Forum Index > Trip Reports > Johannesburg Mountain ~ Northeast Buttress ~ September 5-6, 2020
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Fletcher
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PostMon Sep 07, 2020 12:15 pm 
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The Northeast Buttress of Johannesburg... One of those routes that I have aspired to climb for a few years but was never really sure I actually would. I have had a really good climbing season this year but it was in need of a finale. Last Monday, I called Reed to see if he was free Labor Day weekend. His calm demeanor on gnarly terrain and eternal optimism make him a hot commodity for climbs like this. While enjoying a nice rest day dinner with PeeWee at our favorite brewery in Bellingham midweek and discussing geopolitics and the current state of the world, he decided that he might as well come along too.
J-Burg
J-Burg

At 6am on Saturday morning, we were off. A quick walk back down from the Cascade Pass parking lot to the hairpin, across the river, and a very brief bushwhack brought us to the moraine. We followed the moraine up the left side of the giant snow fan, dropped down to it and cramponed across the debris field from 3800 to 4000'.
snow cave
snow cave
up to moraine
up to moraine
dropping to the snow fan
dropping to the snow fan
easy step off up to the right
easy step off up to the right
the slabby start
the slabby start

We made our way to the left side of the left most waterfall and thankfully had an easy transition from snow to rock. This route gets serious immediately. The scrambling up the beginning of the slabs is easy but exposed. After a few hundred feet, the terrain gets more difficult. We built a questionable anchor and Reed was the first hero of the day when he stepped up for the lead.
PeeWee doing Jburg
PeeWee doing Jburg
Reed gunning the rope
Reed gunning the rope
very sketchy in here
very sketchy in here

The "sketchy 5th slab" mentioned in the Abegg beta is, in fact, very sketchy. Impossible to adequately protect, Reed got a decent nut in midway up. He would have taken quite a ride if he fell. Crimpy holds and challenging, slabby feet got us all up this long pitch to the flat bench area with ample running water. It was on! The only way down was up from here.
PeeWee finishing up the slab pitch
PeeWee finishing up the slab pitch

We spent some time exploring the best way to enter the maw of vertical brush in front of us. We eventually found a path that looked well traveled through thickets of salmon berry and devils club. I could not imagine doing this route without gardening gloves. It wasnt long until we were in the vertical trees section. I was carrying the rope inside my pack and it was too big for me to make the countless tight squeezes along this section of the route. Kyle and Reed helped me ferry my pack through here which ate up a long of time.
yum
yum
thick
thick
nasty
nasty
tree climbing
tree climbing
the optimist
the optimist
airy
airy

After awhile the thickest of the trees was behind us. We even had a few openings in the brush and found some nice places to take a few breaks. We somehow bypassed the "snow bowl" between the 51 and 57 ribs that is mentioned in other reports. The higher we went, the less dense the brush became. We found this section to be fairly comfortable, despite the steepness, because of the ample veggie belays everywhere.
looking rough
looking rough
more brush
more brush
the promised land comes into view
the promised land comes into view

The brush continued to open up and we transitioned to the section of steep heather climbing. Other reports had me nervous going into this section but we all actually found it to be secure and fun. I dont remember doing anything particularly harrowing. Small, shrubby trees were still numerous in here so there is plenty to grab on to. The immediate exposure is also only moderate through much of this section because of the trees and small flat areas and benches.
Eldo and the '57 Rib
Eldo and the '57 Rib
scoping the route
scoping the route
a chill spot
a chill spot
dont slip PeeWee
dont slip PeeWee

The heathery section felt surprisingly short and we were finally scrambling up solid rock! We continued up the increasingly exposed 51 Rib until we found a way into the wide gully to our right. This involved some super airy moves on mossy rock. It was getting real. More class 3/4 on polished steppy terrain continued for a few hundred feet. We were all fairly comfortable soloing through here.
the gully
the gully
exposure
exposure
a short respite
a short respite
getting gnarlier
getting gnarlier

Eventually the terrain steepened more and the soloing became mentally taxing. Route finding also became more complicated as there were now ways to go to avoid 5th class and other areas that would certainly require a belay.
an exposed ledge
an exposed ledge
serious consequence here if you mess up
serious consequence here if you mess up

After soloing a lot of stuff that was right on the edge of what we were willing to solo, we came upon a step that we decided to belay. It was short and we had another 100 feet of incredible exposed 4th class with loose blocks everywhere. I was out in front here and hugely relieved to find a nice roomy bivy ledge to finally take a short break. I knew we were right below the grand bivy and glacier.
Reed climbing up to the bivy ledge
Reed climbing up to the bivy ledge
the boys taking a much needed mental break
the boys taking a much needed mental break

Peering around the corner from this ledge, I spotted a short pitch that didnt look too difficult. I racked up for the lead and built a decent (for Jburg) anchor that would hopefully keep me on the mountain in the event of a fall. The pitch ended up being more difficult than it looked, about 5.6. The rock was terribly loose which made the moves feel very insecure and delicate. I got a decent cam in down low, then slung a rotten horn 3/4 of the way up, and finally got a decent nut in before some weird mantily crux moves and a top out. I could see the glacier across from me and figured the grand bivy sight was just above. And the terrain looked easy to get there. Wooohooo!
Reed leading a short easy pitch to the grand bivy
Reed leading a short easy pitch to the grand bivy
time for new boots
time for new boots

