American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, United States, Washington, Cascade Mountains, Climbs in the "Skykomish Alps"

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1988

Climbs in the “Skykomish Alps.” The peaks south and east of the town of Index offer a variety of climbing opportunites on steep rock between 3000 and 6000 feet in elevation. All share the same kind of rock, a unique metamorphosed volcanic, which tends to be steep, hard and somewhat intimidating. Nonetheless, it has rewarding climbing and I have found several fine intermediate free climbs while Pete Doorish has put in some of the hardest wall climbs in the Cascades. In 1985 Bill Enger and I climbed Mount Persis’ north face and Josh Medosch and I ascended a 400-foot dihedral system on the southwest face of Gunn’s peak (Gunnslinger). In 1987, I returned to Gunn to climb on its high quality Rhinostone. The two best routes were Rhinostone Renegade (II, 5.8 + ) on the south face and Belayed Runner (II, 5.10 + ) on the west face direct. Renegade, done with Andy Cairns, shares its start and finish with 1985 Gunnslinger and climbs a broken arête. Runner, done with Greg White, features some outstanding crack climbing on its final, crux pitch. Both climbs are three pitches long. To the south, Mount Baring presents a steep north face rising 4000 feet above Barclay Lake and has smaller crags on its southern exposure. I climbed one of them, a 400-footer, southwest of the summit which I call “Syko Rock.” Loconotion Arête (II, 5.8) climbs this face on the southeast. The north face of Baring received a lot of attention until its ascent via the northeast comer in 1959 and then apparently went unclimbed for 20 years when Doorish and Dale Farnham repeated the Cooper-Gordon route in the rain. Doorish did this route free with John Siletto in 1983 (IV, 5.10). Doorish and Farnham climbed the route in winter conditions in February, 1984. This team was joined by Alex Cudowicz later in 1984 to forge a 26-pitch route directly up the north face (V, 5.10, A3). The Dolomite Tower, adjacent to the north face, dominates Baring’s profile when seen from the west. It is an 1100-foot monolith of vertical and overhanging rock for which the approach itself is a climb. Doorish set upon it in the summer of 1985. His solo efforts over the summer established fixed lines less than halfway up its north prow. Finally in September 1985, Doorish returned alone for an epic final push, which took 12 days and consumed 30 drill bits for 40 holes in rock with the consistency of marble. Despite foul weather and a broken hammock, which committed him to 11 sleepless nights, Doorish managed to top out in a hailstorm (V +, 5.9, A3). The Dolomite project does not stand alone as a testament to determination. A few miles south, and a year previously, Doorish, Farnham and Charlie Hampsen had laid siege to the seemingly impregnable North Norwegian Buttress of Mount Index. This 2200-foot tower, which looms over Lake Serene, had repulsed some of the area’s leading climbers over the years, the high point being a mere five pitches up the northeast face. After an initial attempt during the snows of November 1984 to above this point, Doorish and company returned regularly on weekends the next season to jümar ropes and pound pins through the 30-to 40-foot roofs midway up the route. In July 1985, Doorish and Farnham finished the project in a six-day push, calling a 26-day, 24-pitch effort. The reward was a descent of the route, featuring a wild 300-foot free rappel through the roofs. (VI, 5.9, A3.)

Bryan Burdo, ACME

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