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North - March 13, 2004
Trip Report

North - March 13, 2004

North - March 13, 2004

Page Type: Trip Report

Location: Montana, United States, North America

Lat/Lon: 32.84000°N / 113.91°W

Object Title: North - March 13, 2004

Date Climbed/Hiked: Nov 30, 1999

Activities: Mountaineering

Season: Spring


Page By: T Sharp

Created/Edited: Jan 2, 2007 / Oct 31, 2007

Object ID: 256454

Hits: 1498 

Page Score: 71.06%  - 1 Votes 

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North Side of Bass Creek Crags: March 13, 2004

img:256455:alignright:medium:Ansel looks at our intended route Trip Report by Luke Casady

The main goal of this trip was to get everyone that was interested in going to Mt. Rainier together on the same rope. I wanted to see how everyone would climb together.

Our objective was the top of the highest spire on Bass Creek Crags via a couloir from the Bass Creek drainage. Derick Mikes, Ansel Vizcaya, Micha Krebs and I met at the Bass Creek Trailhead early on Saturday morning.

The approach up the Bass Creek trail was easy and pleasant up until the big boulder where the trail crosses the creek. Since we were planning on climbing mostly on ice, rock, and consolidated snow we didn't bring snowshoes. I knew beforehand that we would be sinking in a little after we crossed the creek and before we headed up into the couloir, but that didn't make it any easier. We were all sinking in up to our crotches in the soft snow--especially Derick. Once we got onto an old avalanche track the hiking was easy since the snow was well consolidated, but some of us had to crawl up the snow slope in order to get there. Besides the plunge stepping another one of the highlights of getting to the base of the climb was the fresh cougar tracks that we came across.
img:256457:alignright:small:Derick and Micha hike the avalanche debris
The closer to the base of the climb we got the more ice we found. There was still a lot of ice on the north slopes. Once we got to the base of our couloir I suggested to Micha that he put on his harness in case he needed a belay. The couloir was filled with 45-80 degree ice. Both Derick and Ansel had previous experience on steep ice so I left the decision of weather or not to put on their harnesses up to them.
img:256459:alignright:medium:Ansel coming to the crux.
I put mine on so that I could belay anyone that needed it. After simul-soloing the first 20 feet or so of the couloir with Derick I realized the climbing was a little trickier that it looked. The ice was not that great. Therefore I called down to Ansel to go ahead and put his harness on. Derick and I climbed for about 75 feet until I found a good place to put in a belay for the other two. While I set up the belay Derick continued on in order to set up the next belay. After setting up the anchors I belayed Ansel and Micha up to me. Once they were clipped in I lead the next 300 ft. up to Derick's anchors--placing some rock pro in the couloir wall as I climbed. (After 150 feet Ansel got on the rope and we simul-climbed for 150 feet.) Just before the anchors I came to the crux of the couloir. The couloir got really tight and a bit cave-like as the ice exited the tight constriction of the couloir. The trickiest part was that Micha told me I was out of rope while I was front pointing up the final 5 feet of 80 degree water-ice. I essentially told him that wasn't an option at that point, and to figure out a different answer to the problem. He cleaned the anchors and came onto the rope in order to give me the final few feet that I needed.

After we all got up the crux we hiked up a bit farther and took a quick break. It was starting to look like getting to the summit was not going to be possible since we were slowly running out of time, however everyone was still willing to give it a shot. After our break the climbing was initially very tough since we had left the couloir and were plunging into the snow again. However after we got back into the couloir the snow was firm and things went well.

At about 6,660 ft. we traversed out of the couloir around some large cliffs to a ridge crest. Our plan was to go over the ridge into another couloir to the east that was slightly easier than the top section of the one we had been climbing. As we got up to the ridge crest we realized that our plan may not work. The snow stability in the next couloir looked a bit dubious. I told everyone else to stay on the ridge while I ventured out to see what the stability was like. As I got off the ridge and onto the exposed slopes I found that the snow was very sugary and unconsolidated underneath a hard breakable crust. In fact I couldn't find a good reason for the snow to be staying on the steep rocky and icy slabs that made up the terrain underneath the snow.

Ansel coming to the crux.
As I stood there trying to get a good handle on the stability and the consequences of bringing everyone onto the slope I heard a slight popping sound. I decided that was a good enough answer to my question and I called it a day. We carefully climbed down our ascent path. The rappel down the steep ice was a bit tricky since finding rappel anchors took a bit of creativity but it all went well, albeit a bit slow.

The hike out on the trail was no more exciting that it had been on the way in. We all got back to the cars at around 7:00 PM or so. It was another great 13 hour day in the Bitterroots.
img:256460:alignleft:medium:Climbing the upper couloir.
img:256461:alignright:medium:Highpoint spire

Who are Luke and Ansel?

Luke Casady, and Ansel Viscaya were caught in an avalanche high on the Liberty Ridge of Mt. Rainier, that swept them to their deaths on June 12. 2004.

Luke and Tim Sharp (T Sharp) co-founded the Alpine Club of Missoula [ACOM]in the late fall of 2003. In a division of labor, Luke did the publishing, promotion, and was the web master of the ACOM web site. Tim did the necessary filing of legal documentation which officialy established the ACOM as a non profit 503c {club}. This allowed them to legaly handle money, and insulated us from liability. At the time of Luke and Ansels` death there were 18 dues paying members of the club, and it was a growing community of adventure minded alpinists. The ACOM still exists, with 2 fewer members, we hope to someday find our way [in the fog], and begin the climb again.


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