Monday, June 24, 2013

6.21.2013 Mt. Jefferson via Woodpecker Ridge

The route follows the rib that extends from the center of the photo up left to left high point (Smith Peak) and then across the summit ridge to the summit pinnacle in the upper center of the photo (6/2011).
Mt Jefferson has been quite challenging for me to climb. This trip marked the 5th attempt on the peak and the 4th on the Woodpecker approach to Jefferson Park Glacier's knife edge ridge. The first attempt was an early spring ski of the SW ridge thwarted by heavy snowfall at 50+MPH winds. The second attempt was up Woodpecker ridge on skis in late May, which ended with 80F temperatures and large scale wet slab avalanches actively dumping from nearly every aspect. The third attempt ended when my father decided that he did not want to follow my lead on the lower part of the KER and imminent warm temperatures. The forth attempt was in nearly identical conditions to the third, only a year later. Another late snow year with heavy rime formations, high wind in the morning, and rapid warming during the day. This attempt ended when we were too late and too slow to make the summit. The retreat in isothermic conditions was scary to say the least.
For this trip I met up with Wojtek through Cascade Climbers and we left Portland at 3:30 PM on Friday through the rush hour traffic to Salem. We headed east up OR 22 to Detroit, stopping for some delicious, greasy corn dogs at the local market. The long drive up the one lane dirt road nearly ended two miles short of the trailhead when a VW bug sized rock lay squat in the middle of the road. On previous attempts I had looked at this very rock, perched on the steep cutbank above the narrowest part of the road, and thought about being stuck miles up the road if it fell. Fortunately someone had done some shovel work and we were able to get the truck around block. The rest of the drive was uneventful. Hoping out of the car, I grabbed the chainsaw we had brought in case of trees across the road and walked to stash it in the bushes. They were much wetter than I had hoped, a preview of the bushwhack ahead. The walk up the trail went smoothly without any snow coverage. It was clear that the snow level was much higher than the junction of Woodpecker Ridge trail 3442 with Trail 2000.

 The bushwhack was relatively uneventful. The brush seems to be less dense about 100 yards south of the main ridge, especially in creek drainages. We followed these water courses until we found some rocky clearings signifying that we were two thirds of the way up the ridge to treeline from the junction. At this point, the main ridge becomes rockier and more open so it's easier to follow it. There was some flagging and small cairns that I had never seen before because they are usually under the snow. Just short of timberline at 6400', we found a nice flat bivouac site. Wojtek had the brilliant idea of bringing a sleeping bag and ground cloth, so we stretched out the ground cloth and pads. He got to enjoy the sleeping bag for four hours while I shivered, my feet aching in the cold.

Camp for four hours after the two hour hike in.

The clouds lifted above camp just at sunset and by full darkness they were gone. The moon was the brightest and largest I have ever seen climbing, on a cloudless night. After some fitful sleep, I got up 15 minutes early at 12:15 because I couldn't sleep and made breakfast. Chili mac with beef. Yum. Wojtek wasn't feeling the corn dogs from earlier but managed to choke down some rice with chicken. Before 1AM we started moving, leaving the sleeping gear, stove, some layers, and extra food behind. The air temperature was barely above freezing. The post holing began.

Moon illumination 1AM.
A thick sun crust had formed, hard to sit on, but fragile enough to break through each step. Depth ranged from 6 inches to almost knee height on the steeper aspects. We made steady progress however, and soon began the long, steep climb to the spur crest. Wojtek wasn't feeling the corn dogs from the night before. Apparently they weren't a good decision, but they sure were tasty.

Early morning and corn dogs.
Because the snow conditions were so bad, we worked our way up the rocks, exposed in the low snow conditions. Even this was annoying, however because the rocks were glazed with frost from the clouds of the previous day. Two thirds of the way up the spur, we stopped at the only flat spot on the spur, a snow moat beneath a small 4th class step. 

