Chilliwack Slam Dunk / 奇利瓦克滿貫十拿九穩

Southeast Mox Peak summit towers

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Last year Kenny and I came into the area and attempted Mox Peaks. Due to bad weather, we ended up turning around after spending one night at Ouzel Lake. Weather was cloudy with visibility reaching as far out as the lake. We saw nothing else in any other directions.

The Lowdown on Chilliwack Slam

Chilliwack Slam = Mount Spickard + Mount Rham + Mount Custer + Mount Redoubt + Mox Peaks (Northwest Spire) + Mox Peaks (Southeast Spire)
奇利瓦克滿貫=斯皮卡德山+拉姆山+卡斯特山+多面堡山+馬克斯峯 (西北尖塔)+馬克斯峯 (東南尖塔)

Access: Ouzel Lake
Round Trip: 45 miles
Elevation Range: 2200′-8979′
Gear: rock, snow, multi-night
GPS Track: available

Logistics Overview

June 30 – July 5, 2015

Overview > Day 1 > Day 2 > Day 3 > Day 4 > Day 5 > Day 6

Day 1 – Tuesday, June 30
Approach to Ouzel Lake
Mount Spickard
Night 1 – Ouzel Lake

Day 2 – Wednesday, July 1
Mount Rahm + Mount Custer
Night 2 – Ouzel Lake

Day 3 – Thursday, July 2
Mount Redoubt
Night 3 – Redoubt Glacier

Day 4 – Friday, July 3
Northwest Mox Peak
Night 4 – Redoubt Glacier

Day 5 – Saturday, July 4
SE Mox Peak
Night 5 – Redoubt Glacier

Day 6 – Sunday, July 5
Exit


The Preface on Chilliwack Slam

I was looking forward to this weekend’s backpacking trip to be away from the city. But weather can be extremely unpredictable in this part of the Cascades unless sunny was in the forecast. I couldn’t have imagined spending a week to climb in miserable weather conditions. So I kept my fingers crossed for good weather.

Kenny, Patrick, and I first met in summer 2014, and together we climbed Chickamin Slam and Bonanza Slam. This year we teamed up again to tackle the two notorious Mox Peaks on the Bulger List. I wanted to get all six Chilliwack Slam peaks while they only had their eyes set on the Mox Peaks.

Day 1

Approach to Ouzel Lake + Mount Spickard

Overview > Day 1 > Day 2 > Day 3 > Day 4 > Day 5 > Day 6

Best of both worlds
Best of both worlds

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En Route to Ouzel Lake

I started the approach bright and early after car camping by Chilliwack Lake Road the night before. A down tree over the road forced me to park half a mile before the end of the drivable portion. Then I started hiking southeast. The path on the Canadian side was mostly brush-free but muddy in places. The International crop line was a sight to see. I could only imagine the amount of work put into carving out the border.

After entering North Cascades National Park, the trail immediately became brushy on the US side. Lots of down trees and short shrubs to quickly get people off route. Compared with a year ago, this time there was a ton more water from Depot Creek Falls. It was hard to see with the water continually getting into my eyes. My clothes also got soaking wet.

With the help of the same old, fix rope, I was able to get above slippery slabs without a hitch. Just past the waterfalls, I realized My GPS device was missing. So I went back through the water again and found it on the other side of the dense brush. Whew! I became so wet in the process of getting through the waterfalls three times.

Beyond the waterfalls, I got through another steep section before reaching the upper basin where views gradually open up. From there, the mile-long approach on the moraine to Ouzel Lake became much more apparent. Lots of boulder hopping through this section.

Ouzel Lake Camp
Ouzel Lake Camp

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Mount Spickard Climb

I quickly set up camp by the lake. The lake appeared to have doubled in size, but it could just be the great weather and lighting. After resting, I filled my pack with the essentials. Then I started walking northeast up through talus and scree gully. Before long, I came to the flat area below Mount Spickard’s west face at 7000′.

From there I traveled southeast through steep and icy slopes aiming toward the 8000′ notch on the southwest ridge. I came up onto a steep, icy snowfield on the south face. But I was able to skirt around it by walking in the shallow moat. Views on the ridge got better the higher I went. I couldn’t help but turning back every minute to check out the imposing Mount Redoubt and Mox Peaks.

