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September 2019 Newsletter

Alex Lowe: "There are two kinds of climbers, those who climb because their heart sings when they’re in the mountains, and all the rest.”

NOTE FROM THE EDITOR: I’m sad to say, but summer seems to be winding down. I hope everyone’s had a great summer climbing season. And, if you haven’t, it’s not over yet! So, go get some!


The President inspects the work of SAC members at the Park Butte Lookout during the annual work party. Photo: Juliet Holzkecht.

Sep Meeting

Date/Time: Wednesday, Sep 4, 2019, at 7:00 p.m.

Location: The Burlington Public Library, located at 820 East Washington Avenue, one block south of Fairhaven at the corner of Washington Avenue and Holly Street.

Program: End of Summer SUPER Shar-a-Thon: Our very own members will share their own, short, rapid fire, presentations of all their mind blowing adventures (and mishaps) they’ve had in the mountains.

Volunteers scraping paint in the fog during the annual SAC

Old Business

From Travis: Just wanted to let you know we had an excellent work party over the weekend! With the help of our 13 volunteers and the Whatcom Backcountry Horsemen we hauled material and tools to the lookout, replaced the south shutters and painted the exterior.

We should thank Sound Cedar in Mount Vernon for donating all of the cedar.

We should also thank Alpine Fire & Safety Service for the donation of a newly serviced fire extinguisher and the Backcountry Horseman for hauling in all of the supplies.

The Backcountry Horseman of Washington, Whatcom Chapter, prepare to pack in all the supplies for the lookout work party (saving backs and a lot of four letter words as the loads got stuck on overhanging trees). Photo: Joseph Remenar

Conservation Committee

Public Input: The Excelsior Mine located in the Mt. Baker Ranger District of the Mt Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest is undergoing testing to allow possible reopening of the mine. To learn more and add your input, check out this link.

Trail Work: Have you ever wondered who maintains all those miles of trails you’ve been enjoying all summer? Well, grab a mirror, then your boots and volunteer with Washington Trails Association.

Trip Report from Jarek: Beckey-Chouinard Route, South Howser Tower 5.10 Grade IV

Late in July two SAC members Andrew and Jarek joined by Brandon from Riverstone Gym went to Bugaboos. The objective was to climb the Beckey - Chouinard, a classic line on West Buttress of South Howser Tower. From the parking lot, a pretty trail led us to Applebee campground, an incredible spot surrounded by rugged alpine wonderland. We set up the base camp there and the next day, we decided to continue to East Creek Basin which would be close to the base of our climb. To get there we traveled Crescent Glacier, climbed over Snowpatch-Bugaboo Col, then Vowell Glacier and over Pigeon-Howser Col to East Creek Basin bivy sites. Another spectacular place in the heart of Bugaboo range.

The following day, early in the morning, we were off to climb the thing. Other climbers told us, it was the first day in all of July, with possibly good enough weather to climb it and to expect some snow and ice on the climb.

The route starts with 1000 feet of easy scramble to the point where the ridge steepens. After first 3 pitches of easy climbing, the climbing becomes quite sustained. There are a few 5.10-5.10+ pitches. However the sections of easier 5.8-5.9 climbing felt stiff similar to Yosemite style grade. A little bit of altitude makes breathing harder, too.

The Beckey-Chouinard is true classic, 2000 feet of solid granite in spectacular setting. The upper part, so called “Great White Headwall" is especially beautiful. On pitch 12 we took 5.10 crack variation to avoid squeeze chimney which was full of snow and ice. These turned out to be most memorable two pitches of the climb. Guide book pitches are super long rope stretchers, and we broke quite a few into shorter ones,

so for us it was more like 20+ pitch climb.

We led in blocks with second and third following simultaneously on half ropes. Right before the sunset, we topped out the route with 600 feet of 4th and sections of low 5th class terrain remaining to the peak. The little cloudy sky quickly turned dark. The lightning could be seen in the distance.

“That was not in the forecast!”

We made the short rappel off the ridge and decided to wait out the storm on a relatively dry ledge. Shortly after, the thunderstorm was in a full swing. All of sudden, we all saw bright light and got jolted and thrown around the ledge. I guess, if you do not hear the lightning, it is generally not a good thing. Ground current went through my legs and they became kind of useless… Brandon and Andrew seemed to be ok.

It took a couple hours to regain the strength and feeling in my legs, so we could continue up. With me still a bit wobbly, Andrew stepped up and led us to the top and over to the rap stations. All of that took a while, so we did not have to wait long to start the rappels with the first light of the day. We got safely down to Vowell glacier and back to our bivy at East Creek basin. In the evening, even more severe thunderstorms moved in. The next day, the weather continued to be quite awful, so we hiked out to the car.

As a team, we stayed calm throughout the excitement. Everyone contributed their best and worked very well together. Thanks guys! It was an awesome and electrifying adventure!! (All photos submitted by Jarek)

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