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North America, United States, Washington-Cascades, East McMillan Spire, North Buttress, Southern Pickets

East McMillan Spire, North Buttress, Southern Pickets. From Terror Basin, Rachel Cox and I walked north along the Terror Basin-Azure Lake divide. Where this ridge steepens and merges with the east ridge of McMillan Spire, a horizontal ledge leads to Stetattle Ridge, the divide between McMillan Cirque and Azure Lake. We followed Stetattle Ridge to a col (class 3), made two 165-foot rappels, climbed down ice and snow to benches in the upper McMillan Cirque and traversed west on slabs which were exposed to falling ice. A rock spur led up between icefalls directly to the base of the north buttress of East McMillan Spire. We began at the toe of the buttress, scrambling east around a large gendarme to a prominent notch. From the notch a fifth-class pitch and 200 feet of third class brought us to a bivouac on a large shelf. From there it was possible to walk down and right to active springs in a large shallow cave. There was no water higher. In the morning we climbed six fourth-class pitches up and left to a large rubble-covered platform on the crest of the buttress, overlooking the huge chimney-and-comer system on the lower east face. We climbed up and right for three pitches to the base of a long open-book. This is the first comer system west of the crest of the buttress, ending in a series of blocky overhangs. Three beautiful pitches of 5.7 to 5.9 on excellent rock led up the comer to grassy ledges immediately below the overhangs. A short horizontal pitch to the left on ledges brought us back to cracks and comers near the crest. Here we made a second bivouac. After a pitch, crack systems to the left and right were blocked by overhangs. We opted for an improbable outside comer leading straight up between the overhangs, which provided a surprisingly moderate and safe 165-foot pitch. After one passes the overhangs at about mid height on the buttress, many lines are possible. We climbed up and left along the crest for several pitches of solid, enjoyable fourth and fifth class. Where a loose and blocky vertical step about 60 feet high blocks the crest, we traversed up and right, emerging on a huge ledge. Above this point the rock deteriorates. Whereas the lower two-thirds is solid gneiss, the upper portion is loose, slabby schist. However, the climbing, mostly third class, is much easier. We climbed seven rope-lengths just west of the crest, then traversed 200 feet right to join the 1977 route for two pitches to the summit. We descended the west ridge and couloir to Terror Basin. Bergschrunds necessitated two 150-foot rappels. (28 pitches, 10 of which are fifth class. V, 5.9.)

Peter Keleman, Fourth Avenue Alpine Club