Kangaroo Temple - Northwest Face

The Northwest face of the Kangaroo Temple.

Phil and I had decided to drive up to Washington Pass for a day of rock climbing. I'd been looking at climbing a route on the Kangaroo Temple for a while, and the Northwest face seemed to fit the bill. Not too committing, not too long, not too far from the road. We left Seattle at 6 am with a little sleep.

When we arrived at the hairpin, we noticed that Kangaroo pass seemed very close. Was it truly 2 hours away as per Beckey? We loaded up our gear, finished off some of Phil's massive bag of doughnuts, and set off on a lightly worn climbers path. We kept losing the path in boulders, walking a bit more, then realizing we were standing on the path. Not many cairns around, and we seemed to think we should be close to the center of the valley (you end up sidehilling the South side of the valley). After about a quarter mile we reached a clearing and found the main, nicely cairned path.

On we slogged across boulders and sandy gullies leading up to the false-pass. Here we passed a dried up lake, and ascended to the true pass. It had only been one hour from the car. The mountain looked really nice, all spire like with solid looking granite. I was thinking it is going to be an awesome day.

Phil and the Kangaroo Temple.

Well defined trails lead past some enticing looking slab and buttress climbing, eventually leading into a gully leading to the North ridge notch. About 200 feet below the notch, there is an obvious trail cutting right on a bench leading to the NW face. We followed this down, and were soon skeptically eyeing the first pitch. The topo in the CAG red book is quite accurate for the start, where as the Beckey description seems to describe something weird, and then describe it again with an entirely different twist. Basically, if the first pitch you see looks like it sucks, you're on route.

It was my lead, so I grunted up and out of a squeeze chimney to begin the traverse right above a tree. Once I reached the gully described by Beckey as "partly overhanging" and "poor protection", I had to do a little 5.7 friction downclimbing, and then slightly wet 5.7 edge climbing to reach the belay ledge. A No. 5 chock seemed like the only piece to protect the runout chimney/gully, and that placement is pretty far from the previous piece. But don't despair, it gets better!

Phil leads the 5.7+ lieback on the 2nd pitch.

Phil came up and took off on the 2nd pitch. Again, Beckey is a little cracked out on the description of the belay here. No need for "horizontal pitons" when there's a big ass tree to sling. :) After surmounting the flake, there was nice clean liebacking and jams for the rest of the pitch to another ledge with a tree.

The third pitch was pure fun. I lead up a short wide crack before stepping left onto a smooth granite slab. After a few friction moves I started working my way up a beautiful left facing corner-crack slab system. After reaching a tree and ledge, I foolishly was drawn right across the ledge, and up a more awkward crack system. I soon crossed over an arret and realized my mistake when I had to complete the crux of the pitch with horrendous rope drag. I placed lots of gear, pulled up the rope necessary to climb the last 10 feet, and went for it. Luckily it was all nice jams and smearing. I think this is the first part of the varriation shown on the topo (5.7+). Whoa, what a pitch though!

Phil came up and started checking out the rest of the variation that the topo mentions. Another 2 pitches of the same stuff sounded great, but the character of the rock above changes significantly. No longer the smooth compact granite, the rock above was rough and friable, simmilar to the top of Liberty Bell. Anyhow, the standard route across the "dance floor" was in the sun and looked a lot cleaner. Phil decided to traverse to the 1948 route.

Phil giving the tree a piece of his mind about the crappy varriation.

The fourth pitch was a nice 5.6 gully/open book thing. Phil said it looked 4th class to him at first, so he went at it with a cavalier attitude. About 20 feet from his last piece, wild man Phil realized his folly through nearly losing his footing. The easy looking gully turned out to be nice stemming, and we were soon both on a ledge looking at sandy 3rd class terrain.

Nice slab and corner climbing low on pitch 4.

I lead off on running belay, took an interesting looking crack, and was soon climbing along the crest of the summit ridge. While placing some pro, I noticed something in the crack. A chock pick? Indeed, not 5 feet from the top, booty!

Phil and I unropped and began to hang out on top. We had taken 2.5 hours on route, and seeing as there was some big party at the rap station on the North side, we began to work on our sun tans. After about 30 minutes of eating and sitting around, we began to get worried about the non-shrinking party at the rap station. We decided to head over and see what was up.

The Mounties attack! "We claim this rap station for the Queen!" Phil sleeps in foreground.

After watching a Basic class student get on rappell for a half hour, learning how to rappel, and then getting off rappell and back up on the ledge, we begin to get frustrated. Another promising fellow hooked up his rap device, got close to the edge, but then proceeded to discuss and theorize why the first student was experiencing so much trouble. At this point, an hour into our wait, we asked if we could rapp through on their ropes, seeing as they were blocking the only exit from the peak.

"No, no, we're a basic class," they said. Hmm, exactly our point, we thought. It was about to get ugly, but then the guy hooked in rapped off, and we began to feel the promise of progress. A good half hour later, the other three were down and they had pulled their double ropes. Phil went over first on our single 50m rope, and setup at the 2nd rap station 80ft below. I came down, re-threw the ropes and started down the second rap. At this point we noticed that the Mountie's ropes had gotten tangled all over some loose blocks. The team leader had lead back up without pro on the other rope, and was proceeding to unhook some of it. I swung over and helped them out by unhooking the rest of their rope, and after Phil rapped down, we let their team leader come down on our rope. One more single rap brought us to the notch on the North side.

Phil heads off on the steep first rappell.

Apparently the Mountaineers do the North side standard route often, so I would be wary about getting behind their schedule. Then again, the climb gets sun a little later in the day, around 12 pm. On the way back to the car, Phil and I checked out what looked like an old plane crash. When we inspected the wreckage, Phil was quick to find the cause of the accident.

Phil points out the imperfections on the tail wing of the aircraft.

Even though the first pitch on this route leaves some to be desired, the rest of the climb is awesome. It is rare that such a climb can be so sustained throughout each pitch, yet still have such a moderate grade. The rock quality is excellent, and the pro is usually plentiful. Next time you're in Washington Pass, avoid the crowds on Liberty Bell and have an adventure of the marsupial kind!

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