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Beware of Wallace Col

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Postby SSSdave » Sat May 27, 2006 10:38 am

I mentioned this in my earlier post but since the thread has vectored into a discussion on merits of route classifications, I'll expand a bit. As any climber knows, chosing the correct route where one climbs up or down a few feet left or right can make a large difference in how difficult an effort becomes. And as someone that regularly takes those with big packs up quite steep offtrail areas, chosing the correct route instead of just stumbling ahead step by step without looking very carefully as many do, makes a huge difference in how tiring a climb becomes. In some cases if a person were actually following the lead of one of these acclaimed Sierra climbers that wrote the guides, I'd bet it would be considerable less effort than what many would tend to experience given their own route and methods of climbing up or down. When one is heading up one of these steep scree headwalls, it usually amazes me where some have obviously decided to step because the sliding mess they create is all too obvious. Personally I do tend to readily zig and zag, go up and down a little. to gain better more stable footing than walk across loose areas or hard surface areas with lots of small ball bearing like rubble. Sometimes that means resting awhile and taking a careful look at what one might do while being flexible and wise enough to know when to back down and try something else. The last person I want to be following is the sweating heavy breathing type that is all too impatient to get to the top putting one foot in front of the other without taking time for consideration. ...David



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Postby quentinc » Sat May 27, 2006 2:40 pm

Having followed the lead of one of those acclaimed guide writers (Secor), I can assure you that is most certainly not always the case!

But your point is well taken that route classification depends on exactly how one goes. For instance, I've never understood the diifficulty ascribed to Potluck Pass. It seemed like easy Class 2 to me, and I have far less climbing skill than a lot of you (apparently) do.
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Postby Sierra Ledge Rat » Thu Jun 15, 2006 12:49 am

Wallace Col was my vote for "The Baddest" trail in the Sierra.

Crossing west-to-east is living hell fit for Sisyphus.

When we crossed east-to-west the entire scree slope on the east side was slowly avalanching down along with us. Going back was one step up, two steps down.
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Postby ridgeline » Thu Jun 15, 2006 5:53 am

Sierra cyd hit the nail on the head, there have been times I have expected to do the never ending scree fields and have cllimbed clean rock comfortably to my destination. And remember, walking a curb on the city street is class 2, walking the same curb with a 1500' drop to one side is still class 2, you can try this on the east ridge of Russell.
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Postby BSquared » Thu Jun 15, 2006 12:13 pm

ridgeline wrote:And remember, walking a curb on the city street is class 2, walking the same curb with a 1500' drop to one side is still class 2, you can try this on the east ridge of Russell.


I thought that was class 4, or am I missing something? Well, I guess that depends on exactly how I interpret Ridgeline's description. If it's just a curb (say, 8 inches wide or so), and the dropoff is on both sides, then I'd definitely call it class 4, like the summit block on Cathedral Peak. If I recall, Secor says in his description of climbing classes that a staircase without railings on the outside of a 15-story building would be class 3, and a ramp (I think) would be 4. I might be misremembering this, though.
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Postby Steve Bearman » Thu Jun 15, 2006 1:48 pm

I'll add my agreement. Wallace Col is the most hard core pass I've been over with a pack.

3rd Worst - Snow Tongue Pass - Easy and fun on the South side, dirt over bare rock and cruddy, sliding dirt on the North side.

2nd Worst - Kaweah-Queen Col - Easy and fun on the East side, talus sitting in wet mud and sliding everywhere on the West side

THE Worst - Wallace Col - Horrid on BOTH sides (which is unusual) - Steep shifting scree on the West side, steep dirt over bare rock on the East side.

When I was standing atop Wallace Col (headed West to East) with the 7 other people in the party I had led up there, I lied to them and told them it was the third worst. I didn't want them lost in despair!

Here is a picture of the col from the East (Mt. Wallace on the right). Even from here you can see how cruddy it looks at the top. The only way up is on the right.

Image

Here is is from the West - more crud - though where we actually found a reasonable way up is to the left of what you can see in the picture.

Image
Last edited by Steve Bearman on Thu Jun 15, 2006 9:58 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby ridgeline » Thu Jun 15, 2006 2:24 pm

The yosemite decimal system rates the difficulty of the terain, exposure is not factored into the number.
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Postby Moonwalker » Wed Jun 21, 2006 6:23 pm

Steve Bearman wrote:Here is a picture of the col from the East (Mt. Wallace on the right). Even from here you can see how cruddy it looks at the top. The only way up is on the right.


