<-- Map of summer 2015
     climbing roadtrip 
     (click to enlarge)
JUNE
13-15
2015

PRUSIK Peak: 4 routes in 2.5 days
Climb 1: Solid Gold (5.11a, 4-5 pitches, 450')
Climb 2: Burgner-Stanley (5.9+, 6 pitches, 650')
Climb 3: "Energizer Bunny" FA (?) (5.10+ C1, 5 pitches, 450')
Climb 4: Boving-Christensen (5.10, 4 pitches, 450') 

Category: Washington     Trip Report #: 186
Partners: Brandon Kotulka (Climbs 1 & 2) / Jon Pobst (Climbs 3 & 4)
Rock Type: Granodiorite
Summit Elev: 8,000 ft

Prusik Peak is of my favorite rocks to climb in the whole North Cascades.

Photo overlay showing four of the most popular routes on Prusik. On this trip we climbed Solid Gold, Boving-Christensen, and Burgner-Stanley (plus a new route I did not put in the above). I climbed the West Ridge in 2005 and 2009 and Beckey-Davis in 2017. I will climb Der Sportsman someday.

Route overlays for the major documented routes on Prusik Peak. The photo is an aerial photo that I took in April 2013 on a flight with John Scurlock. 


The trip report on this page marks my 4th-7th times climbing Prusik Peak. For a nice summary of all of the climbs I have done on Prusik over the years, read the introduction below. Scroll below that for the trip report.


INTRO  &  SUMMARY OF MY CLIMBS OF PRUSIK OVER THE YEARS

"So Steph, what is your favorite climb in Washington?" My mind races, a cascade of memories as I tick my way through a list of Cascade summits. But as soon as I think of one possible candidate for favorite climb, another candidate climb comes to mind, equally favored but perhaps for different reasons. Favorite climb can depend on so many variables - weather, conditions, parter, fitness level, distractions (or lack thereof) from my daily life, the views from the climb, the difficulty of the approach, the beauty of a possible high camp, and so on. So in the end, I always end up giving a non-committal response with about half a dozen candidate favorite climbs.

But one peak that always makes the list is Prusik Peak. 

Prusik Peak is an aesthetic spire located in the heart of the Enchantments. The peak is composed of some of the most beautiful white granite (technically granodiorite) in Washington. The peak also holds some special memories for me, and has been part of my development as a climber. As of 2017 (when I last remembered to update this intro), I have climbed Prusik Peak 8 times, by 6 different routes. Despite the long approach into Prusik (~6 hours and 4000-6000 ft elevation gain to get there) this is the most I have climbed any individual peak (although South Early Winter Spire is close—as of 2017, I have climbed South Early Winter Spire 7 times, also by 6 routes). Here is a summary of all of the times I have climbed Prusik:
  1. In 2005, on a backpack trip through the Enchantments, my dad, mom, sister Jenny, and I climbed the West Ridge (5.7). My sister and I were on one rope and my dad and mom on another. We had only one rack, which consisted mostly of my parents' hexes and nuts, a bunch of slings, and just a couple of cams. I led the way, and Jenny left in the gear so my dad could lead on the pieces I had set. My mom climbed in sneakers. My dad lost his wedding ring and nearly "degloved" his finger when his ring got stuck and broke off in the second-to-last pitch. This really was my first alpine trad multipitch lead. That evening, at our camp near Gnome Tarn, I watched some climbers high on one of the south face routes and vowed that someday I would climb that towering face. I was hooked.

  2. That someday came just a year later, in July 2006, when my friend and climbing mentor Clint Cummins joined me to climb the Burgner-Stanley (5.9+) route, which is perhaps THE classic line up the south face and tops out right on the summit. This climb kicked off an entire summer of alpine climbing, including classics such as the West Ridge of Forbidden, the NE Ridge of Mt. Triumph, the NW Arete of Mt. Sir Donald, and the NE Ridge of Bugaboo Spire.

  3. In October 2009, my sister Jenny and I as well as our friend Booth went on an overnight hike into the Enchantments to enjoy the larches. We brought a light rack and rope and made a quick run up the West Ridge (5.7) of Prusik. The view from the summit was a spectacular sea of flaming yellow larches. No one broke their finger this time. But I do remember cold fingers.

