Elevation Gain: 2,225m
Total Time: 15 hours 37 minutes
Date: September 29th, 2022
Elise and I had been discussing doing an alpine climb sometime mid-September as I now had a flexible schedule that could match hers. A couple of ideas were thrown around, but Elise suggested an intriguing option called Prusik Peak in The Enchantments. I had been out in that area before to do Dragontail and Colchuk Peak, but hadn’t actually seen or heard of Prusik before. One look at the photos was all it took to convince me though. While Prusk Peak only boasts 43m of prominence, it features a striking granite face that rises +300m from the lakes at its base. The summit can only be reached through a technical climb that goes at 5.7 by the easiest route. Numerous other routes exist that make it one of the most popular summits to climb in the area.
Weather and shifting schedules meant that we didn’t actually find a good time slot until the last week of September, but the days finally aligned for September 29th. We decided to form a party of three with Andrea, myself and Elise and we’d camp at the trail head and do a car to car push the following morning. There’s two ways to reach Prusik Peak, one by Aasgard Pass and the other via Snow Lakes. Elise and I had both done the Aasgard Pass approach and wanted to avoid the boulder field descent, so Snow Lakes it was. That meant a longer approach, at least 18km+, but easier elevation gain and different scenery. None of us were quite skilled enough to lead the stiffer 5.10 classic routes, so we decided on the West Ridge a 5.7 route that our friends Steven and Winnie had completed recently. They provided some beta that much of the route could be soloed so we were optimistic we’d have an easy outing.
On the 27th, Andrea and I crossed the border and met Elise in Ferndale, WA where we convoyed with her to Everett. From there, we grouped up into my truck and then drove the remaining way out to Leavenworth. There was a new fire in the area, which meant a closure of Highway 2 and potential for dense smoke around the summit. However, we’d only come equipped with the exact gear we needed for Prusik, so there wasn’t much of a chance to change objectives. With that, we committed and took a slightly longer route to Leavenworth, hoping the smoke forecast was accurate with a clearing expected the next day.
We pulled into the parking lot around 10PM and setup for the night. At 5am the alarm went off and we packed up and hit the trail around 5:30am. The approach up was a breeze with a very well laid and cruise-y path all the way to Upper Snow Lake. From Upper Snow, it we followed a slightly more challenging path up to Viviane Lake, with a few points where we got turned around. All in all, it was quite straightforward and we reached the view point to Prusik by 10:30am. By now there were some ominous clouds rolling in with strong gusts blowing across Viviane Lake. I was hopeful this wouldn’t shut us down after a 5 hour approach, but just in case Elise set off ahead of us to get cell service on the ridge and confirm the weather.
Andrea and I followed up shortly after, navigating around Viviane Lake and up the climber’s trail on the south ridge to the base of Prusik. Sure enough, the weather was all good and the clouds were just bluffing. We geared up at the base of the West Ridge and started the short scramble up to the start of pitch one. From the base of pitch one, the route looked quite manageable and so we just opted to solo its entirety until reach the anchor at the top of the pitch. There were a few interesting moves in between, with a neat 5.6ish hand crack and a cool off-width chimney, but none were too exposed or committing enough to require a rope.
At the top of pitch one, an interesting roof/bulge guarded the ridge traverse beyond and we weren’t 100% sure what laid beyond. That’s when we made the call to pitch it out with Elise taking the first lead. We setup a three person system with a double rope, racked up and then Andrea started the belay for Elise. She placed on piece at the roof and then pulled up, stemming on a nice corner feature before cresting the roof and dipping out of sight. A short while later Elise called out secure and then put us on belay. Andrea climbed next and then I followed up the cool roof and then around the ridge to a short down climb. From there it was an easy traverse about 8m over to where Elise and Andrea were secured on a broad ledge.
Andrea lead the next pitch up through some varied scramble terrain and then onto a short slabby section to the base of a steeper slab, considered to be one of two 5.7 cruxes on the route. Elise and I followed up and then it was my turn to lead. The slab crux was about 6m tall and run out with only a rusty piton for pro at the base. I slung a block above the station as back up and then started the committing sequence of moves to the to the top. The face was steep, but offered several bomber foot placements at the bottom until I was high enough up to pull off the arete with my right hand and reach the nice ledge at the top.
