2018/8/4-6 – Mount Terror / 驚駭山

Mount Terror, the leading protagonist
Mount Terror, the leading protagonist

Photos from this trip can be found here.

Logistics Overview
Overview > Day 1 > Day 2 > Day 3

Day 1 – Saturday, August 4
Approach to Crescent Creek Basin
Night 1 – Chopping Block Camp at 6,400′

Day 2 – Sunday, August 5
Mount Terror
Night 2 – Chopping Block Camp at 6,400′

Day 3 – Monday, August 6
Exit


Getting to the Picket Range is strenuous and time-consuming no matter which direction one enters from. And not bagging peaks doesn’t necessarily mean one has to miss out on the sheer beauty of the breathtaking, rugged terrain. Getting to base camp with good navigation and route finding skills, one can certainly enjoy views abound without ever leaving camp.

Day 1 – Approach to Crescent Creek Basin
Overview > Day 1 > Day 2 > Day 3

Terror Creek Basin junction
Terror Creek Basin junction

Photos from this trip can be found here.

Unable to take time off to go on another traverse with friends, this season I decided to get my own Picket Range fix by going after one of my objectives. While getting a permit in Marblemount for Crescent Creek Basin camp, I learned that a party of two had just gone in the day before. That meant I’d possibly have company for the weekend.

Nice and relaxing approach to the trail junction with Terror Creek Basin, more or less the same conditions as our West McMillan Spire trip two years ago. The well-beaten path leading to the old road bed wound its way through down trees, brush, and washout sections. The arrow by the junction mentioned in old reports had since been replaced by a couple of cairns.

Raging Terror Creek
Raging Terror Creek

Photos from this trip can be found here.

Beyond the junction, trail became increasing hard to follow upon entering Terror Creek drainage. Shortly past the moss-covered boulder field, I lost the climbers trail and dropped down to the creek too soon. After spending much time locating the log crossing, I realized I was 100′ elevation too low. So I scrambled upstream alongside the creek until I relocated the climbers trail right before arriving at the crossing.

The log jam was at exactly 2,100′ described in several reports and glad I found it. It was critical that I cross here to access the nice climbers trail on the opposite (west) side of the creek for a timely approach to camp. I spotted the cairn across the way, but wet rocks prevented me from crossing the raging water to reach it. After spending another half hour testing out various spots, I decided to go farther upstream.

Following the obvious trail
Following the obvious trail

Photos from this trip can be found here.

As luck would have it, 500′ upstream a big log stretching across the creek provided immediate access to the other side. Upon crossing, I scrambled downstream to the aforementioned cairn to access the climbers trail behind it. Since I had been so focused on locating the crossing, I had completely forgotten to pack water from the creek. This would come back to bite me later.

Like the approach to Terror Creek Basin, elevation gain was steady once I left the creek. The shorter approach in reaching Crescent Creek Basin was offset by more aggressive elevation gain. Hauling up heavy pack on steep hills with several breaks, I quickly ran out of water and would be without any for the next 3,500′. Lots of delicious wild blueberries along the bone-dry ridge for consumption.

Open views
Open views

Photos from this trip can be found here.

Briefly I lost the climbers trail right before attaining ridge crest at 3,600′, but found it soon after. Even without a trail, traveling north on or west of the narrow ridge crest would still make route finding fairly straightforward. The occasional outcrops and chasms were easily negotiated from the west. Despite being in dense forest, I was able to catch glimpses of nearby mountains to keep my mind off the perpetual elevation gain as views slowly began to open up.

Climbers trail dwindled above the timberline at 5,400′, and I started scrambling northwest toward the saddle between Chopping Block and Point 7149 at the southern end of The Barrier. Hooray! At 5,600′ a running stream gave me my first drops of water since leaving Terror Creek at 2,100′. The head of Chopping Block Creek Basin (unofficial) had the most granite slabs I had ever seen, incredibly aesthetic.

Slabs for days
Slabs for days

Photos from this trip can be found here.

Hands down one of the best camp spots I’ve ever come across, with front row seat to many of the remote and stunning high points in the North Cascades. I enjoyed rest of the day hanging by the camp while soaking in immense views all around. Sky had been hazy since late morning, and when evening rolled around the Goodell Creek drainage had been obscured in smoke.

Dark clouds began to roll in from behind southern Picket Range as I scoped out the route on Mount Terror. At one point it started to drizzle and a rainstorm looked to be heading my way. Thankfully drizzle only lasted minutes and the rainstorm never materialized. Knowing weather was going to be awesome the next day, I wasn’t too terribly concerned.

Home for the next two nights
Home for the next two nights

Photos from this trip can be found here.

Day 2 – Mount Terror
Overview > Day 1 > Day 2 > Day 3

Off to Mount Terror
Off to Mount Terror

Photos from this trip can be found here.

With not a whole lot of snow left in Crescent Creek Basin, nearly the entire traverse from camp to the gully entrance was done on talus and scree, with the occasional hidden snow gullies. My favorite part was climbing the groups of down sloping slabs just before reaching Mount Terror proper that made for a faster approach.

