Mount Blum Northeast glacier
Two weeks after our earlier trip to Blum and descent of the NW shoulder, Jason and Josh Hummel and I returned for a three-day trip with good weather (February 19-21, 2005). This time Casey Ruff accompanied us. We spent our first two days approaching and exploring the Hagan Mountain area. After making camp, we skied a rabbit-eared, 6800-ft peak just north of Hagan.
From a small summit at the southern end of the massif, we saw a snow-covered ridge that looked skiable from the summit of the highest of the Hagan peaks. We skied from the summit and returned to camp, enjoying conditions ranging from powder to corn. The summit we skied was the eastern of the two that vie for the title of Hagan’s true summit.
We climbed Mount Blum’s glacier-cloaked Northeast Rib to finish our trip. The glacier had very good climbing conditions with the exception of a few isolated windslabs. We climbed a steep chute leading to a 50 or 60-degree snowy face to access the summit ridge from the south. Our traverse of the face put us above large cliffs. We abandoned the idea of a ski descent when the face got steeper and the snow became quite icy near the top. Instead we skied the south bowl off the summit, and a southwest-facing couloir down to a shelf above Blum Lakes. The couloir was about 800 vertical feet in height with a pitch of 40-50 degrees and a width of 10-20 feet. We decided to call this thin white line with so much stimulating power ’Cocaine Couloir’.
On February 18, 2005, after camping at the Eldorado Trailhead, Rolf Larson and I skinned up the road and started up the trail to Boston Basin. Coincidentally, a group of three skiers were off to ski the north couloir on Buckner that same morning. We got to within about 800 feet of the Boston-Sahale Col by the end of the day. The skiers had continued on to make the traverse to Boston Glacier.
Some weather had moved in and the next morning visibility was poor at the col. We began the traverse on good néve but with exposure and with heavy packs. We traversed down the Boston Glacier in light north-slope powder and made it across to the North Face of Buckner at the end of the second day.
The line we originally intended to climb looked too filled in with snow. Another line caught our attention, one that began on the right side of the eastern of the two lowest North Face buttresses. This buttress is the one that comes down from the East Peak. The line started with an ice flow then went into some snow and ice runnels. A direct start to this line looked too much like powder snow on rock.
The next morning we climbed up to the icefall. I lead out the first pitch—ice with a decent steep section. From there we continued up steep snow and mixed ground. The snow was superb. We realized we should have taken a steeper line or the direct start. About halfway up the face we were able to look down at the direct start—a classic ice and néve-filled chimney with decent rock pro. More climbing led to the crest and a classic ridge traverse with exposure. At the summit we paused in the sun and then descended the north couloir back to camp.
Mount Stuart, Full North Ridge, Winter Ascent
On February 19, 2005, Mark Bunker and I left the car at around 6:00 am and hiked all the way to the bivy boulder in around 6.5 hours. On Sunday we slept in then fixed the first three pitches with two ropes.
The next morning we left the base at 6:00 am and began jugging the ropes. We chucked one of the ropes after jugging it and we also left one of our sleeping bags at the base. We made much better time on the lower ridge than we had back in December, arriving at the notch just as it got dark. We kicked out a small platform for the tent (BD Firstlight), and shared the sleeping bag that night with a special "V" of nylon Mark had made to be zipped into the bag. This system worked great. It is obviously light, but quite warm as well.
On Tuesday morning we didn’t leave the notch until 7:30 am. We made good time on most of it, arriving at the base of the Great Gendarme at around 12:45 pm. The first pitch of the gendarme was straightforward aid climbing, but still time-consuming, of course. The second pitch took a long time (we finished leading it right as it got dark) and was quite challenging because our biggest cam was a #3 Camalot and more significantly because most of the cracks were totally choked with ice. The second jugged with two packs on the gendarme pitches so that the leader could climb without one. The remaining four pitches went fast except for the “5.8 crack”, which was also time-consuming aid. We finally topped out at 11:15 pm. Then came the straightforward descent down the Sherpa Glacier. We pitched the tent down in the boulders. Mark starting melting water and making dinner while I hiked back up to the base to get our rope and sleeping bag. We didn’t get to sleep until around 3:00 am and then slept in until about 10:30.
Mount Triumph, Northeast Ridge, Winter Ascent
On February 26, 2005, Colin Haley and I made the first winter ascent of the Northeast Ridge of Mount Triumph. On the approach the Thornton Lakes were frozen over but the lower one definitely looked thin in places. We crossed it without incident. The hump up to the col had only patchy snow, but the glacier beyond had snow aplenty. We found a flat spot to set up camp not too far below the approach gully for the Northeast Ridge.
The next morning we soloed up the gully to gain the ridge. We stayed left of the crest at first until we gained the top of a small side-buttress. We roped up and Colin led a steep mixed pitch to the actual ridge crest. I think our way was significantly different than what would be feasible in the summer. I took over and led a long simul-pitch that was mostly easy snow. Finally, I went up a steep gendarme with a few hard moves, after which I decided it was time to belay. We pitched it out from there through the crux. The very edge of the ridge on the southeast side was bare rock due to sun exposure, so often it was possible to walk along that and use ice tools in the snow on your right for balance.
When we got to the crux it happened to be my lead. I opted for the right-hand variation. All of this climbing was on the northwest side of the ridge, so it was covered in flutings. Fortunately, beneath the flutings was water-ice, frozen heather, or positive rock holds. As long as I could keep excavating, I could proceed. I took a rising traverse up and right, past the bottom of the snow-choked 5.7 offwidth, and around the corner to a chimney with more exposed rock. Above the chimney I had to wallow up some more steep flutings. After about 55 meters I eventually reached the large ledge that marked the end of the difficult climbing. From the ledge Colin led one long simul-pitch across the face to the left then up a 60-degree snow and heather slope to the summit.
