Inspiration Spire Sept. 8 2012

Wow, the South Face of Inspiration Peak looks amazing! Too bad we are over here on West McMillan Spire instead. Next year, I'll allow 10 hours to get to base camp instead of 8...

Left to right: Inspiration, Pyramid, Degenhart, Mt Terror, with Glacier and Shuksan in the background.


Headed to the Pickets in the North Cascades for the first time ever. Why did I wait so long? Oh, yeah, the intimidating approaches! 5600 feet gain just to get into the base camp basin. And that's the easiest approach in the Pickets!

We started hiking in at noon, after a relatively easy run up the I-5 corridor. 3.5 pleasant miles up Goodell Creek, then the fun begins. It's a good trail for a climbers trail, but like all such, goes pretty much straight up, with plenty of veggie belays. 5 hours and much sweat later (it's been a beautiful, warm late Northwest summer), we finally break out of the trees onto the heather benches and gorgeous alpine terrain.

Then there's the "ugly gully" to the first camp area. We will do two rock pitches on the way out to avoid it!

By 8PM we've found the first campsites, and are far too beat to continue as darkness approaches. Surely this last mile over heather and slabs won't be much of a problem?

The next morning, getting jumbled and thinking that sunrise is 7:30 and daylight 6:30, and given our exhaustion, I postpone the 4:30 wakeup to 5:15. Second mistake... By the time we climb up and down several exposed 4th class slabs and steep creek gullies and reach the Terror Glacier, it's 8:30AM. It looks like by the time we take the easiest way across to the base of Inspiration it wil be 11AM, then 1PM at the base of the wall, 5PM summit, 8PM back at the glacier, and we would be lucky to get back across before dark. No one is particularly enthused about crossing this broken up glacier in daylight, much less dark.

Oh well, it's been an education, do we have a secondary objective? Sure West Ridge of West McMillan Spire is maybe low 5th, should not be a problem. Fortunately, my hazy memory is on the conservative side, it's actually only an easy 3rd class scree-and-slab scramble - except for the 40 degree pitch of snow to get there, and I brought no pickets. Ok, that works, se can catch the ridge lower and get a couple of fun low-5th rock pitches in. Surprisingly, that actually works out, and around noon we are basking in the warm sun and light breezes on the summit, with spectacular mountain vistas in every direction.

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"Direct" line across Terror Glacier to the base of Inspiration
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Snow gully to West Ridge of West McMillan Spire
Some amazing long North ridge lines here!
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The Northern Pickets: left to right, Mt. Challenger, West/East peaks Mt. Fury


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Looking down the East Face of West McMillan (5.7). across to East McMillan Spire

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Liberty Bell and Early Winter Spires?
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