Forum Index > Trip Reports > Assassin Spire (8,680'+) - NW Face - First Ascent - 3.6.10
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Tom_Sjolseth
Born Yesterday



Joined: 30 May 2007
Posts: 2587 | TRs | Pics
Location: Right here.
Tom_Sjolseth
Born Yesterday
PostSun Mar 07, 2010 10:15 pm 
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Assassin Spire - The Shooting Gallery (IV, WI4+)

Photo courtesy of John Scurlock.
Photo courtesy of John Scurlock.

Assassin Spire is a subsidiary summit of Lincoln Peak, one of the intimidating Black Buttes on Mt. Baker.  Until this weekend it had never seen an ascent via any route.

Daniel Jeffrey and I headed up to Marmot Ridge via Warm Creek off the Middle Fork of the Nooksack River on Thursday evening after work.  We had planned to approach that evening, but it was raining when we arrived, so we decided to postpone the approach until the following morning.

Friday morning we awoke at 3:30AM, and got ready to head up.  We were crossing a very icy Warm Creek by 3:50 in complete darkness.  We then headed up new growth timber through a clearcut for 700' to gain Marmot Ridge.  From here, it was a long, undulating journey to camp at ~6200' in the basin below Assassin Peak and Heliotrope Ridge.

The next morning we awoke at 3:30 again to crystal clear, starry skies.  We brewed some water and coffee, and proceeded to cross the basin to the base of the NW Face.  We had spied a vertical line of ice (~3 pitches of WI6) below the hanging glacier, but it looked a bit intimidating for us, so we opted to try a less sporty line on climber's right.

2 25m pitches of WI4+ (90-100 degree ice - short stretches of overhanging on the first pitch) separated by a ledge led us up to a 55 degree buttress.  The ice on the curtain was very brittle and it took multiple swings to get good placements.  This was very tiring, and we pumped out fast.  I led 20m on the first step before running out of screws.  I then lowered off and belayed Daniel up to finish the last 5m (one more screw placement).  From here, he belayed me up and I led the next 30m pitch.  The ice was better here, but still brittle in spots.  A swing of the tool would shatter the ice as it broke off huge chunks.

From the top of the first curtain, we climbed 55 degree snow (firm and punchy here) to gain the hanging glacier.  Above the hanging glacier lies an amazing amphitheater of ice and rock that rivals anything else I have seen in the entire N Cascade Range.  How impressive!!  Many lines are waiting to be climbed here consisting of very aesthetic, sustained, and solid ice.

We traversed the hanging glacier to another gully (45 degrees), which we simul-soloed.  This gully led into some 70 degree ice which we also soloed.  We went right at John Wilkes' Tooth before arriving at the final ice curtain (20m WI4+).  Daniel led this and we topped out in another steep snow/ice gully to 55 degrees.  3 more pitches led us to the summit.  What a place!

From the summit, Lincoln Peak looks impressive, as does Colfax and Baker.  We spied about 15 snowmobiles parked under Sherman Peak, and saw 4 climbers at the col below the upper slopes of the Coleman Glacier.

We were buzzed on the summit by an EA6B Prowler who did a double-take and circled us 3 times.  The pilot tipped his wing.  Very cool.

We downclimbed almost everything but rappelled the ice pitches (3 raps total on twin 60m ropes).  Things were glopping up in the afternoon sun and the ice pitches were now snice pitches.  Our crampons and even ice tools were balling up near the bottom of the climb.  I have never seen snow that sticky.

This was a fantastic trip of epic proportions with a great partner in Daniel Jeffrey.  Thanks to John Scurlock for flying over before the ascent to take recon photos, and thanks also for flying over on approach day thinking we were on route (we had told him we would be climbing Assassin on Friday).  We saw him circle about 10 times looking for us.  If only we had a flare gun...  biggrin.gif

Scurlock's photo from March 5.  THANKS John!
Scurlock's photo from March 5.  THANKS John!
Looking up at Heliotrope Ridge on the approach.
Looking up at Heliotrope Ridge on the approach.
Tracks in front of the Sister's Range on the approach.
Tracks in front of the Sister's Range on the approach.
View of Assassin Spire from the approach.
View of Assassin Spire from the approach.
Daniel at camp.
Daniel at camp.
Assassin Spire from camp.
Assassin Spire from camp.
Fading light over the Sister's Range from camp.
Fading light over the Sister's Range from camp.
Alpenglow on Assassin Spire.
Alpenglow on Assassin Spire.
Sunset.
Sunset.
Me leading the upper portion of the first ice curtain on Assassin Spire.
Me leading the upper portion of the first ice curtain on Assassin Spire.
Looking down from the arete.
Looking down from the arete.
Looking up from just above the first ice curtain.
Looking up from just above the first ice curtain.
Daniel topping out on the first curtain.
Daniel topping out on the first curtain.
Daniel climbing up to the hanging glacier.
Daniel climbing up to the hanging glacier.
The amphitheater.
The amphitheater.
Views to the Sister's Range from mid-route.
Views to the Sister's Range from mid-route.
Looking down from high on the route.
Looking down from high on the route.
The Assassin Spire conglomerate.
The Assassin Spire conglomerate.
Tracks on route.
Tracks on route.
Weeping curtains of ice from mid-route.
Weeping curtains of ice from mid-route.
Daniel climbing up to the belay below the third curtain.
Daniel climbing up to the belay below the third curtain.
Daniel leading the third ice curtain.
Daniel leading the third ice curtain.
The steep gully above the last ice curtain.
The steep gully above the last ice curtain.
The upper slopes of Assassin Spire.
The upper slopes of Assassin Spire.
Daniel a few pitches below the summit.
Daniel a few pitches below the summit.
Daniel on route below the summit.
Daniel on route below the summit.
Daniel approaching the final steps to the summit of Assassin Spire.
Daniel approaching the final steps to the summit of Assassin Spire.
Lincoln Peak from the summit.
Lincoln Peak from the summit.
Mt. Baker and Colfax Peak from the summit of Assassin Spire.
Mt. Baker and Colfax Peak from the summit of Assassin Spire.
Daniel on the summit.
Daniel on the summit.
Looking west from the summit.
Looking west from the summit.
Looking down from the summit.
Looking down from the summit.
Me on the summit of Assassin Spire.
Me on the summit of Assassin Spire.
Unclimbed ice on Lincoln Peak's NW Face.
Unclimbed ice on Lincoln Peak's NW Face.
A close-up of unclimbed ice.
A close-up of unclimbed ice.
A huge curtain of ice (WI6) below the hanging glacier on Assassin Spire.
A huge curtain of ice (WI6) below the hanging glacier on Assassin Spire.
Sister's Range beyond untouched snow.
Sister's Range beyond untouched snow.
One parting shot.
One parting shot.
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Movenhike
\m/..mmmmetal\m/



