Monday, June 28, 2010

Prusik Peak - Solid Gold

Weeks and weeks of crappy weather delayed the start of the alpine climbing season this year. I waited patiently for much of that time, hanging out at the crags, in the gym, at the bar, on my bike, hoping for a stable weather window and some dry rock in the high country. Earlier this month, a weekend of lowland rock climbing in Squamish was again thwarted by mother nature. We retreated to Tieton on the east side of the Cascade crest and promptly got dowsed by yet another rain storm. I climbed in a downpour in Hells Canyon. I greased my way up wet basalt at the Ozone. My patience was wearing thin.

A high pressure system finally started to move on shore over the past week, and the stars looked like they might align. Nate scored a hard-to-come by permit for the Enchantments and was looking for a couple of tag alongs. The moon was going to be full. All I needed was an objective and a partner.

The permit was for the Snow Lakes region, home to the fabled Prusik Peak. Here's a shot from a 2006 trip to the area.

I climbed the classic Burgner/Stanley South Face route on that trip, and I had done the equally famous West Ridge a few years before. I was looking for something a bit harder I hadn't done before and started scanning the web, recalling some discussions of other lines on the South Face.

CascadeClimbers had the info I was looking for. Beta on the route came from an ascent by Wayne Wallace and Tim Olson back in the '90's, but it may have been climbed before that. A few parties had been on it over the past couple of years and gave rave reviews of the route. It was supposed to feature bomber rock with sustained climbing, short 5.11a cruxes and good pro. Sounded perfect.

The picture below from has the route overview. It's located on the west side of the South Face and meets up with the West Ridge after 4-5 pitches.

In the shot below, its on the left side of the face.

From Prusik Peak - Solid Gold

After scrounging some beta, all I needed was a partner. I pinged Guy, and after a somewhat anxious night of wondering if this was really going to come together, he delivered with the green light and everything fell into place. Hell yeah!

We drove up late Friday night, drank a few Red Stripes and crashed out on Icicle Creek Road. We were up and moving by 6:00 am the next day, hoping to avoid the heat with an early start and possibly even thinking about maybe climbing something that afternoon. The sloppy slog from Snow Lake to Lake Vivienne took its toll on us. Soft snow, mud, and warm temps made for slow going, and when we got up to the final slabs, raging torrents of water and a deep snow pack obscured the trail.

From Prusik Peak - Solid Gold

By the time we rolled into the prime bivy sites above Lake Viv, we were toasted and decided to hole up with the goats and chill for the afternoon.

From Prusik Peak - Solid Gold

From Prusik Peak - Solid Gold

That night, we enjoyed a beautiful open bivy in a sheltered alcove under a full moon. It doesn't get much better then that. My only complaint was waking up in the middle of the night with a chipmunk scampering down my arm inside my sleeping bag. Ack! A quick spaz session and some cursing, and the little snafflehound moved on to friendlier confines.

The next morning, we were on the move by 7 am, thinking about the long slog back down to the car and the five hour drive back to Portland.

We rolled up to the base of the route before the sun hit the rock. Guy took the first pitch and styled an awkward and cold chimney section into beautiful sustained 5.10+ finger locks on bomber rock. Sweet lead.

From Prusik Peak - Solid Gold
Photo by Guy Pinjuv.

I swung through into the first crux about 10 feet of the belay. Funky moves past the roof on marginal cams freaked me out and I called for some tension. I managed to get through and then enjoyed the sweet hand crack to the belay. Here's a short of Guy starting the hand crack after pulling the roof.

From Prusik Peak - Solid Gold

Looking up at the start of Pitch 3.

From Prusik Peak - Solid Gold

Two more super fun pitches of solid crack climbing led up to a beautiful ledge under a perfect looking .10+ corner with a splitter tips crack. So fun!

From Prusik Peak - Solid Gold
Photo by Guy Pinjuv

We topped out on the ridge and then decided to make a quick rap and down climb to begin the long trip home.

From Prusik Peak - Solid Gold

On the way down, we stopped to take a couple of shots of Nate and Steph on the Burgner/Stanley route. If you look close, you'll see Nate up there somewhere.

From Prusik Peak - Solid Gold

Its probably the best line on the face, much longer than the route we did, and they were getting the full value experience. The last pitch to the summit is so classic!

After a long walk out, we hit the road at 8-ish and stumbled back into Portland around 1 am. We were gone about 55 hours, drove 550 miles, walked 20 miles, and climbed 5 pitches. Yeah, that's the life of a climber in Portland. Major props to Guy for motivating. Was it worth it? Oh yes! Would I do it again next weekend? Hmmm ... try me.