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The Climbing Club • View topic - Mt. Sir Donald - NW Ridge

The Climbing Club

at the University of Washington
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PostPosted: Sat Sep 11, 2010 1:02 pm 
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Longshanks
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Joined: Wed Jan 25, 2006 7:47 pm
Posts: 927
Location: Denver

8/12/2010
Jim and I were crushing the route, and that made it much harder to turn around. 2 long simul-pitches in about as many hours; 2,000 feet of vertical gain behind us; only 1,000 left to go. The wind made our clothes flap like poorly tended sails, and the clouds were thickening; lowering.

We got our permits and checked the weather at the Roger's Pass visitors center. "Five suns!" The Parks Canada Ranger exclaimed, pointing to a five-day forecast for perfect weather; stable high pressure. So much for the Canadian Weather Service!

We sorted our gear in the parking lot. As soon as the food came out of the car, we were accosted by a contingent of Colombian ground squirrels: fully habituated little bastards that always come back, even when you peg one with a well-pitched nalgene bottle! Shortly, however, a tour bus arrived, hemorrhaging Japanese people. They were somewhat more circumspect about photographing us than the they were about the squirrels, but I think the sentiment was the same. Behold! The surly unwashed north-American crazy, and the illusive Colombian ground squirrel! *snap, snap*. I don't think they were too amused by our menacing the squirrels with our ice axes, though.

It's a long climb, and we were needlessly worried about how long it might take us. We were up at 03:00, at the col by 05:00. The wind was gale-force right from the start and there were a few clouds to windward, but we had a solid forecast. Five suns, right? We wore socks under our rock shoes and left our puffy's on.

The climbing was amazing! while slippery, the quartzite on the ridge was solid, and fractured into the most amazing in-cut holds and splitter cracks. The book (Selkirks, South) calls it 5.4, with the lower ridge being mainly 4th class. We felt the the whole climb was 4th and maybe low 5th with a few significant steps to about 5.7, mainly on the lower ridge!

Near the end of our 2nd simul-pitch we passed a guide and his client on their way down; descending because of the the high winds, and the clouds shrouding the summit. They didn't have much with them, and I thought we could press on, given that Jim and I had brought all of our spare clothes along. We paused at the end of the pitch to bundle up; a process that gave us more time to observe and think. Another party passed us while we were considering.

"Going up or coming down?" the leader asked us.

"We're thinking about going down!"

"Probably a good idea!" he responded, and kept moving up. We watched as his follower passed as well, struggling to manage the rope as the wind whipped it around horns and edges she didn't want to climb, and couldn't reach. The clouds continued to thicken and lower. We got our butts moving down!

We down-climbed the ridge to the beginning of the dihedral rappel route. Very nice, except for the annoying 25 m spacing. I went to far on the first rap. 5 m + rope stretch is further than an English-system native might imagine without working out the conversion.

We got back to our tent just in time. A thunderstorm hit perhaps 20 minutes later: torrential rain, hail, thunder, lightening immediately overhead. It lasted an hour or more. There were still at least three other parties on the mountain

The other parties straggled down the mountain over the course of the evening. Everyone made it down safely, and a few parties even summited. We considered a 2nd attempt the following day, but concluded that we didn't have enough food. Instead, we spent the following day on mellow sight seeing, and a star-gazing evening on top of Mt. Revelstoke. One more night in a nosy highway-side campground, and we headed back to Seattle; only about an 8 hour drive.

All in all, Sir Donald was a pretty awesome conclusion to our trip. It was disappointing to have been weathered off, but satisfying that we climbed most of the route competently, and made the right call when the weather continued to deteriorate.

I can't sum up how awesome this whole trip was in a sentence or two. The preceding stories and photos will have to speak for themselves. There aren't very many people who have the money, inclination, and time to do something like this. I can't thank Jim enough for being such a great climbing partner!

The End.

Or, more hopefully...

... To Be Continued


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PostPosted: Sun Sep 12, 2010 1:10 am 
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experienced hiker of the climbing club
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Joined: Wed Dec 04, 2002 6:39 pm
Posts: 1945
Location: Bashing Brush
Even without the summit, an awesome end to an epic trip.

One minor question: how did you run out of food? Jim tells me he has a giant box of food left over from the trip that he's going to be chugging through for the next few months. :lol:


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PostPosted: Sun Sep 12, 2010 9:24 am 
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UW Climber
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Joined: Wed Oct 04, 2006 5:43 pm
Posts: 494
Location: Seattle
1. Every expression on Jim's face is classic.
2. I want a pet squirrel.
3. Pretty arrogant of the guy to pass you and then suggest you should be going down...


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PostPosted: Sun Sep 12, 2010 9:56 am 
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Longshanks
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Joined: Wed Jan 25, 2006 7:47 pm
Posts: 927
Location: Denver
Brian - I didn't mention it explicitly in the trip report, but we had to hike up to a high camp. We just didn't have enough food there. We could have hoofed it back to the car to replenish our supplies, we even talked about it, but in the end it didn't seem worth it. The weather the next day wasn't all that great, anyway.

Jon - #3 - I don't think the other guy meant it that way. I think he was more commenting that we were making the right decision, and that he knew he was being a bit foolish to continue...


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PostPosted: Mon Sep 13, 2010 4:14 pm 
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Cap'n Wingspan
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Joined: Thu Apr 26, 2007 3:08 pm
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Location: Wallingford


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PostPosted: Tue Sep 14, 2010 9:33 am 
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Dr. Crevasse
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Joined: Sat Oct 05, 2002 11:17 am
Posts: 921
Location: Seattle
The NW Ridge of Sir Donald was pretty awesome. After Serra Three, I really wanted one last summit. I was very pleased with how quickly and efficiently we were simul climbing, especially given the nontrivial steps on the lower ridge. When we stopped to change over the simul leads and rerack gear, I knew we were heading down. I didn't want to say it out loud, but the longer we stayed there, the more apparent it became that it was the right decision. Part of me was glad to see the lightning confirm we had made the right decision. However, I was surprised at the several groups which cavalierly continued after the storm. Even talking to 2 out of 3 afterward, they didn't sound as scared as they ought to have been given the conditions.

The last night in Revelstoke was pretty awesome. It was great to be on top of the "mountain" watching the meteor shower. Someone even brought a telescope up. It was cool to see the Galilean Moons of Jupiter again.

This was an unbelievably amazing three week adventure. I could not have asked for a better climbing partner for this trip. I look forward to our next big adventure together.



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