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.