Mongo Ridge and The Pole of Remoteness 7/09/2022-7/14/2022
Updated: Jul 17, 2022
Looking down at Mongo from the Summit of the Pole of Remoteness
Mongo ridge has been written about by Wayne Wallace and Jeff & Priti Wright. Jeff’s trip report is really detailed and was quite helpful to us. Here are links to their trip reports and beta: https://alpinevagabonds.com/mount-furys-mongo-ridge-a-second-ascent/ and https://waynewallace.wordpress.com/2014/05/13/nwmj-mongo-ridge-report/ . For the most part this write up is a trip report of an adventure with beta thrown in. I’ll summarize our key beta notes below first before the full story.
Our planned itinerary was similar to Wayne's and we prepared for 5 days. As usual the mountains had other plans for us. Here was how our itinerary actually played out.
Day 1 Ross Lake TH to Luna Camp
Day 2 Luna Camp to Luna Col
Day 3 Luna Col to Summit of East Fury then drop down and climb first 7 pitches to the ridge crest, we found a decent bivy for 2 here. We started at 10am, summited Fury around 3pm, started our descent into Goodell Creek Basin at 4pm after dropping gear and much deliberating, started climbing around 6pm and finished at 10pm for around 4 hours of climbing.
Day 4 Climb Mongo to false summit, we found a sweet bivy for 2 on the false summit. Started at 7:30am, stopped at 9pm for 13.5 hours of climbing. This made for 17.5 total hours of climbing.
Day 5 False summit to West Fury to East Fury back to access creek. Started at 8:30am, summited West fury around 9:15 and East Fury around 1pm.
Day 6 Access Creek Out
If you do the rooster comb bypass you only need to bring a single 60m rope (unless you want a back up for bailing/ core shots). The rappels off tower 2,3,and 4 are all 40-50m but if you bring extra cord you could easily set up a second rappel, it looked like there were plenty of options. The last 10-20m in each case all looked like low 5th class so you could also easily belay each other and downclimb the last bit of each rappel. The rappels are also clean enough that a beal escaper would probably work.
We slept where the route meets the ridge and on false Fury. Both of these were fairly comfortable bivys for 2, maybe 3. It looks like you could also sleep near the top of tower 1. Near the top of tower 3 would be a sick bivy! It is flat and would sleep 5 comfortably. The summit of tower 3 felt like roughly half way through the route. We never found the moat Wayne slept in.
We thought the rock quality was for the most part decent, on par with other lesser climbed routes in the Cascades. It’s probably what the West Ridge of Forbidden looked like before it got climbed thousands of times. The rock reminded me a lot of Mt Goode, but 5.9 instead of low 5th class. The worst rock was gaining the ridge, and the reason we almost turned back, I am glad we stuck with it. That being said, while the blocky ridge all seems to be somehow stuck together, there were not very many pro options, making most pitches R rated. You certainly want to be well versed in the art of choss dancing and very comfy on 5.9 before attempting this route.
We brought a similar rack to Jeff and Priti, Singles .1-2, doubles .3-.75 and a ton of nuts in case we had to bail. We also brought 1 #2 beak, which we placed a handful of times using the hammer on one of our axes. We were quite happy with this rack. The beak and .1 is probably not necessary for leading, but may provide more bail options as usable cracks in the Pickets tend to be small. We also brought about 50ft of 6mm cordelette and used all of it, since most of the single strand rappel anchors from Jeff and Priti were not in great shape a year later. Now all of the rappel anchors are redundant.
We carried 40 deg bags (Sea to Summit makes ones that are 12oz and they worked great!), foam pads, a stove and Hilleberg tarp. We had a decent forecast, and it was important to keep things super light. We never had to haul.
We got really lucky with having a heavy snow year and a weather window in early July. It was hot during the climb. There was snow where we camped when we gained the ridge, snow on the top of the first tower, snow near most of the notches, and along the rooster comb bypass. We drank a bunch in the morning then carried .75L each from our first bivy. We then refilled 3L at the stream in the rooster bypass and carried it up the last few pitches, which worked out well because it would have been annoying to get to snow from our bivy on the false summit. I would recommend doing this in early enough season to not have to carry a ton of water. You can see the full ridge from the summit of East Fury to get an idea of how much snow there will be.
