agle Peak, NE Face, “Solitary Confinement,” New Route
Grade II, 5.6
Mount Buckhorn, NE Peak, South Ridge and SW Gully, New Routes
In October 2005, I climbed the South Ridge of Mount Buckhorn in the Olympics. I started by going up a gully just west of the ridge for a couple hundred feet then traversed right onto the ridge. I carried only a short section of rope because I thought the route would be so easy that no long rappels would be needed. From below, the route looks like class 3 and 4 all the way, but it proved to be more difficult with very loose rock. By the time I realized the seriousness of the situation, the only realistic option for descending was to reach the summit and go down the regular route. I had never before experienced the kind of commitment that it required, and today I readily admit that I shouldn’t have tried it. I’d estimate this route was Grade III, 5.4 R.
In September 2006, I returned with a rope and small rack hoping to climb the ridge more directly, but instead climbed the long, westernmost gully on the south side of the peak. Low down it was mostly 3rd class with a few low-5th steps. As the gully opened up it changed to incredibly loose, flaky 45-degree slabs that were impossible to down-climb or protect and frustrating to climb. After 100 feet of this, I emerged from the gully onto the SW shoulder of the mountain. A short pitch of 5.7 and a couple hundred feet of class 3 led to the summit (Grade II). Both routes are looser than any other route I have climbed anywhere and are not really recommended. Under the right conditions they could make good winter routes.
Dragontail Peak, Triple Couloir, Ski Descent
On April 4, 2006, I skied the Triple Couloir on Dragontail Peak, after several previous attempts. Following a midnight drive from Seattle, I began skinning up the Eightmile Creek road at 2:30 a.m. I arrived at Colchuck Lake at 7 a.m. just before the sun began lighting the ridges of Dragontail and Colchuck Peaks. I had wanted to climb the route, but there was considerable new snow and I wanted to avoid an epic wallow with exposure to spindrift in the runnels, so I opted for skinning up Aasgard Pass and the south side of Dragontail. After reaching the summit, I skied back down the south slope a short distance then traversed across an exposed east facing slope to the top of the Triple Couloir.
I was nervous about dropping in blind, not knowing the snow conditions, but these fears were alleviated in the first few turns as conditions were perfect. The snow was soft but not deep, a sort of chalky, punchy powder. Each couloir is exposed in its own way. The fall line of the upper couloir slants left toward the north face, so stay right. I crossed a little wind lip about half-way down the upper couloir and continued. Between the upper and middle couloirs was an interesting rock/ice step that I negotiated gingerly before hopping the last few feet. The middle couloir is the steepest of the three and is perched directly above the mixed ice and rock section. At the top of the mixed section I anchored into a piton and made the first of three rappels with skis on. I'm glad I didn't try to climb the route because the ice runnels were thin. Not much ice to be found, just a lot of snow over rock. More great turns led down the third, Hidden Couloir, to a short exposed section above a rock band. Once past this, I could finally breathe easy.
The ski down from the lake in the afternoon sun was a mix of deep mushy glop, falling into holes, and generally trying to just stay on my feet. I reached my car around 4:30 p.m.
Mount Logan, Banded Glacier, Ski Descent
On April 22-23, 2006, Tony Bentley, Dave Coleman, Peter Hirst, Casey Ruff, Eric Wehrly, Josh and Jason Hummel, and I climbed and skied Mount Logan via the Banded Glacier. It was my fifth attempt with various partners, with previous attempts stifled by poor conditions and lack of time. We approached from Thunder Creek and Fisher Creek to a camp at the 5,200-ft lake in the basin north of the Banded Glacier. We climbed the glacier on the second day. Half of the party stopped at the highest false summit south of the true summit; all skied from the false summit. We encountered windslabs below the summit and on the glacier, spring-like conditions on south-facing slopes above the Banded Glacier, and nice packed powder for a 2,500-ft descent from the notch above the Banded Glacier to our camp. We packed camp, skied to Fisher Creek, and hiked out Thunder Creek that afternoon.
(The opening photo on this page shows Mount Logan and the Banded Glacier from the north.)
Colfax Peak, South Face, Ski Descent
On May 4, 2006, Mason Stafford, Matt Schoenwald and I skied the South Face of Colfax Peak near Mount Baker. The line boasts about 1800ft of vertical, has a maximum steepness of maybe 45 degrees and has a beautiful south-facing position. Around 4 a.m. we left our car at the snowline at 2700ft on the Schriebers Meadow road. Conditions were perfect, frozen and clear. By 9:30 a.m. we were in the summit saddle waiting for conditions to be just so. A short section of cramponing brought us to the summit at 9355ft.
The ski descent down the steep south face was as good as it gets. Avy hazard zero; weather perfect; incline 45 degrees; snow conditions, white corn. By noon we were back down at the car. A perfect day.
Mount Stuart, Ice Cliff Glacier, Ski Descent
Twin Sisters Range, Ski Traverse
On May 12-14, 2006, Mark Allen, Greg Balco, Paul Kimbrough and I completed a ski traverse of the Twin Sisters Range from Step Sister Peak to North Twin Sister. On the first day we approached from a private logging road in Howard Creek and climbed Last Sister Peak (5,562ft). We skied the NW side of the peak, then traversed along the east side of the range underneath Nancy, Barbara, Trisolace, Shirley, and Saddle Slab Peaks. We camped just north of Saddle Slab.
The next day we skied to Boot Lake and climbed toward Little Sister Peak. Mark skied the south couloir of Little Sister (6,600ft) and we all skied from the summit of Cinderella (6,480ft) onto the Green Creek Glacier. We crossed a col just west of Little Sister and another col just east of Hayden Peak to the pocket glacier between Skookum Peak and South Twin Sister. Crossing the divide to the Sisters Glacier proved harder than expected. With a thin rack we climbed 40m of 4th or low 5th class rock and 100m+ of 60-degree ice and mixed terrain to the crest. Instead of the simple ski descent we expected, the NE side of the ridge required 100m+ of rapelling. After much delay and hassle due to our short ropes and sparse gear, we finally reached our campsite on the Sisters Glacier at 2:00 a.m.
Day three was incredibly hot and we were incredibly tired. Looking up, we realized we had crossed the ridge several hundred meters farther SE than intended and had rappelled down the tallest aspect of a 6720ft+ buttress SE of South Sister Peak. A little reconnaissance proved that our intended ascent would have required a mandatory 5th class pitch; our actual line was the best possible. Since we had left our ropes and two cams on the rappels the night before, it meant that our intended climbs and descents of South and North Twin Sister Peaks had to be scrubbed. We spent the day skiing laps on the Sisters Glacier then crossed the NE ridge of North Twin and descended to the road near Dailey Prairie.
We traveled for 30 hours in three days, covered 26 miles, gained 12,000ft, descended 14,000ft, skied every permanent snowfield or glacier (except the pocket glacier NW of South Twin) and made significant descents across the range.
Mount Rainier, Kautz Headwall, Ski Descent
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