Ascent of Chair Peak on 2018-08-05

Climber: Patty Cokus

Others in Party:Susan Shih -- Trip Report or GPS Track
Mark Eiselt
Hong Shen
Date:Sunday, August 5, 2018
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Chair Peak
    Elevation:6238 ft / 1901 m

Ascent Trip Report

Not likely a peak/route I will repeat....

Sue, Mark, Hong and I. Took high route up Snow lake trail to the ridge and continued on ridge on a pretty decent trail where the regular trail drops down to Snow lake. At a spot where the trail starts to go downhill head off right a bit and get to a couple tarns. Good to fill up on water here if needed. A little bit of exploring for the trail here but found it and pretty easily followed our track and cairns through some forest, boulder field, etc till we got to the open boulder fields/ heather parts below the main bowl area below Chair Pk. Made our way to the Thumb Tack (on our way out we filtered some water here in a small stream but we didn’t notice/need it in the am).

Since Sue had gone the gully route on her trip w/ Sharon two years earlier and didn’t necessarily like it she suggested we try one of the alternate approaches suggested by the Mountaineers. Once at the Thumb Tack you look sharp right up a moderate heathery gully to the ridge and then turn left and follow it. This worked quite well and at least at this time of year I would recommend it. You top out of gully and have a lovely view over benchy granite slabs down to beautiful Snow lake. Turn left towards Chair and follow a good path over a bump and continue along ridge, sometimes on or a little below on the Snow lake side until you get to the base. At one point I wasn’t sure if following the ridge would work to get to the base so dropped down onto a very short bit of snow and talus /boulders up to base but then saw it would have been fine.

The open book dihedral start is easy to identify. We stashed what we didn’t want to carry here at some trees. I had thought to let Sue go first as she had done the route before but she was still getting organized so I started off. The first pitch can be done as two parts or a definite full 60m rope length all the way to some big trees with obvious rap slings. Climbing isn’t terribly hard but there are some 5th class moves and pro options are slim. I think I had literally 3 pieces in for the entire 60m pitch. That’s definitely mentally challenging for me! Be aware of loose rock and dead wood everywhere. I belayed off a big curved tree just below the tree with rap slings, this was on pretty steep dirt so more of a hanging belay. I brought up Mark and we moved up to the rap tree which had a bigger flat spot which was more comfortable and allowed Sue to belay where I had.

Here I read the beta I had (Rob Busack’s) and figured we were to go straight up and around looking for sa lone tree with a rats nest of rap anchor slings hidden under the boughs. I asked Sue if we just should go up and she said yes. Rob had said the terrain lended to scrambling so Mark and I each coiled some rope to not waste time unroping and just scrambled short roped. Mark was above me so he started out and This was fine for a bit as we carefully scrambled around loose rock. We got to where it was a traverse and we passed a rather small tree with extremely wide brown ‘webbing’ that looked like seatbelt material and I thought that’s weird, I’ve never seen something like that...then all of a sudden it just dropped away to our right side like maybe the East face and there was another pretty small tree with this giant webbing/seatbelt stuff on it. I told Mark I was feeling uncomfortable being short roped on this with no pro. The terrain was easy but it was an absolute no fall zone. He asked if I wanted to unrope and I of course said NO! So Mark thought the climbing up looked very blocky and easy so we took off his coils, I slung the tree and put him on belay and he climbed up to what we interpreted as the lord be tree with a sling. He then belated me up to this and I went a bit higher to see where we were. We looked even with the red rock patch Rob describes for his P3 so that was good. Mark didn’t like the tree he was at so I was able to barely sling a giant boulder with my 20ft nylon cordelette by using one locker to connect it. Not the most awesome anchor in my opinion.

Next we see Sue and Hong come up a different way (hmmm, guess it wasn’t straight up!) No, from where you end pitch one if you go left there is the big flat dirt area Rob describes (able to camp on but no one would) and then you go up sort of a blocky wife gully. From that direction on climbers right there is a tree with slings under its boughs. (I only saw this tree on our descent).

