Mount Terror in the Picket Range / 尖樁山脈裏的驚駭山

Going up to the Picket Range, or Mount Terror, for that matter, is strenuous and time-consuming. But by not climbing doesn’t mean having to miss out on the sheer beauty of the rugged terrain. So one can still go to the mountains with route-finding skills. Then enjoy the abounding views without ever leaving camp.

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

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Mount Terror at a Glance

Access: Goodell Creek Cross-Country Zone Access Trailhead
Round Trip: 19 miles
Elevation Range: 600′-8151′
Gear: helmet, rope, rock
GPS Track: available
Dog-Friendly: no pets

Logistics Overview

August 4-6, 2018

Overview > Day 1 > Day 2 > Day 3

Day 1 – Saturday, August 4
Approach to Crescent Creek Basin
Night 1 – Chopping Block Camp at 6400′

Day 2 – Sunday, August 5
Mount Terror
Night 2 – Chopping Block Camp at 6400′

Day 3 – Monday, August 6
Exit


Day 1

Approach to Crescent Creek Basin

Overview > Day 1 > Day 2 > Day 3

Terror Creek Basin junction
Terror Creek Basin junction

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Hiking to Terror Creek

I couldn’t get time off to make another picket traverse this summer. So instead, I went after one of my goals in the Southern Picket Range. While obtaining my permit in Marblemount, I learned that a party of two had gone in the day before. That meant I could have company for the weekend.

Hiking to the Terror Creek Trail junction was straightforward. Conditions of the trail were about the same as our trip from two years ago. The old roadbed curved its way through down trees and brush. But two cairns had since replaced the rock arrow that once marked the junction.

Raging Terror Creek
Raging Terror Creek

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Terror Creek Crossing

Beyond the junction, the path became hard to follow. Soon, I lost the trail past the moss-covered boulder field. Then I realized I was 100′ too low after spending some time finding the log jam. So I went up upstream along the creek. Then I got back on the route just before coming up to the crossing.

It was essential for me to cross at 2040′ to access the climbers’ trail. That way, I would reach the campsite at a decent hour. However, the raging water plus wet rocks kept me from making a direct crossing. So I spent half an hour testing out various places, and to no avail. Then I made my way farther upstream.

Following the obvious trail
Following the obvious trail

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Steep South Ridge

Fortunately, I located a big log 500′ upstream at 2100′. So it gave me access to the other side. Then I went downstream to the cairn by the trail. Finding a safe water crossing was my main focus. So I forgot to pack water before leaving the creek. But my carelessness would eventually come back to bite me.

Just as the way up to Terror Creek Basin, the elevation gain here was steady. But it would offset the shorter distance to the Crescent Creek Basin. I took many breaks while hauling up a heavy pack. Very soon, I ran out of the water. And I would be without any for the next 3500′. But there were lots of wild blueberries along the bone-dry ridge for consumption.

Open views
Open views

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Route Finding on the Ridge

Later, I lost the trail below the ridge crest at 3600′. But keeping north on the narrow ridge, it wasn’t hard to navigate. I avoided the occasional outcrops from the west. Despite being in the forest, at times, I would catch glimpses of the nearby mountains. So the views helped keep my mind off the steep terrain. Later, I found the path again.

The terrain broadened at 5400′ above the timberline. But the trail slowly dwindled. So then I scrambled northwest toward the saddle between the Chopping Block and Point 7149. Hooray! The small stream at 5600′ gave me the first drops of water since I left Terror Creek. The head of the Chopping Block Basin had the most granite slabs I had ever seen on a climbing trip.

Slabs for days
Slabs for days

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Chopping Block Camp

This campsite was hands down one of the best I’d ever stayed on a climb. It was my front-row seat to viewing many of the remote high points in the North Cascades. Then I spent the afternoon hanging out and soaking in views. The sky had turned hazy since late morning. And when evening rolled around, the smoke had obscured the Goodell Creek drainage entirely.

Dark clouds emerged from behind the southern range as I scoped out the route on Mount Terror. Soon it drizzled. And a rainstorm seemed like it was forming. But thankfully, the rain only lasted minutes. Then the rainstorm never materialized. But knowing that the weather would be excellent the next day, I wasn’t concerned.

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

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Day 2

Mount Terror

Overview > Day 1 > Day 2 > Day 3

Off to Mount Terror
Off to Mount Terror

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Mount Terror Climb

Overall, there wasn’t much snow. So through Crescent Creek Basin, I was mostly on talus and scree. But along the way, I discovered several hidden snow and ice gullies. My favorite part was going through the massive downsloping slabs right before the gully entrance.

