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Ascent of Early Morning Spire on 2006-09-02

Climber: Milda Tautvydas

Others in Party:David Salinger
Date:Saturday, September 2, 2006
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Early Morning Spire
    Location:USA-Washington
    Elevation:8200 ft / 2499 m

Ascent Trip Report

2006-09-02 Early Morning Spire first ascent in 1971 by Richard Emerson and Tom Hornbein. We climbed EMS, SW face route in September 2006, from a high camp at the col between Dorado Needle-Glacier Watcher peak Pt. 8386’. We did the route as per the descriptions and photos in Jim Nelson's book, Selected Climbs in the North Cascades, climb #46 page 174. On our trip, the glaciers were bullet proof on south and west facing aspects. There was new snow on everything north facing (it had snowed in September!). The snow on the south facing glaciers and the alpine rock had melted off. On the glaciers, nothing was left but bare, rock-hard ice. The short, but steep ice section up to the start of the rock climb on EMS SW face route was bulletproof. We front pointed up in silence and with great focus, doing all we could to ensure that there would be no falls! When we got on the rock, we traversed on a ledge to our right in search of the start crack. When we found it, the route was clear the rest of the way. The summit was covered in snow, as was the north ridge descent. It was difficult to find the rappel slings. We did a combination of downclimbs and rappels to reach the snow. Note that we mostly downclimbed; I do not recall how many rappels we did to reach the snow; but likely two at most. Our last rappel was into a deep moat. To get out, Dave took my ice ax and two tooled out of the moat, then he slid both axes down to me so I could do the same. We then walked north a short way to reach the col above the dirty, wet gully that descends to the small glacier west of Dorado Needle and east of EMS's south ridge. This gully is awful. It is full of very large, loose rocks in the late season, and for us it was wet from snow melt. There is much rock fall hazard, and risk of damaging a rope in this rotten trough. We then descended the small glacier until we got to an elevation where we could contour southerly to get to the glacier that we could ascend easterly out of the Marble Creek Cirque and back to our camp at the Dorado Needle-Glacier Watcher Pt. 8386’ col. Steel crampons required in late season.

A side story to this trip is that I accidentally left my ice ax at the top of the final rappel gully (the dirty gully). I was bummed because we still had an icy glacier to descend, and another icy glacier to ascend back to our high camp. The dirty gully was in such awful shape, it was not reversible (climbable),and we didn't have time to mess around, so I left my ice ax there. Dave insisted that I use his ax to get back to camp, if not just for something to lean on (too icy to self-arrest anyway!). It wasn't easy for me to accept that, but there was no time to argue, so I thankfully used his ax, and he used none. At camp at the col that night, two climbers showed up. One was Mark Shipman of Wenatchee. I told Mark that I had left my ax above the final descent gully. I don't recall if I asked him to get it for me, but holy smokes, he retrieved it after his climb, and gave it to his son to deliver it to our front door in Seattle (his son was a UW student at the time!). Thank you, Mark, and son! I still have that ax, and still use it, in 2020! I don't recall how he got my address (no cell phones back then). We ran into Mark two more times in the mountains after that: once while we were climbing the North Ridge of Stuart; and another time, after we climbed Bonanza. On the Bonanza trip, Dave and I stayed an extra night at a high camp on the col above Holden Lake, without food for dinner, and Mark gave us a full bag of Turkey Jerky to get us through the night. Dave and I were on our "Bonanza Extravaganza" trip, when we climbed Bonanza, Martin, Fernow, Copper, Flora, Tupshin, and Devore in one big push. To keep our packs reasonable, we were light on food.

A better way to return to the McAllister Glacier or the Dorado Needle col camp is to climb over the ridge north of point 8401, or climb the tower, then descend onto the McAllister glacier, and make an easy stroll on the McAllister Glacier (crevassed!) back to wherever you want to go from there.
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