Another attempt at a rest weekend that resulted in being, well, comparatively restful. We decided that our main objective was to climb North Ingalls Peak via The 5.7 East Ridge. If time and energy allowed we would also climb the S Ridge, South Peak and East Peak.

The day promised to me warm when we began to walk the road to the Esmeralda Basin Trailhead 9Ingalls N Fork Road is closed a mile short of the Th at Iron Mountain). Clear skies and fun sun. Not my favorite and I hoped higher elevations would be cooler. Luckily, it was early in the morning so the real heat of the day was not yet present. It took us three hours to get from the TH to the camping area a mile away from Ingalls Lake. Not bad considering that we’d brought 2 ropes for the rappel and had a full rack of trad gear. There were lots of people camped or on the slabs, but we found a nice flat slab relatively far away from the others and set up camp. There are lots of goats in the area and they are pretty relentless visitors. They weren’t aggressively persistent though like others I have encountered.

With the tent set up we hung the rest of our overnight gear out of the goats reach and headed off for the climb. We followed the trail to a junction With Ingalls way and Ingalls Way Alt. We found out by trial and error that the alternative did not go to Ingalls Lake. We turned back and took the right intersection which did lead to the Ingalls Lake. I hadn’t been there in 4 years and I;d forgotten how beautiful it was with Ingalls Peaks in the backdrop on one side and Stuart in the other. There were throngs of folks around on this bright summer day and we didn’t linger. We had a mountain to climb away from the crowds!

We went up the easy to navigate slabs toward the 3 peaks. We then followed carins in a short, rocky gully with a few tricky stops on a 5ft headwall and access up the upper talus. Here we left the carins which headed up the the S Ridge Route and instead aimed for the Notch between the North and East Peaks. We crossed a few small snowfields and then entered the gully staying to left basically in a wide moat until we reached a small flatish area where we geared up. From here we scrambled up left  the obvious rock gully to the start of the first pitch of both SW Face of the East Peak and East Ridge of South Peak.

We really didn’t have a plan yet as to what summit(s) we would go for as I began to lead the first pitch. It is mostly class 3-4 which one or two easy class five moves. I think I placed 2 pieces and clipped into a small tree with a sling already on it. The Pitch end at a large and obvious chockstone and there of fixed slings on the big horn as well. It is advisable to extend the clove hitch though for belay as the anchor is around the corner which creates rope drag.

Once Damien joined me we had a decision to make. He belayed me out to take a look at  the SW Face Route of east Peak which is rarely done. It didn;t seem very clean. Due to this and the fact that it was already mid-afternoon we opted to go right to climbing the East Ridge of North Peak. Damien took the lead and I kiwi coiled the rope to 30 Meters for long simul-climb ahead.

We simul-climbed 3 pitches in total. These pitches were clas 3-low 5th class and stay on the ridge. I followed Damien up class 4 rock to a short class 5 hand traverse with only smearing for feet. Fun! Then we climbed onto the knife edge and around the right side of a pillar before down climbing another exposed edge. This was my least favorite part of the climb. The climb continues on fun class 4 very exposed rock along the ridge. Damien could have continued to lead to the bottom of the crux 5.7 move. But he stopped on a big ledge and belayed me in so I could lead another pitch. I traverse across some more class 4 exposed rock to the next belay spot under the crux. I might as well free soloed it since I found no place to out in pro. I felt secure though the whole time. After I belayed in Damien from a gear anchor I headed up the crux 5.7 move. It is marked by and awkward offwidth crack, no feet and a reachy move to a good hand hold more suited for a taller than my 5.5″. I spend a good amount of time trying to work out the sequence and tried to french free the move as well, but needed a second #4 silver camp for the offwidth crack which I did not have. I ended up passing the lead off to Damien who managed to free the move beautifully!

The climb to the summit after the crux is once again class 4-3. We unroped at the base of the summit block and climbed the final easy few feet solo. We didn;t stay too long though as it was early evening and we didn’t want to rappel in the dark. We walked around to the south side and easily found the two rap bolts a little off the left on the easy ledge. Here came the tricky part. We’d read that a double rope rappel was required so we tossed two ropes down. One was twin rope that always turns into a bird’s nest when tossed. In the havoc of untangling the mess as I rappelled I ended up taking an alternate more direct route to the base of the climb. However, there was no doubt the ropes would have gotten hung up once pulled and I still have to scramble a few yards to truly get to the bottom. Damien saw a few intermediate raps on the slab as he rappelled and re-tossed the ropes from there. He did one additional rappel to reach the bottom (single rope).

