Decent climb with Helser in pretty good conditions. Mostly snow over the entire route, except for one section of gravelly Class 2 (and easy ridge walking up high). Had to take care coming down, as the snow is steep enough and the run-out is not so good.
Despite reading all of the warnings we still decided a late July attempt a good idea. While we were successful this may have been the worst rock of any mountain I've yet to climb. Would recommend going about a month earlier
Attempted the martin/deception saddle route. Just getting up to the saddle felt like a mountain climb to me. Most of the snow was gone and the loose rock was more than a little discouraging. Dark clouds came billowing up over the summit and that was my cue to get the hell outta there. Looked down at the tiny dot that was my tent with a sick longing. The descent took much longer than I figured. The rain and wind started not long after getting back to camp in the upper basin. Was very happy to be nestled snug in my tent.
For some reason I did not do any research on this obviously popular climb and just took the OMCG's word for I,2. Hah! Maybe under ideal June snow conditions, but not in September. Solid 3.
Left the trailhead at 2.30 a.m. and topped at 10. Perfect weather. Tricky stretch is gaining the saddle between Deception and Martin Peak. Guide says to aim for low point of ridge - not true, place to cross is about 100 yds. south and 50' higher than saddle. At least an hour and a half spent approaching this point (between 6600' and 7200') was on loose scree, dirt and steep crappy rock with plenty of opportunity for fatal falls off cliff bands below. I only kept going because I'd assumed I was off-route and that I would eventually find the Class 2. Nope.
Other issue is DO go AROUND Gilhooley Tower to the west, well worth the short detour. Not being able to see around from the saddle, I figured it must be as bad there as what was in front of me. (Others indicate it is a much gentler slope.) But like a ninny I followed the guide up the ever steepening, icy snow slope. There was no way I was going to make it up the top third with my instep crampons, so I opted for a slot gully. Okay, except for the dirty, gravel funnel on the top that made me feel like an ant climbing uphill in an hourglass - above a meat grinder. (The way back down was even worse - trusting everything to the smallest nubbins of dubious worth. I literally had to dig out the crampons I'd left at the snow's edge!)
The last 500' up to the top is a cakewalk. The huge summit could host a hundred at once. Having it to myself, (and a Horned Lark), with blue skies above and a marine layer completely encircling the range was the (literal) high point of my summer! Spent over an hour on top before facing the grim trials of descent. Took three hours to get back down to the tarn in the basin - including some shameless bits of butt-scooting. While I was filtering water, the mountain bade me farewell by tossing a big chunk down the center gully on the northeast face. I watched for ages as it shattered and re-shattered into a thousand foot-long rock avalanche and dust plume. Hmmm, so that's what I'd look like?
Made it back down the beautiful trail by 8 p.m. - glad that I went, but only able to say as much because I was still alive. Maybe the masochist, men of iron who climb the 5's feel the need to call this talus slope a 2, but unless you have a goat in the family woodshed, think very hard before attempting this route in the dry season!
We climbed with a party of six, which was a bit much for the loose rock, but we managed. Camped at Royal Lake. It was still snow to the top of the main talus slope coming up from the basin. We then stayed to the right before angling left under the big block in the saddle. Lots of loose rock and ugly places to fall to.
Scrambled down more loose rock to the top edge of the glacier. One member of the group successfully climbed to Gilhooley Saddle directly. The rest of us took the loop around Gilhooley Tower via the top edge of the glacier. We saw no serious crevasse activity and the loop route was an easy walk.
Descending from Deception-Martin Saddle into Royal Basin was very slow and sketchy due to the loose rock.
We left a register in a double ziploc. Someone might bring a better container.
Climbed the NE gully to the summit. Snow conditions were horrible. This route is closer to a class 4 than a class 3. Summited at about 10:00 AM. descended by the SE Gully route intending to camp in Deception Basin. My partner fell 500 ft down the gully and sustained major head injuries. I descended alone and then hiked out to Royal Basin.
In Upper Royal Basin I encountered a skilled group of climbers who agreed to aid in the rescue and not far below I encountered Ranger Bridget. Bridget radioed for a helicopter and the rescue that followed was epic. Many of you may have seen it on the news and it took to long to describe here. My friend is still in a coma, but should pull through.
NOTE: The SE Gully route is, in my opinion, terribly underrated. It is not a class 3. It consists of 50 degree snow intermixed with vertical waterfalls pitches and motes. There is nowhere to place protection and the rock is very rotten. I feel it is closer to a high 4 or a low grade 5.
I came back with Gino, Dave and Kevin to give this peak a second try. The northeast slopes had much more snow this year and we were able to follow the standard route safely. With one exception, we climbed the steep headwall above the glacier known as Gilhooley Saddle. We all agreed that this was the most rotten crumbly rock we had ever seen in our lives. On the descent we traversed far to the west on the slopes south of the Gilhooley Tower above the glacier and found a safer way around that section, back onto the snow, which is a much safer route.
On the way back we fully circumnavigated Martin Peak and The Needles by traversing due north to the pass which enters Surprise Basin.
My first attempt of this peak was with Ranger Bridget on August 26, 2007. That attempt ended at 7000 feet when we realized that a small slip on the loose slope could be fatal. We had to use a long runner literally tying ourselves together and taking turns holding on to get down. These are bad slopes without snow!
We took the gully to the right of the Northeast gully. Steep snow ! First successful Mazama ascent of Deception in 26 years. Why anyone would attempt this when there's no snow I can't even imagine.
From Royal Basin we made the standard approach up the loose scree and rock. Once we completed that slog (ugh!!), it was a real enjoyable climb to the summit. Got a little hairy on top of Deception Glacier as I decided to climb a near vertical ice chute. The Olympics are majestic mountains to say the least!
What a pile of loose junk! Beautiful mountain, great views, but frustrating to climb with all of the loose rock. Wear a helmet for sure!
Camped in Royal Basin and climbed the steep snowfield without ice axes :0 not a good idea! Lots of termites on the summit. Awesome view though!