Northeast Buttress
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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!

Chair Peak, Northeast Buttress, January, 2000

As you look at the pictures on this page you may notice something odd. Can you decide what is so unusual about these picture? Keep reading...

We left the car early, about 5:00 AM. The snowpack was hard- we opted to carry our skis. Visibility was low, a couple hundred yards, but the temperature was pleasant. As we climbed up the well-established boot pack above Source Lake I suddenly felt a warm breeze. When I looked up from the drudgery of the stair steps I was amazed to see the moon lighting up all the area peaks: Denny, The Tooth, Chair, Snoqualmie all stood out amid the moonlit night.

In the basin below the east face. Getting an early start is a good idea on this popular route.

We reached the basin below the east face in good time, thanks to the hard snow conditions and added enthusiasm due to the stars and moonlight. It was still dark when we cached our skis and headed up the short, steep slope to the ridge. In the premier conditions, we opted to solo the first pitch. Jens went first and established a nice anchor. About this time the sun came over the horizon and we were treated to a spectacular view of the ice fog spilling out of the Source Lake basin into the Snow Lake basin. 

The dreaded Snoqualmie Pass Ice Fog spilling into the Snow Lake Basin.

Jens dispatched the second pitch in good form, initially on steep mixed ground that eased into a steep snow couloir. A nice tree belay ended the pitch. I led the third pitch. It traversed steep, snow covered ground. At 150' out from the belay I started looking around the barren terrain for a belay. At 175' I was looking harder. As the rope came taunt at 190' I realized that this belay was going to be high on the "Pucker Factor" scale. I dug around in the snow and found a poor cam placement, which I equalized with a worse axe placement. Needless to say, Jens was less than impressed when he joined me. The pin he pounded in succeeded only in separating a large hunk of rock from Chair Peak.

And so it was from this horrific belay that I watched Jens send the crux of the route: A 12' water ice step at the top of the east face. My lousy anchor was backed up by the single solid screw he was able to place at the base of the ice curtain. To add to the excitement, we ran out of rope as he topped out over the ice and had to simul-climb for about fifty feet until he found a belay. Upon arriving at the belay I was thankful I hadn't fallen on the ice. He looked at my expression and said, "It's better than it looks. See, I'm sitting on an axe placement!"

We called it all even and I led off on the fifth pitch. About thirty feet above the belay the slope laid back and I could see the summit. 

Loren leading off on the fifth pitch.

A bomber tree belay was made where the Northeast Buttress route meets the North Face route. We simul-climbed to the summit.

The fifth pitch belay, with the summit in the background.

Now, in early 1999, when we climbed the North Face, the crux had turned out to be the descent. You see, there are two couloirs: The obvious one and the correct one. In the pissy storm in 1999, we just wanted to get down and took the first viable looking route. A lot of reverse front pointing and mucking around ensued.

Since the weather was so nice (hint, hint) we were able to find the correct descent route and made quick work of it.

Jens in the correct descent couloir.

In the basin below the South Face we ran into my friend Bernie, out snowshoeing for the day. We stopped and celebrated our climb with him in the sun (hint, hint).

A quick ski out in reverse conditions (corn up high, crust in the middle, powder below) had us back at the car shortly after Noon.

Now, what is different about these pictures, taken in January in the Pacific Northwest?



This page was last edited on Tuesday, August 30, 2005
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