This incredibly bad idea originated years ago on spring break, when some friends and I got in way over our heads on Rodeo Queen. While freezing our butts off, we noticed this amazing gendarmed ridge on the Sentinel, with Birdbeak Spire being the ridge’s most prominent tower.
It took a few years for memories of choss to fade, but on April 5, 2008, Joe French, Zack Lee, and I cast off with two packs, a big rack of birdbeaks, down coats, and not enough water. We left the car at 5 a.m., and Joe led the first block. Around pitch five or six Zack and I heard the dreaded rumble of big rockfall. Down the fall line came a 5'x5'x5' boulder, but no yelling. And the rope kept going up. WTF? We got to Joe, who nonchalantly explained that he’d mantled onto the thing and had to jump off when it started to go.
We moved along at a good clip for 15 pitches, snaking through broken towers, where the climbing stayed around 5.9, with some big runouts, loads of choss, and vertical talus. After pitch 17 we plopped onto a comfortable ledge on the south side of Birdbeak Spire and screeched to a near halt: 70' of beaks, followed by a 10-hole ladder, followed by another 60' of beaks. We then scampered around to the gully, skipping the last 60' to the top of Birdbeak. Another three loose pitches brought us near the summit cap of the Sentinel. Totally dark. Zack rope-gunned 200' of white sandcakes, and we untied for the final 400' of 4th-class, which included step-kicking up a snowfield. Joe brought a summit register, which we signed at 11 p.m. And then the real danger began: a sleep-deprived descent of the Mountaineer’s Route, where we endured a forced bivouac. Red Chamonix Ridge (V 5.9 A4).