Grudge Mountains

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Grudge Mountains

by LesterLong » Fri May 31, 2013 11:05 pm

You know them. You think about them. You love hating them.

These are the mountains you *almost* climbed, or the mountains your buddy climbed better. Sometimes they are even the mountains you climbed, but only 'cause you knelt and prayed for their permission.

Mount Baker - My first real mountain. Never made it to the top, and didn't deserve it.

Ben Nevis (via the Arete) - No, I wasn't ready to walk a tightrope. But someday I will.


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Re: Grudge Mountains

by ExcitableBoy » Fri May 31, 2013 11:43 pm

NE Buttress of Johannesberg Peak in the North Cascades in winter. My partner, Nick, and I knew the route was big (5,000 vert) and had been climbed once in winter by local badasses Bill Pilling and Steve Mascioli (R.I.P.) in a three day effort. The Beckey guide had no information about the route in winter other than the date of the first ascent. We went up there in early winter carrying too much rock gear and not enough ice gear. The route was amazing; steep pillars of plastic ice interspersed with steep snow ramps and a cruxy mixed pitch leading to the famous knife edge snow arete then a final glacier and summit pyramid.

We made it about 3,500' up before biviing one pitch below easy terrain. At the bivi my partner said "You are going to love my new stove" and then pulled out a tiny MSR Pocket Rocket. I freaked and explained why a butane stove would not work in the single digit temps and relatively low elevation. I worked as a chemist and taught college chemistry so I tried explaining Boyle's Law to Nick. Nick majored in Philosophy and was not persuaded. Using hand warmers we were able to coax two liters out after hours of melting.

We woke up the next morning and realized that it would take two more days; one to climb the route and another to descend the East Ridge and down the C-J couloir. We felt the quality of the route was worth it for a long day without water but two days might be seriously injurious. We rapped off of bollards, v-threads, threaded icicles, shrubs and what not.

I was dejected for weeks, the bitter taste of failure in my mouth. I told my friend Colin Haley about the stellar nature of the route. The following winter he and Mark Bunker made the second full winter ascent of the route during the worst weather system of the year. Unable to descend down the C-J couloir due to avalanche conditions, they traversed the massif west over countless summit pinnacles, finally bush whacking down to their car after five days of hard climbing. Colin has called it his most difficult climb relative to his experience level ever. They hiked back up the road to fetch their approach skis the next day only to find them buried under 20 feet of avalanche debris.

I have returned winter after winter to attempt it again, only to find poor conditions on the route, instead putting up FAs of good multi-pitch waterfall routes and winter alpine routes on neighboring peaks. Many other hard Cascade locals have attempted the route in winter, none have surpassed Nick and my high point. (Except for Colin and Mark who would go on to do the FWA of the full N Ridge of Stuart and the second traverse of the Waddington Range). 13 years later I still plan an attempt every winter.
Last edited by ExcitableBoy on Fri Jun 28, 2013 4:05 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: Grudge Mountains

by surgent » Sat Jun 01, 2013 12:06 am

For me, it's Gannett Peak, highest peak in Wyoming. Tried it in 1999 with a pal of mine. We carried our multi-day provisions on our backs, and to save weight, I cleverly wore my heavy-duty Makalus as my hiking boots rather than carry them and wear a more sensible hiking boot. Two days (and 12 miles) in, I had a blood blister on my heel the size of the palm of my hand. I was in a lot of pain... but had no choice but to walk out. I have not been back since.

Also in 1999, that very same two-week period, I tried and failed on Granite Peak (HP of Montana). That one was due more to bad weather, but I learned a lot (what to do and what not to do) and was successful on Granite in 2002, going with a bigger team and better outfitted for the climb.

There have been many peaks I have had to bail on for various reasons. If it's bad weather or terrain that's way over my skill-set, I don't feel too bad about leaving. In many cases, I have gone back and successfully summitted those peaks, sometimes within weeks, sometimes after many years. I find that having that first experience on the peak gives me some idea of what to expect, and I am better mentally prepared the next time.

To this day, Gannett Peak is still the only peak that bugs me. It's a big mental thing.

If we succeeded every single time on all peaks/climbs we tried, where would be the challenge?