The nearly snow-free terrain looked steeper and more intimidating. It very much reminded me of the way to Crooked Thumb Peak. I took the right-hand gully with the refrigerator-size chockstone. But soon, I knew I was off route. So I backtracked to the junction. Then there, I spotted two rappel stations in the left ravine. Big whew!

Gully entrance
Gully entrance

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Mount Terror West Gully

The upper gully was full of loose rocks. And consistently, I took one step forward and several steps back. But I kept a solid footing by burying my boots in the shale rock piles. Just north of the notch, the big snow chunk was still present. So I went on top and had my first dose of the northern Picket Range. Breathtaking!

Afterward, I squeezed through the moat around the 50′-tall wall to the east. Then I went inside the narrow gully between the wall and the west ridge. After stemming my way up to the notch, I took a long-overdue break. Later, I scoped out ways to attain the west ridge. But the vertical route overhead didn’t look too enticing.

North view from the notch
North view from the notch

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Mount Terror West Ridge

So I went back down to the moat and looked around on the north side. Then I noticed the class 4 protruding rock mentioned in one report. But without the extra snow reaching higher up on the wall, the climb was now in the low 5th. So I held up photos to ensure I was at the correct spot before continuing.

Above the crux, the climb up to the ridge was on class 4 boulders. At first, I aimed toward the upper rappel anchor. But I went above it by accident. It turned out to work in my favor, as I would later discover on the way back. Soon, I climbed up through the west ridge. Then at 7800′ I went around to the south side. Later, I went into the ledgy gully and saw the summit block at last.

West ridge
West ridge

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The Steep Final Stretch

From the left of the gully, I then moved up to the chockstone between the summits. The rest of the climb was on exposed, downsloping slabs. But the 4th class moves on the south face were better than expected. I avoided the ridgeline altogether, as the boulders weren’t too stable.

The summit at last! A beautiful monolith comprised the summit pinnacle. Loose rocks lead to the top that had sheer drops on all sides. Woh! Views here were indescribable, like on any other high points in the Picket Range. Everywhere I looked was hazy because of the wildfire smoke. But unlike last year, this time, I could see all of the nearby peaks.

The real summit below the ledge system
The real summit below the ledge system

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Mount Terror Summit Plus Views

I still had plenty of time left in the day. So I enjoyed an extended stay on top. The eastern half of the southern pickets we’re easy to identify by their sheer north sides. The other half west of here was in a straight line. So I could only make out The Rake in front of me. Poking out from the back were the Twin Needles.

Mount Terror marked my sixth peak in the Picket Range. It was also my second peak in the southern pickets after West McMillan. So for or now, one-off climbs will have to do. But I hope to find more time for another traverse.

Luna Peak
Luna Peak

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Back to the West Gully

On the descent, I carefully downclimbed back to the chockstone. Then I reversed my route down the west ridge and found the upper rappel anchor. But I was happy to be above it on the ascent. Getting up to the belay station from below felt much steeper.

Glad to have brought a 60m rope. The two rappel anchors ended up being just under one rope length apart. Later, I forgot my newly purchased cordelette in the narrow gully while packing up my gear. But it’s a known fact that I tend to leave something behind on a trip.

McMillan Spires
McMillan Spires

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Back to Chopping Block Camp

While in the gully, I noticed old webbing hanging in places where I didn’t expect to see anchors. But it was there! One more rappel from a station with an old piton and a nut got me back into the lower gully. But first I backed up the anchor with new webbing.

Finally, I exited the gully and got back into Crescent Creek Basin after more downclimbing. I reversed the long traverse across and then climbed back up to camp. To keep myself entertained, I spent the rest of the evening taking photos. I walked around and admired the dramatic landscape around me.

Day 3

Exit

Overview > Day 1 > Day 2 > Day 3

Chopping Block closeup
Chopping Block closeup

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Leaving Southern Pickets

This morning I had set out to climb the Pinnacle Peak (aka The Chopping Block) before leaving the area. Then I realized I didn’t have my rope with me after I got up to the south ridge. I had used it as a pillow during the night but forgot to pack it before leaving camp. Better luck next time!

On the way out, I stopped by The Barrier’s south ridge. From the crest, I got a closer look at Terror Creek Basin. We were there two years ago! Another rugged yet gorgeous basin, indeed! But of course, everything looked steeper and more dramatic when viewed from a distance.

Terror Creek Basin lineup
Terror Creek Basin lineup

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Hiking Out

After making my way back down to Terror Creek, I spent another half hour by the creek. I took some photos before finally getting my arse to the other side. Then I slowly scrambled and hiked back out to civilization.

I didn’t see anyone up in the basin during the trip. So perhaps the party of two had gone to someplace even more lovely.

Overview > Day 1 > Day 2 > Day 3

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