Ascent of Mount Thomson on 2014-07-05

Climber: Evan Battaglia

Date:Saturday, July 5, 2014
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Mount Thomson
    Elevation:6554 ft / 1997 m

Ascent Trip Report

Left the TH at about 6:30am. Followed the PCT over a few snowpatches to the Katwalk. Here I changed into boots and the rest of the approach was mostly in trailless snow. Reached Bumblebee Basin and around 11:00 or 11:30.

From here we traversed and climbed up steep snow to the rightmost notch on the west ridge (just to the right of the small triangle shape on the ridge), scrambling up a loose gully. I heard a loud slide below as Alex said a rock "larger than him" dislodged. We followed the gully around to the left to reach the ridgeline. A 30ft traverse back to the right brought us to our first pitch directly on the ridge, at about 1pm.

My climbing partner, Alex, led the 1st, 3rd, and 4th pitches. I had some trouble on the 2nd pitch (I'm not used to leading with a pack) but got up it after leaving my pack for Alex to bring up. Rope drag forced me to stop the pitch early, however, so I think we took a different slightly harder route for the 4th pitch (nonetheless, it was my favorite pitch). I am not a fan of the rock here. It is somewhat loose and covered in lichens. After the 4th pitch we walked down the false summit to a notch and I led the 5th, last pitch, which was probably unnecessary/scramblable. Reached the summit around 5pm. However, the real challenges lay ahead.

Following the ridge down we downclimbed a short 4th class section (I'd recommend rappelling) and continued down the ridge. A little further down was another sketchy downclimb, one of my scarier moments on the trip. Neither one of us had researched in detail the descent route and I forgot my route description, so we ended up trying to leave the ridge to the right (south) too early. We rappelled from existing rap rings from a questionable dead tree, which ended up getting us essentially nowhere. Still descending the south side of the ridge, I eventually noticed it would be easier to descend the north side and later cross back over to the south side. On the north side I found a snow slope. Meanwhile, I heard a slide as Alex fell a few feet when holds gave way on the loose face. He bruised his calf but was otherwise OK.

On the snow on the north side of the ridge, at times I quickly plunge-stepped and at times I descended by slow self-belaying, but I was still thankful to be off the loose rock. Soon we reached a steep snow-filled gully. I scrambled a highpoint just past the gully and could see that had we followed the south face further we would have been stopped by steep cliffs. The gully seemed like it might work, so Alex descended it by climbing by and under the moat and down onto loose wet rock. He reported that the gully cliffed out but he found a large boulder to rappel off of and from there the rest of the descent should be easier (on snow). Meanwhile, I used Alex's phone to look at a GPS track from Peakbagger and found that the route descended the east ridge from a notch. I correctly guessed that this notch was a little further along down the ridge, but Alex wanted to rappel down from the gully, so against my better judgment I followed him.

The rappel was a free rappel by an overhanging part of the gully (not sure how high, but the 60m rope was plenty). Beneath we also found water which we were very much in need of. As we prepared to descend the steep snow, rocks fell from the gully above. A rock at least the size of a baseball landed squarely on my helmet, and another rock hit my right leg. The latter left a small bruise, but my head didn't feel a thing. Thank you helmet! Note to future climbers: do not take this gully!

We very slowly descended the steep snow (crampons probably would have made things easier), followed by an easy scree section. From here the East Ridge route through the notch was apparent. We followed snow down to the basin and up to Bumblebee Pass. On the descent from Bumblebee Pass to the PCT, Alex slipped on the snow and had to self-arrest. We followed the PCT with intermittent exposed snow patches back to Ridge Lake at about 10:00pm, where we got water and turned on our headlamps. From here to the Katwalk was almost all snow. I was worried about navigating in the dark, but simply following our footsteps worked well. After the Katwalk we cursed every snowpatch and uphill on the trail which we swore was not there on the way up. We reached the car just before 2am, very thankful to be back safely.

Summary Total Data
    Elevation Gain:3554 ft / 1083 m
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Snow on Ground, Exposed Scramble, Rock Climb, Snow Climb
    Gear Used:
Ice Axe, Rope
Ascent Statistics
    Elevation Gain:3554 ft / 1083 m
    Route:West Ridge
    Trailhead:3000 ft / 914 m
Descent Statistics

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