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Sunset on Mount Spickard

The first things I wanted to see when I got to the top were Mount Rham and Mount Custer. I also got the chance to see how far I had travel to climb the two mountains the next day. They sure looked farther in person than on maps! Only a small portion of Silver Lake was visible from the summit.

Through thick clouds, lighting on surrounding mountains an hour before sundown was incredible. Sunset over Canadian mountains was simply beyond words! After soaking in the views and got all the photos with an extended summit stay. I made it down the mountain and got back to camp just before dark.

Mount Custer (left) and Mount Rahm
Mount Custer (left) and Mount Rahm

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Day 2

Mount Rahm + Mount Custer

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True blue / 真藍
True blue / 真藍

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En Route to Mount Rham

Mount Rham and Mount Custer were my two objectives for the day. They were the two northernmost peaks on this trip. But to get there, I first needed to get through the same talus gully I took the evening before. Then I continued alongside Depot Creek drainage to the Spickard-Custer col at 7400′.

The anticipation of seeing the entire Silver Lake had been building up until now. And it did not disappoint when I finally saw it from the col. From there, I maintained the same elevation and traversed below Custer Ridge to the north end of Silver Lake.

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Mount Rham Climb

Climbed up the exposed class 3 gully on far right to the meadow around 7800′. The snow was still present below south face, but the south ridge was snow free for an enjoyable final finish.

Second closest peak to the Canadian border (.5 mile) I had ever been, closest being Cathedral Peak, .25 mile to the border. The making of the international crop line continued to fascinate me. Silver Lake was bluer than any Cascade alpine lakes I have ever seen, totally stole the show from surrounding peaks.

Hozomeen Mountain and Jack Mountain looked incredible from here. So hard to leave the views behind. But I still needed to get to Mount Custer on the other side of the ridge.

Next stop, Mount Custer
Next stop, Mount Custer

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En Route to Mount Custer

Ridge traverse to Mount Custer wasn’t as bad as I had read in some reports. But perhaps it was due to the absence of snow that made things less complicated. Though, rocks got progressively worse the closer I got to the mountain.

The crux on this side was getting from Custer Ridge onto the upper northeast ridge. After some scouting, I located the exposed ramp that allowed me to attain the ridge rest. From there, I carefully worked my way up the east face and ultimately scrambled to the top.

The view of Silver Lake from yet another great vantage point. It looked even bluer and more vibrant in evening colors. Staring back at Mount Rham and I had a, “Did I really just come from there?” moment. Canadian mountains stood solemnly as the sun dipped lower in the sky behind them.

Looking back at Mount Rahm
Looking back at Mount Rahm

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Leaving Silver Lake Basin

Descending Custer’s south ridge was…interesting, with worse rocks and slippery slopes. After bypassing Point 8385, the final crux was getting off Custer Ridge. Then I would reconnect with my up tracks and back to Spickard-Custer col. Thankfully, a moderate snowfield coming down the ridge made the transition easier.

It was cool to spot a few weather towers while getting down the east face. I reconnected with my tracks at 7400′ and side-stepped back to the col. I made good time today in climbing both peaks and got back to camp with plenty of daylight remaining. Lots of mosquitoes tonight.

Céu distante / Distant sky / 遠空
Céu distante / Distant sky / 遠空

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Day 3

Mount Redoubt

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En route to head of Redoubt Glacier
En route to head of Redoubt Glacier

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En Route to Redoubt Glacier Camp

I packed up before the sun got too warm. Then I headed for head of Redoubt Glacier where I’d call home for the next two nights. Crossing the raging Depot Creek was time-consuming. But then I made up for the lost time with an efficient ascent on granite slabs to the glacier.

From the edge of the glacier, I carefully navigated through crevasses on steep terrain that eventually flattened out around 7000′. Views were so spectacular along the way, and I couldn’t help but constantly turning back to look around for photos. A mile or so over 400′ elevation gain later and I was at the head of Redoubt Glacier.

Several nice bivy spots with views on both sides of the ridge. This was one of the best places I’ve ever stayed on a climbing trip. It got warm really fast during the day. So after setting up camp, I took a break inside the tent while studying the route to Mount Redoubt. From camp, the Flying Buttress was a sight to see.

