American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, United States, Washington, Cascade Mountains, Mount Snoqualmie, Northwest Face

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1969

Mount Snoqualmie, Northwest Face. I had noticed this face several times from neighboring peaks before I finally got around to visiting it. On September 29 I started from the new Alpental ski area by taking the Snow Lake trail as far as the Snoqualmie-Chair ridge and then following the crest of this ridge east toward Mount Snoqualmie. At about 5240 feet, just before the ridge starts climbing more steeply, I dropped to the basin on the north side, above which is the northwest face of Mount Snoqualmie. While a direct ascent of this 1000-foot rock face looked interesting and worth while, I considered the time left in this one-day outing, the difficulties I could see on the face, the unknown difficulties, and finally how much more difficult and time consuming it would all be alone. Finally I chose a steep, narrow, V-shaped, scree, rock, and snow couloir which cuts through the left side of the face. (There is a broad gully still farther left, beyond the face, which looked too easy to consider.) Once in the couloir the rest of the route is pretty much determined, with only one big choice left to make. Near the top, the couloir forms a “Y”. I chose the much easier right branch, although I was very pessimistic about where it might end. Happily it ended at the ridge crest at the very top of the wall, from where there was only a short and easy scramble to the summit. The couloir was loose and unpleasant scree at the bottom, but farther up it varied between climbing on very hard snow or ice and climbing on mixed quality rock, usually in the moat between the ice and the side of the couloir. Perhaps the crux was a section where the rock was holdless and the ice was vertical, which I climbed by fist jams between the rock and ice surfaces. The climb would have been much easier with an ice axe or crampons, neither of which I had along, and would also have been easier earlier in the year when the snow would be softer and more extensive.

Daniel R. Davis

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