|Psyched for the choss, or whatever we'd find.|
"Nice Dogging Bro!"
"I'm freeclimbing!" replied Sol, the stress evident in his reply.
Of course I hadn't meant to imply he was hanging on the rope. Sol was definitely going for it, onsight and free. Halfway through Sol's 45 minute lead up a pitch on our new route in the North Cascades, we had gone through elaborate contortions to fetch and tag him up our #6 camalot, and he was finally and safely offwidthing into what we hoped would be a belay cave. It was sweet vindication of our FA dreams after our earlier project was revealed as a festering, yet vertical, heap of orange gravel. On this lead I hadn't meant to imply that Sol was "dogging" or hanging on the rope, but rather that he was being an enthusiastic "Choss Dog", an alpinist happy to embrace the occasional creaky, crunchy, and crumbling stone. Today we were sending, and on varnished golden granite, but the day before we had bailed off an unarguably chossy alpine project.
After several years of looking at the vertical wall of Tower Mountain's NE Face, and one climb of the peak's SE Ridge, I was joined by Sol Wertkin and Scott Bennett for a serious attempt on the wall. "Tower Mountain" is English for "Cerro Torre" and we hadn't brought our compressor. I think that spelled trouble from the start. Despite an appearance and scale eerily similar Long's Peak's "Diamond", Tower turned out to be an amazing, isolated, BASE-jumpable wall of crackless garbage and horizontal bands.
Upon realizing how close we were to the vertical kitty litter of Mt. Hardy, Sol started laughing and groaning. He knew we'd have to do some serious choss dogging to get up this thing.
Note Sol's groan of non-thusiasm at the end of the video. That basically sums up the face.
After walking under the face on the North Cascades' version of Broadway Ledge, we picked one general line where the rock was somewhat less "cereal-esque". But after 40 minutes and 40' of gain, Scott hit the dead end. Sol and I hadn't even been willing to step off the ledge. And recon from left and right showed that even this best rock was still largely blank, and largely overhanging.
The August ski run on the hike back to our bivy was among the trip's highlights.
We gave up and hiked the 9ish miles back to Hwy 20. This made something like 38 miles and .5 pitches of climbing in the prior 3 days for each Scott and I, but that is just part of the mystery of checking out these hidden corners of the Cascades. Back at Washington Pass, we busted out the food, maps, and guidebooks, and started planning the next day's adventure, confident that splitter stone awaited those who endured a little choss to find it.