Photos from this trip can be found here.
When mountaineering legend Fred Beckey said to allow a fully day for the ascent, I think he really meant it. Pups and I attempted this four years earlier and turned around when the weather was less than ideal with super low visibility beyond our turnaround point beyond the microflectors. At the time I hadn’t the foggiest idea just how much work it would have been involved had we gone any farther.
Crux was getting from car to the radio repeaters at 3300′ (3300′ gain in two miles) before terrain gradually tapered off at 3800′. The aftermath of Goodell Fire 2015 was evident, and virtually every tree I used to belay myself up was charred. Lots of big granite rocks to negotiate in the gully. On our first attempt in 2012, snow level started below the microflectors so we were able to go faster on snowshoes. This time snow wasn’t present until past 4700′ beyond the big granite slab wall. I stashed the snowshoes at 3800′.
A faint game path meandered its way through forest to a tiny pond where pups got some water, as it had been quite dry along the ridge. The path traced along east of the ridge crest and negotiated dense alder entirely by staying close the nose of several buttresses above cliffs. There I saw a tiny bit of Newhalem at the base of the mountain. Another alder swatch spread across top of a talus field. Just as I thought we were in for another Cascade brush fight, I noticed a tiny opening on the right about 100 feet up the talus and followed it through thin alder. Just on the other side was a small, brush-free gully to get up to bottom of the 500-foot granite slab scramble, hooray!
The seemingly never-ending slab wall turned out to be an super easy, exposed class 3 scramble. There was enough ledges and steps to aid getting up steep terrain. Above the slabs at 4600′ was another faint game path, which we followed to climb out of the slab wall and onto the higher ridge. From there we followed the ridge line in snow, first onto Point 4880 and Point 5400 afterward. I put on crampons at 5200’ for traction and mixed climbing to get through more granite slabs. Another slight dip on the ridge past Point 5400 followed by 700 feet of slog to the top. Slush was just on the surface so postholing wasn’t an issue. Snowshoes would certainly have made our ascent much more efficient.
This mountain doesn’t seem to get a lot of visitors, because the views were just awesome! Summit was relatively flat with plenty of room for an entire army. Nice to see a different perspective of Davis Peak from the west, as well as a closer look at the southern Picket Range. The unique shape of Paul Bunyans Stump made it easily identifiable, it stood out from rest of the Snowfield group. All except Primus Peak from the Eldorado group was visible. Clear view of Jack, Crater, and Ruby to the east, plus a tiny bit of Diablo Lake. I spent lots of time staring down the imposing Thornton, Despair, Baker, and Shuksan on the west.
Pups and I started heading back down after an extended stay and made it down to the slab wall and through to the 3800′ ridge before dark. We slowly scrambled our way down the 3000 of steepness in the dark and back to the car.