Correction to Secor, Mount Mendel
by David Harris
We descended Darwin and traversed the glacier to the east face of Mendel.
At this point, Ted was tired of rock work and decided to return to camp;
little did he know what a wise decision he had made. Secor calls the face
class 3 and refers to many ledges, but nothing we could find resembled a
ledge. The entire face is very loose and several rocks came down that
could have caused serious injury to anyone in their path. We met a guy
descending from a solo ascent of the Mendel Couloir who directed us right
and assured us the route was 3rd class; we foolishly accepted his directions.
The climb to the northeast ridge was easy (though loose) 3rd class. However,
the ridge itself was very steep and blocky in many places. We could not
find Secor's rumored 3rd class "pleasant climb;" numerous moves were both
tricky and exposed, meeting our definition of 4th class. Unfortunately, we
had left the rope at the edge of the glacier because we were competent
climbers expecting a 3rd class route. Alex Zelditch scampered ahead to
scout and chimneyed up something that looked 5th class to those of us
watching; the rest of us were unwilling to follow and traversed to the face
right beneath the summit. We had the choice of chutes to the left or right.
The left is probably the chute with the chockstone refered to by Secor; Rich
examined the chockstone and felt it would be possible to climb, but difficult
to downclimb. A skinny person may have been able to squeeze through a keyhole
beneath the stone. We opted instead for a 4th class move to the right, which
reunited us with Alex and gave easy access to the summit. In the Mendel summit
register, somebody had written "Third Class, My Ass," which became the theme
of the trip. Views of Evolution Lake and the Evolution Valley were superb
from the edge of the plateau. The climb from the glacier was 3-4 hours,
due to route finding, tedious 4th class climbing, and general apathy.
We descended the same chimney and continued down steep, sandy slopes of the
face, probably taking Secor's "East Face" route, though ledges are an
inaccurate description. A 40 pound rock came down from the back of the
group; by the time it reached the front 300 feet down the face, it had
split in two and was flying 30 feet in the air. Half dropped directly toward
Bob's head; he dived under and narrowly avoided the boulder, but began
sliding down the scree-covered face toward an eight foot cliff and barely
caught himself before going over. The entire climb and descent was very
stressful and hazardous. I would recommend helmets and a short, light rope to
future parties and have no interest in repeating the climb myself.
Steve Eckert adds:
> Secor calls the face class 3 and refers to many ledges
On many a trip, I've sarcastically shouted "here's that ``system of ledges''
that Secor talks about", and received appropriate snickers in response. Too
many things look like a ledge to him!
> The climb to the northeast ridge was easy (though loose) 3rd class.
Jim Curl and I climbed the buttress route a few years back, and agreed that
a rope would be required to safely descend that third class.
Don't know if we filed a report... but we came down the sandy face rather
than do the ridge again. There was only one place (the chock 20' from
the summit plateau) where we thought it was third class, and the exposure
there was low. We did spend some time picking a route, which goes to show
you that a second class face may not be all second class, eh?
Also, it's easier (sometimes) to find the big scree chute from the top
than from the bottom.
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must make wise route finding choices based on their
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