American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, United States, Washington, Lemolo Peak, First Ascent, After Hours

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 2009

Lemolo Peak, first ascent, After Hours. In September Rolf Larson and I climbed the northeast buttress of the 8,501' summit east of Southeast Mox Peak, often referred to as “Hardest Mox.” We give this previously unclimbed peak an alternate appellation, Lemolo Peak—Lemolo is Chinook for wild or untamed— to emphasize that this wild beast offers yet more adventure for brave souls willing to tackle the unclimbed direct line up the east face. The non-trivial descent requires also climbing 8,504' Southeast Mox, a peak once cited by Fred Beckey as “a good place for a funeral,” after a close call with a piano-sized block of infamous Skagit Gneiss. The face’s intimidating reputation rings from Cascade legends and has long been rightly considered one of the range’s “Last Great Problems.”

The highest point previously reached on the peak, ca 8,200', was in 2005 [Layton-Wolfe; AAJ 2006, pp. 150-152] by an adventurous route that generally wandered on the right side of the east face and briefly dallied on the northeast buttress. The party rappelled their route due to approaching weather.

We approached this remote area on September 11 from the Little Beaver trailhead on Ross Lake, just south of the U.S.-Canada border. Almost five miles of hiking led to five more miles of arduous and brushy cross-country travel up Perry Creek, punctuated with the fresh stench of bears. Nine hours of effort yielded a camp at 5,000' in Perry Creek Basin. On the 12th we finished the approach to 6,000' and began climbing the imposing wall. We soloed, simul- climbed, and occasionally pitched-out the initial 1,000' of 5.8/9, then tackled the 800' headwall in five steep pitches that involved difficult route-finding through numerous roofs. On the exposed headwall Rolf pulled a clutch effort and led the crux pitch, involving sheer stretches of 5.10 above difficult gear. I then found a rare splitter hand-crack, and as the sun dropped low we rose above the vertical headwall just in time to scout a scenic bivy site on a platform exposed above the east face.

In unseasonably cold temperatures, we shiver-bivouacked at 8,200', three pitches from the summit. We summited Lemolo early on the 13th for its first ascent, and then traversed gendarmes on the ridge to Southeast Mox. We then descended southwest via heinously loose gullies to the peak’s unnamed southern glacier, eventually circling to camp in Perry Creek Basin late that afternoon. A celebration ensued.

Those seeking adventure will enjoy our route, After Hours (2,500', V 5.10-). We used no bolts or pins, and Rolf rightly describes the climbing as “cerebral.” Future parties will find excellent, well-featured gneiss, particularly in the hardest sections, along with some loose rock, long run-outs, and stacked blocks. However, these modest detractions are more than overcome by spectacular position in a truly wild place.

Eric Wehrly

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