Pasayten Wilderness, Amphitheater Peak, Cathedral Peak, Deacon Peak, three new routes. Alpine climbing, especially new routing, can be an uncomfortable, frightening, and challenging experience, one whose merits are only truly appreciated in hindsight, what is called type-two fun. My weeklong trip to the Pasayten Wilderness with Blake Herrington, in August, was none of these. Despite a chilly summer snowstorm and excess mosquitoes, our week of adventure and exploration on the Washington-British Columbia border was solidly type-one: fun while doing it. During our week camped on the shores of Upper Cathedral Lake, we swam, fished, rocked out to iPods (you can’t put a price on morale!), ate trout fried in bacon fat, drank whiskey, played cards with new friends, and, the icing on the cake, put up three stellar new routes.
First, on the south face of Cathedral Peak, we established Last Rites 300m, 5.11+). Our route wanders up the highly featured, choose-your-own-adventure face, beginning between the Beckey and Doorish routes, finally making a sharp right across the Beckey ramp to tackle a steep headwall crack (crux). We then followed the Southeast Buttress Route for its last pitch to the summit.
Second, we checked out enticing terrain on the north face of Amphitheater Peak. The biggest aspect here is called Middle Finger Buttress, so we named our route the (Middle) Finger of Fatwa. (The cirque has a religious naming theme.) Checking in at 160m and 5.11, this route was our shortest but by no means least enjoyable. It featured an incredible fingers-to-thin-hands splitter, then a series of left-leaning roofs, surmounted by hand cracks and jugs.
Finally, we checked out the north face of the Deacon, tantalized by descriptions of a face similar to Yosemites Sentinel Rock, with the central aspect yet unclimbed.
Located just across the B.C. border, it is of course necessary to follow international laws and not simply traipse across the weirdly deforested line in the forest. The north face of the Deacon is indeed impressive. Beginning just right of the Nose (Anderson- Barnett, 1974) we followed an arcing corner to 5.10- rightward underclings. We pieced together the intricate, wandering 70m second pitch, connecting incipient seams and improbable traverses. The third pitch climbed a thin, mossy layback corner. This pitch necessitated some cleaning on aid but was led cleanly afterward (crux). Finally we gained the major splitter crack system we'd been shooting for and were soon reveling in alpine hand-crack heaven. Three more long pitches led us to lower-angle terrain, which we happily simuled to the summit. Wed completed our longest and best route of the trip, the Heretic (350m, 5.11).
We recommend the Pasayten Wilderness of Washington and B.C. to anyone looking for an adventurous summer trip; it’s full of soft green alpine meadows, solid granite, hungry trout, and type-one fun!