I Survived Mt.Goethe

16 Aug 1997 - by Rich Leiker

I survived Mt Goethe? I'll get to that later. I've been reading trip reports from others at work the last few years (occasionally glancing over my shoulder to make sure my boss hadn't snuck up behind me) and now I feel it's my turn to make a contribution. I've been looking forward to my return trip to this area since August of 1995 when I got stormed (rain/hail/lightning) out after 3 miserable days.

I left North lake at 8:30am on Saturday and was moving fairly slow, my 52 lb pack was 43% of my body weight. I reached Lamarck col at 2 and it was windy with threatening skies. I made it to my first camp just past the last Darwin lake around 4. It was sure nice being on a trip where the mosquitoes were only slightly annoying, when you swatted a couple you felt like it made a difference and brought a few moments of peace.

I left camp at 6am the next day to climb (hike up) Mt Goethe, I had to up climb a little to get around the first lake south of Goethe due to fairly steep hard snow whose runout went into the lake. (this was the only time I could of used my crampons on the entire trip - I left them at camp) I had to navigate around a couple icy benches before reaching the broad easy class 1 slope of Goethe, I summitted a little after 8am. The "fun" started on the way down, just below the summit I stepped on a large flat rock (it was as big as a small car) and it immediately took off down the mountain clipping me in the left thigh and sending me tumbling into some boulders. After hyper-ventilating a few moments I did an injury assessment and found nothing serious, my left wrist was sprained and I had a deep thigh bruise on my left leg. Boy was I lucky! It took 5 hours to get back to camp limping the whole way, I could hardly put any weight on my left leg but I HAD to get back.

I spent the rest of Sunday and all day Monday recouperating, I had a good book and the weather was picture perfect, a moderate breeze kept the mosquitoes away. By Tuesday I decided to move on, I had trouble holding a trekking pole in my left hand and my left leg occasionally buckled under me but I was able to recover using the trekking poles. I left camp at 10:30 and eventually made it to my next camp at the lake just north of Black Giant pass at 6pm. On the way I enjoyed a lunch at Evolution lake.

On Wednesday I was feeling better so I decided to do some easy climbing, I didn't want to do anything serious so I took off for Black Giant at 6:40am and summitted at 8:10 where I spent a half hour enjoying the early morning views. The return trip took an additional hour. (Black Giant was another class 1 walk-up, which by the way I have a new respect for these walk-ups) After spending a little time at camp I took off for Mt Fiske at 10:30, I went around the west side of Helen lake and headed toward the Fiske/Warlow saddle finding occasional large long slabs to walk on. I turned right before the saddle and made my way up to the broad easy slope which led up to the 2 summits of Fiske, wanting to avoid a loose sandy slope I stayed toward the ridge and easy class 2 climbing led to the summit which was reached at 1:40pm, I enjoyed more great views but decided to cut my sight seeing short as dark clouds were appearing over Darwin and Mendel.

I hurried back to camp arriving at 4pm and was treated to a thunderstorm to my north which fortunately missed me.

Feeling almost normal it was time to go for Charybdis and McDuffie on Thursday. I got a 6am start, went over Black Giant pass to the lake northeast of Charybdis, I had heard about some difficulties on this peak so I was really looking forward to climbing it. I ditched my ice axe and headed up the standard NE ridge staying to the east, it was easy class 2 for two thirds of the way up, the last 1/3 I would call a combination class 2/3 before gaining the ridge proper just short of the false summit. I had a little difficulty on the ridge, I was faced with squeezing between 2 flat boulders (1 foot wide) and about a 7 foot down climb or going down the otherside of the ridge for 10 feet on some pretty loose rock with a slight overhang, I chose the 10 foot down climb, from here it was easy going to the final summit area where easy scrambling led to the top. On the way down I took the squeeze route which was much easier than my earlier choice. Now for McDuffie, from the top of Charybdis I didn't see an obvious route up the west side so I decided to go for the north ridge. What a hastle getting there, whoever named it the Ionian BASIN should have their head examined, I assumed basins were relatively flat. Finally I worked my way over to the start of the north ridge, it was 12:45pm, this route didn't look obvious either but I decided to just go for it. I headed up toward the saddle between McDuffie and peak 13,046, I stayed below the ridge crest and just traversed south and upwards staying on class 3 rock, as I neared the summit I went to the top of the ridge and did some exposed climbing toward the final summit block. I stayed to the left to avoid a steep ice slope heading toward the summit and had about 30ft of fairly steep climbing with descent handholds. The summit register was interesting, not to many entries for this peak. I was glad I made this peak as the weather was threatening but never bad enough to cause me to back off. As it turned out by the time I got back to camp (7:15pm) it had cleared up.

On Friday I packed up, on the way toward Muir pass I decided to climb Mt Solomons, I headed up Solomon pass and followed the ridge from the pass to the summit. I saw Steve Eckert's entry in the summit register complimenting the skier he saw on this peak from Charybdis a couple seasons ago. I moved to my third and last camp at the lake west of Mt Huxley where I took a refreshing dip in the frigid water, unfortunately as I was starting to dry off on a sunny rock the sun took a vacation behind some clouds, I'm glad I brought a towel. The only rain I had to deal with occured shortly therafter, it lasted for an hour and allowed me to finish the book I had started earlier in the week.

I got a 6:30 saturday start and went for the west shoulder route on Huxley, I climbed a class 2 chute (steepest part was in the beginning) which headed straight for the headwall, the chute wasn't too bad because I was able to find fairly solid rock on the sides to make the climbing easier. I read Steve Eckert and Dave Harris's account and saw where the headwall could be avoided to the north. I climbed the headwall anyway, it looked like fun and it had great handholds. From the top of the headwall fairly exposed climbing along the ridge led to the summit boulders. Thanks Ed (don't remember the last name) for the candy you left for the next climber in the summit cannister. I took the easier route down avoiding the headwall and was back in camp by 9:45am.

Having finished my last hot meal the previous night and nothing but energy bars and dried fruit left in my food bag I decided to hike out. Leaving camp at 11am I hiked out the same way as I entered going through the evolution valley and Darwin canyon over Lamarck col and back to North lake by 6:45pm. A much needed shower and shave along with a hot meal and a couple Sierra Nevada's topped off this excellent trip. I realize I was fortunate to not be badly hurt but I'm willing to take this chance to enjoy being in the mountains, nothing beats the peace of mind and how relaxed my whole being was after this trip.

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