<-- Map of summer 2017
     climbing roadtrip 
     (click to enlarge)
AUG
17
2017

SALISH Peak Route: Flight of the Falcon (5.10b/c, 700', 9p)

Category: Washington       Trip Report #261
Partner: Eric Sweet
Rock Type: Granodiorite
Summit Elev: 5,680 ft

A high-quality rock climb in a scenic spot and off the beaten path.

Eric enjoying the view of the 500-foot dropoff at the "Falcon's Perch" on Pitch 7.


INTRO

Flight of the Falcon (10b or 5.9 A0) is a 7-9 pitch, 700-foot route on Salish Peak, a pretty spire located just northeast of Three Fingers. The route starts at the very toe of Salish's steep south face and climbs high-quality clean granite to the top through a series of ramps, corners, and short steep crux sections. The climbing is mostly sustained at the 5.9ish grade with a few short 5.10 cruxes. The route is very protectable by a mix of gear and bolts (there are 34 protection bolts on the route, by my count), and all of the 5.10 crux face sections are well-protected by bolts; plus, there are bolted belay anchors up to the 7th pitch.

Although this route was established in 2006 (by Chris Greyell and Todd Karner), I first became aware of Flight of the Falcon in 2016 when flipping through Herrington's recently-published Cascades Rock, a guidebook that has opened up the eyes of the NW climbing community to several awesome 5.10 routes in the Cascades. Herrington calls the route one of the 15 best routes in the Cascades. So obviously I had to do it! 

The main obstacle of Flight of the Falcon is a longish approach (it took my partner and me 6 hours from with no route finding errors; and then you have to do this all in reverse at the end of the day). As an indication of the difficulty of the approach, it took me three times and three different partners to finally get through the approach and onto the climb. The first attempt, in July 2016, my partner and I got so soaked by wet brush and intermittent drizzle that we ended up making a fire under the giant bivy boulder below Roan Wall to warm up before hiking out. The second attempt, in August 2017 with a sunny forecast, my partner and I made it to the high basin just below Salish Peak when my partner decided that the rigors of the previous 6 hours had caused her to loose all motivation to do the climb. But at this point I had put in too much work not to actually climb the thing, so just a week later, I was back for my third attempt to climb Flight of the Falcon, this time with Eric Sweet, a Seattle climber who had responded to my mountainproject post looking for a partner for a giant day in the mountains. Despite the discouraging low clouds and cloud drizzle hanging over the mountains as we approached, we pretended to be optimistic about the "clearing by 11am" forecast and squished our way upwards, arriving at the base of a Salish Peak 6 hours after leaving the car. As we had made the final traverse across the high basin towards Salish, as if on cue the wet clouds that enshrouded the mountain began to lift, like a curtain rising at the beginning of a play. Sunbreaks began to dry the rock. We racked up and started upward! 

(Note: It is possible to absorb about an hour of this long approach to Salish Peak by climbing Center Stage (11a, 1000') on Roan Wall to the basin below Salish. However, this would be a very long day.) 

Eric and I had a blast. With all of the protection bolts, the climb itself felt very low stress, allowing us to fully enjoy the excellent rock and great position and view. If it wasn't for the long approach, this climb would be very popular and likely quite crowded, so it was pretty rewarding and cool to be up there on such a high-quality climb that few people had experienced. The following page gives an annotated map of the approach, a route overlay, and photos from the climb. The photos of the approach are a mix of photos I took on my three separate attempts to do this route.


APPROACH MAP and TIME STATS

  • Car to base of Roan Wall: 4 hours
  • Car to base of Salish Peak: 6 hours
  • Climb (base to summit): 4 hours, 20 minutes
  • Summit to Base: 40 min
  • Base to Car: 5 hours, 10 minutes
  • Total car-to-car: 4:38am-10:28pm (17 hours, 50 min)


OVERLAY



PHOTOS



Photos:
Photo descriptions:
Approach 
6+ miles, 3500 ft gain, 6+ hours
1.   
2.   
3.   
4.   
5.   
6.   
7.   
8.   
9.   
10.   
11.   
12.   
13.   
14.    
15.   
16.   
17.   
18.   
19.   
20.   
21.   
22.   
23.   
24.   
25.   
26.   
27.   
28.   
Color coding:
Attempt #1, July 2016. (turned around at bivy boulder at head of Squire Creek drainage)
Attempt #2, Aug 2017. (turned around in upper basin)
Attempt #3, Aug 2017. (success!)


1. 
The trailhead is at the end of Salish Creek Road. In 2017, we had to walk the last 1/3 of a mile of road due to a small washout. Since the trail is mainly used by climbers, I doubt this washout will be fixed. It is only 9 minutes extra road walking (each way) so not a big deal.
2. On all 3 of my attempts, we left the trailhead about 1 hour before sunrise, since the first hour of trail follows a flat old roadbed and is easy to hike in the dark. Salish Peak is a long way in so you need all the daylight hours you can get!
3. A photo of the trail along the old roadbed, taken in the afternoon on Failed Attempt #2. Easy hiking. Could bring a bike for the first couple of miles if you wanted.

