Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Gato Negro

Mid P3 about to haul, the crux is at top center
Marcus and I settled the score with Gato Negro after having earlier trouble identifying the start of the climb.  It always kills me to go on a "climbing" trip and have the approach be the reason for failure but in the Cascades the incidence is high.  What adds to the insult is that literally every trip report for this route expounded on it being the "easiest approach in the Wine Spires."  It actually is an easy approach but I think the info out there is poor unless you have prior knowledge of the area.  Here's the beta I wish I had:

Approach:  Follow the approach description per Burgandy Col in the Nelson guide.  Once in the basin below the W Face of Silver Star break off the trail toward the R in a gently rising (don't loose any elevation) traverse.  Once on the W side of the mountain, the massif appears to be broken into three sections with two major gully systems (think canyon-esque gully systems).  Gato Negro is in the middle of the three divisions, the Wine Spires are to the L and the other peak of Silver Star on the R.  The climb starts about 50-100ft of a major broad right facing corner and ledge system just uphill of a yellow section of rock.  The second pitch (more on this later) is reached by scrambling up a chimney past a tree to a large sandy ledge.  The bolts on the second pitch may be visible to you if you have great eyes but I couldn't see them until I was on the ledge.  The rock is clean on the second pitch.

Route:  We used the topos included in this post, I think made by the first ascensionists.  Pitch 1 doesn't exist.  Unless the route started via spelunking I have no idea why it was included.  Pitch 2 is rad and shouldn't be missed.  I could see it feeling pretty heads up if it were wet, cold or windy out but if you're not sending this pitch than the rest of the route is likely out of reach.  Pitch 3 is about 55m as opposed to the described 80 ft.  Pitch 4 is exactly as described.  We set up a haul just above the second chockstone (no established anchor just bracing oneself and pulling the pack up) and once again at the top of the pitch which we moved 20ft R to make the haul clean.  Above here the topo was kind of useless.  We followed the line of weakness making sure not to stray too far L and to keep below the crest on the R for two rope-stretching pitches which brought us to an alcove-like area about 20 ft below the crest approximately what is described as the top of pitch 7.  Pitch 8 headed straight up to a roof which was gained by traversing and escaping its L side.  Head back into the L facing corner through a small crux then face climb up and L.  Pitch 9 heads for the crest eventually crossing it to the right.  The 10th pitch is scary.  After clipping a pin move right around the false summit to the true summit.  This move is scary, felt like ~5.8 and definatley had consequences.  A much better way to finish the route would be to climb the stunning  crack to the false summit (you'll know it when you see it) then finish by climbing the crest to the true summit.

Descent:  We had snow which apparently made things much easier.  From the true summit slings we did two single rope raps with a 70m rope skiers left into a major gully systems.  I think you would be screwed if you brought a 60m rope as the stations are not set for this.  Once in the gully go down, there were at least two optional rap stations lower in the gully.  You get deposited about 200m right of the first pitch.

Rack:  1x70m rope.  Stoppers.  2xCams from #1C3 to #2C4.  1xCams from #3-5C4.  If I were to ditch a cam it would be the #4C4 as I placed the #5 on almost every pitch and it was very nice to have on pitch 4