Lincoln Peak - 9100' - East Face AI3+
What: Lincoln Peak via it's only really feasible route
Who: Steven Song and I
When: May 25-26, 2018
Stats: 6,500 feet gain
After climbing Snowfield Peak with Jake just a few days prior, I realized that if I wanted to climb Lincoln Peak (which has been on my radar for a couple years now), I would have to do it now given how quickly the snow has been melting. So I glanced at the weather forecast, and noticed the freezing level was going to drop for the early part of the Memorial Day weekend, and I put out a call for a climbing partner for this difficult endeavor. Steven, who has also been eyeing Lincoln, abandoned our friends trip up Dome and Sinister to join me, and I am glad he did! We had an amazing, epic climb on one of the hardest peaks to attain in the state, with absolutely perfect conditions.
We began the trip by meeting up in Bellingham (as Steven had to come down from Vancouver) and we carpooled out to the end of FS 38. We made it to the third of 7 switchbacks before we were forced to park by the road becoming overgrown. We loaded up our packs to some obscene weight and ate some last minute snacks before starting up the remaining 4 switchbacks of the old road up the south slopes of point 4481. We carried two ice tools each, snowshoes, two 60 meter ropes, 6 pickets, a small rack of nuts and 4 small cams in addition to the overnight gear and food. Luckily the approach wasn't too long I thought! Memories of my trip up Colfax Peak from a few years back were vivid, as it was the first time I saw Lincoln Peak up close.
Back in 2008 when Tom S, Fay, Sean M, and Paul K ascended Lincoln, they were able to drive all the way up to the 7th switchback, however those days are gone unless someone takes a chain saw up there and does some gardening. There have been very few ascents of this peak, with the climbing history as follows:
First Ascent: Fred Beckey, Wesley Grande, Herb Staley, and John Rupley - July 1956
2. Dallas Kloke and Scott Masonholder on July 6, 1975 [not written into register]
3. John Roper, Silas Wild, Dick Kegel, and Reed Tindall on June 25, 1989
4. Dallas Kloke and Scott Bingen on August 1, 2000 [not written into register]
5. Don Goodman, Chris Robertson and Juan Lira on June 8, 2003
6. Dave Creeden, Stefan Feller, Mike Torok, and Greg Koenig on June 25, 2006
7. Paul Klenke, Tom Sjolseth, Sean Martin, and Fay Pullen on June 28, 2008
8. Don Beavon, Don Brooks, Franklin Bradshaw and Tom Sjolseth on June 21, 2012
9. Aaron Scott on June 24th 2012 on Skis
10. Dan Helmstatder on July 8th 2012 on Skis
11. Pat Gallager on June 15, 2013
12. Michael Rynkiewicz and Daniel Coltrane via new route up the NW face on March 13, 2015
13. Eric Eames on May 31, 2015
14. Imran Rahman +2 others on June 4th, 2017
15. Andy Dewey on June 5, 2017
16. Matt Lemke and Steven Song on May 26th, 2018
17. Steve Trent and Chris Martin on June 12, 2018
Note: This list isn't 100% known, particularly the last 10 years or so, therefore if you have climbed Lincoln Peak, please let me know! I know there are likely others since 2010 who have climbed it.
Amazingly, Lincoln Peak, similar to its cousin Little Tahoma, actually predate their corresponding larger neighbors and are the remnants of much larger stratovolcanos from 500,000+ years ago. With this geologic info in mind, it is obvious to me this peak is worthy of being climbed and should be included in the highest peaks list for the state of WA.
So, back to our climb...after an hour or so hiking up the road we made it to the 7th switchback, and began the bushwhack along the decommissioned road, which traversed west, then rounded to the right (north) and across the west facing slopes of point 4481 towards Rankin Creek. There was a "path" through the alders along the old road bed but they were leaning and we had to push them up and over our heads every time, which was harder for me with my super height.
