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Trailhead: Willow Lake
Elevation Gain: 7,292'
Difficulty: Class 4
Having forgotten my backpacking gear (maybe purposely due to the Tex-ass Poo-tastrophy), I figured I could to the extra ~4 miles 2.5K as a headlamp warm-up to the scramble fest I knew would occur once the sun rose. So I hiked up the plethora of switchbacks in the dark, and arrived at the camping area and lake as most people were waking up and starting their hike for the day. I passed by a couple that asked if I was also doing "The Peak". "The Peak?" I say... "I'm doing all the peaks, 13ers that is". I'm sure they were confused, but I kept going up the boulder field around the waterfall.
I was hoping to get into position around the western face of my first peak, Pt 13,541 for first light, so I could scout a way up. Kevin Baker's TR, while informative, didn't give specifics as to what "exact" route he took (There are tons of routes up this peak! I want to go back and do others). I like adventure, so this was not a problem at all, in fact I love this type of climbing! I had drawn out a route on my topo, a way that went up a small rib up to the saddle between 13,541 and a marked point 13,398. This looked to be the easiest while planning the route at home. Seeing it in first light, it also looked the easiest as well. The slabs on the face have a talus field to approach, while the rib had a nice rolling grassy tundra which would be easier on the feet in the early light. Once up onto the rib, it's easy class 3 slab and blocky slab climbing all the way up to the ridge top.
The Carson group with the first rays of sun
Looking down the first large flatiron like slab of the day - looks nice!
Up on the ridge, I have a few decisions to make. There is a grassy ramp that I could traverse to, that looks like it would aim pretty close to the summit area on the face. But I had originally planned on doing the ridge, so I went to go try that first. So up the ridge I went. At first, it wasn't so bad. It was wide enough that I could almost walk upright on it. But then I came to a very exposed, overhanging class 4 up-climb that I wasn't so sure about. Hmmm, could I climb down that if needed? I wasn't confident. I had a prickling of "The Fear" as a friend likes to call it. Since the west face was class 4/5 slab, the western face afforded some grassy ramps that I thought would go, and get me back on the ridge proper. So I traversed down and around and over, until I was faced with an overhanging class 5 climb, that while roped I would have no problems doing. But the consequences of a fall were just too high, as I would probably tumble down a few thousand feet into the valley below, if I slipped. So even though I had just wasted a lot of time on this route, and may have to bail on later peaks, I was not going to do something this risky solo. Oh well, back I went. I took another look at the ridge proper climb, and again said no. Time to drop and traverse over to that face climb.
The beautiful ridge face of 13,541!
Going up the ridge, I stayed just east of the crest
Looking down the ridge
The exposed class 4 overhanging ridge crux - I have a bit of "The Fear"
Overhanging class 5 crux to get back on ridge - Major Fear - Abort! Abort!
They were laughing at me! You Pansy, we just ran down that ridge!
So back on the west side of the ridge, I traversed over on some solid slabs to get near the flatiron feature on the face with the grassy gully. From there it was an excellent class 4 knobly slab climb up the face, and back onto the ridge with only a few feet to go till the very airy narrow summit.
Some grassy cracks to traverse over on
Slab climb traverse to summit
Making the summit of Pt 13,541 was quite exhilarating! What a challenge! One of my favorites so far, and one that I'll want to do again, since there are so many options! Then I opened up the summit register, it went back to the early 1990's. It was like a list of who's who of 13er climbers, so many familiar names, I was going to feel privileged to add my name to the list. Then my eyes got a bit misty, as I saw a very familiar name from 1998. Steve did this peak with 4' of snow, man that guy was bad ass! His wisdom will be sorely missed by many of us.
The route off of 13,541 and over to the unranked 13,517B is pretty straight forward and went pretty quickly.
Didn't stay long on the unranked summit (missing 3' of prominence) as I had wasted a lot of time getting up the first peak. The info for this next section said lots of exposed class 4 route finding. Biggest piece of beta: drop about 300' from the ridge in a descending traverse along ledges and over flatirons, until you get over the biggest, western-most protruding flatiron, then you can traverse back up to the saddle with 13,580A. So down a slabby class 4 face I went! Let's get this traverse started!
So I immediately dropped off the ridge at the most opportune spot, found a grass crack to traverse over to the first flatiron. From here it was scouting up and down for the easiest way over. Then on to the next flatiron, etc, etc. It was quite the jungle gym of exposed climbing. Hardest part was finding the class 4 amongst so much class 5, but eventually I found it. Many mini turn arounds happened, but that's part of the game. I was pretty estatic to find the giant blocky rocky gully climb over the big flatiron, since I hoped this would be the worst of the route finding.