The South Ridge descent route had less snow on it and was rock almost the whole way. We only had one 60m rope and I think we didn’t get the route exactly right because we had to set all of our own rappel stations after the first three. We ended up going right down the south end of the East Face in a total of seven raps, eventually connecting with a ramp of snow that we could downclimb to the glacier. That put us almost directly above our camp.
While following the crux on White Chuck’s NE Ridge earlier in the month, it was readily apparent that the East Face of White Chuck was big, steep, and split by a very deep couloir. With a little help from John Scurlock I managed to get an excellent photo of face (see the photo at the top of page).
The couloir was first climbed in September 1970 by Ron Miller and Ben Guydelkon. I returned with Gene Pires and Justin Thibault to climb this route on February 27, 2005. With occasional simu-climbing we broke the climb into seven long pitches, the last ending forty feet from the summit. Two pitches in the middle consisted of steep néve. The other five were primarily beautiful runnels of water-ice sometimes no more than 1 foot wide. While a majority of the climbing was WI3 or easier the second pitch had a difficult crux of vertical and rotten snow covering thinly-iced chockstones with hard-fought protection. Ultimately, this climb was far better than we could have imagined. It is truly worthy of being a classic and deserving of repeats when in suitable winter condition.
Several other routes and unclimbed lines appear to offer excellent potential for winter climbing. Considering the mountain’s relatively easy access, particularly with a snowmachine, this peak deserves more attention.
IV WI3 5.8 mixed R 1,600 ft
On March 6, 2005, Colin Haley and I climbed a new mixed rock and ice route on the Northwest Face of Chiwawa Mountain after spotting the awesome-looking line in John Scurlock’s new pictures. We approached via the Chiwawa River from Trinity and camped in the basin below Chiwawa’s south flank. The next morning we climbed to the Chiwawa-Fortress Saddle and made a descending traverse to the base of the obvious chimney splitting the Northwest Face.
The route started in a wide ice chimney (WI4) then led up snow to a flaring slot. The ice-coated slot (M5) led to a short pitch of ice and another of snow with ice steps interspersed. The route then entered the deep recesses of the mountain by way of a rock step into a squeeze chimney with ice at the back (M3+). After a rope length, a snowpatch provided a belay below the crux chimney. We then ascended in the back of the tight chimney up verglas-coated rock and ice to a ledge in about 35 meters (M6). A snow ramp led up and right to an indistinct mixed gully. Near its head we exited right on rock to reach the the snowfield below the summit. We descended down left of the crest on the West Ridge back to the saddle.
Gear: 60m rope, 5 knifeblades, several small nuts, cams to #1 camalot, 4 ice screws--2 short and 2 medium lengths. Grade IV, WI4, M6
On March 12, 2005, Eric Gratz and I climbed the Northwest Face on Kangaroo Temple. After a snowshoe approach, we wandered to and fro near the base of the route, looking for the best start, finally settling on a belay at a tree partway up the first pitch of the summer route. Eric led in crampons with much scraping on the slabby bits, then was rewarded with some thin ice and mixed climbing to a tree. This first pitch had a little of everything: drytooling on slabby granite, moss/dirt, sticky ice, verglas.
The verglas was treacherous where it had collected in the dimples on the slabs. Eric took a nice leader fall on the third pitch, right as he was reaching for a piece of gear. I reeled in several armfuls before he scraped to a stop, upside down and saying “eff” in his inimitable way. I cheese-gratered off at nearly the same spot while following, swinging to a stop directly over a big smear of ice. We were in rock shoes at this point.
At the “Dance Floor” we went the way labeled “variation” in Beckey, belaying in a snowy, dark, windy alcove. For the last pitch, Eric led past in a shower of oatmeal granite, up the rightmost of three weaknesses. It was sunny and quite beautiful on top.
Beckey doesn’t list any winter ascents of this peak, but Steve House probably climbed it accidentally one day while finding “The Way”.
Davis Peak, Northeast Face Couloir, Winter Ascent
On March 13, 2005, Stuart Taylor and I climbed the Northeast Face Couloir (Kloke-Simon, July 1976) on Davis Peak (7,051 ft).
We spent the first day completing the short but arduous approach, which included a river crossing, some bushwhacking, and Class 4 rock to a bivy at 4000 ft at the foot of the glacier. The following morning we ascended the glacier and simul-climbed the lower rock band to the right side of a large snowfield low on the face. The rock band provided interesting mixed climbing (mid-fifth in summer) but its compact nature made it hard to protect. We then traversed left across the snowfield towards the base of the couloir. From here we belayed the crux pitches (iced up slabs and a steep chockstone) to gain the bottom of the upper couloir.
The upper couloir proved straightforward, if somewhat long and exposed, to the cornices above. We completed the couloir to where it joins the summit ridge at approximately 6,700 ft. Beckey’s topo (Vol. 3, Second Edition, page 92) implies that the couloir finishes below 6,240 ft but our altimeter and the map said otherwise. The south-facing snowpack had been turned to mush by the sun so we chose to forego the short remainder of the ridge, preferring to start the descent in the last of the daylight.
We believe this is the first recorded winter ascent of Davis Peak’s North Face, although we did not actually summit.
Mount Thompson, West Ridge, Winter Ascent
In 2005, Ryan Painter and I made what we believe to be the first winter ascent of Mount Thompson’s West Ridge. We experienced summer like conditions as the ridge was completely snow-free. The climbing was easy and fast. The summit register was missing. The descent down the East Ridge was made tricky by steep, hard snow. It was completely covered in snow. We made three rappels to pass difficult sections on descent, and then down climbed to the basin below. We camped and then climbed Huckleberry Mountain, Alaska Mountain, and Kendall Peak the following day.
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