No Country for Bold Men

Publiziert von Josh Lewis , 29. Juli 2010 um 07:07.

Region: Welt » United States » Washington
Tour Datum: 1 Juli 2010

"There are old Mountaineers, there are bold mountaineers, but no bold and old mountaineers." -Ed Viesturs

"A sense of uncertainty that is potentially fatal is what makes climbing an adventure. Anything less is just working out" - Jim Bridwell

"I refuse to believe in a risk free society where the thrill of living is traded for the safety of existence." -Nick Ienatsch

This was my most intense adventure yet. When heading out to the mountains, most of the time I put a decent amount of reason into what I'm getting myself into, but every now and then I get over my head, this time it was all the way.

This took place June 30 - July 1, 2010

After just climbing Mount Hood, I check my email at home, sure enough another trip invite. As always, most adventures are too good to pass up, this one was no exception. The plan was originally to climb Mount Baker, but I looked into the forecast which was not looking so great, there was a potential chance we could get lost on the Easton or the Colemen depending on what route. Then it dawned on me that Sahale would be the perfect choice, it had a easy to follow ridge, so even if the weather looked bad we would be able to go down with little difficulty.

Bill drove all the way from Oregon to pick me up as well as Michael. We had to sort out a lot of gear, go to REI to buy more perlon and then it was time to head out. I was still a bit tired from the previous trip, but the idea of adventure had me beckoned. At the trail head we tried to figure out a good place to camp, the trailhead said no camping. So the idea was brought up to Camp up on the mountain. The down side was I did not bring a sleeping bag (I did not bring it because the plan was to sleep at the parking lot, and for some reason mine disappeared at home).

The sunset was quite nice with Jburg looming above and had a light dusting of snow on it. Walking to the pass for me was tiring, especially with the heavy load in my pack, there was some snow we encountered as we were heading up. As we neared the pass I had to break out my ice axe due to some steep slopes below. At the pass we were all tired by that point so we decided to set up camp here. Unlike last time though, we took time to find a camp site that would have as little impact on the enviroment, we found a nice dirt area that had a trail that led to it.

Once we were ready to go to bed, looking out at the moon had a very creepy appearance, it almost looked like a nightmare the way the clouds came in and gave the moon a almost swirl appearance with the trees and the mountains as dark shadows. I suppose this was a foreshadowing of what was to come.

Michael let me use his sleeping bad, while he slept in his warm clothes although he said it was a cold night for him. The next morning there were clouds all around, it was just like I had imagined it, clear day before and storm coming in, the only diffrence was I was not alone. We headed out going up Sahale Arm taking the strait up path (the trail was barried in snow so we decided it would be best to follow the foot prints).

On Sahale Arm the place had a excitingness to it, the clouds were rolling in thicker yet the sun made an appearance through the clouds making some of the peaks glow. In such a place like this I could once again say to myself "What a beautiful world" because every angle you look around, you are surrounded by natural wonders.

We only saw one other person the entire trip which he did not summit, he told us it was a bit icy above, and once he left, we knew we now were the only ones on the mountain. Once we got to the bottom of the glacier we roped up, and I now was on lead. We were now heading into a white out, Bill fortunately had a gps (it's mostly for back tracking, it's not very good when it comes to finding your way up mountains). The fog became quite dense, I could only see a few feet in front of me, and when ever I would look without my glacier glasses it would be even less, although sometimes I could see a distance high point.

After passing the steep section of the glacier and the more gentle slope, I was plunging my ice axe which fell through the snow, to my amazement it was a hidden crevasse, I dug around it and sure enough it cut across, so I figured a way to get over it. From here the slope began to steeped a lot, and the snow was compact making kicking in steps harder. Going up was slow going, I would have to kick 10-15 times per step, although I might have digged them more than needed, but I wanted my team to feel comfortable on the steep slope. It went on for over an hour (Michael says it porbably took 2 hours) which had drained a lot of energy from me, and I was becoming dehydrated. My fingers were becoming quite cold, my middle finger on my left hand as well as a few other fingers were becoming numb, I had to beat them together to get the motion and feeling back.

