Beware of Wallace Col

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Post by curiousgeorge » Fri May 26, 2006 8:42 am

i did wallace col west to east a few years ago after reading secor and wanting a shortcut route. it certainly is one of my most memorable experiences. first off, i am not a climber. typically, i carry about 20-25 lbs on 2-3 day trips sticking mainly to trails. cross country from the JMT was OK to get to the base of the short loose section leading to the pass. but it was two steps up and slide down one for that last section. very slow going, maybe about two-three hours or so. felt that at any moment i would fall back and roll back down to the bottom under a pile of rocks. it was not fun. at two or three points it was so bad i had to hold onto solid rock on the side of the scree in order not to slide down. i thought we'd have to turn back as it was rather treacherous to me. my buddy felt the same and he had some climbing experience. at the top it looked like we were stuck in a worse situation but my buddy picked out a route that seemed to be possible. it was indeed but it was just as bad as coming up. felt like you'd fall forward and roll down as part of an avalanche. after we got thru the real steep section near the top it was just stepping and sliding all the way down. i would not recommend this going up west to east as there is ten times as much loose stuff. it will take you all day to get to the pass. personally, i would not recommend this pass at all.

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Post by giantbrookie » Fri May 26, 2006 10:24 am

ironmike wrote:Nonetheless, I am fascinated by guide books of all eras, and envy the men with the time and experience to craft them.
So am I, and I have quite a collection, including climbing guides of places I may never climb in such as the North Cascades and Glacier NP (in part because I basically only fish nowadays). I remember buying Fred Beckey's North Cascade guide simply because I loved reading his route descriptions: One example: "Follow the arete that first curves right, then curves left and becomes sensationally narrow". Another "Make like a gorilla through the brush..." How can one not want a book like that in your library!

Returning to the SN guides, I forgot to mention that Roper actually addressed the "completeness" issue in his intro and mentioned that he INTENTIONALLY left many routes vague so as not to spoil the adventure for those that sought to work them out on their own. I also forgot to mention that, climbers and peak baggers did indeed complain and whine quite a bit about Voge's and Roper's ratings or descriptions back in the day. The difference was we had no www in those days, so there were no public web postings griping about how either of them may have gotten it wrong.
Since my fishing (etc.) website is still down, you can be distracted by geology stuff at: ... ayshi.html" onclick=";return false;

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Post by AldeFarte » Fri May 26, 2006 9:30 pm

This is an interesting thread. I have never read any of the above mentioned references on routes and such .However ,I enjoy reading about them and the trials and tribulations of those taking them verbatim. I have always enjoyed pouring over topo's to find new routes [to me] and possible passovers and crosscountry shortcuts , or pure routes. That has always been part of the allure of the high country. My motto is "leave little or no sign of your passing". Other than temporal footprints. That way the next guy thinks he is the first guy. jls

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Post by Moonwalker » Fri May 26, 2006 9:36 pm

ironmike wrote:giantbrookie, your post is spot on. I agree 100%, though your points are more eloquently presented than I could manage. Thanks...(snip)... Routefinding is a core skill for anyone who goes off trail in the Sierra (or sometimes even the trailhiker as well), whether the route is Class 2 or Class 5.impossible and since that skill is judgement-oriented, no amount of guidebook reading (or blogging!!) will fill the void...
Don't sell yourself short, ironmike, I thought you made your point pretty well the first time. (And giantbrookie: right on, man!) But if some backpacker decides to go up Echo Col instead of tackling Wallace Col because of this "blog", I'll feel like something good happened, even if they didn't learn any routefinding skills.

As for guidebooks, I'm glad for the good ones, such as Roper's High Route and Secor's book. They've definitely helped me get to some great areas I wouldn't have known existed. Of course, if you're going to put out a guidebook, you have a responsibility to be accurate, which is not to say detailed (as giantbrookie pointed out). This seems especially true for books describing backcountry routes, as you are then talking to some people who don't have a lot of experience. I think criticism of guidebooks (even Secor's) is a valuable service this group can provide. I'm sure the authors' skin is thick enough to take it.

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Post by 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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Post by 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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Post by 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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Post by 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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Post by 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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Post by 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.


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.

Last edited by Steve Bearman on Thu Jun 15, 2006 9:58 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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