New York Gully Revisited

It breaks my heart that I've had to snip this high pressure up into little bits. But it fits with the work of settling into the winter: I have lessons to plan, tours to map, and some ski legs that need to get a lot bigger. I took a day to go visit the north side of Mt. Snoqualmie with my friend Kurt Hicks. We went to climb New York Gully, a fun and varied day out in my wonderful backyard.

I climbed New York Gully ten years ago. At the time it was a big, big undertaking for me, and we had something of an epic day. It was one of those mind-expanding adventures that opens up new possibilities. I'm really glad I didn't get hurt, because in hindsight I can see that I was out of my league. I'm also really glad that I have a better sense of my league now. While I still need vigilance, and I am more aware than ever of hazard, I don't feel I run much risk of just wandering onto a route where I don't belong. But I stop short of regretting those stupid choices, because I appreciate how much they shaped me. The burned hand teaches best, and perhaps the corollary is that scars always make good stories.

Mt. Snoqualmie is exceptional in many respects. First of all it is tremendously varied: broad, gentle ridges, steep timbered avalanche chutes, craggy buttresses and walls interspersed with spectacular couloirs. Second, it is tremendously accessible: in under three hours a fit party can be climbing the first pitch of New York gully or dropping into the Slot Couloir. And lastly, it still has room for exploration. I have my eye on several interesting mixed lines and hidden chutes, and I doubt I am the only one.

New York Gully impresses me as a very alpine experience. The climbing is never severe, but it is engaging and varied. The beautiful box gully forming the heart of the route requires clever gear placements and an affinity for frozen moss. A short, steep wall on pitch 6 is given an A2 rating, but we freed it with some judicious bare-handed jamming: just brilliant climbing. Our yelps of joy echoed nicely off the adjacent walls.

The route is becoming a classic. Some of the key holds at the cruxes are starting to be given away by the crampon marks, which makes me smile: I can't wait to see how it looks in another ten years. Of course, I'm not going to wait that long. Next week is looking good...