Junction Peak (N#90), Caltech Peak (N#91), Mount Jordan (N#92), and Mount Genevra (#93)
Nathan Day 67
Another icy alpine morning, another early wake up call. As I hurriedly broke camp, I repeated my cold morning mantra: “the fastest way to warm up is to start moving, the fastest way to warm up is to start moving!” Indeed, within minutes of charging up the steep climb towards Shepherd Pass, my blood was flowing strong and I was warm and toasty.
The pass is very lopsided: as I crested the final steep snowfield, a massive, flat plateau stretched for miles ahead of me. It is quite the abrupt change of terrain.
I set my sights on my first waypoint, the toe of Diamond Mesa, and took off, enjoying the smooth and efficient travel of cruising across the open terrain. The miles slid by quickly and easily, and before long I was dropping my pack to scramble up the first two peaks of the day: Junction and Caltech. I climbed Junction via its south ridge, starting with a traverse of the wonderfully unique formation of Diamond Mesa, an uplifted and extraordinary flat-topped table of earth.
The northern tip of the Diamond connects fluidly to Junction’s sharp south ridge, another wonderfully sudden and drastic change in terrain.
I romped up the ridge and over to the summit.
Continuing down the west ridge, travel became a bit tricky, but the hardest sections could be bypassed in steep gullies just below the ridge, and before long I was at the top of Ski Mountaineer’s Pass. Today, however, a more apt name would be “Scree Mountaineer’s” – the slope below me was nothing but steep, soft dirt. I gleefully sprinted down in leaning bounds, having almost as much fun as I would had I been ripping powder turns.
At the bottom of the pass, I crossed the PCT, my path briefly crossing with that of some thru-hikers. It was strange to see them in this desolate, snowy wilderness, a world which, for months now, I’ve seemingly had all to myself. Gazing further south, I saw another pair of hikers in the distance. It would seem that the floodgates have been opened! Waving a quick hello, I dashed off towards Caltech, presumably to the hiker’s bewilderment.
Caltech’s east ridge provided a speedy and reasonably pleasant climb, the deep snow on either side making a class 3 line that would otherwise be totally contrived feel a bit less so.
The snow also made for a speedy decent. While it it often quite the inhibitor to efficient foot travel, sometimes snow is very helpful!
Completing the first loop of the day, I returned to my pack and continued west across the plateau. After an hour of easy walking and a short climb over a mellow pass, I dropped it once more and dashed off for my second loop of the day: Jordan and Genevera.
I knew I would be racing the sunset, so I moved fast, jogging and shuffling across the open, rolling terrain.
Psychologically, I find it easier to start with the furthest away peak of a linkup, so I traversed below Genevera and marched up the steep snow and talus of Jordan’s east face.
The first part of the climb, and the bulk of the elevation, went quickly. The second part was a different story: a steep, exposed traverse on snowy ledges, followed by a technical climb to the summit block.
Fortunately, I’ve become well accustomed to steep, snowy scrambling, and made reasonably quick work of the technical climbing. The route culminated in an exciting step across an exposed gap to the summit block, made all the more exciting by the drip of ice covering the final spire.
I admired the view, mountains coming alive in the twisting shadows and gleaming light of late afternoon.
Checking the summit register, I was surprised to find that the last entry was from Vitaliy Musiyenko in July 2020, almost two years previous! I suppose this peak qualifies as “out there”.
I reversed the scramble, plunge stepped down the snow, then set my sights on Genevera. The fastest, most efficient line would be a rising traverse across its talus-strewn south face. I started up this way, then caught a glimpse of the jagged west ride glowing above me in the orange light of sunset.
I couldn’t resist. I dashed up onto the ridge and into the glorious light. The scrambling on the ridge was perfect: engaging but moderate, enabling smooth, fast progress on solid rock.
However, it was the ethereal glow of sunset that made the scene truly electric – chills ran up and down my spine and I was filled with the rush of life as I danced up the granite. Multiple times I descended into a notch, thinking I wouldn’t be back in the sun’s magnificent glow again, but would then fly back up into its glorious rays.
All around, the crests of the highest ridges burst with color, while purple clouds boiled up into the valleys below, just as they do so often in the Cascades, inducing waves of ecstasy and nostalgia. I reached the summit on the verge of tears, moved by the incomparable beauty all around and the sheer joy of experiencing it in such a visceral way.
It was a climb I won’t soon forget. The long, dark walk to camp and cold night ahead couldn’t even touch my soaring spirits.
Note: we apologize for not placing pictures in the last few 3D activities. The pictures in this report are pretty spectacular, so we included many in the activity linked below. In the future, we'll indicate whether the activity has pictures included or not.
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