  4. THIS TRIP REPORT. In June 2015, on the very last weekend before permit season (this was back when June 15 was the start date for needing permits; the next year permit season was extended to start on May 15), I joined three friends—Brandon Kotulka, Jon Pobst, and James Fletcher—and headed up to Prusik, camping for two nights and climbing Prusik four times. These four routes, in the order in which we climbed them, were: Solid Gold (5.11a), Burgner-Stanley (5.9+)a new route (probably an FA!) that we called "Energizer Bunny" (5.10+ C1), and Boving-Christensen (5.10-)What a trip!

  5. All of my climbs of Prusik up to this point had been done as relaxing overnight adventures. I had always wanted to climb Prusik car to car (it's a ~6 hour approach, so a nice athletic day). I finally got around to it in September 2017, when Todd Anderson and I climbed Prusik car to car via the Beckey-Davis (5.9) route. This is the original route up the steep south face of Prusik. 

  6. And I'll be back to climb Prusik again I'm sure. My next goal is Der Sportsman (5.11d/12a)....

THIS TRIP REPORT

The following page is a trip report for my 4-route climbing trip to Prusik in June 2015. Enjoy!
(Approach notes: We hiked in via Colchuck Lakes Trail, hoofed over Aasgard Pass, and established our camp at Gnome Tarn close to the base of Prusik. Because we had been able to leave my car at the Snow Lakes Trailhead, we hiked out via the gentler albeit slightly longer (by 2 miles and 1000 ft elevation) Snow Lakes Trail, which made a nice through hike.)


Solid Gold (5.11a, 4-5 pitches, 450')
partner: Brandon Kotulka

Solid Gold climbs the shorter west side of the south face and tops out on the West Ridge rather than the summit. Established by Wayne Wallace and his buddy Tim Olsen in 1989, Solid Gold is a newer route than the West Ridge, Burgner-Stanley, and Beckey-Davis classic lines. (Some of the pitches of Solid Gold might have been first climbed in the late 70's and early 80's). The rock and the climbing on this route are excellent, particularly the first and last pitches. Even though we climbed the last pitch in a hail storm, by the time we reached the rap anchor, Brandon and I had already agreed this was a route we wanted to do again someday. 

Route overlay for Solid Gold (and Boving-Christensen & Burgner-Stanley) with route beta included.

Pitch descriptions:
Photos:
Photo descriptions:
Approach 
Start just right of the outside corner on the left flank of the face.
0a.    
0a. Looking up from the base. Solid Gold starts in the lower left of the photo. The first pitch climbs up the slanting crack system to below the roof. The second pitch exits the roof on the right. The rest of the route is out of view.
Pitch 
1
5.10d (~100 ft)
Climb a crack to a shallow stembox. A frictiony move reaches the sustained corner of this ‘Solid Gold” pitch. Move past a large block to belay under a big roof.
1a.    
1b.    
1c.    
1a. Brandon racking up at the base. He bravely took the first pitch, which many feel to be the physical crux of the route, even though it is not the technical crux. 
1b. Brandon nearing the final corner. Onsight!
1c. A photo Brandon took of me following the first pitch. I enjoyed being able to kick back and relax and enjoy this pitch as a follower. Awesome pitch for alpine rock.

Pitch 
2
5.11a (~100 ft)
Make a hard move (crux) right under the roof and follow the a 5.10- hand crack in a corner to a long #3 camalot-sized horizontal. Belay on gear while standing in the horizontal. 
2a.    
2a. You cannot really see the second pitch until you are climbing it. There's a single crux move at a roof. Once you find the holds it's not that bad. Another excellent onsight lead by Brandon. 

