American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, United States, Utah, Sawtooth Dome, West Face, Sawtooth Range

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1964

Sawtooth Dome, West Face, Sawtooth Range. Any climber visiting the Sawtooth Range can not but help admire the majestic curve of a great granitic dome, seen in profile about three miles above the head of Redfish Lake, to the south of Redfish Creek. Without doubt, it is the greatest face in the range. From the head of the lake early last summer, Herb Swedlund, Steve Marts and I spent a wet day packing rope and climbing iron to its foot. The 1500-foot face is nearly vertical for the first half; then in typical dome-fashion it begins to taper back. We discovered to our joy that there was a classic piton-crack system up the center of the face, which led directly to the overhanging summit capstone. The route was exposed but seemed to have a belay ledge at the end of each lead. That same day, I pitoned some 75 feet up a lone crack that overhung slightly. Herb went a bit higher before time ran out. The rock was fantastic — of Yosemite quality with generally good cracks. On June 16 we began the climb in earnest. Herb finished the direct-aid lead and Steve continued on, mostly with aid, in an open-book that in 140 feet turned into a beautiful belay ledge. Herb then climbed a vertical crack that required 17 aid pitons to the top of the first red tower. At times the crack bottomed out, and many of the pitons were marginal. The next lead was mine, mostly aid to the top of the second red tower and then mixed aid and chimneying to a smallish ledge. Exposure was magnificent. Leaving fixed lines we rappelled to the base. Having taken “third man” turns at hauling food, water and bivouac gear, we were now ready for the final push the next morning. Any qualms about the weather were dispelled by the brilliant sunshine of a clear dawn on Mount Heyburn and the Aiguilles across Redfish Creek. We had soon prusiked up our four hanging lines. The climb continued up the same crack system for a lead and a half, largely on aid, but with occasional sections of chimneying and jam-cracks. We solved one major overhang with Chouinard bong- bongs. Then a straightforward 150-foot lead of direct aid took us to a spacious ledge, to which we hauled loads and where we lunched. The angle decreased some 10° and the next two pitches were enjoyable fifth class with occasional direct aid. A difficult ramp led to the top of a flake system, and two bolts were needed on a blank section. A 5.8 move on a loose flake was the last bad one of the day. After two more leads, time ran out, and rather than risk fumbling the last two leads to the summit in the dark, we bivouacked on an ample ledge. A final interesting lead capped with a strenuous overhanging piton problem took us to the summit. The climb had taken 110 pitons in addition to belay pitons and a few bolts to anchor fixed lines. We relaxed in the morning sunshine and descended the snowfields on the north side of the Dome back to camp.

Fred Beckey

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