Luckily, shortly after we rounded the ridge, remnant snow was found and was still squashing the beasts down flat, allowing much easier passage until we were forced into the trees to the right where we contoured NNE making our own tracks in the snow through the trees until we reached the east Rankin Lake at 5120 feet, which was still snowed over. Here we put the snowshoes on and continued north up mellow snow slopes to a small saddle, then east up the basin dropping off Seward peak and camped at 6100 feet next to the highest trees on the ridge atop the steep slopes dropping northward into the Wallace Creek Valley. We set up the tent and took a nap to relax. We then explored the area immediately around camp and enjoyed another fantastic Cascades sunset before hitting the sack with the alarm set for 2am.
And here's some of Steven's photos:
We were off at 3 in the morning to begin the traverse into the SW basin of Lincoln Peak. With the clear night, the snow froze which is exactly what we needed! We were in our crampons right from the start. We traversed around the base of the steep SW buttress of Lincoln, then began ascending 30-40 degree snow for nearly 1500 feet until we hit the first bergschrund at about 7600 feet. This was the crux of the climb as it was guarded by a 50 foot high serac with the only way up requiring climbing 70-85 degree snow directly up the face of the serac from a small bridge spanning across the large crack. I solod up this obstacle kicking in large bucket steps in the snow/ice which was terrifying to say the least. A fall would have sent me into the gaping bergschrund below! With steps kicked in, Steven was then comfortable soloing up, and once on top, there was just enough twilight to begin taking photos.
We then continued up the 45-50 degree slopes trending left towards the first "pill" rock island as Tom called it, then up a small snow arete for 100 feet until we could make a near horizontal leftward traverse into the first hidden gully. Here we crossed the second bergschrund, which was a non issue (we just walked over as it was almost completely snow covered). When we began climbing up the 60 degree hidden gully, I noticed the sun was rising and an orange glow was igniting the tops of the clouds below us! it was a beautiful sight. Likely the most difficult part of this portion of the climb was crossing through the 2 foot deep and 4-5 foot wide runnels. With my longer legs, I was able to kick steps through them.
We ascended up the gully which was also perfect styrofoam snow and hit a second, longer narrow snow arete at its top which we climbed with very steep drop offs to both sides. We went to the top until we hit rock before cutting left for a second leftward traverse, however for this one we were able to utilize the moat at the top of the snow against the rock face to make progress a bit easier. The only difficulty we encountered on this part of the route was another very large runnel. We then reached the base of the final gully leading to the summit, and we actually roped together for this part only because we were getting mentally tired from soloing everything up to this point. So Steven led a 60m pitch up the 50 degree snow, then I led one more. We then scrambled the final 20 feet up bare rock to the summit, which we reached at 8am.
We had an excellent summit stay of nearly an hour, and saw at least 15 people on the standard route of Baker. I wondered if any of them noticed us...likely not. The summit register that was placed in 2008 by Fay was in a state of complete disrepair (filled with ice and water) so I packed it up for salvaging and will give it a better tube for return to the summit by a friend sometime in future. If you are planning an ascent of Lincoln please let me know and I will give you the improved summit register to return.
At 9, we began the descent. I won't go into too much detail, but it included 10 double rope rappels, 4 of which were off pickets we placed, one off a sling we placed on rock, and the remaining 5 off of existing slings around rock horns. The rock on Lincoln Peak was actually more solid than we imagined, and offered many good horns for anchors, however no options for pro (ie. no cracks). We finally made the last rappel down the waterfall gully by 2pm, which took us down into the cloud layer. We descended the snow slope and traversed back to camp which we got to at 3pm. The snow had softened up considerably, however we were in a total whiteout when we got back, with Josh Henderson waiting there!
We packed up our stuff and made a quick descent back to the truck parked at the 3rd switchback, which we reached just after 6pm. We beelined it right for Bellingham where I celebrated with a Dominos pizza!
Thanks Steven for joining me on this amazing climb! With this peak done, I might actually be able to finish the Bulgers and 400P list this year.