North America, United States, Pacific Northwest, "Fixed" Routes on Faces

Publication Year: 1952.

United States: Climbs in the Pacific Northwest

“Fixed” Routes on Faces. In recent years several climbers in the Pacific Northwest have become interested in long, sheer face climbs —for example, the S. Face of Forbidden Peak, the W. Face of Eldorado and the E. Face of the Mt. Temple massif (Cashmere Crags). The E. Face of Mt. Index, the N. Face of Mt. Baring and the N. Face of Johannesberg are described in notes that follow.

Although regarded with skepticism by some, these faces provide really excellent training in rock climbing. The problems demand highly developed techniques and the best of teamwork, and sometimes they call for modifications of the usual techniques and equipment. Thus, on several of these ascents, so long as to require more than one day of climbing, bivouacs have been eliminated by the establishment, with ropes and hardware, of “fixed” routes. At the end of the day, the party descends rapidly to a comfortable camp. When the climb is to be resumed, the party ascends rapidly to the previous high point. The system is probably usable on most sheer face climbs, but of course it must be adapted according to particular conditions—the length of the climb, the nature of the problems to be encountered, the skill of the climbing party.

It will be seen that the system has both advantages and disadvantages. Briefly, some of the advantages are these: (1) it enables the climbers to keep reasonably fresh, whereas a bivouac usually saps energy; (2) it allows the climbers more time to study problems along the route; and (3) it reduces the chances of prolonged exposure to bad weather. Among the disadvantages, on the other hand, are these: (1) it requires large amounts of equipment; (2) it may involve use of fixed ropes and other equipment left in place for considerable periods and therefore not entirely to be depended upon (small animals can chew fixed ropes, and piton cracks can slowly widen); and (3) it exposes a party to the hazards of the climb at different times and for a longer total period of time. In any case, it may be said that elimination of bivouacs made the adventures on Index and Baring more enjoyable.