South Face Chimneys - "alpine suit" adventures

South Face Chimneys - "alpine suit" adventures

Page Type Page Type: Trip Report
Date Date Climbed/Hiked: Dec 16, 2008
Activities Activities: Mountaineering
Seasons Season: Winter

An "Epic" Adventure

It seems like every time I go climbing with Chico (cascadian), it always turns out to be some sort of an epic...

Chico and I had planned on climbing something small but fun as a winter warm-up. We were looking at traversing the ridge between the Tooth and Denny Mountain but considerable avalanche danger made us turn to something closer to home. I convinced Chico that the scramble gully on Mount Si would be somewhat exciting iced up from the cold weather so he grudgingly agreed (with a broken heart knowing an epic was out of the question).

The Climb

Anyway, we hit the trail around 8:00 and somehow I got stuck with 60m of rope AND the rack (Chico made up for this later). The 4 miles to the top dragged on like they usually do, especially when the trail is icy. But we made in a few hours taking breaks to drink lots of water. As soon as we arrived at the clearing before the haystack, a little idea began to grow in the back of my mind. "Hey Chico," I said, "what if we climb that gully system up the south face instead, it can't be more than 4th class." He replied with a, "sure?" still sounding like he was bummed at our less than epic day. So we walked over to the bottom of the gully system and roped up. This is where Chico pulled out his "alpine suit" that he got from a friend. As soon as the suit came out it didn't matter how lame the climb was going to be, it would be worth it!
Chico feeding the birdsfeeding the birds in the "alpine suit"

Quickly we ate some food and Chico led off wallowing in steep unconsolidated snow with our 5 slings, 4 nuts and 3 hexes.
first step of our routefirst move of the climb

This first length of the climb we did without any protection as it looked "so easy." As it turned out, Chico said he felt like it was the hardest part of the climb... oops. Anyway, Chico made it to a belay spot with me following 10' behind and set up a 1 hex belay. From there he climbed up and into a deep chimney system filled with waist deep snow.
entering the chimneyinto the chimney!

After wallowing through more unconsolidated snow Chico made it deep into the chimney and began going up. The chimney was only about 20" wide so he had to drop his pack to keep climbing. During this pitch he kept saying, "man, there are a lot of great knee pockets and this feels so solid." I never managed to find ANY great knee pockets.
climbing the chimneyup the chimney... knee pockets? It looks like he is only 3 feet in the air but he is at least 12-15, you just can't see the ground way back in the chimney

After getting up 15 feet into the chimney Chico started working his way back toward me while still going up. He said that it was going to be tricky but made it to a snow platform about 12' above. So far I was pretty excited about our climb, it was way more than either of us expected. As I climbed up to and in the chimney I started realizing what a feat Chico had pulled off. Before I climbed it myself, Chico lowered the extra rope and we hauled the backpacks to get them out of the way.
hauling packs up the chimneyhauling backpacks

After the packs were hauled I launched myself into the chimney quickly seeing it was narrower than I had originally thought. Not only that, all the snow falling from hauling the packs and Chico stomping out a platform had iced up the walls of the chimney. I found no knee pockets, no ledges, and nothing but ice, snow and wet rock. Somehow I squirmed my way up, but believe me it wasn't pretty. I would rate this pitch as 5.8 (it felt like it iced up) without protection for the last half of the chimney.
top of the first pitchfinally out of the chimney

Above the chimney we had two options... 1) climb another chimney pitch just like the one before with no protection the whole way or go up the arete to the left hoping for protection. I was starting to feel sick so we opted for the arete and Chico led out getting a bomber hex 2' off the belay... that was it for this pitch.
what turned into a small 90  runout on pitch two...Chico half way up the second pitch

After running it out 90' Chico found a belay and brought me up. I had to rest after each move as I was getting real tired. This was my second time up this mountain in three days and the last time there were 40 - 50 mph winds. Eventually I made it up and was greeted with the wonderful sight of the "alpine suit." Seeing the suit brought some life into the and gave me the energy to lead the next pitch.
top of pitch twohow could this not give someone a boost of morale?

The next pitch looked like an easy 3rd or 4th class gully so I took the meager rack and lead out. As it turns out, it was wet and icy 4th class with one piece of protection half way up. The nut I got in was held in by a small flake and most likely wouldn't have held in a fall but I went about 15' above it before realizing I was too tired to make the 35' runout above me. I had no mental or physical energy left.
pitch 3about 2/3 the way to the only piece of protection

Downclimbing was miserable and I ended up having Chico lower me on the marginal placement I found. Back at the belay I handed the rack over to Chico and he led out as I felt terrible for not even being able to climb simple 4th class (I guess today was not my day). Anyway, Chico flew up to the one piece of protection and carefully made his way up the rest of the pitch with some tense face climbing and airy stemming. This pitch turned out to be much harder than 4th class for the last 20' and I'm VERY glad I gave up the lead.
chico...Chico running it out again...

After I head, "ON BELAY" I pulled the anchor and started climbing finding the end of the pitch to be thin face climbing on wet rock with awkward stemming (would have been much easier in rock shoes with dry rock 5.4). Arriving at the top of the pitch we could see the summit so I kept climbing up snowy slopes to the to where Chico followed.
summit shotthe top

At the summit Chico greeted me with a huge smile on his face... he ended up getting MUCH more than a slog up the normal scramble gully. It turned out Mount Si was a great idea for this day. Add a "alpine suit" and it is hard to beat! Feeling sicker and sicker I ate some food, drank water and decided we should get down before I get worse. Descending the summit block was fun to gain the descent gully.
descending to the normal ascent gullyjust look at that one piece suit!

We found some ice in the gully but made quick time of it as it was much easier than what we had just done. Crampons were pretty much necessary and we were happy to have lugged them up the climb.
 steep  ice stepssome easy mixed downclimbing

At the small bench at the bottom of the haystack we took off extra clothes and stated out for the trail quickly, we still had 4 miles to freedom.

The Descent

This consisted of me feeling sicker and sicker and 4 miles of slogging though snow and ice. In the end I realized that as long as you have a bright colored one piece suit from the 80's, you'll have a great time, and look like you're from Mark Twight's book "Extreme Alpinism."

Here is the route we took...
different view of the routesouth face of the Haystack

Gear we used:
60m 8.1 mil rope
4 nuts (BD 7-10)
3 hexes (BD 6-8)
3 single slings
2 double slings

Route Variations

The route would have been much easier if we would have gone up the arete the whole way. We would have avoided any chimneys and had protection except for the second pitch. Also, the climbing would have been no harder than 5.1 - 5.2. Climbing strait up above the rapped bolts at the end of pitch two for 10' would lead to 2nd or 3rd class easy ground to finish the climb. If I were to climb this exact route again, I'd bring mostly smaller nuts with a few medium hexes.

I'm sure this route has been climbed a bunch of times (I don't know if by our exact variation) as there were a few OLD pitons in the rock out to the right and left of where we were climbing. If anyone knows past information on the route I'd love to learn more about other people's experiences!


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flomulgator - May 28, 2010 1:42 pm - Hasn't voted


Now that I got those stoppers you sold me yesterday I'm going to try this (again) soon. I vaguely remember liking all the stemming involved, and enjoying popping of the South face much to the surprise of all the people chilling on the summit. I got a another good laugh looking at that alpine suit again!

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