After meeting back up we packed up our gear and headed back down the talus and snow enjoying spectacular views of Mt Stuart in a orange evening glow. We didn’t get back to camp until after dark. The goats hadn’t disturbed anything to our relief. Watching headlamps of climbers on the routes of Mt Stuart we did our camp chores and had dinner. As we were preparing to turn in for the night the moon popped out from the horizon and it was red. I’d never seen something like that before. I did some research and found no explanation.

We decided that night that we would give the South Ridge of N Peak and South Peak a try the next morning since we were in the area. Hey why not? However, the S Ridge is a very popular and often crowded route so we had to rise early and beat everyone else there. We were walking by 4:00am.

Unlike the day before were were the only people resent when we passed Ingalls Lake and began to climb the talus as the sun illuminated the world of rock that surrounded us. We climbed through the talus and a snow field to reach the notch between North and South Ingalls Peak and roped up at the base of the climb on the lake side of Dog Crags. I lead the first pitch which begins as an easy class 4/5 joint to the upper slaps. There the class 5 climbing begins. The route takes the crack in the middle of the slab which seems tame at first glace. It does protect well, but the climbing is dicey. The key thing to remember on Ingalls is red/beige rock= grippy and greenish rock=slippery. This crack was basically made the the green/blue slippery rock and sometimes it was like climbing on glass. At least it protected well. I belayed Damien up from a huge boulder with multiple slings. From here there is some more easy class 4 to an optional anchor on another boulder before the start of another slab with a few crack options. The cracks looked intimidating from where we stood freezing in the surpriasing frigid weather even with every layer on. I decided to go up to the next anchor and get a closer look. As expected, upon closer inspection the middle 5.6 crack was clean and good, however, I’m not confident leading 5.6 pure crack yet. The left crack 5.4 option was made of the same glossy, glassy, slippery green rock, only steeper than what I’d just done. And to top it off on the top of the crack was a nice bulge. Ugh… not something I was hoping to see when I was freezing and on 4 hours of sleep and Damien was too tired to lead safely. I belayed him up to me and after some discussion we decided to rappel. We’d gotten the summit the day before and in our condition we couldn’t justify moving forward. But it had been fun playing on the mountain that morning. We did a single rope rappel to the bottom.

The Lake was still deserted when we reached it so we hung out there for a bit. While high on Ingalls it had been arctic, the day was getting rather hot down below. In fact, the entire hike out reminded me of last summer’s sweltering weather. I hope it cools down again soon!

 

 

Sometimes when you’ve been wanting to attempt a summit for over five years you’ll make certain concessions to make the trip woke. In this case after our 4 day trip got rained out in May Damien, Ivan and I decided we would do a Mount Olympus in a grueling 3 day instead since we were running low on PTO. We knew it would involve physical and mental endurance to the extreme.  The climb and approach are not technically difficult, but the length and pack weight would test us. It would be 44 miles total with 50+lb packs. Let the suffering begin!

On Thursday I left work early and drove to the Peninsular to pick up the permit for the climb. We needed to begin the next day before the ranger station opened due to the 17.5 miles we had to trek so this was a necessary step.  I slept in my car at The Hoh Rain forest Ranger Station waking up to greet Damien and Ivan when they arrived around 11pm. We were up and moving at 5:30am, ready tp begin our journey.

The approach is along the Hoh River Trail which is so long and flat the elevation gain of 1200 feet is hardly noticed. The trail follows the silty Hoh River within the shadows of the mossy Hoh Rainforest. It is very unlike the cascade mountain and truly a unique environment. We made pretty good time except for the fact the the trail was so lllllllllllllong and after awhile we were growing weary of looking at moss. We wanted to get into the alpine!

We passed The Olympus Ranger Station, stopping briefly at the nearby gravel bar for a longer break and snack at 9.1 miles thinking that the climbing would begin right after we reentered the rainforest from the meadow. However, we had to wait until about mile 12.5 for switchbacks to begin! By then our feet hurt from the flat hard ground and the upward motion was most welcome! It was what we had been waiting for all day!

Slowly we rose out of the rainforest. My feet were killing me and I had ro soak them again at a creek. Al of us were beat from the weight of the pack and milage we already out in. We pressed on pushing our bodies upward until we reached Elk Lake. Elk Lake is at 2670ft. We rested again here near the shelter feeling envious of all the backpackers for which this lake was their final destination. But we were climbers and the approach was not yet over. We hoisted our packs once me and once again melted into the trees.

We switch-backed upward and out of the rainforest passing a mountain goat on the side of the trail as if there to greet us as we moved into the alpine. The trees thinned as we hiked along a ledge with the earth fall steeply below us in the abyss of the basin below. We followed along this ascending ledge until abruptly we found ourselves looking down into a 150ft  gorge. We had been waiting to reach this section. A few years ago the trail got washed out by a slide. Now instead of a simple skip across a creek there was a rope and wood ladder leading down into the deep ravine. The good news was that this washout is very close to the Glacier Meadows Camp. Thew bad news was that we had to loose elevation.

