8th Pitch in Photo Above
4th Pitch, Crux of the Route
Dow leading the 1st Pitch
View of the Cirque En Route
The guidebook states that the North Face of Mitchell is one of the "cleanest walls in the Cirque".
That is not my assessment and this coming from someone who has made two of his first ascents in the Cirque on Black Elk (5.11)
and Feather Buttress (5.10+)
. The rock is considerably better on both of those routes than it is on the North Face, Center of Mitchell.
Someone else supposedly chimed in and stated that this route was better than the 50 N. American Classic on Pingora “for basically the same grade”
. I soloed that route and would not be willing to solo this one. They are not even remotely comparable. Same individual stated “route finding was straight forward in my opinion”
. Again, I could not find beta from two sources that came close to resembling the same path, grade, description or length.
On MP, a friend of mine stated “the corner described…is more of a giant flake”
. That is sort of accurate. At times it is a corner and at times it is more like climbing giant stacked flakes. He also stated that he “did not feel that any pitch was harder than any other once you are climbing the main feature”.
That is also accurate and corresponds with the guide book description of almost 500’ of 5.9 climbing through three pitches.
However, MP’s current (2017) pitch by pitch description does not correspond with this statement at all nor was helpful in route finding. The guide book of course is quite sparse as well, but more accurate in its description.
This direct first pitch start is an obvious one (photo). But it was dirty and wet past mid-August.
From there, the next couple of pitches are difficult to sort out. There no doubt are a variety of options. The good climbing begins after the first three pitches at a short under cling roof (also wet past mid- August)
that gives you access to a tall right facing corner in the center of Mitchell Peak’s north face. From there, three pitches of 5.9 climbing lead to a ramped vegetated ledge. A weird traverse down and right takes you up a relatively easy crack to a massive ledge on the upper face, what they refer to as the “bowl”
. From there, you can simul-climb to the summit at about an additional 400’, climbing a chimney to the right of a massive roof feature.
If you are camped in the Cirque, hike east and follow a trail along the north side of Lonesome Lake.
Staying high or ascending the Jackass Pass area does not do you any favors as the route starts lower on the north wall and there are obstacles to overcome traversing higher ground. Rather stay low and head for the center of the broad north face which is racked with roofs. The direct first pitch is a unique splitter of sorts (photo) and not hard to identify. It is just left of a left facing corner. The junction of the northwest wall and north wall on Mitchell is the low point where the walls meet the talus field. The route starts just to the left of this junction.
The route is fairly immediate after the wall turns true north facing.
Route DescriptionNorth Face, Center, 1500’+/-, 5.9
1st Pitch- 115’- 5.9/
This route, as currently published, has its share of route finding issues. There are several variations out there. To start, we took what appears to be the most direct, an obvious slanting crack, right to left (photo). The crux is off the deck, kind of a balance move to get centered about 3 meters up. Then follow the dirty and wet (mid-August) crack up to where it peters out. Up and left is obvious no man’s land. Up and right lands you at a stance below a slight bulge where you can make a medium gear belay.
2nd Pitch- 115’- 5.8/
This pitch is not near as obvious as the first. Pull over the bulge. The further right you do it, the easier it is, and then trend back left. You are looking to stop and belay before you reach an easy ramp that heads up and left. The beta we had mentioned landing atop a large block but my partner did not find that block. All I can recall is that up and right looked great from where he stopped, but up and left leads to the easy ramp that leads up and left to a significant ledge below the massive corner system you are aiming for.
3rd Pitch- 150’- 5.8/
Stem up a left facing corner to the leftward ramp above. Take the easy ramp up and left to the obvious ledge directly below the massive corner system above.
4th Pitch- 100’- 5.9/
The under cling we did is directly above (photo). It might have been the wrong one. There is rap tat all over the place but hard to match what we did with anyone else's beta at this point. We also did Feather Buttress the day before and both of us would have rated the under cling we did at 5.10 solid in comparison to that route. So we did speculate this might not be the correct under cling, but it does put you where you need to be, at the base of the corner/chimney system. Climb up to the finger crack leading to the left side of the roof. In mid-August, this under cling was wet. Place good pro and under cling out right with a dramatic jug move at the end pulling you up into the massive right facing corner system. Belay with medium to large gear.
5th Pitch- 80’- 5.9/
You have two choices. Stay out right on the edge, climbing flakes or climb up left involving some off width. I started out right, but none of the rock on this route inspires confidence. Therefore I traversed back left and climbed the technically more difficult wider crack, eventually pulling up onto the face via easier ground. Then traversed back right to the edge at a stance, medium to large gear. Some zig zagging to say the least or I would have extended this pitch further.
6th Pitch- 200’- 5.9/
Continue up the obvious right side forming the corner with a few moves at the grade here and there. There was one wide section near the end of our rope that required run out lay back at the grade unless one had larger gear.
7th Pitch- 200’- 5.9/
More of the same. Chimney in near the end and pull out atop a ledge to the left, medium to large gear belay on a grassy ramp.
8th Pitch- 200’- 5.8/
Weird contrasting descriptions between MP and the guide book. We traversed straight out right (improbable) to find a relatively easy crack beyond the first steep corner. Climb it up to a massive ledge where the impressive roof feature at the top of the route is now just 300’ above (the bowl as others call it). Extend your placements liberally to avoid rope drag.
9th Pitch- 300’- 5.8/
The only climbing at the grade is the chimney/off width move that is obvious up and left therefore this pitch is worth simul climbing for competent parties. Scramble up through the gully to this section, climb it, and then continue scrambling 5th class up to just below the massive roof feature where there are medium gear cracks to belay.
10th Pitch- 150’- 5.7/
Stem up the right side chimney past the roof and up onto a shoulder of the summit ridge.
Climbing Sequence II
Quite a bit of noise is made about the descent, but it is really simple and easy to follow in daylight no worries. Continue up the ridge until you can look down on Jackass Pass. Then traverse across two major gully systems to the furthest one to the southeast.
The correct gully has a solid visual of your descent with no cliff out. The first several do not give you a visual of their descent path. Zig zag down to the trail at Jackass Pass, turn right to return to camp or left to Big Sandy.
60m rope. Bring your route finding skills. A standard rack, single to C4#4, doubles to #2. Off set cams and/or wires are quite useful. Definitely advise wearing a helmet on this one, quite chossy. Like Feather Buttress, this routes sees little to any sun, maybe a bit in the early am.
Do not underestimate the cold. This northern wall will catch plenty of wind. Biner approach shoes for the walk off. It was stated by one poster on MP: “one can easily climb this without the #3 or #4".
Although I get where they are coming from, based on my experience, most folks on a 5.9 adventure climb like this in the Winds will want both of those pieces.