We arrived at the bivy around 3:30 and took an hour break to melt some water and finally chill for a bit. This would be an awesome place to stay the night, but we had our sights set on the summit. With plenty of day light left, we set out for the snow arete at 4:30. Summit fever had infected us all.
Torment/Forbidden
Torment/Forbidden
a good spot to hop onto the glacier
a good spot to hop onto the glacier
up the arete
up the arete
classic JBurg shot
classic JBurg shot

The glacier started out chill and we enjoyed this amazing walk in the sky. We then encountered the first of 2 steep headwalls and had to dodge a few crevasses and climb up a short section of alpine ice. We were all very glad that we brought aggressive crampons and a second tool.
kinda gnarly
kinda gnarly
steep and hard
steep and hard
getting it
getting it

Some mellower terrain and a few more cracks to weave around brought us to the final headwall. Some fun, secure steep snow climbing was had here. A fall would have meant certain death but the climbing felt secure.
approaching the headwall
approaching the headwall
almost there
almost there
stoked
stoked

From the top of the glacier, a short class 3/4 scramble brought us to the summit of Johannesburg! We quickly settled in for a gorgeous evening up high in the North Cascades.
Jburg
Jburg

Sleep was lackluster at best on the summit. The bivy sights up there are workable but really rocky. We woke up at first light and were packed up and heading down the east ridge at 7am.
sunrise on Eldo
sunrise on Eldo
Dome and Glacier
Dome and Glacier
marine layer
marine layer
Summit Chief, Chimney Rock, Rainier, Soan and others
Summit Chief, Chimney Rock, Rainier, Soan and others
very nice
very nice
wow
wow

The traverse along the south side of the east ridge was surprisingly straightforward with the help of a few cairns here and there. The terrain in here is very loose and exposed but mostly class 3 with some spicier moves thrown in here and there to hold your attention.
a tricky spot
a tricky spot
downsloping ledge
downsloping ledge

Once we figured we were nearing the beginning of the rappels, we made our way back up to the ridge crest, and found the key gully. Down the gully 100 feet or so and an exposed 4th class step brought us to the first rap anchor! "This isnt so bad..."
back up to the ridge crest
back up to the ridge crest
rap 1
rap 1

Two initial rappels, then some downclimbing and another two rappels brought us back to scramble terrain. The last rap on this section is a real rope stretcher, barely getting us down with our 60m rope.
the rope stretcher
the rope stretcher
the never-ending descent
the never-ending descent

The down climbing on this next section seemed to drag on forever. The descent off of this mountain is serious and I was mentally over it. More downclimbing and 2 more raps down some steeper stuff FINALLY brought us to mellow terrain at C-J Col around noon. DONE! We took a long break at the col to fuel up for our climb up and over Doug's Direct.
looking back at the beast
looking back at the beast
bear
bear

Some reports talk up the climb up to Doug's Direct as being intense but we found it to be easy and pleasant. The descent down to the Cache Glacier Basin was also chill. Some fun boot skiing and running down some slabs brought us to the TRAIL on Mixup Arm. YESSS.
climbing up to Doug's Direct
climbing up to Doug's Direct
and down the other side
and down the other side

From there, we all cruised out to the car. I ran most of the way down, excited for the beers that I hoped were still cold in the cooler. I got to back down to the car at exactly 4:00, 10 hours from the summit of the hardest peak I have ever done. Johannesburg and the NEB are particuarly satisfying to have in the bag.  cool.gif

~ 12 miles
~ 6200 ft of gain
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rbuzby
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PostMon Sep 07, 2020 12:53 pm 
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Wow. Sweet pics!

I did this hike in flip flops with my corgi once.
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Gimpilator
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PostMon Sep 07, 2020 1:58 pm 
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Incredible job guys!   cool.gif

Fletcher, talking to you on the summit was the most thrilling thing to happen to me in the last month.  Thank you!

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https://www.youtube.com/c/Zogador
https://www.summitpost.org/users/gimpilator/25744
http://www.peakbagger.com/climber/ClimbListC.aspx?cid=2650&sort=elevft&u=ft&j=-1&y=9999

Keep climbing mountains and don't slip!
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RichP
here and there



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PostMon Sep 07, 2020 2:03 pm 
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Awesome accomplishment.  up.gif
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ozzy
The hard way



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ozzy
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The hard way
PostMon Sep 07, 2020 7:24 pm 
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Holy sh## man!! eek.gif  borank.gif  what a crazy adventure!! J-Berg was on my list for when I get better at this stuff but now I don't know if I'll ever make it up that monster! dizzy.gif  You guys are awesome and congrats! cheers.gif  And for you to say it was the hardest peak you've done!! Damnnn! rocker.gif

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Milk is for babies. When you grow up you have to drink beer. -Arnold
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Cyclopath
Faster than light



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Faster than light
PostMon Sep 07, 2020 8:50 pm 
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That looks terrifying!  And such incredible pics.
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Michael Lewis
Taking a nap



Joined: 27 Apr 2009
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Taking a nap
PostTue Sep 08, 2020 10:54 am 
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Epic video. Glad you made it back safe from that monster. Way too much mental game. Thank you for sharing so I can armchair it.
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Brushbuffalo
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Location: there earlier, here now, somewhere later... Bellingham in between
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PostTue Sep 08, 2020 6:15 pm 
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Fletcher wrote:
The "sketchy 5th slab" mentioned in the Abegg beta is, in fact, very sketchy.