Mox Peaks from Redoubt Camp
Mox Peaks from Redoubt Camp

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Mount Redoubt Climb

The approach to the mountain first involved walking to the top of the glacier. Then I got over to the other side with mixed climbing from a notch below Redoubt’s south ridge. Then a short snow traverse on the other side and I was at the bottom of several gullies. Of course, of all the available options I picked the first one with a big moat. The paths merged at the bottom of a big snowfield before entering the upper terrain.

Even with reports and photos in hand, standing below the upper gullies I couldn’t locate the standard route. So, I picked the gully with a faint footpath and started working my way up the steep terrain. The route worked, albeit a little more technical than necessary.

It became clear that I wasn’t on the right track when I got higher on the mountain. So I moved one gully east and got back on the standard route for the final rock scramble. The real crux in this gully was bypassing a steep snow finger from the top.

Five out of six
Five out of six

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Final Chilliwack Slam on Southeast Mox Peak

The summit was windy. Until a couple of ravens showed up to “check” on me, it was pretty quiet. Words simply couldn’t describe the views all around me, and everything looked beyond gorgeous. Of the six summits on the itinerary, this was the only one to see the other five together.

Four peaks down and two more to go! My partners on their way in and I would join forces on Northwest Mox Peak tomorrow. Then we would climb Southeast Mox Peak on the Fourth of July to finish the trip. But I still needed to get my arse back down to camp in one piece for now. So glad I brought a rope with me just in case.

Back at camp, I noticed two new tents not far below mine. So I thought Kenny and Patrick came in while I was still on Mount Redoubt. It was light out but already late, so I didn’t bother to say hello in case they were already asleep. I enjoyed some delicious golden hour lighting on northern peaks before turning in.

Evening light on Chilliwack peaks
Evening light on Chilliwack peaks

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Day 4

Northwest Mox Peak

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En route to Northwest Mox Peak
En route to Northwest Mox Peak

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Waiting on Climbing Partners

I woke up to an eerily quiet morning. So I went down to check on the two tents but didn’t see any climbing gear nearby. For a minute I thought the guys had left to climb without me. I got back inside the tent and took a short nap. The next time I poked my head outside, I saw two figures on Redoubt Glacier moving toward the camp.

Whew! It turned out those two were Kenny and Patrick; I was beyond ecstatic! It turned out that the two tents below me belonged to another climbing party of four. Kenny and Patrick decided to spend the night before at Ouzel Lake after the long approach from the car.

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Northwest Mox Peak Climb

Shortly after Kenny and Patrick settled in, we geared up and started heading back down the glacier. We needed to move efficiently, as it was beginning to get warm in the late morning. At 7300′, we maintained our elevation and bypassed the first buttress coming off the west ridge of Northwest Mox Peak.

The second buttress extended farther down the glacier, and none of us felt like dropping below 7000′ to bypass it. So we decided to get onto the buttress and find an alternative solution. With some careful scouting, at 7200′ we came upon a ledge with a small moat. Then we all took a big step (or instead, a big leap) to be back onto the snow.

Ridge run on Northwest Mox Peak
Ridge run on Northwest Mox Peak

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Pure Adrenaline Rush

We traversed across the glacier to the eastern edge at 7400′. Evidentally, snow at the bottom of the rock wall had started to recede. I read that groups had turned around at this moat, and it would’ve also been our make or break point. But lucky for us, there was just barely a snow bridge to get ourselves onto the lower ledges.

From there, we climbed two pitches to the 7600′ saddle. Then we started traversing the beautiful northeast ridge of Northwest Mox Peak. At times, scrambling up on the narrow ridgeline felt like straddling a horse. The impressive Southeast Mox Peak was our main view on the ascent. So hard not to keep gazing at it in awe.

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The higher we climbed, the more noticeable the sounds of rockfalls from Southeast Mox Peak. It was a pure adrenaline rush and nerve-wracking all at the same time. We dropped onto southeast face too early and soon found ourselves at the dead end of a scree ramp.

After some scouting, we retreated to the ridge and climbed another 200′ feet higher. Then we located the right ramp to continue. First, we dropped down through a chimney onto the southeast face. Then we traveled on a ramp to the bottom of another access chimney. One more pitch put us on the ridge where we finished the climb with a short scramble.

Sixth and final destination
Sixth and final destination

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Northwest Mox Peak Summit

It was hot and breezy, with views beyond breathtaking! Rocks continued to fall from Southeast Mox Peak‘s north face and tumble down into the northeast couloir below. Glad we wouldn’t need to go up that side tomorrow! We enjoyed an extended break on the summit and then slowly made our way down. After we got back on the snow, a leisurely glacial traverse got us back to camp well before sundown.