I descending first to test out the ladder There was one wooding step missing, but other than that it was all surprisingly stable. When we were all down we walked to the fall wall and followed cairns up the gorge and eventually back on the trail and into the forest. It wasn’t long until we broken out of the wood and into a meadow: Glacier Meadows. We passed the Blue Glacier cutoff and a few wooden shelters. It seemed like the only camp left was the best one, all the way on the end with private across to a creek. Excellent! It was kind of cramped though and truly only meant for one tent. We made too work though. After filtering water and dinner we were visited by two large bucks. A peaceful animal and we too finally felt a peace after a long day on our feet. We turned in before dark to get whatever sleep we could… and wow did we all sleep hard!

We were walking once more at 4:45am. From camp we headed up the signed Blue Glacier Trail passing the ranger station which was really just a fancy tent platform. Soon after there is a junction. We turned left and headed up to the lateral moraine over continuously more rocky ground until we reached the upper moraine ridge and our first full view of Mount Olympus. Olympus stuck us as a mountain that should exist in a place like Iceland or Alaska. The mountain is a massif more than anything else and with icefields and seracs sprawling out for miles.  We followed the ridge until it terminated and then we plunged down the steep side of the moraine to the very blue Blue Glacier below.

We roped up, Damien in the lead, Ivan in the middle (so he couldn’t run away) and me in my normal back position. First we crossed the lower ice field which was mostly devoid of snow and flat. It was riddled with narrow crevasses and melting blue pools. We skipped over the obstacles and finally reasched the snow on the other side of the field were the elevation began to slowly rise. The goal is to climb directly up to a rounded dome like feature called “Snow Dome” corssing between rock islands as needed. As elevation is gained the grade increases, the steepest part being the final 300 feet. At the top of Snow Dome we headed left and did a rising traverse to Crystal Pass which is fall left of the impressive looking rock formation that look like 5 fingers. Crevasses were dotted throughout, but not on the boot pack. On the other side of the pass we made a sharp right and climbed up a steep bump and them straight up the slope. Here we had to leap over a larger crevasses, but it wasn’t really that sketch.  few more yard up we aimed to the right up a steep snow slope and them climbed left over a few mixed steps and onto the false summit. We unroped here on the flat, rocky surface and chilled for a bit. The summit and final rock pitch were crowded so we figured we’d just hang out and wait.

We headed over about 20 minutes later. We descended loose rock and snow to a saddle and them climbed very steeply up snow to the North Face rock route. After speaking with some rappelling climbers we opted to climb the final 80 ft using the 5.4 west route just around the corner. I would lead and Damien and Ivan would follow on two skinny ropes. We all tied in and I gathered up my tiny rack of slings, 3 cams and 4 tricams. It was supposed to be easy. The first 40 ft was class 3. Damien soloed and I Belayed Ivan up the last few feet which were a bit trickier. From a good rock ledge Damien out me on belay and I left he filem40 ft. I slug one horn and placed one green dmm cam in a crack. There really wasn’t a good place for much else. The moved for fun, especially in mountaineering boots which spiced things up a bit! The pitch ends with a big mantle next to a fat horn with about ever sling color on it. I belayed Damien and Ivan up. We then untied and scrambled the find few feet to the summit where this a geo survey marker and register.

The clouds moved in and out, but we were afforded great views from the top of the mountain we had all wanted to climb for so long. And we were the last climbers of the day with the luxury of having the while summit to ourselves. I’m not sure how long we stayed, but at some pointed we moved back to the rapp station and did a double rope rappel with two 40m ropes (could have use 1 60 or two 40s). Back at the false summit we once again roped up and I lead the same route down reaching the bottom of the Blue Glacier just at the mountain got socked in with heavy mist.

I was a little nervous about a possible thunder storm since the air was a bit heavy so we hurried up to the moraine. We weather held though and we walked back with painful and tired feet back to Glacier Meadows. My feet hurt so much form being swollen and squished into tight shoes that after i got them off i couldn;t stand for about 20 minutes. Luckily it was Damien’s turn to filter water that night.

We decided to get a very early start at 3am on Sunday to make sure we got home at the reasonable hour and to get the death march over-with. I was happy to find lots of amphibians on the trail in the dark! But even my exuberance over catching toads and salamanders could not distract me from what was going on inside my shoes. Pure agony. After Elk Lake we all agreed to walk at our own pace and meet at the Olympus Ranger Station. I pretty much hobbled into the meadow, barely able to limp. Damien told me to take off my boots and switch to crocs. I have weak ankles which is why i never wear approach shoes, but the ground was level along the river and i really couldn’t wear my boots anymore. They no longer fit my feet and i was developing blisters on my toes (the toes that were already taped fyi) and bottom of my foot.

