American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, United States, Washington, Cascade Range, Burgundy Spire, Action Potential with Variants, and Ultramega OK

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

Burgundy Spire, Action Potential with variants, and Ultramega OK. On July 19, after an evening bacchanal at the Winthrop Pub, Mike Layton’s and my approach time to the base of Burgundy had doubled to six hours. At the spire we beheld the impressive and unclimbed east aspect while thunderheads formed above the summit. We saw several options but started with a Bugaboolike splitter crack and white granite first pitch, followed by a more complicated second pitch. The crux, lichen-filled pitch 3, was steep 5.10 fingers, until a clap of thunder ended our attempt. The next afternoon, after a downpour subsided, we returned. This time we were armed with sleep and a base camp at Burgundy Col. Despite the threat of residual storms, by 3:30 p.m. I linked the first two pitches in 60m, then Mike pulled the crux and cruised through cracks and flake systems to a belay atop pitch 3. We simul-climbed 90m through a crack-chimney system that cleaved the east face, and Mike topped out on Burgundy’s north shoulder. I finished the last pitch via the Original Route (Beckey-Hane-Parrott, 1953) and reached the summit block, at 9:00 p.m. We smiled, congratulated each other, and rapped 800' off the north face to our camp at the col. We named the route Action Potential (III 5.10).

The next morning we established the Beautiful Hand Crack (5.10) variation to the first three pitches. Two days later Tom Smith and I completed the second free ascent and established a left-hand variation on pitch 6 that is now the suggested route. A topo can be found at

On July 24 Tom and I returned, started up the first pitch of an independent line 10' right of Action Potential, shared the first belay, and cast off into a chimney, followed by a right-facing corner. The system continued via hand and finger cracks. Later, Tom aided a lichen-filled seam, then freed a difficult double-roof at 5.10c/d. Seconding I freed the newly cleaned seam and concluded that it should be 5.11. We continued on finger and hand crack systems with exposure and inspiring views of Vasaliki Ridge and the Silver Star Glacier drainage. Tom led the last spicy pitch and topped out on Burgundy’s north shoulder. We followed the Original Route for a final pitch to the summit block, reaching it at 8:30 p.m. This route retained high quality climbing at a consistent 5.8-5.9 rating with a stellar 5.11 crux; it is the most attractive line that Burgundy has to offer. After two stuck-rope and one core-shot rockfall incidents, at 1:00 a.m. we returned to the highway and to beer chilling in Early Winters Creek. The route was done free of tat or bolts. Two Lost Arrows were placed at the crux belay and one remains. With climbing at 5.11 (5.10c/d AO) II1+, seven pitches (5.8, 5.9, 5.8, 5.11, 5.9+, 5.9, 5.8), the route was named Ultramega OK.

Mark Allen, AAC

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