1st rest stop. 3AM

We opted for crampons at this point, a good decision in retrospect because the snow had become hard enough to prevent breaking through and a fall was 1000-2000' depending on which side of the ridge one fell. The short, rotten rock step came and went and soon we were past the Prehistoric monster, a rock feature on Woodpecker ridge at 9200'. The sun was just beginning to light the eastern sky.
We made good time to the Jefferson Park Glacier saddle, reaching a little before actual dawn. The traverse was in good enough conditions to allow ski pole usage, though we did walk across multiple debris fields from previous days. Nearly the whole mountain had obvious avalanche paths that were recently active, likely from the last snowfall. However, everything was either slid or well settled because there was no activity all day.

Three large volcanoes, Rainier, Adams, and Hood with the edge of the Mohler tooth in the foreground.
During our short break at the saddle, we noticed three or so headlights moving far below in Mill Creek gully. We knew they were either much faster than us or they would never make it. We geared up, left a pack and the ski poles and made our way up the final 100' to the first belay.

Can you spot the belayer? 1st pitch of the KER, JPG saddle to the right.
Finishing pitch 1.
We had decided that I would lead the ridge in the interest of speed (I had been there twice before) despite the fact that Wojtek climbs higher grades than I. However, the climbing was easy fifth class, mixed ice. The hardest part of the first pitch is usually a vertical ice hose, but it was nearly gone, only a small blob of ice stuck to the side. Mounting this was a little awkward, but the gear was great and I made short work of it. Wojtek followed quickly, we flipped ropes and I led once again.

2nd belay and the coolest part of the ridge. Smith Peak in the background.
Beginning of pitch 2.
The second pitch is by far the coolest, a near perfect slab knife edge in sections. I found the mixed climbing to be particularly fun; chill, but interesting. There was even a solid 13cm screw.

Wojtek following pitch 2.

Mohler Tooth from the KER.

The final down climb had some interesting drytooling moves, but was well protected and went without issues. I led out as far as the rope would let me and belayed off a solid picket.

 The last section of the ridge and the downclimb.

We hoofed it across the final section of the ridge, resting briefly once more. The two bumps on the ridge visible in the previous trip report's picture had mixed downclimbs on the south side, adding some spice to the traverse, which we did solo to save time.
Reaching the base of the summit pinnacle, we anchored the pack to a nut, I handed the rack to Wojtek, and he took off on a quality lead up steep mixed/rime ice climbing. He also managed to fix a loose crampon thirty feet up.

Wojtek on pitch one on the north ridge of the summit pinnacle.

The end of pitch 1. Photo Wojtek.

Wojtek led one more solid pitch up varying steepness snow and ice, including a vertical 10' ice step to a belay in the warm morning sun just below the summit. He could have continued to the summit, but he graciously stopped to let me finish the climb. I found quality rock on a 5.6 step up to the final 40' traverse along the ridge. At last I was standing on top, greeted by an open summit register without a lid and soaked, worthless paper. It was 8AM, 7hrs from our camp site at timberline.
5.6 fun on warm rock just below the summit. Photo Wojtek.
The final few feet to the summit block (foreground). Smith Peak far right, the KER is the dark section of ridge, and the Mohler tooth is at the right (east) end of the KER.

Wojtek, a happy man.

Someone left and open summit register. Photo Wojtek.

The view south. In order of distance, Three Fingered Jack, Mt. Washington, North Sister, Middle Sister, South Sister, Broken Top, Diamond Peak, Mt. Thielson (look carefully).

The view north.
We enjoyed the view for a few minutes and quickly rapped off the south side, as low as our rope would reach. Committing to some sketchy mixed downclimbing on 4th class terrain above the terrible traverse, we reached the West Rib. We grabbed the pack, barely stopping to eat and drink before hauling back to the rappel off the north side of the top end of the KER. I was unable to find our bail slings from last year, nor was I able to find my cordelette once we reached the saddle between the ridge and Mohler Tooth. The sun was rapidly warming the snow and we needed to get down.
Wojtek walked down as I paid out the rope and he led the downclimb through the mixed ground below.

Wojtek on the way down, KER to the upper left.