That's because Steph doesn't know the meaning of fear...except on runout slabs.
She was inspired in this case.
Courage tempered by judgment =Steph Abegg.
Unfortunately she is enduring Recovery 2.0  right now as a result of a freak accident.  Send her your thoughts and prayers.http://www.stephabegg.com/home/tripreports/recovery2

--------------
Passing rocks and trees like they were standing still
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NBL
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Joined: 08 Sep 2020
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PostTue Sep 15, 2020 4:34 pm 
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Just watched this trip video again. What a nightmare adventure! Hope to add my name to the reg some day!
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Dustin R
veteran rookie



Joined: 30 Aug 2017
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veteran rookie
PostTue Sep 15, 2020 6:05 pm 
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Strong work!! The quality of your edits is always so spot on. Excellent song selection for this climb.
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raising3hikers
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PostTue Sep 15, 2020 6:11 pm 
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Your video captures what j berg is all about!  Excellent job fellas.

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Eric Eames
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Midnight Slogger
'Schwack Job



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PostTue Sep 15, 2020 6:59 pm 
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Thanks for the good write-up and video, Fletcher. Many thanks to both Fletcher and Kyle for a memorable and special trip. I appreciate you guys.

Some belated notes and mediocre photos:

The 5.6 pitch of loose, terrible rock that we were grateful for Fletcher leading was a "bypass" of the ledge/chimney described in Franklin Bradshaw's peakbagger report. Though this ledge/chimney is purportedly the best (easiest) way to access the 7100' grand bivy ledge, we found this ledge and its corresponding "belay station" to be covered in scree, narrow, and downsloping--so we opted for the way that Fletcher describes. Reasonable parties might disagree.

For the descent, we all thought coming up the NEB would be better than scrambling up the east ridge (this is for anyone considering doing the east ridge instead of the NEB). Though the NEB has a reputation for type 2 fun, it is aesthetic and consistently interesting, with many opportunities for safe handholds. The east ridge, on the other hand, seemed terribly loose and more prone to sliding handholds, and of course rockfall. A late-season concern may be that there was only one spot to get off the ridge that wasn't moated (i.e. we had to get closest to the col to avoid a moat).

waterfall slab section with access point at obvious snow bridge
waterfall slab section with access point at obvious snow bridge
typical terrain above the vertical 'schwack
typical terrain above the vertical 'schwack
Uncle Pee Wee
Uncle Pee Wee
Fletcher in his element
Fletcher in his element
The east ridge, looking rather steep, from the C-J col. Zoom and squint to see Fletcher and Pee Wee in descent.
The east ridge, looking rather steep, from the C-J col. Zoom and squint to see Fletcher and Pee Wee in descent.
Going up to Doug's Direct. Per usual, Steph Abegg's beta is spot-on for finding the right spot, seen directly center in this photo.
Going up to Doug's Direct. Per usual, Steph Abegg's beta is spot-on for finding the right spot, seen directly center in this photo.
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gb
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gb
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PostWed Sep 16, 2020 12:37 pm 
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When we did Johannesburg in 1978, we went up Cascade/Johannesburg Couloir to the hanging glacier and at it's back ascended 75' of low 5th polished slab to easier rock above. This was the 1951 route, and after about 1000', we climbed a prominent and steep 5.4 buttress for 2-3 pitches to the obvious snowfield high on the NE face. The rock was generally good, but there would have been almost no protection on much of the face. However, we belayed the first pitch and the steep buttress to the snowfield.

Although the line on this climb is not as spectacular as the NE Ridge, it is not brushy and pretty solid. Protection on Johannesburg is best accomplished with Kb and Lost arrow pitons as most cracks are incipient.

At the time we did this climb the risk of icefall in the lower couloir was considerable but now the glacier is much down wasted. We dodged one volley of falling ice.

There was, of course, no beta back then other than the knowledge that this was the approximate line of the 1951 route. We found the poor rock along the summit ridge disgusting and attempted to locate the East Ridge descent which we really couldn't see, and ended up descending a high angle snow couloir on the South Face for 1500', mostly facing in. At the base of the face, we traversed to a bivouac 800' below the Cascade Couloir pass. Though we had expected to descend the couloir the next day, exiting high onto it's east shoulder (and then to Cascade Pass), rain that night ruled out the Couloir and we schwacked out the Middle Fork.

Our analysis was that Johannesburg would be a good last climb. From the summit, just jump off. It took us twice as long to descend as it did to climb the 1951 route.......
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Forum Index > Trip Reports > Johannesburg Mountain ~ Northeast Buttress ~ September 5-6, 2020
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