New Route on Lower 48's Biggest Rock Face

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The 3,500-foot north face of Mt. Siyeh (10,014') in Glacier National Park, with the new Cordes-Woods line marked. Courtesy of Kelly Cordes.

The 3,500-foot north face of Mt. Siyeh (10,014

Kelly Cordes and Justin Woods made a one-day ascent of the rarely climbed north face of Mt. Siyeh in Glacier National Park, completing a new route with about 3,000 feet of loose technical climbing in just 11 hours.

The north face of Siyeh (10,014 feet) was first climbed in 1979 by Jim Kanzler and Terry Kennedy over three days in September. Two more routes are known to have been completed, in 2005 and 2007, including one route by Montana native Woods and partner Ben Smith.

“Justin has a twisted sense of ‘fun’—it’s hard to imagine anyone being interested in climbing that thing twice—and was up for another round,” said Cordes, who was visiting his old stomping grounds in northern Montana from his home in Colorado.

The three known routes on Siyeh’s north face started with hundreds of feet of scrambling on the lower left. Cordes and Woods aimed to maximize the technical climbing and started on steeper rock farther to the right. They climbed about 3,000 vertical feet of “mostly 5.7/5.8, with some 5.10 here and there,” Cordes said, followed by 500 vertical feet of unroped scrambling on the northwest ridge.

Cordes said a more direct finish to a line that started where they did would yield 3,300 to 3,500 vertical feet of technical climbing. The Nose of El Capitan, by comparison, is about 2,900 feet high. But Siyeh’s crumbling stone is no El Cap granite.

“Every single pitch would get an R rating, some more like R/X,” Cordes said. “Many of our pitches had lots of simuling, sometimes out of necessity just to get anchors.”

All three previous known routes on Siyeh’s north face had required at least one cold bivy. “We were really hoping to avoid that, especially since the forecast was pretty spotty, and so we made good time, climbing the route in 11 hours,” Cordes said. The two approached the face from a bivy at Cracker Lake, at about 5,800 feet, started climbing at 6 a.m., unroped atop the face at 5 p.m., scrambled over the top of the peak and down to their camp by 8:30 p.m., and “packed up and headed for the beer cooler.”

Date of Ascent: August 8, 2008

Sources: Kelly Cordes, American Alpine Journal

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