Bryan Burdo is responsible for putting up excellent alpine routes throughout the Cascades, from Slesse to Stevens Pass. Bryan has also created many new sport climbs. I got the chance to tackle something of a hybrid of the two, after Ben "Crusher" Gilkison convinced me to head with him to Mt. Baring (actually a sub-summit called Dolomite Tower) for a climb of Vanishing Point.
VP was climbed and bolted over the course of many years, mostly in the late 1990s, and established as a grade VI 5.12b. It takes a ~400meter overhanging prow, which BASE jumpers have found to be pretty conducive to their sport. Ben did all the research, scouted the first 40 minutes of the approach (which we would do in the dark) and got some beta from his friends who had done the climb. I was just along or the ride, pithy comments, and occasional bout of whinging.
VP takes the plumb line on a wall that also features routes such as NW Passage, and a couple other Pete Doorish lines. With the approach beta, we found reaching the climb to be a pretty casual 3-3.5 hours with no bushwhacking. The route itself doesn't seem to be truly "finalized", by which I mean that multiple pitches provide numerous mini-variations, as though the FAist hasn't quite figured out the best line (or has, but left a couple other options in place).
Ben nearly onsighted the whole route, just taking some time to work out the beta on the pitch past the big roof, and sending on his second lead go (.12b). I pulled on draws and hung in several spots, finding even a small backpack made things much tougher. We both felt that the crux pitch was the second "5.11c" pitch (#5 overall) which felt like techy 5.12+. Expect much groping for non-holds, as few of the features are square-cut or straightforward.
The position is amazing and the route is certainly unforgettable and wild. Exposure from high on route is off the charts, so even if you think you'll be pulling on draws through the 5.12 bits, I'd suggest VP. Thanks to Ben for dialing in the approach AND descent - my headlamp had gotten turned on while in my pack the day before, and it was burnt out. I navigated to and from the climbing via the dim glow of an ipod nano - a crux I proudly sent in style.
I wonder if Ben'sclimb was the first free ascent of the route? (climbing it bottom-to-top, redpointing or onsighting everything). Anyone know if Burdo ever properly sent this beast?
Vanishing Point, NW Passage, etc are all accessed from the same location and the approach and descent is the same. Here is some beta to get you there and back again:
Drive to Baring, at mile post 41 on Hwy 2. Across from the general store, turn off of Hwy 2 to the north, cross the railroad tracks, and stay on that same road, which goes to gravel. passes power lines and electric poles and enters into the forest. This windy road gains elevation in the woods, but dead-ends after roughly 5 miles at the Barclay Lake TH. NW forest Pass required!!
Follow Barclay Lake trail, reach bridge (first bridge) after 1 or 1.5 miles and step into the creek bed - leave trail and go up the creek bed, heading upstream for 5 mins or so to a cairn (just upstream from here are 2 HUGE logs across the creek bed) wander through woods just to the right of the creek, parallel to the creek on the south side for only about 200 or 300' until you can diagonal off to the right from the margins of the creek and no more than 5 mins of minor brush brings you to a huge rockslide washout. This should be no more than 15 mins total from leaving the creek wash t the cairn. Follow your nose and aim toward Baring's N face - best to scout this in daylight.
this HUGE washout comes downs from the right, directly from beneath Baring N. Face. you can see the route from these boulders.
Follow wash up into prominent gully. You will pass a short steep wall by heading into brush on the right hand side of the wash and then zigging back into the wash.
Just before the wash/gully steepens to become a fifth class chimney/gully system, take a distinct 4th class ledge / ramp up and back to the right side of the gully to a forested rib on the right. you'll see signs of travel and encounter many short fixed ropes tied to trees. zig and zag as the trail switchbacks, if there aren't fixed ropes on the steep bits, you are off route.
Follow the forested rib, pulling on tree branches to get up to the buttress shoulder with views of the valley. (In the middle of the rib, you will need to pass a short slab, tending right wards. There are intermittent fixed ropes at steep sections. A trail leads through the entire section, but is indistinct. Nonetheless, getting lost within the rib just means more difficult travel (i.e can’t get past cliffs), not getting to the wrong place) - there are tons of solid fixed ropes - have a harness on for clipping in when you want to.
At the shoulder at the top of the buttress formed by the forested rib(2L of ate is stashed here), traverse down and drop back into the gully.
Ascend the gully until a chock-stone blocks further progress. A bolt on the chock stone allows you to protect as you grovel over it, or bolts on the right hand side allow more dignified progress (5.7) (I soloed around the chockstone on the left, which was ok this time of year, but wet earlier)
Continue up the gully until you see bolts on the left-hand slab.
A long pitch of dirty and wet (seasonally) 5.8 climbing with bolts every 20 feet ascends the slab (@200’). (The wetness probably depends on recent weather, but the dirty will likely always be there, imagine slab climbing with a dusting of concrete mixture sprinkled over the entire slab.) Brian says that this was formerly very clean and that recent rock fall is the likely cause. He’s probably right. He anticipates bolting a line to the left (or maybe just finding a line that doesn’t need pro.) in order to avoid the danger. A ledge system to the left may allow you to avoid this whole system (very exposed). . .
Traverse a broad ledge to the left @ 300’.
