Seth, Eric and I had this weekend held for climbing mt Daniel since February. Luckily, the weather cooperated and treated us to clear skies and sunshine (perhaps too much sun) for the entire weekend forecast. Seth is undeterred by heat so decided to get a later start and meet us at Peggy’s Pond basecamp. On the other hand, Eric and I are when when it is 60 degrees so we headed out of Everett at 2:30am.

The directions for the Trailhead indicated to that a FS 4330, a rough dirt road the final 12 miles. When we reached the junction on SR 930 for this road it was only labeled with a sign that pointed to different locations. No road name. You want to take the right fork onto the dirt road heading toward Tucquala Lake. Around mile 8.75 drive my car over a shallow creek. i had read that there were two creeks that crossed the road. Sometimes they run high enough so that only a high clearance vehicle can make it over. We were happy to find we could cross this creek. We were not so lucky with Scatter Creek ay mile 9. The water here was way to high from my CRV. We parked a little down the road in the open camping area.

We crossed the high creek in our underwear. Eric yelled profanities the whole way across. T he water was COLD… though this is expected from snow melt! The road is flat and we easily made our way to the Cathedral Rock (sometimes also called Cathedral  Pass TH depending on which sign you look at) seeing copious deer and an elk along the way.

The The first 2.5 miles of trail leading to Squaw Lake was pretty straight forward. We climbed switchbacks through the forest crossing some very high creek and streams. We had to search off the trail to find ways to cross on a few of them. There are logs and/or shallow areas if you look. About 1.2 miles in we began to hit snow patches. These grew larger making staying on the trail a bit challenging. However, it was never long before we crossed over a melt out sliver of trail. As long as you pay close attention and look for clues you will stay on track. We made it the Squaw Lake, a pretty area with many horse camps. Here is where our route finding adventure began. We were supposed to follow a trail, but in the mess of  social paths and camps by the lake and the heavy snow cover, we were unable to find the trail. We studied our topo map and began to go cross country. We circled close to the lake on the right side crossing a deep creek. There was a rock cliff on the other side of the lake. We we came near this we stayed slightly right and began to climb the ridge through the forest. There are lots of running creeks beneath the snow. You will hear them sunning. Be careful as the snow is unstable in many areas here.

We gained the ridge after some route finding. Basically the ideas is to go up. Then we turned left and walked toward the giant rock tower know as Cathedral Rock. We picked up the trail in a small melted area. We lost in again in the snow which was about 2 feet deep in the ridge. We reached Cathedral Pass eventually without much difficulty at 5,550Ft. There was supposed to be a sign here indicated the PCT, but we could not find it (probably buried under snow). We turned left and heading slightly downhill before turning right and beginning the traverse just beneath Cathedral Rock. The snow is melted on this side of the tower and we passed over lots of loose talus and dusty ground. We eventually saw the trail several yards below us and descending to it. This made the going much easier. As we reached the other side of Cathedral the trail once again dumped us out into snow. From here we ascended the snow through the trees back to the ridge crest.

Peggy’s Pond laid in the shadow of Cathedral Rock. It was frozen except from around the edged where the water glistened with a turquoise glow. We wandered the left side of the Pond and found the perfect place to camp . A stand of trees had created a giant melted out tree well. Perfect!

Eric and I laid out our bivys and unpacked our gear. While Eric prompted collapsed for his midday nap and amused myself by hanging my food from a different stand of trees. Usually i carry a bear canister, but I didn’t want to add another 3lbs to my already 43lbs pack. I tied on rock to perlon and after about a dozen throws (I’m a bad shot) I managed to toss the rock over a high branch. I strung my mesh bag of food and tied off the end. Satisfied with my accomplishment and got my ice axe and journeyed over to the base of Daniel.

Hyas Creek Glacier is the scramble route up Mt Daniel. This route was just 5 minutes from camp and marked by gigantic cairns. My team and I wanted to take a more technical route. We had settled on Lynch Glacier, the large mass of Ice on Mt Daniel. However, it would require us to traverse all the way to the other side of the mountain to Pea Soup Lake to access the glacier. On paper the walk didn’t seem that bad, but seeing the mountain in person provided a more realistic visualization of how much of an undertaking that would be. I took some photos and headed back to camp.

