Andy: Broken Top is my nemesis mountain. Maybe 1 out of 2 isn’t quite into the nemesis category yet, but I have floundered on this thing more than once. My punting has only been due to stupid mistakes and poor planning so I have no one to blame but myself. It’s just frustrating, because B-Top isn’t even hard. Whatever.
It did seem validating to summit this peak in our 12th month of this project. 1 mountain, each month, for 1 year. It feels incredible to accomplish this - primarily because I didn’t know how feasible it would even be. It seemed kind of impossible at first, but we made it happen with very little floundering. The struggles on Broken Top arose basically because the climbers trail was TOO well-marked. Go figure. This was not some game trail marked with a three-pebble cairn that you can only see in broad daylight after moving a couple of branches. It was a freaking 3’ wide gravel path! Apparently climbing is getting popular. Damn.
After our scenic detour, we scrambled up the NW ridge, rock hopped up the summit block, had some glamour shots taken (thanks Matt!), and high-fived the crap out of each other.
Corie: Over the last year of this project, we’ve both grown in a number of ways, our mountaineering skill level being a massive factor in that growth. Both as partners and as individuals, this project has brought us both closer to becoming the people we want to be and I will be forever thankful of the opportunities this project has afforded us. Homage to the beautiful Cascades aside, I am beyond psyched that we have hit 12 consecutive months of new routes and unique mountains and I was happy to have a couple of friends along for this trip.
This trip was an exercise in navigation, patience, and a really amazing way of gauging how I’ve grown in my skill set since our first trip up South Sister in August of 2014. I got “Navigation points” on this one and was given the responsibility to direct our group back to the climber’s trail once we realized that we were off by a number of miles from where we ought to be. That was cool (big thanks to this book for continuing to grow my skill set even when I’m not in the thick of it!). I also realized how freaking comfortable I’ve become traveling on all sorts of terrain- without even realizing it until Andy pointed it out to me! The intermittent exposure coupled with the “free solo’ing” (jokes- sort of) of easy 5th class rock came to me without pause and I didn’t feel even a twinge of pause when going through the motions of the climbing. I never would be as comfortable in the mountains as I am today without this project and the support of the friends who have joined us on this journey.
I can now look at the skyline on hwy 97 and point out features on nearly every peak in the distance and describe how they look up close and how well my experience on them went. That is a gift I would never give back.
We elected to camp light and get an early start from the trail head the next morning- we saw several parties lugging ropes and gear up the trail head on Saturday night and wanted to give ourselves the best shot at beating them to the actual climbing portion of the mountain. Two of our friends came along for this one so we took a pretty casual approach to the climb- no speed climbing this time! We set alarms for 3:30am and were hitting dirt by 4am. The hike into Green Lakes is flat, beautiful and LOUD (from the running water and succession of gorgeous waterfalls). We saw none of this during the hike in since the sun wasn’t up until we were nearly at Green Lakes.
The trail is well marked heading up to Green Lakes and we had no issues with navigation. However, looking at the topo and our GPS, it appeared that we would need to head toward Broken Top and meet the base of the Northwest Ridge after passing the largest of the lakes…. several miles later, watching the mountain disappearing into the distance, we realized that we had apparently missed the climber’s trail. Once we finally hit the ridgeline, we found ourselves ambling along on mixed, second/third class terrain- mostly scrambling on occasionally loose scree, and we wound our way carefully up the mountain. There are a few areas to rest off the trail and we stopped and regrouped, putting on helmets, at the base of a gendarme about 300 feet from the summit. There was a party in front of us that was protecting the section with fixed ropes and prusiks and we made sure they were okay with us passing safely and quickly before heading up.
The main crux of this climbing is a section of (surprisingly solid) 5th class rock that consists of a few 5.easy moves before traveling along a few hundred feet of EXPOSED 4th class rock to another short stretch of 5.easy climbing before reaching the summit- which is large enough for a large group to sit on.
We waited for the slow moving group to summit, took some photos, and headed back down after making sure that they next party was out of danger of rock fall (if we were to cause any) and was aware that we would be descending. We regrouped at the gendarme and headed back down, finding the correct climber’s trail easily this time, which we marked with a cairn on our way out in hopes of helping other wayward, overly excited climbers find the most direct route to the ridge. Our track, pictured below, offers the direct route by following our path of descent.
Overall, Broken Top offers a straightforward climb- anyone with experience choss’aineering in the Cascade Range will appreciate the variety of movement it presents as well as the beautiful views of the other mountains in the area. The third-class ridge has sections of exposure but felt more stable than the scree/rock on peaks such as South Sister, Mt Washington, and 3 Fingered Jack, and the section of climbing at the top was fun and offered a taste of exposure to those willing to venture onto it- with or without protection! Please be sure to have good etiquette on this climb since it sees a fair amount of traffic and a lot of people elect to protect portions of it. Remember: communication is key both within your party and when discussing your plans with other parties.
Equipment List- Northwest Ridge via Green Lakes TH.
- Identical to South Sister *
*we elected not to protect the section of fourth and fifth class terrain at the top; this was personal preference and is entirely dependent on your comfort level and experience on this type of terrain.
Detailed maps and GPS data can be found here on View Ranger.
Total Distance: 15.2 miles. Green Lakes TH to Summit: 9.1 miles (the scenic route). Summit to Green Lakes TH 6.1 miles (the correct route).
Time: Round Trip: 10 hours (approximately) Green Lakes TH to Summit: 5:13
Starting Elevation: 5,472′
Summit Elevation: 9,175′
Elevation Gain: 3,703′