Alpental Ice and Mixed Climbing

January 19th, 2003

Loren and I were looking to swing our tools again after last weekend climb of Drury, but this "winter" in the Northwest was making things difficult. Paradise at Mt. Rainier had been in the 50s and 60s the day before, and ice reports had painted a grim picture. So, not wanting to drive too far to be skunked, we decided to head up to the Source lake area and check out the new bolted mixed climbs that I'd heard about.

A none too alpine start found us at Alpental where sledders are now aggressively frowned upon by the parking police. The pullout around the Sahale ski area is now unploughed, and there are towing signs everywhere. This would be somewhat of an annoyance if you wanted to climb, say, the S. Rib of Guye peak.

We headed up to the climbs, which are located on the winter approach to the tooth. There is a gully of sorts that leads up almost directly above Source lake that has a cliff band intermittent on its right hand side. There are a few pure ice climbs that generally form up at the base of the cliffs. The mixed climbs are higher up where the cliff shortens. Look for bolts. There are 3 climbs right now, two M7s on a steep wall, and an M9 which scales an impressive roof.

The two M7s. Loren and I climbed the solid lined route.

The climbs were a bit shorter and now as steep as I had imagined. However, the bolts were modernly spaced and it looked steep enough that most falls would be clean.

I took the first leading "shift" and set out. The climbing was steep, insecure and technical, but really fun. I was able to climb and clip in good style except for the frequent hang-dogging shake-outs. This was until I got to the 6th bolt. A tool popped, I caught myself with the other, but ran out of the strength I needed to clip the bolt. I came down and Loren started his shift. After regaining my highpoint he worked the moves until he figured them out. Eventually he sent the last two bolts to the ice at the top at which point he executed a difficult but classic Cascade munge snow top-out.

Loren figuring it out.

Loren climbing through the crux.

We both took another lap on it at which point our arms called an end to the mixed climbing. Just then, our surrogate hardman, Adam showed up. This would be the Adam who soloed Drury falls in front of us last weekend. He and his partner came up and laid their own siege to the M9. They made the horizontal moves look easy... hmm, maybe we'll have to do that one next time.

Earlier in the day I had noticed a very well bonded smear up and to the right of a hanging dagger down lower. Loren and I were both in the mood to swing tools, so we headed over to check it out. The ice was just perfect: a little soft, but solid.

Dave leading the thin ice step. Photo by Loren.

Loren gingerly following the pitch.

The steep wall was about 25 feet tall, above which there was a little pillar and a iced corner which lead to a tree belay. We each to another lap, and then headed down.

Loren's cold was getting the better of him, but I was still excited to get another pitch in. The low-angled climb at the base of the gully was just right, and turned out to be nice solid ice at about WI 3. We then suffered the deproach on our skis. Wether suffering came from falling every turn (for me) in trap crust, or flying out of control down the icy trail below, I was happy to get back to the car.

If you need more, see Loren's Trip Report.

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