Seth showed up at around 6:00am announcing that he had hitched a ride to the trail-head from the creek crossing and to top that off, he’d walked to basecamp in 2.5 hours. Eric and I had taken about 7… but in our defense we had to stop a few times when looking to steam crossings (Set just walked through) and I had found some frogs on the trail (I had to thus catch them). Seth set up his bivy and we began the route discussion.

I had beta for every route up the mountain. Lynch Glacier would allow us to make a loop around the summit plateau. However, it would turn things into a 12 mile day. Getting to Pea Soup Lake to access Lynch Glacier would take several hours possibly and by then the sun would be melting the snow on the glacier. Lynch Glacier also had nothing special about it that would warrant the journey. Daniel Glacier seemed much more appealing. We begin by climbing Hyas Creek Glacier and then traverse right to access Daniel Glacier. Much more appealing and straightforward.

With the route agreed upon we filtered water and made our glorious freeze dried dinner (Seth actually loves Mountain House’s Chicken A la King and swears it just as good as fresh). We turned in agreeing to be on our journey by 5:00am.

We ended up leaving about 5:10am… not a huge delay, but still undesirable. The snow had frozen somewhat overnight and our crampons crunched through the hardened powder. We came to the basin leading to Hyas Creek Glacier. We crossed the basin on the right side of an obvious large rock. The climb was very gradual at first, but steeped continuously until we got the the first high angle slope. The snow was blazing down o0n us at this point and the snow was quickly softening. We had already stripped down to our base layers and slathered on sunscreen. After that first slope we turn right and crossed the flat top of the bench to the steeper slope leading to the next saddle. At this point the sound of massive ice fall on the other side of the mountain echoed around us. We knew our route was safe, but it’s still intimidating. We had one final slope to climb when we finally reached the top of the bench. However, being that we were in a nice flat spot we decided that this would be a good area to rope up. I took the lead being the smallest and easiest to pull out of a crevasse. Seth followed behind me and Eric took up the rear. We used a 40 meter rope with no Kiwi coil.

We climbed steadily crossing just beneath East Peak and a triangular pyramid tower to some exposed rocks on the ridge. From here we were able to peak over and see Daniel Glacier. Beyond we could see Pea Soup Lake and Lynch Glacier quite out of the way. There were two crevasses several hundred feet below us and a large crevasse directly across from us near East Peak’s Base. All others were buried. Crossing over the ridge was very steep and tricky as we needed to descent a few feet to get below the crevasse. It is very doable, but i would suggest facing the slope as you climb downward. The angle eased as I crossed under the crevasse. Probing revealed no hidden traps.

We traversed Daniel Glacier and then ascended to the summit plateau. Looking back we could see views of Glacier Peak and Mount Baker against clear blue skies. We crossed the plateau and climbed the lower angle slope to the obvious ridge in front of us.  The opposite side of the ridge was mostly melted out and an obvious trail lead through the talus. To the left was East Peak. Directly right was Middle peak and beyond that in the distance was the true summit of West Peak.  We unroped here and coiled it into Eric backpack. Our crampons came off as well. We followed the trail right, detouring to climb the loose talus leading to the top of Middle Peak. We then climb a short steep snow slope  (crampons back on) which led to the base of West Peak. Crampons removed again it took a few class 3 moves to bring us to the true summit. Seth took advantage of the phone reception to send some texts to my amusement.

We didn’t stay more that 15 minutes. The sun’s heat was causing the snow to soften more my the second and the possibility of ice fall on the descent was becoming more real. We were originally going to climb East Peak on the way back, but opted to descend immediately for safety sake. We returned to the summit Plateau and roped up. I led back across Daniel Glacier which was considerably softer now. I had to kick in deep to avoid the snow from sliding away from under my feet. When we reached the ridge we packed up the rope and glissaded back to the basin.

Back at camp we debated climbing Cathedral Rock NW Couloir scramble (which was our original plan) either the same day or the next morning. We toyed with the idea for over an hour. I wanted to climb in the morning, but i kept this information to myself as it was obvious that the guys were not keen to do it. I’d rather not climb with a team that doesn’t want to be there as I think that’s unsafe. The conclusion ended up being that we’d pack things up and head out a day early.

In summery, I would not go out of my way to climb Lynch. Daniel Glacier was a lovely route. Not difficult, but very aestedticlly pleasing. The views are splendid at the top and at basecamp. Great climb.

