Sunday, October 6, 2013

Acker Rock Linkup

My friend Josh called me in early September with the idea of doing a big linkup on Acker Rock. Acker is an andesite crag in the southern Oregon Cascades, and the two longest routes on it are the Peregrine Traverse (10 pitch 5.7) and Where Eagles Dare (8 pitch 5.9). Josh had done the Peregrine before but not Eagles and he wanted to go back and link both routes in a day. His psych was infectious and I agreed to go but unfortunately the super rainy weather kept us from making it out there until October.

Upper pitches of the Peregrine Traverse follow the sky line. Taken from a semi-hanging belay on Where Eagles Dare.

Where Eagles Dare follows a mostly direct line up the shaded face to the pinnacle at the top. Taken from a notch on the Peregrine Traverse.
We finally drove to Acker on a Friday night and camped just below the locked gate... government shutdowns... I'll try not to get political here. After waking up in good time Josh led us to the climbers trail and we followed the trail through downed trees to the Sun Bowl at the start of the Peregrine. We had both worried about cold weather and wet rock but the good forecast came through and we both regretted wearing long pants and not having more water.

Fog in the South Umpqua River Valley from the top of pitch 1 on the Peregrine. My shadow is on the rock face in the lower right.
After soloing the first "pitch" (easy 4th), Josh linked the next two pitches. As I followed I realized just how great of an idea this trip was: easy slab climbing on solid rock with big exposure, beautiful views, jugs and pockets everywhere, plus it's well bolted where it needs to be. If you like moderate adventurous climbing this route is tons of fun. I led the next pitch, a short but fun slab dihedral, and the crux. A run out traverse pitch on easy terrain brought us to a notch. One more up pitch would have brought us to the ridge crest but I was lured off route by some rusty anchors and ended in some dirty choss. Josh brought us back to the crest and then we cruised (a little simuling) on easy terrain to the "summit." From here an easy down climb takes you to a dirt ledge down in the forest; you wouldn't want to fall off the ledge but there are bolts at the ledge so you can clip in. The final pitch is a dirty chimney (the only place where we placed gear as it's not bolted). This takes you to a summit which appears to be higher than the last peak but doesn't have the summit register. From here an awkward rap takes you to a ledge with a big tree and a trail takes you to the fire lookout and the trail down. It took us around two and a half hours, and while most of the climbing is easy and on solid rock, the exposure is substantial and really makes the climb.

Josh leading pitches 2 and 3 on the Peregrine.

Josh at the anchors of the notch traverse pitch on the Peregrine (pitch 5). Rope is visible hanging across the notch.

Josh following easy terrain to the "summit" of the Peregrine Traverse.
We ate some food and drank some water in the shade near the lookout, then stashed some gear in my pack and walked over to the rap anchors for Where Eagles Dare. Eagles starts at the bottom of the Southwest face in a hanging grassy bowl. The best way to get to it is to rappel the face down an adjacent line following a water channel (you don't rap the actual route as it ends on a separate spire). Due to the recent heavy rains this was really dirty, although thankfully dry. Dirt and moss chunks peppered us from above and soiled our rope. Six rappels later, as we descended the final dirty slabs, we were wondering what we had gotten ourselves into.

Josh on the last rappel into Eagles. This was one of two free-hanging rappels. Eagles climbs the face further to the left.
We found the bolts on the first pitch of Eagles and were bummed to see that instead of ascending clean slab further left we would start on more dirty and chossy rock. Josh declared that we would just have to "turn our frowns upside down." We got to it and he linked the first two pitches to an anchor near some small trees. I took over the lead and we started to find out why this route gets rave reviews. I climbed a highly featured arete on solid rock with big exposure. The moves were balancey and technical, solid 5.9 climbing that justified the first two pitches. Josh then lead a short traverse and I started up vertical face holds to a small dihedral with some awkward moves. The previous pitches had all been on the short side but this pitch (maybe we both missed the anchors?) went for at least 150 feet and was sustained 5.9 broken only by some lower angle choss. We only had 12 draws so after using them all and having skipped a bolt, with at least one more bulge to pull, I had Josh lower me. I back cleaned three draws and finished the pitch with one draw to spare (having skipped two bolts and using the biners from one draw on the anchor). Josh then lead an awesome pitch of endless pocket jugs and I followed it with a final airy pitch to the summit pinnacle. I sat on the knife-edge point horsey style and and then belayed Josh up from a little ledge on the back side of the pinnacle.

Josh leading near the top of pitch 2 on Eagles (just below the two bushes). The line essentially goes straight up the face with the exception of one short traverse.

Josh finishing up the airy arete on pitch 3, one of the best pitches of the route.

Josh climbs out of the first crux section on the uber long pitch 5.

Our shadows from the summit of Eagles before rapping down into this notch and climbing out the other side.
A short rap to the notch behind the summit and an easy but somewhat sketchy traverse (unprotected low 5th) brought us to our stuff. We thankfully chugged water and changed out of our climbing shoes. I then discovered that a rodent had chewed through the rip-stop on my pack and devoured a good portion of my peanut butter and honey sandwiches! That bastard! Disgruntled with the snaffle-hound attack but still stoked and happy with our climbing, we headed down the trail to the car. While Eagles had some dirty and chossy rock, it was mostly solid, was very well bolted, and has fun climbing in an amazing position. We also suspect that there was more dirt on the rap line and the lower route from the recent rain storms. From starting rappels to topping out took us just over four hours.

Looking back at the summit of Eagles.

Snaffle-hound attack left a big (3 inch!) hole in my pack...

...and they ate my sandwich!


  1. Sam,
    Great trip report!
    Harold and I were rappelling Acker the day before counting a rare buckwheat that has only been found to grow on Acker.
    Our accent of Eagle's Dare was made in November when the days are short. Harold lead the last pitch to the top of the pinnacle in the dark, which was awesome because of the incredible amount of stars and the scattered camp fires from hunter camps below. We later returned and added a belay to split up the last push to the pinnacle's summit in order to reduce the rope drag.
    Fall is definitely my favorite time for both Acker and McKinley Rocks.

    1. Thanks Greg, glad you liked the TR! And thanks for putting up these great routes, they are a real pleasure to climb!

      Josh told me you do buckwheat counts on Acker but I didn't realize they were so unique. Does that data just go to the FS or do you publish it somewhere?

      We noticed the rap line for Eagles had climbing bolts. Was that your creation too? It was dirty when we were on it but the underlying rock seemed good. Any idea what it goes at?


  2. Sam--Enjoyed your TR. We climbed Peregrine Traverse last Sunday, 10/18/14. Very fun. Also a short route in the Sun Bowl. Thinking about Eagle's Dare next summer. How are the belay anchors/stations? Burley?

    Thanks, David

    1. Thanks David, glad you liked the TR. As I mentioned, Eagles is very well bolted, by which I mean modern, closely spaced bolts, two bolt anchors and no mankey, rusted old hardware. The belays aren't all comfy big ledges like on Peregrines and the first pitch and last pitch back to the main ridge are chossy scrambles with limited pro. Overall its a fantastic climb and I highly recommend it!

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