After switching shoes I felt increasing better… well maybe not better, but I was able to ensure more. We split up again,though Ivan and I mostly walked the same pace and met 5.7 miles from the TH. Damien was playing a game with himself to see how fast he could be to he was always ahead of us more about 30 minutes. In fact he was running! Ivan and I preferred to walk. And for better or for worst we all eventually turned up at the Trail head. Ivan and I were a bit bummed that we hadn’t included the walk from the TH to the car in our calculations for mileage left to walk.

We did it. We walked 17.5 miles, 8 miles and 17.5 miles. We walked with heavy packs and sore, blistered, swollen feet. We walked a lot. We walked so much that summit day was our rest day! And it was all worth it.

 

We tried to do this itinerary last year, but in the sweltering heat that was last summer I got severe heat exhaustion about 100ft above Blue Lake and we had to go back camp at the lake. This year we were determined to complete the trek. The Pilot Ridge/ White Pass Loop is 30 miles and suggested as a 3-4 day trip. We did it in two days and, since that was apparently too easy, we added summit of Kodak Peak and white Mountain to the mix. Oh… and it was all in inclement weather complete with whiteout mist and rain. This was our rest weekend.

We began on the North Fork Trail taking a right turn at the first junction after 2 miles to Pilot Ridge. There is a large log here to cross the river. From here at 2400ft the trail heads up to the top of Pilot Ridge in what seems to be endless switchbacks until reaching the first high point knob at 5200ft. Following the ridge there are ups and downs, some rather significant. I know the views here are spectacular from our journey last year, but that day the mountains were mostly concealed under thick cloud cover as sprinkles dampened our jackets. We did get to enjoy lunch grasses and wildflowers though. Plus the feel of the day made everything extra alpiney which we love!

The route follows the ridge for 8 or so miles until it passes under Johnston Mountain . Here at the top of the ridge one can see Lower Blue Lake in the basin below and the switchbacks down begin. Long , sweeping switchbacks that seem to take forever! Do not follow take the turn onto the PCT once reaxhing the basin floor. Turn left and head up to Upper Blue Lake. It was much to chilly out to swim this visit. Instead we ate near the outlet steam and enjoyed views of the trout chasing each other in the perfectly clear blue water. We didn’t linger to long as we were only halfway done with the day and since it was much cooler than last time we had no trouble climbing above the lake. There are switchbacks, sometimes under snow but easy to regain that lead up from the lake and to the top of the next ridge. The final 100ft was fully snowed in and steep so we used Ice axes. We could have probably stayed on the side of the snow in the heather, but since we had the axes we just kick stepped up. The sun came out full blast for about 3 minutes warming things up significantly… and then it was cloudy again. So no heat exhaustion this time!

From the top of the ridge we actually got some beautiful views of the surrounding mountain and a look back at our route across Pilot Ridge. We could also see far off White Pass in the distance along with all the other passes we had to cross to reach it. White Pass was where we hoped to came with an Alternate being Reflection Lake which was 2 miles closer. We dropped down switchbacks and traversed to the 4 way junction at Dishpan Gap. Here we turned onto the PCT North… well we followed the PCT South for about five minutes by accident. The trail wanders long the meadow topped ridge through Sauk Pass and then the the base of Kodak Peak.

At the base of the small, grassy peak we stepped off the trail and traveled cross country straight up the mountain. It was much steeper than we imagined it to or maybe it just felt that way after we had walked for about 15 miles or something like that. Nevertheless we made it to the summit and were greeted by wondrous views of white mist! It did eventually part through revealing glimpses of the surrounded wilderness.

Getting onto late evening now we dropped down the other side of Kodak Peak (6121ft ) via the narrow footpath and regained the PCT on top of Wenatchee Ridge. From here we descended into the snow Meander Meadows which required a bit of route finding in some wide paths of snow, but nothing significantly difficult. It was disheartening, but the trail kept on descending until to reached a low point of 5000ft at tree filled Indian Pass. It actually felt more like a basin than a pass. After all that descending it was of course time to go back up.

The way is very gradual and the trail ascended steadily toward White Pass. Damien feet hurt and my calves felt like jello by the time we rounded the corner on the ridge at 9:00pm and stood on the shoreline of small Reflection Pond. Our gate wasn’t as swift anymore and darkness was settling. With only 2 miles left to White Pass we decided that we had nothing to gain by pressing on when we could get more sleep and do the whole thing faster in the morning. In the settling darkness we set up camp beneath the trees in the low hanging mist. I cannot express how happy we were to wiggle out of our boot and put on our crocs! We had done 19 miles and 6000ft of gain.

