Sunday, September 16, 2007

Broken Top

Yesterday I climbed another volcano called Broken Top in the Sister's wilderness. On this one
occasion I hadn't done much research about the climb minus a quick look at a website with photos of someone else's climb so I didn't really know quite what to expect. I guessed the trip to be around 12 miles round trip so my roomate Jason, our buddy Justin Broderson and Tiffany Greg decided to come along. Justin drove his Honda Element because it got better gas and had more room than any of our vehicles.
We left Albany in his car at 7am and after several stops for gas ad food and a very rough drive down an access road we left the trailhead at around 11am. The hike skirted the base of Broken top towards Green Lakes Campground. It was a good 5-6 mile long walk around the base of
the mountain to get to the ridge we intended to climb. Unfortunately we didn't spot the herdpath going into the woods from a campsite so we ended up adding on a couple miles and longer ridge walk to get to the final ascent of the peak. The views were amazing all day long and seeing all 3 of the Sisters from that angle was pretty cool. Some of the trail was just piles of volanic tephra. It was so light that it almost felt like walking on packing peanuts.

When we
got to the final ridge it looked impossibly steep. Jason's hips were bothering him and he looked like he was in a great deal of pain so he remained in the col while Justin, Tiff and I ascended the steep ridge towards the summit pinnacle. It was nearing 4pm and the clouds were starting to move in. Wind gusts were strong and I was worried about time and weather because we still had to get safely down. As we neared the final summit push Justin looked like he was in some
pain and after twisting his knee several

times on the way up he was concerned about the final class 4-5 scramble to the summit 70 feet above us. (It's always a tough decision for a climber to hold back when so close to the summit but I really do commend him for making the right choice. Going up the nearly vertical rock at the summit may have been possible, but one slip or one wrong twist of a weak knee on the way down would certainly mean major trauma
or death). So, Justin decided to remain below while Tiffany and I pushed on to the summit pinnacle which required 3 10-15 foot scrambles with hands and feet up nearly vertical rock. The final pitch had very loose rock which made me nervous for our safety but we both felt confident so pushed on. If we
had had ropes with us, belay devices and helmets I would have felt much safer about taking everyone up.
Tiff and I didn't remain long on the summit because we could see a band of clouds moving over the shoulder of South Sister a mile away and knew we didn't have much time to get down from the treacherous terrain. Before we left the steep summit I found myself perched on a 200+lb boulder that was teetering above a very steep chute leading to the glacier below and then another 500+ cliff. I grabbed a hand hold, steadied myself, yelled "hey Tiff", and pushed it loose with all my leg strength while jumping to safety. The rock rocketed down the steep slope setting off many other rock slides. Hundreds of pounds of rocks flew down the face of Broken top exploding in craters into the soft sun-baked glacier below before rocketing off the cliff at the end
of the glacier out of site. Tiff and Justin were both pretty impressed at the amount of rock the boulder set into motion. I normally wouldn't do such a thing but there was absolutely no way anybody would be climbing up from that route due to the natural rock fall danger there to begin with. I got a video of it... pretty cool. We got down to the col where Jason was and found an easier trail out that cut off the long ridgewalk we had taken on the way up. As soon as we caught up to Jason we looked up at the summit and it was gone... buried in clouds. We had literally made the summit and descended in just the nick of time. It was then 5:30 and we had a good 2+ hour walk out partially in the dark back to the car. The 12 mile hike turned out to be 16.7 miles and a lot harder than I had expected, although I'm sure we all had a great time. On the way home we stopped at a brewery in Bend and got some dinner at 9pm. It wasn't until nearly 1:30am that I crawled into bed last night happy to know that it was the 6th Cascade volcano in a row that I successfully summited!

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