The Terrifying Mount Terror / 恐怖的驚駭山

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

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

Photos from this trip can be found here.

The Lowdown on Mount Terror

Access: Goodell Creek Cross-Country Zone Access Trailhead
Round Trip: TBD
Elevation Range: 600′-8151′
Gear:
helmet, rope, rock
GSP track coming soon

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 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

Photos from this trip can be found here.

The Hike to Terror Creek

Unable to take time off to go on another picket traverse with friends this season, I decided to go after one of my objectives in the south half of the Picket Range. 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.

The relaxing approach to the Terror Creek Trail junction was still in the same conditions as two years ago on the way to West McMillan Spire. The well-beaten path leading to the old roadbed wound its way through down trees, brush, and washout sections. The arrow once marked the trail junction had since been replaced by two cairns.

Raging Terror Creek
Raging Terror Creek

Photos from this trip can be found here.

Beyond the junction, the trail became increasingly 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 2100′ as mentioned in several reports. It’s crucial that I crossed here to access the good climbers’ trail on the opposite (west) side of the creek to reach base camp at a decent hour. I spotted the cairn across the way, but the raging water and wet rocks prevented me from making a direct crossing. 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, at 500′ upstream, a big log stretching across the creek provided immediate access to the other side. I then scrambled downstream to the said cairn and accessed the climbers’ trail. Since I had been so focused on locating a good crossing, I had completely forgotten to pack water from the creek. My forgetfulness would eventually come back to bite me.

The Approach to Crescent Creek Basin Camp

Like the approach to Terror Creek Basin, elevation gain was steady once I left the creek. The shorter approach to reach Crescent Creek Basin had been offset by more aggressive elevation gain. Hauling up a heavy pack on steep hills with several breaks, I quickly ran out of the water and would be without any for the next 3500′. There were countless of delicious wild blueberries along the bone-dry ridge for consumption.

Open views
Open views

Photos from this trip can be found here.

I lost the climbers’ trail briefly right before attaining the ridge crest at 3600′, but I was able to locate it by staying in a straight line. Even without a trail, traveling north on or west of the narrow ridge crest would still make route finding straightforward. Occasionally I would come upon outcrops and chasms, but I was able to bypass them from the west. Despite being in the 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 5400′, and I started scrambling northwest toward the saddle between Chopping Block and Point 7149 at the southern end of The Barrier. Hooray! At 5600′ a running stream gave me my first drops of water since leaving Terror Creek at 2100′. 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 the rest of the day hanging by the camp while soaking in the views abound. 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 the 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.

The Climb on Mount Terror

With not a whole lot of snow left in Crescent Creek Basin, the traverse from camp to the gully entrance was almost entirely on talus and scree, with the intermittent, hidden snow gullies. My favorite part was climbing the groups of downsloping 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.

The upper gully was incredibly loose. I took one step forward and two steps back while trying to keep keep a good footing walking amid piles of shale rocks. Snow north of the notch was still present, so I climbed on top and finally my first view into the northern Picket Range…breathtaking.

I squeezed through the moat around the 50′ tall wall to the east and got into the narrow gully between the wall and the west ridge. I took a long overdue break once I stemmed myself up onto the notch. I scoped out possible routes to attaining the west ridge, as 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 into the moat and poked my head around the north side, and then the class 4 protruding rock mentioned in one report I read. Without the extra snow reaching the bottom of it, the rock was now in the low 5th class. I held up the photos from the report to make sure I was at the right spot before moving on.

Once I got above the rock, the rest of the climb on the north side was a steep class 4 through blocky boulders. I initially aimed for the upper rappel anchor on the ridge but came out onto the ridge crest well above the anchor, which worked out in my favor as I discovered later during the descent. I walked up the ridge and then traversed around the south side at 7800′ 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, downsloping 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.

The summit at last! Summit pinnacle looked to be composed of a single monolith with sheer drops on all sides with several loose rocks leading to it, woh! Views up here were simply indescribable like the top of the other high points in the Picket Range, albeit a little hazy due to wildfire smoke. Unlike last year, this time I could see all of 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. The rest of the southern pickets west of here were in a straight line, with the lighting I could only make out 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 my second peak in the southern pickets, with West McMillan Spire being the first. For now, one-offs in the pickets will do until I can find more time for traverses in the future.

Luna Peak
Luna Peak

Photos from this trip can be found here.

The Descent Back to Crescent Creek Basin

After carefully downclimbing 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 as the two rappel anchors were under one rope length apart, with enough rope leftover to get back down into the narrow gully. Here I forgot my newly purchased 20′ cordelette in the gully after packing up my rope and everything else. But it’s become somewhat of a tradition for me to accidentally leave something behind on a trip.

McMillan Spires
McMillan Spires

Photos from this trip can be found here.

While downclimbing in the gully, I noticed old webbing hanging in places where I didn’t think people should build anchors. But it was there! One more rappel above the fork in the lower gully from a station with an old piton and a nut that got left behind. I backed up with some new webbing just in case.

More downclimbing 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 6400′ 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. Just as I was slowly getting myself onto the south ridge, I realized I had forgotten to bring my rope. I had slept on the rope the night before and ended up leaving camp without packing it. Better luck next time!

The Outro

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 wasn’t 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 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 did a traverse to someplace even more lovely.

Overview > Day 1 > Day 2 > Day 3

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