Climbing is dangerous! Every year many climbers are broken, maimed, and killed. Don't be so foolish as to trust your life to what you see here. I'm not a guide and neither is this web site. If you don't know what you are doing or where you are going, please take a course or hire a guide!
Beggars Can't Be Choosers
WI4- R, First Ascent?
February 23, 2003
The eternal search for accessible, reliable ice in Washington continues. In this installment, Jens, Dave, and Loren return to the increasingly controversial 'secret' ice location somewhere in the Cascades...
It's dusky when we leave the car; we can't see if the ice is in. So we embark on the approach not knowing what we'll find. Dave had been there the week before and spun tales of a new, easier, brush-free approach. We crossed the log, Jens and I on our butts, and Dave walking in crampons, and headed for the creek bed. Where Dave had found dry, plentiful boulders the walk on the week before, we found high water and snowy, icy rock.
Later, we got a good dose of brush, but not as much as in previous approaches to this area. I guess maybe we are getting the approach down.
As we ascend the snow gets deeper. Eventually the snowshoes we've been lugging earn their keep and stop us from sinking to our hips. We're all a little disappointed when the ice comes into view.
It's largely snow-plastered, with little blue ice to be seen. I made this approach, which is short in distance and long in tedium, earlier in the season only to turn around without climbing anything. I am determined to climb some ice today. I lead the charge across the flats, where we regroup and choose the line with the most visible ice. Compared the much of the area, our choice is less steep and shorter. The lines here are longer than they appear.
The snow is deep here. We take turns breaking trail for the last 1/3 mile to the base of our route. It doesn't look pretty, but we rack up, full of excitement now.
Dave takes the first pitch, characterized by thin, snow-covered ice over rock. After a full pitch with little gear he calls for us to send up some additional rock gear. We oblige and he constructs a rock belay.
Jens and I follow simultaneously on parallel lines. Jens pulls directly into the belay, while I end up ten feet to the left, around a rock protrusion. I put in a screw for immediate protection and peruse the next pitch, which looked to be the crux from below. It starts with a steep, blobby pillar to my left, then transitions into a series of gullies and steps, most of which are out of view from my position. Jens racks up to lead and climbs past me to the pillar. It's harder than it looks, and there is no gear. He climbs out of sight, and apparently to the right, as I am suddenly in the fall line of all the debris that comes loose. Ah, I forgot to mention earlier that my helmet was left in the truck and I'm wearing a fleece hat with a glove tucked inside.
I tuck into a small corner and try to be as small as possible. Dave, to my right and out of the shooting line, shouts when the bigger chunks come down. So I spend the remainder of the lead with my face pressed into the rock and ice, listening to ice whiz past. When it comes to a stop I clean the screw and follow, with Dave close behind. The pillar is hard, much harder that it looked, with a nasty sugar-snow top out. There is really no good ice on the pitch, and little in the way of gear. I'm challenged on top rope.
The belay is cush: An easy stance on a large ledge. Above, the last pitch looks just my style, though I feel sheepish for getting the easiest lead. We swap gear and I lead up, finding some decent gear en route to a good tree belay at the top.
Jens and Dave come up and we rig a rappel. One rap back to the ledge, where we walk climber's left to another tree. A second rap lands us in a gully left of the route that we down-climb to the base.
We pack up and depart, racing darkness. We find a way back to the creek that involves only 30 yards of mild brush and make the valley bottom just as darkness falls. Jens sets off in the lead and we follow. Near the log crossing we get turned around and Dave and I discover that our Avocet compasses are shit: His continuously changes bearing while he holds it still, and mine shows the same bearing regardless of which way it points. After some embarrassed stumbling around we make it back to the car, where my helmet has enjoyed a lazy day off.
We each have a beer while we contemplate tedious approaches, the lack of reliable ice in Washington, the importance of a compass, and old growth timber.
Great day. Thanks to Dave and Jens.
Dave trip report is here.
This page was last edited on
Wednesday, February 23, 2005