American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, United States, Washington—Cascade Mountains, McMillan Spire, North Face

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1966

McMillan Spire, North Face. This much talked-about face was finally-climbed on July 16 by Jerry Fuller and me on a three-day traverse of the Southern Picket Range. Our plan was to go light, with a minimum of food, cooking and equipment. We slept in down jackets, using a bivouac sack around us. The first afternoon we made it one mile beyond trail’s end on Stetattle Creek, and the next day we reached timberline on Elephant Butte after a day of grueling bush-fighting. Next morning we climbed over the crest of Elephant Butte ridge and descended about 1000 feet on snow to the rock walls of the northern McMillan faces. We traversed west through crevassed-glacier sections and then began a zigzag route pattern of ascent, through snow couloirs, little icy slopes, and around crevasses to a steep, icy névé slope, always on crampons. Finally on rock, we climbed directly upward to the summit, this being about 18 roped pitches. Route-finding and general exposure were more of a problem than technical difficulties, although there were three pitches of reasonably difficult rock work. In general, the rock was very sound. Descent was to the south and a final bivouac was made in the brush of Terror Creek, two hours after dark.

Fred Beckey

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