Pitches
3&4
5.10a / 5.8 (~185 ft)
A cool off-width crack pinches down to a funky mantle move onto a hanging slab. You can stop and belay here or link this with the next pitch, which follows an arching seam on the left wall of the chimney. Belay on a large ledge at the base of a perfect corner crack.
3a.    
4a.    
4b.    
4c.    
3a. Looking up the beginning of Pitch 3. My turn to lead.
4a. The chimney of Pitch 4. When we climbed this route there was a microwave-sized block at the base of the chimney that teetered upon touch. We were careful not to use the block. It would have been nice to have the follower trundle it, but the last Saturday before permit season was definitely not a day to trundle (there were probably a couple of dozen parties climbing Prusik that day - the West Ridge was like rush hour in Seattle).
4b. But a couple of hours later, after we had finished the route and were relaxing in camp, we heard a yell and then saw a rock plummeting down from halfway up Solid Gold. Fortunately it was the follower who had knocked the rock out (accidentally) and there was no one below. I took this photo of the chimney on Solid Gold when I climbed the Boving-Christensen route on Monday, which is just the right of Solid Gold. You can see the large scar where the microwave-sized rock used to be. Careful, I suspect the other rocks are quite loose as well. 
4c. This photo shows where the rock impacted the ground some 300 feet below. I don't think a helmet would help at all with a rock like this.
Pitch 
5
5.11a (~150 ft)
Climb the perfect corner crack. After about 50 feet step right to a small tree below the crest of the West Ridge. If you're good about your drag, keep going up a 5.8 handcrack to the ridge top.  
5a.    
5b.    
5c.    
5a. When we arrived at the base of the perfect corner crack of Pitch 4, it began to hail lightly. The hail was bouncing off the rock at the moment, so we quickly started up the pitch, hoping to get the leader up before the rock became wet. Brandon reached the top of the corner just as the hail storm began to pick up stride. The perfect corner turned out to be a perfect hail funnel....
5b. A pile of hail at the base of the corner. Wet feet made this pitch even more challenging.
5c. My sister Jenny was over climbing on Der Sportsman (11+/12-). Fortunately the hail storm was relatively short lived (~30 minutes before blue skies and sun returned) and they continued onward.
Descent 

Either continue onwards towards the summit via the West Ridge route or make one rappel down the north side (a single 60m rope is sufficient) and then scramble to the notch below the West Ridge route. From here scramble back to the base of the route, trending right for awhile to avoid cliffs directly below the West Ridge notch. ~30 minutes from top of route back to base of route.
   




Burgner-Stanley (5.9+, 6 pitches, 650')
partner: Brandon Kotulka

With its moderate and excellent climbing, Burgner-Stanley route is perhaps THE classic line on the south face, slightly more popular and challenging than the Beckey-Davis line just right of it. The final pitch is one of the best 5.9+ pitches in Washington, a steep and sustained 180-ft corner that tops out right on the summit. My climb of this route with Clint in 2006 had been one of my first multipitch alpine climbs, so it was fun to return now having so many more climbs under my belt. Brandon was gracious enough to let me take more than my fair share of the leads, including the stellar last pitch.

Route overlay for Burgner-Stanley (and Solid Gold & Boving-Christensen) with route beta included.
Route overlay for Burgner-Stanley looking up from base of route.

Pitch descriptions:
Photos:
Photo descriptions:
Approach 
Start at about the middle of the base below the south face of Prusik.
Pitch 
1
5.8 (~180 ft)
Climb the somewhat wide crack (no. 4 works well at crux) to gain low fifth class terrain with trees. Scramble up to the last tallest tree, facing a knobbed wall with a thin crack going up.
1a.    
1a. I took this photo looking down the pitch just past the cruxy offwidth section. I kind of enjoy offwidth climbing so this pitch was fun. It protects well with a no. 4.

Pitch 
2
5.6 (~100 ft)
Climb the crack and exit right on large knobs until you reach the deep gully. 
2a.    
2b.    
2a. It is best to belay at the highest stand of trees. I climbed all the way from the ground to here in one pitch without much rope drag, but some parties choose to take two pitches to get to here. In either case, the next pitch (Pitch 2 for us) goes to where the climber is in the photo and then traverses rightward on knobs.
2b. Midway through Pitch 2.

Pitch 
3
5.8 (~180 ft)
Climb the gully and belay underneath a good ledge below the obvious chockstone. 
3a.    
3b.    
3a. Looking up at the start of Pitch 3. I did some some fun crack/bearhug/offwidth moves just above the belay.
3b. Brandon at the top of Pitch 3. This was a fun pitch. Pretty long too.
Pitch 
4
5.8 (~60 ft)
Climb up steep double cracks and then tunnel behind the chockstone. Belay on top of the chockstone or below the flaring squeeze chimney, which will give you enough rope to haul a pack up the squeeze chimney. 
4a.    
4b.    
4c.    
4a. Looking up towards the chockstone chimney. This was a short pitch to a belay on top of the chockstone. Belaying here allows you to have enough rope to haul the follower's pack on this pitch and the next.
4b. The view down from the top of the chockstone. This is a cool belay spot. As long as the chockstone doesn't come un-chocked.
4c. Brandon tunneling behind the chockstone. This would be impossible with a pack, so I had dropped a bite of rope down to Brandon before he climbed this pitch and we hauled the pack up the outside of the chockstone.