Eric and I didn’t have much time to climb on Sunday after the self-rescue course in Squamish, BC. We wanted to get on the road by noon since crossing the border back to America is always a massive undertaking. We didn;t have trad gear with us so we headed over to climb at Smoke Bluffs where there is easy access to set up top ropes.

Smoke Bluffs is a park  is right in the town of Squamish with a network of walls. Some routes top out on people’s backyards! The trails and walls are well labeled and the trail maintained with hand lines, ladders and steps. A bit too accessible for me. We hiked to a little out of the way crag called Lumberland which features a handful of climbs from 5.6 to 5.11d. Eric led up the only sport pitch there: Birthday Girl 5.6. There were supposed to be 3 bolts, but the first one was missing. Not that exciting a route. We moved the rope over to the next anchor left to climb Birthday Boy 5.7 which has a nice crux section. We did the 5.6 and 5.7 variations

of Check Mark (cracks). Eric then climbed Erica 5.10b and thus completed his very first outdoor 10b! I was about to get on this route with a downpour began. We were forced to pack things up and head out. Glad we got in some good routes though before the rain!

Lumberland Wall

Lumberland Wall

Eric and I drove to Canada this weekend for a Self Rescue Course in Squamish, BC. The course is offered by Whistler Guides which is owned by MSA (the company that I took my ice climbing course through). I cannot recommend these companies enough for any and all outdoor sport courses. The Canadian guide certification course is stricter than America’s and course structure is much more efficient. Plus I really like Canadians. We rigged a massive amount of scenarios in our 1 day class. In America the class would have than multiple days.

After the class Eric, Jeanelle, Adam and I wandered into the forest by Stawamus Chief. The Chief as a massive wall known for it pristine multi-pitch climbs. But below the wall and throughout Squamish is some of the best bouldering in North America. We went to an area called Titanic North and warmed up on the areas namesake boulder: Titanic. We began with the V0 “Dumb Slab”. I personally didn’t find it that appealing. It was mostly a staircase slab. The next problem we worked was “Twister” V1. This juggy problem offered some good moves though I didn’t finish it. It should be noted that the chalk was so thick on the jugs here that I was slipping off the holds even after i brushed it.

We moved on along the boulder working out Moana V0, The Telltale Heart and Steppin’ Out V0. We worked for a long time on Big Bottoms V2, but only Eric mastered that one. Finally we moved on to the boulder problem I had heard a whole bunch about and couldn’t wait to do.

Birth Canal is only a V0, but is is hugely entertaining! It begins in the back of a small cave. You climb though this narrow slot between two boulder toward the sliver of daylight on the other end. The hardest part is getting into the slot… from then on you have to wiggle though a diagonal chimney to the opening to daylight. This con be completed on your stomach or back. The descent required you to reverse route. AWESOME!

 

Our original plan was to climb ” Prime Rib” a famous 11-14 pitch route on Goat Wall in Mazama. However, after climbing Liberty Bell and South Early Winter Spire  (and waking up at at 3am for two days) we decided to do some more chill climbs. We headed over to Fun Rock Sector (or Mazama Rocks). The parking lot of clearly labeled as the “Climbers Parking Lot” along Lost River Road. Everything else is also fully labeled. Each rock Wall along the very well maintained trail is labeled with a nice sign. It felt kind of wrong to us after climbing in cragging/sport areas that features lots of route finding.

Our objective was to climb at Sun Rock which is up the hill from Fun Rocks and a bit out of the way (though it had a clear trail). There are a nice range of routes here. They are all bolted and on very features, clean rock. Unfortunately, it is called sun rock for a reason. It got very hot very fast on this crag.

I led up Gobbledygook 5.6 first to warm up. It was a good route and should have been easier, but i was mentally spent from alpine climbing. Eric was exhausted period. We decided to just do some top ropes. The top of the routes all have chains at are easily access by walking around the right side of the wall. We did Smoove 5.7and Prometheus The Giggolo 5.8. All the routes required lots of edges and the use of pocket and finger holds. Then we moved to the other side of the wall and climbed Plexus 5.9. This was my favorite route, but also the most scary since the route begins way right of the anchor before traversing over on a large ledge. Thus if you fall before the ledge you will pendulum swing wide.  I’m not sure I would recommend top roping this one.

By then it was noon and the sun was blazing. It was agreat into to climbing at Mazama. But not it was hot and time to head home.