The Ridge
Edit/refresh captions The Ridge

Soon we reached the ridge which was corniced. Getting on to it was tricky because I did not want to put me or my team in danger, there was some rock above it, so I traversed below the rock and did a rock climbing/ difficult scramble move to get onto it. From here we unroped, Bill decided he was going to try to figure a way to the summit. It looked bad, I realized this was the same ridge I was on last time I was here, but there was not much I could do by this point. Bill soon turned around because the exposure of the South West ridge. Bill said "Were turning around" and we started to head down, I down climbed a diffrent way off the ridge because I did not want to deal with the cornice, after all it was a long ways down.

Bill decided to traverse the bottom of the summit block, slowly I wondered if there was still a chance of us summiting. We reached the South East side which is the standard route for climbing to the top. The snow slope was a bit steep, I would not have minded except for what was below. We reached an interesting little snow ledge which I decided if I'm going for it, I'm taking off my pack.

Things got much scarier from here. Bill climbed over some rocks which involved a rock climbing move, during late summer you could have easily avoided this, but the slope to the side was covered in a snow, which a fall could be potentially fatal. As I headed up the snow slope I became more and more uneasy. If Bill was not leading I would have turned around, if it were not Sahale my favorite mountain I would have turned around, but the mountain still beckoned me.

I found out real quick that there was some choss (loose rock) and the rock as wet. After getting over the rock I got onto the snow slope, using the rock as extra support. I even did some hand jams and such to make myself more secure. With my ice axe I would always make sure it was fully plunged in, and make my steps nicely kicked it, yet it did not feel like enough. Part of this was that the snow was becoming less stable due to the faint sunlight coming through. This was some of the most nightmarish climbing I have ever done. As I went up, I suddenly got a terrible cramp, I would lean onto my ice axe and just pray that it would some how go away, and it did.

The cramps made kicking in much harder, so now I would have to take smaller steps, I could not drink any water because I had left my pack behind. I would take a grab from the snow and eat it, I didn't care if it had dirt or whatever, I needed water, and I needed it now! I kept carefully climbing up, and then suddenly my crampon got caught on my butt as I kicked to high. "This is not good" I thought as I tried to get it off. One hand was holding the axe, and the other was holding the rock. I had to do some wierd wedging with my leg, it took a few minutes, but I some how managed to get it out. What a relief!

As I was approaching the last 20 or so feet from the summit, I realized that the snow was a partial cornice, and I saw a repel sling which means people repel off this, not something you want to down climb, espesically in these conditions. I know a lot of climbers would be fine going up and down this on a nice day when dry, but the conditions are what made it scary, plus the exposure. Getting to the summit was interesting, I crawled between the cornice and the rock, grabbed on to the rock just short of the summit, and another rock. As I pushed off the snow, it broke loose... Thank goodness I had my hands well on the rocks, I pulled myself up as fast as possible and thankfully Bill cleared away some of the snow on the summit.

I was quite happy to have reached the summit, but I was at the same time fearful of what I went through and what I had left to do. The summit is very narrow and has room for only a few people, it had snow on it, so I had to get good footing just to sit down. Michael was below, and he got 2 feet from the summit, but decided it was not worth taking the risk, I encouraged him not to go up the last few feet. If you want to be technical about it, I did not touch the rock that was 10 feet away and was perhaps a foot higher, but I stood above it, which I think it's fair to say "we all summited".

The Summit Rock
Bill on the Summit
Me on the Summit
The Summit Rock
Bill on the Summit
Me on the Summit

The way down had me concerned, now the snow was softer, and down climbing steep scary slopes to be difficult. If I were roped up I would have no problem going fast (although chances of falling would still be great), but when your life is at risk, I will take as much time as I need to go down safely. But not too much time because of the snow softening up. Across from us I could see the ridge from the Quien Sabe route which was corniced but glowing with intensity (it was about 15 or so feet away from us, we could not see much beyong 20 feet).

According to Michael there were flutings that ran past the summit cornice, getting off the summit rock was a challenge, my foot instantly fell through a snow hole with rocks below it. It took about 5 minutes for me to get it out. From here I got back into the scrawl section between the cornice and the rock (which was narrow). From here I got back to kicking steps in, and the usual cramps would return, and I was forced to lean on my ice axe and wait for the pain to go away. Never had I ever felt this much on the edge.

