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Broken Top

Excursion Time: 13 hours car-to-car
Carpool Ratio (people/cars): 2.0

A Santiam Alpine Club team reached the summit of Broken Top on July 10, 2010! The team consisted of club veterans Peter Tuazon and Tom Strauch; 2009 Climb School student Simon Boyd; 2010 Climb School Students Lisa Westerfield, Aurora Mehlman, Peter Urban, Jeremy Gish, and Jenny Wang; guest Joel Byler, and your faithful leadership impersonator, Fritz Capell. Tom served as Assistant.

Most of us arrived late, and we all camped at the Green Lakes trailhead, a very hospitable place for camping, with a soft surface, a babbling brook and last-minute water source, and even a pit toilet - first class accommodations! We placed our tents randomly, but the ranger came by in the morning and scolded us; apparently there are some posts marking appropriate places to camp, which we never saw in the dark. We'll look for those next time.

We awoke to a few deer grazing nearby, and rousted ourselves to a rather embarrassing 6:50am departure. I won't name any names, but are we climbers or hibernating bears? I'm going to have to wake some of you earlier next time I schedule a 6am climb. Fortunately, we had a wide open climbing window, so we could afford a yawning start.

Heavy June snowfall made this an unusual year for snow. The trail was bare at the trailhead, but soon drifts appeared, making the trail rather difficult to follow. Since it follows Fall Creek, it's hard to get too lost. We abandoned the trail when it departed from the creek up the side of the hill, as my climbing instinct wouldn't let me give up the elevation we'd gained. Turns out it would be better to lose a little elevation and stick with the creek - we returned via that route, and it was a much easier passage.

We reached the Green Lakes area at about 9:30 and scoped ourselves out a route up onto the ridge to the north, targeting the western edge of the ridge's saddle. The area around Green Lakes was very snowy, though melted through in some areas, and the lakes themselves were full of ice. The ascent onto the ridge was mixed snow and rock, but not difficult. We were on the ridge by about 11, stashed some of our gear there, and continued eastward up the ridge, reaching The Nose around 1pm.

The Nose is basically the crux of the climb, a slightly tricky little rock pitch that we usually protect because it is rather exposed. The accumulated snow on the north side of the ridge alleviated much of the exposure, and most of the team felt they could tackle the pitch without protection. But we set an anchor and roped up anyway, just to make good use of the rope we'd hauled all the way up here, and anyway we figured the descent would be better rappelled.

We set up an anchor and Jeremy belayed everyone up, and from there they continued with the last traverse, around the horn to the south and then back across on the east side to the summit. Our first climbers reached the summit shortly before 2pm.

We encountered only one other group on the mountain, four hikers from Corvallis who arrived as we were belaying. I offered to belay them up without considering all the ramifications - they were without harnesses or helmets, and without even the skills to tie themselves in. Simon and I gave up our harnesses, Rory and others helped them tie in, and their heads were their own problem, as it would have been foolish to give up our helmets. Probably shouldn't have done that, but it must have been worth some serious karma points.

Everybody got a few minutes at the summit, which was in perfect form. Beautiful day, mild temperatures, and we could see every mountain from here to everywhere. The view of the Sisters from that vantage point is especially spectacular from there, and the more so with a heavy dusting of snow on them. I could have spent several hours up there, but the team was anxious, and some had already headed back toward our stash down the ridge. We used FMRS walkie-talkies to keep in touch, but interference from other groups was a problem, as always, high in the mountains, because the range can be extreme. Tom and Peter had a second GPS, so they went on ahead back to the cars.

Our team rappelled, Rory belayed the wayward hikers, we tore down our anchor, and we all picked our way back down the ridge to the stash spot, for a last rest before pushing our way down through the mosquito lands. We plunge-stepped easy snowfields back down to Fall Creek, and made the rest of the hike out along the usual route. A few sketchy snowbridges across swollen creeks, and we reached the cars shortly before 8pm.

Another great Santiam Alpine Club excursion! Special thanks to Tom for keeping an eye on the GPS, to Jeremy and Rory for their tireless belaying, to Joel for helping Lisa, and to Simon for encouraging Jenny and for loaning out his harness! Hope everybody had a good time, and hope to climb with you all again soon!

Fritz Capell

Santiam Alpine Club


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