A couple more climbing parties had arrived since we left camp this morning. What gorgeous area to be with other climbers on this beautiful holiday weekend.

Vanishing behind the Flying Buttress
Vanishing behind the Flying Buttress

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Day 5

Southeast Mox Peak

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Happy Fourth of July
Happy Fourth of July

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Final Peak on Chilliwack Slam

It was our last day of climbing and my sixth and final peak to tag on this trip. The infamous Southeast Mox Peak we’d be hearing about was reportedly the hardest to climb on the Bulger List. Either way, we’d soon find out for ourselves. I very much looked forward to the challenges that were to come our way.

Shortly after breakfast, we left camp bright and early, so to have plenty of daylight at our disposal. The mile-long sidestepping traverse to Col of the Wild consisted of crossing a considerable amount of talus, scree, and snow. Lots of choss as we made our way up to the col.

We regrouped on the col and then checked out the route toward our next stop–Ridge of the Gendarmes. Today the awe-inspiring Northwest Mox Peak dominated the view of our climb. So hard to believe we had just climbed it the day before.

Col of the Wild
Col of the Wild

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Approach to Southeast Mox Peak

From the ridge, we finally got our first look at the Southeast Mox Peak summit. The east face looked to be full of nothing but more scree and loose rocks. There were ledges and steps wide enough to downclimb but nowhere to project and belay. So we took our time an extra caution through here.

It was tough to dig our ice axes into the permanent snow fingers in the first gully. We immediately spotted a fixed anchor above the snow. After backing it up with more webbing, we rappelled on double ropes down to a safe stopping point. Then we got around the bottom of the snow and onto a platform east of the gully.

From there, we finally were able to peek into the access gully below the summit block. A party of two who started hours before us were descending. So hard to put it into words, but rocks were virtually flying everywhere as they moved. The gully was not the place to meet those fast flying rocks! So we waited for the climbers to come down to the platform before we started moving.

Southeast Mox Peak spire
Southeast Mox Peak spire

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Keeping Focused on Wild Terrain

Unlike other steep gullies, this one was steeper and rockier. Before we knew it, rocks began to move all around us. We took our time getting up to the notch above the gully. In the process, we also made sure no one was climbing directly above anyone else in the group. We were only a couple more pitches below the top.

Patrick had graciously offered to lead while I stayed behind to take photos of the climb. Although many loose rocks on the first pitch, there were still good holds along the cliff wall. And though I wasn’t sure if the protection did the job, it was better to have something than nothing.

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Happy Fourth of July from Southeast Mox Peak

We decided to forego the second pitch and instead scrambled up to the top on the exposed ramp. Not the place to lose our footing for sure! Alas. We finally stood atop the summit after hearing the good and the bad about this peak. Because today was our national holiday, I prepared mini flags for our summit celebration.

Man, what an exhausting climb this was. In my opinion, the climb was more mental than physical. Spectacular views all around us, but the photos couldn’t capture the true essence of the Chilliwack peaks. We spent a long time on the summit soaking in the views. But it hard to leave it all behind after putting in all that effort to get up here.

Soaking up the views
Soaking up the views

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Back to Redoubt Glacier Camp

The descent was going through everything we just went through but in reverse. The process involved several rappels, more downclimbing, and more b*tching and moaning before getting back to camp. On the way down, we met another team of two at the top of the deadly gully.

A couple more climbing groups showed up back at camp. Everyone was either part of a Mountaineers group or an acquaintance. What a great place to see other like-minded folks and to celebrate the holiday!

Day 6

Exit

Overview > Day 1 > Day 2 > Day 3 > Day 4 > Day 5 > Day 6

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Alas. Now that we’ve had our fun, today we made the long exit back to the cars. I bypassed Ouzel Lake and moraine by keeping north on Redoubt Glacier. Kenny and Patrick went back through the lake. The shortcut worked out okay, and I eventually got down to the forest above the waterfall. But I wasn’t crazy about downclimbing in steep gullies full of raging snow water.

The guys showed up 20 minutes later to join me. One last group photo in the meadow before we proceeded to go back down through Depot Creek Falls. Then we hiked and bushwhacked our way out.

Oh my poor toes…

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