Action Potential, Burgundy Spire III 5.10c


Washington Pass, Washington, USA

  • Currently 3.0/5
Avg time to climb route: 4-8 hours
Approach time: 3-5 hours
Descent time: 3-5 hours
Number of pitches: 8
Height of route: 800'
This is a quality route with a little bit of everything. It’s a newer route and is still dirty, and while there is some loose rock, most of the route is comprised of fairly solid granite. If this route were cleaner, it would certainly be a classic. There are some death blocks to be careful of in the chimney, and while the crux pitches have been scrubbed, some they are still a little dirty. The crux, as well as everything 5.9 and harder, protects well, and the crux sports a clean fall, making it a great place for 5.10 climbers to push themselves at the grade. This climb is a fun, adventurous climb and off the beaten path.

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Route History
Action Potential was first climbed by Mark Allen and Mike Layton on July 18-20, 2004. Allen and Layton had each spotted the potential line while climbing other peaks
in the area. Then in July of 2004, they began the long hike up and over Burgundy Col and headed down to the east face of Burgundy. On their hike the pair couldn’t help wondering, “Would there be cracks or would there be compact granite seams of overlapping roofs?”
The sky was leaden with dark clouds adding to the feeling of uncertainty. To their surprise, they discovered splitter white granite they couldn’t believe. The rock was better than they could have hoped for. Layton led Pitch 1, a flake that soared up the clean grey granite to a weird offwidth-like roof, but there was gear and the climbing was awesome and engaging. Then it started to rain. They questioned continuing, but as Allen seconded the pitch it stopped raining. The pair went on.

Pitch 2 looked quite improbable, a series of blank looking slabs and roofs. The pair wasn’t sure the route would go any farther. Layton remembers thinking, “we’re going to be shut down?” Despite the improbable looking rock above, Allen started up and to his surprise instead of the 5.11 slab he thought he would encounter, he found an easy finger crack and yelled, “Dude, this slab has a perfect 5.7 finger crack up the center,” and then, “Dude, the headwall has a finger crack with positive holds,” and finally, “Dude, the ramp has a finger crack in it.” Everything had a finger crack. By the time Allen got to the final overhang finger crack, it had started to rain again, much harder this time.

As the lichen-covered rock began to get wet, Allen began to aid. Once the thunder and lightning started, the pair rapped off and headed back down to Mazama to wait out the storm. It rained hard through the next morning and the duo headed up with overnight gear but under still ominous skies. They started climbing at 4:30 pm, not exactly an alpine start, and they knew they had to move fast.

They stretched out their pitches and quickly regained their high point from the previous day. Allen did a mix of free and aid climbing on what was to become the crux of the route. Layton led the next pitch, a series of wild and spooky flakes that led to a major ledge system. After scrambling up some easier ground, Allen led a long pitch that took them most of the way up the massive chimney system that splits the upper face. Layton led the final pitch to gain the upper shoulder on Burgundy where their route now joined the 1953 Beckey Northeast Face route. They climbed the exposed ridge to the summit and finished the rappels in the dark.

On the third day, Allen and Layton established a variation to their route that started on the left before crossing their route and rejoining on the right. They named their variation the Beautiful Crack and rated it III+ 5.10a.
This was Allen’s first new route at Washington Pass and he named it Action Potential because he felt like it was the first of many first ascents to come. Action Potential is one of the only alpine routes that Allen established that wasn’t named after a song or album. Ironically, Action Potential is a song that was released after their first ascent.

As of the writing of this book, Action Potential has seen between seven and ten ascents. I hope that from this book the route gets more traffic and cleans up more, but the chance of crowds is slim. Because this is...   [full history for SuperTopo members only!]

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Everything You Need to Know About Washington Pass
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Source: SuperTopo Guidebook Staff Last update: August 28, 2012
Burgundy Spire - Action Potential III 5.10c - Washington Pass, Washington, USA. Click to Enlarge
Burgundy Spire Action Potential
Photo: Ian Nicholson
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