"Spirited Away" First Ascent of the South Ridge of Spectre Peak 2000' 5.8

Updated: Jul 27


The Profile of the Upper Ridge From the East


In early July 2022, Lani and I climbed Mongo Ridge deep in the northern pickets. From this ridge, we were able to see a few really cool looking ridges and neighboring walls and were curious about the history of the climbing in the zone. After we got home we dove into all the usual sources of info (AAJ, Cascade Climbers, Beckey Bible) to try and identify which features had been climbed and which ones hadn't. Our research turned up a handful of projects and a new tick list. This tick list of course is guarded by a sadistic 2 day approach regardless of entry point. Fast forward a week and the extended forecast was trending toward SPLITTER. I had a few days off, but Lani was scheduled to work so I started reaching out to everyone I knew in the state to see who was stoked. Joe answered the call, and despite school and a semi normal person job, he was able to take 5 days off randomly to go for a new route. I tossed out all the ideas that I had come up with and the line we could most agree on was the South Ridge of Spectre. The line is an obvious serrated ridge of hoodoos and spirits rising gently out of Pickle Pass. Joe had recently done a new route in the challenger sky line, so it was super rad to have a partner who was familiar with the approach.


Stats

Total Hiking Mileage: 46 Miles

Total Elevation Gain: 17,500 ft

Total Pitches: 12

Total Climbing Distance: 1800 ft of pitched climbing with 600 ft of simuling for a total of 1500ft of elevation gain

French Alpine Rating: D+

Recommended Rack: Singles .1-2, Doubles .3-1, Optional 3, a light rack of nuts and 50 ft of cord/webbing. Single 60M Rope


Itinerary

Day 1

Hannegan Pass Trailhead to a bivy on the far side of Easy Peak (10 hrs)


Day 2

Easy Ridge to the bivy below the South Ridge of Phantom Peak (8 hrs)


Day 3

Climb the ridge and bump camp over to the bivy sites on the south side of the challenger ridge (15 hrs)


Day 4

Descend all the way to the trailhead (16 hrs)


Conclusions and Recommendations

Joe and I had an excellent and enjoyable time climbing the ridge. That being said, I would have a really hard time recommending the route for repeats. There are a number of really cool sections of knife edge climbing and some super fun movement. Heck there is even a 20 ft long splitter hands and fist crack! But there is a fairly substantial choss factor. I would put this around the medium-low end of the spectrum of rock quality by Cascades standards. If you enjoy climbing remote moderate ridge climbs in the pickets you will probably enjoy the experience as a whole, but most climbers unfamiliar with shattered gneiss would turn their nose to the route. The majority of the climbing is moderate low to mid fifth with decent stretches of 5.7 terrain. There were short isolated sections of 5.8 and a couple moves of chossy runout 5.9. With a little route finding revisions its likely possible to get around the 5.9 sections. My personal highlights were the gymnastic and exposed knife-edge sections. The bulbous and contorted hoodoos near the top inspired the route name as it felt like we were amongst the ghosts at the bath house.


Trip Report

I met Joe at his place in Mt. Vernon Early Sat morning to finish packing. After we decided on rack and packed up food we headed over to the Glacier Ranger Station. We were surprised to find that there wasn't too bad of a line showing up at after opening on a sat morning. Starting this season, the park has started to charge money for wilderness permits. They are charging a flat rate of $26 per party per trip. We got to the Hannegan Pass Trailhead around 9:30AM. The line of cars was already a half mile from the wash out. I cant imagine the traffic problems that had to of occurred later in the day as the road functionally became a one lane road. The trail up and over Hannegan was uneventful, there were a few blow downs, but trail crews were active and cutting the route clear. When we got to the turn off we were surprised to see that some sneaky trail crew member cut trees at the turn off to better indicate the trail for the Easy Ridge turnoff. The hike of to Easy Ridge was HOT and DRY. Luckily there was still flowing water relatively early on the ridge. I can imagine this is brutal later in the season and in dry years would be miserable.


Sunset from our camp on Easy Ridge


We Passed the summit of Easy peak with an awkward amount of daylight left, we opted to stop where we were as there was a good, clean tarn for water, and we knew the next day would be a bit on the light side.


Day 2 was all about positioning ourselves to a good camp to try the climb from. Our original goal was to go all the way to Pickell Pass. When we got to the Phantom Peak notch we were able to see that Pickell Pass was still covered in snow. We did not have a tent with us and did not want to deal with an open air bivy on the snow unless it was necessary. We found a nice flat spot up near the South Ridge of Phantom Peak and set up camp.


Looking over at Pickell Pass and the Southern Skyline from the Phantom Notch Camp


On day three we had a relatively casual morning as we stomped across the base of the haunted wall over to our ridge. We roped up around 7AM. The first 3 pitches climbed a broad buttress to a large ledge. For the third pitch, we took an attractive looking face to the right of a wide chimney/gully. The face ended up having a couple body lengths of super loose and slightly overhung climbing. The mossy chimney likely would have provided better rock.


View of the ridge from Pickle Pass, the route takes the righthand skyline


Joe Following the First Pitch


Looking up at Pitch 3 and the Rotten Overhang


Once on top of the buttress, we un-roped and scrambled up a few hundred feet of 2nd and 3rd class to where the ridge steepened again. We built an anchor and Joe led up nice cracks that took us up to the true ridge crest. Once on the crest we were presented with a couple options. the rock on the true crest looked particularly friable, so we decided to stay on the face to the east of the crest. We climbed up a big steppy, golden slab for a pitch and a half before cutting back up to the ridge when the face suddenly dropped below.


Joe Stepping up on Pitch 4


Smiles at the top of Pitch 4


Looking Down on top of the broad buttress


Golden Slabs on Pitch 5


Joe Following Pitch 5


Second Half of Pitch 6 Re-Gaining the Ridge Crest


Once back on the ridge crest we climbed a pitch to the base of an insane looking gendarme. We hit a dike of extreme choss guarding the gendarme. After looking around for a while, we decided to do a rappel to the west, we went down into a gully and to the base of some cracks west of the crest. It took some serious creativity and a heavy hand to fabricate an anchor worth rappelling on. The rap was about 25M. The gully was pretty loose, but not the loosest I've ever rapped into. I used the rappel to belay myself up the opposite wall to a point where I was out of the hang-fire and built an anchor.