August 15-16, 2015

Late-Summer Cragging Trip: Kangaroo Ridge

Kangaroo Temple (7572’)
Big Kangaroo (8280’+)

——————– Trip Report Summary ——————–

Region: Northeastern Cascades

Campsite: Lone Fir Campground (Highway 20)

Climb 1 – Kangaroo Temple

Starting & Ending Point: Early Winters Hairpin (Highway 20)

Way Points: Early Winters Creek & Kangaroo Pass & Kangaroo Temple Notch (hike)

Summit: Kangaroo Temple (climb via Lower North Face—Upper West Face)

Approximate Day 1 Stats:  6 miles traveled;  2800 feet gained and lost.

Climb 2 – Big Kangaroo

Starting & Ending Point: Early Winters Hairpin (Highway 20)

Way Points: Early Winters Creek & Kangaroo Ridge gullies (hike & scramble)

Summit: Big Kangaroo (climb via Chockstone Gully—North Ridge—South Face)

Approximate Day 2 Stats:  3 miles travelled;  3400 feet gained and lost.

——————– Full Trip Report ——————–

Eileen and I spent last weekend poking around Kangaroo Ridge, a well-pinnacled granitic crest between Liberty Bell and Silver Star Mountain.  Since this was our first time, we chose the two most popular crags as our climbing goals.  They were vastly different in character, but neither was a disappointment.

Day 1 – Kangaroo Temple:

We parked at the SR-20 hairpin and hiked up the twisty climber’s path to Kangaroo Pass.  The day was unseasonably cold, and Kangaroo Temple was partially veiled in clouds when we reached the pass.  Several braided paths continued over to the gully leading up to a high notch at the base of the Temple’s north face.

Hiking Up To Base Of Kangaroo Temple

From the high notch, Kangaroo Temple’s steep north face hovers directly overhead.  We donned rock sneakers, roped up, and began climbing.  The first two short pitches of moderately steep but very solid granite indicated that this was going to be a fun route.  Pitch 2 ended at a two-bolt belay/rappel station.  (This station could likely be reached in one long pitch with a 60-meter rope.)

Eileen Leading Up Pitch 2

The most interesting part of the route was Pitch 4, which involves tip-toeing around a seriously exposed corner, then traversing a narrow ledge.

Eileen Belaying In On Pitch 4

The last pitch is advertised as the crux (Class 5.4), but the left-slanting crack we went up wasn’t even that difficult.  I would rate the whole climb as exposed Class 5.2 overall.  Did I mention that it is very fun and very solid?

Looking Down From Top Of Pitch 5

On the broad summit (5.8 hours from car), we found a sunny nook in which to escape from the cold northerly wind that blew all day.  We had to keep reminding ourselves that this was August, not October.

As straightforward as the ascent had been, things got much trickier on the descent.  We had two route descriptions that casually said to “walk out to the rappel bolts overlooking the north face.”  In actuality, it requires some exposed scrambling to reach the bolts, which cannot be seen until you are several feet away.

Eileen At First Rappel Station

Once we found the three-bolt anchor station, it was time to rope in for a white-knuckle rappel over a sharp lip and down the vertical face.  This hairy rappel was the mental crux of the whole climb for us.  It didn’t help that one strand of rope got blown into a crack 50 feet off the descent line, requiring a dicey detour to pull it loose.  Our 50-meter rope just barely reached the next rappel station, from which one more full-length rap got us to some down-climbable terrain above the high notch.

First Rappel Down North Face

By the time we returned to Kangaroo Pass, most of the cloud cover had dissipated, and we got a good view back over to Kangaroo Temple.  Perhaps “Kangaroo Sugarloaf” would be a more descriptive name for this large crag.

Kangaroo Temple From Kangaroo Pass


Day 2 – Big Kangaroo:

We left the SR-20 hairpin and began hiking up the climber’s path until directly underneath a long, prominent gully that descends from a point south of Big Kangaroo.  After crossing an open meadow and thrashing several hundred feet up some dense forest, we popped out right at the bottom of the gully.

Heading Toward Ascent Gully

We ascended the gully for about 2000 feet, then started angling up to the left, crossing two more gullies in the process.  Eventually, we reached a high gully that originates directly beneath Big Kangaroo.

Nearing Big Kangaroo

We roped up below a large chockstone and climbed through a nifty cannonhole at the gully’s head.  A short pitch of Class 4-5 rock led past a rappel station and over to the eastern side of the ridge.

Climbing Thru Cannonhole

Here, we got our first close-up view of Big Kangaroo’s summit horn.  It appears to be a huge thimble-shaped boulder with a sheer, vertical face on the north.  The route wraps around the right side of this horn on a narrow catwalk with eye-popping exposure.

Big Kangaroo Summit Horn

On the opposite side of the horn, the catwalk widens to a 3-foot ledge at the base of a steep slab-face.  Just when you most need a crack for some protection, the slab-face gives you nothing but smooth granite for 15 feet.  It requires a committing series of moves (Class 5.5) to reach the first crack—and your first opportunity to place a chock or cam.  No doubt many hesitant climbers are spurred upward by the 3000-foot investment required to get here!  The last 10 feet involves a straddle ascent of the summit fin.

Eileen At Base Of Summit Horn

I was happy to see a belay/rappel bolt on the summit (6.6 hours from car).  However, it might be the oldest bolt I’ve ever seen on a crag.  I would not be surprised to find that it was installed during the Coolidge Administration.  Hmmm.  Better to focus on the views of Silver Star Mountain and other nearby peaks.

Silver Star Mountain From Big Kangaroo

After two rappels, we were below the chockstone and ready to descend.  Rather than retracing our up-route back to the southerly gully, we tried dropping straight down a northerly gully that pointed toward the SR-20 hairpin.  This actually went pretty well, and we arrived at our car by early evening (3.3 hours from summit).

Descending Gully Toward Hairpin

From the hairpin, we could look directly up our descent gully and see Big Kangaroo keeping a watchful eye on the highway.

Big Kangaroo and Descent Gully From Hairpin


——————– Photo Gallery (click to enlarge) ——————–