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Ingalls Peak 7662ft

North Peak, East Ridge (5.7)

August 28, 2010

Loren and I had been talking about getting out to climb together this summer and our schedules finally allowed us to climb the east ridge of Ingalls Peak. The weather forcast was looking kind of iffy, but we lucked out with only a few hail flurries as we were on our descent.

We left Seattle at 5am and with one stop in Cle Elum for snacks and coffee, we arrived at the Esmerelda Trailhead a little before 8am. There was a nip in the air as we got out of the car and put on our approach shoes. Fall was definitely on it's way!

The dirt on the trail was still damp in places, indicating that a rainstorm had passed through during the night. But the skies were blue as we made our way up the trail to Ingalls Pass. Loren had never been to this area so it was fun to show him the great view of the south face of Mt Stuart at the pass.

As we passed by the camp sites we could see several sleeping bags hanging up in trees, drying out. It appeared that there had been significant rain the night before. We hiked a little further and when as we came around a corner out of the trees, two dogs came running up to us. Two young men were standing near the tent one smoking his cigarette. There are clearly posted signs at the trailhead stating that no dogs are allowed in the area, and here are two dogs running around off leash. If I am asked to pay $30 for a Northwest Forest Pass (which I won't because our federal taxes already go towards funding our National Forests and public lands) I would at least expect a ranger to be in the area to make sure that idiots like these two abide by the rules especially on a Saturday! It puzzles me why someone who enjoys the wilderness enough to hike all their backpacking gear 5 miles into the backcountry would be so clueless to be unaware that dogs disturb the wildlife by being both predator and prey. I suppose these people believe that the rules are for someone else.

As we walked by the two men, I just looked at their dogs, shook my head, and said calmly, "Come on, guys. Really?"

Loren and I made our way up to the lake and took a short break before we started up the slabs to the base of the gully leading to the obvious notch between the South and the East Peaks. There were small intermittent rock fall in the gully so we tried to climb up as quickly as possible. We both exited a little early causing us to have to scramble a bit to gain the ledge below the first pitch. I had gone up the ramp from the right, and Loren climbed up a steep chimney on the left.

Here we put on our harnesses and roped up. The temperature had dropped about 15 degrees. Loren belayed me up to the left of the chockstone where I built an anchor to belay from. Loren quickly climbed up and we were now on the east ridge proper.

I carefully climbed the slabby steps of the second pitch and made my way across the exposed ridge to the other side where I set up the belay. Loren did a great job negotiating both the downward sloping steps as well as downclimbing the other side of the airy ridge. I told him he would like the third pitch a lot better!

The third pitch follows a pocketed face near the edge up to a ridge that cuts back right. The climbing is fun and straightforwarded, but steep enough to keep your attention. Loren cruised up this pitch and soon I was making the fun friction moves across another airy ridge. From here I downclimbed about 15 feet to a ledge system that made it's way across an open face. The gear placement was a little more difficult as the rock was rotten and the cracks that were solid were often too shallow. I ran out of rope about 20 feet from the far side, so I had to get creative to build a three piece anchor.

Weather was coming in as we climbed the last pitch. We were both climbing in our approach shoes and they worked surpsrisingly well on the crux friction move up the fist crack. Once we were both on top we quickly tagged the summit then coiled the rope for our descent. Dark clouds were rolling in and light hail was beginning to fall which filled up the cracks that we were using to scramble down from the summit. With the deadly lightning strikes that happened in the Tetons earlier this summer, I was acutely aware of how dangerous it is to be high on an isolated peak during electrical storms.

As I sat down to set up the rappel, I felt a tingle in my leg. I was only feeling a sharp rock on a nerve, but my heart stopped as I imagined electricity surging up from the earth. Loren and I made the two rappels quickly and efficiently and we were off the summit before the first thunderclaps were heard. We could see heavy rain showers to the east and we were happy that we only had to deal with hail.

We downclimbed the gully instead of taking more time to do the last rappel. Once down we packed the gear and started the descent from Dog Tooth Crags. It had stopped hailing but we were surprised to see two men hiking up inspite of the recent lightning. A few minutes later we came across three young climbers with their ropes heading up to the South Face. We gave them some beta then continued our descent. We were still a few hundred feet above the lake when we heard a strange sound. I looked down at the lake and we could see a heavy isolated hail storm pummeling the lake. The sound of the hail hitting the lake was almost like rain. I was amazed to be so close to see and hear this but not be hailed on from our position. The mountains continue to truly amaze me.

On the hike out we decided to take the low trail back to Ingalls Pass and this proved to take much longer. It was more direct and the trail was definitely softer and less rocky, but it ended at the camp sites. We ended up going cross-country over boulders to reach the main trail descending from Ingalls Pass. The hike out seemed shorter because we got on the topic of the upcoming ski season! The time flew as we discussed the various telemark bindings that are on the market and trips we wanted to take this winter!

We arrived at the trailhead with plenty of daylight left. We didn't even have to break out the headlamps! Thanks Loren for another great day in the mountains!