First set of slab I descended off of ridge
A gully I spidermaned up to avoid the loose crap in the center
Looking back on the slabby flatiron traverse, as I crest the biggest of the lot
Once on top of the biggest flatiron slab, I audibly exhale. The worst is over. It will be much easier all the way to 13,580A. Still a bit of scrambling to go, but the route finding just got dropped from about a 9 to a 5!
On 13,580A I can see that the weather is starting to build a bit to the east. Fortuitous, as all my peaks were to the west of the line forming. I felt I could at least get to Mt Adams, and decide from there. Everything to the west was clear, so that was good! I had seen Doug Shaw's name in the trailhead register, and I was was wondering if today was the day he was going to climb Mt Adams, so I was hoping to get over there in time! There is some scrambling along the south ridge of Mt Adams, and I tried to stay pretty close to the ridge crest. Mostly class 3 with a few spots of class 4, but after what I had just experienced, this was pretty easy route finding.
First good view of the south ridge of Mt Adams
Dropping the scree slabs of 13,580A on way up Mt Adams
Some more class 4 scrambling along ridge
Looking back at 13,580A
Crestones looking cloudy/misty as usual!
Finally near the summit, I find the grassy ledge that will take me to the final climb up Mt Adams. The lower ledges look tempting, but from afar, I knew the ledge was the upper most one.
I get to the summit, to find it empty. I look at the summit register to see that Doug had climbed it the day before, Darn! So had Jeff and Kate. Well, gee, I'm a day late to that party! I see a group of ~7 coming up the east ridge, but they are far enough away, I don't have the time to wait. I change my socks, and determine I have enough time to get another peak. So down I drop on the north ridge on some more steep slabs to the very very low saddle with a low 13er. Man, that next peak looks so tiny!
Looking south from Adams
Looking back on Adams summit climb from north ridge
It was a pretty quick ascent of 13,153 once I got all the way down to the saddle. From here, I could see the traverse to the next saddle (Adams - 13,546). Furthermore had done it with snow, I think, but he was in the clouds a lot that day. So I was very glad that there was a summer option to traverse! The lower scree traverse, with scree gully ascent looked very unpleasant! The traverse itself was pretty easy, and I followed the lower cracked feature to just above the saddle with Adams - 13,546.
I promised myself I wouldn't decide to go for the last peak until I got to the saddle. From here it looked as clear as it could get for a giant weather window! It was only 500', but still. Thankfully my weather window held (and almost all the way down the lower trail too!)
Pt 13,546 - I think I have a large weather window!
The west ridge of Mt Adams
I sat on top for a little while, just sinking in the views. Amazed that my weather window held all day long for this giant traverse! It was too soon before I had to start to head down, but there was a long way to go before the trailhead!
A mossy waterfall as I cool my feet!
Willow Lake from above
Once back at the trail, I passed by a lot of the backpackers trudging downhill. Even a few day hikers were up to the lake today. Made it almost to the end, but a light rain misted me for about a mile, then stopped again. I crash at my truck, and immediately break out my grill. It's time for dinner! That's when Doug Shaw showed up at the trailhead and we were able to chat for a bit. Though I was pretty dazed and confused at that point. It was then that I realized that 13,546 was my 100'th 13er of the year! (new & ranked) One of my major goals for the year was completed. No celebration really, all I wanted at that point was food and sleep! Ah the life of a crazy 13er hiker!
Lazy tailgate grilling. Mmmmmm bacon burgers!
My GPS Tracks on Google Maps (made from a .GPX file upload):
100 new and ranked 13ers was a goal I set last fall, that I really hoped I could do, I just didn't expect it to happen so quickly! Though I think I have used up most of my multi peak ridge runs...
Jeff - I happened to get lucky with the weather on this day. The other 13ers are quite enjoyable!
SuperPolok - I agree, a hidden Gem! I think the ridge may ”go” for an exposure junkie, it just didn't for me on that day. Though I did see some precariously perched boulders on the narrow ridge that may be problematic.
MatB - It was a long day, but ever so worth it!
Natalie - Pt 13,541 did look daunting from below! It's why I tried to find the easiest way up it. I'd love to go back with a light rack and explore those slabs!
vonmackle - Muahahahahahahaha!Just wait for it...
BostonBD - Thanks, hard to take bad photos with such great scenery! And the berg-ers were tasty!
rking007 - Yep, only hard part was taking photos into the sun, or where the lighting was dark & bright on the flatiron traverse. Can't help it, I'm a goal oriented person. My feet hate me!
Thanks for posting this.. 5 years later I want to do this one myself. This beta is super helpful, and so many instructive pictures. A true legend!
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