Prusik Peak, West Ridge (5.7)

A New Chapter

Two weeks after starting full time work, I got back together with Daniel and Logan for the first time in months for a long, chill day on the classic West Ridge of Prusik Peak. Prusik Peak is famous nationally because of its beautiful surrounding lakes and striking appearance. I had just been in the Enchantments two weeks ago with my family, but once again doubtful fall weather pushed us east.

We left the car a little before sunrise. None of us were feeling very wall, so we hiked pretty slow to Colchuck Lake. Aasgard Pass also went slowly, but at least it was a nice sunny morning when we reached the Core Zone.

Isolation Lake
Morning at Isolation Lake.
Prusik Peak
Prusik Peak and Mount Temple Ridge.
Prusik Peak Approach
West Ridge from Prusik Pass.

We made it to the base of the route, but well behind our expected schedule. Amazingly, we found a line at the base of the route. There were at least four parties on route (one apparently a slower party of three) and another duo ahead of us in line! We considered turning back since we were already behind schedule, but we eventually decided to just wait it out and relax. It was a little cold and blustery, but not too bad in the sun.

Enchantment Core Zone
Looking out across the core zone.

We simul-climbed all on one rope the first few pitches up to the base of the crux slab. The climbing here was easy but the views awesome.

West Ridge Prusik
Logan styles the lower pitches.

I took the “crux” slab pitch, which is an interesting 5.7. The moves are very secure, but there is no protection other than an old piton at the base of the 20 ft slab. It was super fun and led us up to a wildly exposed tip-toe ledge traverse with hundreds of feet of air beneath us. We began to understand why this route was so popular!

Prusik Peak Crux Slab
Leading the crux slab pitch. Thoughtful 5.7.
Prusik Peak Crux Slab
Daniel makes it look easy following.

Even though we were a group of three, we still somehow kept bumping into the party in front of us, so we had to wait a little bit before the final pitches. We saw the looming off-width crack to the left, but decided to take the sick 5.8 finger crack to the right.

Prusik Summit Pitches
OW crack on the left, we went more right.
Prusik Finger Crack
5.8 finger crack on the final pitch.

I led up the finger crack, which had great fingerlocks and adequate feet. After a few more flakes, I encountered the final squeeze chimney. Suspending my pack between my legs, I squirmed up the chimney easily and flopped onto the summit. What a great finish!

Prusik Peak Upper Pitches
Logan makes it look hard… just fooling around.
Prusik Summit Squeeze
Logan enjoys the final squeeze chimney.

The summit was a party, with three or four groups waiting in line for the rappel. It began to occur to us that this trip might take longer than Glacier Peak in a day. But at least the summit was calm and nice. It is hard to find a more beautiful place with more perfect granite to climb.

Prusik Summit Trio
Reunited on Prusik Summit.
Hugging Summit Rocks
Daniel doing his best marmot impression.
Overlooking the Enchantments
Overlooking the wonderful Enchantment lakes basin.
Excited for the long descent…
Prusik Summit Potrait
Hanging out on the most photogenic of peaks.

The rappels and scramble back to Prusik Pass were straightforward. Then we set off back across the core zone in the evening. Storm clouds were moving in, but it seemed the weather would hold. It was chilly and the upper Enchantment Basin was deserted. It was a rare Enchantment experience to have so much solitude and it really magnified the beauty of the area. We smiled, for it was a good day, no matter how much the hike out in the dark would suck.

Goodbye Prusik
Saying goodbye to Prusik Peak.

We raced down Aasgard Pass in the waning light, literally jumping and sprinting across boulders to reach the trail right as darkness settled in and we had to bring out the headlamps. Lookin up, we saw some headlamps wandering through the cliffs thousands of feet above Colchuck Lake beneath Colchuck Balanced Rock. Hopefully the night was gentle on them.

We went into zombie mode on the hike out, reaching the car a little after 10 pm, about 16 hours after leaving the car (same time as Glacier Peak!). With the long drive home, I crawled into bed almost 23 hours after waking up, ready for work the next morning. This new chapter of life as a weekend warrior was off to a great start!

Notes:

  • Although the climbing is not difficult, it is pretty fun and varied for the grade. The views are as good as you can get for alpine rock in the lower 48.
  • There are lots of slow parties on this route, despite (or maybe because of) its relative ease. Plan on being first on route or waiting in line on a weekend.
  • The descent route leads one back to the start of the route, so it is pretty easy to leave packs at the base.
  • Car-to-car from Stuart Lake trailhead was shorter and less elevation than from the Snow Lakes trailhead, but it required going up and down Aasgard, so pick your poison.

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