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Broken Top

Excursion Time: 11 hours
Capool Ratio (people/cars): 2.0

A Santiam Alpine Club team reached the summit of Broken Top on July 11, 2009. The team, lead by Fritz Capell, consisted of 2009 climb school students Victor Whitacre and Duane Darrow, past students Eric Aldinger and Brent Hansen, and guests Sam Johnson, David Capell, and Jack Tufto. Eric Aldinger served as Assistant Climb Leader.

Everyone gathered at the Green Lakes Trailhead, just off Cascade Lakes Highway, the night before. The trailhead offers good camping, with toilet facilities, water from a nearby stream, and even a fire pit. Everyone was present by around midnight, to gather and swap a few stories around the fire, under a nearly full moon and a beautiful clear night. Although the weather report threatened a 20% chance of rain and possible thunderstorms, we had gorgeous clear weather the entire climb. Just after midnight we saw a group heading out for a moonlight excursion. We didn't see them again, and encountered only about a half-dozen other climbers the entire day.

We started up the trail at about 6:25am, trailed by an army of mosquitoes. For the most part, the trail was clear. There were scattered patches of snow in the trees that we had to avoid or cross, but not enough to be an issue either for navigation or terrain.

We reached the Green Lakes area around 8:30am. Feeling adventurous, we took neither of the common routes (either continuing on to the tail of the ridge, or finding one of the trails up to the saddle), instead picking our own route up onto the Northwest Ridge where there appeared to be interesting rock. The terrain ended up pushing us eastward, and we gained the ridge at about the saddle anyway.

After continuing up the ridge, we reached the Nose, a slightly nasty and exposed little vertical pitch. I found a wedged rock into which I could set a little protection, and led the pitch, setting a natural anchor with webbing around the usual pinnacle at the top of the route. Eric belayed the rest of team from below, then I belayed him from above. Everybody made it up the pitch, and continued on to reach the summit at about 11:15am.

We spent about a half hour enjoying a beautiful sunny summit, and clear views of almost every other mountain in Oregon, and then began our descent.

Most of the team were experienced in rappelling, so could comfortably rappel themselves over the Nose. For those that were inexperienced at rappelling, we let them rap on one half the rope, and tying off at the anchor, belayed on the other half.

Most of the team chose to descend directly down the scree face, but somebody had to go back down the ridge to pick up a cache we had left. Eric took most of the group down the face, where hopefully they learned a little about staying together and keeping out of each other's fall lines. Luckily nobody was injured. Victor and myself went back down the ridge, picked up the cache, and took an established trail back down to the saddle. We intended to meet back at an easily locatable point where we had stopped for a break, but we caught up to them early, finding them filtering water from a stream, as most of us had counted on the available water and carried somewhat less.

Brent and Sam cruised on ahead, and the rest of us took a leisurely stroll back down the trail, reaching the parking lot at about 5:30pm.

(Side note: this was my first climb since fracturing two ribs on a rock wall four weeks previous. I took my small pack and lightened as much as possible, even passing my emergency kit to Duane to carry. While there was some pain when making certain moves, in general my injury did not get in the way.)

So there it was, another beautiful climb day. Everybody made it to the top, not that it matters, and more importantly, everybody made it home safe. Congratulations to everybody for a great day out, especially to David Capell and Duane Darrow for their first summits!

Fritz Capell

Santiam Alpine Club


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