Sunday, August 13, 2017

Del Campo Peak (7/29/17)

Back to our North Cascades climbing trip:

We drove north Friday morning (7/28) and hiked in to Foggy Lake. After sleeping in a bit Saturday, we climbed Gothic Peak above the lake. We returned to camp and hung out for a while, soaking in the beauty and enjoying the show unfolding around us.

Gothic Basin is apparently a very popular day hike. While we drove for hours and hours to get there, it's fairly close to Seattle - more like us Portlanders driving to the Gorge. The day brought dozens of visitors - many who decided to jump in the frozen lake! This seemed like a really bad idea to us, but no one drowned, so I guess it was OK.

From camp, we watched many parties approach Gothic Peak and turn around at the base of the summit block. It looked like we were the only ones who actually summitted that day!

Earlier, from Gothic Peak, we saw a climbing party crossing the snowfield below the Del Campo summit block. And we could see the hidden-from-below gully route. And then from camp, we saw a few more climbers on Del Campo. We used the new information to verify what we thought was the route.
Del Campo from Gothic Peak summit

The route takes you up the ridge on the right, up the top snowfield
and then up the shadowy gully to the right of the summit.
From the notch, scramble up the back side of the summit block.

We still had lots of daylight, and Gothic was quicker than we'd anticipated, so we decided to pack up again and head up Del Campo. Might as well get 'er done :)

The approach is short but very steep, gaining 1,400 feet in less than a mile. The top section is vertical scrambling. I don't have photos of the approach because I was busy with ice ax and then all hands and feet!

A group of four was slowly coming down the gully when we arrived. We hopped off the snow and looked for the obvious route up the rock. Unlike Gothic, there were no kairns, and it was difficult to know the best way up. The rock was fairly solid and blocky, providing good hand and foot holds as we made our way.

The route description Brad had said that there was a third-class ascent, and that if you found yourself in fourth-class rock, you were off course. 

(Third-class: "steep scrambling with exposure, ropes are needed for inexperienced people. An unroped fall on 3rd-class terrain would likely be fatal." Fourth-class: "steeper scrambling on small holds, ropes are needed for most people, but an experienced climber would normally climb an entire rope length without intermediate protection, then set an anchor and belay other climbers up. Inexperienced people may not be skilled enough to ascend even when belayed from above.") Source: ASCA 

BUT... we saw nothing that looked like third-class. I was growing less comfortable with the exposure, partly because I was tired and partly because it was getting to my head. Climbing is very physical and very mental. I was working hard to keep my mental strength as the summit neared.

Looking back now at other information, I see a lot of descriptions calling this class 3-4. That's definitely how we would classify it!

Again - no pictures because my hands were very busy.

We finally reached the summit and found a Seattle-area couple on top, celebrating a birthday. I sat clinging to the rocks, and as soon as they left, I lost it. I freaked out, doubting my ability to descend the nearly vertical, fourth-class rock below.

Brad signed us in the summit register, then we took a few photos.
The view was much the same as from Gothic across the lake.

Gothic is the peak in the center of the photo below (Rainier barely visible on the left horizon):
Foggy Lake, 1,400 feet below. We could see our tent :)

Despite the awesome weather, we decided that staying on top would only add to my descent anxiety. Brad down climbed ahead of me and spotted me on the really tricky moves. He was incredibly supportive and did exactly what I needed! (He also felt bad for getting me in a bit over my head)

I was very glad for my rock-climbing experience! I couldn't imagine being a newbie and deciding to climb something like this. There were some hard moves that I handled well, despite my brain leaving me for a while.

I'm embarrassed that I freaked out. BUT, I'm also really glad that I was able to overcome my fear and prove to myself that I can handle this stuff - the physical and the mental part. Each climbing experience is a learning and growing experience.

The birthday couple was slower on the descent, and we arrived together at the snow. The groups before us glissaded, so we decided to give it a try. The snow was steep but sloppy by that time of day. And we were prepared with ice axes. We did put our zip-legs back on to keep the snow out of our crotches (been there - very cold!)

It was short but fun - always easier and more fun to slide down the snow :)

The rest of the descent was a relative breeze. It's amazing how my body immediately relaxes after the stress.

Gear: We both used trekking poles, ice axes and climbing helmets. We again carried crampons but did not need them in the soft snow.

It was very fun to be among a small handful of people who summitted Del Campo that day!

Tired from a long day with two summits, we ate dinner and went to sleep. Then about 2 am, we got up to try and photograph the amazing stars. We didn't get any good pictures, but it was sure beautiful! (and that flash was REALLY bright!)
Because we'd already tagged both peaks, we decided to hike out Sunday and head home. The roughness of the approach trail - and it was now in the sun - made for a long, hot hike back to the car. But still full of beauty!
It was crazy how many people (mostly day hikers) were going up as we were hiking out. We were glad to be leaving - too crowded for us!

Two very tired, happy climbers :)

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