Chair Peak - North Face

Chris (C) and Dave (D) climb the face.

The North Face of Chair peak is probably the last place in the backcountry that you'll have a lonely mountain to yourself on a sunny Saturday. But none the less, Chris Turchin and I left the upper Alpental Parking lot at about 6:00 am to try and be the first. As usual, no such luck. One party was just leaving when we pulled up, and one camped in the basin by source lake! Not detered, we hiked the usual few miles and about 2000 feet up to the basin under Chair. Begining under the cloud deck is always nice because if you can't see where you want to be, you don't want to get there so bad. This was one of those days.

When we arrived at the Ridge just before the NE Buttress we were 2nd in line for the face. The winds were very high, but now that we were above the sea of clouds, it didn't make much difference. We roped up on the maybe leeward side of the ridge, but it seemed as though the wind was coming from everywhere! Chris and I set off towards the face with too much crap (gear) hanging off of us. The snow was very stable which is a must on this route due to the very steep and avalanche prone slopes that need to be crossed. Chris descided to lead the 1st pitch, and went up to look at a varriation to the left of the standard route. I thought it looked sketchy, and it was! So we climbed up to the nice fixed anchor just to the right of the first ice pitch. Chris Lead off of the belay and quickly dispatched the 70-80 degree pitch. He only stopped climbing when the spindrift hurricanes turned everything to frigid white, and I thought he was hard core! ha! :)

As I climbed up to Chris I noticed that his only belay was his two shafts and a nasty old ring angle probably pounded into dirt. However, I was satisfied by the belay when he told me about the party ahead of us who made an anchor off of two ice screws placed in the mushy snow. whoa! So I lead off on a long 50 degree pitch of mixed ice and snow that gave decent ice screw protection. We ran the 60 meter rope out, started simu-climbing and climbed until I ran out of slings at a large tree belay. Chris lead the next pitch that skirts a left facing wall and was mostly snow with a few short ice sections. This pitch leads up to the cornice where there are two options. Either walk through the small moat around to the west side of the mountain, and climb easy slopes up and right to the summit, OR. For those who want to give the route a bit a of challenge, from the cornice belay go right on 5.5 ish rock up to the top of a small ridge. Turn left and climb the last bits to the summit. Tunnel left under the cornice to the summit! The last bit looks sketchy, but it's all there! A few pitons are useful for this way, specifically a thicker bugaboo and a regular lost arrow. The summit was cold and windy, but the views were awesome. As with many days this winter, you can see everywhere. Views of Baker, Glacier, Stewart and Rainier were great. After eating our first food of the day (about 1pm) we started down for our first set of rappell anchors. Descend from the summit to the left, and cross the top of a gully to a patch of trees. Find slings and rapp into a South facing gully. Descend it to the notch where a HUGE fixed anchor is setup for the rapp into the East facing gully/chimney (standard route). You only need one rope to rapp this route because you can easily down climb most or all of the gully.

After a wild ride (glissade) down the basin under the east face, we put our tools away and headed back down to the trailhead. Still having a few hours of daylight left we scoped out the good looking waterfalls down by source lake. A great climb was capped off by a great soak in Chris's hot tub back home!