Slippery Slab Tower

July, 2016

I don’t always hike 6 miles one way with 4000 feet of elevation gain to climb 1.5 pitches of rock, but when I do it is to do my first rock lead on alpine trad. Honestly, the hike in is pretty awesome on its own. I had never been in this area before and it is just spectacular, full of hidden alpine lakes and untouched wilderness. Oh and the climb is neither a slab nor is it slippery.

Slippery Slab Tower

We started up the trail towards Surprise Lake, which meanders along the creek on a very slight uphill grade. Just before the lake we veered left on the PCT towards Trap Pass. If you love switchbacks, this is your trail. From Trap Pass you have a pretty awesome view of Trap Lake, as well as the little known but beautiful Chiwaukum mountain range. From there we finally left the trail behind and our destination came into view as we came around the ridge. Slippery Slab is a steep, dramatic looking rock pinnacle. It was surrounded by mist when we first saw it and it looked like some sort of Tower of Mordor from Lord of the Rings.

View of Trap Lake from Trap Pass
You can see tiny trail traversing the left slope
Entering Mordor

After crossing some talus and a small snowfield we were finally at the base of the climb. I was pretty nervous since it was my job to lead two of the climbers up. I had never led something that I hadn’t climbed before, and was nervous about the unknown. The technical difficulty of the climb is around 5.4-5.5 and not too difficult, but I was new to being on the sharp end plus I am kind of a chicken in general. Anyway, the pressure was on!

Class 3/4 scramble gully
More potential future destinations?

We scrambled up the Class 4 gully to a small ledge, where we roped up for the climb. The other team went first since the leader was familiar with the route. Now it was my turn. I was also trying a new technique that I had never done before, where I tied into the middle of the rope. This was so that when I got to the anchor I could belay up both followers at once while they climbed simultaneously. The climbing was pretty easy, with just one interesting move about halfway up where I tried to follow the crack and it got too difficult. Instead I threw in a couple of nuts and pulled around the blind corner, which luckily opened up to an easy ledge and a tree that I could belay from. My climbing buddies were awesome and were up there in no time. The climb is so short that we were only about a half a pitch from the summit. If I had led on the full length of rope we could have done it in one pitch. The second pitch was pretty easy as well, and could be done without a rope for experienced scramblers. After belaying the second half pitch, we unroped and scrambled the last 75 feet or so to the summit. I survived my first “real” lead in the alpine, yah!

getting ready to rappel down

This is a fun peak in a spectacular setting and great for a first lead or a first trad climb. It is also not crowded, the only people we saw all day were a couple of PCT through hikers back on the trail. I’ll definitely be back up here again.

Distance: 12 miles roundtrip

Elevation Gain: 4200 feet

Difficulty: 5.5 & Class 4

Routefinding: Easy Peasy, there is trail 95% of the way

Surprise Lake from the summit of Slippery Slab
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