The next day we thought with was raining due to the pitter patter on the tent, but the mist was so heavy and low it was condensing on the tree branches and then dripping heavily on our tent! We packed up and began moving at the good clip across the ridge toward White Pass. There were quit a few of snow fields to cross on the way to the pass and we were really glad we had stopped at the pond. Crossing was easy in the morning, but last night our fatigue would have made things slow and tedious.

White Pass was clod, damp, windy and nearly in a white out when we arrived. Our White Mountain beta instructed us to take the Foam Creek Trail from the pass a few yards in to the bare patch on the lower south slope of White Mountain. After 100′ the bare spot should turn unto a narrow boot trail. We did as the instructions said. The bare patch of mud and loose rock was not all the pleasant to ascend. It did end at about 100′ and we located a boot track on the left. we also noted that the tracked started much lower than the “bare spot”. Now following an obvious, narrow trail in the grass we were straight up along the spine of the ridge. The going very very, very steep. It was not technically though. We crossed one easy rock band what was still class 1. We traversed around the larger rock band to the left leaving the ridge, but then the track high-tailed it right back up to the spine passing a pretty large marmot colony. The grade eased ever so slightly until it reached a flat area at about 7020 ft. In the whiteout haze we could see the finally few yards of narrow ridge that led to the true summit. We left out poles and walked across to the summit pass the geo survey marker. No views. We were surrounded by mist with almost no visibility. And it was awesome! Views are not mandatory to make the alpine experience incredible. The summit is 7045 ft.

We descended the trail and stayed on it without entering the bare spot all the way back to the PCT. We then continued on our journey down traversing the lower slopes of the Color Mountain Group. We stayed left on the N Fork Trail at the junction and eventually began the long and endless switchbacks all the way down to the valley floor. as a climber you always wish you could just skip the switchbacks and go straight down.

At the valley floor in the forest we passed the Mackinaw Shelter and continued on the forest trail for what seemed like an endless 5 miles to the trail head. And, as luck would have it, as soon as we got into the car it began pouring rain outside! We had gone 12.5 miles and gained about 2000ft that day. This the trip qualified as a rest weekend for us!

 

 

 

After a few weeks of long climbs through rough terrain Damien and I decided to use the long 4th of July weekend ti complete a backpack that as been on my list a very long time: The Icicle Divide. The route goes from Stevens Pass to Leavenworth mostly along the top of Icicle Ridge and covers 45 miles. With light packs and on a trail that my book reported is sometimes get lost for a few yards, but is easily picked up again, we thought this would be a great rest weekend option for us. Oh little did we know….

 

Day 1: Stevens Pass to 1 mile Short of Mary’s Pass, 15 miles

We started out fresh, clean and with no abrasions on the PCT heading south at Stevens Pass. The trail wanders up and down through the ski area for several miles. This was reminiscent of when we hiked the PCT from Stevens to Snoqualmie. It was even the same misty weather! The trail finally turns away from the Mill Valley skiing area, passing lake Susan Jane and cresting over a small rise and reaching the first trail junction at 4900ft.  Here we turned off the PCT and onto the Icicle Creek Trail. This tread passes Lake Josephine and continues to descend and follow the Icicle Creek until 3800ft. Of course after loosing elevation one must go back up. Here we took The Chain Lakes steeply up for 1000ft, before it mellowed out a bit for the rest of the climb to Chain Lakes at 5600ft.

These chains of aptly names lakes sit beneath the Bull’s Tooth Ridgeline and offer spectacular camping. Of course it was way to early for us to set up camp! We still had many miles to travel. So under now blue skies and admiring lofty mountains views surrounding us we pressed on. We climbed switchbacks before the Upper Chain Lake to reach a small Pass Overlook Upper Doelle Lake on the other side and some gorgeous mountain views. There was snow ont he descent to the lake and due to the steepness we opted to use ice axes… Damien glissaded in shorts. I plunge stepped. The trail follows around the left side of the lake, crosses the outlet and then follows the waterfall down to the lower lake. When the terrain evens out you need to cross back over the outlet. Of course when i did this I fell and my foot went into a huge deep in the stream what had been concealed by overhanging grasses. Quick first-aid patched up the gash on my knee. We continued on around the left side of the lower lake the trail vanished into the thick grasses on the hill overlooking the meadow we were supposed to descend into. After some searching we decided to just go down off trail. Besides, the mosquitoes were getting to bad for us to do too much looking for the actual trail.