We pitched everything out, we didn’t do any soloing until we got to the ridge between West and East Fury. The only simul climbing we did was when there were no viable anchors in the 200ft rope length and we’d have to simul 20-50ft before the leader found a reasonable anchor. We climbed roughly 30 pitches and did 8 rappels.
Dropping into the Pole
You could summit the Pole of Remoteness by dropping in from West Fury, but I would not recommend this, unless you are comfortable down soloing loose 5.5. The 2 200ft pitches we climbed from the pole to the false summit, had only a few gear placements each and it seemed hard to find rappel anchors. The rock just below the false summit was some of the loosest on the mountain. I am glad we did not try this, as we had considered it when it seemed unlikely we were moving fast enough to climb Mongo.
The Pole of Remoteness in all it's glory
The Full Experience
Over 6 days Sam and I completed one of the wildest climbs in the Cascades, Mongo Ridge of West Fury. One of the gendarmes on the ridge is called the pole of remoteness, rumored to be the hardest to get to point in the lower 48 states. On Tuesday Sam and I became the second and third person to summit the pole . To get to it you have to summit East Fury, which involves 24 miles, 7,000+ ft of elevation gain, bush-whacking, scrambling, steep heather traversing, and glacier travel. You then have to descend 4,000ft into Goodell Creek Basin to the base of Mongo and look up at the gnarly ridge. Then you must summit 4 other 300-600ft tall gendarmes with loose rock and difficulties up to 5.9 before the mountain opens up to allow you passage to the pole of remoteness. The gendarmes make the route extremely committing, and pretty soon bailing becomes more daunting than continuing upwards.
Ever since my first trip into the Pickets in 2018, Mongo Ridge, both the climb and style of first ascent have captured my imagination. I have never been that motivated by summits but I wanted to stand on the Pole of Remoteness. What Wayne Wallace did to put up the first ascent was truly visionary and I found myself constantly thinking about what it must have been like being up there alone, unsure if the route would go, in 2006. You should all go read his trip report on his website. Every summer I would think about doing the route, but time off, weather windows, conditions and partners never seemed to line up. When a week ago all the stars seemed to align, I decided to ignore the fact that I had an injured hamstring and hadn’t hiked more than 5 miles in the last 3 months. We at least had to try.
We stayed up late after work packing on July 8th, then woke up early to get permits July 9th. We were planning on a 5 day itinerary. There was a mix up with the Ross Lake Resort shuttle, so we ended up having to hike 17 miles to the access creek junction instead of 11. By the time we reached camp my hamstring was spasming. Hiking back out sounded daunting, let alone continuing up, but I’d see how it felt in the morning.
My legs were stiff but functional the next morning so I figured we might as well continue. By lunch I was in a lot of pain again, and we sat and debated for the first time, but not the last, whether or not to continue. I was willing to keep hiking through the pain, but if we got to the summit of East Fury and my hamstring was in this much pain, it would be irresponsible to drop down to climb Mongo. Let’s face it, after not being able to hike or run for 3 months I was out of shape. If we made it to East Fury only to turn back, we would have wasted 5 days of perfect weather and time off. If we hiked now, maybe Sam could still find a partner to climb with. I told him I thought there was a 5% chance we would even attempt Mongo. Sam suggested we adjust our goals to summiting the Pole of Remoteness by dropping in from the summit of West Fury. I was game to keep walking until I couldn’t. Getting to the hardest to reach spot was not going to be easy, that was the whole point.
Night 2 we camped at Luna Col, making extremely slow progress. Our goal had been to make it to the summit of East Fury, but once again I was incapable of walking any farther that day. We spent a beautiful evening taking in the full Picket skyline, a view I had been dreaming of for 4 years.
The Northern Pickets in all their glory. You can see the NE Buttress of Fury in much better conditions then when I climbed it in 2018.
The next day we slept in, and had a lazy morning. We planned to leave a few things behind at Luna Camp that we wouldn’t need to reach the pole from above, like our tagline, half the rack, and extra food. We crossed the red ledges and started the scrabble between Luna and Fury. A light switch had been flipped, my leg wasn’t hurting and something about touching rock had reignited the fire. I was moving well again, so we ran back to camp to grab all the things we left behind. If we got to the summit of East Fury and still felt decent, we would drop down into the valley and start up the ridge. It would put us a day behind schedule, and we’d have to ration our food.
