Chimney Rock,Pete Lake #1323
Aug 22, 1999
Under brooding, cloudy skies, with the bittersweet Celtic music that we listened to during our drive accompanying my every step, my partner and I left the parking lot on our way to climb Chimney Rock by the East Face route. The Pete Lake Trail was beautifully maintained (thank you Work Crew!), and a joy to walk on. The Natrapel seemed to do its job keeping the bloodthirsty mosquitoes at bay while we approached our base camp.
We left the trail at the first switchback in the avalanche path, just as Beckey's book mentions, and proceeded up the Chimney Creek drainage to our base camp. There is a climber's trail that begins at an obvious logjam that provides an excellent creek crossing. It is faint to start, but becomes more well-defined. Beckey describes the climber's trail as 200 yards into the forest from the avalanche slope; however, we found that the trail is only about 20 yards inside the forest, adjacent to the avalanche path. It is marked in places with orange flagging.
Instead of traversing leftward along the main bench, we decided to continue upwards along the small stream, and found an excellent bivy site atop a rock outcrop that looks down on the waterfalls, and up at the summits of Chimney Rock. The immensity of Chimney Rock's main peak is belied by the foreshortening effect, and we were drawn into the possibilities.
Sunday dawned cloudless, with the promise of good weather. Since I was feeling the initial energy drain of an impending summer cold, my partner thankfully decided to let me sleep past our usual 5:00 wake-up call. Rested, we hit the approach at 8:30-- not exactly an alpine start.
There are three ways to access the upper Chimney Glacier from the snow slope below: the icefall, the rock band, and a snow tongue to the left of the rock band. The icefall was beautiful blue glacier ice, but we didn't have our ice protection, so we decided to come back for that another time. A deep bergschrund on the snow tongue appeared to block easy access, so we chose the grungy middle gully of the rock band. It wasn't glamorous, but it worked.
The moat at the base of our East Face route was deep and seemingly impenetrable, but snow blocks that had collapsed into the left side formed a ""ramp"" down into the moat that provided easy access to the rock. The route is tricky to start, involving several leads of wet, slippery 4th class scrambling on the face to the left of the main gully. But after about three pitches, a system of ledges (some very wide) led to below the notch. The route is well protected using stoppers and slings. We arrived at the notch about 1:00 pm, with 600 vertical feet of climbing behind us. With an additional 400 vertical feet to the summit, we decided we didn't have the time to reach the Main Peak summit and safely descend, so we traversed across a series of ledges to the South Peak, which is a worthy summit in its own right. Standing atop the small pinnacle, we took in the view of Rainier, the Stuart range, the Olympics, and other notable peaks.
It took us about five hours from base camp to reach the summit of the South Peak, whereas it took us only three hours to descend from the summit to base camp. We were able to easily spot the ledges on the descent, and rappel over some of the steeper sections using one rope. From base camp, it was another three hours to the parking lot, at a brisk pace. The light-colored sand on the trail provided a nice contrast that stood out well during our dusk retreat.
We'll be back... Life is great! - The MounTAIN Woman