Cascade Porter Whiteface Esther
Submitted By Michael Virdone
The Mountains & Stats
People On The Trip
Had the hankering to climb the cascade slide for a while now, but about half way through the hike I realized we'd be done way too early in the day so we decided to tag on Esther and Whiteface before visiting a friend who was participating in the lacrosse tournament.|
We camped at South Meadows Friday night and we were at the trailhead and hiking at around 6:30.
Details of the slide climb are in the slide climbing forum. A brief synopsis/warning: If you aren't experienced with rock climbing or comfortable with 4th class terrain, stay off the waterfall.
Overall the bushwhack from the top of the slide was fairly time, pretty much the same as last time, we wandered through nice open woods prior to running into a mean wall of spruce just before coming out onto the summit rocks. This time we literally ascended directly to the summit (last time we were about 50-100 yards to the climbers left of the summit). Navigational aids used = the rule of up. This was one of the few times that we have ever had the summit of cascade to ourselves.
We spent a few minutes on the top eating and trying to dry out our sweat soaked clothes. Nicole changed into a tank top and I started using her t-shirt to remove my accumulated layer of pine needles. In jest I said I like the color and asked if I could borrow it for the rest of the hike (Nicole is womens XS/S I'm mens L/XL). She replied that I could probably fit into it, so as a joke I tried it on. Somehow I managed to fit into the shirt, but it didn't leave much to the imagination (especially not my stomach). Just for the hell of it I decided to wear it for the remainder of the day simply to mess with the other hikers...
The hike out/back to porter was uneventful (and very dry) and we didn't spend much time on the Porter summit. We took the descent nice and slow to save our legs (on shorter hikes we have a bad habit of running downhill and destroying our legs). Soon enough we were at the bottom (the trail register is always a welcome sight). There had recently been some impressive trail work on the stairs from the road to the trail register (which had formerly been a washed out mess). After getting to the road, we began the most treacherous part of the day, walking from the traihead to the lakes along route 73 without getting run over. Eventually we were back at the car and heading into town for some breakfast/lunch at Stewart's.
After a rebound lunch we headed to the ASRC to climb Esther and Whiteface. We took off from the car and headed right into the climb of Marble mountain. We got that vertical gain out of the way quick and then continued on to the slow/steady climb up to the Esther herd path. The out/back to Esther always takes more effort than I anticipate (plus the mystery mountain and the false summits don't help). Reaching the summit of Esther was a relief as we knew we were mostly done for the day.
Continuing from Esther we returned to trail junction prior to heading up Whiteface. I had forgotten how flat the trail was after the Esther junction (but before it starts climbing in earnest). I just wanted to get to the top, so the flat stuff was getting frustrating. When the climb began again I found myself longing for the flat stuff again. Soon enough we were at the road and starting the final climb along the ridge. The first time we climbed Whiteface we skipped the upper section of the trail, instead taking the road/steps. Every time since then I have opted for the trail, it is really a nice section of rocky ridge with some pretty good views.
At the top we dealt with the hoards before heading down the steps to the castle where I bought a bag of chips and a powerade. By this point in the day the novelty of hiking had long warn off, and we were ready to just put feet to the ground and get back to the car. The descent was uneventful (with the exception of meeting someone who had a pet dingo!) and soon enough we were back at the car (though I had forgotten how the "level" section between Whiteface and Esther is actually slightly downhill towards Whiteface.
Cascade/Porter took us 4:00 hours road-to-road
Whiteface/Esther took us 5:30
Dinner was purchased at the brew pub before meeting our friend for drinks.
Saturday night was spent at south meadows and turned out to be a very restless night of sleep as the wind was whipping through the trees all night
Sunday we went to the lacrosse tournament and watched our friend's final game of the weekend.
In closing, Joe Cedar is a bad influence.
Slide Climbing Report:
Nicole and I have been venturing more into mountaineering territory lately and the cascade on cascade (post Irene) was something that I wanted to do for a while.
We had previously ascended (pre-Irene) via the herd path that bypassed the waterfall. Our attempts to find the former slide were futile and we ended up bushwhacking through open woods to the summit. This time we were tackling the waterfall head on.
Finding the route was easy, park the car, cross the bridge, follow the path of destruction. Once at the base of the cascade (more like a trickle today) we picked our route. We would start on the right side, climb a little ways, traverse to the left and ascend the rest of the way (magenta line).
The bottom 3/4 of the pitch went off without a hitch. The terrain was challenging but fun. The steepness wasn't bad, but the rock was a little rotten and loose (not all holds were solid) and what was most difficult was that most of the holds/placements were somewhat sloping. At roughly 3/4 of the way up, there was a slight bulge that needed to be climbed before moving into some easier terrain. I cleared this section and then worked my way to climbers right. At this point I thought I was following the path of least resistance but eventually my luck ran out.
I had found myself in an open book corner, there was a loose chockstone in the corner/crack that I could have used, but I didn't really trust it, I could do a stem/chimney move in the crack, or I could stem off a really nice hold on the opposite wall. The problem was all of these moves were fairly committing. Having recently taken a mountaineering class I used the risk/consequence technique we were taught. The risk was moderate, there was a greater than 0% chance that I'd blow the move (though none of the moves were tremendously difficult). However; the consequence was high, A fall from this spot would likely be fatal.
Given what I was looking at I decided to turn back. Downclimbing 4th class terrain SUCKED (yellow line), I knew it was going to suck, and I knew going up would have probably been easier. However; it was the right/safe thing to do.
Eventually I reached Nicole (after having to stop a few times to regain my composure). We decided to descend over the bulge we had just climbed and cross to climbers left into the woods between the 2 legs of the waterfall. On the way across I spotted what looked like a better way to clear the crux (dotted green line). It was steeper, but the holds looked better. I had had enough technical terrain for the day so I opted to head to the woods anyways.
Once over the crux of the waterfall the rest of the slide was awesomely fun. The combination of moderate slide climbing followed by headwalls was really interesting. Most of the headwalls made you think, but weren't super challenging. The release point headwall (estimated 40-45 degrees?) right below the horizontal cliff band was the most fun because I got to apply some friction climbing technique. I also enjoyed the headwalls that had the impressive flume channels cut into the rocks.
After the slide we navigated using the rule of up and soon enough we were at the summit (after the thick band right below treeline). If you do go this route, try to distribute your impact, it looks like the forest floor is getting damaged in some areas where the terrain funnels you through a certain area. Our navigation brought us exactly to the top, with no need to traverse the ridge.
Some additional comments about the waterfall climb:
We were in sportiva raptors but we had our rock shoes in the car. I still wouldn't have attempted the moves I was looking at, had I brought my rock shoes
I'm a novice rock climber (sport 5.7, trad 5.3 (gunks 5.3)) and even if I were roped, the spot where I got stuck wouldn't have been fun because the only place I spotted to place any gear was a little below me and with the ledges it wouldn't have been a safe fall (not a death fall like un-roped though). My lack of trust in the loose rock would have made the gear suspect anyways.
Always remember, if it is really hard to climb up, it is going to be almost impossible to climb down
Overall it was a great experience. Although I'm bummed that we didn't get to climb the whole cascade I'm pleased that a) we made it safely and b) I had the discipline to turn back when I was uncomfortable. Downclimbing that terrain was one of the toughest things I have ever forced myself to do and I think now I'm a little better prepared for similar situations in the future.
The Good and The Bad
Getting turned back on the cascade