Joined: 16 Apr 2007
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Location: Leavenworth, WA
Movenhike
\m/..mmmmetal\m/
PostSun Mar 07, 2010 10:21 pm 
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hungry.gif  up.gif  up.gif

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"Make it your Friend"  -John Bull
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Movenhike
\m/..mmmmetal\m/



Joined: 16 Apr 2007
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Movenhike
\m/..mmmmetal\m/
PostSun Mar 07, 2010 10:38 pm 
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Cascades Rock drink.gif  breakdance.gif

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"Make it your Friend"  -John Bull
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Yana
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Yana
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PostSun Mar 07, 2010 10:47 pm 
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Awesome!  up.gif  up.gif

How'd you get down?

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PLAY SAFE! SKI ONLY IN CLOCKWISE DIRECTION! LET'S ALL HAVE FUN TOGETHER!
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Matt
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Joined: 29 Jan 2007
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Matt
Tea, Earl Grey, Hot
PostSun Mar 07, 2010 10:48 pm 
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Wow, Tom, that's truly impressive.

It says something about the difficulty that Assassin is one of the few spires in the Cascades that really hasn't been climbed by any route by anyone.  At a time when there are few places left to make a first ascent, even by contrived routes, this is a real one.

100 degree ice?  As in overhanging?

Can you mark your route anywhere on the photos?

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“As beacons mountains burned at evening.” J.R.R. Tolkien
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Malachai Constant
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Malachai Constant
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PostSun Mar 07, 2010 10:52 pm 
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I looked at that when I first climbed Baker and thought to my self who would be crazy enough to climb that? Now I know up.gif  up.gif

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"You do not laugh when you look at the mountains, or when you look at the sea." Lafcadio Hearn
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raising3hikers
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raising3hikers
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PostSun Mar 07, 2010 11:02 pm 
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Unbelievable!  Congrats on getting that FA done up.gif  From my vantage point on Sat., Lincoln and Assassin looked very intimidating
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Stefan-K
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Stefan-K
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PostSun Mar 07, 2010 11:12 pm 
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Fantastic!

cool pics too. I tried to get a sense of your line though couldn't quite connect it in my imagination. I second Matt's request for a route marking... or is it stealth as in assassin?

I didn't even know there were still peaks unclimbed...
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Layback
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Layback
Proud Papa x2
PostSun Mar 07, 2010 11:15 pm 
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Congratulations on a truly awesome accomplishment Tom.   I hope that we'll get to reread this in the AAJ and NWMJ.  This is a big deal.  up.gif
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Michael Lewis
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Michael Lewis
Taking a nap
PostSun Mar 07, 2010 11:39 pm 
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The overhang was the first pitch, right? Looks like an intense warm-up! And the photo of looking down from the top... I don't think I could explain all the emotions I'd have to hold back if I was there.

Just curious, have you read any of Joe Simpson's books?
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tmatlack
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tmatlack
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PostMon Mar 08, 2010 3:13 am 
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Beasts!

From the photos I feel like I was up there...cold, tired,  scared, 100% out of my comfort zone. That's why I love these "extreme" TR's.   up.gif  up.gif

Tom
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EastKing
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Joined: 28 Mar 2007
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EastKing
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PostMon Mar 08, 2010 4:47 am 
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You always blow us away, Tom. This time you really top all of us!! Excellent TR and photos!

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I am addicted to summits! I can't eat, drink or breath without them. Life without mountains would really suck.

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RokIzGud
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Joined: 08 Feb 2010
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RokIzGud
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PostMon Mar 08, 2010 5:46 am 
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Wow awesome! That looks like a really cool climb!

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North by Northwest
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silence
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silence
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PostMon Mar 08, 2010 5:55 am 
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beautiful ... awe inspiring .. jaw dropping stuff tom .. big wahoo on the grabbing the 1st ascent!!!!

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PHOTOS: https://www.flickr.com/photos/33792231@N00/sets
FILMMAKING: http://www.crestpictures.com/

Keep a good head and always carry a light bulb. – Bob Dylan
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Magellan
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Magellan
Brutally Handsome
PostMon Mar 08, 2010 6:35 am 
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I remember when I met Tom last summer he mentioned that he had a few interesting things he wanted to climb.  He said he wanted to climb them soon as he 'wasn't sure how long he would be climbing at this level'.  I thought I knew what he was talking about when he said 'this level'.  I clearly did not.  Congrats on a very cool FA.  up.gif  up.gif
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