Ascent of Morning Star Peak on 2016-07-16

Climber: Evan Battaglia

Other People:Solo Ascent
Date:Saturday, July 16, 2016
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Morning Star Peak
    Elevation:6020 ft / 1834 m

Ascent Trip Report

I once heard someone say about another peak "I've done a lot of mountains, but that one was the only one that was trying to kill me." From my memory, the peak they were referring to (Merchant) didn't seem too bad; but I think that statement fits Morning Star quite well.

13'00 Slept late so got a pretty late start, leaveing the car at 1pm. Summitpost was "half a day", I have over 8 hours until sunset, no problem, right?
14'15 Leave trail, a bit further down from the switchbacks to Headlee Pass -- instead, where the trail sharply goes up to the right into the trees.
Hugged some cliffbands on the left side, then made a little traverse to the right. Heard people on Mile High Club on Mile High Buttress, which surprised me, because it was raining slightly. Anyway, I started up a gully and the drizzle soon stopped. A couple small rocks fell from above. I was surprised as I didn't think anyone else was on the route. I shouted up but didn't hear a reply. I thought maybe it was a goat or melting snow. At this point there was snow in the gully and it looked a little tough; also I was afraid to stay in the middle of the gully due to possible further rock fall (especially because I didn't have a helmet), so I "tree-whacked" up on a mini-ridge on the right. It was lots and lots of work, I got soaked, but it was fairly safe with all the veggie belay.

Beyond this where was a bit of snow so I put on crampons. I followed footsteps, crampon tracks (they looked fairly recent, although I didn't think they were from the same day... maybe I was wrong). To the left, I spotted the notch from the Summitpost page. Strangely the footsteps continued far above where I wanted to go to get to the notch. I followed them for a bit and eventually got on to dry ground, climbing up steep grassy/vegetated/dirty/rocky slope. Didn't seem so bad on the way up but on the way down I found it a bit difficult to descend. I kept my crampons on for traction in the low vegetation/dirt, not sure it did much for me.

~1630 (yeah, so much for "1 hour from the trail to the top". Found myself a bit SE of the notch, and rather than traverse over, I decided to check out the area to climbers' right, which at first looked like it might offer a way up. I soon encountered a wall with a few different options, all class 5, on slightly wet/dirty rock. I tried a couple and they didn't work, then tried one again and basically bouldered for a while, taking increasingly longer steps to make sure I could get down. I decided to go for it -- I tied my rope to my pack and went up. It felt about 5.6-5.7; I had to trundle some big rocks to clear the way once or twice. For the first 10 feet I was pretty confident, but as I went up further, I got increasingly more nervous -- further off the ground, and I started to wonder about some of the big flakes I was holding on to. Assuming those were all good, the rock was OK quality for a while. I really have to stop free-soloing this stuff, I feel like I keep cheating death... anyway I got to loose class 3-ish terrain and pulled my pack up, probably damaging the bottom part of the rope (bowline around the pack). Not really recommended -- quality of the rock is not quite good enough, although if enough people did it and cleaned it, it might be OK. Looking at the GPS track, this was more or less along the WNW ridge of the mountain.

More loose class 4 terrain awaited me. At this point I was a bit shaken up. I reached a little gully with veggie belays and continue up, getting wet again, eventually topping out. It was somewhere around this time that I realized "Morning Star" was a translation of "Lucifer".

18'00 Summit. I didn't waste much time as I knew I had to find the descent (typical ascent) route. I descended steep grass/vegetation about 150-200ft. until I saw some webbing (strangely without any rap rings) around a tree. I tried to downclimb but didn't feel comfortable, so I added another piece of webbing and a quicklink and rapped down, below a small notch in the ridge and down a little on the west side towards a piece of webbing around a loose horn. My 35m rope wasn't quite long enough to reach the horn, so I had to downclimb about 8 ft on loose, wet junk. Yuck. I guess this was the "50ft of class 4", but half of it was this really awful wet loose stuff. I saw more webbing below on the west side of the ridge, indicating people had rappelled further, but instead, I descended the Summitpost ascent route: at this horn I traversed 10 ft north and crossed to the other side of the ridge, at which point the downclimbing was easier and I was able to make it to the notch. After the notch was descending the steep vegetation stuff again. I was very slow and my crampons kept coming off of my flexible trail runners (worse shoes for crampons). Eventually I made it back to the snow and gully.

At the mini-ridge I had tree-whacked up, I saw two people on the climbers left (descender's right) of the gully rappelling, having contoured on the side of the gully a tad while descending. They had also climbed Morning Star, I guess I missed them while I was off on the WNW ridge. While they rappeled I downclimbed the tree-whacking ridge, will actually felt pretty comfortable this time around (I wore jacket and rainpants this time!)

From here on out there was some more descending the loose gully but essentially the hard part was over.

21'00 Back on the trail. This time I traversed all the way over to join the where it starts switchbacking up to Headlee Pass. At this point my knee was bothering me quite a bit. I had had problems 3 weeks before the past two weekends it was fine. Trails with lots of rocks and roots, and cross-country with boulders, which both make me bend my knees a lot, are really bad for it. I slowly descended the trail, although there was another party of 2 behind me that was almost just as slow. Once I got to the trailhead I found out they were the two climbers on Mile High Club.

23'15 Back at the trailhead. I found painting on my car window (and others still at the trailhead) that said "ROAD CLOSURE VIOLATION $486 FINE RCW". Apparently some overzealous government agency thought they could trap unsuspecting hikers and make a quick $15,000.


"How you have fallen from heaven, o Morning Star, son of the dawn! ... You said in your heart, '.. I will sit enthroned on the Mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of the sacred Mountain. I will ascend above the tops of the clouds...' But you are brought down to the grave, to the depths of the pit." -- Isaiah 14:12
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:3660 ft / 1115 m
    Grade/Class:5.6+loose/wet class4
    Route Conditions:
Unmaintained Trail, Open Country, Bushwhack, Snow on Ground, Scramble, Exposed Scramble, Snow Climb
    Gear Used:
Ice Axe, Crampons, Rope
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:3660 ft / 1115 m
    Route:NW Route + WNW Ridge 'Lucifer's Route'
    Start Trailhead:2360 ft / 719 m
Descent Statistics
    Route:NW Route + N Ridge
GPS Data for Ascent/Trip

 GPS Waypoints - Hover or click to see name and lat/long
Peaks:  climbed and  unclimbed by Evan Battaglia
Click Here for a Full Screen Map
Note: GPS Tracks may not be accurate, and may not show the best route. Do not follow this route blindly. Conditions change frequently. Use of a GPS unit in the outdoors, even with a pre-loaded track, is no substitute for experience and good judgment. accepts NO responsibility or liability from use of this data.

Download this GPS track as a GPX file

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