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The Climbing Club • View topic - Waddington Range

The Climbing Club

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 Post subject: Waddington Range
PostPosted: Tue Aug 17, 2010 2:26 pm 
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Longshanks
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Joined: Wed Jan 25, 2006 7:47 pm
Posts: 927
Location: Denver
This is a teaser. A placeholder. The place where Jim and I will be positing pictures and stories as we get them out. For now, my first attempt at :

Image

Left to right on the skyline: Spearman, Bravo, Waddington, Combatant, Tiedemann, Asperity, Serra(s) 5-1, Stiletto, The Blade, and Dentiform.


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 Post subject: Re: Waddington Range
PostPosted: Tue Aug 17, 2010 5:19 pm 
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UW Climber
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Posts: 252
This is also a placeholder until I see something worth commenting on.

Bring it.


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 Post subject: Re: Waddington Range
PostPosted: Tue Aug 17, 2010 7:05 pm 
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The 11th Essential
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Location: Boulder, CO
I'm simply glad to know that you are both out and alive. It has been a terrible couple weeks for bush flying up in Alaska...
But it looks like you had great weather, at least over the time it took you to capture that panorama.

So now, bring it.


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 Post subject: Re: Waddington Range
PostPosted: Wed Aug 18, 2010 11:47 am 
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Longshanks
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Location: Denver
You too, Ethan! I heard about the cargo plane. Have there been other incidents?

Here's the first installment:



Most people don't buy food by the kilogram. I don't think our explanation was sufficient for the curious people we met in the bulk foods section of WinCo to understand why we thought we needed 12 kilos of candy. Turns out there was a mistake in our arithmetic. We really only needed 8 kg.

I've been wanting to go into the Waddington range since before I started climbing. I don't even remember how I first heard about it. Alex and I tried to reach the Scimitar glacier on foot from the east several years ago, and Jim had walked across the range on a NOLS course, but didn't get to do much climbing in the central range. Now we were both giddy with excitement as we sorted gear, and purchased the ~45 kg of food we thought we'd need.

The drive to Tatla Lake was shorter than we'd expected: 10 hours from Seattle. We arrived at Bluff Lake and Whitesaddle Air Service on July 25th at 4:00 PM. The pilot/owner, Mike King, was on standby for fire work with the forest service, but he invited us to hang out until 8:00 PM, when he'd fly us in.

The helicopter flight turned out to be one of the greatest, and in some ways the most terrifying parts of the trip. Mike is a great pilot, and the flight itself left room for nothing but wonder. It's getting dropped off (or picked up) for the first time that was a little terrifying. As Mike explained to us, the rotors have enough play in them to handily render your brains into an aerosol if you are near their ends. So you stay close to the machine where the nasty things remain well above head-height.

Mike set the machine down neatly on a little puff of snow right next to the Plummer Hut. He kept it near full power so as not to sink in, and we hopped out. One of his guys helped us pile our bags in a row next to the left strut. We cowered there, my leg 18" from the strut, and they took off.

We watched the chopper until it disappeared. High-fived each other. Dashed off to explore and gawk, surrounded by a deafening silence.



Image


Image


Image


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 Post subject: Re: Waddington Range
PostPosted: Wed Aug 18, 2010 2:04 pm 
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Longshanks
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Location: Denver

July 26th, 2010

In Jim's words, it's like the West Ridge of Prussik, but better in every conceivable way. Fantastic rock, varied climbing, stunning position.

When we landed, the weather was perfect, and the summit of Waddington looked as dry as we could hope for. Still, we both felt the need for a bit of a warm up before attempting the Bravo. The Claw is the obvious choice. The Plummer Hut basically sits right on the farthest end of it's west ridge. You can put on your rock shoes in the hut and begin from there. However the Waddington Guide warns of a tricky notch that is best bypassed on snow to the south, so we stomped out in our boots. We gained the ridge crest at the notch via a beautiful, short 5.8ish handcrack. There we discovered that someone has installed a shiny new bolt on each side of the notch, making it far less tricky. After a short battle with the blank slab that leads out of the notch, we were off and cruising. Jim got a fine 5.6ish hand crack, I lead an awesome steep knife-edge, and Jim led a little more varied 5.6ish ground to the top.

Simple proximity to the hut is definitely not the only reason this is the most climbed route in the whole range. I'd walk a good long way for this bit of climbing!

We concluded the day melting water in the sun, and brooding over whether to head off for Waddington immediately the next morning.



Image

Image


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 Post subject: Re: Waddington Range
PostPosted: Wed Aug 18, 2010 2:29 pm 
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The Pub Czar
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Location: too far from a pint.
i do believe it is being brung.

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good judgment comes from experience;
experience comes from bad judgment.


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 Post subject: Re: Waddington Range
PostPosted: Wed Aug 18, 2010 4:44 pm 
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Mountain Rhombus
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Location: Near the taco truck
Claw Peak looks amazing. Its quite the beginning to the trip!

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climbing!


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 Post subject: Re: Waddington Range
PostPosted: Thu Aug 19, 2010 9:22 am 
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UW Climber

Joined: Thu Oct 02, 2008 7:34 am
Posts: 324
Location: Anchorage, Alaska
Oh, the suspense! I'm excitedly waiting for the next installment! This looks incredible! :drink:


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 Post subject: Re: Waddington Range
PostPosted: Thu Aug 19, 2010 10:39 am 
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receiving spoon
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Posts: 327
I really like that 3rd picture from the approach TR!

Keep 'em coming!


