Yesterday I had the opportunity to do a free ascent of Bryan Burdo's elusive Vanishing Point on the imposing Dolomite Tower of Mt. Baring. For 20 years I'd stared down this iconic Nordwand from U.S. Highway 2, as I sped to Index, Steven's Pass or other trailheads. Mt. Baring rears like a proud sentinel situated just East of Index, between the North and South Fork of the Skykomish River. At just 6125 ft elevation, it isn't all that tall; but what it lacks in elevation it makes up in angle.
|Jesse Heineman on the Upper Wall at Index. Mt. Baring and Mt. Index both form|
|Patrick O'Donnell and Jess Heineman at Index. Good friends and Vanishing Point advisors.|
From what information I was able to gather, Vanishing Point was established in the early 90's by the legendary Washington climber Bryan Burdo. The route follows an amazing blunt arete for a thousand feet topping out just shy of the North Summit on Dolomite Tower. There are intermittent crack systems throughout the climb, but the defining character of the route is bolted face climbing, on good to superb alpine granite like metamorphic stone, accessed by an adventurous and considerable approach.
|Mt. Baring's North Walls. Vanishing Point climbs the middle tower top and center. The rock is steep and lighter in color than the adjacent walls.|
After trolling the internet and Cascade alpine guide books, I wasn't able to come up with any firm route topos or other anecdotal tidbits to shed light on the route. However, fortunate for us, Patrick O'Donnell and Jesse Heineman had put in several attempts on VP in the recent past, and on their last, pushed it to the top. My sincere gratitude goes out to these gents who answered my endless questions on the subject. It must be noted that they in turn had received some route/approach beta from Matt Anderson, who climbed the route 12 or so years ago, I think.
The previous week, I had taken an afternoon to recon the initial approach and stash a chord up near the forested rib. This tactic definitely served us well and without it, our one day ascent probably wouldn't have worked.
|The approach starts by taking a dry streambed up towards Barclay Lake.|
|Fixed lines leading up the forested rib. Without these lines, a one day ascent would likely be impossible. The angle of the forest is way steep, sometimes getting up to 70 degrees.|
|Working our way up the forested rib.|
Dropping down and left into the gully system, we climbed another 400 or something feet up to 60m pitch of 5.8 slab. This pitch had at one point been coated in some horrid rock dust. But, we found nice dry slab climbing.
|Dawn on Dolomite Tower.|
|Blake following the first 200 ft' 5.8 slab which gains a large bench.|
|Sunrise around 7am, from the top of the forested rib.|
|Merchant Peak in the background?|
|After the first real pitch, there is a long eastward traverse to gain 400 more feet mostly 5th- 5.8 type of climbing. There are some bolts towards the gully's end which enabled very nice face climbing on uniquely sculpted holds.|
|Blake exiting the last gully pitch.|
|Navigating 2nd and 3rd class ramps which lead up and left to VP's base.|
|Feeling a little awkward in a helmet, but quite happy to have one.|
|VP towering above us, capped with a 20 foot roof towards the end. I'll admit it was a bit intimidating.|
|Bolt hanger flattened by rock fall.|
|Blake following the last bit of climbing on pitch 2.|
|Blake trying to figure out how to enter the first 5.11 crack pitch.|
|Blake following 5.11 awkward crack with a backpack. Impressive!|
|Blake following the first "filter" pitch with the lake way down below.|
|Blake not only climbs well but is also quite fashionable. I think this is his version of|
"Blue Steel" or "le Tigre"
|Blake sending pitch 4 in style. 5.11-|
|Mt. Baring has an incredible position in the Cascades, delivering panoramic views in all direction. Glacier|
Peak. Not a bad view.
|Blake led this 11c pitch. There isn't anything straight forward about the climbing style.|
It is not only tenuous, but the holds are mostly odd angled ones; and finding them
could be the real crux. No chalk trails up here.
|Fortunately, I have some TC Pros from La Sportiva. They are like a secret weapon for vertical funk.|
|Blake following the next "11c" pitch. We both thought this was more like 12-ish.|
|Blake leading the 11a roof pitch. This one takes a line around to the right to a hanging belay.|
Blake led the roof pitch next and completely smoked it, monkey style. The holds are pretty good, but the exposure is unreal; and the views, priceless.
|Nothing but 1000ft of air below you. Good times.|
|Blake following the 12b pitch.|
|From here there are 3 more pitches to the top. The last two of which harbor significant runouts|
and questionable blocks off all sizes. Heads up for sure.
We topped out the route around 7pm. Back to the cars at 9:45pm. Many thanks goes to BB, Matt Anderson, Patrick O'Donnell, Jesse Heineman and mostly importantly Blake for making this free ascent possible. It was an awesome day in the mountains! Now, I'm ready to start Anatomy and Physics next week!!
But first, one more trip to Squamish...
Oh, and if anyone has more historical knowledge on this route, please feel free to contact me so I can make adjustments.