Three-Man Rush

Tom, Todd, and I headed far along Crane Mountain’s Southeast flank for a sending day. And send we did…


On my last walk up to the Northeast Cascade, I took some time to look around. This year’s decent ice and low snowcover (right now) make it easy to spot potential ice routes, and I saw plenty during that walk. With this weekend’s impending storm promising piles of fluff, I got antsy to put some of that potential in the books. With no calls this morning, I was free to put legs on that energy. Tom was in, Ben might be in, and so too might Todd. A foursome would be wonderful, I thought, and began packing gear.

Three White Rappers

We didn’t get four, in fact by 10am only Tom had arrived. We packed up and hustled out, assuming it would be just us. Despite their tempting looks, we scurried past the Waterfall Wall and the Northeast Cascade, heading directly to what I thought would be the best, most-likely prospect. Tom and I had explored the neighboring Caterpillar Cliff late last autumn, and used a wet corner system to rappel down after doing so. True to form, that dampness makes for plentiful ice in the winter.


I was already setting out when we heard the voice of one crying in the wilderness nearby. Todd came upslope to join us, having arrived at my house a bit after we left. He brought a rope along, so now we could all get in on the FA.


Tom came scurrying up the route soon after I reached a good belay tree. He untied and went wandering over toward the Caterpillar Cliff to see if any ice lay in the deep crevice.


Todd cleaned the gear, and soon stood with me in the sunshine. We’d all made speedy ascents, so there was plenty of time for more. We’d planned earlier to TR the 50′ vertical ice left of our route, but I was psyched to find more fresh ice.


We rappelled to our gear and, while Tom and Todd grabbed a snack, I hacked my way northward farther. I wanted a look at Caterpillar Cliff’s north side to see what was there. Coming around the low corner and walking up along the gently overhanging, orange face, I could see ice in the steep corner at its top, but far above that, I saw a lot of ice. A small outcrop blocked my view of the lower slopes, so I kept walking up and right. Sure enough, that fat ice flowed down to my feet around the bend of that rock. Bingo.


By the time Todd and Tom got around the Caterpillar Cliff, I was tied in and up the first few meters. The ice swept up, through a screen of oak brush, then opened up into a wide swathe of blue. Clambering up onto the expanse, I realized it was pretty low angle. Not quite easy enough to switch to piolet cane, but a bit awkward en traction. Oh well, I could see steeper ice ahead, and everywhere was fat enough for screws – real screws, not stubbies – so it was great to be there.


Todd had only a few minutes left before having to run, so he tied in and climbed immediately. He noticed the low-angle stretch, but livened up getting through the vertical bit at the top.


Soon he was posing for the obligatory top-out shot, and almost as rapidly waving good-bye as I lowered him. He reached the bottom and packed as Tom tied in for his turn. He too made a quick show of reaching the top, despite having chilled a bit as he waited. Todd had sprung a leak in the flow as he punched his way up, and I noticed the rope ran right through the dribble. The rope was getting frosted.


We didn’t hang out long. The sun was sneaking behind the mountain and a stiff breeze had begun. It would take a couple rappels to get down, and with an ice-coated rope, it would take awhile to work it through the belay devices.


Tom was ready to call it a day, so we began walking south. Peering up at those easy flows between our first send of the day and Northeast Cascade. I didn’t want the upcoming snow to hide it for another season, so I decided to climb it before heading out.


This turned out to be one of the nicer climbs of the day. Only about 100′ high, and no view to speak of, but solid, consistent grade 2 ice. Only a short speck of easy the entire way, uncloaked by snow, it’s recommended. It’s called Gem’n’I.

Done with that, I rappelled, and decided to look at the line farther left. Hard to say – the beginning looked great, but I couldn’t see past it. Onward!


I headed up, and found that after 25′, the line eased off into a snowy ramp. A bit lengthier flow lay above, so I kept going. Once again, slightly interesting ice petered out quickly, and more snow ramp…but I saw more ice again above that. That was interesting; but short once again. Finally, above that I saw no more compelling ice to chase – and it was getting late. This route was the ugly sibling of the day, but at 300′, the longest. I wouldn’t promote it as a major addition to Crane’s ice list, but at least it was done. I dubbed it, simply, Ramps.


I rappelled, packed up, and headed home. The sun sank beside me as I trudged wearily home.

New Routes!
Described (climber’s) left to right, which is also south to north

Ramps WI2 300′
Location: About 100 meters right of Northeast Cascade, at a shallow gully right of a large, right-facing corner system running rightward up the mountain.
Climb up the best looking ice until it peters out, then continue up the snow ramp to belay at any handy tree. Head up to another patch of ice. Climb that to another snow gully, and above that, a final, interesting bit of ice, climbing right along its base to reach an easy ramp heading up to thinner ice before topping out right of a clump of hemlocks.

Gem’n’I WI2 105′
Location: 100′ right of Ramps; the flow running up along the left edge of a rock rib.
Climb up flow to the top. Rappel off trees, or work down and (skier’s) right.

Three White Rappers WI 3- 115′
Location: 200 meters right of Northeast Cascade, in the corner formed by a giant right-facing corner system running up the mountainside. Parties must negotiate the left edge of a talus field of boulders in order to reach the base of this route.
Climb an iced ramp with a white birch at its base to a large ledge with an oak tree (possible belay) beneath a 50′ high vertical wall. Climb up along the corner, working right to get around a curtain, up a steep slab to a final steep bit before topping out on another large, sloping ledge. Descend via rappel.
Note: the vertical face would make great top-roping, and can be easily reached from the top of this route.
FA: 07 Feb 2013 Jay Harrison, Tom Lane, & Todd Paris

Whiteshade WI3+ 210′
: 200 meters right of TWR, around the bend of Caterpillar Cliff, which is the overhanging, orange cliff sitting high above the talus pile. This is approximately 200 meters left of Leap of Faith. Parties must negotiate the talus field to reach this route. This is best done by either a scramble directly up toward the corner of Caterpillar Cliff, or by walking up along the field’s northern edge (this latter approach starts at the same point as the one for LoF).
Climb up and left toward a gap in a screen of oak saplings, onto a steep field of fat ice. Climb up to a final headwall of near vertical, chandeliered ice and belay in the trees. Descend via two rappels, going (skier’s) right.
FA: 07 Feb 2013 Jay Harrison, Todd Paris, & Tom Lane

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