<-- Map of summer 2016
(click to enlarge)
Sloan Peak stands high above the peaks of the Mountain Loop Highway. Because of its distinctive profile, visible from so many locations in the Cascades, I've always thought of it as the "Matterhorn of the Cascades". The most popular route up the mountain is the Corkscrew Route (3rd and some glacier travel), named for its corkscrew-like path around the mountain to the top. I've long had this route on the back-burner, but whenever I've started to make plans to climb it, I've been distracted by a more technical (i.e. more rock climbing) objective. But my interest in Sloan was rekindled when I caught wind of Fire on the Mountain, a 1500' rock route on the steep southwest face of Sloan put up by Rad Roberts and Blake Herrington in 2009. This route involves 1000' of technical rock climbing (up to 5.10d) and 500' of scrambling to the summit.
So in July 2016, I convinced Rad to climb his route again. The plan was to do the route in a long day from the car at Bedal Creek Trailhead, just as he and Blake had done seven years previous. The forecast called for partly sunny. So we were a bit surprised by the morning cloud cover when we left the trailhead at 6:30am, but we figured it would just burn off as the morning progressed. But rather than burning off, by the time we arrived at the base of the southwest face three hours later, the clouds had dropped lower and settled in around the mountain. Fire on the Mountain had become Mist on the Mountain. But we racked up anyway, flaked the rope, looked at route beta, organized the follower pack, got a snack, drank some water, put on climbing shoes, fiddled with the rack some more, reflaked the rope, re-read the route beta, repacked the follower pack, got another snack, drank some more water, adjusted the climbing shoes,.... As our delay tactics began to loop around for the third time and as the humid clouds turned to wet mist we finally started up the first pitch....but the crack was pretty wet....long story short, we decided the best decision was to come back and climb the route on a sunny day. Climbing 5.10 on moist rock in mist and light rain was not our idea of safe fun.
Bummer. But we had made the effort to get up there, so we decided that we would at least try to get to the summit via an easier route. The route we had planned to use as a means of descent was an obvious choice. This route involves traversing around the south side of the mountain to a ramp system on the southeast side ("SE Shelf"), climbing this ramp (4th) to where it joins the upper Corkscrew Route, and from there scrambling to the summit. There were some challenges to the day, such as some wet gritty slabs and slippery heather slopes, a couple of sections of steeper rock (we roped up for one of them), and routefinding with poor visibility. But by mid-afternoon we stood on the summit. It was misting lightly and the "partly sunny" day had obviously been had elsewhere. The presence of a summit register and our GPS confirmed we were on top though. To get back to the car, we simply reversed our route.
The following page contains photos from the adventure.
All in all, despite the fact that it wasn't the glorious day we had envisioned climbing wild fins and dikes up the steep SW Face of Sloan, it was good just to be out in the Cascades. But I'll be back to climb the SW Face. On a sunny day. Update: A month later, I returned with my friend Duncan to climb Fire on the Mountain. Click here for the trip report for Fire on the Mountain.
Also, here is a map showing our route. The route described in this trip report is the descent route drawn on this map. (click image for 8.5x11 size for printing)
|1. Starting up the Bedal Creek Trail. This is at the end of the Bedal Creek Road. My car is parked on the right just out of view. The 3 mile road was in good shape. The trail was also in good shape.
2. The trail ended 2.5 miles from the trailhead at a large washout coming down Bedal Creek from the basin below the West Face of Sloan. From here, we clambered up the washout towards the basin, eventually exiting the washout (cairn) and getting on a trail in the forest. There was a path all the way into the basin.
3. The battle between the boulder and the tree. Looks like a tie on the left and the tree won on the right. Downed trees elsewhere in the washout indicated that the boulders often won.
4. Entering the basin below the West Face of Sloan.
5. Cool trees on the ridge between the basin below the West Face and the basin below the Southwest Face.
6. Entering the basin below the Southwest Face of Sloan. The Southwest Face itself is hidden by the low clouds. So much for "party sunny"...
7. Looking up Pitch 1 of Fire on the Mountain. This is a 1000'-ft route that climbs up the steep Southwest Face of Sloan and intersects the upper Corkscrew Route near the top. We had planned on climbing this route, but the rock was moist and the clouds did not look like they were going to burn off anytime soon, so we made a decision to climb to the top via the descent route rather than climb 5.10 in the rain. Fire on the Mountain had become Mist on the Mountain.
8. On the traverse from the around the south side of the peak towards the ramp system (the "SE Shelf") which we would use to take us upward.
9. Looking up at the SE Shelf, which we accessed via the low point on the right. This is a descent route for routes on the West and Southwest sides of Sloan.
10-11. Scrambling up the SE Shelf. This is 3rd-4th class slabs. But the slabs were a bit gritty and wet so it didn't feel completely trivial.
12. Here we have intersected the upper Corkscrew Route where it crosses a big ledge system about 400-500 feet below the summit. Just below this, to gain this ledge system from the end of the SE Shelf, we did 1 pitch of low 5th climbing (we roped up just in case it got hard).
13. A tower on the summit ridge of Sloan. I named it "Potbelly King Tower".
14. Rad and me on the summit. Not much for views.
15. Proof we were on the summit.
16. On the Corkscrew Route about 400-500 feet below the summit (taken in the same genearl location as Photo 12, just looking the opposite way). We downclimbed and made 1 rappel just off the ledge on the right in the photo, then scrambled down the SE Shelf.
17. We made one rappel off the end of the SE Shelf to get back down to the snow.
18-19. The SW Face of Sloan as seen on way out. Still moist and shrouded in clouds, so we made the right call to bail on the Fire on the Mountain plans. I'll have to come back on a sunny day to climb it.