Prime Rib of Goat, Goat Wall

July 19 , 2007 / 5.9, 11 pitches, sport.

We've been waiting out bad weather at Washington Pass for a couple of days now. The forecast calls for a short break in the weather tomorrow afternoon. We're considering a quick dash up "Prime Rib of Goat", a long (11p) bolted sport climb on the Goat Wall, near Mazama, where the weather is generally much better than at the pass. We'll see.

The next morning, the weather is still really ugly at the pass (drizzle, occasional rain, and some fog). We get up late, take our time, and finally leave the bus around noon to go check the weather in the valley (the forecast is predicting a break in the afternoon). We have doubts, but when we reach Mazama, things don't look too bad. The roads are dry, and so are the rocks around town.

After a quick stop at the store, we drive to the parking area for Prime Rib. One car there… mmmhh? A moment of panic a few minutes later when a large van parks and disgorges a large group of young kids and guides… ouch. Fortunately, it turns out they are just going to the swimming hole!

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Pitch 1 starts on the rock rib, right by the gully.
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Starting pitch 2 (5.8).
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Higher on the same pitch.
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Near the end of pitch 2.
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Starting pitch 3 (5.7).

Short but steep and somewhat unpleasant (loose talus) approach to the start of the climb. Nobody around! The people from the other car must have been swimming as well. We get ready and start quickly. No time to loose… this is a bit of a late start (3:30PM) for 11 pitches of climbing, but it's all bolted and the descent is by rapping the route so we're not exactly getting very committed. Lucie's lead. She's moving confidently and fast. The rock is suprisingly enjoyable (given that it looks dubious from a distance): quite clean, with a mix of slopy edges and incut jugs. After the 5.2 scramble on the first pitch, the next two are pretty steep, enjoyable, and vastly over-rated at 5.7 and 5.8.

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Higher on pitch 3.
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Views of the valley.
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On pitch 4 (rated 5.9, but more like 5.8 IOHO)
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The a-cheval-belay atop pitch 4.
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Pitch 6.

The route follows a fairly well defined rib, and stays close to the crest most of the time. The rib is quite broken though, so steep pitches are interspersed with low angle, ledgy sections and several "move the belay" kind of pitches. But the steeper pitches are good, and very generously bolted (really a bit too much, especially in the last pitches).

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Starting pitch 7, one of my favorite pitches.
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This pitch follows a right trending dihedral, staying very close to the crest.
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Higher on pitch 7 (rated 5.7, but one move felt more like 5.8+).
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More ledge-hiking leads to another good pitch (p8, 5.7+)...
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...with slabbier climbing.

Lucie (and I) particularly enjoyed pitches #2 (crack and face), #7 (fun right-trending diagonal, right on the crest with one move much harder than the 5.7 rating; more like 5.8+), #8 (a long slabby pitch some distance left of the crest of the rib), and #11 (short chimney to a few steep face moves; 5.9). The rating appeared somewhat inconsistent, with the first 3 pitches clearly soft, p5-7 about right, and p8-10 soft again. The exception is p7: our topo (from the guide service in Mazama) shows it as 5.7 but we felt it had a move of 5.8+ or so.

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Pitch 9 features a very easy traverse (5.2), very well protected (too well?)
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Higher on pitch 9.
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Views from the belay.
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An other slabby pitch (5.4) leads to the final crux pitch.
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Starting the final pitch (p11, 5.9).

Straightforward but lengthy rap descent (14 raps with a single 60m rope, took us 1h45) from beefy bolted anchors with chains (very nice). All the gear you'll need are 14 draws, and a couple of locking biners (+ a daisy chain or longer runner to use as lifeline at rap anchors). We make it back to the base in full daylight, only a few minutes before the sun disappears behind the mountains. A short hike and some scree-skiing bring us back to the car.

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The crux pitch has a bit of chimney climbing leading to...
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...a couple of steep face moves. 5.9 seems fair.
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Belaying Eric at the top of the route.
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14 raps (with a single 60m rope) bring you down.
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Back at the base.

Approach notes: Park 3 miles up from Mazama store (0.3 miles further than the parking for "Sisyphus"), at a large pullout on the left. Walk up valley 150m to an old mining road on the right. Follow the road to large scree field. Ascend scree to base of the cliff, keeping left of old railroad trestle.

Gear notes: 60m rope + 14 draws + daisy chain or longer runners for rap descent.

Topo: can be obtained for free from the guide service (North Cascades Mountain Guides) in Mazama (they keep a bunch outside their door). Also heard rumors about a new guidebook by Brian Burdo which will include routes on the Goat Wall. Might be out by now.