Beware of Wallace Col

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ridgeline
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Post by ridgeline » Thu Jun 15, 2006 2:24 pm

The yosemite decimal system rates the difficulty of the terain, exposure is not factored into the number.








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Moonwalker
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Post by Moonwalker » Wed Jun 21, 2006 6:23 pm

Steve Bearman wrote: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.
I took these in August 2004. The first is the whole ridge south of Mt Wallace, between Wallace and Mt Powell:

Image

This is a closeup of the route I took going up, from the east:

Image

This is the view down the west side into Fiske Basin:

Image

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Sierra Ledge Rat
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Post by Sierra Ledge Rat » Thu Jun 22, 2006 2:28 am

Awesome photos Moonwalker.

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Re: Beware of Wallace Col

Post by cinematic » Sat Jul 28, 2012 4:53 pm

I opted to try Wallace Col after seeing it in Secor's book (1992). I had originally planned to do Echo Col, but Secor's book rates Echo Col class 3; ice axe required. I have done Echo Col twice before; once in late August 1994, and again almost 4 weeks later to expedite an ascent of Charybdis. I did not need an ice axe, the route was solid, and I don't recall any problems. Nonetheless, I decided on Wallace Col because it was mid July, and I thought we might run into ice, even though it was a low snow year. My girlfriend does not have much technical experience, and we were carrying heavy packs (bear canister, 6 days food), my own topped off with an SLR, 3 lenses, and a tele-converter. I read "loose class 2 route" in dismay, but figured it would be safer, even though it was another 560' higher. How difficult could it be? I also saw the contour lines on the topo, and knew it would be steep. Had I done my homework and read these posts, I would have done Echo, or entered via LaMarck, even though we planned to exit that way, and I wanted to do a loop.

The route looked dirty. I figured we could gain a more solid footing by ascending the snowfield as high as possible to the solid rock outcrops right of the more heavily traveled steep scree. I even considered climbing the north slope and ridge of Wallace. I reached the more solid rock, and found it more exposed than I had anticipated. It was awkward with the heavy pack. I told my girlfriend to wait below while I explored the route. It proved frightening! I recall having to traverse off solid rock which was becoming too exposed, and into a dirty chute. The move was made exceedingly dangerous by the ball bearing sized scree covering the rock. I don't recall being this frightened on any 3rd class peaks I have done. I gathered my composure, and did the moves. I worked my way up and left using solid rock where I could. When I reached the top, I was about 500' north of the low point of the col. I took off my pack, filled a daypack with essentials, and went to look for an easier way down to help my girlfriend. My pack was left at the point where most people probably descend to the west. I reached the low point of the col and realized it was not easier, just much dirtier! I started down, and began sliding here and there. I worked my way back, maybe a third of the way toward where I had ascended (to the north) and found a rib that was more solid. Soon I could see my girlfriend below who asked if she should start climbing. I continued to descend as she climbed up the loose scree, using a bigger rock for a hand/foothold where she could. I took her pack and gave her the daypack. I managed to find somewhat more firm footing above, and we gained the ridge without causing any major rockslides. I was extremely careful about having her stay clear of any potential rock fall I might cause.

The descent was one of the worst I have experienced in terms of causing landslides and rock fall. We descended where I had left my pack, about 500' north of the low point, traversing down and south. We caused numerous slides, one I thought was going to carry me down the mountainside. Clouds of dust made breathing difficult. The boulders were welcome when we finally reached them. Instead of taking a few hours to get over the pass from our camp just below Hungry Packer Lake, the fiasco took all day. We reached a nice place to camp at the first lake we came to in Evolution Basin with just enough time to set up camp before it got dark.

This was not my experience on Echo Col, which I consider a short cut. Wallace Col was not a short cut, but a tedious, frightening, and dangerous route. I do not recommend this route to anyone. I do not disagree with the rating of this pass in Secor's book. As has been mentioned, class 2 and 3 ratings are very subjective, and depend on conditions, and the precise route one chooses.

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maverick
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Re: Beware of Wallace Col

Post by maverick » Sat Jul 28, 2012 6:32 pm

Hi Cinematic,

Welcome to HST! Thank you for taking the time to write up your experience with Wallace Col.
Professional Sierra Landscape Photographer

I don't give out specific route information, my belief is that it takes away from the whole adventure spirit of a trip, if you need every inch planned out, you'll have to get that from someone else.

Have a safer backcountry experience by using the HST ReConn Form 2.0, named after Larry Conn, a HST member: http://reconn.org

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ironmike
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Beware of Wallace Col

Post by ironmike » Fri Oct 05, 2012 9:26 pm

ridgeline wrote:The yosemite decimal system rates the difficulty of the terain, exposure is not factored into the number.
Odd to be responding to a post 6 years after the fact...but here goes. (I guess having Tapatalk and free time at airports has a bit to do with it.)

RL, I agree with your assessment of the YDS in most cases except for the Class 3/Class 4 distinction. Technically yes, the difference is mostly about the size and quality of the holds and ledges, but I think there is also an allowance for exposure. To the extent that if the classification is a bit gray, then exposure is the deciding factor.

Mt Russell comes to mind in this regard. Without its sheer drop offs on both sides of the east ridge, I doubt Class 4 would ever enter the conversation...

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Re: Beware of Wallace Col

Post by Moonwalker » Fri Oct 05, 2012 10:21 pm

It seems like yesterday ironmike! Secor's understanding of the Yosemite Decimal System is on p.30 of the 2nd edition of his book. To summarize,

Class 2 in the High Sierra is difficult cross-country travel, usually with talus hopping and the occasional use of hands for balance. The talus can be unstable, and the danger is that "hikers may stumble among these blocks". He goes on, "It is also possible for a boulder to dislodge and roll over a hiker." :unibrow:
Class 3 is where you need hands and feet to hang onto the rock. Steep or large talus can be class 3. "Novices may feel uncomfortable, but the holds are large and easy to locate."
Class 4: "steep rock with smaller holds and a lot of exposure... A fall will probably be fatal."

So exposure seems to be a factor when going from class 3 to 4. But not a factor in class 2. And it isn't clear to me from what he wrote that a route can be class 3 just because it has steep or large talus (and loose!), but if it can, then Wallace Col should be class 3. You might be able to do it without any real climbing. But then class 2 can mean a lot of different things, can't it, and you just have to know that. Echo Col is a clear class 3, as the novice who accompanied me last summer will testify to. I think Lamarck Col is class 1-2, much easier, and nothing scary. Black Giant should be rated class 2. Secor was joking when he rated it class 1.

@cinematic: great story!

-Eric

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