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5-day
climbing rescue on Mt. Terror (plus Inspiration S Face, Degenhardt, Pyramid,
West McMilllan) 5-day climbing rescue on Mt. Terror (plus Inspiration S Face, Degenhardt, Pyramid, West McMilllan)  by StephAbegg

The Picket Range is one of the most rugged areas of the North Cascades. Although the difficulty of the climbing is often moderate, the routes are committing and remote, and any mishap can turn deadly. This fact became all too real when on July 5, a climbing accident occurred on the Stoddard buttress of Mt. Terror. A stretch of bad weather worsened the situation, leading to a 5-day rescue operation, which ultimately ended in success due to a series of well-thought decisions and the dedication of the rescue team.

There were four of us in the climbing party: Donn Venema, Jason Schilling, Steve Trent, and me (Steph Abegg). All of us are experienced climbers, and have made several previous excursions into the rugged Picket Range. The first three days of our 6-day trip had been wildly successful, during which we had climbed the South Face of Inspiration, West McMillan Spire, Degenhardt, and The Pyramid. On Day 4 we started off on our last major climb of our trip: the Stoddard Buttress on the north side of Mt. Terror. This is when the accident occured.

The following trip report gives photos and details of our successful climbs and then the 5-day climbing rescue operation that followed. The full story of the climbing rescue is provided after the photos at the end of the trip report.

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Thread of
Ice, Twin Needles, N Cascades - First Ascent Thread of Ice, Twin Needles, N Cascades - First Ascent  by StephAbegg

During a north to south traverse of the Picket Range last summer, I was intrigued by a couple of lines on the north side of Twin Needles: the sweeping north ridge and the 1200-ft snow/ice couloir next to it. I later discovered that these two lines were the "Thread of Gneiss" and "Thread of Ice" named by John Roper on his ascent of the Twin Needles in 1981. As far as I know, neither had ever been climbed.

Wayne Wallace and Mike Layton had attempted the “Thread of Gneiss” in 2007. They had encountered a rotten fault line that was almost impassable, and deemed the buttress not worth the risk. So I turned my attention instead to the steep, skinny, shadowy, snow couloir that snakes its way to Eye Col between the two Needles.

I emailed Wayne Wallace and asked if he was interested.

"Heck, yeah."

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Serpentine Arete Serpentine Arete  by Tsuyoshi

As with so many other trips, plans for the serpentine arete started out with other plant. The original plan was to climb Rainier, but bad weather down south made me reconsider the idea of sitting around in a tent for a whole weekend waiting for weather to clear up. So the plan changes and Dragontail peak became the peak of choice! Next, Chico, Colin and I had to decide if we were going to climb it in one day or two. We decided to arrive at the Leavenworth ranger station at 7:45 to see if we could get permits for Colchuck lake by the lottery. The plan was to climb in two days if we could get permits, one if the permits weren't available. Thankfully there were only two groups there in the morning, the other group got permits to camp in the Enchantments to climb Prusik.

With permits in hand, we had a whole day to do whatever we wanted. After getting a quick breakfast, we headed over to Castle Rock to climb it from bottom to top as a warm up for the climb the following day. I don't know what route we climbed on the lower half (and I forgot my camera in the car so I don't have any pictures) but Chico had never climbed on Castle Rock so we send him up Canary for the second two pitches. After relaxing at the top for an while, we got back to the car and drove to the trailhead and started packing.

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Comanche Venable Loop Comanche Venable Loop  by Westcliffe Willie

Now, there are people who have no fear. Those who have little fear and those who are basically scared sh*tless of standing on a narrow ledge next to a cliff with a sheer drop of several hundred feet or more. Unfortunately, I happen to be one in the latter category. If I lived hundreds of miles away from climbable peaks and wasn’t an avid outdoor adventurer, this wouldn’t be of much importance, but I happen to live almost within walking distance of some of the best climbing in Colorado and I love being in and exploring the mountains.

For some, this hike will be a walk in the park. For others, possibly one of the most exciting things they might do in their lifetime. For me, a way to try and tear the monkey off my back. The monkey; being, my fear of heights.

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Mt. Dade Through the
Hourglass Mt. Dade Through the Hourglass  by Augie Medina

Mid-June in the Eastern Sierra Nevada. Things didn’t look hopeful for tomorrow. Light snow showers had persisted all day and for all we knew, would get heavier during the night. Our party of eight (a Sierra Peaks Section outing led by Kathy Rich and Alexander Smirnoff) was camped in the Treasure Lakes area where good tent sites are hard to come by.

Earlier in the day, we had set out in the early afternoon toward Mt. Abbot. But the snowfall slowed our big group down considerably. We got to about 12,000 feet, where we had a mini-lunch break as the sky continued leaking white flakes and the clouds blanketed any view. On the descent back to camp there was lots of post-holing, often to thigh level. We all had our turn practicing that familiar embarrassed look as you awkwardly try to liberate yourself from the grip of the hole you’ve sunk into. No way to make that self-extraction look graceful.

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Denali
2009- Denali 2009- "Summit Bound" with a bunch of 'Nachos'  by Kiefer

Densmore’s Peak, Traleyka, Mt. McKinley, The Churchill Peaks (official) and The Middle-Aged Crisis Mountain; it doesn’t really matter what moniker you throw at it, Denali is a household name and thanks to the early exploits of people such as Dr. Cook, Hudson Stuck, Belmore Brown and Bradford Washburn, it’s become a beacon for many mountaineers and a rigorous test piece for everyone else.

