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A shot of the crux pitch, photo by Georg.
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This route is easy to underestimate. While on the glacier, the Stump appears tiny next to all of the giants that surround it. The route being “only” 12 pitches long, I thought that this thing was going to be a quick romp up the granite. In addition, in preparation for this route, one of my partners and I climbed several routes in Red Rock of similar length, one of which had a similarly difficult crux pitch. I know what you are going to say, Red Rock is softly graded, and that anyone who climbs there has no sense of what things should be rated. However, I found the grades on Goldfinger to make sense, if you know what I mean. However, in the end 2000 feet is 2000 feet and it takes most of us weekend warriors a while to climb.
We tried to get up this thing three times, and succeeded on the third try. Good weather and good route conditions are tough to catch. Another party had tried this route a day or two before our first attempt, and made it up to the top of pitch 10 before being turned back by too much snow up near the summit. Our first try, we started too late in the day and got stormed off. The second try, the next day, we ran into too much water on the 3rd pitch to continue. We rested a day and then got up at 4am to beat the heat on the route and made it to the top.
Our numerous tries gave me a few insights that I will share throughout this description.
There are two ways to start this climb. The first way would be to go straight up the obvious corner feature that makes up the majority of this route. However, in a heavy snow year like this one, it makes more sense to start to the left of the corner where some easy climbing will lead you to a ledge. While we were there, a slung block at the left edge of the ledge helped mark where to go.
So starting from the snow at the base of the ledges, the climb went something like this for us.
Side note: all belays are fixed, usually consisting of a combination of wires, pins and slung features. There is one bolted station. Bring a knife and extra webbing or cord to back up belays.
p0 (approach to ledges): Climb up steep snow in your ski boots (a belay is sensible as there is a moat hidden under the snow that could swallow you up) to just below the rock. Fiddle in some pro, and switch to your rock shoes. (On our first two tries, we climbed this part in our ski boots. While it is doable, I preferred the ease and speed my rock shoes gave me on this section.) Climb up to the rap sling around a horn, and from this ledge, go up to the next larger ledge about 5 feet higher.
Once on this ledge you can ditch your boots, and whatever extra gear you may not be trying to take up the route with you.
Now the route really begins.
p1: We did this pitch two different ways. The first day we traversed right across big easy holds to get to the main corner, where fun easy climbing led to a roof at about 80 feet up. At the roof head left toward a slung flake (rap station, or intermediate belay) avoiding some corner sections with no pro. From a little bit above the slung flake, head back toward the corner and continue until you reach the belay station.
From the approach pitch ledge, go straight up obvious cracks that are on the right hand side of the ledge which lead to the slung flake mentioned above, continue as above. (5.8, 170ft from approach ledge)
p2: Apparently you can take the right hand side of the pillar that sits in the middle of the main corner system at 5.9 wide, but we chose to go on the left hand side. This pitch was killer. From below this pitch looks steep and improbable, with the right side of the corner looking devoid of feature, and the left hand side too steep to be helpful. However, occasional good footholds show up on the right hand side, and on the left, tons of awesome hand holds show up just when you need them. I thought that this pitch was going to be a layback extravaganza, but it ended up being a thoughtful combination of stemming, layback and face climbing, with plentiful gear. (5.9, 170ft)
p3: We got turned back at this pitch twice, once due to clouds of impending doom, and once because the pitch was coursing with water (from the previous day’s clouds of impending doom). However, this pitch never seemed to be dry, but thanks to plentiful face holds the pitch is surprisingly climbable in through the moisture. Lots of gear is available and there is a pin about 40 feet up the pitch from which you can retreat if you’ve had enough. Once you’ve made it through about 60-70 feet of watery corner climbing you will be coming to a series of roofs in the corner. Just below the second roof, climb left across a series of face holds to reach another corner. From here continue up the corner to a belay. This pitch was rated on the topo at 10b, but we found it to be more like 5.9 even in the wetness. (5.10b/5.9, whatever, 200ft)
p4: Continue up the corner with more great climbing and good pro. The top of this pitch ends at a very comfortable ledge. Up until this point all of the other belays had been at small ledges for stances. We had been leading in blocks, so we found this ledge to be a great place to let the next leader cast off. (5.9/200ft)
p5: From the nice big ledge, scramble around to the right on easy terrain, and then back left into the corner, the belayer won’t really be able to see the leader for the first 60 feet, but since this section is about 5.0, it isn’t that big of a deal. However, a little higher on the pitch, gear gets a little sparse and the climbing gets a little tough so don’t let the first half of the pitch lower your guard. (5.9/170ft)
