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South Face of Little Annapurna: An Unexpected Climb

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South Face of Little Annapurna: An Unexpected Climb

Page Type: Trip Report

Location: Washington, United States, North America

Lat/Lon: 47.46735°N / 120.81465°W

Object Title: South Face of Little Annapurna: An Unexpected Climb

Date Climbed/Hiked: Sep 8, 2013

Activities: Hiking, Mountaineering, Trad Climbing, Scrambling

Season: Summer

 

Page By: Josh Lewis

Created/Edited: Oct 19, 2013 / Dec 1, 2013

Object ID: 872643

Hits: 2198 

Page Score: 86.24%  - 22 Votes 

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Introduction

Matt Lemke and I did this trip as a spur of the moment. Originally we planned on climbing Sherpa Peak via the North Ridge. Matt however did not want to have to hike once again along the Colchuck Lake trail and wasn't feeling in the mood for climbing Sherpa. So we settled for climbing Little Annapurna via the south face which is a 5.6 (or 5.5) rock climb. So both the trip and the destination came unexpectedly along with some other surprises along the way. This trip had a long approach, brushy terrain, class 4 scrambling, loose rocks, rock climbing, and boulder hopping in the evening. This was the beginning of one of the most epic weeks of the year.

Alpenglow from Sultan
Alpenglow from Sultan
Alpenglow in the Sky
Alpenglow in the Sky

I start running out the door with my heavy pack on. When you play the game of buses you either make the bus or fail the mission completely. As I pass the gate Tim yells to me "where are you going?". "I'm going on an adventure" I announce excitedly as I run with the climbing instructions in my hand. Kinda like the Hobbit.


Lucky for me I arrived early at the bus stop. It's not that I'm paranoid of catching the bus in time, but I've lost count of adventures that have failed because of the bus being early. It would often happen right in my face when I missed it. After taking a few buses I arrive in Monroe to meet Matt. Matt drove us over to the trailhead of Ingalls Creek which by this point it was night time.

Starting Out

In the morning we start the 8 mile approach up Ingalls Creek. We made good time and did it in the shaded hours. Right before Crystal Creek we went right (North) off the trail and into brushy terrain.

Looking up McClellan Peak from Ingalls Creek
Looking up McClellan Peak (Photo by Matt Lemke)
South Face of the Nightmare Needles
South Face of the Nightmare Needles

The woods were grassy with an occasional fallen over tree. As we got higher the sun came out and it became hot. As the trees faded and the slopes opened up more there was some scrambling. Passing by a creek I asked "should I fill up". Matt replied "it shouldn't be too long before we hit water again". As we kept going up I ran out of water and was getting a bit dehydrated. As I became fatigued I kept thinking to myself "why didn't I just go for the water when I saw it". At the tarn we set up camp.

Heading up the Crystal Creek Route
Heading up through the Woods
Approaching the Upper Crystal Creek
Approaching the Upper Crystal Creek
High Point on McClellan Peak
High Point on McClellan Peak
Clouds Rising on McClellan
Clouds Rising on McClellan

The tarn near by was very dirty which concerned me. The creek appeared dried out. I knew that if I didn't find water soon I would have to turn around. Dehydration was already making me feel dizzy and exhausted. Fortunately after a few minutes of doing up the dry creek bed we found a nice water trickle. After filling up we had lunch and got ready for climbing the South Face of Little Annapurna.

Approach Gully to the South Face
Approach Gully to the South Face


As we approached the gully I was quite pleased to be re-hydrated again. Starting out the gully had a bit of loose rock but wasn't too bad. As we climbed I wasn't sure where exactly the route went. Fred Beckey described the route by saying "climb up the east gully". No surprise there. The terrain got spicier once we arrived at the cliffy section. I decided to do a class 4 variation by going right around the cliff section. Matt went right up the crack system. Once I was on top of the bypass I saw that Matt was below me. Between him and I was a class 5 move that would be sketchy to do unroped. After evaluating it he decided he wanted to be roped up to do the move. I found a solid looking bush and setup a belay.

Climbing the gully
Looking up the Gully (Matt)
Climbing the Gully
Looking up the Crack System (Matt)
The small tarn in Crystal Creek
Looking Down on our Tarn (Matt)
Matt Attempting to Free Solo
Matt Attempting to Free Solo

After Matt climbed it we proceeded on with heading up the gully. Some spots were solid and others had some loose pieces. My approach shoes had less traction than your average city shoe making me a bit nervous as the exposure got higher and the moves became more demanding. Further up the gully the rock once again became crummier which required us to stay close to each other. It looked as if we could easily top out to the top of the gully. As we traversed over to the right side the exposure increased and the terrain was becoming dicier. Once we found a small platform I carefully changed into rock shoes.

Scrambling up to the South Face
Matt Scrambling up the Gully
Josh climbing the slabs in the gully
Myself Scrambling Slabs (Matt)
Climbing exposed slabs
Myself Climbing Past a Sketchy Spot (Matt)
Matt with the Sketch Zone
Matt with the Sketch Zone

The Sketchy Spot

I didn't like the feeling of the place, and I sure didn't want to have to climb back down what we came up. I certainly could, but it would have been tedious and dangerous. Matt lead the sketchiest section which was a unprotectable slab with bad holds and littered with loose rock. I was honestly worried for him and was tempted to yell out "do yourself a favor and don't climb things like this again". I know I wasn't about to climb it with no protection, no belay, and with a perilous fall waiting below. Matt kept having to shovel off rocks and kick in to make foot holds. According to Matt he said it was 5.6 slab. I can't disagree with that. As he climbed on, rocks kept going by me making me even more nervous. You could tell that he was very unpleased with the slope and that it took a lot of concentration. Once Matt was on better ground he announced "that was the sketchiest climb I've ever done".

