High points

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September in the North Cascades: Mts. Dickerman (5723′), Vesper (6221), Sperry (6140′), and Gothic (6213).


Dickerman is popular and straightforward, and whet my appetite. I was in the middle of my first week as a student and needed to prove to myself that the mountains on the skyline were more than abstractions. I slept in my car under towering firs in a steady rain, more than a little nervous, having totally forgotten how goddamn creepy the Northwest woods can be. Just as I was drifting off a pickup truck pulled into the empty lot and slowly circled my car, high beams flashing across my windows. It pulled up to the trailhead, a door slammed. There were footsteps. I was totally, irattionally afraid. The door slammed again, and the truck drove away.

It was my first run back after a week and a half off following Pine to Palm. I was rusty, and made myself sick, but it was worth it. Heather and huckleberries, views of glaciers and a mile of vertical relief in every direction from the summit. It was easy to decide to return on the weekend and explore the sawteeth across the valley.

Saturday was more ambitious. I jogged and hiked up to the basin below Vesper, then marched and scrunbled the gorgeous granite slabs to its precipitous summit. There was a climber rapelling from an anchor just below the peak, engaged in cleaning the 5.7 route he had set the previous year on Vesper’s North Peak. A route in perpetual shadow. We chatted briefly, and I began down the ridge between Vesper and Sperry, with no concrete plans in mind.

After some hemming and hawing I dropped far enough towards Sperry for the usual illusions to fade, and its initially intimidating steepness began to look more managable. Scrambling the remainder of the ridge to the base of the peak I was met with thick brush, and spent several minutes schwacking from goat path to goat path before finding one that put me head to tail with an actual goat. Trusting his judgement, I followed him until the route broke out into a small basin, whereupon the animal bolted to the left and settled down to bask on a snowfield.

I continued on to the summit, getting up and down the steep rock, krumholz, and heather by inelegant and imprecise means.

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The next day I joined Luke and Dave for a trip up Washington’s own Gothic Mountain, one ridge over. It was obviously not a peak I could skip.

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Del Campo (6613′) from Gothic Basin.

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We gained the ridge to climber’s left of the snowfield, walking slanted slabs to the final pitch to the summit. Nothing particularly worrying, but the range of difficulty encompassed by “class 3” is always interesting.

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It’s been a weird month, and this is a weird post. I’m missing Gothic, obviously. But when I can remember that this part of my life isn’t actually optional, it’s clear I will be very happy in Beckey’s country.


3 thoughts on “High points

  1. There’s class 3, and then there’s Beckey class 3. There’s class 4, and there’s Beckey class 4. I posit that if I cannot climb it in boots, then it’s probably not 4th class. On Mt Stuart’s North Ridge, I asked Alex for a rope on some 4th class terrain. No regrets there: I’d have given it 5.6 at least.

  2. Pingback: 2014 by the month | Beyond the Ranges

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