I fell though yet another snow hole with one foot, getting it out was difficult, and then I would kick in steps as though my life depended on it. I began to get the feeling like the odds were against me going down, after the trip I asked Michael and he said the same thing. As I was taking a large step down and kicking in, one of my crampons fall off. Michael looked up, and knew this could be bad. I instantly felt like a character from a book of some crazy climbing story. I had to reach down in such a way (I did not want to get a cramp here, and I had to make sure I was stable) that I would have one hand holding the slope, and the other hand reach down to get it to make sure it does not fully fall off. But then I realized my right hand was leached to my ice axe which contributed to the problem. Eventually I managed a way to get it to my hand, I carefully tied it to my ice axe leash and then was able to continue down climbing.

It was wierd having the crampon attached to my axe, but what other choice did I have? My left foot placement now had to be more cautious than ever. When I finally got to a ok standing place, I rested a moment, and then looked up and thought "I should take a picture of this", it seems so strange, but then I figured I'm on a safe enough spot, and how often will I see this steep section? I put myself in little danger taking the photo.  wink.gif

From here the down climb to the packs was not too bad, although there was a rock move I had to carefully get off of. From here I grabbed my pack, drank some water (although I was low on water by this point). We now traversed down to the lower summit block area, and headed over to our old tracks for the decend.

As we were travelling along, Bill Slipped. He went down the slope, ice axe arrested, but started to dissappear through the fog, I felled out "Billlllllll!", fortunately he managed to stop after a ways down. The slope now was much more unstable, which I was thankful we left the summit when we did. Michael and I traversed back to our old foot prints. We then started down climbing which with the nice steps that were kicked it, it was fine going down.

Once we reached Bill we headed down to the glacier. At the glacier we passed the crevasse, which we glissaded past to have as little of wieght on the snow as possible, I had a few plunges right before it that had me a bit concerned. The white out ruined our glissade, we could hardly see a few feet in front of us, we had our tracks, but we did not want to loose them. Near the bottom of the glacier we were able to see the bumps which meant it was safe enough to glissade.

Michael Heading Down
Michael Heading Down

We had originally planned to study up more on z-pulley, but Bill did not feel like it, Michael was tired, and I was very cold from the wet conditions. Although getting down Sahale Arm was not that difficult, there were some times were it became so wide that it felt out of place. We had some more fun glissades although they were cold.

The Decent to Cascade Pass was a little tricky, now it was raining making the foot prints harder to see, although still visible. According to Bill's GPS we were off route, so we headed to the right, which was not acually the right way, I suppose the clouds had created some interferance. Going down the steep woods in slushy snow was not my version of fun, this was the only time turning the trip that I broke out my ice tool (I did not use it easier on the summit because I left it with the pack) and I still had to take caution on the slope. After getting past the logs at the bottom, I did a test ice axe arrest which did not work very well until I reached the bottom and swung my tool which worked like a charm, but probably would not have worked above.

Soon we found the camp, I was miserably cold, most of my clothes were soaked (although the inside of my jacket some how remained dry) and my pack was soaked. Bill talked about sleeping here, but there was no way I would want to do that, as it was, I feared getting hypothermia, I was shivering a lot, and much of my body heat was lost through my legs due to thin pants. The heavy mist that rolled in plus the wind made it even colder, packing things became difficult with cold hands.

We packed the tent and headed down to the car. It felt like a long time going down, switching back down the pass, some areas of the trail were flat and I started to wonder "did they purposely make this longer?". By the time we reached the car I was so glad and we rested, and drank water, and Bill had a few remaining cookies. This was the most scary adventure I have endured. On the ride home I said to myself "This is No Country for Bold men".

Thanks Bill for leading the way at the top, you were an excellant mountaineer, also thanks for driving us to Sahale for free and being good company.

Thanks Michael for helping kick steps on the way down, lending your sleeping bag, and carrying the tent.

It's not always good to be bold in the mountains, sometimes there are times when you should say no. As for the Cascade Pass deal, had we slept higher up, we would have been much worser off, the weather was terrible above Sahale Arm. My perspective on steep slopes have changed in the past week, my friend Mark once told me "Steep snow climbs are not that safe because it is usually unprotectible" and now I see what he means. In the future I do not plan on doing this kind of mountaineering. But in all it was a good learning experience.

More photos by Bill:

Tourengänger: Josh Lewis


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Kommentare (2)

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Saxifraga hat gesagt: Great stuff!
Gesendet am 29. Juli 2010 um 11:37
Greetings from Vienna,

Josh Lewis hat gesagt: RE:Great stuff!
Gesendet am 1. August 2010 um 23:37
Thanks! I do not plan on doing stuff like this any time soon... lol.

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