American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

The Innominate, Northeast Face

Wyoming, Bighorn Range

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Author: Fred Beckey
  • Climb Year: 1967
  • Publication Year: 1968

Doug Leen, Roger Johnson and I camped in Penrose Canyon, as advised in Bonney’s guide, and then set out on July 21 to climb the hitherto untouched east face, the longest on the peak, which is probably the most difficult summit between Cloud Peak and Black Tooth. Unexpected hard ice forced us to cut many steps, as we had not brought crampons. Tricky rock climbing, one short leader fall on my part from a loose handhold, and then a difficult, icy chockstone all contributed to delays. Having no bivouac gear, we voted to leave in place two ropes and to complete the climb the following day. A number of rock pitches, first easy and then increasing in difficulty and looseness, eventually brought us to the ridge crest south of the unclimbed south tooth of the summit formation. With some aid, after excellent schistose cracks we reached its top just at twilight. We had used 37 pitons and 4 bolts on this probably Grade IV climb. After descending the rocks of the west side, we spent the entire night tramping around in an effort to get back to camp; three rappels in the dark on the north side of a windy pass were unpleasant. After 29 hours on the move, we were back in camp.

Fred Beckey

Editor's note: In 2015, Doug Leen provided additional details about the team's marathon descent route, which crossed through four separate rugged drainages before returning to their base camp near one of the highest Sawtooth Lakes. After dropping into Wilderness Basin to the west, they crossed back east over the divide north of Black Tooth to reach the Loomis Lake basin. Here, Leen writes, "We tried to second-guess Fred by cutting directly over a ridge to what we thought was our camp, but ended up having to descend all the way back down. (Fred had Bonney's aerial photo from the guidebook—we didn't). I recall lighting a fire to cook some cached chicken we picked up from a pack trip at Spear Lake; the fire went out three times as I passed in and out of sleep. The chicken was barely edible." Later, they begged more food—a loaf of bread and a head of lettuce—from another group. "That was the sweetest lettuce I've ever eaten," Leen said. In all, the descent route covered at least nine miles and stretched their trip to five days, with only three days of food.

This AAJ article has been reformatted into HTML. Please contact us if you spot an error.

Photos and Topos Click photo to view full size and see caption