p6: This next section of wall is complex, and there are many options. Here is what we did. Climb up the corner for about 100 feet, once here traverse right, toward the arête. Just before you get to the arête, some cracks/seams head up to the belay. The member of our team who was leading this pitch thought they looked devoid of pro from below, and therefore went around the arête and up through some less than pleasant climbing, with marginal pro. Upon inspection on rappel, we determined that these cracks took lots of gear, so climb them. Here, we had to simul about 5 feet. I think that we had long 60m ropes, on many of the pitches labeled 200feet on the topo we had a 10-15 feet of rope left. So if your ropes are short 60s you will be doing more simuling here. (5.9/205ft)
p7: From the belay traverse up and right, heading for interesting stemming on large vertical flakes that remind me of climbing the inside of a door frame. Once past this section, head right and up, toward several options for vertical cracks, and small corners with cracks making it difficult to describe our path. In fact, I think I climbed it differently than the leader, because I kept having to traverse here and there to get his gear out. There are supposed to be some “easy ledges” out to the right in the final third of the climb. I didn’t necessarily find them easy, but no harder than anything else on the pitch. (5.9ish, 200ft)
p8: This is where I took over the lead, so my recollection of the quality of the gear placements and handholds might become a little clearer. My first thought on heading up for my first lead of the day was that there were no 5.8 handholds, and no easy placements. Cruising on top rope all day had numbed my mind a bit. I felt like the pitch was a bit tricky all the way to the belay, starting with some discontinuous cracks running through some slabs. Once here, look for some gear in a flake out to the left, and head up and kind of right onto a slab on a left facing pillar. I paddled up to the bottom of the hanging flake whose left side forms the layback crux on the next pitch. I set an anchor in the bottom of the hanging flake with a few tight hands to rattly fingers sized pieces. (5.8/120ft).
p9: The crux pitch. The climbing starts off with a layback up the left side of the hanging flake that gradually goes from rattly fingers down to fingers and then ends in a seam. Out on the left face the occasional good foothold, and many pretty good footholds appear with the occasional smear; rest stances show up periodically as do plentiful gear options. Once at the seam, traverse to the left under the roof, a few placements appeared where I wasn’t expecting them. Here at the roof, good handholds and the occasional good foothold show up. Go up the next corner for about 10 feet to an anchor made of a few nuts and a red C4 camalot. (5.11a, 100ft.) I would think some hard climbers would be able to link 8&9 with a 70m.
p10: This pitch is an amazing stemming corner, with interesting moves and sustained moves all the way to about 120-150 feet. From here the climbing eases and the corner leads up another 30 feet to where it tops out on a very gravelly ledge. Here I took out my nut tool and mined an anchor out of a muddy crack. There are two or three kind of cracks in rounded corners, I’m pretty sure I picked the right most one. Be careful here as there are a lot of fist-sized rocks sitting in a pile of pea gravel which can be easily knocked onto the belayer. There is a rappel anchor made of a couple of slings threaded between two rocks leaning together about 20 feet up, that could be used for the belay. I had enough rope drag to make me hesitant and the right pieces to build my anchor so I chose that option. (5.10a, 180ft.)
p11. From here it becomes a choose your own adventure type of thing. Here the obvious solid cracks and corner pitches give way to short stepped sections with many variations. I went up from the belay on crumbling feet through the rounded corner to a flat slightly gravelly ledge, where I went up to a corner system. There was no crack to speak of in the corner system, but there was a crack running up the edge of the left side. Here I found a belay on the next low angle dirty ledge system in between a vertical flake and a wall. (200ft including horizontal walking sections/5.moderate weird mountain stuff)
p12. Here we went up and slightly right to a wide corner formed by two large boulders near each other. Stemming up through this section of mellow climbing until you reach a small roof feature, traverse right and top out (150ft? with 100ft of horizontal walking/5.easy weird mountain stuff)
From here we unroped and scrambled a few more feet of jumbled large blocks that form the summit.
This route is located on the left side of the south face of the Stump. Climb the obvious corner system that sits just right of a small waterfall.
We took a double set from 00Metolius to #4camalot and one #5camalot. One set offset Metolius 0/00 to 3/4. One set wires. Remember that most pitches are 200' long.
Oct 12, 2013
Fought through 500 ft of soaking wet rock and then got shut down by a waterfall on the crux. Sucks , next time.
By clint helander
From: anchorage, alaska
Dec 8, 2013
Great description! Chock full of tons of useful information. Congrats on your determination to get up such a fine route in an inexplicable setting!
By Darren in Vegas
From: Las Vegas, NV
Dec 10, 2013
@heppnerd - When we were there another party (I think Kelly Cordes was one of the members) had attempted the route a couple days before our first try. They got shut down by too much snow on the last two pitches.
We managed to send the route in the small two day window that the route was good. Obviously luck is such an important part of alpine climbing when a team with real alpine cred gets shut down and our team managed to pull it off.
Hope you got some other stuff done, even if not, it is an amazing place to spend some time.