bernathy Peak, NE Face, Ski Descent
On July 1, 2007, Phil Fortier and I skied the NE Face of Abernathy Peak after approaching the mountain from the Twisp River side. By late June, the season’s snow was melting quickly and with it my desire to ski in the Northeastern Cascades. But a photo I saw posted on a message board renewed my excitement. The picture showed the NE side of Abernathy Peak with a beautiful snowy face and couloir. A plan was quickly formed to climb the South Face and drop onto the NE Face from the summit. As Phil and I climbed patchy snow up the South Face to the 8321-ft summit, I wondered if I had been fooled by that picture. But when we arrived at the top, we found that the NE Face held all the snow we needed. Phil and I skied the face on nice corn then climbed back to the East Ridge by a more direct route. We finished the day by descending the South Face to Scatter Lake and hiking through the forest back to our car.
Mount Adams, NW Face of West Ridge, ski descent
On July 5, 2007 I skied the Northwest Face of the West Ridge of Mount Adams, almost by accident. My intention was to ski the Pinnacle Glacier Headwall, but after climbing to the summit of the North Peak via the North Ridge, I dropped in much too early and ended up on the Northwest Face of the West Ridge. My error was particularly exciting since it was a route perfectly suited for skiing, with a slope of 40-45 degrees and close-up views of the West Ridge and Pinnacle Headwall. Rockfall was frequent but could be avoided in a better snow year than 2007. After I arrived at the bottom, I met 18 goats who wandered by while I was resting at a glacier tarn. This animal encounter was one of the most thrilling I've ever had. After such a wonderful descent, I was very pleased.
Mount Fernow, North Face, Ski Descent
On July 7, 2007, Dave Coleman and I hiked from Phelps Creek to Leroy Basin and over the shoulder west of Seven Fingered Jack into the basin on the SW side of Mount Fernow. We crossed a 7174-ft col and descended one of two couloirs that provide access to the north side of Mount Fernow. We climbed glacier remnants to below the North Face ice apron. Dave stayed behind while I climbed to the top of the apron (8800ft+), where it steepened to 50 degrees. In places during the climb the snow was thin with glacier ice noticeable underneath. Luckily, conditions turned out to be great for skiing. At about 5 p.m. I began the descent. I rejoined Dave below and we continued down for a 2500ft run. We returned to the basin SW of Mount Fernow to camp then skied Seven Fingered Jack’s “Gloomy Glacier,” a 1600-ft run, the following day.
(The opening photo on this page shows Phil Fortier skiing the North Face of Mount Fernow.)
Gunsight Peaks Traverse, “Gunrunner”
Tales of white granite and striking crack systems on the Gunsight Peaks have intrigued climbers for years, but the two-day approach and notoriously unstable weather have kept the number of actual visits low. On July 9, 2007, Dan Hilden and I crossed onto the Chickamin Glacier at Blizzard-Gunsight Col and carefully traversed north on icy slopes beneath the four major peaks of the Gunsight group. At the ridge’s northern end we began climbing up a corner and face on clean white granite. We followed the crest for seven pitches to a cavernous chimney below the summit of the misnamed Northeast Peak (which is actually NNW of the North and Middle Peaks). Dan led into the back of a large roof which capped the chimney, and he emerged out of a hidden “escape hatch” hole to the top. We continued along the crest, simul-climbing a couple pitches and using one short pendulum (A1) on the North Peak, which can be easily avoided by future parties. From the namesake “gunsight” notch, we reached the Middle Peak via a 5.9 dihedral on the east side of the crest above the Blue Glacier. As twilight faded, we picked up the pace. After topping a penultimate gendarme, Dan led the final pitches to the South Peak by moonlight. The rappel descent to the Blue glacier was done in total darkness, with just enough star-light reflecting off the snow and white granite to display the gaping moat which we carefully avoided. (For photos and more details, see feature story.)
Grade IV, 5.10 A1
Gunsight North Peak, West Face, Free Ascent
After a two-day approach via Agnes Creek, on the morning of July 25, 2007, Jens Holsten and I ambled over the pass above our bivi and roped up for the loose descent onto the Chickamin Glacier. A mellow crampon session led us to the base of the West Face. We gained the route off a traversing ledge. The rock quality is superb, if a bit grainy the higher you get. I headed up just to the right of Blake's cairn and towards the fabled crux pitch.
Nelson and Dietrich seemed to have veered right on the second pitch and climbed a very thin corner before moving back left to the belay. No bolts were found in situ, contrary to Jim Nelson’s guidebook. (The second belay would be more comfortable with bolts, but they certainly weren't necessary).
Jens tentatively climbed his way upwards and made a tenuous move left of thin flakes. Still unsure he could free it, move by move, he found unanticipated decent holds, good gear, more positive flakes (a trademark of this wild wall) and uncanny knobs, all of which took him past the crux to a well deserved victory whoop (5.11+).
The next crack system looks sort of like a hand crack off the belay, but unfortunately becomes a shallow flaring flake requiring a steep layback. It does accept gear however. Another flake follows the first; the crack finally turns into hands to a little knob belay where I plugged in the last of my gear. The final bit of steepness ended up being a little less difficult than the third pitch. Jens led one more short pitch to “flat ground” and up to the crazy summit blocks.
The Snout, “Deviated Septum,” New Route
On August 2, 2007, Blake Herrington and I hiked up the abandoned spur road that forks left off the main Cutthroat Lake trail shortly before the first bridge. From there, we headed up well-spaced timber to the base of a waterfall that was passed on the left. A brief perusal of the wall identified an obvious straight in crack splitting a face just right of a prominent left facing corner on the north face. 5.7 climbing led up and right to the base of the obvious crack, which unfortunately was a bit too wide for our meager rack. We opted to climb the major corner system instead. A short pitch of slightly dirty 5.9+ urged us out left on the steep face with faint signs of protection. Excellent steep climbing (5.10) led to a mantle onto a great ledge. Another pitch of mid-5th fun led to 3rd class terrain and the summit. We named the route “Deviated Septum” due to our change of plans and the nasal theme of the Snout.
3 pitches, 5.10
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