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Trip Report    

Whitehorse Mountain/Northwest Shoulder

Summited on Saturday 05/07/16. We were surprised by the amount of snow melt that had already occurred. I climbed Whitehorse several years ago at the same time of year and there was so much more snow than this year. Good news is the trail has much less blow down than previously.

Every other aspect of the climb went well with the exception of the moat. It is wide open all the way across (10 foot horizontal gap, 15 foot difference between lower lip and overhanging upper lip and 10 foot down from the lower lip into the moat) with the exception of a snow bridge remaining on the far right. Didn’t see a way to gain purchase on rock to the left or right of the moat, so traversed along the lower lip to start the ascent by heading up the snow bridge to an overhanging rock band maybe 15 feet up. We sent two up at a time and the rest of the party waited 50 ft below the moat and well to the left of the fall line.

There was enough snow for pickets to hold (no telling whether that will be the case in several days given speed of snow melt). We placed a picket at the launch point at the lower lip and then belayed the lead as he made the initial vertical ascent to the overhanging rock where he placed another picket. We continued belaying the lead and he placed more pickets as he kicked in a traverse route in the steep snow slope over the moat. Then as the lead moved straight up the snow ramp he placed another picket beneath an icy rock band further up (still steep and above the moat). Climbing over this rock band was the crux of the ascent. Once above the rock band, the lead placed a couple more pickets as he ascended the last section of the snow ramp just below the established anchor on the summit. The lead affixed our 60m glacier rope to the anchor and the rest of the climb team followed the route attached to the rope with two prussics each. We had an odd number in our party, so we belayed the last person from the anchor at the summit and she retrieved the pickets as she ascended.

This ascent route was beyond what I would expect of a basic student (or basic graduate for that matter). Great that everyone in our team was either an intermediate grad or multi-year intermediate with lots of experience.

We rapped from the anchor on a single strand down the snow ramp over the overhanging upper lip and into the moat and then climbed out of the moat up to the downside lip. The last person rapped on two strands and rope stretch allowed him to get to the bottom of the moat with one foot of rope to spare.

Other interesting notes: when we arrived at the moat there was a party of two at the top and another party of two waiting to go. The party at the top had climbed the route without protection or harnesses and with an emergency rope (more like a clothes line), and they were basically stuck on the summit without a safe way down. The next party had a 30m rope which wasn't long enough. Once the first two of our climb team got to the top and with our 60m rope attached to the anchor, we leant two harnesses and belay devices and the first party rapped down.

With the second party and our climb team at the summit, we had a 30m rope in our gear inventory, and the last person to rap brought it with him. Had he been caught short on the initial rappel he would have attached himself to the rap rope with a prussic, tied both ends of the 30m rope to the ends of the 60m rope, moved his device below the knots, and completed the rap. Once down we would have pulled one of the knots to the base of the rap, untied it, and then pulled the other knot down and recovered both ropes.