We summited East Fury at 3pm and stared down at Mongo. The ridge is insane to look at, with so many gendarmes rising and falling. It looked challenging, but also like something we were capable of. I think my leg had given up on trying to tell me to stop, because I hadn’t felt any pain all day. We had hiked all this way, the weather was splitter, we might as well try. We left our tent, last days food, and inflatable sleeping pads at the summit, carrying 40deg bags, foam pads and a small tarp as bivy gear.
Gaining the ridge- 7 pitches
We dropped into the Goodell Creek Basin and made it to the base of the route around 6pm. Be careful of moats while dropping into the basin. The moat to get on the route was pretty chill. I downclimbed into it and across at the one place it touched the rock while on belay. Sam belayed himself down into the moat using a snow bollard, then I belayed him across to the rock.
Sam self belaying off a snow bollard into moat
We began up the chimney that marks the start of the route. It is about 5.4 to pop out left of the chimney on good rock, with a few cams, and easier than squirming up the chimney. For the next pitch, we started up the right wall of the next gaping chimney to belay on top of it. This ended up being quite chossy, would not recommend. Upon looking at Jeff and Priti's beta they seem to have gone farther right. We were then able to locate the 5.8 overhang Wayne described and found it to be well protected and fun! We then started traversing left and a little up. Most of the following pitches were quite runout, loose and traversing in nature, making it scary for the leader and follower. I was carrying the heavy follower pack and quite unstoked at the fall I was usually looking at. I think I just needed to get used to the choss dance again. I kept thinking about Wayne with his 45lb pack free soloing these easier pitches. Wild!
5.8 Overhang, fun!
We reached the ridge at 10pm and found a nice spot to bivy. The moon was so bright we didn’t need headlamps and it lit up the Southern Pickets skyline. What a place to be! We had been hoping to make it to the top of tower 1. Getting to the ridge ended up being the most time consuming and chossiest part of our journey, but we didn’t know that yet. This left us debating whether to continue the next morning. There was a LOT of deliberating. We once again, decided we might as well keep moving upwards, since it seemed like we could bail from as high as tower 2. We had come so far.
Tower 1&2 5 pitches, 2 Rappels
We stayed close to the ridge line to the summit of the first 2 towers, moving efficiently and psyched to find better rock. I think it was 3 rope stretching pitches from the ridge to the summit of tower 1 and 2 shorter pitches up tower 2. The rappel off tower 1 is short. The rappel of tower 2 was about 40m but the last 10m you could bring some extra tat and set up a second rappel or build an anchor and belay each other down the low fifth class to the notch if you wanted to only bring 1 rope. Staring up at the third tower, one of the cruxes of the route, was intimidating, but also inspiring. What a crazy feature! Most people would climb the 3rd tower as an objective on it’s own if it were on the ground. We were both feeling good, intimidated, but good, we were doing it.
Tower 3- 6 pitches, 1 Rappel
The 5.4 Traverse from the notch between 2 & 3
Our Route up Tower 3
From the notch between tower 2 and 3 you traverse right about 150 feet on 5.4 terrain with a few pieces of gear and belay at the base of a steep ridge. The first pitch starts up the open book corner. We climbed 4 pitches on the ridge to the summit bivy (plus a short pitch to the rappel anchors). We stayed on the ridge for all but the last pitch when we traversed about 30ish ft right of the ridge. Mostly we stopped when we got to decent stances. The second pitch is THE WILDEST PITCH I have ever climbed. It's steep 5.9 ridge climbing with thousands of feet dropping away on either side of you, the exposure was unreal. Similar to the rest of the climb, the blocky ridge was surprisingly solid and left you wondering how it was all held together. The gear placements on the other hand were few and far between. Be prepared for 5.9R climbing. We climbed with a light leaders pack and heavy followers pack and never had to haul.
There is a massive flat ledge on the summit of the third tower which would be a SICK bivy, it’s also roughly the halfway point of the ridge. I was feeling pretty out of it on the summit of tower 3 and blood started gushing out of my nose. Nothing that a little miracle water and basking in the sun on a large ledge in the wildest place couldn't fix. I started to refer to the caffeinated electrolyte packets we randomly threw into our packs last minute as miracle water. I have never really drank electrolyte drinks, but damn were they the MVP of this trip. The rappel down also was around 40m and could be managed in a similar way to tower 2 if you wanted to only bring 1 rope.
Content on the top of tower 3 feat. my bloody face.
