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Ascent of Mount Fernow on 2015-07-19

Climber: Aaron Farmer

Others in Party:Jesse Low
Date:Sunday, July 19, 2015
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Mount Fernow
    Location:USA-Washington
    Elevation:9249 ft / 2819 m

Ascent Trip Report

Summited form Leroy Basin. Hiked in on Saturday 7/18, set up camp around 3:30pm. Woke up at 5:15am, and left camp at 6:15am.

Made quick work of the initial slope up the basin to the first col. Trip reports we had read suggested we had to cross into a basin above a lake, then traverse around a ridge to a different basin. We did this, traversing around the north end of the lake - DO NOT DO THIS!!! It is actually unnecessary to go into the basin at all. There are cairns that mark the fastest way to go. Once you reach the ridge where the 7FJ and Fernow col is (that Beckey and other reports say to avoid, correctly), there route is essentially at the mid-point of the ridge. There are two large cairns marking the way. Anyways, we lost about 45 minutes to an hour with our detour. We accidentally descended a few extra hundred feet, which we backtracked.

Once we found the correct basin, we descended rock and snow to the bottom (had to self-arrest on the snow, it was a little too firm, and too steep to glissade safely, with a poor runout). From there, we ascended the two sets of waterfalls, before finally getting some sun. Nothing remarkable about the climbing from this point, although we did head straight up the slabs in some sections, which felt higher than class 2, but was solid. From there, it was just a long slog up loose rock to the upper snow field. We found the keyhole, and passed through to the Eastern slopes of Fernow.

The ramps and blocks on the East side were relatively easy, except for one or two very exposed moves. We later realized we went too low - look for a path upward as soon as you can, it should be fairly obvious, but we missed it. There are cairns, they just blend in (we found them on the way out, watching another climber depart the summit). The gully up the summit was fairly easy on the way up, and we finally got to the summit at 11:30am. Without our 45min detour, total time would have been 4.5 hours.

After some beautiful summit pictures, food, etc., we began the descent at 12:10pm. Down-climbing the gully was a bit tough, definitely class 3 (brief sections). We headed back down towards the upper snowfield by a different route (not the keyhole), as it was marked by cairns. It was very loose rock, not very fun but manageable; it would not have been fun to ascend, so I would recommend taking the keyhole on the ascent. From there, it was just a whole bunch of loose rock (lots of sideways plunge stepping), slabs, and more loose rock. Lots of opportunity to roll an ankle, so be careful!

Once we made it back to Gloomy Glacier basin, we filtered more water, before heading back up the snowfields to the col at the top of Leroy Basin. The snow was steep, and only one of us had an ice axe, but the snow was soft enough to kick steps (re-using hour-old steps from a different climber). We gained 1200 feet in a little under an hour. There was some very sketchy loose gravel on slabs at the top of the snow field, which was probably the most dangerous/exposed section of the entire climb. Look for a safer/easier path, or take the snow! We reached the col at around 3:40pm.

Descending Leroy Basin was a cakewalk, compared to the rest of the descent. We were back at camp at 4:20pm - 10 hours and 5 minutes total trip time. After some snacks and rinsing off in the stream, we were on the trail by 5:05pm, and back at the car by 6:45pm or 7:00pm.

Summary Total Data
    Grade/Class:Class 3
    Quality:8 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Unmaintained Trail, Open Country, Stream Ford, Snow on Ground, Scramble, Exposed Scramble
    Gear Used:
Ice Axe, Ski Poles, Tent Camp
    Nights Spent:1 nights away from roads
    Weather:Blue skies with clouds



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