American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, United States, Washington, Mt. Challenger, Cascade Range, Poltergeist Pinnacle, East Face

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 2005

Mt. Challenger, Poltergeist Pinnacle, East Face. On July 3 Dan Aylward and I hiked to Perfect Pass via Hannegan Pass/Easy Ridge. On the 4th we traversed around Challenger Arm and climbed a new route on the southernmost of the prominent subsummits between Challenger and Crooked Thumb. In keeping with the theme of Ghost and Phantom peaks, we dubbed this Poltergeist Pinnacle. It is particularly distinctive because of a huge shield feature at the base that is streaked by hundreds of dikes that crisscross the face like bolts of lightning.

We picked our lines by aesthetics. Ignoring easier cracks to the left, which would have required a long traverse up higher, we gained the rock in a crisp dihedral just left of the shield. Twenty feet above the snow, Dan left the security of the corner, which blanked out 80 feet higher, and tiptoed rightward across parallel dikes for 40 feet to the very edge of the face. Wild face climbing past an overlap led to more featured climbing along the edge (55m, 5.9+ R).

The second pitch followed a clean easily-protected corner system with a small roof at mid-height (60m, 5.8). A third pitch traversed left after 10m, around two corners, to reach a weakness that breaks through to the top of the steep lower face (60m, 5.8). From an ample ledge we simul-climbed to the ridge crest. We started in the wide trough in the center of the face, then moved right onto a sharp buttress crest with solid rock and less snow (ca 270m, up to 5.7 but mostly low 5th).

We thought about descending directly to the west, but then decided that the easiest way down was up. We turned north and simul-climbed toward the summit of Challenger, which we reached in about an hour and a half. This was generally moderate, and the rock reasonable, though we made no attempt at a true crest traverse. We were interested in speed over purity, and cut below the endless gendarmes where possible. We did loop back up the standard route to the true summit (who can resist all those fixed pins?), which we tagged at about 7:45 p.m. Following the well-trodden track across the glacier, we were back in camp in just over an hour. The hike out the following day was memorable only for blisters. Grade: IV 5.9.

Forrest Murphy

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