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 Post subject: Re: Waddington Range
PostPosted: Thu Aug 19, 2010 11:51 am 
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experienced hiker of the climbing club
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Posts: 1945
Location: Bashing Brush
The Claw does look absolutely amazing.


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 Post subject: Re: Waddington Range
PostPosted: Thu Aug 19, 2010 10:03 pm 
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Dr. Crevasse
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"It's not safe out here. It's wondrous, with treasures to satiate desires both subtle and gross. But it's not for the timid." Q


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 Post subject: Re: Waddington Range
PostPosted: Fri Aug 20, 2010 7:54 am 
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Alpine Slogger
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Location: Too far from a summit
Jim that second picture would be a great promotional for cilogear!


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 Post subject: Re: Waddington Range
PostPosted: Fri Aug 20, 2010 9:16 am 
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One Armed Wonder
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Location: a Dungeon in the Physics Student

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Life can deal you an amazing hand. Do you play it steady, bluff like crazy, or go all in? - Joe Simpson


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 Post subject: Re: Waddington Range
PostPosted: Fri Aug 20, 2010 1:37 pm 
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Longshanks
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Posts: 927
Location: Denver
Ian, Jim has the 45L and I have the 60L Worksack. We both love them. Simple, light, strong, and functional. They are also really big. I think mine holds more like 80L, and Jim's more like 60L. They are also very reasonably priced, if you don't by the dyneema versions!


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 Post subject: Re: Waddington Range
PostPosted: Fri Aug 20, 2010 1:44 pm 
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Longshanks
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Posts: 927
Location: Denver


July 28th - 31st

The Bravo Glacier Route begins from Rainy Knob, just above the trunk of the Tiedemann glacier. It opens with 700 m of intricate climbing and navigation up the Bravo icefall to a small cirque known as the Cauldron. A difficult bergschrund crossing and a steep 50 degree headwall of ice and loose rock follows, leading to the upper SE ridge of Mt. Waddington. From there, glacier draped slopes sweep 900 m up to meet the final bergschrund at the base of the summit pyramid. 400 m of steep rock to about 5.7, often heavily rimed, leads to the top.
Image

We worried about the summit block. We worried about the schrund and headwall. The Bravo icefall surprised us.

The morning after climbing the Claw, Jim and I still hadn't decided whether to go for Waddington immediately or not. A ragged lenticular shrouded Waddington and the Tiedemann group; often a sign of impending foul weather. Nevertheless, a favorable weather report from the Kings got us moving. 1000 m down from the Plummer Hut to the Tiedemann glacier, then 2-3 km across the glacial trunk and 300 m back up to Rainy Knob, our camp for the evening.

We set our alarms for 04:30, daylight imperative to effectively navigate the icefall. We were moving before dawn, but this may have already been too late. We cruised easily upward, Jim winding us around the cracks with only a single dead-end. But after four hours of steady upward progress we slammed into a wall. Almost literally. Just below the Cauldron was a gaping, wall-to-wall crevasse that we couldn't cross. In many places it was a literal wall, 30' high, vertical to overhanging, and too soft to climb.

After hours of wandering around and exploring for other ways, we found a route off the glacier onto the Cauldron rim-ridge. This ridge can be traversed in it's entirety (loose 4th class) to avoid the Cauldron and it's formidable schrund, but we couldn't remember at what difficulty (we thought it might be as hard as 5.7). By this time however, the full east facing slopes on the rim-ridge had turned to mush in the sun, and we were unwilling to dare the 50-60 degree terrain in those conditions. Instead, we concluded to wait until evening and make camp on a flat section of the ridge-crest, out of harms way.

This was by far one of the most spectacular camps I've ever occupied. We dug out a tent platform right on the arete, and rigged a hand line from two pickets so that we could stay tied in. The drop on both sides was precipitous, and long.

In the morning we headed up the snow arete for several hundred meters, before making a rappel back into the Cauldron above the final crevasse. Straightforward and spectacular climbing, but due to a couple of miscommunications, it took us something like three hours instead of the expected 1.5. By then the snow was softening again (no idea why we didn't get up earlier), and we decided to call it quits. Everything was taking us longer than expected, and there had been a disconcerting drop in barometric pressure overnight. Frustration. The bergschrund and headwall both looked straightforward.

We settled in to wait until evening, and the hardening of the snow. Our descent back to Rainy Knob went smoothly with the aid of a shortcut we spotted to skiers left that involved down-climbing one pitch of 50-degree alpine ice, but much more straightforward glacial route-finding. It took just 4 hours to descend, including a time consuming rappel over our problem crevasse. Our fears of worsening weather proved unfounded.

Needless to say, this was all very frustrating. However, we've learned a few things since that make the defeat seem somewhat less ignominious:

1. The Bravo Glacier is no longer considered the "standard route" on the mountain, despite what The Waddington Guide suggests. Glacial recession has made it much more difficult than in the past, and very few parties have succeeded in recent years.

2. Later in the trip, from a vantage point higher than the Plummer Hut, we could see a huge wall-to-wall crevasse on the upper icefield that almost certainly would have stopped us cold.

I'm not sure how we could have found these things out before going, as we learned them from the people we met and things we saw while we were there. Information on the range is rather sparse in general.

I think the major lesson to be drawn here is one of creativity. Regardless of whether the upper part of the route was passable, a healthy dose of self-reliance and creativity, rather than adherence to an outdated route description, would have served us well. In the end we only got 1/3 of the way up the route, but it was still some of the coolest mountaineering I've ever done. I can only imagine what an experience the full ascent must be. We'll be back.



Image

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