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Trip Report    

Sloan Peak/Southeast Face

This climb took place starting on Saturday Sept 20 and ended on Monday Sept 22.

The trip in and drive to the trailhead was mostly uneventful. We took a "wrong" turn and wound up driving to the trailhead via Darrington rather than Granite Falls. The highway through Oso was back to single lane and not working in our favor. Eventually we got to the trailhead which appeared to be in good order.

Drove to the end of forest service road 4096 and hiked in to Bedal Basin which was straightforward. It's easy to lose the trail once you get to the creek but cairns mark the way. We passed the imposing West face of Sloan, briefly scouting the reportedly 5.7 (class II or III) route for a return trip. We traversed cross-country southbound across the basin and climbed weathered slopes covered in heather to the ridge coming off Sloan's West face. There are two gullies, we chose the one on the right but descended on the one closest to the West face. Both work but I think the one closest to the West face would have been easier.

Once at the ridge we traversed across to the SE face cross-country on loose vegetation covered slopes, loose rocks and boulders. Eventually we reached the ridge of the SE face where we found a fantastic bivy site complete with a wind break. The view of the SE basin was fantastic. The wind was very strong, perhaps 30-40 mph (hard to tell) which we hoped wouldn't be the case the next day. It took under 5 hours to reach the camp. We wet up our bivy site and set out to scout the approach to the ramp that granted access to the SE face. We also collected water for dinner from melter water streams coming off the SE basin snow field. We returned by headlamp to camp for an amazing night of sleeping under the stars.

The wind was fierce that evening but died down a little bit by morning. We decided we would see what happened during the day. We left camp before sunrise, topped off our water and set out for the SE ramp.

The ramp leading to the lower ledges of the SE face was snow free, however there were large moats that prevented access. A snow tongue remained that had a small 1-2" gap between the snow and the ramp. We built snow anchors and belayed each climber (w crampons and ice axe) up the ramp and onto a flat area after they transitioned onto the rock. The last climber was belayed from above via a rock anchor. Once on the ramp we removed our crampons and left them and our ice axes for the return.

The ramp was an easy scramble on smooth granite, dirt and sometimes heather. We traversed the ramp up until we found the notch that led up to the corkscrew route. Getting up to this notch involved a fairly thin fifth class move that was tricky in boots, but not very exposed. Eventually we were not the corkscrew route trail and quickly hiked to the base of the climb.

The climb started to the left of an imposing roof. Easy 5.7 climbing (if that hard) traversing generally up and to the right led to a ledge and the top of the first pitch, just under a full rope length. From here the climb continues to another sandy ledge perhaps half a rope length... best to belay from here although we did not. Continue up a chimney system... the start looks like a wall of grooved granite with a handful of funky chicken-heads and traverses up and slightly to the right before going straight up. This tops out at a large ledge on the arm leading to the summit. The fourth and final pitch is easy class 5 or even 4th class and at a full rope length leads to a boulder covered area with many options for an anchor. From here it's an easy scramble to the summit.

Our first team made the summit by 12:30 but the second group was much later. That had gotten off route somewhere near the second pitch and were climbing much a more difficult route.

A pair of young climbers (young man and woman) appeared from the north. They said they had just climbed the "seldom climbed n ridge" and had ivied there the night before. They said they had parked their tan car at the Bedal Basin TH (where we started) and planned to descend via the SE face. They were wearing running shoes but when I asked if they had crampons they said they did. We offered to let them descend with us although our second team had not arrived yet. They opted to go on without our support.

We descended late with only a few hours of daylight remaining. We followed the corkscrew route back to the gully we ascended. Rather than downlclimb the 5th class move we rigged a hand line to provide a little support and this went quickly. We descended the ramp and set up to transition back onto the snow.

We set up a anchor on a single strand and everyone rappelled down to a snow anchor the first rappelled built. The last climber down climbed to the base on the snow tongue tied in but not really on belay until they transitioned to the snow. We once again jumped from rock to snow and regrouped. The snow tongue had considerably thinned since we used it that morning. Holes were evident where we had walked that morning. I doubt it will last more than a few more days.

We saw no sign of the young couple (crampon marks on the snow, footprints traversing from the snow tongue to the ridge off the SE basin, etc) but there was nothing. We don't think they went this way.

We refilled our water and returned to camp. Rather than hike out by headlamp we decided it would be safer to bivy an extra night. We tried to get cell signal but didn't get any even with a few carriers. A SPOT message was sent however.

The night was amazing, full of stars and no wind. We were all very tired and hungry and most of us slept very well.

We woke up before sunrise and packed up. It was starting to sprinkle and then suddenly we heard thunder in the distance that was getting closer. A small plane flew over the SE basin. This quickened our pace to get out of camp and soon we were making our way cross-country to the ridge off the West face. We actually got cell signal from the ridge off the West face and were able to call people to tell them everything was fine.

The hike out was uneventful and took around 3 hours.

When we got to the trailhead we looked for the tan car that the young couple said they parked there. There was no such car there so perhaps they actually did make it out somehow. However, we doubt they went out the SE ramp and suspect they walked past the descent gully off the corkscrew and just continued down the trail.

Overall a very successful trip. An amazing mountain and this is an amazing route, starting from the SE basin. It was suggested that we should have just hiked the glacier in and took the corkscrew up to the start of the rock climb. However, this would have denied us the experience of climbing up from the SE basin which I highly recommend.

 

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