Cutthroat Peak, S. Buttress
On June 24, Sue Nelson, Roger Wong, Thomas Dodson and myself took on a climb that's been on my short list for years: the 5.8 S. Buttress on Cutthroat, just west of Washington Pass. Lots of routefinding challenges, including figuring out how to bypass the crux face, by taking the ridgeline to the right and traversing left onto the very top of the face. The climbing is only intermittently difficult, but loads of fun.

We had set a deadline of 2PM to pass the crux into the (mostly) easier final pitches to the summit, and missed it by just 15 minutes, so thought we were golden. But then things started going south. A few moves in the last pitches took more time than expected, so it was nearly 5PM by the time we left the summit. Then I foolishly launched into the first rap for the West Ridge descent, without listening carefully to the beta Sue had amassed, and didn't realize that the rap had to veer strongly to climber's right.

Soon I'm sitting on a small ledge, below a buttress I can't swing the rope over, with very exposed 4th class moves to regain the ridge 20 feet above me. I should have prussiked back up to undo my mistake, but I hadn't really seen any exit above. So I went off rap, and waited... and waited...

Finally I decided we were getting too late, screwed up courage, and carefully scrambled up to the ridge, only to see thatthe rest of the team had overshot the veer right, ending up trapped on a ledge with no way back to the ridge. They were forced to prusik back up to a ledge they had passed, above the correct second set of rap chains, carefully hidden on the face below where only I could see them.

While they were doing this, I anxiously traversed the ridge to make sure I knew where the final set of raps started, found them, came back, and we were soon reunited. But now the sun was setting, and the forecast clouds rolling in. We start down the raps as darkness gathers, and soon are at the last station above steep snow. At this point, weather closes in, and it starts to snow/rain. We extend the rope for everyone but me to rap down, and fortunately it passes the steep snow. Then I have to rap, pull the rope, and downclimb - while a thunderstorm and light snow roll in, with very close thunderclaps and lightning!

We start heading down in various negative mental states, but quickly it's clear that we won't be able to find the right descent down the steep snow and slabs in the dark, and stopping is safer than moving, even without full bivvy gear. Around 1AM we find a big overhanging rock that gives partial shelter from the wind and light mist, and pull out everything we have for shelter.Now is when I really regret leaving that emergency bivvy behind! My emergency blanket is soon in tatters. We lie there for three hours, until I see the faintest dawn through fogged glasses, and insist we get moving again. By now at least I am nearing full-on hypothermia, teeth chattering for more than an hour. We successfully navigate the descent,and by full daylight, the weather has passed, and we are back at camp - not much sleep obtained at this camp!

Broken rule: don't race incoming weather.

IMG_20180623_100147985
IMG_20180623_100158671
IMG_20180623_100203013
IMG_20180623_102513807
p1040008
p1040009
p1040010
p1040011
p1040012
p1040013
p1040014
p1040015
p1040016
p1040017
p1040018
p1040019
p1040020
p1040021
p1040022
p1040023
p1040024
p1040025
p1040026
p1040027
p1040028
p1040029
p1040030
p1040031
p1040032
p1040033
p1040034
p1040035
p1040036
p1040037
p1040038
p1040039
p1040040
p1040041
p1040042
p1040043
p1040044
p1040045
p1040046
p1040047
p1040048
castle_dome_west_face.jpg