“The Beckey Route” (also called South West Face) on Liberty Bell is the most famous climb in the Liberty Bell Group and a alpine classic. It is a well sustained 5.7 climb and, as the name suggests, pioneered by climber Fred Beckey. There ares till some pitons from his ascent on the route! Start early on this climb to avoid crowds or come early season.

Eric and I began the approach from Blue Lake Trailhead along Highway 20 at 4:00am to get ahead of the crowds. We climbed North Early Winters Spire the day before so finding our way through the snowy forest went much quicker. The trail was covered in snow with tracks that zigzagged everywhere. Generally you have to head south until reaching a clearing where the spires become fully visible.

At the clearing one can not simply ascend straight up the slopes to Liberty Bell. There are huge slabs in the way of reaching the gulley (between Liberty Bell and Concord) directly. Instead we had to begin ascending further right bast there slabs and then cut across when we got above them. We wore crampons since the snow was hard in the early morning. Later season when the snow melts out there is a climbers trail through talus and boulders. We think the snow approach is easier.

The final gulley ascent to the notch between Liberty Bell and Concord Tower is very steep, but we did not feel to warranted roping up. Near the top we had to do a bit a light mixed climbing across some exposed rock, but nothing to technical. 50 feet below the notch the snow was melted out. We anchored our mountaineering packs on the rocks here using a picket as a stopper and geared up taking our food with us in summit packs (chipmunks). We contemplated where the route was located for some time. It is not at the top of the notch but below it along a narrow ledge beside a small snag. The area is a wind tunnel and is fully shaded most of the day. Bring layers!

Eric led the first pitch up finger cracks. The way is easy to find and fun. I would have enjoyed following up to the tree belay if my handed were freezing so badly!

Just below the tree belay the sound pitch begin at a chimney. This is the crux of the climb. There is a chockstone wedge in about teen feet up. If you do not get your left foot out on the obvious ledge to climbers left as quickly as possible your head will get wedge beneath the chockstone. There is some fixed sling on the chockstone here, but I wouldn’t trust them. I found this section difficult to do with a backpack and rack. Above this section the chimney continues. The going is easier, but having a rack on my harness made some of the squeezes more difficult for me. After the chimney ended I reached some low angle slabs. I anchored the the second highest snag and belayed Eric up.

Pitch 3 requires the most route finding. Afetr making a few wrong turns Eric made his way left over an easy face and delicate finger traverse. He belayed me from a nice tree ledge. Be sure to study the topo well before doing this pitch. We memorized it and still got confused. the key is to head left over the slabs.

Eric and I short roped a few yards on easy terrain to pitch 4, the former crux (before there were climbing shoes) of the route. Fred Becky did a famous shoulder stand to clear a 5.7 face known as a 12ft unprotected boulder problem. I led this pitch. I didn’t find the face very difficult… but i like friction climbing. After that the way was low fifth class. I anchored to a tree just below the summit and brought Eric up.

The summit is a 20ft scramble away over easy terrain. Again we were graced with some awesome views on this clear day! We were joined by two other parties a few minutes later… a quiet day on Liberty Bell.

The descent can be a bit tricky. We reverse route down-climbing to the top of pitch 3 (we down-climbed the boulder problem, but it would have been wiser to lower the first person and have the second shoulder stand to get down). We them headed left following a clear boot path through tree until we could walk right to a sloping ledge. We rappelled off fixed chains to another small ledge (will fit 4 people snugly) with chains. It is important on the second rappel that you aim more left as you come down or you will miss the notch and end up having to ascend the rope. Knot your ends!

We gathered our gear and headed out. We easily plunge stepped down the gulley did several glissades. Be sure aim left as you descend to avoid running into the slabs below. We reached the clearing and headed into the forest again. This time where were clear tracks to follow back to the car.

This route is rated five stars for a reason. Inspiring, sustained and fun climbing to an awesome summit!

Gear Notes:

1 set of nuts, Cams .5-3 inches (some doubles if you want, but not required), mid sized hexes, lots of slings (long pitches)

 

 

After sleeping in my car Thursday night  we woke up at 3am at the Blue Lake Trailhead along highway 20. The sun’s light was already illuminating the outline of the surrounding mountains of the North Cascades. Groggily we ate breakfast, shouldered our packs and started out on the day’s adventures at 4:00am . Our objective was South Early Winters Spire also knows simply as SEWS. It is the tallest formation of the chain of  massive rock spires near Washington Pass known at the Liberty Bell Group. You can also approach the group via the “Hairpin” turn further down the road, but our sources hinted that Blue Lake Trail was a bit shorter.

