Tuesday, April 17, 2012

First Ascent: Wright-Pond Route

The Cascades, our home range in Washington, have incredible first ascent potential. During the last few years, I've had the fortune to be able to sneak a few new lines in in between guiding with AAI. One of them was the "Wright-Pond Route" on the Cutthroat Creek Crag, at Washington Pass.

My friend Chris Wright guides a lot, too, which made it pretty hard to make plans. In the summer of 2009, Chris was training for an AMGA course and I had a few day off. I showed up in Mazama and we packed the bags for a new route, on a virgin cliff that we later named the Cutthroat Creek Crag. The cliff itself is the first chunk of rock that you pass on the way to Washington Pass from Mazama. It's a clean piece of granite with with high-quality granite cracks all around. Its low elevation, however, meant that there was ample vegetation in the cracks, which took a lot of work to clean out. We did the first ascent of the Wright-Pond Route in 2009. We bolted only anchors on the first ascent, but returned the following day to clean the cracks, put a few protection bolts to help some runouts, and add a bolted variation to pitch 2. We were going to give it a go that second day, but it started raining. I had to guide the next day, so we returned a short year later and climbed the Wright-Pond Route.

The Cutthroad Creek Crag, with the Wright-Pond Route (III 5.11-)

We did the ascent "ground up," which means that we did not rappel the route first to inspect or equip the climb. We started from the bottom and went to the top. We brought Chris's power drill to bolt anchors on the way up. The next day, we rap-bolted and cleaned the pitch 2 variation and add protection bolts to pitches one and three.

The author leading the first pitch of the climb. This pitch is a beauty!

Chris, drilling the pitch 1 anchor.

All in all, this climb was a true pleasure. Each of the first three pitches is challenging, technical, and has high-quality climbing on clean granite. (Well, it's clean now). We hope that more people go and check out this crag, as its lower elevation often has better weather than the Spires or Silverstar, and has a mellow one-hour approach. There are numerous other cracks and faces that can be established without too much engineering or gardening.

The Cutthroat Creek Crag, from the approach. This angle definitely shows the off-vertical angle of the cliff.

Here's a pitch-by-pitch breakdown of the climb:

P1: 5.11 a/b, 55m. Begin climbing the obvious, left-facing arch. It seams up right before the crux. Clip the bolt, and move left to a handsome right-facing corner and up to the anchor. A bold, but not dangerous lead.

P2: 5.10 b/c, 50m. Head up bolts up clean granite up techy and fun climbing. Exit toward a clean, shallow, right-facing corner and anchor.

P3: 5.10a, 50m. Head up obvious right-facing corner until it closes out. Go past small roof and into a left-facing corner with a nice crack. Belay at tree ledge.

P4: 5.8, 45m. Climb blocky corner/chimney past tree. Go up a slab to a left-facing corner with a hidden hand/fist crack that leads to slabs. A tree with rappel slings is on the left.

Descent: Rappel the route with two 60m ropes. There are bolted anchors equipped for rappels.

Rack: Doubles to #3 Camalot, emphasis on small cams and wires. RPs useful.

Chris leading the original pitch 2. The new version goes further to the right.

If you want any more beta or pictures, feel free to drop a line. I would love to see someone else climb this route or another on the cliff!

--Mike Pond, instructor and guide.

1 comment:

Andrew Yasso said...


What an awesome looking route! How much more potential do you see on this crag? Anything a little easier on there?