Once in the meadow at 5600 ft we stayed left as my book described until we found the trail heading back into the forest. The trail climbs up Icicle Ridge gradually and reaches the high point of the ridge at 5800ft. Note that close to the top of the ridge there is an flattish area that appears to be a junction of some kind. Stay to the right here. It was evening now and we still have two passes to cross over. The trail along the ridge was thin, but we were able to follow it just fine for some time admiring the emerald green slopes that surrounded us. Then suddenly the trail stopped short on top of what seemed to be a small mudslide area. We could not locate the trail or think of any alternate but to drop down into the basin below and hopefully find the trail somewhere.

We dropped down to the shadowed green basin filled with zig zagging streams and buzzing mosquitoes. We played with the idea of setting up camp since it was already about 7pm, but opted against it as the insects seemed lick the deet right off us. Instead used the GPS to point ourselves in the direction of Frosty Pass and followed the course… a course through thick brush, tall grass, nearly vertical slopes and fallen timber. Oh, and we were still wearing shorts. However, we did stumble back onto the trail… feeling a bit more torn up than we had at the beginning of the day. We followed the trail to the forested Frosty Pass, staying the Icicle Ridge Trail at the junction. Now getting close to 9:00pm we were able to see Mary’s Pass still far in the distance… I think the one mile calculation from Frosty Pass was wrong in the guide. We decided that 15ish miles was good enough for the day and if we could find a place to camp by water before Upper Lake Florence, our original destination beyond Mary’s Pass, we would call it a day. As it turned out we did find a flat place near a creek 800ft below the pass. We quickly set up the camp…we were so tired and hastily trying to escape the mosquitoes that we could not find the cross bar for the tent when we dumped everything onto the ground, so we used our poles instead. Then we dove into the flyless tent and watched the buzzing mosquitoes swarm outside… they didn’t go away until almost 11pm. Thats when we finally went back out to filter water and have dinner.

 

Day 2: To Lake Augusta, 10 Miles

We rose to a windy, cold more that felt much more like fall then summer weather. Better than being hot though and no bugs! There was heavy misty swirling around us in the winds as were packed up and left camp to climb the final 800 ft to Mary’s Pass. We did come across some snow going up the pass and led us to taking out our axes again. But the switchbacks were easy to find between snow patches. On top of the Pass we did see much aside from the swirling light. We did get a glipse of Florence lake about 400 feet below before it too vanished in the mist. We continued to traverse along the ridge and soon found ourselves on Ladies Pass with a similar view. From here it was like we entered late autumn. Thick mist swirled around us as we traversed gullies, small basins, scree and jagged and rocky ridges. We crossed some snow, but did not take out of the axes. This continued until we finally dropped down into a deep snow filled and wind blasted basin. Here through waves of mist we could see still mostly frozen Lake Edna. There was single tent on the shore getting completely battered by the strong gusts.

We followed the trail away from the lake. The ski began to clear up a bit and the winds died enough for us to stop for a small break, but they never truly settled down. The trail drops about 2000 feet all the way down into the forest to Index Creek at 4800 feet. And then, you guessed it, we had to go all the way back up again. We climbed about 1000ft through the forest until things began to open up near a cascading creek. We lost the trail and picked our way up the steep and, in places, snowy slope, until we found ourselves back on the trail. We climbed to about 6600feet to a wide flat area and followed carins to our left to the saddle overlook the next valley at Big Jim Mountain at 6700 ft. Of course we once again went down into the valley and followed a small stream on think tread before crossing it after .25 miles. The crossing is barely visible. We could only found it because it was on the gps tracker. The next landmark is Carter Lake. The trail goes around it to the right and then to a junction. Following the Icile Ridge trail we now followed more eastern WA landscape up steep switchbacks across grass and ponderosa pine to the high point of the backpack at 7200 ft atop of the saddle of Big Jim Mountain. Here is was extremely windy, but the views were spectacular. On one side to the west we could see the distance passes we can crossed to get there. It was stormy looking. To the east it was sunny and we could see Lake Augusta below and distant Cabin Creek Valley and the section of Icicle Ridge we would walk along the next day. We knew already it would be a long day, but for now were were almost to camp!

We descended about 400 feet to lake August and made a nice camp in the trees on the far shore near the outlet steam. We had to be careful not to loose anything in the strong wind, but we were mostly protected by the trees and shrubs around us. At night we could see the town lights of Leavenworth, Cashmere and beyond. It was beautiful and I was glad we were in the alpine and not in the town. I rather watch from a far distance in the solitude of the mountains.

 

Day 3: to Leavenworth… a relentless 18 miles

Even though we had turned in hours before dark the night before it still seemed like the alarm rang all too soon at 3:20am. We antisipated a long day though. My book indicated the the section through Cabin Creek presented the thinnest trail. Furthermore, two hikers we’d run into coming from the opposite direction as us the day before mentioned that the resent burn and overtaking forest had made that section of the trek horrendous. We wanted to start moving quick and we shouldered out packs a little before 4:30am.