From the top of the slab, I wasn’t super sure where to go and ended up traversing on the north side of the ridge underneath a rounded boulder perched on the ridge. I continued the traverse on exposed, but easy ridge line until reaching a cool knife edge arete just before a broad ledge. Right as I reached the ledge, I heard a call from Andrea that I was out of rope length. I searched around for a decent boulder to sling, but everything was a few meters out of reach. I relented to using a knee height boulder, which, while solid, meant an awkward belay stance. After setting up an anchor, and putting everyone I belay, I quickly realized there was a big problem. The anchor was lower in height than the last section of ridge and that meant if the rope was weighted the auto-block on my ATC wouldn’t be able to engage. I was happy to have caught it before it was too late, but now I had to faff around to find a better anchor spot. A few meters above there was an adequate boulder to sling, but I didn’t have the rope length. I called out to Andrea and they managed to scoot forward enough for me to get things set up.
Finally, I belayed Andrea and Elise up and the faff-session was over. Now there was a short scramble to the base of the second crux just below the summit. I coiled the rope and climbed up to where Andrea and Elise were now scoping out the next pitch. There appeared to be two options to the summit. A finger crack up to a ledge or an off-width crack that appeared to go all the way to the summit. We didn’t really have the gear or off-width skills, so the finger crack it was. Andrea was feeling confident, so she geared up for the lead and I belayed for her. She lead a super clean climb up the steepening finger crack pitch and topped out on the ridge above. Here she had to do a some route finding as it wasn’t clear how to gain the summit. From the ledge she located a flake and pulled off that until reaching another narrow ledge just below an off-width pitch guarding the summit.
There was a large enough horn to sling, so she belayed Elise up and then I followed. I found this crux harder than 5.7, with the awkward finger size and flares near the top. I managed to pull the moves, but it was more challenging than expected and I consider this to be my personal crux for the route. The flake was easy to climb and I reached Elise and Andrea at the top. Elise took the final lead and climbed up the short, but hard to protect off-width, making it look easy. I came up next and squirmed my way up, finally topping out on the summit. Andrea followed and we finally rejoiced at reaching the top!
The summit was narrow, but plenty of room for us to spread out and peer over the vertical south face. All around, light rays danced through the clouds shining over various parts of The Enchantments. It felt pretty magical to be up there and we were all thankful to have dodged thick smoke and bad weather on the ascent. When we finally packed up for the descent, we located the first rap station on the north side of the ridge quite easily.
Elise rappelled first and then Andrea and I joined after. From there we had three more straightforward rappels to the base of the north side. Then we scrambled a few hundred meters along the north side until reaching our gear stash. Now we faced a 20km return to the car, but at least the trail was easy. We reversed our route down the climber’s trail and then committed to the long plod back to the truck. By the time we reached Nado Lake, the head lamps came out and we just continued on auto pilot all the way back.
Despite the long return, it went by surprisingly fast and we reached the car around 9PM. A huge car to car mission, but absolutely worth it. I can’t wait to visit the area again and hopefully with a camping permit in hand next time. If you can handle the long approach, definitely make Prusik Peak a priority on the list. Fun and very chill climbing on an aesthetic peak.
- Singles of #0.3 to #3
- DMM Wallnuts #1 to #7
- 5 alpine draws and some double length slings
Pitch one we used a single #1. Pitch two we used a #0.5 a #0.75 and a #1. The slab pitch and ride traverse I used a #0.4 and #1. For the crux finger crack we used #0.5, #0.3, #0.75 and then a #1 and #3 on the flake. Finally we protected the bottom of the summit chimney with #2 at a crack low down. A single rack seemed more than enough for the West Ridge and we didn’t need to make a single gear anchor; just sling blocks. The 60m rope twinned up was a bit short especially for the ridge traverse. A single 60 for two people is fine, but for a party of three a 70m will be much nicer. All rappels were adequately reached with a 60m.