American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, United States, Washington, Summary of Activity

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 2008

Washington, summary of activity. 2007 was not particularly rainy, but the Cascades never saw the usual settled periods in late winter or the typical eight or more weeks of summer sunshine. Even worse, dry weather invariably seemed to come midweek, frustrating for those of us who hold steady jobs. However, it was far from a shutout for Washington climbers.

In January Colin Haley and Mark Bunker traversed the three peaks of Mt. Index in a day, making remarkable time on a great outing that rarely sees repeats. The first new alpine accomplishments of the year were reported in April. Ski mountaineers, who in years past have made exciting first descents mid-winter, reported several new lines in the Olympic and Cascade mountains; they appear at www.nwmj.org. At the end of April, Haley and Dylan Johnson climbed an ice-and-mixed line on the northeast face of Mt. Stuart, linking various parts of existing routes with two new ice pitches. They called their line the Lara Kellogg Memorial Route (IV WI6 A0).

One leftover item from 2006: a previously unreported route put up by Chris Greyell and friends. Flight of the Falcon (III 5.10b or 5.9 A0) ascends the south face of Salish Peak, near Darrington on the west slope of the Cascades. The two longest new climbs in 2007 took place deep in the heart of the range. Blake Herrington and Dan Hilden made a mid-season traverse of the Gunsight Peaks, and Herrington and Sol Wertkin climbed the long east ridge of Goode Mountain in late August [both ascents reported below].

New routes closer to the road but still in alpine settings include Matt Alford and Darin Berdinka’s rock route, the Northwest Arayette (III 5.9), on the northwest pillar of Mt. Shuksan. They climbed the route, which rises above the east edge of the White Salmon Glacier, in August. In September Wayne Wallace and Mike Layton established the Southwest Ridge (III 5.8) of Mt. Triumph.

By far the greatest concentration of new route activity took place in and around Washington Pass. In June Larry Goldie and Scott Johnston climbed the North Buttress (III 5.9) of Varden Creek Spire, a satellite of Silver Star Mountain. Bryan Burdo teamed-up with Johnston to establish a new rock climb on the southeast face of South Early Winter Spire. Hitchhiker (IV 5.11 A0 [or 5.10 A1]) took three visits, spread over two months, from July to September. The route, which starts 100 yards right of Passenger, has one 5.9 pitch, six of 5.10, and two of 5.11. The pair equipped it with good belays, and it should attract repeat attention.

In late season a small cadre established four new crag climbs by nearby Cutthroat Creek. On the Snout, Blake Herrington and Jason Kilgore put up Deviated Septum (III 5.10b), and Kilgore and Eric Gratz climbed Smelling Salts (III 5.10). On Cutthroat Wall, Max Hasson and Herrington climbed The Perfect Crime (III, 5.9), and Herrington and Dan Hilden climbed Easy Getaway (III 5.10-).

Fall came early with a stormy October and huge early season snowfall that produced unstable conditions, leading to several avalanche fatalities in Washington. Climbers showed caution, and activity in the 2007-08 winter season was less than normal. Thanks are due the Northwest Weather and Avalanche Center (www.nwac.us) for their fine efforts at publicizing the danger and producing accurate hazard assessments.

Washington continues to see overall wilderness usage decrease, while certain destinations see distinct spikes. Part of this trend may be due to washed-out access roads (the 2003 floods) remaining closed, but climbers generally seem to be making fewer extended wilderness outings. Climbers’ attention continues to be focused by “select” guidebooks and Internet discussions. For example, rangers report that the Terror Creek Basin in the Southern Pickets is seeing increased visitation, and the classic Ptarmigan Traverse remains popular, despite now requiring several miles of roadway hiking due to the 2003 washout of the Suiattle River road. Meanwhile, other areas are overlooked, and even the ever-popular Forbidden Peak area is seeing a slight decline in climber interest. Similarly, rangers at Mt. Rainier report that all but the most popular routes are largely neglected. Near Leavenworth climbers are flocking to Prusik Peak, Dragontail, and Mt. Stuart, while many surrounding objectives see little traffic.

Matt Perkins, Northwest Mountaineering Journal, AAC

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