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North America, United States, Washington–Cascade Mountains, Bear Mountain, North Buttress, First Free Ascent

Bear Mountain, North Buttress, First Free Ascent. On July 20 and 21, Lowell Skoog and I climbed the north buttress of Bear Mountain. We followed the original ascent route, with the exception of the chimney, which we bypassed on the right. In recent years, perhaps no other climb in the Cascades has so much notoriety surrounding it. The setting is wilderness; the story in Beckey’s Challenge is terrifying. Alan Kearney’s description of the direct route reinforces the ominous nature of climbing on Bear Mountain. Intrigued by its reputation, we made the fourth ascent. At the start of the hard climbing we were confused by the transition between the ramp and the crest. The right side of the crest is broken and loose. On the left side, there are three crack and gully systems which lead from the ramp to the crest. The middle one is apparently the most straightforward, being the one used in our ascent, and in the first ascent. We were pleased to be done with the most serious part of the route. Climbing the narrow, exposed crest on excellent rock was exhilarating. The crest was so narrow, that we bivouacked 100 feet apart. Views of Redoubt and the Twin Spires and the overhanging inner wall sustained our tremendous position. The next morning we faced the crux. In the offwidth slot, approximately halfway to the bolt, we stepped around the edge to climb cracks and blocks which lead back into the top of the chimney (80 feet, 5.8). Instead of continuing with the direct finish, we rappelled to the hanging couloir to finish the original route. From the jumbled summit, we made new plans as we gazed into the heart of the Northern Pickets. (IV, 5.8.)

Mark Bebie