After staring at the massive pyramid of Wedge Mountain every time I turned onto Icicle Rd for 5 years I finally stood on the summit. Our west side plans foiled with bad weather, Damien and I headed over to the sunny east side to backcountry ski Wedge. The true summit of Wedge us under debate. The maps the summit is labeled as a 5860 foot high point on the ridge. However, there is also a 6885ft high point about 2 mile further down the ridge (South Wedge). Starting out we weren’t clear on which peak we would ultimately go for or if we would do both. It turns out we ended up climbing Wedge Mountain proper as seen ont he maps and from Leavenworth since that’s where the beta brought us.

Mountain Home Rd is plowed for 3.5 miles to the country road line. From there the road is snow and pretty much impassible without a 4×4 that you don’t mind getting scratched up even in summer. Branches reach out in many places and would cause detriment to any paint job. We started skinning here. It is key to follow maps and directions to the saddle very carefully as the roads on the lower hilly slopes of Wedge are a maze and the terrain is rather complex.  There were a few bare patches where we carried our skis early on, but strangely the road was still full of lots of snow even though sometimes the land right beside it was pretty much melted out. Mountain Home Rd becomes FS 7300 though there are no signs. We passed some kind of mini train track thing near a sign that said “Steinback.”  A bit random. There are a few turns but don’t take any under reaching the massive junction with labeled FS 400. On lower FS 400 there are several creeks running under the snow so use caution to avoid hollow areas. This is where most of the climbing occurs as the road switchbacks upward. It’s long but there are excellent distracting views along the way. There are a few turns as well. Stay left at the first junction and right on the second. The road finally reached a wide saddle at about 4500 feet (about ten miles)

From the saddle we turned right and continued to follow FS road 400 which even on snow seemed barely like a road. The path follows under Wedge’s summit and beneath the ridge. There were two areas of avy debris to cross. After about 3/4 of the mile we decided to switchbback straight up the slope to gain the ridge. From below it didn’t look bad, but experience proved different. After about 1/4 of the way up the slope got steeper and the snow ws too frozen to cut switchbacks. Damien decided to bootpack up a cleaned avy gully. I attempted to continued try and skin straight up. I did well for a bit but then conceded to bootpacking up the avy gully. Which involved a far amount of front pointing. We did but our skis back on about 3/4 of the way up, but where forced to take them off again and flounder about in inconsistent snow. It was either too hard or too soft to skin. We were aiming for a small notch on top of the ridge that looked wide enough for camp and was protected by some trees. The finally several yards took an excruciatingly long time… we post-holed through knee and waist deep thick and heavy snow. Finally we made it! The tree ended up not offering much protection from the blustery wind, but we had our winter tent so it worked out great. The camp had excellent views and was .35 miles from the summit.

 

In the morning we found clear skies and solid snow. It seemed like the best idea would be to walk the ridge, but we carried our skis just in case. We traversed the  ridge-line enjoying 360 views of Leavenworth, Icicle Divide, The Enchantments, Cashmere, Snow Creek Wall and the eastern hills. The going was pretty easy until we got to the final slope to the summit block. We found we had to front point deep into the 65 degree slope and walk a bit on the knife edge. It was doable, but sketch with a whippet and ski boots. We dropped out packs and skis in a flat area by what we thought was the summit block and front pointed up a 15 foot snow finger to the summit…. well kind of.  When we reached the top we realized the block a few yards away was taller. This was bit disheartening since the snow finger has been no picnic to climb unprotected. Nevertheless,  we down climbed and headed over to the left most block. After some exploration we found a class 2/3 route up the left side. It was bare rock so we climbed with gloves off With gloves off, but still in ski boots. There we descent ledges and enough hand holds to feel safe even in bulky boots. The down-climbing was less comfortable though. It was  our first experience scrambling on rock with ski boots!

We hung out just beneath the summit block and enjoyed the perfect view for maybe and hour. We weren’t in a rush. We had decided after looking over to the higher South Wedge that we would not attempt it. Traversing the ridge looked sketch and there was a huge rough looking gap between the two summits. From observation they appear to be 2 separate peaks for sure. And we were also afraid that the return trip would lead to a post-holing odyssey as the snow softened (there was no way we could ski that terrain).  Back at camp we relaxed a bit and waited until about 11:30 to ski down giving the snow a chance to corn up. We skied back down to the road making some pretty excellent turns! Best we’ve had all spring thus far for sure! We cut a few switch backs on the road by skiing straight down the slope, but found that after about 3700 feet it was best ti just stay on the road since the straight way down had lots of  melted out terrain traps. Even with the long sweeping switchbacks the going was pretty fast. on FS 7300 we did have to free our heels since the road is flatter for ascends in a few places.

Great weekend and our first summit as a married couple! Next time we will tag South Wedge!

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