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North America, United States, Washington, Cascade Range, Summary of Activity

Summary of activity. [Note: this summary supplements individual reports, mostly of bigger routes, below—Ed.] Mountaineering activity appears to be in slight decline in Washington. In recent years the Park Service has been reporting fewer climbers registering for permits at Mt. Rainier and some of the popular mountaineering destinations in the North Cascades, and climbing clubs are also reporting fewer new members. Meanwhile, growing traffic on Internet discussion boards is facilitating the exchange of information on routes and route conditions, along with pictures, stories, and detailed beta, thus more than ever funneling climbers to specific routes in specific seasons and, in some cases, stimulating new route activity. Also, the Internet publication of John Scurlock’s outstanding collection of winter aerial photographs is giving climbers a tantalizing view of possibilities they never would have noticed without being able to peruse prospective new routes from home. This is playing a particularly important part in the selection of “worthy” winter projects in the north and north-central Cascades.

A prominent example of an active bulletin board is found at www. cascadeclimbers.com, and the Scurlock photos are available at www.pbase.com/nolock/ root

The winter season of 2004- 05 had one of the lowest snowfall totals on record, and the resulting relatively easy road and trail access facilitated a lot of climbing activity. In addition to those climbs reported in the 2005 AAJ,

Peter Hirst and Rolf Larson climbed a new route (III AI3+) left of the north face routes on Mount Buckner in the Cascade Pass area on February 20. They had spotted this line in one of the Scurlock aerial photos.

After near-record moisture in May, the 2005 summer season was fairly normal. However, as happened in 2004, September brought a lot of rain to the Cascades, despite this normally being a reliable month for good weather. In addition to climbs reported individually below, local climbers established many excellent rock routes. Darin Berdinka and Allen Carbert climbed the 2,000' Green Creek Arête (III 5.7) in the Green Creek cirque on the east side of the Twin Sisters Range, south of Mount Baker, on July 1. Berdinka returned with Mike Layton to climb a steep wall to the right on July 21 (Mythic Wall, III 5.10). These routes featured exciting climbing in a gorgeous setting on unique peridotite rock; their Internet reports led subsequent parties into the cirque for further exploration.

Near Lake Chelan, east of the main North Cascades crest, Blake Herrington and Tim Haider climbed the East Ridge (III+ 5.7) of Tupshin Peak on August 9. The ridge is over a mile long, with scrambling and climbing. On September 29 Darin Berdinka and Mike Layton climbed a new route up the northwest buttress of Castle Peak, on the northeast edge of the North Cascades, just a mile-and-a-half south of the Canadian border: Sod On Me (III 5.10+ A2 M4 [M for moss]).

In the Enchantments, near Leavenworth, on July 10 Rolf Larson and Mike Layton established a new route (Thank You Baby Jesus, 5.10) up the 1,500 Boola Boola Buttress. Then, on July 31 on the south face of Enchantment Peak, Dan Cappelini, Larson, and Layton climbed a possible new route (Acid Baby, IV 5.10+), though they found an old nut on pitch two. Their line ascends steep cracks to a slender ridge on a 1,000' tower, found along the approach to Asguard Pass, that blends into the skyline until one is directly beneath it.

On August 23 Peter Hirst and Eric Wehrly climbed a new line (20-Sided Dihedral, IV 5.11 Al) between the Dragonfly route and the Cauthorn-Stoddard variation of the northeast buttress on Dragontail Peak in the Stuart Range.

Closer to Seattle, Mark Hanna and Eric Gamage completed a new route on the first tower of the Tower Route on Big Four Mountain, near Granite Falls, on July 30. Hanna, with Stephen Packard and James Lescantz, had previously completed the largely bolt-protected climbing on the first five pitches, comprising what makes an interesting crag climb on pebble conglomerate (5.10a). The full climb of the tower was grade III+ 5.10a and distinctly subalpine, perhaps even arboreal in a way that only a Cascades mountain climber can appreciate.

A rare blessing came with the formation of a deep high-pressure cell on President’s Day weekend, 2006, and, bolstered by the previous weekend’s report of good ice even at low elevations, along with relatively easy travel below timberline, everybody seemed to go climbing. Climbers around the state enjoyed great conditions on a variety of peaks. On the east face of Whitehorse Mountain, near the town of Darrington, on February 19 Peter Hirst and Rolf Larson climbed a line (III/IV AI4) unseen from the road but prominent from the air, which they had targeted after viewing a Scurlock aerial photo. This face had reportedly seen no prior ascents, though rumor of an unreported ascent subsequently appeared on the Internet (presumably a summer ascent).

Internet discussion and Scurlock’s aerial photography continue to stimulate not only mountaineering, but a number of exciting ski descents, including formerly unskied lines on Hurry-up Peak, Jack Mountain, Mount Goode, Sinister Peak, Mount Maude, Robinson Mountain, Bonanza Peak, Spider Mountain, Argonaut Peak, Three Fingers, Big Four Mountain, Guye Peak, and Mount Formidable. Nearly all of these descents were directly stimulated by the Scurlock collection. An active bulletin board at www.turns-all-year.com hosts frequent discussion of Northwest ski mountaineering.

For further information about these and other climbs, see the Northwest Mountaineering Journal at www.nwmj.org

Matt Perkins, Northwest Mountaineering Journal, AAC