West McMillan Spire - West Ridge, September 2004
After not having climbed anything of significance together for most of the summer, Tom and I finally paired up for what would be our first venture into the Southern Pickets. Though the West Ridge of West McMillan Spire isn't much of a technical mountaineering objective, this is one climb that must be appreciated for what it is - namely, a quick and dirty (relatively speaking) scramble to the top of a remote summit in the spectacular and seldom visited wild and untamed Picket Range. To say that the summit views were anything other than outstanding would be sacrilege.
Yet another Beckey first ascent (Fred and Helmy), the approach to West McMillan Spire (WMS) is a real doozie. Starting at a surprisingly low 600ft, the first 4 miles of easy, mostly flat trail (actually an abandoned logging road) might lull the unsuspecting climber into thinking that the approach is a breeze. The deceivingly up-close glimpses of the Chopping Block and WMS from near the trailhead would also appear to support this notion. Only when one begins the brutally steep grind up into Terror Basin - from trail/road-end at 1700ft to roughly 5000ft, does an appreciation for climbing in The Pickets really hit home. Fortunately, since publication of Jim Nelson's Selected Climbs v.1 book, WMS has increased in popularity such that the notoriously thick brush (another Picket staple) has surrendered a viable, if not masochistic climber's path up out of the Goodell Creek Valley. Whereas parties once took 3, maybe 4, days for this climb, WMS can easily be completed in a day-and-a-half today. That being said, both Tom and I scoff at Eric Hoffman's assertion that this climb can be done in just one day from the trailhead...well, perhaps if your name is Dan Howitt. But, I digress... (more...)
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