Ascent of The Brothers on 2014-08-06

Climber: Samuel Hahn

Date:Wednesday, August 6, 2014
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Car
Peak:The Brothers
    Elevation:6842 ft / 2085 m

Ascent Trip Report

Driving east along US 101 after having just bagged Mount Olympus, James Barlow and I had two important decisions to make. First and foremost, what restaurant in Port Angeles would fall victim to the appetites of two hikers who just put in 44 trail miles since their last real meals, and what peak would be next on our hit list for the week. The former came easy, a local greasy spoon with all-you-can guzzle locally harvested clam chowder, but the former required more deliberation. Do we load up the climbing gear and take down Anderson Peak for another 3-day slog or a shorter Class 3 scramble up the Brothers. Feeling our feet throb as we knocked back bowl after bowl of local filter feeders, we slowly realized that Anderson would have to wait. Tomorrow would be a day for lighter packs and rope-less climbs.
Everything about our start of our hike to the summit of The Brothers suggested a more auspicious trek than our journey to Olympus’ summit. For one, we started nearly 2 hours earlier. More than that, the weather was considerably cooler, albeit cloudier, and the trail was infinitely more scenic and engaging. Really, I can’t laud the quality of the path to Upper Lena Lake enough. Well-maintained and with sweeping views over Lower Lena Lake, it traverses a gently ascending grade through almost iridescently green old growth forest ( and featuring plenty of equally idyllic wells and streams to refill, too).
So besides the incomparably verdant scenes greeting us along every step towards our camp for the night at the foot of The Brothers, the approach hike was uneventfully easy, and we finished early in the afternoon. Having several hours to spare before nightfall, James passed the time napping and I, never one for smart decisions, ran through a push-ups and abdominal exercise in the hopes that it would help me sleep deeper than in previous nights. After a few hours of lazy indulgence, we crammed our stomachs full of re-hydrated complex carbohydrates and called it an early night, having heard from more than one returning climber that the scree tomorrow would, if nothing else, test our patience.
Feeling fully restored after a complete 8 hours of rest, James and I started on the trail 6 AM, making our way inexorably forward towards our next rocky perch. The trail was much rougher than yesterday’s, really an unmaintained climbers’ path, marked only with pink flagging and occasional cairns. Still, it was easy to follow and we found ourselves at a dry gully and climbing steadily towards the summit ridge. Plenty of cairns border the desiccated stream and suggest a departure to more brushy trails, but I’d recommend continuing along this route as long as possible. It all leads to the next part of the journey, a rough goat path that eventually terminates at the summit.
Unfortunately, the remainder of the hike would not end without its share of route challenges, a combination of the thick cloud cover below 6000’ and the steadily declining quality of the goat path. Several times we were forced to turn back after nearly walking straight into a cliff wall or a sudden drop only crossable with cloven hooves. Nonetheless, all the setbacks made the climb that much more challenging and satisfying; we were still slowly rising to the top and the terrain was delightfully varied as we dashed across loose scree to firmer rock and measured our steps along exposed scrambles. The crux of the route came inadvertently; however, when we took a wrong turn towards a Class 4 pitch just a few hundred feet below the summit. James, a consummate mountaineer, remained irrepressibly cheerful and laughing undaunted a la Brian Greenwood or Alex Lowe as he shimmied and skirted across stretches of rock no wider than a hand’s breadth and overlooking precipitous and surely fatal drops. But more than that, I’m grateful for this positive energy. Being relatively inexperience on these more dangerous pitches, I wouldn't have summited without his steady encouragement and guidance. And I’m glad I did, because the views nearly made the entire climb worth it. Though only just above cloud cover, the summit was warm with emerging sunlight (it was still only 10:30) and the nearby peaks adopted an ethereal quality more reminiscent of peaks in the Huangshan range than anything in the lower 48. After obligatory photos and an early lunch of Clif bars and trail mix, we took our first steps downward.
Fortunately, the Class 4 section was easily avoided. Looking down from the summit, we were easily able to cairns indicating the true scrambler’s route, but the worst was far from over. The scree that was merely strenuous on the way up was downright painful as James and frequently connected our tailbones with the loose rock at a nearly metronomic pace down the mountain. We were lucky not to have the extra weight of ice axes or crampons on this snowless trail, but at the moment, I would have traded our perpetually tenuous purchase for heavier packs and firm snow. Complaining, unfortunately, is almost always wasted energy, and so we endured the frustrating descent despite a growing number of bruises on our lower extremities, eventually finding ourselves at last night’s camp. After a quick pack out, James and I pressed on along the main trail back to the Yaris, stopping briefly to soak our sore feet and replenish our nalgenes one last time in a softly flowing stream along the way. By 5 PM, eleven hours later, we arrived at the trailhead, grateful to be permanently away from that scree and a climb that, although undeniably scenic, was now indelibly inscribed in the books.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:6142 ft / 1872 m
    Trailhead:Lena Creek Campground  700 ft / 213 m
    Quality:8 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Unmaintained Trail, Bushwhack, Scramble, Exposed Scramble
    Gear Used:
Tent Camp

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