An exciting climb to a rugged, remote, forgotten summit
The impressive pinnacle known as the "Great Needle" or "Garnicks Needle", formerly G-16, as seen from Summer Ice Lake at sunrise. This peak wasn't on our agenda but Dominic and I ended up climbing it on a whim later in the trip.
Adam and Jim take a breather near Summer Ice Lake as the top of Henderson Peak basks in the early morning sun. Our intended ascent route is the southeast ridge (the left skyline) which can reportedly be gained at the lowpoint.
Dominic enjoys our first morning of climbing in the Winds. Henderson Peak (left) and American Legion Peak (right) are nicely lit by the first rays of sunlight.
American Legion Peak reflected in Summer Ice Lake as seen from the outlet of the lake. Summer Ice Lake is located on a bench at 11,170 feet on the west side of Titcomb Basin, only a few hundred feet higher than our camp above upper Titcomb Lake.
Looking back at Summer Ice Lake as we begin to climb west toward the Henderson - "Great Needle" col. There is only a small amount of ice left at the north end of the lake and we found it to be completely melted just a few days later on a return trip to climb neighboring American Legion Peak. Mount Helen is the rugged peak in the background. The early morning rays projected over the Continental Divide made for an interesting light show.
Above Summer Ice Lake we do an ascending traverse up easy snow toward the Henderson - "Great Needle" col.
We rope up for a bit as we transition from snow to steep low 5th class rock. Here Teresa climbs past a dirty ledge as the peaks at the head of Titcomb Basin look on.
Teresa continues up steep but easy rock above the snow.
After two short pitches straight up we're back to scrambling territory and put the ropes away. Ummmm... what next? The peaks around Titcomb Basin are so steep that once you're on them its often the case that you can't tell where the heck you are or where you need to go. Where is that col now?
Adam, Jim & Teresa decide to explore a bit to the north. They report that it "may go" but it looks fairly difficult to Dominic and I from afar and we're pretty sure it doesn't lead to the col, but rather a huge gendarme northwest of the col.
Dominic explores what seems to be the only other possibility, a large stack of rubble complicated by some old snow. It looks absolutely treacherous but he is triumphant after applying some modified canyoneering techniques. He scrambles around the corner and reports the col is within reach.
View north to the large gendarme the rest of the crew intended on trying to reach before Dominic found the route. Here they are making their way over to Dominic and I.
Jim gets a belay from Dominic as he climbs the funky snow obstacle atop the pile of rubble.
Finally the saddle is in sight! The climbing here is 3rd or 4th class but the looseness of it all and the exposure justify keeping the ropes out. Teresa carefully traverses over and leads up the mess.
We coil up the ropes after landing in the col and prepare to explore Henderson's southeast ridge.
Looking south from near the col to the awe-inspiring Titcomb Needles.
The start of the ridge is a scrambler's bliss.
I can't help myself from pausing dozens of times to gawk back at the Titcomb Needles. This was my favorite eye candy of the trip.
We stay on the crest or just a bit to climbers left and find plenty of steep, airy scrambling on good rock.
Dominic in action on Henderson's southeast ridge.
The "Great Needle" beckons as we gain altitude on Henderson's southeast ridge.
Jim and Dominic scramble toward a false summit decorated by peculiar clouds.
A happy Adam on Henderson's southeast ridge.
Bonney's route description is vague: "follow ridge above a knife edge". We keep wondering whether we have passed THE knife edge as much of the ridge had been pretty dang narrow and airy. Well, this puppy sure put our pondering to rest: a true 5th class knife edge, nothing like that pansy 2nd class one that makes Capitol Peak so famous.Wowsers! Jim leads across placing pro for the rest of us. The best technique is to use the crest for a handrail and smear with feet on the west side in a layback sort of fashion ... unless you didn't change from boots to rock shoes... in that case Dominic demonstartes that straddle and scoot is the method of choice.
After the knife edge the ridge rises in a short, steep step. We climb around the step on the west side and back to the crest on good but nontrivial rock. The climbing is more difficult than anticipated but still manageable. Here Teresa cleans the route as she traverses the side of the ridge.
Jim belays Teresa as she regains the ridge crest above the step. Meanwhile Dominic has scoped ahead and makes the call to put the ropes away; its scrambling terrain for at least a bit.
The ridge steepens dramatically and we traverse left around the west side of the ridge on 3rd class ledges and find a big, dry gully system leading toward the ridge high above. My routefinding passion kicks in and I charge ahead to piece it together. The gully isn't that loose by gully standards.
Jim nears the summit of Henderson Peak. Mount Sacagawea and Fremont Peak dominate the background.
The summit register goes back to 1936 when members of the Appalachain Mountain Club made the first ascent via the southeast ridge! At that time the peak was known as G-15. Kenneth Henderson, for whom it has since been named, was the leader of the team. Other information in the register leads us to believe we made the 22nd ascent. Nobody had signed in for years.
Jim, Adam, Teresa and Dominic on the roomy summit of Henderson Peak.
American Legion Peak as seen from the summit of Henderson Peak. Dominic, Jim, Adam & I would climb it a few days later.
Dominic climbs down from the summit of Henderson Peak.
Jim rigs a rappel above the knife edge. We'll rappel down to it and then traverse it once again.
Jim prepares to lead across the knife edge for a second time.
Dominic cleans the route as he traverses back across the knife edge.
Jim belays Dominic as he finishes up the knife edge.
We choose to remain unroped for the inital descent from the col and stick to trickier but more solid rock. Here Adam is traversing past a slight bulge.
Four of us rappel the funky snow obstacle and then Dominic cleans the anchor and downclimbs unprotected. He's got the moves memorized by now.
After two more rappels we head back toward camp under blue skies.
Dominic, Teresa and I waded barefoot across slippery slabs to cross Titcomb Basin. Jim resorted to boots and crampons, and Adam did some daring rock hopping. In subsequent trips Dominic, Jim and I learned Adam's rock hopping moves.