Saturday, September 3, 2011

Northeast Buttress of Chair Peak

Back in 2003 when I first moved to Seattle, Roanne and I made an attempt to climb Chair Peak. I only have a hazy memory of that outing, but it was poor weather and I remember being in a lot of fog and ending up on some other formation from which we looked across at Chair Peak during a break in the fog. Ever since that time I have been meaning to go back and climb it, as it is one of the sentinels of Snoqualmie Pass where we spend a lot of time skiing and climbing. My chance finally came at the start of September; on the first day of the Labour Day weekend we headed out to Snoqualmie Pass.

After parking at Alpental we headed up the Snow Lake trail which lived up to its reputation of being the busiest trail in a Washington wilderness area. As we hiked along the trail we had good views of Chair Peak basking in the sunshine:


We ascended on the trail to the Snow Lake divide, and then left the main trail to head along the divide towards Chair Peak. We started on a trail until it descended toward Source Lake, and then we struck out across talus fields and ascended toward the east face of Chair Peak. Here is Roanne heading up, starting to encounter some snow patches:

We were undecided on whether to climb the East Face which is apparently a 5.4, or the Northeast Buttress which is 4th class. We briefly scoped out the East Face, but since I am not a big fan of 5th class climbing on crappy rock with no immediately apparent gear placements, we continued on to the Northest Buttress and started our scramble. Here is Roanne on the shoulder of the buttress about to start heading up, with Snow Lake in the background:

The scrambling was pretty easy going until we got side tracked into heading straight up where we should have traversed left; at this point we deployed the rope briefly before reversing our tracks and getting back onto the standard scrambling route. It was fun climbing on mostly solid rock with a few nice and exposed sections. Before long we were popping over the top of the buttress and making our way onto the nicely shaped summit. Here is Roanne making the final moves to the top:

 And here I am celebrating finally reaching the summit of Chair Peak 8 years after my first attempt:

Most of the accounts that I had read recommended that climbers descend the Northeast Buttress that we had just climbed, and this was reinforced by the numerous rappel stations that we had passed on the way up. I am not a big fan of descending what I have just climbed, so we decided to try and descend one of the couloirs on the south side as I had read that this was the standard descent for winter climbs of the route. After a short scramble down some loose rock we reached the couloir and a few short rappels later we were back in scrambling terrain, heading past some big snow chunks that were slowly thawing in the shady couloir:

We headed down from here back to the talus field which we descended to a snow field where we had some fun glissading and dreaming of the coming ski season:

 We then headed back down Alpental Valley and made a beeline for the NBBG (North Bend Bar and Grill) where we enjoyed some delicious sweet potato fries, pints, and burgers before making our way back to Seattle.

No comments:

Post a Comment