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|GuideBook||Selected Climbs and Summit Routes|
|Weather||Clear until mid-afternoon|
|Mailed to WacList||07/25/2010|
I recently spent three days, July 19th - 21st, 2010, with Martin Volken of Pro Guiding Service. Pro Guiding in an outfit owned and operated by Martin and run out of North Bend. Martin is a transplanted Swiss mountain guide and also runs Pro Ski Service, also in North Bend, and previously owned Pro Ski Service in Seattle.|
The plan was to climb a few routes and learn/practice along the way techniques professional mountain guides use for efficiently and safely moving a client or clients along a route. I am not looking to become a guide in any shape or form but I figured the things guides do to move clients along quickly would still be applicable. Some things I learned:
0) Martin expects to be back in camp by 4 PM so he can have an afternoon cup of coffee.
1) Moving fast is not as important as continuing to move.
2) Minimize the time to required at transitions. This includes:
2a) being comfortable scrambling rock with crampons. Or....
2b) cut steps on hard snow instead of putting on the crampons
2c) Instead of a short rap, lower one person and then do a counter-weight rap.
3) Learn to use terrain features (flakes/horns) for protection in scramble terrain
4) Learn to use terrain features (flakes/horns) for belaying the second on easier 5th class terrain. This removes the need to build a gear-based anchor. It saves huge amounts of time.
During some of the non-climbing time I discussed with Martin how guides are taught to rope teams together for glacier travel. I explained what the WAC does in its Basic Climbing Course. Martin had good feedback for me and I think the WAC should examine the possibility of making some fairly minor changes to its curriculum. For example, the WAC teaches students to tie their Texas-prussik onto the rope and this prepares them for ascending the rope in event they drop into a hole. Guides have clients tie a Bachman onto their rope and forgo the prussiks. This prepares the climber, in the event they arrest a fall, to transfer the load to an anchor which is a more pressing task in Martin's mind. While that anchor is being build, the person in the hole can begin to put the foot prussik onto the rope and simply use the Bachman for the "seat" prussik.
Anyway, a few pictures and a short description of the routes done are below.
Buckner and Horseshoe Peak:
We camped at the high camp below the Sahalie Glacier. The trail to here is fully snow free. The north face route of Buckner is in prime shape at the moment. We brought ice screws and pickets but used none of it. The second tool is useful for balance and for crossing a couple runnels. The snow allows for good steps to be kicked, which for us was done by a group of two that left camp an hour ahead of us. Sometimes the early bird does all the work! Overall, the terrain is steep - consistently 40 degrees and perhaps 45 to 50 for a short distance - but the steps are so secure you are not working that hard. The route itself is some 1,500 feet and took us about an 1 hr. and 20 minutes to ascend. If you are interested in this route, I'd get after it now.
There is an easily followed foot path across the Boston Glacier to the base of the route. From the summit down to the Davenport Basin there is also an easily followed footpath. The Davenport basin is still full of snow and easily traversed. The final slope you need to ascend to reach the Sahalie camp is a mixture of easily scrambled rock and snow but is melting quickly.
Within 5-minutes of returning to camp, it began to drizzle. Shortly after it was dumping rain with thunder and lightning as well just to living things up.
Just below the south descent route of Buckner lies Horseshoe Peak, one of the "Washington 100 Highest." As I had not climbed it and we had adequate time, we did that route as well. You are walking very near it so why not climb it? Now is a great time to climb that route as the approach across the Davenport is all snow (it turns to some of the worst scree later in the summer).
There is a very good route description with pictures available here:
Sharkfin Tower (not to many pictures):
Due to the forecast for continued afternoon rain, the plan changed. Instead of waking up at the pre-crack of dawn, moving into Boston Basin and climbing either the west or east ridge of Forbidden, we opted for Sharkfin Tower. This meant a more leisurely 7:30 AM departure. The descent into Boston Basin is quite straight forward from the Sahalie Arm. We stashed the unnecessary gear under a lot of rocks then headed up to Sharkfin Tower. Travel time to the gully below Sharkfin took 45 or 50 minutes. There is at the moment a tricky moat one must work through to gain the snow in the gully. I won't bother explaining what we did since things will change within a week without a doubt - it is warm up there now. The rock on Sharkfin Tower is amazing - very solid and clean and would take gear well, if you needed much gear. "Selected Climbs in the Cascades" rates it as 5.0 and that is accurate. From the start of the route at the top of a notch, there is a very exposed 4th class scramble one must do to gain that 5.0 pitch. However, there are a number of flakes/horns one can drap the rope over to protect yourself and the second. This is what Martin did and it allows for continued movement while mitigating the risk.
This approach was used for the rest of the route. In fact, I don't believe a single piece of gear was placed, though there are cracks one could use. The descent is a mixture of down-climbing and raps. From the summit you have to down-climb though it is straight-forward. Then you reach rap slings and it is clear enough what to do.