I just moved back to Washington from Denver and I was psyched to get out in the North Cascades on return.
I met Byron at the Mt Baker Ski Area on Friday evening and we camped out so that we could have a leisurely start Saturday morning. The road is currently closed up to Artist Point at the Heather Meadows Visitor Center, or Grandma’s Hut as I’ve know it to be called. This added only a small amount of milage/elevation to our destination for the day, the White Salmon camp just below Winnies Slide.
We started at 10:30am and made it to Lake Ann by noon. It was a warm day and we stopped by the lake to have lunch before starting up the trail toward the Chimneys.
The trail past Lake Ann is well established and there are a number of good camp sites about 5-10 minutes down the trail just before the creek crossing. After that the path switchbacks up steeply for a ways and crosses a talus field just before entering the first of the chimneys.
There were a number of groups climbing that day so it wasn’t difficult to see the route from a distance but even without other folks to follow, the path seemed to be well established. We made it to camp just before 4pm.
The next morning we started our climb at 6am. The lower bivy site didn’t have a great water source so we climbed Winnies Slide, the first steep snow pitch, up to Camp 2 where there was a good flow coming out of the Upper Curtis Glacier. We filled our water bottles and then started onto the snow.
The glacier was in great shape and travel was straightforward with minimal obstacles to navigate. We climbed the Hourglass, the second and final steep snow pitch, before traversing on to the Sulphide Glacier. The upper stretch of the Sulphide was also in good shape and we climbed it up to the based of the South East Ridge on the summit block where we took a brief break before starting our climb on the ridge.
There are a couple of notches you can start the ridge climb from. We chose the further right and slightly deeper notch which resulted in some light down-climbing after the first pitch. This put us at the saddle of the second notch. We simul-climbed the route in 3ish blocks. It is mostly 3rd class with a few steeper but unsustained low 5 moves.
We summited at 10:30am and turned around quickly to start the long slog back to the car. We down climbed via the gully which was ultimately going to be much quicker than waiting around to rappel it. The gully down-climbed no harder than 4th class.
Both snow pitches we rappelled on fixed deadman that had been buried at the top of both Hourglass and Winnies. We made it back to our camp at 2pm. A nap was the vibe at this point so we took a brief one then packed up and walked out of camp around 3:30pm
The climb down the chimneys with our overnight packs wasn’t too tricky. The first two “pitches” off the ridge were the most sustained 4th class and it seemed to ease up after that. We were able to down-climb the whole thing without any additional rappels. I think we hit the lake at 6pm, only 4 more miles to go.
Things slowed down for us after this, finally we got to the cars at 8:40pm. Just under a 15 hour day. Not too bad. It’s nice to be back in the Cascades.
Peak of the Week is back! And after a considerable hiatus. The adventures never actually stopped, the motivation to write about them stalled out for a bit. It was temporarily.
This year we wanted to utilize a long holiday weekend on the 4th of July for a long holiday climb. Our plan was to try the Northeast Buttress on Mt Goode in the North Cascades. We would go in via Bridge Creek at Rainey Pass, carryover on the climb and exit through Stehekin taking three days for the trip.
Mt Goode is characterized by its remoteness within North Cascades national Park with it’s NE buttress being one of the longer technical ridge climbs in the state.
Campers were lining up at the Marblemount Ranger Station for overnight permits when I pulled into the parking lot at 6:50am on Friday morning. Covid restrictions had the park operating with just one permitting station at a time causing a decent amount of irritation. Despite all of this, 3 hours later when they finally called my ticket number still no one had requested a permit within the Goode back country zone. Although we anticipated something close to that, it was also telling.
From there we drove the the Bridge Creek trail head just over Rainey Pass, and finally started our hike at 11:30am. Tim’s folks, Clay and Chris saw us off for the first 6 miles of the trip until they turned off at the the South Fork and we continued on our way. Crossing a suspension bridge at Maple Creek, turning north up the north fork toward Grizzly Creek Camp.
Here the brush got a lot thicker as this trail does not see as much use. We spent a few minutes searching for a suitable creek crossing over Grizzly Creek and finally cut off the trail after a few more miles to cross the North Fork to start up the south side of the valley.
