bones to pick
We had a bone to pick. No, actually, two bones to pick.
The first bone, Jess and I had twice failed to climb the upper Wy’east ridge this season, neither for great reasons. We climbed the Steel Cliffs South Face in February, which ended up being a much longer climb in the winter-like conditions than we expected. By the time we made it to the ridge, we were late, and overconfidently neglected to do much research for the upper ridge. We climbed the Devil’s Kitchen Headwall V2 later in March, this time armed with beta, but got caught in a powder hell and ultimately ran out of time. Both times made for long unpleasant walks down the Wy’east.
The second bone, last season, we “attempted” to climb the Flying Buttress after bailing off the DKH V1. In the spur of the moment and lacking proper perspective of the headwall, we went up the wrong gully that made for a much more involved climb that we ultimately had to rappel.
This time, we were dead set on not messing up this fairly moderate climb.
A quiet night
We spent the night at the Timberline Lodge, knowing they were having a rough season, we figured it would be a win-win for us and them. We’d get easy access and a good night’s sleep, and they would have a couple paying guests.
The walk up to the Devil’s Kitchen was typical, but quieter than usual. It had been an off-season, and with no headlamps around us, we turned ours off and allowed the full moon and clear skies to illuminate the way up. The snow conditions were extremely friendly, and even our waltz across the Devil’s Kitchen didn’t require its normal posthole hell like I had experienced literally every other time I had been here.
Headwall, drama free
The Devil’s Kitchen Headwall had proven to us to never assume anything about it. From shitty mixed terrain, to brittle rhyme, to impossibly steep powder hell. Looking up, the conditions looked good and the snow felt great underfoot. I thoroughly believe that even if conditions are good, simulclimbing is safer than soloing. We roped up.
As we began to make our way up the chute, the climbing stayed drama free. It was exactly what it looked like from below, fun and cruiser. We could see a trio of climbers below us in the distance below looking up at us. Below I knew it, I could feel the sun cresting over the ridge above. A few kicks later, looking over my left shoulder I could see the Wy’east ridge to the summit soaring up above us. “Woahhhhhh, Jess, this is beautiful! When you get up here look over your left shoulder!”
Finishing it off
As I pulled up on the ridge It was only 7am or so, I felt good about that time. Armed with 4 photos of the ridge on my phone and a tiny photocopy of a Mullee map in my pocket, we approached the Wy’east crux section with confidence. Not really certain what to expect of the crux, Jess put me on belay. The ridge was in great condition No sketch, no downclimb, and again, no drama. The day was clear, making for a gorgeous view on both sides of the ridge, but it also meant for softening snow underfoot. We moved quick, and soon enough found ourselves back on walking terrain, staring towards the summit about 100 meters away.
Overall, this climb was solid type-1 fun and went by quick. We nailed it in perfect conditions during an unlikely time. We managed to pick the two bones we came in with, and we had a lot of fun doing it!