Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Route Profile - Inspiration Peak's East Ridge

The East Ridge of Inspiration Peak is another of the endless first ascent gems picked off by Fred Beckey. Many consider it to be both one of the best rock routes in the Picket Range, a sub-range of Washington's Cascades, as well as one of the more dramatic summits in North America.

Inspiration Peak is the "M" shape peak at center.
The East Ridge is the right-hand skyline.

The Picket Range is infamous and for a good reason. The approaches are long, steep and involve substantial, ahem, "cross country travel" (read gnarly bushwacking) and there are no easy routes to any summit. But, as most Cascade climbers often tell themselves, the harder the work the greater the reward. I am still not sure there is truth in that, but we have to justify the insanity somehow.

Andy Niskanen approaching Inspiration Peak in Terror Basin.

Although the first ascent was done in a blitz, ahead of it's time for its vision and tactics, most parties climb the East Ridge of Inspiration in a three day weekend. One day for the approach, one day for the climb, and one day to lick your wounds...I mean descend.

Over the last few years the standard approach into the southern part of the Picket Range has become more established. Most of the year there is a fairly well defined climber's track into the Terror Basin which is where most parties camp for the East Ridge. From Terror Basin, the final approach is across glacier scoured slabs and eventually onto the Terror Glacier below the South Face of Inspiration.

Resting weary bones after a long approach into Terror
Basin with the southern Pickets in the distance.

The route actually starts at the base of the south face before you gain a col and the start of the East Ridge proper. Once you are established on the ridge, the exposure is breathtaking, and the climbing is on incredibly sound rock. There are two highlights to the route: a perfect 5.9 handcrack and the final traverse across the summit ridge.

From the tiny summit, you can see the entire Pickett Range and most of the North Cascades with immense drops on every side of your airy perch. The descent is made mostly by rappelling down the West Ridge, a much lower quality route.

On the Terror Glacier below Inspiration Peak on summit day.

For climbers looking for a less technical objective deep in the heart of the Cascades, West McMillan Spire is right next door and it's West Ridge is a classic class 4 scramble.

If remote adventures in wild settings and sharp summits interest you, consider joining us for a technical route route or scramble in the Pickett Range this summer.

Coley Gentzel
Program Coordinator and Guide, AAI

Leading the spectacular hand crack below the summit ridge.

Just below the summit of Inspiration Peak.

Andy Niskanen paying tribute to David Hasselhof on the summit of Inspiration.

Inspiration and the southern Pickett's from Terror Basin.

Sunset and the Chopping Block from Terror Basin.

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