Robert and I made last minute plans to climb the East Ridge of Ingalls Peak. I hadn’t been out since Vesper Peak three weeks earlier and was ready to do something. I spent that time catching up on non-climbing activities. At the trailhead, I was surprised at how cold it was. It was in the upper thirties and much colder than it was three weeks earlier. Fall was definitely on its way. Robert set a pretty quick pace on the way up to Ingalls Pass. I lagged a bit behind not really feeling to speedy today, but speedy enough I s’pose.
I recall my ears being really cold as we hiked up on the shadowed west slopes. I didn’t feel like getting out any head gear though and there were other potential climbers for the east ridge; wanted to stay at the front of the line. Before hitting the pass though, the sun came out and did its work warming up the surroundings nicely. From the pass, we had crystal clear views of Mount Stuart. Ingalls was dwarfed by it to the left.
Making quick time, we arrived at the lake and took a short break to grab a little food. I was struck by the beauty of the lake – a still gem of a lake that’s quite big. Mount Stuart reflects in it nicely too. The hike up to the gully that would give us passage to the East Ridge started out easy enough among smooth and polished glacier slabs. But these gave way to a lot of talus hopping. The gully itself is quite loose and unpleasant. Fortunately there was no one either above or below us. Rockfall can be quite dangerous here. At one point we came to a perfect fork in the gully…the left one looked only slightly more “correct” and we took it. It turned out we were right.
We came to a blocked section of the gully were we figured the climb started (it does). Above easy 5th class terrain, we had the option to either go left up a face or straight ahead up a chimney. Robert was leading and took the chimney. He called out that it was a pretty tough little chimney to get up. I suggested maybe trying the face if it was too hard but he kept at it. I followed up and thought it was pretty hard too – we both thought 5.8. Chimneys are just hard when it comes to alpine climbing in my limited experience. Your pack gets caught on things and it’s hard to turn around and so on. On top of that, one wall of the chimney was pretty slick thanks to the serpentine rock. Robert had placed a came way up underneath the roof of the chimney that I had to go fetch. I then had to do some minor acrobatics to end up facing the correct way (thankfully, I’d placed my giant camera case in my pack before climbing the chimney). I thought I’d have a hard time exiting the chimney and was a little sketched out but it turned out to be quite easy.
Up on the ridge, I took over the lead and started up easy 5th class ridge running. I had to wend between towers though and soon the rope drag became a little silly. So I brought Robert up and he led up the next pitch which turned out to be really a really cool face climb up more easy 5th class terrain. We made good time up this pitch. I then took over and led over a thrilling but sadly short knife ridge to 4th class face/ridge terrain. I had to do more tower wending and the rope drag became pretty substantial again. I was determined to make it to a notch though that looked to be the obvious place to start the next and final pitch. I dragged my way up and built a little gear anchor and brought Robert up.
Robert got the last lead. This was the crux of the East Ridge route apparently. I remember Robert said, “I think this is the crux here!” and I asked, “Is it harder than the chimney?” “No way, this is cake compared to the chimney!” And it was! The crux is rated 5.7 but it feels easier than that. It’s also very short.
Soon after we were on the summit. We had plans to rap down and climb up the south ridge as well, the much more popular route. It turned out that there were several parties on the south ridge and we had to wait a while while rappelling. Once we got down, I took off for the summit again. Overall, I think the south ridge is a more classic route. It’s only problem is that it’s too short! Anyway, Robert and I simul-climbed our way to the top in about 15 minutes. We then had to wait almost two more hours before we could rappel down again!
We hiked out and discussed fun topics such as Dungeons and Dragons and video games. We were back at the car before dark for more Man ‘o War and Therion tunes!