The Blue Lake trail was hidden beneath snow this early in the season making it impossible to actually follow a trail. Old and barely visibly footprints zigzagged through the forest in various directions. We made out own way through the tree as the sun rose in the sky heading in the general direction of the spires that we could see every now and then through gaps in the forest (south). We were supposed to end up in a clearing eventually.

We did enter a clearing with many steams running beneath the snow. Careful here as the snow bridges don’t always hold and you can fall into the running water beneath. We were a little further down the clearing than we needed to be and closer to Blue Mountain than the Liberty Bell Group. We could see a wide and mostly clear avalanche gulley leading up to the ridge between SEWS and Blue Mountain. We turned and began to slowly make our way up the steep snow slope to the ridge. Later in the season there is a climbers trail weaving through talus and boulders during this section. The presence of s snow probably made the approach easier as were were able to go straight up and not twist our ankles on rocks. We did wear crampons through as the snow was hard so early in the morning.

Finally we gained the ridge. We geared up here and tied our mountaineering packs to one of the many scrub trees. There are goats in the area that love to explore backpacks! We brought our summit packs with some layers and all our food with up on the climb however (chipmunks were running around waiting for a meal).

We were climbing the “South Arete” 5.6 route. This is the easiest route on SEWS and the second most popular route of the entire group (hence us starting early). The first pitch is the crux of the route containing the only 5.6 part of the climb. The start is described as a crack behind a flake. It was hard to figure out which crack behind a flake our beta was referring to as there seemed to e many features that fit that description. I was leading this pitch and in the end I ended up doing what I thought resembled some reachy boulder moves along a line where I was able to place only two pieces of protects (a cam omni and tree sling). As it turned out I took the what is referred to as the “reach variation” (left of traditional route) which as almost no pro. The pitch is 90ft long with a tree to belay off of at the top.

Eric lead pitch 2 which was mostly a gulley 4th class scramble until the very end where you have to climb out of the gulley via a 5.4 chimney. A few tricky moves here, but not that challenging. At this point a soloist passed us. he said he had downclimbed the route any times in the past and thus didn’t feel he needed a rope.

Pitches 3-6 are low 5th class. Eric and a kiwi coiled 1/3 of the rope at this point and simul-climbed quickly through this blocky section. The toughest move was a 5.3 over a bulge.

Pitch 7 begins with a section know as “White Camel”. It is a knife edge block that is not difficult to cross, but very exposed. There is a bolt in the center to protect the crossing. The group behind us unroped and dropped there gear here. They crossed without protection. Eric belayed me over the section. Most people cross on the right side of the edge, some straddle the top and very few cross on the left which is more shear. I crossed on the right Then I belayed Eric in.

We untied at this point and scrambled over massive blocks and boulders (class 4 & 5.0) to the summit. There was plenty of space for the five of us up there. The day was clear with sweeping views of Kangaroo Ridge, Wine Spires, Cutthroat Peak, Glacier Peak, Black Peak… everything! The sun was very strong and refection off the snow. Bring lots of sunblock and sunglasses!

To descend we reversed route and down climbed back to the top of Pitch 2 (we did belay across the white camel however). From there we did two rappels off the trees. It is recommended that you do not use a double rope rappel since it will most likely get stuck.

We were greeted by some climbers that were just arriving to the route and a goat inspecting the packs when we arrived back at the ridge. We desended via several glissade chute on the now softened snow down the steepest part of the gulley. We then decided to traverse across beneath the spires to scout out the the next days approach to Liberty Bell before continuing back to the car. We glissaded several more times. However, there are some massive slabs beneath the spires. Be very careful not to glissade into the rocks. As you descend aim more to the left to avoid them.

We arrived at the clearing and made our way again through the forest. When we finally arrived back at the car were were exhausted and ready for our freeze dried dinner. The South Arete is not a route for someone looking to do some “real” rock climbing. It is not all that inspiring a route in my opinion, but it did offer excellent views.

Gear Notes:

We were over prepared. You really just need a light rack. Full set of nuts, 3 mid sized hexes, Cams .5-2.5 inches. Two double runners to sling trees