It was about 6:00pm at this point an we had been setting a fairly speedy pace covering about 16 miles in 6.5 hours but now we had 2000 feet of elevation to climb and not even a hint of a trail to do it on. The climb up to camp is a bit of a dealers choice with a little bit of everything and a lot of tearing through various stands of slide alder. A snow apron down low helped to mitigate some of the hard travel early on but once we cut right to navigate up, through and above the slabs the brush closed in on us delivering a classic North Cascades experience for the next 1200 vertical feet.
The terrain is steep below the glacier and once you leave the creek down low you can count the number of level spots suitable for even a small tent on a couple fingers. We found one at 5200ft and squeezed two tents on to it comfortably, finally dropping our bags for the day at 7:45pm.
The next morning we were up by 5:30am, packed up and moving by 7am. The slabs below the glacier made for some enjoyable 3rd and 4th class scrambling until we ultimately roped up for the glacier crossing.
The glacier itself was in good shape with minimal hazards. Even moving from the glacier across the moat and onto the ridge at 6800ft was a straightforward experience. Now it was time for the main event. Stow the ice axe and crampons and pull out the climbing gear.
We had expected sunny weather for our climb day, however when we woke up in the morning the top of the mountain was obscured by clouds. As we climbed the clouds did as well, all the while offering a cooler day.
The first bit of climbing offers some reasonably steep moves before turning the corner and moving up onto a slab. From here we stayed more or less true to the ridge for the next 1500 ft moving through a variety of gniess ranging from 3rd to low 5th class in its grade, ultimately touching 5.5 for the last few hundred feet directly below the big ledge at 8600ft. This is where we decided to settle for the night.
I find these long ridge routes often feel deceiving because it can be so hard to judge your progress against the ridge itself. You spend hours climbing with seemingly little to no progress made toward your objective. After climbing for 8 hours that day we were ready to give it a rest as soon as we found a suitable bivy and the ledge proved to be that. Room for a couple tents, plenty of snow to melt for water, a perch that offered views in three different directions and for the first time on our trip the clouds had finally burnt off giving us a spectacular sunset. At 6:00pm we had the rest of the evening to enjoy it.
The next morning the clouds were gone the sun was out and it was time to finish the thing off. We anticipated about 3 more hours to the top at 9,199, so we packed up and hit the gas. Were we had spent most of the previous day simul-climbing it seemed easier to pitch out the remainder of the ridge. The climbing and steepened up a bit and was pretty steady mid 5th to the summit.
We topped out at 10:30am on a gorgeous sunny Sunday, July 5th. From the summit you can see every major peak in the North Cascades and an overwhelming number of the minor peaks as well. Goode has a feeling of sitting directly in the heart of the region. We lingered just long enough to take a selfie before hurrying to start the process down. Our intent was to make it to Stehekin that night where we had booked a room at the landing and we had some serious ground to cover ahead of us.
Two rappels back down the way that we came puts you on a thin ledge that traverses around to the south side of the mountain to a notch at the top of the South East Couloir. This is the descent, more or less a straight shot of -5200 vertical ft to Park Creek.
Rappels turn into scrambling, turned into glissading, turned into down climbing and finally into a bushwhack through first burnout and then a sea of sword ferns until we finally a hit trail again at 6pm. It was the first trail we had seen in 2 days and now we had 12 miles to go on it before we had any hope of our day being over.
The pace into the Stehekin Valley was quick and we raced the sun as it set toward night time. The 12 miles we still had to cover was just to get to the upper valley where the road meets the trail at High Bridge. Past that is still another 12 miles to reach the landing at Lake Chelan where we had reserved a spot for the night. We reached High Bridge at 9pm, took inventory of our situation and decided the only option was to keep walking. (Often there is a shuttle that operates on this road but we were well past its sechduled hours) After about 5 miles on a dark empty road in the woods a car slowed as it passed and offered a ride for the remaining stretch. We enthusiastically accepted and thus finally ended our long trip.
