Mt. Triumph - Northeast Ridge

August 2 - 3, 2003

Dave Svilar, Matt Alford


Nearing camp Matt scopes out the next day's objectives: crossing the glacier and climbing the northeast ridge (right-hand skyline).

It had been an entire year since I had trouble with my bowels.  It had been an entire year since Matt didn't have trouble with his bowels.  Like a recovering alcoholic or a traumatized war time vet we had attempted to put past events behind us.  The past event was last year's climb of Mt. Thompson, otherwise remembered simply as the day we ran out of toilet paper. 

As we stomped up the last few switchbacks of the four hour approach we had no reason to think of that ill-fated outing, until we met a couple bivied at the col.  Matt immediately remembered them as the couple we had met climbing on Mt. Thompson the year before, and noted how odd it was to see them again in this remote locale.  My memories of the couple were not as fond.  On Mt. Thompson I had suffered through a stomach-related emergency that forced me to stealthily relieve myself in a bush within arm's length from where the couple were having a picnic.  On that fateful day Matt had used all my toilet paper, so I was forced to walk 9 miles back to the car in severe discomfort.   I realized that the couple couldn't be blamed for my active colon or the fact that we didn't carry enough toilet paper, but seeing them immediately caused my stomach to turn.

Matt and his muscular back gaze at the Southern Pickets recalling past conquests (W. McMillan Spire), contemplating future climbs (S. face Inspiration), and future projects (E. McMillan Spire).  Our bivy gear is stacked to Matt's right.

To gain privacy, and more importantly a view of the beloved Pickets we chose to forget past bowel troubles and climbed several hundred feet up from the col to a more secluded and scenic spot.  We spent the evening basking in the sun, dinking with my camera, and speculating about climbs in the Southern Pickets.  Despite hauling a heavy load, Matt had added a delightful surprise that escalated the quality of our evening from good to extraordinary: the perfect blend of sunset enhancers.  Thinking the enhancers were bringing out my artistic side I spent the rest of the night making Matt pose for pictures.

Matt admires the alpenglow on distant peaks before retiring for the night.


Southern Pickets after sunset.

The next morning was typical: a quick breakfast, pack, and a morning bowel movement.  Passing the abandoned bivy of the couple (they had already departed for the climb) my stomach started to churn.  A sudden stomach emergency consumed the last of my toilet paper.  Remembering the long approach which we'd have to retrace later that evening I vowed to suppress any additional calls of nature.  We made the short glacier crossing staying low to avoid crevasses and caught the couple just as we approached the base of the ridge.  Going against our instincts we followed the suggestions of the route description and soon found ourselves two pitches up on hard to protect, low 5th class rock.  Thinking the climbing was harder than it needed to be, we re-directed ourselves and arrived on the ridge crest.

Looking back across the glacier towards the col from the base of the ridge.

The northeast ridge of Triumph is supposedly a classic, but we found it to be mostly an exercise in testing for loose handholds.  With the exception of two pitches, the climbing continued to be loose and somewhat unpleasant.  Rather predictably, as we reached the most exposed portion of the climb Matt's stomach called for attention.  I doubt if there's another Cascade's climber who takes as much pride in his ability to crap in scary places.  While on belay, he found a suitable place to relieve himself and then heaved it off the side straight down onto the glacier hungrily waiting below.  Now we both had no toilet paper.

While on belay Matt looks for a flat rock and a place to squat.

The highlight of the climb occurred in successive pitches.  The rock suddenly became solid as the the ridge pinched into a narrow catwalk that featured a nearly vertical 1,000 foot drop on the right and an overhanging 700 foot drop on the other.  Matt tiptoed across in his mountaineering boots then handed the lead over to me for a fun 40 foot 5.7 crack.  The rest of the climbing to the top was mostly on steep, exposed, heather mixed with loose rock.  Adding to the flavor of the climb was the glacier on the north side of the ridge that consistently rumbled throughout the day as seracs and other various chunks were overcome by gravity.  It wouldn't be hard to convince a person watching the activity on that small glacier that most of North America's glaciers will be fully receded in 50 years.  Oh well, W. says the environment will be fine, so I won't worry about it.

After exiting the crack, Matt grabs the final hold before reaching the belay.


Triumphant!  Dave achieves the summit.

Attempting to save time we downclimbed past several nests of rappel slings testing each hold carefully as the rock was dreadfully loose.  We started the first of eight rappels (one 60m rope) above the crack.  After two airy rappels we simul-climbed back to the top of the first step.  Upon reaching the glacier I was comforted to know that I could finally remove my rock shoes.  It was hard to tell if my toes were purple from the dye of my rock shoes or from just being crammed in for so long.

The couple had retreated from the climb while we were still on the way up, so they had long since disappeared over the glacier and through the col.  Luckily for Matt and I, our bowel problems had disappeared with the couple.  The hike out seemed longer than it did on the way in forcing us to resort to headlamp.  To compound matters, Matt was unknowingly wearing a size 10.5 on his left foot and a size 11 boot on his right.  Also unknown to Matt, his mother was in the process of calling the park service to check on our whereabouts (Matt lives in his parent's basement also).  Luckily the rangers were less concerned than Matt's mother and waited to send the rescue.

The climbing itself was far from classic, but the views of the Pickets are reason enough to make the effort required by the approach for this climb.  Perhaps best of all, Matt and I avoided a repeat of our too-memorable toilet paper-less climb from the year before. 

-written August 2003

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