While not on par with 2012, this year was a substantial improvement over the last. Though I ran out of motivation toward the end of the season without attempting some of the speed records I had tentatively planned, I accomplished most of my scrambling and mountaineering objectives. In particular, I managed to thoroughly explore the wet, wild Washington Cascades, something I have failed at in the past. I also managed to do a bit of “real mountaineering,” and to become more comfortable alone on glaciers and in grizzly bear territory, two types of terrain that had intimidated me in the past.
Most of the best people I know, I have met on the trail. Usually we meet on a peak or trail, talk for awhile, and continue our separate ways. This year, however, I have managed to exchange contact information with some of them, making possible the weak ties I seem to favor. Though I am not always the best correspondent, I hope to climb with some of these far-flung acquaintances in the future.
Here are some of the more interesting outings, grouped by activity type.
Type II fun
These outings may require various technical skills, but always require a certain tolerance for suffering.Johannesburg: Though well under 12 hours, Johannesburg’s northeast buttress is the hardest 4th class climb I have done, with relentless and varied trees, brush, turf, rock, and snow almost right from the start. This is “type II fun” in the original sense: you will suffer mightily, and finish with a supreme sense of accomplishment. Challenger: The northern Pickets are some of Washington’s most remote peaks, and climbing Challenger involves a long on- and off-trail approach, a big crevassed glacier crossing, and a short 5th-class scramble. I am unaware of any other dayhikes of this peak. Goode: This is another big day in the Cascades, involving a classic 5.4 ridge. In ideal conditions, this could probably be done in about 12 hours car-to-car. An interesting extension would be to link Goode with Logan, another 9,000-foot peak, starting from Bridge Creek and returning to Rainy Pass via Beckey’s cross-country route from Logan.
Though I still consider myself more of a scrambler and peak-bagger, I occasionally do things more suited to Real Mountaineers. These outings involve less speed and trail time, and more technical travel over rock, snow, and ice. Johannesburg (above) would also fall in this category.Robson: This was one of my “stretch goals” for this season. While the south face route I used is mostly just a slog, and could be done in 12 hours or less in ideal conditions, Robson is a serious mountain, and even this route requires some moderate ice climbing. Andromeda and Athabasca: This is a classic Canadian Rockies loop, with glacier crossings, snow/ice climbing, rotten rock, and views of the biggest icefield south of Alaska. The route is quite committing, with few opportunities for retreat between starting up Skyladder and reaching the Athabasca-Andromeda col. As the glacier below Andromeda continues to retreat, the first part of this route may become more difficult. Baker: While the standard route is a pretty straightforward glacier-walk, the Coleman Headwall is a long, sustained, moderate ice climb, with a potentially complex crevasse field to be navigated on the approach. Though the route itself is committing, one can choose the easier north ridge after navigating the crevasse field. Owen’s snowfield: It is hard to catch this route in condition, and the climbing varies considerably, from snow-slogging to tricky rock and ice. Though I took a direct 5.6-ish rock finish, it is possible to avoid this by joining the standard route near the top.
These routes involve scrambling up to 5.4-5.5, i.e. what I can do in trail or approach shoes. Goode (above) also fits in this category.Sir Donald: Sir Donald’s northwest ridge is one of my favorite scrambles anywhere, a long route with beautiful position and excellent rock. It is also a surprisingly tricky downclimb: uncharacteristically, I was considerably slower going down than up. It can be done by itself or, to make a full day, combined with a traverse from Avalanche Peak. Copper and Fernow: Copper’s north ridge is a little-known route on one of Washington’s highest 100 peaks. While not especially sustained, it involves some interesting route-finding, and is relatively painless by Cascades standards. The equally-obscure traverse to Fernow tags two top-100 peaks in a day from Holden, and offers an alternative to Fernow’s long, painful standard route.