Pitch 
5
5.9+ (~80 ft)
Climb cracks up into a flaring squeeze chimney. The flaring chimney is the crux of the route for many climbers. Belay on the ledge directly above the squeeze chimney so you can watch your partner and haul any packs.
5a.    
5b.    
5a. Looking up at the infamous flaring squeeze chimney. Brandon did a great job leading this pitch. I was more than happy to follow.
5b. A photo Brandon took of me following this pitch, taken just after I had extracted myself from the squeeze with the help of ledges on the left wall.
Pitch 
6
5.9+ (~180 ft)
Move the belay to the right side of the ledge. Climb up the amazing left facing corner and summit! 
6a.    
6b.    
6c.    
6d.    
6a. Looking up the last pitch. Both Brandon and I wanted to lead it, but Brandon graciously let me have it as he had led if before and I had not. What a pitch! 
6b. Looking down at Brandon climbing the corner.
6c. Too bad, the fun is almost over.
6d. The final move. It felt a tad committing on lead.
Descent 

Rappel the north face on slung belay stations and then scramble back around to the notch below the West Ridge. From here scramble back to the base of the route, trending right for awhile to avoid cliffs directly below the West Ridge notch. ~1 hour from top of route back to base of route if there are no other parties are on the rap route. Five rappels with a single rope. 
7a.    
7b.    
7a. We were able to make the descent in 5 rappels off slung blocks. All of our rappels were nearly 30 m long. Beware of stopping at just any slung block as there are a lot of slung blocks that don't seem to reach another slung block within a rap length. We did not use the slung block pictured in this photo, which was only 20m below the summit (instead, a better rap anchor was about 8m lower to climbers' left). I don't think I would have felt totally comfortable rapping off it anyway.
7b. There was a bit of snow on the trail along the base of the north face, but it was soft and not a problem.



"Energizer Bunny" FA (?) (5.10+ C1, 5 pitches, 450')
partner: Jon Pobst

Several years ago, Jon had spotted a continuous link-up of cracks on the the west-facing face just left of Solid Gold. So on Sunday evening, after our partners Brandon and James had left to hike out to get to their jobs Monday morning, Jon and I went over to check out these cracks. I don't think either one of us really had any expectations of what was going to happen. Would we actually start climbing up, or would we just look and ponder? On one hand, it seemed pretty far-fetched that we could knock out an entirely unknown 5 pitch route in the 4 hours of daylight we had left, especially after we had both already climbed all day. On the other hand, neither one of us really wanted to think about how much gear we would need to leave and what kind of shenanigans we would need to do in order to bail if the cracks were not climbable or if darkness set in. So we left all of these thoughts undiscussed and just kind of started climbing. 4 hours later we were on the West Ridge. 

It's quite possible this route (or portions of this route) was climbed at one point by one of the Prusik FA-ers of the 70's and 80's such as Rich Romano, Fred Yackulic, Dan Nordstrom, Paul Boving, or Matt Christensen*. But a search of the AAJ does not yield any descriptions that describe our route, and there were no signs that the cracks had been climbed (no pitons, rock scars, slings, etc). Perhaps the daunting first pitch has been enough to keep climbers off the route; indeed, the first pitch would have been nearly impossible to protect without cams (particularly the #4, #3, and #2 sizes). So perhaps it is a new line or at the very least been climbed once or twice and been undocumented. Either way, the thrill of the unknown was there and that's what counts. We decided to call our route "Energizer Bunny": named for the bunny-ear-like appearance of the cracks at the end of the 4th pitch where the route exits the west face and joins Solid Gold and the fact that we climbed the route late in the day after a full day of climbing. The route actually features some excellent climbing. The first pitch is a bit burly and dirty, but the cracks above are cleaner and there are some really excellent splitter sections. It was all freeable at the 5.8-5.10+ level except for a 15-ft section of perhaps 5.11+/5.12- terrain where we pulled on gear. What an adventure!
*Update: Shortly after I posted this TR, Matt Christensen emailed me and confirmed that he had never climbed our line; moreover, he was not aware of any ascents previous to ours.

