<-- Map of summer 2017
     climbing roadtrip 
     (click to enlarge)

MYTHIC Peak (5187) (aka GREEN CREEK Wall) Route: Mythic Wall (5.10a, 900', 7p)

Category: Washington       Trip Report #256
Partner: Rebecca Madore
Rock Type: Dunite
Summit Elev: ~4,600 ft (top of route)

A really fun 5.10 doable in a day out of Bellingham.


The Twin Sisters, located between Bellingham and Mount Baker, are composed of dunite*. Dunite is an ultramafic plutonic rock composed almost exclusively of olivine, a bright green mineral (although oxidation of iron and magnesium in the dunite at the earth's surface turns the rock a reddish color characteristic of the Twin Sisters range). Rarely found at earth's surface, dunite makes for pretty good climbing, being highly textured and also resisting vegetation due to a metals ratio that is detrimental to plant life. I had scrambled up the classic West Ridge of North Twin in 2006, and have always thought that it would be really awesome if the area had some steeper walls of dunite to climb. 
*According to my geologist friend Doug McKeever, "dunite" might not be exactly correct. To quote Doug: "The vast majority of sources, certainly in climbing but surprisingly also in some geologic references (mildly distressing, although I don't recall ever losing one second of sleep over it), refer to the Twin Sisters rock as dunite, or even just as "olivine". Both are close but incorrect. Dunite is at least 90% olivine and most of the Twin Sisters is less than that. "Peridotite" is more accurate as a generalization for the Twin Sisters, including for what you climbed, based on the pictures."

It turns out that the Green Creek drainage just east of the Twin Sisters offers just that: steep walls of dunite. In 2005, Darin Berdinka and Mike Layton put up a 900-foot 5.10 route on the southeast flank of Mythic Peak (aka Green Creek Wall). They called their new route Mythic Wall. The route tops out on the Green Creek Arete route (mostly 3rd and 4th, some low 5th), which Darin and Allen Carbert had done a first ascent on earlier the same summer; Green Creek Arete continues a few hundred feet to a 4600 ft subsummit of Mythic Peak. Here is a blurb from Darin's 2005 trip report of the first ascent of Mythic Wall:

"The climbing was excellent. Almost every pitch was steep, solid and sustained with adequate protection. Stemming up corners, linking face cracks, pulling over roofs on jugs, we had a great time. What loose rock there was we would pitch off into space watching it freefall for hundreds of feet before exploding into shrapnel. Michael led the crux pitch, a series of discontinuous cracks up the center of a steep, clean face. On the next pitch, intimidating roofs were passed on great holds....Four and half hours after starting we topped out in the still blazing sun. We had climbed the route in 6 pitches (5.8, 5.9+, 5.4, 5.10-, 5.9, 5.7) and decided to call it The Mythic Wall as it felt like we had just done that mythical alpine rock climb we've always wanted to find in the mountains near Bellingham."

Rebecca Madore had driven up from Portland for couple of days of climbing together. We decided that Mythic Wall route sounded like a fun day easily doable out of Bellingham. And, indeed, it was a fun day! The smoke from Canadian forest fires obscured the views of the surrounding Sisters range and Mount Baker, but the climbing was engaging and enjoyable and the hike in and out was through beautiful forest and basin. Never rushing and taking a long break on the summit, we easily car-to-carred in 13 hours and Bellingham-to-Bellinghammed in just over 15 hours. Rebecca and I had a blast and we'll hopefully do more climbs together in the future!

The following page gives a route overlay and some photos from the climb.

(An interesting sidenote to tie this climb into some winter adventures I have done: I had walked right underneath Mythic Wall (not knowing it existed) on a snowshoe trip up to the summit of Little Sister in January 2015 and I had snowshoed to the summit of nearby Mythic Peak itself in February 2015.)




Photo descriptions:
Elbow Lake Trail to climbers path to base of wall, ~3-4 hours from car.

1. Crossing the Middle Fork. The water was raging so it was nice to find this log. This was about a fifth of a mile upstream from the Elbow Lake parking.
2. Remains of the old bridge crossing the Middle Fork at the start of the Elbow Lake trail. I think it's been several years since there has been an official bridge here.
3. Blue diamonds marking the climbers' path into Green Creek Valley. Thanks to whoever put these up!
4. Log crossing over Hildebrand Creek shortly after leaving the trail that goes to Elbow Lake.
5. Lots of huckleberries! (Photo by Rebecca.)
6. Hiking along Green Creek. We crossed about 1000 feet upstream from here. (Photo by Rebecca.)
7. Wading across Green Creek. Indeed, the creek does look a little bit green.
8a. Looking up at Green Creek Wall from Green Creek. Mythic Wall is center of photo and Green Creek Arete is the long arete on the left. Smoke from Canadian forest fires made the views murky.
8b. A smoke-free view of Green Creek Wall in January 2015, taken when I hiked past on the way to Little Sister.
9. Looking up at Mythic Wall. The route starts at bottom center and ends on the arete above just a tad right of center in the photo.
10.  10. Nearing the top of Pitch 1, Rebecca at the belay at the tree.

11. I was a little uncertain I was on the correct route on this pitch, but I think this is the "shallow corner" system. I actually went left from here into an easier corner, but then had to deal with heinous rope drag after I moved back rightward.
12. Rebecca leading up Pitch 3. I had stopped and belayed early on Pitch 2 due to heinous rope drag, so the part in the photo is still Pitch 2 according to Darin's route description.
13. Easy 5th on the ramps between Pitches 2 and 4.
14. Looking up Pitch 4, an awesome finger crack up the clean face. This is the money pitch (as well as the 10a crux pitch) of the route.
15. Looking down Pitch 4. I was happy to have my set of offsets for this pitch—offsets work well in this rock due to the wedge-like nature of some of the cracks.
16. Looking up Pitch 5, which starts with a nice hand crack in a corner to a roof.
17. In this photo, I am pausing at a pretty bouldery 5.9 move to get above the roof. This move seemed a bit harder than 5.9 to me, but probably because it was committing and above gear. (Photo by Rebecca.)
18. The fun stemming corner on the second half of Pitch 5.
19. A short and easy pitch to the arete.
(part of Green Creek Arete)
20. Looking up toward the top from where Mythic Wall intersects Green Creek Arete.
21. The final steep bit (a couple of 5.6 moves) to the top.
22. Rebecca on top! The actual summit of Mythic Peak is behind her in the photo. Green Creek Arete tops out on a 4,600 sub-summit of Mythic Peak (5187).
23a. My Peakfinder App indicated we had great views of Mount Baker, which was completely obscured by smoke from Canadian forest fires.
23b. Yep, Peakfinder was correct. Here is a photo of the view of Mount Baker from the top of Mythic Peak, taken in February 2015 after snowshoeing to the top of Mythic Peak.
Green Creek Arete (Downclimb & Rappel).
24. Rappelling off of the summit. After one rappel, the rest of the descent down Green Creek Arete is a 3rd/4th scramble (a couple of optional rappels off tat exist but are not necessary and personally I do not like rappelling in somewhat loose, low-angled terrain).
25. If it's green it's olivine*. Alien for scale. (*Not quite, according to geologist Doug, who says that much of the green in the Twin Sisters rock is chrome diopside. It requires close-up inspection to see the difference, so I am going to go with "olivine" for these crystals.)
26. You can see how the outer surface is orange due to oxidation at the surface of exposed rock fragments.