Saturday, January 24, 2009

McClellan Butte - 01.24.09

Yet another time on McClellan Butte, and another time not making the summit. The first time I had been there, Jennifer and I hiked up the first summer we were in Seattle. In the last 500' or so before the summit it was snowing. When we arrived at the final summit scramble, it was too wet and slick for us to attempt.

This time the goal was to do the North Gully or North Couloir route. Avy conditions had been low and Steve, Julie and I were going to give it a try before more snow fell. However, we were thwarted by another individual that was in our vicinity. We were heading up the correct gully, and saw him heading farther west. Since none of us knew the route, we started heading west. After wandering around, we came back east, and eventually climbed the north west gully.

The climb was enjoyable, and had a very different flavor than what I would expect a spring ascent to have. From the parking area, the snow was bulletproof. No need to snow shoes. Almost a need for crampons. We hiked up the trail and veered off around 2800' heading directly toward the couloir. We found the abandoned road and continued up in the snow field below the gully. (Later, on descent, we would notice that we could have taken the trail all the way to the clearings below the gully.)

This is where we saw some woods above us. According to our pictures, the gully should be continuous, and this is also when we witnessed the lone individual heading farther west. We started going into the next gully, and then the next after that. We realized we were too far west, and headed back one gully and started up. This wasted some time, and it was around 11am when we stopped part way up the gully to have lunch. (There was a reasonably flat area, which we weren't sure we'd see too much more of.) With crampons and ax, we all soloed up to the top of the gully where the angle reached about 45° or more.

Steve then led out belayed up a short 3rd class rock step and more gentle snow. Things still looked promising for us to be summiting. Although where we were didn't look exactly like pictures we had. We took our crampons off and Steve led a belayed rock climb through snow and 5th class rock to a sub-summit of McClellan Butte. We could see the true summit and the correct gully. Which is much steeper for the last 200' or so. (Perhaps 60°) After Julie and I arrived on top it was close to 2pm, and we needed to get down. There were flurries in the air, and we weren't sure about the best way down. After a bit of down climbing on the hard steep snow, we rappelled a rope length, and more down climbing got us back into the gully we ascended. From there it was a slow climb down the gully, and a moderate hike out on the trail. We left the crampons on all the way to the car.

The correct gully

Overall, it was a fun time. I don't feel I climbed all that well, but I have been getting sick as Jennifer was sick most of the week. I haven't felt particularly strong because of it. Also, I was still recovering from last week's blisters. (I did a lot of work to the right foot, but none to the left foot before the climb. The left foot wound hurts more than it did this morning, while the right foot does not.) Also the McClellan Butte trail has some of the largest Douglas Firs I've seen in the I90 corridor. We saw some mountain lion tracks in the snow on the way down as well.

My pics are here.
Julie's pics are here.

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