Nearing the col
Nearing the Col (Matt)

Once he got to the top, a belay was set up and the rope was thrown down. I was pleased to see it didn't get caught on the loose rock. As I walked forward I couldn't help but think "Matt, stop knocking all those rocks down on me". What was actually happening was that the rocks were so loose that the slightest movement of the rope made them come down. Once the rocks slowed down I could finally get onto the slab section. The moves were few but enough to get by on. I would have to stop at spots to reduce the number of peddles coming down. Once I passed the slab I went through more sandy slopes with more loose rocks filling up my shoes. We were both happy to reach the col.

The Crown of Little Annapurna
The Crown of Little Annapurna

Climbing the South Face

After taking out the rocks in my shoes we hiked/scrambled on over to the south face of Little Annapurna. Matt led the first 5.4 pitch. I led the next pitch. I was amazed at what a difference the quality of the rock was. Clean climbing that was enjoyable. Matt led the final class 3 pitch. With a little bit more scrambling we arrived onto the summit of Little Annapurna. After a big snack break we could see that it was getting late. We started the hustle down racing the sun.

The Final Climb up the South Face
The Final Climb up the South Face
The route up follows the obvious crack
Follow the Obvious Crack (Matt)
Josh leading P2
Myself Climbing the Second Pitch (Matt)
Cashmere Mountain
Cashmere Mountain (Matt)
Little Annapurna summit rocks
Little Annapurna Summit Rocks (Matt)
Looking Down towards Camp
Looking Down towards Camp
Josh on the summit
Myself on the Summit (Matt)
Little Annapurna with Wispy Clouds
Little Annapurna with Wispy Clouds

The views of the enchantment basin were lovely. Lakes, green larches, and a sunset atmosphere. After passing Crystal Lake the talus picked up again.

Matt Hiking down to Crystal Lake
Matt Hiking down to Crystal Lake
Alpenglow on the Temple
Alpenglow on the Temple

Perfection Lake with The Temple
Perfection Lake with The Temple

It probably wasn't much more than an hour of scrambling but heading over the dark talus just kept going on and on. As we get further down Matt is now ahead and I'm finding myself surrounded by house sized boulders. Sometimes one would roll from underneath of me which I'd catch myself just in time. The holes around where getting quite big and I could help but wonder if I would be found if I fell in one. Once I arrived in the woods I became very paranoid when I saw what looked like recent bear evidence. Or was I just so out of it that I couldn't tell what it was? Couldn't tell you. After calling out Matt shined his light which I could finally spot where he was. I was about 10 minutes later to camp than Matt. We had some dinner and went to bed.

Heading Out

Prusik Peak and the Temple sounded like a lot of work with how tired we both were. So we both decided to call it good with what we got. On the way down we managed to miss the cairn trail and did some extra bushwhacking. After what felt like hours we arrive at the Ingalls Creek trail.

Cave near Cystal Creek
Cave near Crystal Creek

8 miles later we were both happy to make it out. When I got home I seriously considered skipping Mount Shuksan. But I didn't want to let Excitableboy down and it's been a goal I've wanted to do for many years. The next day I went out to climb Mount Shuksan. I guess I just can't get enough.

Matt Lemke's version of the story is Little Annapurna...The Hard Way.

Images


Comments


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Viewing: 1-7 of 7    

Matt LemkeNice write up Josh!

Matt Lemke

Voted 10/10

This was an exciting trip.
Posted Oct 19, 2013 4:00 pm

Josh LewisRe: Nice write up Josh!

Josh Lewis

Hasn't voted

Thanks Matt for inviting me.
Posted Oct 22, 2013 12:00 am

EricChuGreat job!

EricChu

Voted 10/10

Super trip report, Josh - and breathtaking photography!!! I just couldn't bring myself to give you a 9/10 on this one...sorry... ;-)
Cheers,
Eric
Posted Oct 20, 2013 12:21 pm

Josh LewisRe: Great job!

Josh Lewis

Hasn't voted

Thanks Eric. I wanted to take more pictures but the heat of the day and the seriousness of the climb kept me to a lower number. Fortunately Matt backed me up on a few. The important thing is that you maintain voting integrity, those are the ones worth the most. Even if they have the least impact. I appreciate your 10/10. :-D
Posted Oct 21, 2013 11:59 pm

TimBYou

TimB

Voted 10/10

are doing some really cool climbs these days, Josh.
Great report and pics as usual. Makes me feel like I am there with you on the climb.

PS have you thought about buying a car? lol
Posted Oct 23, 2013 9:25 am

Josh LewisRe: You

Josh Lewis

Hasn't voted

Thanks Tim. I haven't been able to do as much since my Burgundy Spire accident (a few days after this trip). Fortunately over a month later I am recovering and went on my first hike in a long time. Been also getting back into running. Pulled off the last scab flake tonight from that injury. I still gotta be careful.

Regarding a car, it's certainly on the to do list. Once I have that and a passport I can do pretty much anything I want. The expense factor is what is keeping me from getting one. Yes I could save up to get one. But with insurance and such it's currently beyond my budget. As it is I have a hard time paying for these trips and my websites. But some day I'll get to that level.
Posted Oct 24, 2013 2:51 am

TimBRe: You

TimB

Voted 10/10

Josh, I didn't realize you had been injured, sorry to hear that!
As far as the car goes, I was mostly kidding around. I just can see how much you love this stuff and know what the added freedom of your own 'set of wheels' would do for you. But yeah, I well remember the costs of insurance and such when I was your age-it can be an expensive proposition.
Just keep up with the good trip reports and photos! :)
Posted Oct 24, 2013 12:03 pm

Viewing: 1-7 of 7