The section of ridge between the summit of Nihahi and Compression is some of the best scrambling I've done in a while. It's also longer than it first appears (big surprise). With dark clouds threatening to rain on our parade we kept up the blistering pace and soon we were at the crux rock fin.
[We start our traverse over to Compression Ridge.]
[More of the traverse. The terrain started off pretty easy but with great views we didn't care.]
[The clouds are thickening and the ridge is narrowing a bit.]
I think some people have managed to work their way around this fin somehow (Kane suggests you try to avoid it) but we decided to go right along the top of it. It's loose and it's very exposed. Roy and Kev did the smart thing and short-roped this section, using various rock fins for friction belays. Not a bad idea if you bring a rope along. Keith and I both soloed this section no problem but we are younger and more foolish and I respect those guys for going safe. One slip and all of a sudden it's not so smart to solo this type of terrain right? Like any difficult scrambling section, there is no room for error and since nobody is perfect you can't help but think that someday it could catch up to you. I'm certainly going to think harder about short-roping with simple terrain belays on difficult scrambles. There's a reason Roy has over 600 peaks and is still around to enjoy another 600... ;-)
[Kev checks out the views.]
[The rock fin that's "best avoided" - we're not avoiding it here. It was loose and exposed.]
[Keith finishing the fin with one last awkward move that involved pulling a lot harder than we were comfortable with on a very loose piece of fin!]
We briefly thought about waiting for Bill and Gary but decided that they would have no issues with the rock fin and continued on to the summit of Compression Ridge. The terrain after the crux was quite fun. Soon we arrived on the summit (we were pretty sure this was the summit) and took some quick photos as the clouds were thickening quickly and some rain drops were starting to hit us. There was a small cairn but no register so we thought maybe a high point a bit further along the ridge was the summit and so we headed for that. Once we got there it was obvious that the high point with the cairn was the official summit. We decided to take a quick break and wait for Bill and Gary to appear in our line of vision (we hadn't seen them since Nihahi). When Bill and Gary appeared somewhere on the horizon we decided to descend to the second window and wait for them there. The terrain looked a bit intimidating ahead of us.
[Roy, Kev and Keith descend from the rock fin.]
[A more reasonable ridge - this was simply fun walking, making sure you didn't trip on the way. Nihahi is visible in the far upper left. I think Bill and Gary are probably done their lunch by now!]
[Summit of Compression Ridge, talking short roping techniques.]
[Keith on the traverse to the second window. Nihahi Ridge summit is above him to the left. We ascended the ridge to the right of the orange scree line and then traversed on the faintly visible cliff bands to the summit.]
[The terrain from the first window to the second is either moderate scrambling or scary climbing, depending where you end up.]
[Keith enjoying the views again. I think he's just getting used to posing for pictures!!]
[Roy and Kev with the first window high above them (out of sight to the right).]
The descent to the second window wasn't too bad. I would say upper moderate to difficult scrambling if you're careful with your route finding, but it could easily become technical climbing if you wander off the easier lines. Generally you want to stick to the ridge if possible, or go down immediately after the first window like Gary and Bill ended up doing. We managed to get to the second window by sticking to the ridge after first going skiers right around the second window from the last high point on the ridge. The sky was threatening rain and since much of the route is on slabby terrain we wanted to get off the tough stuff as soon as possible.
[Keith in the second window. Getting out of it was the most exposed scrambling we did all day!]
[Kev in the window.]
[See? You really don't want to slip here! I couldn't watch... (but I did it too and it's not as bad when you're the one doing it for some reason).]
Getting into the second window was probably the crux of the trip (or actually getting out of the second window)! It was probably another one of those "is it really worth it" moments, but it was pretty cool to stand in that window! I couldn't watch Kev come out of it though, because from my angle it really looked like he could peal off the slabs at any moment and that would have ended his day badly. We waited for about 20 minutes for Bill and Gary. We were surprised that they weren't in sight because at one point we could see them on the high point of the ridge, just before you drop down to the second window. Finally I caught on to their crafty plan. I surmised that they probably descended straight down from the first window and were busy sneaking past us to the valley below! I was right. (You catch on to these guys after a while!)
We began our own descent, just under the second window. It was fast and loose. Soon we could see Bill and Gary in the next gully over - we managed to pass them because our terrain was slightly easier. After reuniting the group at the base of Compression we wandered down the valley, trying not to get into any bushwhacking this time. I'm pleased to say that I did a slightly better job of route-finding the way out! :-) Overall we avoided any thick bush and ended up at the cars about 8 hours and 45 minutes from our start time. This includes at least 45 minutes for stops and lunch breaks.
[Hey - look who we found?! The second window is the pointy pinnicle way above Bill's head, slightly to the right.]
[This sure beats bushwhacking! A handy stream bed provides a good trail.]
[Open meadows with big puffy clouds and millions of flowers. What more could Kevin possible want?! :-)]
[The rest of the group follows us into the meadows.]
I really enjoyed Compression and Nihahi. I think you can save yourself a very long day and still get both of these peaks and enjoy some of the best scrambling by doing the "Bob Spirko route". Highly recommended for competent scramblers.