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Dome Peak, Gran Torino and East Ridge

On July 12 Wayne Wallace and I cruised the waters of Lake Chelan on the buxom yet buoyant Lady of the Lake, on our way to check out the unclimbed southeast face of Dome Peak’s southwest summit. I saw the 1,800' granite face on a reconnaissance flight with John Scurlock back in 2005 and filed it in my pain-in-the-ass list of obscure climbs that would probably suck and take forever to get to—although the face was probably one of the, if not the, largest unclimbed faces in the Cascades. Dome Peak already had a reputation for taking days to reach, but this side of the mountain was even more remote. The big problem with logistics was that I had flown in from Salt Lake to climb with Wayne somewhere different. But when bad weather dashed our original plans, I preyed on Wayne’s vulnerability and convinced him with lies and promises. For Wayne to agree, we had to fit eight days worth of crap into 40-liter backpacks, while keeping our pack weights under 30 lbs. So after three days of bushwhacking, crossing glaciers, sketchy low-5th scrambling, and drinking 120-proof alcohol that had reacted with its plastic container, we arrived at a high camp below the base of the face.

We began our approach from the remote, boat-accessed town of Stehekin, hiking up the Agnes Creek Trail and bushwhacking to the Spruce-Icy Col. From the col we made a multi-glacier traverse over subpeaks and ridges, careful routefinding eventually bringing us to the base of the route. The next morning we climbed the glacier and crossed the moat onto the lower slabs, where we did a few clean, moderate pitches, before the headwall reared up. We encountered well-protected pitch after pitch of clean, polished granite splitters and chickenheads. The climbing on Gran Torino, as we named the route, was so good and so straightforward that we managed to do the route in four-and-a-half hours. The 15 pitches were mostly 5.7–5.9, with a few sporty moves of 5.10. We downclimbed the unclimbed East Ridge (5.6) and traversed back to camp, which took about as long as the ascent. The approach to the climb takes you by the fabled Gunsight Range, so on the way out Wayne and I repeated the Gunrunner Traverse (IV 5.9+) to complete an excellent Cascade adventure.

Michael Layton