Ingalls Peak East Ridge, 9/12/2019

I don’t know why I thought it would be easy. I was sitting at the crux move on the East Ridge of Ingalls Peak. Beta reported a fist jam foot smear thing, and all I saw was some small crimps and a crack way to big for my fist on left leaning slippery rock. Thankful that I was following, I took a breath and pulled through it on my second try. I had never before been anywhere near my climbing limit in the alpine. It was exciting, nerve racking, and required full focus. I had been thinking about climbing the East Ridge of Ingalls peak since I first heart of the route earlier this summer. It was a challenge to break out of just doing basic routes. What I found was some initially challenging route finding, some fun exposed terrain, one stressful move, and then my fourth summit of the peak this year.

We departed North Bend at 6am and were heading up the trail by 8am. I pushed myself and both Olivia and AJ are fast, so we made it to the pass in 75 minutes and to the base of the route in 2:40 with a break to eat some snacks just above the lake. At the base of the route we meet a Mountaineers party of three – Hong, Lena, and Susan. We chatted briefly and they were off.

I took the first lead. After a few easy 5th class moves I found myself walking in scree. What? Susan’s group had gone straight up and left, but all the beta I had went right. Eventually I found a way that made sense, making some extraneous 5th class moves, and quickly ran into the end of my rope. As a party of 3 we had elected to bring a single 70m rope. Too short to make this pitch pleasant, it turns out.

I wanted a mental break from route finding so Olivia took the lead for the remainder of the pitch. She navigated up to the ridge and belayed us in. AJ and Olivia were tied into the ends of the rope, so I decided to stay in the middle. We set up for simulclimbing and AJ led out. To our surprise AJ found a fixed piton on some downsloping staircase steps. This made a good first piece in otherwise unprotectable terrain.

From here the route finding became much more straightforward and the climbing pleasant. Some 4th class and low 5th class terrain led to a knife edge ridge, which I opted to traverse on climber’s left. This led to a scary downclimb with foot holds that are way better than they look. Some more 4th and low 5th class terrain led to another knife edge traverse with even better feet. Another downclimb (easier this time) and you’re basically at the crux move.

As I mentioned in the intro, the crux move scared me. I’ve climbed harder grades, but not in the alpine and not with a pack. It didn’t scare me enough to stop trying to push my climbing grade in the gym and crag, but it was a good reminder to take it slow in the alpine.

That business dealt with, we scrambled up a few feet to the summit, took our photo, and began the descent along the South Ridge. Olivia and I had the descent route dialed and we made pretty good time. We jetted down the slabs, back to the trail, and then back out to the cars.

I’ve spent a lot of time on Ingalls peak this year. Going from wanting to climb it for the past several years to climbing it four times this summer is quite the difference. To me it’s a checkpoint of how far I’ve come. I’ve accumulated enough skills and experience to begin designing my own trips in this sort of terrain. I have so much further to go before I’m comfortable here and can claim to understand the most basic nuances.

This is motivating to continue training through the fall into next climbing season. It’s been a solid four months of alpine climbing of different flavors and textures. I’m so lucky to have attempted remote mountains on skis, revisited a favorite, pushed myself on glacier terrain, and transitioned in to rock. I’ve had some pretty spectacular failures this year and just use those as experience in the bank. This year is by no means over, but I’m already excited for next year! To be more precise, I’m excited by the image of what next year can be with a winter of dedicated work and practice.

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