American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, United States, Utah, Lone Peak, Direct West Face, Wasatch Mountains

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1963

Lone Peak, Direct West Face, Wasatch Mountains. In the past the lower slabs had repelled attempts at a direct ascent of the west face of Lone Peak, but the main subject of conjecture was how to solve a great overhanging band about two-thirds of the way up. The only real flaw in this band was a wide vertical crack, but it bulged ominously upward and outward through a triple overhang. Study showed that one could turn this overhang bypassing it on the right via an open-book, but this alternative ended in a bad overhang with a wide flaring crack. On September 1 Rick Reese, Bob Irvine and I packed heavily into the amphitheater. With field- glasses we selected a key groove on the lower face just left of the prominent "S"-crack. Higher, it appeared the climbing would be spectacular; luckily we had brought a good selection of giant aluminum bong-bongs and wood blocks, for it was apparent that a party would be doomed to failure without these specialties. The first difficulty in the morning was a layback that threw one off balance and made the arms ache. Rick led on and worked diligently up a crack marking the previous high point with rusted pitons. He then traversed left on scratch holds to a high-angle groove and continued to the end of the lead on difficult going, mostly 5.7 with some loose holds and often none at all; piton protection was very poor and in retrospect we feel a bolt might have safeguarded matters better. A lead of easier fifth class took us to a ledge where we could survey the overhanging band above. I climbed around a corner on the right to study the open-book but decided to leave it in favor of a direct push up the triple overhang. Moderate to difficult free climbing up a twin crack system took me to a recess beneath the band. Double rope and almost every type of piton from chrome-alloy knife-blades to giant bong-bongs came into use during about 100 feet of nailing. When one knife-blade piton gave way, I found myself swinging freely in space some seven feet lower. Getting back to free climbing above the line of pitons proved difficult because of rope friction. Some hard and spectacular moves around a corner ended matters at a convenient ledge. From here we alternated leads, keeping them short, and stayed on or near the true crest. Twice we turned overhangs by slab-walls on the right. The final pitch was a route blazer up scanty holds, a true finger traverse, and then a hard pull-up into a body crack that split the summit block. The entire ascent required about 40 pitons, mostly medium and giant angles.

Fred Beckey

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