Ascend a groove/gully system, passing a low fifth class chimney move or two early on. many fixed ropes and trash are here. Halfway up the system, bolts on the wall to the right allow climbing on the cleaner face, ending in a two-bolt belay.
Traverse up and left to third class slabs, taking the lower of the slabs. The correct slab can be determined by the fact that a) you can see all of it (others are hidden by buttress guarding their lower flanks) and b) a bolt protects the low fifth class move that guards it entrance. From the bolt, you move up and left.
The slab deposits you on a talus/bush-covered bench directly beneath the route.
The route starts just left of the prominent arete that divides Dolomite Tower. The first two bolts are plainly visible from the ground.
The bivy caves are 150’ to the right of the route. There are three flat platforms each of which are sufficient for a comfortable night’s sleep for one. The Caves are relatively shallow and spray may come in if there is wind and rain.
Expect 3 hours from car
Rack – Climbed the route with a single set of nuts and cams to #1 camalot. You could bring more gear and link the two trad pitches, but why? we Brought 15 draws, including 6 single runners. A 60m rope is fine. I think you could easily rap the whole route, maybe you'd have to leave a biner on a bolt in the middle of the .12a pitch, but there are many many close bolts. It might be easier to re-climb (backwards) the .11a traverse near the huge roof.
p1 Follows bolts just left of the arete. Ledge at belay. Draws. 5.10c short pitch, combine with p2
p2 - More of the same, ending on a prominent pedestal. stay hard Left to climb bolts or bring the gear and follow the obvious hand crack to the right (.10a). Good ledge. Draws. 1 & 2 may be combined as 60m. .10c
p3 - straight up to 3-bolt-stance (and pin), then up r. atop stacked blocks, move right (little runout) and up into corner. Clip two bolts you wish had been lower, and Ascend the dihedral, stopping at a sloping ledge, bolt on the left wall. Mixed pro. 5.11b
p4 - *** 5.11b finger and thin hand crack, make sure not to climb past the belay, located on a ledge out left ~25' below the roof. Head up and right through the left hand edge of the prominent roof. .11c
p5 - straight up near or on the arete and out the roof, swing left then hard R to belay. short pitch. two other bolted lines are more left, near a chimney feature. unknown fate awaits climbers of these lines. (shown as 4.5 in topo)
p6 - moving and climbing R of the arete, follow bolts up the arete or the more natural line with occasional gear and bolts 10' right, but eventually end on the arete, with 5.11c crux near the top. (shown as 5 in topo)
p7 - steep arete climbing, often just left of the prow, leads to a thin hard move we felt to be roughly 5.12+ but must have been doing it wrong. (.11c?) (I tried this seveal times on TR without success -Blake)
p8 - up arete (5.11-) for a few bolts and then veer left into shallow dihedral off and left. Bring gear, place when possible. The last section of this pitch involves ~25’ runouts on 5.7 – 5.9 climbing. clip bolt on left and Belay at two-bolt anchor at decent ledge for standing. 5.11a?
p9 - up bolts through thin and slightly overhanging wall with greenish hue. crux is at or just above bolt w/chain. routes then diverge, we took the right option which wanders around arete with sustained 5.11. Finish with gear to run out 5.9/10 ending at hanging belay directly under roof or stay right of arete up high and do harder, slightly dirty, but more well-bolted climbing to same anchor. If bringing gear, just take a couple mid-sized cams. Bring ALL your draws..11d/.12a.
p10 - Head right through the roof on jugs, belaying at another 5-bolt anchor. much fixed gear and various tat litter the area to the right. 5.11-
p.11 - Go back left through the roof, the crux is on the vertical headwall just out of view from belay. 5.12b SHORT
p.12 - up on steep 5.10 climbing then back right to the arete - 2 anchors nearby here - short pitch. 5.10c
p13 Follow bolts and gear up the left-hand side of the arete to chains on slab - 5.9
p14 - Follow 2 or 3 bolts up dirty slab then go up the crack/left to bolted roof exit, or veer hard right around the choosy overhang and back up left to final bolt anchor at the edge of the woods. 5.9
Follow the BASE jumper trail down and west, but circle around left (counter clockwise) after only 5 mins or so - you are aiming for the top of a talus field and a scramble path down into the notch separating you from the highest peak, which is to the south. From the col between the peaks, take a right (west) and follow the boulders and meadows down-valley for roughly 700 vertical feet or 20 minutes to the west. after the terrain flattens and you pass below a few giant garage-sized boulders, try to pick up the trail on the skier's left as the rocks give way to heather. This trail should lead slightly upward (gain ~150'?) and left to the low-point on the timbered ridge. From here, a steep but non-brushy game trail switchbacks downwards through old-growth for 600' vertical or so feet until the the forest becomes less steep and the path leads hard to skier's right. This will gain elevation slightly as it gains the ridge crest once again. Follow a fun trail along the very top of the forested ridge for a mile or so (as long as there is a trail, keep going across minor ups-and-down) eventually a steep path leads obviously straight down to the right. This very steep trail switchbacks for ~1500' vertical or so, eventually crossing a small stream a few times, and finishing skier's left where it hits a clearing and the remains of an old logging road. Follow this logging road for 4 minutes back to the car at the Barclay Lake TH. - expect 3 hours from summit.