It had been a good summer, but it was time to head back south. To see where I had been, check out Part III
. Before I left Portland though, I had a few days to climb with an old high school buddy. Will works as a guide in Alaska in the summers, Aconcagua in the winters so you know he's good in the mountains. Between him, another buddy who patrols at Squaw and guides Shasta, and myself, I'm amazed how many climbing bums our high school turned out, and that's just counting the ones I know. Will had been wanting to do the North Ridge of Baker, while I've been lusting over the Torment-Forbidden Traverse for years, why not combine the two and save gas money.
The usual sorts of delays kept us in town until after noon and by the time we got up to the Baker trailhead it was already dark. Calculating back, if we wanted to summit by around 7 to avoid getting caught in mush on the way down, and it's going to take 9 or 10 hours, we should be leaving, uhh, now. So we cooked a quick dinner and hit the trail. Through brilliant planning, or dumb luck, it was full moon, so once we broke out of the trees and got on the glacier it was a surreal landscape.
Getting onto the glacier.
The route crosses the glacier in the middle of the picture, climbs the obvious snow ramp to the left hand ridge, then up that to the summit. The crux, or rather the official crux, is a couple of AI2/3 pitches getting up the ice bulge where the ramp meets the ridge.
Heading back down the moraine in the morning.
Unfortunately we didn't even make it to the ridge. The glacier appears passable, but proved troublesome, one path after another dead-ending at giant crevasses. Finally after the third or fourth attempt, we realized we would have to backtrack all the way to base of the standard route, climb that partway, then traverse over high. That seemed like a lot of work and we were pretty tired at this point, plus it was getting late, so we just bagged it, went down. 0-1.
No rest for the wicked though. In order to get the TFT done before Will had to head off for another trip, we needed to head up to the base that evening. Boston Basin is fairly popular as a base camp for Forbidden and several other climbs, so there's a permit/quota system in place. Now I'm not generally a fan of permits, bureaucracy is rarely a good thing, and this proved to be a bad case of how it can be done. They've split the area in several zones and you're required to get a specific permit for a specific zone. Only problem, the ridge on which we'll be bivying divides to zones, so the ranger demanded to know which side of the ridge we'd be sleeping on. How the heck should I know? It's a rock climb, we're going to camp wherever it's safe and convenient to do so. Not that there's going to be any rangers up there to check, but the fact that they even ask displays a lack of understanding about the realities of the environment they're in charge of. Plus with the threat of a fine if you're late, it encourages people epicing to force a way down rather than spend the night even when that may be the safer and wiser course of action. And not to be too bitter, if they're going to make it so hard to stay up there, they could at least make it easier to get there. The trail is classic climber's trail, rocky, rooty, straight up, and overgrown. If it's such a popular place they need to limit use, you'd think they could be bothered to trim the branches back a little and clear the logs. End rant.
So after relaxing a bit that morning, driving around, dealing with permit issues, it was again getting dark by the time we started up the trail. And as mentioned, it's not the best of trails in the best of times, more fun in the dark. Nevertheless we persevered and fumbled our way up to the Basin. With all the work of the last few days, it perhaps wasn't surprising then that we overslept and didn't get over to the base of Torment at around ten or eleven. The guidebook rather simply says something about 'climb the south face to a notch' without bothering to say much about where on the rather large south face one should go. Our options were fairly limited though due to a large moat preventing us from even getting onto the face except in a few spots. I picked what I thought was going to be the easiest route. It wasn't. Or at least, it may have been the easiest, but it certainly wasn't easy. Especially with an overnight pack and climbing in boots, I just couldn't make things go, so back down we went. In hindsight, there may have been a work around by going up much farther to the right, then cutting back at mid-height, but again it was getting late and once we had gone back down to the glacier we didn't think we had enough time to be starting over. 0-2.
View from our camp in Boston Basin. There was persistent marine layer all week that filled the valleys but never bothered us up high.
The traverse starts on Torment, the rocky one in back, then comes along the obvious ridge. In a few spots you're forced onto snow/ice sections on the the north side but it's mostly 3rd/4th scrambling.
We did still have an extra day and we had already done all the hard work of getting up here, so we figured we might as well do the end part of the traverse, the classic West Ridge of Forbidden. This had it's own difficulties, normally one climbs a couloir to get to the ridge and it was totally melted out, but we managed to find a way around on rock to the left. Once on the ridge itself, the climbing was fantastic, simply superb, giant blocky edges and perfect cracks.
Starting up the ridge proper.
View from the summit, Moraine Lake below and Eldorado Peak above.
Looking south, Johannesburg is the massive thing on the right, Glacier Peak, near Holden Village where this whole summer started, dominates the skyline. The classic Ptarmigan Traverse starts at Cascade Pass, here on the left, and heads south as far as you can. The first ascent party, in 1938, did a total of 13 peaks, something not repeated since.
Final score for those keeping track, 1-2. Not the best ratio, but all good climbs and at least we finished on a good note.
From here, I dropped Will off in Portland, spent a few more days with my folks, then turned my way back south to that shining mirror in the sky, Lake Tahoe. Since it was on the way I figured I might as well hit Mt. Hood again on the way past. The whole north side was closed due to a fire, and I wasn't feeling energetic enough to want to climb the standard south side route, so I settled on just doing Illumination Rock, a subpeak with a fun little 5.4 route one it. I-Rock, as it's affectionately called is really known for mixed climbing in the winter when it gets covered in rime. Doing in without that protective coating, I found the rock slightly loose and sketchy, but still a fun day. As a bonus, I had carried my skis up, so got a nice three thousand foot descent back to the car. Skiing Hood was one of the first things I did on my way north back in June so it made for a nice coda to make it one of the last things I did on my way back south.
I-Rock in winter. Not my picture, stolen from Summitpost.
View along the summit ridge of I-Rock with the top of Hood in the back.
A cool cannonhole on the summit ridge of I-Rock. The top of it is actually two thin flakes leaning together, seemingly ready to fall anytime. I'm sure it's been crossed, but I wasn't about to get on it.
Again a stolen picture since I didn't seem to take many this day. Looking back up at the Palmer snowfield. I-Rock is off to the left, I walked across to the middle of the picture, skied along the edge of the glacier, down the main snowfield, then through one of the gullies almost all the way to the parking lot. Not a bad day, not a bad summer.