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Crumbling Holds and Expanding Cracks: Sambataro and Schilling's New Route on Golden Horn

Posted on: July 6, 2015


On June 27 Joe Sambataro and Jason Schilling established a new 1,000-foot route on the east face of Golden Horn (8,366') in Washington's North Cascades. Their route, %# the Pain Away (5.10+ R, 11 pitches), was climbed ground up and onsight. [Photo] Joe Sambataro

With the unrelenting afternoon sun cooking the back of his neck, Jason Schilling let out a sigh, set his eyes on a distant crack and rocked up onto a fragile foothold on Pitch 4. As he stood up, his lower foot scraped across the stone causing lichen and decomposing rock to peel off in chunks. Reaching the crack, he pulled a cam from his gear sling and shoved it in. Sand funneled around it as the crack widened. He pulled it out, gently pushed the flake back in place and continued on.

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On June 27 Joe Sambataro and Schilling climbed a new 11-pitch line on Golden Horn (8,366') in Washington's North Cascades in the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest. Their route was authored ground up and without bolts or fixed protection.

They named their 1,000-foot route, which follows intermittent cracks, after a song by the Peaches called F*%# the Pain Away. Both men freed the 5.10 route onsight. The line contains one twenty-foot stretch of runout climbing over extremely rotten rock, which they call the Pitch of Terror.

Though most teams scramble up a non-technical ridgeline to summit Golden Horn, the north and east faces are sheer and rarely climbed. Fred Beckey, Keith Rankin and Charles Walsh completed the first ascent of Golden Horn via a steep gully scramble up the Southwest Route on September 18, 1946. Beckey returned with Roe "Duke" Watson to summit the north face in 1958. On August 8, 1979, Gordy Skoog and Jim Walseth made the first ascent of the five-pitch Northeast Arete, rating their line 5.8. In June 1980, Gordy returned with his brothers Carl and Lowell and a few friends to make a documentary called "Goldenhorn Pinnacle" for KOMO-TV's Exploration Northwest.

Schilling making the tricky transition from crack to slopers on Pitch 3. [Photo] Joe Sambataro

In his Cascade Alpine Guide, Fred Beckey describes the Northeast Arete as "shaky... despite the classic appearance. There are numerous fragile flakes of dubious stability; protection is sometimes insecure."

Sambataro and Schilling left their base camp at Snowy Lakes at 4:30 a.m., trudged up a scree field on the southwest side of the mountain, then down the east side of the face to begin climbing at 6:30 a.m.

Pitch 4: Schilling heading into kitty litter rock. [Photo] Joe Sambataro

Back on Pitch 4, Schilling, sweating and shaking, weaved past kitty litter rock to reach sloper holds on reliable rock and regained his composure. With their water reserves dwindling, sun and choss-aneering wearing them down, the duo continued up the face. They encountered one more loose section on Pitch 7. Here it was Sambataro's turn to lead over scary ground, and to "keep the rock together and get some pro," he said.

The team on the summit. [Photo] Joe Sambataro

They reached the summit at approximately 5:30 p.m. sunburned and with tense nerves. Sambataro wrote: "For the first alpine climb of the season, it was quite the adventure with a strong and equally crazy partner."

Sambataro compares the experience on their new route to playing a game of pool. "You do your best to line up the next shot, but sometimes can't tell what's up next."

The east face of Golden Horn showing F*%# the Pain Away (5.10+ R, 1,000', Sambataro-Schilling, 2015) and the Northeast Arete (5.8, Skoog-Walseth, 1979). [Photo] Lowell Skoog

Sources: Joe Sambataro, Cascade Alpine Guide, alpenglow.org

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