 The exposure here, above JPG is remarkable, but sure feet and clear heads left us smiling at the saddle in 15 minutes. Another break, packing, and a switch to ski poles and we carefully made our way down the steep beginning to the descent under Smith Peak. Soon the angle eased as we continued to the bivouac site below Prehistoric Monster. It was now very warm. I stripped down to long underwear and Wojtek decided to tough it out. We managed to glisade much of the lower bowl that was so ice before, and made it to the bottom in 5 minutes, but not before I twisted my knee because I was too lazy to take off my crampons. The hike out was long, but uneventful. Back at the car by 1PM. 

Lower Woodpecker Ridge. Photo Wojtek.
Total trip time 20 hrs, including 4 hrs sleep. Two hours bushwhack, 4 hours sleep, 9 hours from timberline, 5 hours down. Conditions were much easier than before, with some solid rock exposed, and generally consolidated rime. There was significant post holing for about 1000' vertical, right above treeline. In a few warm days, the ridge should be almost entirely rock. JPG was very well filled in and the 'schrund looked easily navigable from above (though this could be deceiving). The snow became isothermic by 11am, so plan to be early and fast. Retreat from the Woodpecker approach is somewhat more difficult than the Jefferson Park approach because you have to descend basically the same ridge you climbed on the way up. I highly recommend dropping to the saddle by Mohler tooth and traversing under the ridge if you decide to traverse back this way, assuming the rocks are somewhat snow-covered.
As far as gear is concerned, we brought a single light 60m rope, #1, #2, set of >BD#7 nuts, a #10 hex, three pickets, 13cm screw, (2) 16cm screws, long screw for v threads, v threader, long slings for slinging horns, two knife blades, and two tools. We used everything except the pins. Soon, rock gear will suffice if you are quite comfortable on steep snow and a little ice. Being comfortable with exposed, difficult downclimbs helps as well. 

Ascent in red, descent in orange. When the descent line disappears, assume same as ascent. Photo from near trailhead.
Summit closeup

6.15.2013 Prusik Peak

The west ridge of Prusik Peak follows the left skyline.
 Anastasia and I headed up to Prusik peak via the Asgard Pass approach. We left the car at 3:30AM after I was unable to sleep due to the fact that I had not brought a sleeping bag. This fact in mind, I brought every article of clothing I had brought. We made Colchuck Lake before the sun had hit anything except for the peaks high above.
Nearing the top of Asgard Pass at 9AM.
We made rapid progress down the snow fields to the base of Prusik Peak where we dropped all the gear except the stuff we needed to make the summit.
An alpine larch, Larix lyallii, in early spring.
We did the short hike from Prusik Pass to the peak in 15 minutes and racked up. The route is simple and straight forward, jogging left before rising to the ridge proper and following it to the summit. It is at least 5 pitches, but 6 if you break the last two into the 5.7 crack and a 5.8 offwidth.
Classic traverse.
Looking down the 5.7 slab pitch.

Anastasia on the belay ledge for the 5.8 offwidth, just after leading the magnificent 5.7 dihedral.
We made good progress up the ridge, finding the climbing easy and consistent. We used a few nuts, a few smaller C4s, but the entire route could be comfortable climbed with a set of nuts only, assuming one is comfortable with slinging horns and whatnot. All too soon, we made the summit.
Prusik summit, Little Anapurna and the Enchantments in the background.

The rappel stations were generally solid and easy to find, although the first one below the summit is a little to the right. The traverse back was icy and steep in spots, but people comfortable with snow should have no problems. We made it back to camp, ate and slept. Soon it was too cold again and I shivered. For hours. At 3AM I couldn't take it anymore so I walked around outside, and did nothing for a few hours until Anastasia was ready to wake up. I knew the way out would take a long time.
Curious mountain goat.

Asgard Pass.

