American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, United States, Washington, Cascade Mountains, New Ascents in the Cashmere Crags

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1951

New Ascents in the Cashmere Crags. Of a number of new climbs on the Nightmare Needles in the Cashmere Crags, the first of the 1950 season was the ascent of Cynical Pinnacle by J. Hieb, W. Fix, J. Schwabland and F. Beckey. An open chimney on the N. face proved to be the key to the route.

On June 10th Fire Spire, an impressive shaft crowning a sharp arête, was scaled by A. Holben and Beckey. From a notch at its northern prow, reached over several hundred ft. of broken granite, the traverse of a vertical wall is made with pitons and a doubled rope. Height was gained later by a series of slanting cracks, suitable for angle pitons, two of which were needed for direct aid. From a cheval belay on a tilted slab the final 15-ft. summit needle was climbed with the aid of a lasso.

Little Snowpatch, a spire which derives its name from a peculiar snow patch on the E. face, was climbed on June 25th by Hieb, Schoening and Beckey. The route to the snow patch was by a series of bathtub holds on steep rock. Then, from a shoulder stand, a spare rope was flipped behind a scrubby tree growing in a 60-ft. crack. The leader was able to negotiate the crack above the tree with the aid of four giant angle pitons of a homemade variety. The last lead, from a tiny belay stance, was up a rounded S. arête with delicate but adequate holds. Later in the day, the first ascents of Windjammer Tower and Westwind Tower were accomplished. Both required direct aid. On the latter, more giant angle pitons and a Rawl-drive contraction bolt were used.

One of the most bizarre needles in the Crags is a monolith S.W. of Enchantment Lakes. It has been known for some years as the “Flagpole.” On the week end of July 16th, Schoening, Phil Sharpe and Beckey hiked seven miles up the Ingalls Creek Trail and climbed open forest slopes to a campsite at Crystal Lake, nestled among forbidding granite precipices. They devoted what was left of their first day to searching for a suitable approach to the Flagpole and to making the first ascent of Pennant Peak, which involved 500 ft. of climbing in sneakers. It was decided that the only practicable route was an exposed ridge traverse from Pennant Peak. This worked out well, except for a gendarme which could be bypassed only by a delicate traversing rappel—a route of no return. (At the base of the final “pole,” it was evident that any route would require 75 ft. of “engineering” on mainly vertical or overhanging rock. Accordingly, equipment was cached, and a fixed rope laid out down the steep cliffs of the flanking ridge, before the party returned to the lake. The final ascent on the next day was quite spectacular. Nine Rawl-drive bolts (¼-in. and 5/16-in. sizes) were used for aid, and one was used for safety and rappelling. One crack permitted insertion of three spade pitons for aid; and once, in a rounded fissure, an eight-inch angle piton was hammered in sideways and anchored well enough to support full weight. This enabled the leader to flip a noose over a ridge knob. The entire needle being of dubious stability, since it overhangs its base on all sides, the climbers spent no unnecessary time on the summit.

Fred Beckey

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