I took these in August 2004. The first is the whole ridge south of Mt Wallace, between Wallace and Mt Powell:

Image

This is a closeup of the route I took going up, from the east:

Image

This is the view down the west side into Fiske Basin:

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Postby Sierra Ledge Rat » Thu Jun 22, 2006 2:28 am

Awesome photos Moonwalker.
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Re: Beware of Wallace Col

Postby cinematic » Sat Jul 28, 2012 4:53 pm

I opted to try Wallace Col after seeing it in Secor's book (1992). I had originally planned to do Echo Col, but Secor's book rates Echo Col class 3; ice axe required. I have done Echo Col twice before; once in late August 1994, and again almost 4 weeks later to expedite an ascent of Charybdis. I did not need an ice axe, the route was solid, and I don't recall any problems. Nonetheless, I decided on Wallace Col because it was mid July, and I thought we might run into ice, even though it was a low snow year. My girlfriend does not have much technical experience, and we were carrying heavy packs (bear canister, 6 days food), my own topped off with an SLR, 3 lenses, and a tele-converter. I read "loose class 2 route" in dismay, but figured it would be safer, even though it was another 560' higher. How difficult could it be? I also saw the contour lines on the topo, and knew it would be steep. Had I done my homework and read these posts, I would have done Echo, or entered via LaMarck, even though we planned to exit that way, and I wanted to do a loop.

The route looked dirty. I figured we could gain a more solid footing by ascending the snowfield as high as possible to the solid rock outcrops right of the more heavily traveled steep scree. I even considered climbing the north slope and ridge of Wallace. I reached the more solid rock, and found it more exposed than I had anticipated. It was awkward with the heavy pack. I told my girlfriend to wait below while I explored the route. It proved frightening! I recall having to traverse off solid rock which was becoming too exposed, and into a dirty chute. The move was made exceedingly dangerous by the ball bearing sized scree covering the rock. I don't recall being this frightened on any 3rd class peaks I have done. I gathered my composure, and did the moves. I worked my way up and left using solid rock where I could. When I reached the top, I was about 500' north of the low point of the col. I took off my pack, filled a daypack with essentials, and went to look for an easier way down to help my girlfriend. My pack was left at the point where most people probably descend to the west. I reached the low point of the col and realized it was not easier, just much dirtier! I started down, and began sliding here and there. I worked my way back, maybe a third of the way toward where I had ascended (to the north) and found a rib that was more solid. Soon I could see my girlfriend below who asked if she should start climbing. I continued to descend as she climbed up the loose scree, using a bigger rock for a hand/foothold where she could. I took her pack and gave her the daypack. I managed to find somewhat more firm footing above, and we gained the ridge without causing any major rockslides. I was extremely careful about having her stay clear of any potential rock fall I might cause.

The descent was one of the worst I have experienced in terms of causing landslides and rock fall. We descended where I had left my pack, about 500' north of the low point, traversing down and south. We caused numerous slides, one I thought was going to carry me down the mountainside. Clouds of dust made breathing difficult. The boulders were welcome when we finally reached them. Instead of taking a few hours to get over the pass from our camp just below Hungry Packer Lake, the fiasco took all day. We reached a nice place to camp at the first lake we came to in Evolution Basin with just enough time to set up camp before it got dark.

This was not my experience on Echo Col, which I consider a short cut. Wallace Col was not a short cut, but a tedious, frightening, and dangerous route. I do not recommend this route to anyone. I do not disagree with the rating of this pass in Secor's book. As has been mentioned, class 2 and 3 ratings are very subjective, and depend on conditions, and the precise route one chooses.
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Re: Beware of Wallace Col

Postby maverick » Sat Jul 28, 2012 6:32 pm

Hi Cinematic,

Welcome to HST! Thank you for taking the time to write up your experience with Wallace Col.
HST= Wilderness Adventurer who knows no bounds, except for their own imagination.

Have a safer backcountry experience by using the HST ReConn Form 2.0, named after Larry Conn, a HST member: http://reconn.org
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Beware of Wallace Col

Postby ironmike » Fri Oct 05, 2012 9:26 pm

ridgeline wrote:The yosemite decimal system rates the difficulty of the terain, exposure is not factored into the number.


Odd to be responding to a post 6 years after the fact...but here goes. (I guess having Tapatalk and free time at airports has a bit to do with it.)

RL, I agree with your assessment of the YDS in most cases except for the Class 3/Class 4 distinction. Technically yes, the difference is mostly about the size and quality of the holds and ledges, but I think there is also an allowance for exposure. To the extent that if the classification is a bit gray, then exposure is the deciding factor.

Mt Russell comes to mind in this regard. Without its sheer drop offs on both sides of the east ridge, I doubt Class 4 would ever enter the conversation...
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