Route overlay for "Energizer Bunny".
Route overlays on Prusik Peak, with "Energizer Bunny" included.

Pitch descriptions:
Photos:
Photo descriptions:
Approach 
Start on the west face to the left of Solid Gold.
0a.    
0a. Approaching the base of the crack system we had spotted. Will we try? Will it go?
Pitch 
1
5.10+ (~100 ft)
Climb the arching roof of the base of the "Elephant Ear" to a nice ledge below a corner on the right side of the Ear. Burly. Dirty and gritty from lack of traffic.
1a.    
1a. Jon boldly leading off the first pitch, which traversed the crack under the feature that looked like a giant elephant ear to us. This was the pitch that had the most potential for looseness and dirtiness (all of the cracks above appeared pretty clean). Nothing was detached or rotten enough to break off during our ascent, fortunately. Apart from the slight sketch factor of this pitch, the gear was good and the climbing was interesting. Burly though! We were pleasantly surprised to find an excellent belay ledge at the end of the roof.
Pitch 
2
5.8 (~100 ft)
Awesome corner to a super cool exposed ledge to a belay spot below a nice crack.
2a.    
2b.    
2a. It turned out that the right side of the "Elephant Ear" was an awesome corner that went from fists to hands to fingers. It was hardly dirty. A 4-star pitch that may never have been climbed before. 
2b. The corner topped out on a wonderful ledge—wide enough to be comfortable to sit on, but narrow enough to be exposed and exciting. I set a reclining belay below the crack we would be following upwards.

Pitch 
3
5.10 C1 (~100 ft)
Climb up the crack. It begins at 5.9 hands and gets progressively harder, ending with a short vertical face climb (protectable and aidable, perhaps 5.12- free?) to a sloping belay ledge below a small roof.
3a.    
3b.    
3a. Jon took the next lead, up the crack. It was a bit dirty, but the climbing was good.
3b. The climbing got harder (5.10c or so) as Jon went up. Then it got even harder. And steeper. Perhaps 11+ or 12-. Fortunately there was ample opportunity for good gear and the hard section was short (perhaps 15 feet or so), so Jon aided though it to a sloping belay ledge below a continuing crack. This photo was taken looking up at the section we had to aid, which starts at the second cam in the photo.

Pitch 
4
5.10+ (~100 ft)
Continue up the crack between the "Bunny Ears." The crack ends with a final steep fingery section with awesome locks. Climb a bit further over easy terrain to the base of the final pitch of Solid Gold.
4a.    
4a. The final crack goes through the "bunny ears" feature and onto the crest to meet up with the top of the 4th pitch of Solid Gold. This crack was pretty sustained 5.10- with a 5.10+ (or maybe 11a) crux at the top where it steepened. But the finger locks in this section were super secure and the final hand jam between the bunny ears was bomber. This was a really good pitch for untraveled alpine rock.

Pitch 
5
5.11a (~150 ft)
(Last pitch of Solid Gold.)
Climb the perfect corner crack. After about 50 feet step right to a small tree below the crest of the West Ridge. If you're good about your drag, keep going up a 5.8 handcrack to the ridge top.   
5a.    
5a. The final pitch was was the last pitch of Solid Gold. It was nice to return and climb this pitch under dryer and warmer conditions than Saturday's hail storm. I enjoyed leading this pitch although I would have felt a bit more comfortable with doubles in either the green alien or blue metolius mastercam.

Descent 
(See description of descent for Solid Gold.)



Boving-Christensen (5.10, 4 pitches, 450')
partner: Jon Pobst

Jon and I tossed around various ideas for what to climb Monday morning before hiking out. Der Sportsman was a little bit too hard, Beckey-Davis was a little bit too easy. So we decided to climb the 4-pitch 5.10 Boving-Christensen route just right of Solid Gold. This route is not climbed often, so it has a moderately gritty and licheny adventurous feel to it. The third pitch was definitely our favorite pitch on the route. The climbing on the last two pitches is pretty sustained 5.10a to 5.10b, and it is amazing to think that Boving and Christensen climbed these pitches entirely with nuts and hexes during their FA in 1977.

