American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

United States, First Ascents in the Cascades

  • Notes
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1948

First Ascents in the Cascades. In September 1946 Charles Welsh, Jerry O’Neil and Fred Beckey camped in the alpine meadow at Washington Pass, with the bell-shaped N. Peak of Liberty Bell looming above. On the 27th, starting from a gully to the S.W. of the bell, they made a new route to the summit: 100 ft. in the gully; 100-ft. rib to a comfortable ledge; vertical rib (tiny holds) and traverse leftward to small ledge around a corner; short but tricky crack to top of a buttress; easy slabs for a few ft.; then high-angle slab to base of a narrow, overhanging crack (piton); 10-ft. finger traverse ending in a “chin” to a flimsy ledge; then to the right along sloping ledge which turned into another high-angle slab, very much exposed (two pitons); up slab with friction and a jam crack; a scramble, a shoulder stand and another short scramble to summit. Convenient rock projections facilitated 120-ft. rappels in the descent. On the 28th they climbed an unnamed 7600-ft. peak two miles S. of the Pass and also the S. Peak of Liberty Bell by the easy S.W. gully. That afternoon they established a new camp, from which they hoped to scale the unclimbed towers of Snagtooth Ridge. Starting at daybreak on the 29th, they climbed first to the summit of “Big Snagtooth” (8200 ft.): scree slope to ridge at 7800 ft., near S. (higher) end of Snagtooth Ridge; gully and series of ribs on S.W. face of southernmost peak to a false summit; descent of narrow 30-ft. chimney and traverse of a delicate ledge to another false summit; descent to small notch below summit block; shoulder stand past overhang; ascent of delicate slab to summit. By 1.00 P.M. they were ready for more climbs. Two towers (about 8100 ft.) which they called “Cedar Tooth” and “Willow Tooth” required some 200 ft. of moderately difficult rock work. Then a quick reconnaissance showed that there might be a route on the 220-ft. “Red Tooth, most imposing tower on the ridge. By the time they reached the summit, the sun had been hidden in clouds for some hours: V-shaped crack to a small “cannonhole,” by scant and crumbly holds, with an overhang about 60 ft. up (pitons); shoulder stand to a chock stone in the notch (piton); to the right on a small ledge, past bulging rock, to a vertical chimney; up the chimney, circumventing loose rocks (piton), to a resting place at 60 ft.; short scramble to summit. Two long rappels (pitons) brought them to the base. They reached camp at dark.

On 18 May 1947 Mel Marcus, Bill Dunaway and Fred Beckey made the first ascent of the W. Peak of Mt. Temple, an 8350-ft. granite tower. This called for several hundred ft. of very tricky and difficult rock climbing, including high-angle slabs, cracks and short overhangs. There is much climbing yet to be accomplished on Temple’s half-mile ridge of spectacular towers. Only the highest (E.) peak has been ascended to date.

Mt. Shuksan has been climbed from every conceivable direction but the true N., i.e. by the left profile as seen from Mt. Baker Lodge. From White Salmon Ridge the steep ice and rock cliffs rise to an 8600-ft. N. buttress, separated from the 9038-ft. summit by a salient of the Price Glacier. On 21 September 1947 Bob Craig and Fred Beckey made a cross-country jaunt via Shuksan Arm and White Salmon Creek to timberline at the base of the rounded N. face, where they bivouacked. Starting at 6.00 A.M., they climbed to the summit: very exposed traverse eastward to a hanging glacier; up steep ice slopes (crampons) and through a field of crevasses to a very icy finger; up the finger to an ice arête directly above a carefully circumvented rock barrier; over treacherous ice patches and some very loose rock to top of buttress; across a large bergschrund and over névé to E. face of summit pyramid; then difficult vertical climbing (sneakers) to summit at noon. The descent by the regular Lake Ann route took four and a half hours to the Lodge.

Fred Beckey

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