2017-05-06-07 The Brothers Attempt

Distance: 15.2 mi.
Elevation Gain: 8097 ft.

It seemed like we would have a good weather window for a spring attempt of the South Brother summit, so we decided to head out to the Olympics with Evan and Arianna. Craig made the perhaps unwise decision to bring skis. After the ferry ride and drive from Seattle, we started hiking around 1:15 and reached Lena Lake at 2:45 PM. We had lunch there and then immediately descended to the north side of the lake in order to cross Lena Creek. The footbridge here had partially washed out so it was crooked and, frankly, terrifying to cross. But we all made it over unscathed.

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We continued following the east fork of Lena Creek, but the trail was washed out for much of the way and hikers were taking various paths north toward the Brothers Base Camp. Craig and Vanessa went farther west through some low brush while Evan and Arianna went farther east along a mossy boulder field. Based on our speeds, the boulder field was the winner. We reached snow at about 3,000 feet, but found a dry spot in the intermittent snow along the creek to make camp. We managed to stay fairly dry despite a heavy rain that evening because of the burly tree above us. We got started hiking the next morning around 7:30 AM and headed northwest toward the base of the climb. The snow was still too intermittent for Craig to skin, so he continued carrying his skis. We reached the base of the climb at about 8:30 AM, and by this time Craig was able to start skinning.

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As we headed northeast in the southern basin of The Brothers, we had several gullies to choose from for our ascent. We decided to take the gully on far climber’s right (east), but noticed on the way down that we could have traversed even farther east and avoided the gully altogether by going around.

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We began curving northwest toward the summit at the top of the short gully, but immediately realized that the rain we had gotten down low had been snowing up high. There were about three to five inches of fresh snow on the steep, open slope we were climbing and it was a surprisingly warm day. It didn’t seem like a good combination to continue climbing this south face, so we turned around at about 11:30 AM.

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We plunge stepped back toward camp on a slightly more direct route. It’s worth noting that the snow at the treeline was thinner than it looked because it had melted out a bunch underneath, so we kept plunging through and at one point Vanessa fell in to her armpits, hanging in the air! Luckily no one was injured.

Craig got about 4 turns in before returning the skis to his back. We grabbed our tents and then retraced our steps toward Lena Lake. We all took the mossy boulder route this time, but Craig got his skis stuck between two boulders at one point and had to eject himself by flying into a tree trunk below. We finished our day at 6:30, and realized that Craig had left his phone on top of the car all weekend. It was still functioning despite the rain!

By the way, Evan and Arianna returned a few weeks later to do South Brother in a day, and recommended trying it that way.

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Download GPS Track

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Gear Used:

  • Avalanche beacon/shovel/probe – should have brought this but didn’t
  • Backcountry boots/skis/skins – Craig
  • Backpacking tent
  • Gaiters
  • Glacier glasses
  • GPS
  • Helmet
  • Mountaineering boots
  • Sleeping pad
  • Steel crampons
  • Steel ice axe
  • Stove
  • Trekking poles
  • Water drops/filter
  • Winter sleeping bag

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