Route overlay for Boving-Christensen (and Solid Gold & Burgner-Stanley) with route beta included.
Route overlay for Boving-Christensen looking up from base of route.

Pitch descriptions:
Photos:
Photo descriptions:
Approach 
Start on the west side of the south face, about 100’ to the right of Solid Gold.
Pitch 
1
5.9 (~120 ft)
Climb a short crack to a low angled slab below a corner. Take this to a belay below a steep white face.
1a.    
1a. Jon led the first pitch. We were a bit wary about looseness on this pitch just due to lack of travel. But everything stayed attached.

Pitch 
2
5.8 (~200 ft)
Climb exposed and somewhat dirty face cracks to a ledge below a sharp corner. Tend a bit leftward. Long pitch.
2a.    
2a. I led the second pitch. I climbed carefully since the cracks were lined with lichen. It was a long pitch and involved a bit of wandering around so there was quite a lot of rope drag by the time I reached the ledge at the top. I enjoyed the 5.8 adventure.

Pitch 
3
5.10- (~100 ft)
Climb the corner, exiting right into an alcove.
3a.    
3a. There's a fun bouldery move to start of the third pitch, which then climbs the clean corner behind Jon in the photo. This pitch definitely is the money pitch on the route.

Pitch 
4
5.10- (~170 ft)
Climb up the crack system, which starts off as fingers, turns to hands, then steps left into a flake. Climb the final hand cracks to the West Ridge.
4a.    
4b.    
4a. I started off the fourth pitch, which begins with a 5.10b-ish finger crack on a slab, and then follows a hand crack out of view. However, when I got above the hand crack, the crack thinned to fingers again. A green and a yellow alien would have been perfect. Unfortunately those were about 50 feet below me. Nothing else would seem to fit (hard to believe Boving and Christensen climbed this route with nuts and hexes, which undoubtedly necessitated bold moves on unprotected 5.10 terrain). I hemmed and hawed, and then decided to lower down to collect the pieces. Jon sensed my discomfort and offered to finish the lead
4b. Looking up the final 5.8 hand cracks to gain the West Ridge. This was the third time we had climbed these cracks this trip since all three of the routes we had done on the west side of the south face end here.
Descent 
(See description of descent for Solid Gold.)


OTHER RANDOM PHOTOS FROM THE TRIP

Photos:
Photo descriptions:
a.    
b.    
c.    
d.    
e.    
f.    
g.    
h.    
i.    
j.    
k.    
l.    
m.    
a. 5am on a Saturday, and already there were cars lined up about 1/8 mile down from the Stuart Lake / Colchuck Lake Trailhead parking lot. This is what happens when there is nice weather the final weekend before permit season.
b. James and Jon getting ready to head up Aasgard Pass. 2200 ft in .8 miles.
c. Brandon on the hike across the Upper Enchantment Lakes basin. The approach up Aasgard Pass had been snow free, but the upper basin was still holding snow and the lakes were still mostly frozen (although quickly thawing out in the warm temps). This photo shows Little Annapurna in the distance.
d. Another photo of the upper basin, with Temple Ridge in the distance.
e. Gnome Tarn. We camped near here, which is a great base for Prusik. The south face is about 15 minutes from camp.
f. Camp on the granite slabs.
g. Another photo of camp. Brandon is enjoying a dinner of "ramen bombs" made of loaded flavor mashed potatoes mixed with al dente ramen noodles.
h. Sunrise over Prusik on Sunday. Sunday was a beautiful day. So was Monday. Heck, so was Saturday apart from the hail storm.
i. I found this camera in the boulders beneath the Burgner-Stanley route. The last photo on the memory card (which I found about 20 feet away from the camera under another boulder) was taken looking up the chockstone chimney pitch. Apparently cameras are not made to survive 500 ft falls.
j. Morning alpenglow on McClellan Peak as seen from my tent. This is why I love spending a night in the mountains.
k. Baby mountain goats playing near camp.
l. Jon and I spotted these mossy cracks on a cliff between Lake Vivian and Snow Lakes. Probably never been climbed. And never will be.
m. The refreshing dam crossing at the end of Snow Lakes.