Sunday, September 28, 2008

Slippery Slab Tower - NE Face - 09.27.08

With the alpine season winding down, Adam and I decided on a mellow climb of Slippery Slab Tower. It is a spire on a ridge near Steven's Pass. We took the "alternate" approach coming from the PCT. This was an excellent approach, and reportedly 800' less elevation gain than the standard approach. (I suspect that the 'alternate' approach is used more frequently after the road is free of snow.)

After some pleasant hiking where we saw multiple hawks, marmots and even a bear eating blueberries. We even found some blueberries to eat along the way. They were small, most likely due to this year's short summer. After a few hours hike, we were on the climber's trail from Trap Pass to the Tower. The climber's trail was nice although somewhat exposed at times. But these exposed bits seemed to avoidable by taking an inland path.

We arrived at the base of the tower, and easily found the 3rd class gully approach. We scrambled up it to the base of the route. We sorted gear and packed a summit pack for the climb to the top. The printed beta suggests two pitches to the top, but online reports all have it as one full 60m pitch. I started up the corner with thin holds for feet when wearing boots. After a distance I reached a rappel tree, decided to clip it and head for the summit. A short 4th class step above the tree, and the route become 2nd/3rd class with some exposure. I set up an anchor just below the summit and belayed Adam up. Communication was difficult, which may be the reason it is broken into two pitches. We read and signed the summit register, hung out, snapped pictures and ate lunch. Slippery Slab is not very high, but is in an interesting location with great views in all directions. About an hour later we came up with a plan to attempt another summit on the ridge and started down.

After three raps to the base, we started scrambling/hiking in a southerly direction to see if any other summits seemed feasible. After some distance we came to a fairly good sized boulder field that we did not feel like crossing. We decided to turn around rather than hike out by headlamp later.

The hike out was uneventful, and we arrived back at the car 9.5 hours after we left it. Overall, I think Slippery Slab is a great beginner's climb. The hiking is all on well maintained trail save for a very short distance on a decent climber's trail. Adam and I both found Beckey's description of the first pitch (4th class) misleading. The moves are 5th class and made to feel harder with boots and the small features/cracks for feet. There is a gully just left of the route which may be what Beckey described. Because he also stated slings are all that is needed for protection. The corner which we climbed, I placed three cams and a nut. After that, I clipped the two rap stations. This is also a decent climb for late season or closing weather as bailing is easy, and the trail is not too strenuous.

My pictures are here.

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