Sherpa Peak - West Ridge, August 2002
Admittedly, I wasn't too awfully enthusiastic about climbing Sherpa Peak. I'm not sure what the reason was. Perhaps I felt I had spent enough time in the general area or I thought it wasn't a worthy endeavor. Either way, I only agreed to climb Sherpa with Tom and his father Dan so that I could ensure Tom's company for another attempt on Mt. Shuksan the following day. In the end, despite the long 16hr day, the route exceeded my expectations and I'm happy to have climbed this unique Cascade summit.
Starting around 5:00am from the parking area, we maintained what I consider a blistering pace up to the boulder field below the West Ridge notch. Dan and Tom rest in the early morning sunshine. We scrambled up the 3rd/4th class terrain on the lower ridge, past several rap/sling stations until we reached a fairly obvious ledge. We decided to belay each other from this point on.
We climbed two pitches of mostly low fifth class rock before reaching the large flat ridge top. We walked over the base of the next pitch and debated as to whether the route went up the north or south side of the face. The south side seemed somewhat consistent with the various route descriptions I had read. It looked like fairly simple chimney moves up to a bit of a roof. Could this be the "cave" that I had read about? Well, the "cave" move ended up being the crux of the entire climb for us. With nothing for feet I managed to reach high and do a big pull-up to a tiny ledge from which I had to crouch and stem right into another chimney and work my way to the belay ledge a short distance above. Tom climbed past the crux with relative ease, incorporating his patented outward facing "spider" move and though Dan (pictured here) struggled to get up the crux with his hiking boots he nevertheless pulled it off with the odd grunt here and there.
The final pitch involved a short section of easier chimney climbing before reaching the summit. Sherpa Balanced Rock stood ready for take-off. Tom entertained the thought of going for the top of Sherpa Balanced Rock. Dan and I weren't into it though. Tom and I scrambled over the exposed summit ridge to sign the summit register. There were entries that went back to the early 80's if I recall correctly and there were only about two other parties that had climbed the route this year. Dan contemplates whether or not he's "too old for this shit"...I think not!
We hung out on the summit, dreading the thought of the lengthy trip back down. We rapped the route, following obvious rap stations back down to the notch. The trek back to the car was gruelling and the 1200ft elevation gain back up to Long's Pass just added insult to injury. I switched into Tom's running shoes and ran down from Long's Pass making the necessary short cuts to avoid the pointless switchbacks. We reached the parking area shortly before dark, myself happy not to be tasked with having to drive us back to Seattle.
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