|Ranger friendly camp, sort of.|
|Crows Nest camp|
|The endless West Aspects of Titcomb Basin|
Mt Helen stands proud at the back of the basin
|Me and my new friend|
|Troutman topping out the Red Tower|
The next day we went into Indian Basin to look for route potential on the Northwest Face of the Elephant’s Head. According to our old guidebook, the wall was home to at least 3 routes, none being harder than 5.9. We were keen to find something a bit harder. Our route “Poachers” (6 pitches 5.10) starts up a 20 foot, thin splitter that is the crux to the route. It was tricky to protect, but some small cams did fit in the “butt crack” splitter. The second pitch moves up and out a spectacular 5.10 tight hand crack through short roof. 3 more pitches of 5.8 got us up to the final juggy chimney. As we walked off to the South, we noticed some fine looking crack climbs. Troutman started up one of them, but the weather came in, and we bailed by down cleaning.
|Trout on Elephants Head Buttress|
On our third day in a row of climbing, Troutman and I attempted to repeat Indian Paintbrush (12 pitches 5.10, Oliver Deshler-Mark Jenkins, AAJ 2012) on Sacagawea. Half way up the wall, we got off route. After recognizing our mis-position, we decided to just push forward, hoping to find a new way to the top. After a few bold pitches that linked together some epic crack features, we hit an impasse. We bailed by traversing right, then rappelling over to and down what we believe was the route “West Face Right” ( Michael Kennedy-Chris Lundry 1976). We left a few nuts and one red c3 to get down. Judging by what we saw and experienced, there is definitely potential for hard, exciting routes on the upper face of Sacajawea.
|West Face of Sacajewea|
Our route "No Obligations" goes up the middle of the left pyramid formation
|Trout following up our final push on Sacajewea|
We bailed shortly after this stopped by blank and steep sections
Soon after, Troutman had to leave. But another partner in our massive rotating crew from Salt Lake, Kevin Chuba, hiked out and was psyched to do some climbing after his solo ascent of Gannet. After a couple days of cragging around camp, and climbing the classy “North Arête” (5.6 III, Fred Beckey-Patrick Kellis 1970) on Ellingwood Peak (aka Harrower Peak), we walked into Titcomb to have a look at the east face of The Buttress for new route potential. This formation
sits near the head of the basin, directly across from the intimidating west faces of Helen and Sacagawea. After enduring so much shade on this trip, we were happy to finally be climbing in the sun! From the bottom of the wall we noticed a wide crack/chimney feature at about ¾ height, that we dubbed the “Buffalo’s Mouth.” This was the feature that we used to guide us up the wall. We named our potentially new route “Out of Oats” (8 pitches 5.9). The climbing goes as follows; smooth slab (5.5), nice corner (5.7), easy slab and crack stopping at a green crack (5.4), up the green, lichen covered crack to the base of a roof (5.7), move right, around the roof to a finger crack corner (5.9), a little runout to the base of a wide crack (5.8), the Buffalo’s Mouth pitch, a nicely protected chimney (5.9), easy, but very loose climbing leads to the final gully where we unroped for the scramble to the top. We descended towards Summer Ice Lake.
|Kevin Chuba on Ellenswood Ridge|
Mega classic 5.6
We arrived at the base of Sacagawea around dawn and headed up the first 4 pitches of “Indian Paintbrush.” At the top of the chimney, where Troutman and I got off route, I spotted the fixed nut with a purple sling described by Jenkins in the 2012 AAJ, so I stopped and set up a belay. Mark took the next lead, the obligatory 5.10 traverse, climbing up and left, passing the fixed nut, which we left as a route marker, to a ledge about 25' away. From here, we believe that the original line continues left to a larger left facing corner system.
Instead, Mark climbed straight up passing a large flake, then up a left leaning, slightly overhanging lay back corner to a belay below a steep wall with many cracks. I continued straight up the "bloody knuckles" pitch, climbing fantastic hand and finger cracks/flakes, then up some exposed stemming moves below a steep overhanging corner. After continuing to push myself into the unknown, I had to rest on a cam in order to replenish the go juice needed to finish this sustained pitch. Mark followed the pitch clean and felt that it was about 5.11-.
|Mark on the summit ridge of Sacajewea|