Cutthroat Peak – North Ridge (III 5.7)

John and I had a great time climbing the North Ridge of Cutthroat Peak on July 27th, 2018. We had climbed the mega classic South Buttress of Cutthroat Peak in mid-June, and I was stoked to explore a lesser-traveled side of this awesome mountain.

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Starting my lead up the highly stimulating first pitch.  Photo: John
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John following pitch one.

A nice morning stroll brought John and I to the base of the first pitch.  I volunteered to lead the first couple of loose, runout pitches since John generously brought the gummyworms.  Pitch one was not too hard, but a fall would be disastrous.  I worked up to a good stance where I stopped to analyze the friable 5.7 crux of the route.  Thankfully, the brief hail storm that began while we geared up had passed.  I was able to fiddle in two marginal cams before delicately stemming upward.  With most holds flexing under my weight, it was important to pull down, not out on the rock. Another spicy pitch followed that required an unprotected slab traverse.

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John setting off on a big block of simulclimbing.
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Classic day!

After these first two spicy pitches, the spirit of the route totally changed.  The crumbling rock soon changed to immaculate, white granite.  I changed to approach shoes, which were perfect for this kind of simulclimbing terrain.  A few short sections of low fifth class kept things interesting, but this section was mostly 4th class or easier.

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John is a tiny speck, one ropelength behind me on the ridge.  Photo taken from the belay at the base of our final pitch.
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John scoping the summit tower.
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Leading the final pitch to the summit.  Photo: JG

Finally, we were at the base of the summit pyramid.  I gladly took the lead again on this long, moderate pitch.  I opted to belay off of the bolted rappel station adjacent to the true summit.  From here, we unroped and took a long break on the summit in absolutely perfect conditions.  The descent of the West Ridge required 5 rappels on fixed anchors interspersed with mega-exposed, easy ridge climbing.  After only a few hours of “fun” we were crossing the creek and getting back to the car.

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John soaking in the view on the descent.
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5.0+ downclimbing on the West Ridge…
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Rappel number three. Photo: JG

This was a surprisingly good route with a remote feel.  It’s not often that I choose to climb a mountain multiple times, especially in such quick succession.  The only other peak that I’ve climbed more than once is Dragontail Peak – a similarly massive, complex mountain.  Certain peaks have a way of drawing me in, to the point where I become obsessed with their structure, features and lore.  After experiencing three major features of Cutthroat Peak, it feels like the mountain has revealed some of its secrets to me.  I hope that I’ll be back soon to learn more – but a wildfire has closed the area for now.

Gear Notes

Single rack .4-3, set of nuts, 60m rope minimum.

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