So Sue and Hong had short roped as well and scrambled up to where Mark and I were. I was also unsure of the route on this pitch and had thought Sue should go first, but alas they still needed to uncoil their rope and reflaje and get setup so I read the very vague description to traverse out and up left through the red rock looking for two rusty bolts that if you could backup with gear. . I wasn’t really sure if I was supposed to belay at these bolts or what...again the route is not obvious here and there are warnings for the leader to be careful as you can get onto harder 5th class terrain. Ok, so I traversed out and got through the red rock and did not see any signs of bolts. I eventually could get one ok cam in and then Sue thought she had gone over a few years ago to the other side from what I could see and then it was easy. I made my way over there and got another ok cam in, looked on the other side to a much more sheer face and up to overhanging rock. Not the way I say... so now I’m like half rope or more basically straight across and slightly up from the ok big rock boulder belay thinking hmmm, I’m pretty sure I need to go up and then left onto the ridge and up to a scraggly tree...but what way is the easiest? I decide where I am looks pretty blocky and ok, but as I get up a few moves and see zero pro possibilities I just can’t keep going. I decide to downclimb and look around more. I carefully downclimb to the second piece of pro I had put in and take it out :-( then move more into a more gully weakness. This does seem easier climbing and I start going up a bit. I think I went up and down here a few times before thinks my I kind of thought I found the way when I finally find a crack! A legit crack! But it is totally filled with dry moss which to my delight seems to come off pretty easily with my hand scraping up and down in it. I get a cam in and feel better. Of course I now have a pretty good 90 degree bend in my rope which never helps. Now on a better track and two pieces in again I ask how much rope is left.... of course maybe like 20 ft which is definitely not enough to get up to the tree. I don’t trust stall that there would be another opportunity to build an anchor so I decide to scrape more in my one crack and I got two more cams in and built an anchor. Seriously I think these were the best pro pieces on the entire peak! So with discussions with Sue I think she should lead out still as she might figure it out better since she had done it before. For some reason she then leads out to me and clips in to my anchor. Then I bring Mark over and then she brings Hong over so all 4 of us are at my three piece cam anchor which is ok because the terrain allows us to be standing there on a variety of little flat spots.

At this point a free soloer comes out of the trees below us by that big flat dirt spot. While we are finishing belaying, reflaking ropes etc he climbs up to us. A very nice guy with only his rock shoes, chalk bag and a coat around his waist. I ask if he’s done this before and he said about 15 years ago...but he thought it was up and a little left onto the ridge and up to the trees which is what I had finally decided on. He said he was recovering from an injury but prior he would free solo up in the 5.10 range....hmmm, maybe we shouldn’t follow where he goes!

He goes up more or less where I had started to and then backed down from as I didn’t feel comfortable without pro, then is at a point where we would connect to on our now determined route and onto the ridge and up to the gnarly horizontal tree with rap slings.

So Sue leads out up from my anchor which is a bit past the red rock patch and then up in the depression area (this is just sort of a wide section of rock with not a very obvious easy path) and then left onto the ridge part and up a bit to the gnarly tree. She got about two pieces of pro in. I followed right behind Hong and asked her to leave the pro in and I would just clip it to save some time since we had wasted a lot in this area. I was also able to get a couple more on pieces in along the way since my exposure fear demands more pro even if it isn’t that great.

We finally are bringing up Mark and the free soloer is back down from the summit to our spot waiting for us to finish so he can downclimb.

Sue and Hong unrope and cool there rope as Sue says she and Sharon just scrambled the rest. I should have known and read the beta again but I didn’t. They bring their rope just in case and I stupidly leave our rope here. I really should know better. So terrain is pretty easy here with rocky heather steps but it is exposed with a drop off. Definitely a no fall zone. Which makes me super uncomfortable.... Rob had pitched this out and talked about going up this heathery, rocky gully with little pro options and finding a tree with rap slings. We traversed over more (with me whimpering) to a ridge and I could drop down a little to a steep path in heathery steps with some trees Tony side providing much needed protection from the exposure. I was then able to scramble up and to the false summit where it gets very easy class two with a couple steps down and over to the summit block. Easiest part yet! So We all made it and while there were a few flying ant bugs it wasn’t so bad. We are a snack, had some water and took a picture. The views were hazy/smoky but it’s a lovely area. We could see some people floating on Snow Lake.

I knew the hardest part (for me) was about to begin so I wanted to get on with it.

Summary Total Data
Ascent Statistics
    Route:NE Buttress
Descent Statistics

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