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Jesus Malverde, LesterLong

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Re: Grudge Mountains

by Jesus Malverde » Sat Jun 01, 2013 2:25 am

"Why bother with a guaranteed outcome?
Courage and skill are of little use in a confrontation with certainty"
-Mark Twight

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Re: Grudge Mountains

by boyblue » Sat Jun 01, 2013 6:31 am

Cool! An invitation for an old fart to reminisce. I can't pass this up! :)

I guess it's confession time... If anyone were to look at my Summit Logs, you'll see plenty of Sierra peaks- but one peak is conspicuously absent. Okay, actually there's a lot of absent peaks that I should have climbed BITD. But I'm talking about one in particular that nearly everyone in the state (maybe even the continent) has summited- except me. That peak is Mount Whitney. My fail mountain.

I had always wanted to ascend it in a 'sporting' way, so I made many attempts over several years mainly during the winter months and always solo. The only summer attempt that I ever made was to have been the MR route one July, but I sustained an injury on an easy slope near Mount Russell the day before. Otherwise, I was almost always foiled by bad weather, bad luck and, yes, lack of experience.

The closest I came to success, was a trip in late November when I was about 22 y.o. I was attempting the MR route under clear blue skies. What could go wrong? In my mind, I was already acknowledging the accolades of my climbing pals (who were probably smoking dope in front of the TV at that very moment). But soon I kept hearing an ominous roar coming from the notch at the top of the chute. Drat! Sure enough, when I arrived at the notch, I was nearly blown off my feet by the wind. I found out later that Tioga Pass had been recording wind speeds of 60 mph with gusts up to 80 mph. I've always assumed that the winds on Whitney that day were probably comparable. So it was the wind combined with windswept ice on the upper north face and a wind chill temp of about -28F (new index) that kept me from continuing up a mere 350 feet to the top and closing the deal. Oh well, I still had a great time and that's why I kept going back for more. :)

Whew! I think the truth has finally set me free! :D

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Re: Grudge Mountains

by fagin » Tue Jun 25, 2013 7:46 pm

That damnable Matterhorn is like a bad wife. She treats me like crap but keeps calling me back for more failure and I fall for it

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Re: Grudge Mountains

by Fred Spicker » Wed Jun 26, 2013 2:19 am

Robson - two attempts - weather

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Re: Grudge Mountains

by dadndave » Wed Jun 26, 2013 2:36 am

N.E Buttress, Sabre. (Darrans NZ) I dunno what I was thinking. That thing kicked my arse all the way back to Australia.

I learned a lesson though. I learned that I am a coward.
The strawman is evil and must be punished,

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Re: Grudge Mountains

by LesterLong » Fri Jun 28, 2013 11:23 am

Congrats Catamount.

I'm glad this thread is useful to folks.

Strangely, as the OP I still forgot to mention Carrauntoohil, the tallest mountain in Ireland, which I failed to summit on account of bad maps and lots of fog.

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Re: Grudge Mountains

by RickF » Fri Jun 28, 2013 1:00 pm

I have a few grudge mountains but Shasta is at the top of the list. I made five attempts before finally making the summit.
May 2009 1st attempt, solo day-trip, good weather & snow conditions, I skinned up Avalanche Gulch to 11,000' & ran out of water, rookie mistake.
May 2010 2nd attempt talked some friends into joining me. waited out weather for a few days in town then spent two days on extended approach to Clear Creek route. Ran out of time at 9,000' had to bail.
June 2011 3rd & 4th attemps, rained off of Clear Creek while camping at 9,000', regrouped and made single day attempt on Avalanche Gulch two days later, made it to 12,000' when a friend was hit by rime ice/rock and slid 500 feet before self arresting, sustaining minor injuries and broken crampon, aborted attempt.
May 2012 5th attempt, skinned up Avalance Gulch to 12,000' ditched skis, cramponed to the top of Misery Hill 13,960 +/-, I felt really ill, even with the summit pinnacle in sight I couldn't conjure up the will to finish, turned back and felt fine after descending below 13,000'
September 2012, 6th attempt, late season, little snow/ice on Clear Creek route, one partner, single push, long day, no drama, summited, no big deal, anti-climatic!

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