It was still windy and mist hung over the mountains. The rising sun reflected off the fog turning it shades of pink and orange. We descended at first following the outlet stream before we began to switchback up the ridge to our left to the Junction of the Hatchery Trail. Here a sign marked that the Icicle Ridge Trail was not maintained. We would come to believe that the last time the trail was maintained was when it was built.

At first it wasn’t so bad. We followed along a dry ridge top that looked a bit moon-like. Sometimes we lost the trail, but with a bit of searching we always regained it easily. It was when the trail turned off the ridge to descend into the creek that we ran into trouble. The trail vanished. Did not exist. Our GPS told us more than once we were standing right on it as we plunged straight down through the grasses it and it was not there. after passing the grassed we found our way through think pine forest riddled with fallen logs and then when that was over we thrashed our water through barely penetrable side alter. I swear these type of plant gets angry at you for stepping on it. The branches grab were ankles and hit you in the face on purpose! Then it was through another layer of pine and another layer of alder… and we were only the valley floor. We crossed soggy marshes and walked through some less dense forest until finally reaching Cabin Creek. Panting we crossed the log jam and rested here until the mosquitoes got to be too much. Then we walked to the edge of the marsh and followed in left until an organge ribbon marked the trail going into the forest. A TRAIL!!!!!!

We followed this trail marked by ribbon for about ten minutes until it entered a burn left over from the Cabin Creek Fire. If i recall this area burned last year and because the soil was now so fertile it was overgrown by fireweed, shrubs, grasses and alder. No trail at all. We continued to fight upward through the thicket that was at times insanely steep. We tired to go to the left to where the trail was supposed to be at one point, but fighting the alder proved to be just too much. We decided to go higher to where the alder was thinner before traversing. It was painstakingly slow, painful and frustrating work. We battled the grasses, alder and then the thick and steep pine forest ascending to 5800ft and then back down  in search of the trail and by some brilliant stroke of luck we found it at 5500ft. Words cannot come close to describing how elated we were!

Finally back on overgrown, but defined trail we traversed to a low saddle and then switchback up the the ridge-top at 6700ft (carins helped at times). It was once again extremely windy and with hoods up and traversed the top toward the distance black rock outcrop marking the high point off the ridge. There were a few ups and downs on the way and sometimes we lost as much as 500ft. Luckily the heavy misty was swirling enough to sometimes provide views of The Enchantments (Colhuck, Argonaut, Drangontail) and Stuart Range (Sherpa and Stuart). Plus of pain of the morning was beginning to wear off. The ridge was just like The Sound of Music and we loved it!

We finally crested the high Point near the junction of the 4th of July Creek trail. Ten miles to go! We continued a long the ups and downs the the ridges admiring the Enchantments and eventually getting views the desert-like eastern slopes. The trail lost elevation extremely slowly. In fact were were sure it would never descend all the way down. But abruptly the slow traverse a long the ridge-top turned into short and steep switchbacks down toward the canyon bottom. The short and steep switchbacks lasted above 1000ft until reverting to longer switchbacks but it all went faster than expected. Our feet hurt, but we seemed the fly down the ridge and we arrived back at the car at the Icicle Ridge Th at 8:30. Two hours before our expected ETA.

 

So not a rest weekend, but still pretty  awesome!

 

After plans for The North Ridge of Baker fell through due to some unstable and possibly hazardous weather in the northern cascades, Damien and I decided to go south. Saturday called for some precip, but Sunday called for 100% sunny skies. On our agenda was Mt Adams via Mazama Glacier (with the Mazama Headwall Variation if we could figure it out). Adams was the last summit Damien needed to complete summits of the WA Cascade Volcanoes. And I wanted to return to the route since the last time I climbed it a crevasse forced us to move to the Lunch Counter and finish the climb on the South Spur.

It’s a very long 6 hour drive to Cold Springs TH which is also the start of The South Spur Route up Adams. A very late season snow of several inches had fallen the night making it feel more like October with green grass peeking through the white powder. We got on the trail at 11am, rather late for us. The going was easy at first as we simply followed the well traveled South Spur Route for 1.3 miles. At the Junction with Round Mountain Trail we turned right and began to make our way through the forest trying as best we could to find the trail hidden beneath both old and fresh snow. We strayed a few times, but found our way back to the track with the help of our GPS. The route finding did seem to eat up time though. Finally we crossed in the Yakima Indian Reservation. We turned off the trail and traveled cross country to our left a few yards away from the border through an opening in the forest revealing the distant moraines. This was a shortcut, as normally the route to high camp follows Round the Mountain Trail for another mile before cutting off toward the moraines. With the ground covered in snow it was very easy for us to travel diagonally to cut off some mileage.

