American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, United States, Idaho, Mount Heyburn, North Face

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1962

Mount Heyburn, North Face. Probably the most obvious technical climb in the Sawtooth Range, the direct north face of Mount Heyburn, had never been done prior to this season. Heyburn, as seen from the north, from the highway or Redfish Lake, is split into two summits and has a deep snow couloir. The western summit is the highest, and it was its long northern buttress and face that we chose. Leaving Sun Valley early on July 4, Jerry Fuller and I made the hike to the scree saddle above the upper Bench Lake well before noon. Clouds and falling mist teased us and we stalled a serious attempt for an hour. But we climbed several pitches on the lower section of the north buttress, then descended to find a better route line. Until then, we were convinced we would have to wait for a better day; however, while climbing to the top of the lower end of the buttress via a new line, the clouds parted sufficiently to lure us onward. So far, the route had been interesting fifth class, with one rather strenuous layback to reach a mantleshelf position. We made a rope length first on scree and then on a steep friction slab to the crest. Faced with scaling a monolith block by aid or rappelling to a ledge on the east side, we chose the latter. In two leads we were at a little saddle at the foot of the final section of the north face, perhaps 500 feet beneath the summit. Using knife-blade pitons for protection I crossed a vertical wall with only microscopic footholds, a lead that went into a combination jam-layback without any rest. It was the most exhausting pitch of the climb; the crack continued easier with nice flakes for handholds to a platform on the wall. Here we could follow a long crack system directly upward or make a full-lead traverse left to the center of the face. This traverse seemed possible, but terribly exposed. However, from studying this face during the winter ascent of Heyburn it appeared that this ledge promised access to a new crack system which led to the summit area. Once at the end of the traverse I anchored in and saw that this final system, though very steep and exposed, would go fifth class. Fuller led across a virtually holdless traverse that forced him into a badly “spread-eagled” position and almost certain danger of falling. Future parties on this route will find this move highly interesting, we think. If the final clutch handhold (a small block) falls out, as it was almost readyto, the pitch probably will not go. The route continues up the left side of a giant dihedral for two leads, steep and very enjoyable fifth class. From a small notch in the summit ridge we climbed a friction cheval to where we could unrope and scramble along the last portion of the crest. We descended via the west face route.

Fred Beckey

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