South Col = 7280+
Sticks up: 160'-239'
Climbed: 8/1/80 and 7/ /84.
3rd and 5th Ascent.
With: Reed and Peter Jewitt, then with Russ and Silas.
FA: 9/10/61 -- 19 years before.
Joe Firey told me that he thought this was one of the most beautiful
peaks in the North Cascades, and I agree. Look at the Frenzel photo collection.
It is a Hope Diamond hidden by bigger, but less precious, jewels. From
the south, a view of this peak is completely obscured by the Southerns;
from the north, the Southerns tower over it and suck it up as foreground.
But as a human, when you step up to it, you realize that it is a peak
of quality, and if you didn't know it could be easily done with a top
rope and good friends, you'd wonder... It is a three-sided pyramid that
The first ascent route is described as Class 4 up the south ridge. Both
times I've been on Frenzel, the true south ridge seemed to be steeper
than 4 near the summit, forcing us onto the SW Face. In 1980 we came
up the Mustard Glacier with full packs after camping at Picket Pass and
rappelling into the McMillan Cirque. It was a foggy, threatening day.
We dropped our packs at the base of a rock outcrop and headed for the
south col of the peak. Stuart Ferguson was not in the mood for a climb
that day and stayed behind with the packs. The route was across steep
snow and up a rotten gully, where we ran across the largest quartz crystal
I've seen in the North Cascades, maybe 6 inches long. Peter broke it
off and put in his pack.
From the south (Frenzel-Otto) col, the rock turned solid and we stayed
right on the S rib up to a slanting slab, about 1/4 way to the top. We
hoisted ourselves over a step here then went out on the SW Face. Peter
lead up a shallow cleft on the face, reaching a down-slanting foot-wide
ramp. On it was a 3-foot high rock, too loose to rely on, too close above
us to kick off. Peter hates loose leads and cursed his delicate way around
the obstruction to the SW corner, which he turned then climbed to the
top. I was happy to have the top belay, but wasn't so bold as to knock
the balancing rock off its ledge as I went by. The summit had a small
cairn but no register. I had run out of film cans to use for summit registers
by now, so we left our names in a plastic bag under the summit cairn.
I believe this was climbed not only in 1961, but also in 1962 by the
Fireys, who may have completed a new route up the NE Ridge.
Reed drove a piton near the summit. We tied three ½-inch slings
through the eye (Reed didn't trust any webbing less than 1 inch) and
rappelled off. The weather cleared for just long enough during the descent
for me to get a picture of Reed and the summit. We'd taken longer than
anticipated and Stuart was wet, cold, and a little pissed when we got
back to him. This turned to our advantage when he sublimated his anger
into kicking solid footsteps in the steep snow up to the Otto-Himmel
Col where the whiteout was complete.
Silas, Russ, and I stood at the NE Corner of Frenzel in July of 1984,
locked in frustration and a battle of wills. The plan had been to encircle
the Southern Pickets. We had come up the Barrier and had done The Stump
on day one of the trip. Two days before we did Terror and The Turret,
and had come over the Otto-Himmel Col to Frenzel Camp. The day before,
Silas and Russ had pushed themselves to exhaustion climbing all three
peaks of Fury--the first time the highest peaks in the Southern Pickets
and the Northern Pickets had been climbed on successive days--while I
loafed up South Fury and Dumbo. Fury wasn't really on the agenda, but
Russ and Silas were too close to pass them by.
The original plan was to drop into the McMillan Cirque and walking under
the awesome N side of the Southerns, possibly doing Degenhardt Glacier
or at least completing the circuit to Azure Pass and up around the corner
to Terror Basin to do Little Mac or whatever. We had also considered
doing one of two undone classic routes on the Twin Needles--either the
Thread of Ice or The Thread of Gneiss--however the steepness of the routes
and the fact there was a runout into a schrund on the Ice Route scared
us off these. I was hot to complete the circuit; however, nowhere in
the North Cascades is there a wall of rock like this. Plus, the day was
perfect, something the Southerns aren't always known for.
Silas and Russ had different plans: They wanted to exit! I couldn't
believe it. Russ had discovered he had not brought enough fuel to cook
nine days of his Pritikin long-simmer meals--5-grain cereal breakfasts
and 5-bean dinners, and for some reason Silas who was wiped by the Fury
day, wanted to get back to see his young daughter, Jennie. A deal was
a deal, I pleaded, we should stick with the plan. There was no good reason
to abandon our plan. We sat and cajoled and wheedled, waiting for a change
of heart and interjecting one-sentence arguments every 2-3 minutes. When
it was apparent that I was going to lose the battle, I told them that
if they wanted to go back, fine, I would drop down into the cirque on
my own, and complete the loop at least even if I didn't climb anything.
They pointed out the folly in my plan--solo glacier travel and snow and
rock-fall possibilities--and I had to agree that this is not the kind
of terrain I wanted to do alone.
We also played on the first few feet of the bottom of the NW Ridge of
Frenzel before deciding we did not want to do it even with ball packs.
I finally yielded to the exit idea after figuring in my head where I
would spend the rest of my week's vacation. But on the exit we would
Climbing Frenzel turned out to be harder than expected with the packs.
We passed underneath the near vertical east wall, stemming the moat between
the rock on one side and vertical snow on the other. We then hit a particularly
nasty, dirty gully that took us an hour or more to negotiate as we climbed
the narrow chimney without packs then hauled them up on the rope. As
I was ascending, a large rock pulled loose out of its dirty perch, and
fell only 2-3 feet but hit me squarely in the left knee causing a deep,
worrisome pain, which spoiled my already waning enthusiasm for repeating
this climb. Once we hit the S Col , we climbed the exact same route Reed,
Peter and I had done 4 years before. Knudson had made it here in the
meantime. The day was sterling. Reed's summit piton was gone, so we rapped
off a long sling. We completed the traverse back to the Himmel-Otto Col
over steep snow and ball bearing rock.
Lots of fun is left on this baby. The East (McMillan) Face should provide
someone with a half days entertainment. The Goodell Faces, both the NW
and the SW would be decent lines, with epic approaches.
The Fireys had trouble coming up with names for all of these Crescent
Creek Spires that they were making first ascents on. On their 1962 trip
they became amused with the names on a jar of mustard from Germany .
From the label on this jar, they came up with the Frenzel, Otto, and
I believe, Himmel, names then decided to name the glacier leading up
to these peaks, Mustard Glacier.
Perhaps the most spectacular camp in the North Cascades (one of many such
most spectaculars) lies 0.3 miles N of Frenzelspitz on the ridge running
toward Picket Pass, immediately S of the tiny 6800-foot closed contour.
Flat moss, a clear stream, and the north faces of the Southern Pickets,
as close as you can get them, make this a place to return to, though it's
not so easy getting here.
Copyright 2004, John W. Roper.
All Rights Reserved.