Sunrise camp in described as a pass in notch in the moraines and there is very little detail as to where this pass is within the moraines. We identified a snow slope on the headwall of the moraines and decided to venture upward. As it turned out we chose the moraine that had a cairn on the top indicated me with on route for Sunrise Camp. However, now we had a new issue to contend with. The partly sunny skies that had graced us all day suddenly changed. Thick, low white clouds rolled in and a hail/snow fell fro, the sky. With reduced visibility we were 100% relying on a map, compass and GPS to find out way. Luckily, navigation is one of Damien’s strengths, and though tedious at times, he lead us directly to camp without getting turned around once! Some tent sites were melted and on black pumice while others were still under snow. We first set up our tent in the pumice, but when we discovered how messy that black gravel was, we moved it to the snow.

After lingering in the tent for 30 minutes the precipitation dissipated and the clouds parted. A world of black pumice and white ice surrounded us and Mt Hood glowed pink in the light of the setting sun. We had a full view of the Mazama Glacier in front of us in the fading light and wavering fog. From our perspective we could see crevasses on the left of the glacier and thus we decided our best bet was to stay more to the right as we ascended.

We woke up at 2:45am to brilliantly shinning stars and a shimmering moon. We almost didn’t need headlamps it was so bright. By the time we were roped up and moving up the glacier it was 3:38am. We made our way up the ice keeping an eye out for crevasses. Luckily the line we chose did not run into any crack until sunrise at the very top of the slope where Damien found himself with a huge bergshund blocking the way. We turned around and I led further right to the lip of two gaping crevasses. Wow, i am always awestruck when i have  the opportunity to look into the depths of the ice. The wind was blowing hard and snow swirled around us and bounced in and out of the crevasses. Everything glowed with hues of pink, orange and yellow in the morning light. It was simply stunning.

I probed the snow and managed to safety maneuver between the two crevasses and to the safety of a rocky moraine notch.  From here Damien took the lead again. We followed a broad gentle slope in another wall of snow, rock and ice. A tall steep wall. We cut around to the far right of the slope where the grade was slightly gentler…. but only slightly. From here we tediously ascended for what seemed like eons. We did finally make it to the top of the endless hill. From here we found ourselves a bit confused as to where the Mazama Headwall actually was as the beta on it was pretty scarce so we opted to carry on with the Mazama Standard route. We ascended diagonally left through bands of moraines until we joined up the circus that the South Spur. I was shocked at how many people brought their dogs and more surprised at how well the dogs were doing!

We climbed very slowly to the crest of Piker’s Peak, the false summit. It is always kind of a sinking feeling when you reach the top and  are greeting with the final slope looming high above you on the other side of the .5 mile plateau. But we pressed on, ominous as the final climb seemed from that distance. the final 800ft of climbing passed much more quickly that I recalled and once again I stood on top of Adams, the first volcano I ever climbed in WA and the final WA volcano on Damien’s list. No clouds obscured the view and we could see Rainier, Helens, Hood, Sister, Broken Top and Jeffereson. We hung out just below the summit block with other climbers and their canine companions. Damien fell fast asleep! Then we got to our feet and began the descent.

We found that our crampons were gathering snow and turning into High Heels. After some discussion during roping back up at the start of the glacier we decided it would be safer to descend without them since we were slipping everywhere. We descended the first steep hill using a roped glissade since no crevasses or evidences of hidden ones were visible. Then we once again crossed the broad slope and began to descend the final 1500ft. It was only now, in the daylight that we fully realized how many crevasses there were on the ice. We hadn’t seen them in the dark and the evening before the ski was dim enough and the mist present enough to hide of cracks. On the way up we had picked an almost perfect line up and bypassed them all mostly by shear luck! Now as I led down staying to the right i found myself barely planning passage around the endless indentations in the ice and probing carefully especially in the fresh snow. Damien made the mistake of taking a step in a area just on the outer edge of where i probed and his foot sunk in and didn’t stop.. he jumped back quickly confused. Then took another stop and it happened again before realizing what had happened. he had stepped in a narrow crevasse. Luckily, it ended up being funny and not troublesome and we completed the descent back to camp with incident.

After a brief break we packed up camp and began the walk back just as the heat of the day began to fade. It was rather pleasant walking across the moraines again. It was like walking through a totally different area since it was clear this time around and we were in great spirits. We were actually able to follow our footprints back to Bird Creek Meadows. From there the tracks faded in and our, but we did manage to stay more on trail than on the way in ironically and arrived back at the car at 7:30…a 15 hour day. We were exhausted, hungry, thirst and achy, but mostly we were ecstatic. How could we not be after a climb?

Now as for the 6 hour drive home… we were not so ecstatic about that!