The fat and sassy big bully on the block. We later saw him pigging out on heather while a skinny marmot rooted around in the rocks below for a few scraps.
Walk out we did. For hours and hours. Simply put, the deproach was painfully long and slow, with heavy packs and steep terrain at Asgard Pass. We finally reached the car at 3PM. If you are fit, I recommend doing the climb in one day in running shoes from Snow Lakes TH because it skips the dirt road, Asgard Pass, and generally makes a short, but spectacular route more palpable. Take a small rack and don't bother with the big cams because any place they could be used, the climbing is too easy for protection to be necessary.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

6.15.2013 Lover's Leap and Phantom Spires

Two hundred and sixteen days.  That is how long it has been since I last climbed outside.  There are plenty of reasons for this length of time without outdoor climbing, but I still could have made it out a few times.  First, my main climbing partner (Cam) who also taught me everything I know about climbing went overseas for a semester abroad.  I had climbed with other partners, but Cam was always there.

Then there is the rainy weather that came through Upstate NY most every weekend that would have been ideal for climbing.  Rainy weather is something that I don't have to deal with any more.  Shortly after graduation in May I made the move to Sacramento, CA.  Some people give Sacramento shit because there isn't too much to do around the city, which I don't really agree with, but nobody can deny that it is in a perfect location.  San Francisco is a 90 minute drive to the west and Tahoe is a 90 minute drive to the east.

Rewind back to March when I found out I'd be moving to Sacramento.  I posted up on Mountain Project to ask about the climbing scene in the area and got some promising responses.  After emailing back and forth with a couple of people I began to look forward to heading out west.  

With just one week under my belt living in Sacramento I met up with two guys at Pipeworks, the local gym.  I must have made a decent impression because shortly after I was driving to Tahoe with Eddie.  The goal was to get on some nice and easy multipitch routes so we could get used to climbing with each other.

First stop: Lover's Leap
The scenery on the drive out here was amazing and it only got better once we gained some elevation on the climbs.  Eddie took the first lead of the day on Knapsack Crack, saving the better pitch for me to experience.

Eddie out on the sharp end.
Looking out in the distance from the top of the route.
Instead of rappelling, it was quicker to just walk down the back side of the cliff and join back in with the climber's trail.  From the top of the first route, two pitches long, we could already see more people hiking up to the base.  We decided to start "early" to avoid the crowds that were on the way.


Hiking down the back side to get on the climber's trail and walk to the base.
Unknown climbers finishing up P1 of a different route.

The second route of the day at Lover's Leap was a combination of Harvey's Wallbangers Center and Harvey's Wallbangers Right.  I got the first pitch on this one.  Not really sure if I was still on route about half way up the pitch, I decided to down climb and traverse left to what ended up being HW Center.
Obligatory self shot at the top of the pitch.
At the top of the route we caught a good view of the Main Wall in addition to approximately twenty people at the base of Hogsback gearing up for the routes we just finished up.
Unknown climbers taking a break up on the wall.
Climber coming up from the second pitch of Harvey's Wallbangers Right.
Main Wall panorama.
Waiting in lines to climb wasn't really on the agenda for the day, so after a quick look in the guidebook we decided to drive over to Phantom Spires.  The turnoff for this area was just about 20 minutes down the road towards Sacramento and then there was an access road which required slow and careful driving to navigate in my VW Jetta.  It was well worth it though and the spires could be seen clearly from the parking lot, just a 10 minute hike away.

Spires seen from the parking lot at the end of the access road.
Approaching the Middle Spire.
The Middle Spire has the most amount of moderate routes and was an easy choice for our first time at the spires.  Two guys were sitting at the base when we arrived and they immediately asked me if  I was from the east coast.  Ends up that they are friends with the creator of Climberism and I was wearing a Climberism t-shirt.  Small world.


They just got done climbing Over Easy and suggested we do the same.  After getting some beta about an awkward start that you don't want to fall on and needing to sling knobs I didn't want to lead the route, but Eddie wasn't about to let a 5.7 get the best of him.  He made it to the top with some "interesting" moves.  I made it to the top with some aid moves.

Slinging knobs on Over Easy.
The are so many rock formations here.  Some have single pitch sport routes, others have multi pitch trad, and some are more suited for bouldering.  Either way there is plenty of rock to go around.

Looking out in the distance.
Climberism friends on a multi pitch route.