Wednesday, August 31, 2011

First Ascent - Mt. Cline South Buttress (IV, 5.10)

Climbed a fantastic new route on Mt. Cline a couple weeks ago with Eammon Walsh & Steve Holeczi. I've been eyeing up this route for many years and was psyched to finally get in there to give it a shot. About 5 years ago I did the first ascent of the East Face on Cline (IV, 5.10-) just around the corner so I knew that the rock would likely be good. The various rock walls on Cline are true gems and have the best overall rock quality I have ever found on an 11000er in the Rockies. On both routes we carried pitons but never had a need to use them since the abundant solid cracks provide plenty of protection with just cams & nuts.

Mt. Cline, our route climbed on or near the right hand skyline.

We hiked a short ways in the evening before, and enjoyed smokies & scotch around the campfire as has become our tradition. Up early the next morning, we walked the remaining 3 hours to the base of the wall, which is about 450m tall and ends near the summit. We discussed various potential routes, but sub-zero temperatures lured us to the ridge since it was catching the morning sun. The first pitch was the only nasty one and has some pretty rank rock, but protected OK and was about 5.8 up the second dark chimney left of the ridgeline. I think it mostly felt really hard because we couldn't feel our fingers or toes, and therefore the holds, in the cold! Luckily it warmed up to reasonable temps as the day continued, and the rock quality improved dramatically. Most of the pitches were in the 5.8 to 5.9 range, with one pitch of of hard 5.10 and another of about 5.10a near the top. The first three pitches were just left of the ridge crest, followed by 3 or 4 to the right of the crest, and finally a few pitches on the crest of the upper buttress itself.

Steve leading pitch 3 with Eammon belaying.

Steve belaying about half way up the route. It was starting to cool down again at this point.

Eammon leading away.

Me on the crux pitch, it started to snow lightly about halfway through the lead, but luckily it was steep enough to stay dry.

We put the cameras away at this point since it was starting to snow harder, but the last two pitches joined the East Face route I did a number of years ago and went at 5.10- and 5.8. Water was running down the 5.8 pitch and we were glad it was the last of the technical climbing!

On the summit in a snowstorm, what a lovely day for rock climbing!

We took the normal route back down past the Cline Lakes and were back at the road just as it got dark. This is one of the better quality alpine rock routes I've ever done and I'd highly recommend it.

J. Mills
CRAG Head Guide

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