he Blob (The Rake), South Buttress, "Plan 9", new route
On August 26, 2006, Mike Layton and Erik Wolfe climbed the 1,500-ft South Buttress of The Blob (a.k.a. The Rake) in the Crescent Creek group of the Southern Picket Range, calling their route “Plan 9.” See the feature article, “The Pickets Get a Southern Facelift,” by Mike Layton in this NWMJ issue for details.
Grade IV, 5.10, 16 pitches
(The opening photo on this page shows the Crescent Creek Spires from the SW.)
Mount Fury, West Peak, SW (“Mongo”) Ridge, New Route
On August 26-27, 2006, Wayne Wallace climbed the 4,000-ft SW Ridge of the West Peak of Mount Fury in the Northen Picket Range during a five-day solo effort. See the feature article by Wallace in this NWMJ issue for details.
Grade VI, 5.10
Crystal Lake Wall, North Face, “Waste of Life,” New Route
In August 2006, a non-climber friend told me about a place called Crystal Lake in Mount Rainier National Park that is surrounded by peaks and walls. Not sure what to expect I went up with him to have a look around. We scrambled to the top of one peak and set up a top-rope on a short cliff next to the lake, but I was most interested in the steep 400-ft wall south of the lake. I returned alone a couple of weeks later with a rope and a small rack to have a go at it. Based on photographs I decided that the left side would be the easiest way to go, but when viewed up close it did not look sufficiently challenging. I walked west along the base and found a route that looked okay, and started up trailing my rope so I could rappel if I didn’t feel comfortable. Most of the climb was mid-5th class, with a short section of 5.8 near the middle and a slightly overhanging 5.9+ chimney through a roof near the top. The rock was extremely loose, but I’m glad I went alone because good protection would not be available, and I was sending rocks down the whole time.
Grade II, 5.9+ R
Dragontail Peak, NW Face, “Dragonscar”, New Route
Easy access to the Stuart Range encouraged Jens Holsten and I to return on September 6, 2006, and we managed to climb a new route on the NW Face of Dragontail Peak. Starting to the west of the Boving route, on the opposite end of the broad slab, we climbed two pitches off the glacier to the top of a small pillar. From this comfortable perch I watched Jens cruise up a beautiful stretch of crack and face climbing. The next pitch would not go so smoothly - faced with several equally intimidating options, a grueling process of elimination left us with the crux of the route, a strenuous bulge through microwave size blocks and off-size jams. One more long pitch brought us to low angle terraces. Climbing shoes came off with relief and the rope was put away for good. Unsure of the route to the top, we wound our way through a thousand or more feet of incredibly fun alpine scrambling to the west ridge, a short hike from the summit. We dubbed the route “Dragonscar” after the golden patch of exfoliation we climbed through, easily spied from the lake below.
Grade IV, 5.11 R, 2500ft
South Early Winter Spire, NW Face, “Mojo Rising”, New Route
On October 13-14, 2006, Joel Kauffman, Tom Smith and I climbed a direct route on the NW Face of South Early Winter Spire that we called “Mojo Rising.” During previous trips to the Liberty Bell group I traced cracks on the face and compared them to the Beckey guide. Several fine crack lines had been climbed in the 1970s and 1980s, and I realized that our new line was going to be not just a climb but a project.
Joel led the first pitch late in the morning of October 13. It was a sustained, bolt-protected 5.10 pitch with two 5.11 cruxes and a 4-bolt A0 ladder leading to a two-bolt anchor. I scrambled ten feet up the second pitch and plugged a cam into a slanting 20m C1 seam. At mid-pitch the seam closes off and removable protection cannot be placed for two moves. I fixed a 3/4-inch bolt here for a future free ascent. On the third pitch, Tom led up a wide crack and moved over to a small ledge below a short overhanging layback crack (5.11PG or C1). He made three aid moves then pulled the roof of the dihedral on 5.10 finger locks to the third belay stance. As darkness approached we rappelled back to the base leaving ropes fixed.
After returning to our high point, Joel started the fourth pitch late in the morning of October 14. This was a fun, exposed 5.7 ramp we called the “Skywalker Pitch.” Joel lowered 15ft from a bolt anchor and swung over to a ramp near the base of the “Golden Dihedral.” Tom and I followed by rappelling from the bolt anchor and swinging over. The laser-cut crack formed by the Golden Dihedral was tempting, but it did not connect directly with our summit cracks. Just to the left was a simpler 5.9 crack. I climbed the crack and a dihedral above then hand-jammed carefully over a wedge shaped one-ton block perched in the corner. I finished the pitch on a 100ft dihedral that took perfect 5.8 finger locks. From my old rap-recon anchor, our last new pitch reached easy climbing on the upper SW Rib route.
Because I expect that Mojo Rising will go entirely free in the future, I engineered a user-friendly line. I left cracks that were protectable bolt-free and bolted the faces. The first three belays are bolted and rigged to rappel with one 60m rope. I am guessing the C1 second pitch will go free at hard 5.12 or perhaps 5.13.
Grade III, 5.11 C1
Le Petit Cheval, NW Face, “Paul Revere,” New Route
On October 23, 2006, Ben Mitchell and I climbed the NW Face of Le Petit Cheval, one of three flatiron features at the NW base of Kangaroo Ridge. The upper part of the approach featured class 3 and 4 climbing on moss and needle covered rock as well as high-angle bushwacking. We started up the main weakness near the center of the face with 200ft of simul-climbing. From a belay at a good ledge with a tree, I worked right into a fun hand crack that turned into a stiff 5.9 finger crux over a bulge. I belayed just above the bulge to haul the pack and asked Ben if I could take the next pitch. After climbing to a small ledge, I saw that the weakness we were following eased to low 5th class climbing most of the way to the summit. Fifteen feet higher I passed twin hand cracks splitting the upper shield of the crag for 350ft. I decided I’d be mad not to try them and launched into pure 5.9 crack bliss. With the cold rock, my pack, and the sustained crack size, I reached a stance pumped with my rack picked over. I pounded in a knifeblade and set up my belay. Ben looked cold when he reached my perch.
Ben tackled a hard 5.9+ layback off-width and cruised the rest of his 130ft pitch, which featured hand and finger cracks, jugs and dihedrals. By 3:30 p.m. we finally got high enough on the wall to be in the sun. The climbing eased and I stretched out the last 200ft of 5.6 crack and block climbing to the top of our line. We celebrated after Ben reached me and I felt warm for the first time since leaving my house in Mazama. We reached the summit at 4:30 p.m., seven hours after leaving our car. We hurried down the Spontaneity Arete rappels and reached the car just as darkness fell.
Grade II+, 5.9+
West McMillan Spire, West Ridge, Ski Descent
On January 27-28, 2007, Phil Fortier, Jason Hummel, and I climbed and skied West McMillan Spire. I was first inspired to ski the West Ridge of West McMillan Spire when I noticed how much snow it was still holding in June of 2004 after an attempt to ski the Degenhardt Glacier. A solid weather window and a healthy winter snowpack made the time seem right. We skinned the approach, from snow on the road before Goodell Creek Campground to our Camp in Terror Creek Basin; the only exception was a small bit of booting in the steep forest just above where the old road ends. Jason and I skied from the true summit, negotiating one small rocky step below the ridge. It was much nicer to ski away from the Southern Picket Range than the standard knee-and-ankle bashing steep trail descent. A beautiful descent of a full vertical mile in one plum shot down Terror Creek from West McMillan Spire appears possible, but we wanted to go with the security of the approach we knew.
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