Andrew Jesaitis

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South Ridge of Mount Torment
Aug 26, 2011
5 minutes read

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The day after climbing Forbidden Peak, Ryan and I awoke to a classic Cascade soup. It wasn’t raining, however, and we hoped that we might be able to break out of the clouds once on the mountain.

I was also a little concerned with my feet when I awoke. I’d felt them itch like this before, but nonetheless, it made it especially un-fun to slide them back into wet socks and soggy boots.

We set off a little later than the previous day and began the slog out to the hidden gully used to access the ridge. A little over an hour later we were at the base and roped up.

Climb Description:

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It was a good choice to rope up below the gully if for no other reason than to speed things up above. We simul’d up the easy snow and set an anchor before hopping onto the rock.

The first section of rock is 4th class, but there is a real danger of kicking rock onto your partner below. Luckily, Ryan is careful climber and I followed him up to gain the notch.

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A single, scary step on a thin snowbridge allowed us to traverse a snowfield and get to the base of the climb.

None of the climbing on this route is especially difficult. I think Beckey calls it 5.4 and I wouldn’t disagree. But, we ended up pitching out more of this climb than on Forbidden because the protection can be quite sparse.

More than once, I arrived to an anchor and remarked, “Man you really ran that one out,” as I handed over the two pieces Ryan had placed.

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Moreover, the fog gave the route an eerie character–I never knew quite how exposed the next move was. This feeling is only accentuated when, the last piece of gear is cleaned between you and your simul’ing partner.

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We took a quick break for lunch at noon as we came around onto the southeast face. 45 minutes after lunch we summited.

I pulled out the beefiest summit register I’ve ever seen–it must weigh 5 lbs. We read a few accounts of how brilliant the view is and discussed how we thought we were only 50 feet below the top of the clouds. Oh well, the view yesterday more than made up for it.

Ascent time: 7 hours

Grade II, 5.4, pro to 2 inches

Descent Description:

The descent is when things really got interesting. After downclimbing the immediate summit ridge, we started rapping. On our 70m rope, I think we did 7 raps. While the route description on Summit Post is probably right that the top portion is third class, I really don’t like passing up solid looking rap stations to scramble down into a grey abyss.

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The face gets progressively steeper and by the third rap, down climbing wasn’t a viable option anymore. Finally, at the bottom of our 6th rap we spotted the snow. My feet nearly screamed hallelujah, since camp was just some boot skiing away. By this point, each step felt like a thousand dull tacks being driven into my feet.

Ryan decided to rap first. He disappeared over the edge.

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“Uhhhh. Dude, we have serious moat problems.”

“Really, well can you see the bottom?”

“Maybe, or at least an intermediate bottom.”

“How steep is the snow?”

“It’s overhung.”

Hmmmm. Not good. We had two pickets for 30 feet of 100 degree snow. That wasn’t going to happen.

“Well we have two options, climb it or climb back up this face.”

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At this point the fog had turned to rain. I had of course opted to leave my puffy back at camp because we were going to break out of the clouds like yesterday, right? Visions of shiverring away the night at the bottom of this god-forsaken moat, motivated me to figure out a plan c.

“Hey Ryan, what does the glacier look like over there?”

“A hell of a lot better than what I’m hanging above, but I don’t know if I can get there.”

“I think you might be able to get over there using the crack on this face.”

A half hour of grunting and swearing ensued as Ryan made his way down the crack and fixed the rap line to the wall.

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I contemplated how I was going to follow this. It was so off vertical that it didn’t lend it self to a standard rap. In the end, we fixed the bottom of the line and I did what amounted to an aid traverse using prusiks. Yes, it was just as fun as it sounds…

An half hour passed as I struggled down. Now we had to get out.

This turned out to be easier than it appeared It was only couple steep steps out of the moat, but we were then greeted by the narrowest snowbridge we’d seen on this trip. This one really gave me the willies. It was only two steps long, but it wasn’t much more than 6 inches wide. We set up a belay and gave it a go. Kudos to Ryan for guinea pigging that thing.

Finally, back on the snow, we saw the happiest sight of the day. The bergschrund was above us. Score! An hour and a half later we were back eating a delicious dinner of tasty bites.

Descent Time: 7 hours

Back in camp, my feet were in sorry shape. Swollen, red, and pins and needles all over. Amazingly, I hadn’t developed a single blister. I rinsed them off and gritted my teeth and hoped they’d feel better for the hike tomorrow.

I still don’t know if this was truly trenchfoot. I didn’t think it could develop this fast, especially when I was able to dry my feet out every night. But, reading the description it at least sounded like the direction my feet were headed in. If it was mild trenchfoot, I can’t even imagine how painful a full blown case would be.

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While I let my feet recover in Seattle, I had a little chuckle that we weren’t the only ones who had some trouble with the moat.

Overall, Mount Torment is some full-on classic mountaineering. It wasn’t technically difficult at any point, but required every skill in the book on a dirty route that it characteristic of most of the classic first ascent routes in United States.


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