Mount Triumph - Northeast Ridge, September 2003
It was potentially the last fair-weather weekend of Autumn and therefore a prime opportunity for a remote yet classic alpine rock climb. Long a sought-after goal of ours, Paul, Eric and I made plans to finally climb Mount Triumph's spectacular Northeast Ridge. We left Seattle around 9:45 and started up the Thornton Lake Trail around 1pm. About 4 miles of easy trail hiking (first two miles being on an overgrown road and therefore bike friendly) brought us to the Thornton Lakes overlook and the first good photo opportunity (the col, our camp and upper third of the Northeast Ridge clearly visible in front of us). The profile of Mount Triumph's Northeast Ridge, even from this distance, made me nervous. But, that would be tomorrow's problem. For now, we had about 500 feet of hard-earned elevation to loose, before having to make it all back up again.
From the overlook, the trail descends 500ft down to the lake, skirting the left edge of the first lake, crossing the outlet between the first and second lake and diving in for a final helping of brush on the right side of the second lake. We hiked another brutally hot 800 feet on grass, talus and scree to bivy sites at the col (barely enough flat-space for my 2-man tent). It was warm that night, but a fierce wind howled through the col and I feared the tent would get blown away with us in it. Consequently, I enjoyed very little sleep, despite the Oxycodone and Canadian Club. We left camp around 6:30 the next morning, after I wolfed down a packet of oatmeal Eric was generous enough to share with me. The glacier has receded significantly and so we traversed low-angle, polished slabs, with only one crossing of hard/icy snow (crampons/axe required). It seemed wise to hurry across the slabs; passing around big blocks of ice that had fallen from above. Getting creamed by one of those blocks would definitely ruin your day! At other end of the basin (45 min from col), we scrambled up a shallow, mostly 3rd class gully (right-trending), then followed ledges of bright red/orange rock and grass back left up to a small notch in the ridge (easier than it looks from afar). (more...)
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