Fric-Amos

Fric-Amos

The Fric-Amos route is named after its first ascensionists, Dustin Fric and Bill Amos (founder of NW Alpine!). This is arguably the safest and most approachable route on the Black Spider as the required steep climbing is all concentrated in one pitch, one of the best on the mountain, and the rest of the terrain can be covered quickly. These factors have made it the most “popular” route on the face with around ten documented ascents.

Overview:

The Fric-Amos route is named after its first ascensionists, Dustin Fric and Bill Amos (founder of NW Alpine!). This is arguably the safest and most approachable route on the Black Spider as the required steep climbing is all concentrated in one pitch, one of the best on the mountain, and the rest of the terrain can be covered quickly. These factors have made it the most “popular” route on the face with around ten documented ascents. 

Stats

The crux pitch is WI3-4 when all ice, or M4-ish when thin. Most parties will be comfortable doing one belayed pitch sandwiched between some simul climbing.

Description

Photo #1: Kyle on lead about to reach the star-shaped snowfield, with the crux pitch visible above.

Cross the bergschrund(s) and head up towards the small star-shaped snowfield on the left side of the face. Move quickly here as you are highly exposed to overhead hazard. Most parties gain the snowfield by simul-climbing the lowest-angle option, a gully/weakness on the far right. This gully should be iced up and can have some short WI3 bulges, though most of it is easier. Recently someone left a bail anchor (two pins) just above the gully in the rock to the right, which you can consider clipping or belaying from.

Justin about to commit to the steep crux.

From the top of the gully work up and then left across the top of the snowfield to the base of the obvious crux pitch, hugging the steep face to remain somewhat sheltered from falling debris. Now you’re at the money pitch! Most groups establish a belay on the far left, tucked up against the steepest ice, and then climb to the right. The crux of the pitch is usually near the bottom and can vary greatly from M4 mixed climbing to gently overhanging ice to unprotectable snice. Although the ice here can be improbably steep for volcano climbing the difficulties are mitigated by the opportunity to stem on the rock to the right. After the initial steepness the pitch mellows and meanders up a series of ramps and bulges. Getting from the base of the crux pitch to the snowfield above is a bit longer than 60 meters so you’ll need to use a longer rope, break it into two pitches, or simul climb.

Once you gain the snowfield it can be exceedingly difficult to find a good anchor, as the ice typically disappears and is replaced by sun-baked snow. You’ll most likely be belaying off of a stance in the snow, or simul climbing trying to keep the rope as tight as possible. Consider disregarding the manufacturer’s recommendations by clipping a microtrax to your last solid screw beneath the snowfield.

From the snowfield the easiest exit is to continue up and right. There’s often a short (5m) WI2-3 step here but beyond that you’ll just follow snowfields up several hundred feet to the summit. In fat conditions, two steeper, optional ice pitches (WI4) form at the top of the snowfield and are an excellent addition to the day.