Southwest Breach (aka The Only Sane Choice)

Page Type
Washington, United States, North America
Route Type:
Trad Climbing
Summer, Fall
Time Required:
One to two days
Rock Difficulty:
5.0 (YDS)
Number of Pitches:

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Southwest Breach (aka The Only Sane Choice)
Created On: Sep 10, 2016
Last Edited On: Sep 10, 2016


Citadel summit

This is the easiest (and only currently known) route to the summit of Goat Citadel in the Goat Rocks of Washington state. It can be approached from either Cispus Basin/Snowgrass Flats from the west or Conrad Meadows from the east. See the main page for discussion of each's virtues. The route ascends the only non-vertical wall in a breach on the southwest side of the summit pinnacle. The rock is extremely loose being mostly thin plates either resting on other thin plates or on top of ball bearing-like pebbles. Everything moves and very few features are secure. Most of the one pitch to the summit is Class 4 rock but there are a move or two of about 5.0 around a large horn. The top anchor is solid though and there is a large boulder to rap off. You'll either want a 60 meter rope to get you down or two 30 meter alpine ropes. Beware of extreme rockfall on this one. The Goat Citadel does not want you to get up on top of it and if you do, it does not want to give you back your rope.


Getting There

See the Getting There section of the main page for directions to each trailhead. This page will describe the approach from Conrad Meadows which I believe to be the best (although a little longer). One could ascend via Cispus Basin but you'll be dealing with a lot of crappy steep rock to get up to Goat Citadel. If you come via Cispus Basin, you basically follow the same approach as you would to climb Gilbert Peak (see that page for details) but when you climb over the ridge and are directly below Goat Citadel, you turn left and head up to the base of it.

If coming from Conrad Meadows, hike 4 miles from the trailhead to a junction of Trail 1120 (it's the same trail either way as this is where the loop begins). Please note that along this 4 miles from the trailhead, there are many forks in the trail. All pretty much join back together although at the obvious first one, I would suggest staying left where it looks like the trail heads into the middle of the meadow. This left fork is more direct although either will meet up again. Anyway, back to that junction at the 4 mile mark. I would suggest heading left as this will take you past Surprise Lake and I think it might end up being a little shorter to the point where you exit this trail.

So, at the 4 mile mark, fork left and you will shortly cross the creek and start switchbacking up to Surprise Lake. It is 1.2 miles from the junction to Surprise Lake at 5200 feet. The trail stays on the right side of the lake and gains a couple hundred feet of elevation before coming into an open area. Pass a trail coming in from the left (not sure where this one goes) and cross 4 small streams in this area. The third may or may not be running on both sides of the trail, it may only be percolating out on the right. After the fourth stream, and .8 miles from Surprise Lake, you will come to a climber's path on the left. Take this left and head up through the trees.

You start gaining more elevation now and after a short distance you will pop out of most of the trees into an open area. The lower part of this open area may be a bit swampy, the higher part is just kind of weedy. Look north/northwest for an open point in the ridge above. It's just right of some small cliff/rock walls. Head in that direction and follow game trails or small grassy ledges. Once you get to the ridge, you can either head up and left towards Warm Lake or you can continue forward (mostly north) over another undulation to a large grassy meadow before turning left to head up to Warm Lake.

Unless you are playing tough guy and trying to do this all in one day, you will likely want to camp at Warm Lake. There are plenty of open spots around but only about 5 or so actual nice camp spots.

Warm LakeWarm Lake

From Warm Lake, head up southwest for the easiest way to access the Klickton Divide, the big ridge to your west. Once on the ridge, head north following a pretty nice climber's path that weaves in and out among the gendarmes. Class 2. The big peak ahead of you is the false summit of Gilbert and the path will take you around the left side. Once you are around it, you will see Goat Citadel ahead. Follow the path to about 100 feet below Gilbert Peak at about 8000 feet (I know, you can either summit it now or on the way back, it's right frigging there!) and continue then down a bit to an open plateau of land with Goat Citadel looking you in the eye to see if you blink.

Klickton DivideFirst view north after getting up on the Klickton Divide

First ViewFirst sight of Goat Citadel as you round the base of Gilbert Peak.

Head up to the south side of the base of the Citadel. I found the stuff that looks like terrible scree right below it was actually larger boulders with a nice path up through the middle of it. Once at the base, contour around left under the vertical walls and pop out on the SW side. Put your helmet on now. From here you will see a wall of rocky spires with small gullies between them. Head up the first gully and the rightmost one.

Getting to the GoatHeading up through the oddly secure boulder field to the base

Base of the GoatHiking around the southwest side at the base of Goat Citadel

The BreachComing around the left (southwest) side you finally see the breach

Scramble this gently and one at a time, I am not kidding about the looseness of the rocks, up through the easiest line (up the middle slightly left). You will be forced to choose either a Class 3-4 move around the right side of a boulder or crappier stuff to the left of it. Pull yourself up over the right side of this boulder and you will see the climbing line over your right shoulder.

Scrambling to the ClimbScrambling over the boulder to near the start of the climb

Route Description

Once above the boulder, head right over small ledges to a point about 8 feet below a small horn where there is a flat spot to stand. There are a few diagonal cracks about right knee level where you can place a micronut for a belay. Other than that, we didn't find anything to protect.

Route InfoRoute Info

Climb up low fifth class rock angling up and left to a large horn that can be slung. I went left around this horn onto some exposed ledges. You can go leftish up some really loose junk (I didn't as I didn't know if it would hold protection.) or step right onto easier ledges until faced with an obvious line up an open book to the ridge. I placed a #1 camalot in a horizontal crack near the top but, to be honest, I'm not sure it would have held and at that point, you are only one move from the top.

Climb up and over the ridge to a boulder/horn than can be used to belay your second up. It's easy walking on the top to the summit.


A large boulder is used to rap off closer to the actual summit. It's a bit of a distance to the lip so if you are going to replace the current anchor make sure you bring a long cord to make it to the lip. It's probably 10 feet from the boulder to the lip of the rock. Twin 30 meter ropes gets you back down to the base of the rock below the scrambling.

Rap LineRap Line

Essential Gear

Either twin 30 meter alpine ropes works nicely, or, I would imagine a 60 m rope will work just as well.

I used one micronut (probably a 00), one sling for the horn and a #1 camalot (questionable placement). There is not much opportunity for anything else. It's probably a 30-40 foot diagonal route.


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Southwest Breach (aka The Only Sane Choice)

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