What a climb! It had all of the characteristics of a Cascade adventure. Soggy weather, remote setting, loose rock, route finding, glacier travel, engaging climbing, spectacular sunsets, berry pies at the bakery and a good group of climbing friends. I know it’s early but it may be time to start planning for next years trip.
This year Tim and I decided we wanted to learn the true meaning of Labor Day so while we could have spent our three day weekend climbing anywhere we chose the Pickets, a range in the North Cascades known by climbers for its remoteness and inaccessibility. In 1931 when all of the major peaks in the Tetons had established routes the Pickets saw their first recorded technical ascent. When people talk about the wild of the North Cascades they are talking about the Pickets.
So we decided on the east ridge of Inspiration Peak, a route first climbed by Becky and company in 1958. We started from Upper Goodell Creek Campground at 10am on Saturday morning. The first 4 miles follows an overgrown road bed along the east side of the creek until it abruptly ends, signaled by a cairn and turns uphill. From there it was an unrelenting 5000 ft charge uphill on what is generously called a climbers trail. But even that doesn’t tell the full story, in a place where an approach is better measured in time rather than distance. And 8 hours later we made camp following a well traveled trail into a gravel basin at 6000 ft with a meadow at the bottom and plenty of water to make up for the lack of it on the approach. Big views of terror basin the the southern Pickets took some of the hurt off from the approach and reset our motivation.
The moon was so bright at night that I woke up and ask Tim to turn off his headlamp and I saw the big dipper sitting right on top of Inspiration Peak. That must have been around midnight. Four hours later I woke up to make breakfast and by 4:45am we were on the trail picking our way around boulders and across massive rock slabs on our way up to the glacier. We tried to follow the cairns across the outlet of a lakelet and then down and across a bigger ravine that we made note of because the scramble up the other side was a little tricky but also tough to identify from the top. (note: It may be easier to swing way up high on this one and cross over the creek around 6400.)
When we hit the glacier we roped up for some fairly straight forward glacier travel up until our final crevasse crossing. We navigated it by down climbing off of a snow bridge onto a lower ledge and climbing out. And then we stood at the bottom of the route, 7,400 ft above the ocean, four hours after we had started. We simul-climbed the first “two” pitches following a series of gullies and ledges trending toward a notch between the east ridge and a small spire to its right. The climbing gradually turns into a blocky face that we broke out into two 5.7 pitches as we worked our way onto the east ridge.
The next two pitches are the ones we came all the way out here for. The layback pitch starts exactly how it sounds climbing right around the roof and then straight up to a roomy belay at the bottom of a splitter hand crack. The crack climbs straight up and offers the occasional face hold but mostly excellent hand and foot jamming. At the top we cut out right aiming at the notch in the rock around the roof and then up and left to a belay.
Now through the crux we simuled the last “three” pitches to help ease the rope drag on a wandering climb across the top. From above the hand crack drop on to the north side and then up and left and around the south side of the east summit. We crossed the ridge down climbing to the base of the True summit and then and easy low fifth class scramble all the way up checking in at the top at 4pm.
Now the good part. Three double length rappels down the West Ridge. Raps are easy to find. Three more double length rappels down the gully. Lots of loose rock with very little protection offered from above. This took us 3 hours. Then we were standing at the upper glacier trying to figure how to cross a massive moat to get up on top of the snow. As it was, we climbed down underneath the glacier through a tunnel and popped out on a ledge in a crevasse. It was dusk now and we were loosing light, so with no great option to get out we front pointed straight up and out which was a less desirable approach with a lot of exposure to what lay below but ultimately better than turning around and finding another route out in the dark.
The rest of the trek back was long and circuitous in the dark, but generally uninteresting. Back at camp at 11:30pm. We had stashed a couple beers in the creek that made the hike back slightly more bearable and made dinner slightly more enjoyable.
Slept in on Monday but the smoke came in that night to punished us in the morning and then on out hike out. We made it back to the car in 6 hours. It doesn’t get much more Cascades than this. It may take awhile to forget the approach and head back into the heart of darkness that is the Pickets but we did well in honoring the holiday.