On Saturday, 11 Jun 05, Blair Piggot and I went back for a second attempt at Mt. Yarrow's East Ridge. Remember, that's the unofficial name of that SE outlier of Spread Eagle Mtn, which is an outlier of Spionkop Ridge, just outside of the Waterton Park boundary. It's a little bump that tops out at 7,611 ft, offers less than 3,000 ft of height gain, isn't on anybody's hit list, and is otherwise pretty insignificant. Well, Blair and I reached the summit this time, but it was much longer than anticipated. In an earlier attempt on 28 May 05, we were turned back at the start of the third pitch, and we guessed at the overall rating as Alpine II 5.8. Now that we've completed it, we figure it's really an Alpine III 5.6.
As most of you know, the rains of last week came down as snow in the mountains, mostly in the southern front ranges. Given the amount of new snow, Blair and I thought about postponing our second attempt at Yarrow and going back down to Logan's Pass for some good skiing, but if we're going to bag any big rock routes this summer, I need the rock climbing practice. So, we were set to go. Then as I'm reading my email at 0330 Saturday morning, getting ready to go, I see a picture that Bob Spirko took of Mt. Yarrow the day before (Friday). There is a lot more snow than we were thinking, but it looked like the ridge itself was dry. This turned out to be true. We had very little snow to deal with, and in most cases, we could just step over it.
We did the standard routine of get up at 0315, leave Strathmore at 0430, meet Blair in Monarch at 0600, arrive at the trailhead by 0730, start the approach at 0800. My last report gives details of the approach and the first two pitches. Since nothing was different this time around, I'll skip that part.
At the top of pitch #2, we were at the place that gave Blair trouble last time. This time, he didn't have much of a problem at all. Unfortunately, he broke away a crucial foothold in the middle of that crux, so I'd like to point out that I didn't get to use the same hold, making the section much more difficult for me. In hindsight, pitch #3 goes at 5.6, not the 5.8 we previously thought.
From the top of pitch #3, the route was more of the same... another pitch of 5.6. Pitch #4 led to a short piece of flat ridge before bumping into another cliffband. For pitch #5, there appeared to be an easy gully on the right side of the ridge, but it was unprotectable and very exposed. So, we went left of the ridge and found surprisingly good rock for one pitch. It was that very prickly limestone, which causes your hands to look like they've gone through a cheese grater. Then, when we topped out from pitch #5, it appeared that the rest would be 5.3-ish to reach the summit. We switched back to boots and put the rock shoes away. We did a running belay for the 5.3 climbing, and we were very disappointed to popup from a short chimney and find another summit spire. At first glance, it looked like we were going to have to put our rock shoes back on, but after some exploration to the right, we found some easy 5.3 stuff to reach the summit. Nonetheless we got there.
From the summit, it's a simple ridge walk down to the Spread Eagle col, and bagging that mountain as well would have been an extra hour or so round trip. Unfortunately, storm clouds were closing in on us, so we needed to get down quickly.
Now for the descent. From just west of the summit, but not quite at the col, there was a spot where you could down-scramble to the NE. We figured we would try this approach and get as far as we could before rappelling. As it turns out, we could down-scramble the entire way down into the basin north of Yarrow and east of Spread Eagle Mtn. This is the origin of Spread Eagle Creek. There was a lot of route finding and down-climbing little four ft steps covered in loose scree. Nonetheless, it was a good choice to drop down that side. This brought us all the way down to the creek, were we picked up a game trail for the rest of the way home. The trail stayed about 50 yards south of the creek and was faint in spots, but it kept us from bushwhacking and really helped in the side-sloping. The game trail contoured around the eastern end of Yarrow and joined back up with our original approach trail. We were back at the Blazer by 1830.
Now for the food. I demanded that we stop at that place in Twin Butte, so we gave that a try. We both had some great chicken fajitas, but it took a long time. The place was quite busy, and it took nearly two hours by the time we were out of there. Like I said, great food, but a bit slow. The problem is that they only have one cook, one stove, etc, and she got about 10-15 orders at the same time, which she has to make one at a time. So, if the place is empty when you go there, you should be out of there in less than 30 minutes, but if it's busy, you'll be there for a while.
Finally, here is a summary of the pitches (for those that are curious). The pitches have a LOT of rope drag, so we weren't able to climb more than about 40m at a time.
Pitch 1 - 35m 5.3
Pitch 2 - 30m 5.6
Pitch 3 - 30m 5.6
Pitch 4 - 20m 5.4
Pitch 5 - 40m 5.6 (crux)
Pitch 6 - 150m-ish 5.3 running belay
Pitch 7 - 30m 5.3
You can walk off the south side at the top of pitch 2, and you can walk off from the summit. Anywhere else would require a series of raps to get down. Rap anchors would not be easy to find.