<-- Map of summer 2017
     climbing roadtrip 
     (click to enlarge)
AUG
5
2017

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

Category: Washington       Trip Report #260
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.

ADDED NOTE (2018)

The beta we followed for Mythic Wall was out of Blake Herrington's Cascades Rock guidebook, which as far as I know is the first guidebook to have this route in it; ever since Cascades Rock was published in 2016, it has opened up a new tick list of awesome alpine rock climbs for many of us climbers in Washington. A year after posting this trip report, I received the following email asking me to consider pulling my report to avoid increasing the traffic in the pristine Mythic Wall area. Since the beta for the climb is already published in a guidebook, I will not be pulling this report off my website, but I think there might be some valuable points made by this person (who will remain anonymous), so I was given permission to include the email below.

I do want to make a personal statement here than all climbers I know—myself included—have great respect for the backcountry and leave and take nothing but footprints and photos. For better or worse, the mountains are our gods, our friends, our homes, and every climber I knows treats them as such. So I am a bit doubtful that climbers are doing damage to the Mythic Wall area as partly implied in this email. Increased mountain traffic is inevitable in this day and age. That said, it is our continued responsibility as climbers to make our footprint as small as possible, while still getting out and enjoying this marvelous world around us, while we still can. 

Steph,
    While recently running in and up the Green Creek drainage I have noticed a significant increase in trail traffic evident by the polished rocks edges and churned up trail tread that accesses the Green Creek drainage. What is most alarming is finding a hacked up tree stump, charred tree branches, an ashy fire still warm to the touch, a used tea-light container, a painted rock, and used toilet paper strewn about at Wiseman lake. Though I am less than thrilled to see the access to this beloved wild area published online I want to use this as an opportunity to talk about how we as climbers, hikers, trail runners, and mountaineers ought to behave in the backcountry. It is not enough to mention Leave No Trace ethics here and assume that all people know what this means. So as traffic increases in this area lets choose as a community to care for this space in a most beloved fashion. The eastern portion of the Twin Sister's range is encompassed within the Mount Baker Wilderness. The following activities are restricted: the use of drones, ORV's (motorbikes and ATV's), snowmobiling, and mountain biking. The terrain in this drainage and basin is far too rugged for pack animals. Beyond what is restricted within wilderness guidelines lets consider what we can do as an outdoor community to take care of this wild landscape. First of all stay on the marked trail and when there is no trail do your best to avoid walking on the delicate plants that exist in this rocky landscape. Walk on rock surfaces as much as possible (not hard to do in this landscape) so as to avoid damaging said delicate plant life. Perhaps it seems a bit over the top but also consider cleaning your boots or running shoes before entering this place. Seeds of non native plants trapped within the tread or attached to the outside are easily transported into pristine areas such as these in this fashion. Consider not feeding your desire to stack rocks. This is a fairly new phenomenon in the American wilderness landscape and it is yet another way in which we change the landscape. Rock stacking or cairns is an ancient way of marking a route where there are no trees. In a place like the Green Creek drainage route finding can be tricky for some and rock cairns can be quite useful. Stacking rocks just for the purpose of public art could easily confuse a hiker, runner, or climber. So please save your rock stacking for a local beach park or other non wilderness public space.
    For myself, when I am in the wilderness I want to be completely immersed in it so I do not listen to music while I run or hike. Of course for some they prefer the music of their favorite artist while they are tracking along in the mountains so as to feel a part of some epic landscape documentary I suppose. By all means enjoy, but please do it by using ear buds. The use of external speakers among outdoor recreationists while moving thru the backcountry has become an auditory epidemic. Green Creek and the surrounding peaks and basins are not the place for your favorite music even if it is the sweet strumming, of Blue Grass. Please allow those of us who go to the Green Creek Basin for the sounds of nature to have our peace. But what about bears, you might ask? The music is meant to repel them. Just as I might say, what did we do before cell phones, I will say what did we do before technology allowed us to listen to music via external speakers far into the backcountry? Try having a conversation with your hiking, climbing, or running partner or give a shout out from time to time if you are alone. All of my years, many of which were spent in Grizzly habitat, I have managed to stay alive without the use of music in the wilderness. The Picas and marmots thank you in advance. When picking a campsite consider camping in a spot that has already been used. Let us limit the impact by reusing already disturbed spaces. If you have no choice because there is not an existing campsite choose a surface that has little or no vegetation or a flat rock surface. Do not remove shrubs or other vegetation because you like the spot. We all have fancy sleeping pads these days and can sleep comfortably even on the hardest of surfaces. Tent peg won't penetrate, use a loose rock near by to guy out your tent fly.