The nearly snow free gully looked steeper and more daunting in person, reminded me of the one on Crooked Thumb Peak. At the fork lower in the gully I continued in the right gully, but quickly realized I had gone off route when I couldn’t get past the overhead refrigerator-sized chockstone. I backtracked down to the fork and noticed a couple of rappel stations in the left gully, whew!

Gully entrance
Gully entrance

Photos from this trip can be found here.

Upper gully was incredibly loose. One step forward and two steps back while trying to keep my footing steady amid the large amount of scree. Snow north of the notch was still present, I climbed on top to get my first view into the Northern Picket Range, simply breathtaking.

I squeezed through the moat around the 50′ tall wall to the east into the narrow gully between the wall and the west ridge and took an overdue break on the notch. I scoped out possible routes to attaining the west ridge, the vertical wall directly above the notch sure didn’t look too inviting.

North view from notch
North view from notch

Photos from this trip can be found here.

I backtracked down to the moat, poked my head around the north side, and discovered the class 4 protruding rock mentioned in a trip report. Much less snow below the rock compared to the report, so the rock has now become low 5th class without snow reaching nearly to the bottom of it.

Once above the rock, rest of the climb on the north side was within steep class 4 range through blocky boulders. I aimed for the upper rappel anchor on the ridge but came out onto the crest well above it. This actually worked out in my favor as I would discover later during the descent. I walked up the ridge and then traversed around the south side at 7,800′ into the ledgy gully where I got my first look at the summit block.

West ridge
West ridge

Photos from this trip can be found here.

Staying left in the gully on better terrain, I quickly made it to the chockstone between the true and the false summits. Rest of the scramble to the top was on exposed, down sloping slabs on the south face with a few class 4 moves. I stayed away from the blocky ridge line as the large boulders didn’t look to be very stable or helpful in getting me up.

Summit at last! Summit pinnacle looked to be composed of a single monolith with sheer drops on all sides especially on the north. Big eek! Views up here were simply incredible and indescribable like those on top of many of the high points in the Picket Range, albeit a little hazy due to wildfire smoke. Unlike exactly one year ago, this time I could actually see all the neighboring peaks!

First sight of true summit below the ledge system
First sight of true summit below the ledge system

Photos from this trip can be found here.

With plenty of daylight left in the day, I enjoyed a super long stay on top savoring every bit of the view. The sheer north face of the eastern half of the southern pickets made the peaks easily identifiable and more breathtaking. Peaks to the west were in a straight line, the only ones I could make out were The Rake in the foreground, and the taller Twin Needles sticking out from the back.

Mount Terror marked my sixth peak in the Picket Range, and second in the southern pickets, first being the West McMillan Spire. Perhaps one of these days I’ll traverse the southern pickets, for now one-offs in the pickets will do until I can find more time for longer outings in future seasons.

Luna Peak
Luna Peak

Photos from this trip can be found here.

After carefully down climbing back to the chockstone, I reversed my route back to the west ridge and found the upper rappel anchor. I was glad to have gotten well above the anchor earlier because getting down to it on steep terrain was a bit nerve-racking.

Glad I brought a 60m rope for the trip since the two rappel anchors happened to be one rope length apart, with plenty of rope to get back down to the narrow gully. It’s become tradition for me to leave something behind on a trip. Here I forgot my newly purchased 20′ cordelette in the gully after packing up my rope and everything else.

McMillan Spires
McMillan Spires

Photos from this trip can be found here.

While down climbing in the gully, I noticed some old webbing hanging in places where I didn’t think people should build anchors but they sure did! One more rappel above the fork in the lower gully from a station with an old piton and a nut that were left behind. I backed up with some new webbing just in case.

More down climbing back at the fork and I eventually made it out of the gully and back into Crescent Creek Basin. I repeated the long traverse across head of the basin and then climbed back up to the 6,400′ camp. To keep myself entertained, I spent rest of the evening relaxing, walking around and taking more photos of the dramatic landscape around me.

Day 3 – Exit
Overview > Day 1 > Day 2 > Day 3

Chopping Block closeup
Chopping Block closeup

Photos from this trip can be found here.

This morning I had set out to climb the Pinnacle Peak (aka The Chopping Block) before leaving the area. But just as I was attaining the peak’s south ridge I realized I had forgotten my rope. Apparently I had used the rope as a pillow the night before and somehow left camp without packing it. Oh well, better luck next time!

On the way out, I stopped by The Barrier’s south ridge crest to get a glimpse of Terror Creek Basin of where we were two years ago. Another rugged yet beautiful basin indeed! And of course everything looked super steep and much more dramatic from afar when I didn’t need to be on it.

Terror Creek Basin lineup
Terror Creek Basin lineup

Photos from this trip can be found here.

After making my way back down to Terror Creek, I spent another half hour by the creek taking long-exposure photos before finally getting my arse to the other side and slowly scrambling and hiking back out to civilization.

Since I didn’t see people up in the basin during my trip, I assumed the party of two that went in the day before me did a traverse to someplace even more lovely.

Overview > Day 1 > Day 2 > Day 3

Access: Goodell Creek Cross-Country Zone Access Trailhead 
Gear: helmet, rope, rock


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