Sunday, December 13, 2009
Sunday, December 6, 2009
Looking up Wildcat Gully (Dingleberry is the peak on the right)
Not two weeks after scouting out Wohlt's Welt, I came back to climb all the way to the top. My goal was to summit Wildcat via the Regular route, reportedly only 3rd class, but with many warnings about the tediousness of the bushwhacking. I left the car at about 1mile up Modoc Mine rd (before the gate) at about 8am and made good time up to the entrance to Wildcat gully. There was 4-8" of snow in the shady portions near the entrance to the gully, but the gully itself
was not too bad. It appears that a pretty serious rock-fall or other erosion event has occurred in the past few years and wipe out most of the undergrowth for the first half of the gully. While in this portion of the gully, I checked out climbing possibilities on either side. A nice slab formation on the south side of the gulley looks like it could provide a few pitches of decent climbing, but the better wall was the one on the North, which Ingraham calls the Guardian Buttress in his descrption of the Wildcat climbs. There were several nice looking steep crack systems on this wall, and the approach isn't that bad. Could be worth checking out.
Pictures from the lower Wildcat Gully showing rock-fall damage
The going began to get a little tougher near the top of the Guardian Buttress level. The rock-fall event must have occurred slightly lower, so for the last 100ft or so, I had to navigate around snow covered shrubs. This was easier by clinging to the North wall where passage could be found. The top of the lower Wildcat gully is clearly demarcated at a narrow saddle-like spot. Ingraham calls this the "narrow saddle, on whose left rises a sharp, small spire, into a wide valley running down west under Wildcat's SW face (the Swale)". I think I'll just call this place "the Swale".
At the "Swale"
From this point up to the saddle between Wildcat and Dingleberry, I had to battle up waist-deep snow drifts. I'd try to cling to one side of the gully, but usually could not keep it up for long as the sides were too steep or icy. Just below the saddle is a large oak tree, but before I got there, I had decided to take to the rock wall on the north side of the gully and start my ascent of Wildcat's final rock face. The first hundred feet of 3rd class scrambling felt harder due to the ice and snow obscuring the rock and making it slippery. But once I popped out onto the S. ridge and sunshine, it got a lot smoother. The rest of the South Ridge was pleasant 3rd class rock-hopping all the way to the summit.
I replaced the summit register with a new one, and took the old one down with me for archiving. This register was a tiny old metal film canister (Kodak) and had only two moldy sheets of paper in it. I'll post the full ascent log soon. Looking to the North, the summit of Razorback is just a short hop away. I was almost tempted to go over to it, but the short hop involves a steep down-climb to an exposed saddle, and with ice and snow, it probably wouldn't be as easy as it looked. Besides, I need to have some good reasons to come back up here. Razorback looks like a great climb. To the South Dingleberry seems massive. there were a few climbable gullies ascending from the Wildcat gully and I considered trying to get up one of these on my way down. But this would be an extra hour or so of time and I wasn't sure what time it was to begin with. I decided it was best to head on down, and get back to Liz and my birthday feast.
For the descent was almost the same as the ascent except I tried to avoid the 3rd class down-climbing by taking a brushy gully on the SE side of Wildcat's peak. Even with a few feet of deep snow-drifts, the bushwhacking was egregious. I can only imagine how terrible it would be in summer conditions. The gully dropped me down on the East side of the Wildcat-Dingleberry saddle, and I had to climb up an icy chimney to get back onto the saddle and start making my way down. Going down the deep snow was much easier than coming up, I butt-slid the whole way down. I was back to my car at 2:15. Not bad time, and pretty much in-line with ingraham's suggested3hr time to summit.
The SW face of Wildcat
Temps throughout the hike were pretty reasonable, hovering around the 40s for most of the gully. It felt much colder than this with the wind though, and I quickly had to use my wind-protection layers to stay warm. I also was not fully prepared for the snow, I didn't have me gaiters. How I could have forgotten these, I don't know. My feet got soaked on the ascent and at the summit I changed into dry wool socks and put on "vapor-barriers" to keep my feet relatively dry. this little trick I picked up in Quebec, and consists of placing plastic shopping bags over your feet in your boot. You lose any kind of breathability, but you keep the worst of the snow-water off your socks, so it ends up being better if you're not sweating too hard. I certainly enjoy hiking these peaks in the winter. now if only the days were longer...