Possibly the greatest photo of me every taken, look closely and you can see the toilet paper coming out of my nose
Tower 4- 3 Pitches, 1 Rappel
From the next notch we traversed 60ft to the left until we got to a different corner system and built a belay there. We then continued up the corner and slightly left on decent rock, but again with little pro (5.9). One more long and easy pitch took us to the top of tower 4. The rappel off tower 4 is 50ish meters, and again could be managed similarly to tower 2 and 3 if you only wanted to bring 1 rope.
Where we started going up after the traverse from the notch
Pitch 2 Tower 4
Top of tower 4, what a place to be!
Rooster Comb By Pass- 6 pitches 2 rappels,
At this point we were looking up at the rooster comb. It looked wild and complex, we were a day behind, and we wanted to be sure we got to what we had come for, the Pole of Remoteness. We decided to take Jeff and Priti’s rooster bypass. This actually felt like a reasonable way to climb the ridge as you are never far from the rooster comb and there was water.
From the notch after the 4 tower, we did a short rappel down and right, then traversed 4th class to a snow gully. At this point we put boots back on and didn’t wear rock shoes again for the remainder of the climb. We rappelled the snow gully, only about 50ft down you can escape the gully towards a 4th class traverse to an obvious grassy ramp. There isn’t really anything worth anchoring off of for 300ft until you get over a small ridge, so we simul climbed. We then traversed another snow slope towards a gully with a small stream. Another couple pitches of low 5th class and intermittent snow brought us to the back side of the Pole of Remoteness.
Grassy Gully in rooster bypass marked with red arrow
Traversing towards the grassy gully at the end of the snow rappel
Climbing next to the small stream
Pole of Remoteness- 1 pitch, 1 rappel
We climbed the 5.7 pitch to the top of the Pole, the last 20ft are some of the chossiest on route, and totally different angular rock. It had certainly been a journey to get here. As usual had you told me what it would take, I probably would have never left the car. But you always have to break big objectives down piece by piece and put one foot in front of the other. We were able to find a large solid block we felt comfortable rappelling off of and tested it.
Us trying to make our fingers as pointy as the pole of remoteness. Damn did we come a loooooong way to get here.
Our route up the pole and rappel anchor
False Summit- 2 Pitches 1 rappel
We the traversed right around the next gendarme, and up the snow gully behind it, a 60m low fifth class pitch. 1 more 60m low fifth class pitch brought us to the false summit. A perfect bivy spot awaited us on the false summit. Good timing because the sun was quickly sneaking away.
Traversing around the final gendarme
Nearing the false summit, with a crazy sunset
We had run out of the fuel we had brought on the ridge melting snow that morning, so dinner consisted of smoked salmon from Sam’s dad and chocolate chip cookies from my mom. We had to be a bit careful how much we ate from here on out, as we were running low on food. That night a white out rolled in, the wind rushed past us and I saw lightning in the distance, giving me shivers from my last trip to the Pickets. But the weather was supposed to be splitter, and in the morning the clouds cleared. It certainly was a test of our 40deg sleeping bags.
Cozy at our false summit bivy
The next day we did a rappel down a 4th class gully from the false summit and traversed the snow around the remaining towers and scrambled to the true summit of West Fury. It was not over yet, the traverse between the Furys is involved with low fifth class up and over 3 towers, rappelling down the back side of each. We finally picked up our stuff on the summit of East Fury and started the grueling descent back to Access Creek. On my last trip to the Pickets I hiked out from the summit of East Fury in a single push, a feat I would never like to repeat. This time we camped in Access Creek. I felt lucky to not feel pain in my hamstrings again until halfway out the Big Beaver trail.
Overall Mongo was an excellent Cascades ridge and provided us with world class adventure. It is worthy of future repeats by those that are ready for it. Be prepared to perform you best Cascades choss dance and the mountain might allow you passage. There is nothing quite like the Pickets.
In Wayne’s trip report he mentions a quote “The trip you never come back from.” Which caused me to think a lot. I never truly came back from my first trip to the pickets to climb the NE Buttress of East Fury. in2018 There were a few too many close calls on that trip, juxtaposed against experiencing one of the most beautiful and wild places I had ever experienced all in one trip. That trip left me questioning, "why do I climb?" and "is it worth it?" I left a little piece of myself in the Pickets that trip. At some point along the way I realized that this trip was about finding that little piece of myself and bringing it home.