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Ascent of Carmine Peak on 2020-07-09

Climber: Lucas Lochner

Date:Thursday, July 9, 2020
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Carmine Peak
    Location:USA-Montana
    Elevation:8542 ft / 2603 m

Ascent Trip Report

class 3 via Northeast Ridge. The entire east face is one giant friction slab of sedimentary rock turned at a 35-45 degree angle to the east, very cool and made for interesting ascent. Definitely bring some boots with tread/soles that you trust for this route. Much of the east face was covered by a large snowfield, part of which had just released a wet slab avalanche in the few hours before my arriving (had not released yet when I snapped a photo of the face hours earlier at Upper Holland Lake), so I scrambled up the loose mess of a scree slope on the climber's right from the base of the east face, meeting the ridge at about 8000 fet. From here, it's pretty much a ridgewalk with serious exposure off the cliff on the northwest side in some sections, or staying on the uniform slab of smooth rock just below on the eastern side of the ridge. None of the moves themselves are technical really; in fact, you can probably climb most of this smooth surface up the last 400-500 feet to the summit standing straight up. But without traction this large face is extremely slick, and in my experience the angle of the slope is just barely low enough not to cause trouble; I think the precarious nature of using one massive friction slab and the risk of just one slip being very costly are enough to make this class 3. For the most part at least, there are plenty of features on the slab to make the majority of this an exposed walk-up, and the spookier parts come in just a few shorter sections of friction class 3. For the faint of heart, the exposure might seem pretty dizzying as well here. For every 20 foot stretch I arrived at that I questioned, however, the slope stays remarkably consistent, all the way to the top. About 15 feet short of the top, I had to make the only actual class 3 technical move off of the north side, to make a quick scramble across a little gully and up to the summit block, which is actually about 10-20 feet west of what you can see from below.

Another note, in addition to the avalanche in July (I guess the slickess of the smooth inclined surface doesnt adhere well to the snowpack once it gets water running beneath): on older maps, there is a trail shown running from Upper Holland Lake up to the saddle between Carmine and Little Carmine — this trail no longer exists and has been fully reclaimed by nature and effectively erased from history. I highly advise against trying to come up this way, unless you're into a thick bushwhack up steep terrain. I took this route on the return and regretted it. Most sections were just fine or even managable if unplesant, but I probably spend half the descent on just a few brutal 100-foot stretches where I couldn't see a thing, and the brush was crisscrossed by slick downfall and unstable terrain underneath. It may add a few miles, but the Holland Gordon Trail up to Gordon Pass and cross-country travel through open forest, beargrass and yellow avalanche lilies cost me a little more time and distance but was much more enjoyable and saved me the mental energy.

The Forest Service Website says 5 miles to Upper Holland, while the trail sign says 6 — I'll call it 5.5 each way, 2 more miles up to Gordon Pass, 2 more off trail from there to Carmine, and 2 on the descent and bushwhack back to Upper Holland. +4800 on the day, +300 that was only necessary due to some unsuccessful navigation experimenting.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:4792 ft / 1460 m
    Total Elevation Loss:4792 ft / 1459 m
    Round-Trip Distance:17 mi / 27.4 km
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:4742 ft / 1445 m
        Gain Breakdown:Net: 4392 ft / 1339 m; Extra: 350 ft / 106m
    Loss on way in:350 ft / 106 m
    Distance:9.5 mi / 15.3 km
    Route:Northeast Ridge via Gordon Pass
    Start Trailhead:4150 ft / 1264 m
Descent Statistics
    Loss on way out:4442 ft / 1353 m
        Loss Breakdown:Net: 4392 ft / 1339 m; Extra: 50 ft / 15m
    Gain on way out:50 ft / 15 m
    Distance:7.5 mi / 12.1 km
    End Trailhead:4150 ft / 1264 m



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