4. The old trailhead sign at the end of the old roadbed. This is about 1 hour from the car.
5. First views of Salish Peak (right) from the trail along Salish Creek. There might be a way to go directly up the hillside in the photo to the base of Salish, but we followed the more standard approach via Roan Wall.
6. About 1.5 hours after leaving the car, you get to a bunch of white boulders. Descend these to a beautiful grove of alders.
7. Beautiful alder grove. 
8. About 2 hours after leaving the car, cross Salish Creek on a log.
9. Then hike up the dry Salish Creek creekbed.
10. This boulder ("Martha's Place") is at the head of the Salish Creek basin. It is above the actual approach to Roan Wall (so don't go this far if you are just trying to get to Roan Wall). It is a good bivy spot if you want to do the approach to here the evening before the climb (and then perhaps have time to link Center Stage on Roan Wall with Flight of the Falcon on Salish Peak). On Failed Attempt #1, my partner and I hung out under this boulder to escape the rain and made a fire to dry off.
11. Our fire under the bivy boulder on Failed Attempt #1.
12. Wet rock above the bivy boulder on Failed Attempt #1. Yeah, we aren't climbing today....
13. Pretty water droplets on Failed Attempt #1.
14. This photo shows the approach to the base of Roan Wall from the Salish Creek creekbed below. Your goal is to get into a thin rocky watercourse coming down from the wall. About 200 feet of brushiness separate you from the rocky watercourse. As I discovered a couple of times on my various attempts, the alder can be quite thick in this area. Finally, while descending on my third time up to climb Flight of the Falcon, we found a "shwack bypass" tunnel through the boulders in the photo. It is hard to find until you are right on it, but it is worth finding.
15. What you have to beat through if you do not find the "shwack bypass".
16. The thin rocky watercourse leading to the base of Roan Wall.
17. Looking up at Roan Wall. Center Stage is a supposedly awesome 1000-ft bolted 5.11a route up this slab. 

18. Approach Pitch #1: 5.8 bolted slab.
19. Looking down Approach Pitch #1. 
20. Approach Pitch #2: mungy low 5th crack. 
21. The mungy crack looked even mungier when wet. (This photo was taken on my third attempt at the climb, when we were finally successful in climbing the route despite the morning low clouds that made things wet.)
22. Looking up the steep clean face of Roan Wall. 
23. To get to Salish Peak, scramble up along the left side of Roan Wall. 
24. Salish Peak as seen from the saddle to the left of Roan Wall. Despite the cloudless skies, we ended up not climbing the route on this day...
25. Approaching Salish Peak, shrouded in morning clouds. We were pretty worried at this point that this would become my third failed attempt at the climb...
26. Clouds starting to lift as we neared the base.
27. Eric wringing his socks out at the base of the route. We had gotten soaked by wet brush on the approach.
28. Looking up from the base of the route. Looks dry enough to climb!

Pitch 
1
5.10b
29.   
30.   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
 
29. Eric starting off Pitch 1. We swung leads on this climb, with Eric taking the odds and me taking the evens.
30. Well-bolted 10b crux of Pitch 1. The cruxes on this route are very well-bolted, making it easy to A0 through any of the 5.10 sections, if you had to.


Pitch 
2
5.9
31.   
32.   
31. Traverse left at the bolt at the start of Pitch 2. Three Fingers in distance.
32. Fun 5.9 ramp system on Pitch 2. Just be careful as you climb around the detached block.
Pitch 
3
5.10b
33.   
33. Eric on the slabby 10b crux on Pitch 3. Again, very well protected, with 2 bolts practically at your face.
Pitch 
4
5.9
34.   
34. Looking up Pitch 4. The short and powerful 5.9 layback you can see above was just my style.
Pitch 
5
5.9
35. 
35. Splitter 5.9 fingercrack on Pitch 5.
Pitch 
6
5.10b/c
36.   
37.   
   
   
36. The crux of the route: 510c face climbing up a green-tinted slab. Solid rock and well-bolted of course.
37. Eric climbing through the crux.

Pitch 
7
5.8+
38.   
38. Eric on "Falcon's Perch" on Pitch 7. This is a great viewpoint featuring a 500 foot vertical dropoff to the base.
Pitch 
8
5.8+
39.   
39. We chose to continue to the summit rather than rappel from the top of Pitch 7. The rock quality definitely deteriorates above Pitch 7, but it is not too hard and there is good protection if you look for it. Plus you may as well go to the top if you came all the way in here!
Pitch 
9
4th-5.2
40.   
40. The final bit to the summit. This was easy enough terrain that we unroped and carefully soloed to the top.
Top
Yay!
41.   
42.   
43.   
44.   
45.   
41. On top of Salish Peak.
42. Eric reaching the top of Salish Peak.
43. View across Squire Creek Valley towards Jumbo Mountain. Glacier Peak is in the distance.
44. Three Fingers as seen from the top of Salish Peak.
45. In this photo, you can make out the fire lookout on top of the south summit of Three Fingers.
Descent 
Rap from top of Pitch 7 with 2x60m ropes OR climb to top and walk off left/west.
(we went to top and walked off)
46.   
47.   
48.   
49.     
46. To descend, it is probably best to just descend to the right to easier ground and then make your way to the notch before the peaklet in the photo and cross into the basin on the left. I tried to go directly down the brushy ridge in font of me in the photo, but it was kind of tedious and would have been faster to just descend to the right first. It might be possible to find a ramp system down left as well, but I am not sure enough to say for sure.
47. Walking back around to the base. The descent is fairly straightforward and took only about 40 minutes from the time we left the summit to reach our packs.
48. A view back towards Salish on the hike out of the basin.
49. We had been dreading the 200 feet of thick alder just before getting back to the Squire Creek drainage. But on the way down, when trying to find a way to bypass the alder, we spotted this piece of flagging, which led us into a nice "shwack bypass" tunnel. Nice! Now, 3 hours more to go until the car.....