The amount of logistics that go into a typical expedition takes months to successfully maneuver through (and indeed, anything in the Alaskan Range). Group morale and dynamics will often enough ruin and doom an expedition before it even sees 16,100 Ridge Camp. It is for various reasons that make Denali the epitome of “Other Annapurnas” in the lives of men. Taken on the surface, that’s a fairly bold statement to make. Break that surface and you find out that Denali has a vertical rise of about 18,000ft, boasts a clean prominence of 20,138ft, is 3.5° south of the Artic Circle, is widely known as the coldest mountain outside of Antarctica and has wide swings of success rates as low as 31% (1987) and as high as 67% (1983) by way of its’ easiest route, a thing like that simply cannot be trivialized. The weather on Denali is highly volatile being exposed to weather systems from the frigid Artic, the Bering Strait and the North Pacific. Bad weather on Denali is the rule.

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Hochkalter
Blaueis Route Hochkalter Blaueis Route  by selinunte01

During our spring ski tour to Hocheisspitze my colleague Reinhard suggested a trip to Hochkalter via Blaueis glacier in one day. This should be a sort of training tour for our 2009 Switzerland plans. He had done this trip several times before and told me that early in the summer the difficult bergschrund should be packed with snow and the northeast arete is not more than UIAA grade II. This was surprising news to me as I always thought that this classic summit route was out of bounds for me.

Hochkalter is the highest point of the Berchtesgaden subgroup with the same name and a very prominent peak. The Blaueis glacier, fed by avalanche snow and the huge snowdrift in winter lies in a northern exposed, deep cirque which is surrounded by other impressive peaks (Schärtenspitze, Blaueisspitze, Rotpalfen, Kleinkalter) and thus sheltered from too much heat and rapid melting in the summer. It is the northernmost glacier of the Alps and one with a very low exposure: it starts actually at about 2000 m and reaches up to Blaueisscharte, 2400 m.

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Windhorse First Ascent, Lone
Pine Peak Windhorse First Ascent, Lone Pine Peak  by brutus of wyde

In the land of the highest, harshest mountains on the planet, humans have developed a way of tending to spiritual concerns while concentrating their time and efforts on more immediate matters like survival. From porches, housebeams, trees, and from rough rock cairns on the highest mountain passes, they string prayer flags. The Windhorse, a mystical creature, carries prayers from the flags to the heavens on the wings of the wind. Ubiquitous in the Himalayas, prayer flags are seldom seen in the West. Thus were my partners and I surprised and pleased this summer when approaching Stonehouse in the southern Sierra of California, to see tattered prayer flags fluttering in the ever-present breeze.

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A Return to
Yosemite A Return to Yosemite  by RobSC

During the summer of 1969 I lived on the outskirts of San Francisco with my family. It was the summer of love, and San Francisco was the epicenter of the music scene, yet my parents never once took me to the Fillmore or any shows of Jefferson Airplane, the Dead or their kind. Instead, they spent a few of my Dad’s precious days off for a trip to the magnificent valley of Yosemite. I remember standing at the banks of Mirror Lake, with the high cliffs of Half Dome reflected in the clear sunlit waters. I remember the power of the waterfalls and the magnificence of the trees. I remember returning that winter with a small metal saucer sled and sliding down deep piles of snow. I don’t remember the cliffs, the climbers or the crowds, though, but then again I was only four years old at the time.

I didn’t return to that magical place until thirty years later. Of course I’d read about it: Royal Robbins, Warren Harding, Galen Rowell, but theirs was a foreign world, pitons, hammers, artificial climbing, sleeping suspended above all as storms swept past. It was a world I never thought that I’d enter. Sure, Cannon Cliff, Gothics, and the Grand Teton all had a magnetic pull but they were different, weren’t so steep or foreboding. I don’t remember how it came up, a random conversation at work maybe, but somehow I found myself planning a trip with a friend, Steven, to attempt three of the Valley's greatest climbs during a two week spell. Half Dome, Sentinel Rock, and the Salathe Wall were to be the primary objectives. We’d try to fit in a few smaller climbs as well if the opportunity arose but if those didn’t work out it would be okay. Since we’d never done any aid climbing beyond pulling on a couple slings, we sought out the Sphinx Crack, hard lines in Boulder Canyon, Big Rock Candy Mountain even, until we felt that we knew the basics.

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2nd Attempt
at Crazy Peak 2nd Attempt at Crazy Peak  by peakhugger

We started at the Halfmoon trailhead on Big Timber Creek, the “standard” approach, if there is one. A few years back (2004), a friend and I had attempted Crazy from Smeller Lake and turned around at the false summit due to weather. The Big Timber Creek approach, despite being snow covered after the first mile, was much easier. I wouldn't recommend the Smeller approach unless you were climbing Iddings Peak in the same trip. After finding the well-marked turn to Blue Lake, we crossed Big Timber Creek one last time and broke trail for the last 1.5 miles to camp. Snow conditions were surprisingly favorable: soft enough to climb steep slopes without crampons and dense enough to avoid post-holing. We set up camp at 8400 feet, just above the short stream between Blue and Granite Lakes, and enjoyed the afternoon sun.

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