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Hardest Mox Finally Climbed

Last weekend Rolf Larson and Eric Wehrly made a first ascent of Hardest Mox, or Point 8501, a previously unclimbed peak in the Cascades Range of Washington State.

Lemolo, the peak east of Southeast Mox once known as Hardest Mox or Point 8501, is the high point at left-center. Once cited by Fred Beckey as “a good place for a funeral,” the difficult summit was finally climbed earlier this month by Rolf Larson and Eric Wehrly via the route marked in red (V 5.10-, 2,500′). The main summit of Southeast Mox, which the pair also summited in order to descend, is hidden behind Lemolo. [Photo] John Scurlock

Local historian Harry Majors has said that “there are a number of higher unclimbed peaks/points remaining in the North Cascades, but none as difficult, dangerous, inaccessible, and potentially deadly as point 8501.” Hardest Mox has long been revered as wild. According to pilot and climber John Scurlock, author of Behind the Veil” in Alpinist 21, “[Larson and Wehrly’s] is only the fifth or sixth attempt since the face was first observed some sixty years ago.” The most recent–and closest–attempt came in 2005 when Erik Wolfe and Mike Layton stopped a few hundred feet below the summit on account of approaching bad weather.

After a full-day approach to their bivy in Perry Creek basin on September 11, Larson and Wehrly continued to the rock start at ca. 6,000′, ascended to a bivy site at 8,200′ and made the 8,501′ summit on September 13, 2008. They have named the distinctive summit, which lies east of Southeast Mox peak, Lemolo Peak–Chinook jargon for “wild” or “untamed.”

Larson and Wehrly began their approach from the Little Beaver trailhead on Ross Lake, just south of the US-Canada border in the North Cascades, after taking a water taxi from near Ross Dam. Almost five miles of hiking gave way to approximately five more miles of arduous and brushy cross-country travel, and the team arrived nine hours later to make camp at 5,000′ in Perry Creek Basin. The next day, the 12th, they quickly finished the approach and ascended the imposing rock wall, which involved soloing, simulclimbing and occasionally pitching out the first thousand feet of 5.8-9, then tackling the 800′ headwall through five steep pitches that involved difficult route finding through numerous roofs. Larson led the two hardest pitches, which Wehrly described on as “one of the most impressive leads I’ll witness.”

The climbers then bivouacked at 8,200′, about three pitches from the summit. There they endured a cold night on the wall, having expected warmer temperatures and not taken sleeping bags. They summited Lemolo the following morning, September 13, at 9 a.m. for its first ascent then traversed the ridge for two hours to Southeast Mox. At approximately 11 a.m. they began descending heinous gullies and a glacier, reaching their camp in Perry Creek Basin at 4:30 p.m.

Wehrly described the climbing on the new route (V 5.10- R, 2,500′) as cerebral, with engaging terrain–though much of it climbed excellent gneiss, some sported “loose rock, long runouts and stacked blocks.”

Larson and Wehrly’s ascent is one of numerous worthwhile new climbs established in the Cascades over the past month. Their success comes on the heels of Alan Kearney and Erik Johnson’s new route on the northeast buttress of East McMillan Spire and The Tempest Wall and Playin’ Not Sprayin’ (read reports by Blake Herrington in the September 11 and September 15, 2008 NewsWires).

Sources: Eric Wehrly, John Scurlock, Blake Herrington,