock scramble up to the top of the col.

From there its an easy snow walk to Kool-aid lake which is still under feet of snow. But the water is running at the stream there.

The traverse around to Red Ledges is also an easy snow walk the entire way.

The Red Ledges were a bit tricky. Getting onto them is straightforward traversing on steep snow but the last bit is a runout over the moat. Around the corner out of sight was another steep now patch about 20ft across covering the ledge with runout into the chasm that had to be side traversed. Then a steep snow climb out of the ledges, again with runout into the chasm. Everyone soloed it okay but its 3 no-fall steep snow sections to get through the ledges.

We setup camp just around the corner near Arts Knoll and turned in early.

3:30am wakeup and walking around 4:45. We woke up to clear blue sky and calm weather.

Made quick work of the Cascade Glacier, down Formidable/Spider col and across the basin to the final col in just over 2 hours.

The drop from there was on a steep snow finger that was easy to get down. From there a walk across and backup to the rock ledge where we found a couple different paths to scramble up the ledges to the next snowfield.

From there we went up to where the ledges scramble option starts but looking at our options figured there were too many snow patches on the ledges but it looked like snow went all the way up the chasm.

So we decided to straight up the middle hoping to intersect the 4th class step across the chasm. Halfway up we hit a moat starting to form but was still enough left we were able to get around it and all the way to where we could step onto the other side of the chasm. The ledges had a layer of snow and ice but was easy to get into and made it to the cairn.

From there the next trick was getting across the face which was mostly steep snow. We started going up about 40ft before starting to traverse over. One person was far enough out they soloed across to the rock island. The rest of us decided to run a handline so we got one anchored to rocks on both ends tying our twin 37m ropes together.  Once across the first have we had a 2nd snow slope to get the rest of the way over so we repeated with a 2nd handline.

Once over we had the last 300ft most of which was another steep snow slope which was starting to soften up. We were able to all solo up and then the last 50 feet or so to the summit block was mixed snow and loose rock.

On the way down we scrambled the rocks about half way down till we found a horn that seemed like it would hold a handline and backed it up with a cam and dropped down the rope as a handline for everyone to prussic down to the start of the traverse.  Last person cleaned the gear and downclimbed with a couple pickets left in to protect the last person down.

To get across the face we repeated the 2 handlines to the cairn at the top of the chasm.

Here we couldn’t find any rappel slings from other videos we’ve seen. Maybe they were still buried under the snow.  So we tied 3 cordelletes together and slung the giant block the cairn is sitting on as a backup to rappel slings put around 2 smaller boulders. We rappelled off the smaller boulders with the backup in place in case they moved. The last person down retrieved the cordelletes and just left a sling behind.  So, if anyone ever sees that sling wondering if someone rapped off the small boulders – it was backed up for the first 4 people.

That rappel put us down past the moat.  And had to jump across the moat to get back onto the snow. From there a short face in downclimb and then back to the scramble down the ledges.

By the time we hit Formidable/Spider col the sun was going down and headlamps came out. One person had a headlamp bulb go out so we had to slow down on the descent of the glacier and back to camp which added the extra hour on the return to camp.

Great climb with a great group that worked well together figuring out some tricky options to protecting the climb in ways that are not normally done there that way.

Signing the summit register the last people to have signed it were almost a year ago last August.