The Sphinx, Nov 3rd 2007

Submitted by brett on Sun, 11/04/2007 - 11:22
Yesterday my buddies Matt, Mike and I went out to spy on the Sphinx. We had the best intentions of climbing it, leaving Missoula at 4 am, but it didn't work out. First we got lost because we had bad directions from a rancher and a hunter and unreliable approach beta from other climbers. Then there was no mention of the 5 or so creek crossings we had to do and that slowed me down especially since I fell in practically every time. Regardless, I thought you guys might like to see a few photos of our expedition. We got right up to the ice, but after walking 9 miles in the woods through knee-deep snow, it had gotten too late for a safe vertical adventure. Despite the lack of tool-swingin, we all admitted that this was one of the most intense day hikes of our lives, especially since we walked like 5 or more miles out of the way in the snow. the Sphinx greeted us with a beautiful view in the dawn morning... [img]…] here's a shot of the rock-type (note the seashell imprint in the center).... [img]…] a photo of all the climbs.... [img]…] a closeup photo of the Lowe Route and others.... [img]…] a photo of the Helmet. the Helmet Saddle trail switchbacks through the trees and into the steep skirts of this mountain. you can't see it in the photo, but the trail is in there.... [img]…] another view of the ice from below the gully. when you see this view, you need to consider hiking towards it rather than stayin on the trail like we did. It will save you probably a mile of walking. It might be best to take the saddle trail through the trees and then traverse across the gully. [img]…] anyway, i would definitely say this route is fat and in. on the downside, the approach is made significantly harder due to snow. avalanche danger didn't appear to be a big problem yesterday, but another deep snow will make this place dangerous. there was a sheet of hard snice on top that will eventually become a good slip point in the future. go climb it while it's still relatively safe! cheers, -brett. ps: any missoula climbers should give this route two days. we ended up with a 22-hour day house-to-house. just an fyi.

What great images! This might be about the fattest the Sphinx has ever been. One of the two routes right of the Lowe Route is the Earl/Trimble but I'm not entirely sure which one. Based on not so good photos from years ago, I once thought that the second one right was it but looking at these straight on I believe it is the middle route. Someone needs to get after that big on on the right if they haven't already. The icicle in the middle of the wall to the right of that is "The Riddle" which is another once every 10 year gem.

The route Chris T. and I did is the fat one. It is the widest route in the center of the last of Bretts images above ( which are AWESOME ). At the top we zagged right towards a snow ramp and a ledge that cuts back up left towards the top. the Variant to the left , tha appears to split off after 1 pitch of our riute, I'm not sure its been done. I think Kirby and Kalakay did one of the routes up there, but am not sure which one- I don't have my bookshelf over here yet. It is very fat up there! musta been just the right pattern of temps and rainfall in Sept/ Oct.

Saw a team on Tuesday starting up the main triangular flow of the [i]middle [/i] line, just above and to the right of the Lowe Route's crux pillar. Maybe they will chime in with some info on the route? If i understand correctly, the Earl-Trimble Route is the [i]right[/i] line that appears like more of "seep" coming out of the top of the face, rather than a "gully" (left & middle routes).

"Winter Dance" is wrong. It lists the Earl/Trimble route as the right hand of the three big flows. It is in fact the middle one. Someone go tick that right one PLEASE. Looks like a couple of possible exits at the top, all with some rock on em. Sweet. The obvious icicle on the steep part of the wall to the right is the Kalakay/Kirby line.

yeah, and just an FYI. the reason why our hike was so ridiculous was because we were actually in the entirely wrong drainage. my beta on the approach is not correct. the correct directions are in Winter Dance and you actually hike south around the Helmet up to the saddle at which point you traverse into the climbs. i guess these photos offer a seldom-seen perspective of the climbs because most climbers never approach from this way and don't get this kinda view. are you saying that the climb on the right has FA potential Jojo? someone must've climbed that thing... it looks so nice! -brett PS: two friends took a trip out there on wednesday and told me that there was warmer temps and thinning/dripping ice. keep your helmet on! i hope it cools off.

That north face sure does have an interesting "feel" to it eh? Mtnmanmatt, nice work soloing the Lowe Route. It was Ron B. and I that you saw on Nov 6th. Thanks to the Missoula folks for the good pictures, its nice to know I'm not the only one that wanders. Now we all know its the Earl/Trimble right? Ron and I did it as 5 pitches, WI4(+) with a bit of M5 at the top, which is protectable with pins if your belayer doesn't hide em on his bad. My recommendation: take more to eat than just Halloween candy.

After talking with Chris Trimble several times I have finally confirmed that the route marked as the Earl/Trimble is in fact correct in the guide "Winter Dance;" contrary to what I said before. According to Whit Magro, the middle line of the three big ones was climbed by in mid-October this season. There is also a variation to the Earl/Trimble that appears to have been climbed as well. Any one have anything to report? Sorry for the confusion. In the attached photo I have marked what I now think to be the routes: a/ Lowe Route. b/ Lowe Route alternate first pitch c/ The Earl/Trimble. Also, on the FA they climbed all the lower ice too. d/ Ty Nygard and KC Herdet. Not sure of the exact date. [img][/img]