    No fire pit? Ask yourself, do you really need a fire? Let me answer that for you, no you do not. From my perspective campfires are great for car camping and they are not needed in the back country period. Even the existing fire rings at backcountry campsites leads to some pretty deplorable behavior. I get it, a campfire is a part of the camping experience, and there are plenty of designated camping areas you can enjoy that you can drive your car into. If still you must have a fire, again use an existing fire ring and DO NOT CREATE NEW FIRE RINGS! It is best to keep fires below the subalpine and alpine zones. Trees are scarce or non existent in these zones and the delicate soils need these trees dead or alive to build new soils. In the Green Creek Drainage there are few areas appropriate for a fire given the rocky landscape and non existent fire rings except for the one I mentioned near Wiseman Lake which has led to some damage to the existing trees, both dead and alive. When collecting wood use the 3 D's as your guide, dead, down and detached. And you should never use wood any larger in diameter than the average persons wrist. So to further illustrate, if there is a large, dead, dry branch available that is 8 inches in diameter with smaller branches attached you don't simply snap or hack off branches smaller than the diameter of your wrist for your fire. They must be stand alone detached pieces of dry wood no wider than your wrist. Remember your goal is to leave no trace of your presence. By using small pieces of wood you can ensure that your fuel is completely burned up and you are not leaving chunks of blackened wood around your campsite. A free standing dead tree with branches attached is not ok to cut down or to snap branches off of for your fire. NOTHING SHOULD BE BURNED EXCEPT WRIST SIZE OR SMALLER WOOD OR PAPER. Do no leave tin foil, plastic, glass (Leave all glass at home), candle wax or anything else for that matter in your fire. All that should remain when you leave the site is ash. Respect BURN BANS and make sure your fire is out. Enough water should be poured on the ash that you could stick your hand into the slurry without being burned. After your packs are ready for the trail, walk around your campsite and make sure it is better than when you found it. No trash should left, and all left over fire wood collected should be disbursed. Pooping in the woods is a nasty business. In the Green Creek drainage and associated basins it is especially so. Much of the soils are rocky and sandy and quite shallow. If you have good organic rich soils below the subalpine zone you can bury it in a small cat hole 6 inches deep. Bury it deep enough so that my dog does not come along and make a treat of it which has happened more times than I can count in the backcountry. It is helpful to bring a compact metal trowel for digging. It has become quite popular to use wet wipes in the backcountry. DO NOT USE WET WIPES! Even the wet wipes said to be compostable are questionable. Wet wipes typically contain plastic and nasty chemicals that do not break down in nature. It is best practice to pack it all out and an absolute must in alpine zones where soils are rocky, shallow, and contain little organic material. It is not ok to crap on the ground and throw a rock on top of it or to crap in a blue bag and throw a rock on top of it as I recently found along the Ptarmigan Ridge Trail. And if your canine companion is along for the trip, guess what, you are responsible for his poop as well. Follow the same principals as best as you are able. Nobody wants to step in your dogs crap after you vacate your campsite. So there you have it, a quick how to or how not to guide to the Green Creek drainage. Of course my hope is that you never actually read this as I do not want the Green Creek drainage to meet the demise of so many popular outdoor destinations in this age of Instagram and Facebook. If you don't know what I mean, please check out this recent article published of course on the world wide web: https://www.theringer.com/2016/11/3/16042448/instagram-geotagging-ruining-parks-f65b529d5e28
Anonymous,
Bellingham WA


INTRO

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.)

MAP


OVERLAY



PHOTOS


Photos:
Photo descriptions:
Approach 
Elbow Lake Trail to climbers path to base of wall, ~3-4 hours from car.
1.    
2.    
3.    
4.    
5.    
6.    
7.    
8a.    
8b.    
9.    
   
   

   
 
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.
Pitch 
1
5.8
10.  10. Nearing the top of Pitch 1, Rebecca at the belay at the tree.

Pitch 
2
5.8
11.    
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.
Pitch 
3
5.4
12.    
13.    
      
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.
Pitch 
4
5.10a
14.    
15.    
   
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.
Pitch 
5
5.9
16.    
17.    
18.  
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.
Pitch 
6
5.7
19.    
19. A short and easy pitch to the arete.
Pitch 
7
(part of Green Creek Arete)
5.6
20.    
21.    
   
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.
Top
Yay!
22.    
23a.    
23b.    
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.
Descent 
Green Creek Arete (Downclimb & Rappel).
24.    
25.    
26.    
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.