Middle Chiwaukum and Then Some / 奇瓦康姆中峯遠不止此

Middle Chiwaukum has been on my radar since Big Chiwaukum. But I hadn’t thought about climbing the peak in wintry conditions. Not until I saw a report from January. But then I delayed the trip after the rare February snowstorms came into the Pacific Northwest.

Middle Chiwaukum from the upper northwest ridge
Middle Chiwaukum from the upper northwest ridge

See more trip photos here.

So in preparation for tomorrow’s Big Climb event, the pup and I went on another adventure. With Jeff’s recent report on nwhikers.net, I was able to calculate the mileage of unexciting road walk needed. To think that the last time we were here, we could drive clear to the trailhead!

Middle Chiwaukum at a Glance

Access: White Pine Road
Round Trip: 10.5 miles
Elevation Range: 2320′-7423′
Gear: ice ax, snowshoes
GPS Track: available
Dog-Friendly: with guidance

White Pine Road

The drive on White Pine Road took careful navigating over mud and ice. Then I parked at half a mile before the Cascade Meadows Baptist Camp. But as we started to hike, out came a car from around the corner. The driver let me know I could go another half a mile without problems. So the closer to the camp, the better, of course!

Later, I parked at the pullout before the camp. Then we hiked through the gate. White Pine Road was now behind a snow berm. So I had missed it completely. I thought it was odd that someone had groomed the path. But then I realized we were, in fact, on private property. Our bad!

Middle Chiwaukum beyond the ridgeline
Middle Chiwaukum beyond the ridgeline

See more trip photos here.

Walking to White Pine Trailhead

We soon postholed after going back on White Pine Road. The old snowshoe tracks were on top of firmer snow. But we consistently stepped through in places. So we hiked very slowly through the two miles to the trailhead at 2800′.

The tracks we followed went past the trailhead. So I assumed that they belonged to day hikers. So instead of taking the trail, we entered the forest and went straight uphill. The snow quality was terrible. So my decision ended up costing us more time.

The fun starts nowf
The fun starts now

See more trip photos here.

Upper Northwest Ridge

The initial 1400′ elevation gain went by painfully slow. It was one of the times with more powder in the forest. Later, we found old tracks below the northwest ridge at 4200′. So I channeled my inner Madea: “Hellur Hallelujer, praise da Lort!” The path came from below. So we should have taken the trail after all!

Despite having a trail to follow, we continued to step through in many places. But at least now we took route-finding out of the equation. So for the next 1600′, we went up the steep slopes at a decent pace. The ridge later flattened at 5800′. Then at 5900′, we had our first look at North Chiwaukum.

The real Middle Chiwaukum please stand up
The real Middle Chiwaukum please stand up

See more trip photos here.

Northwest Ridge to North Chiwaukum

The view of the ridgeline leading up to the steep north side of North Chiwaukum was terrific. By now, the sun was blazing down on us. Then just as we went through the thin forest, something else caught my eye. Middle Chiwaukum had just poked her head out from behind the trees. Holy isht, it looked gnarly!

We were close to the top of North Chiwaukum. So I thought about shortcutting over to the south saddle. But we went up to the summit anyway. I remembered one report mentioned that cutting across the slopes wasn’t worth the effort. The views were even more spectacular from North Chiwaukum.

North view from North Chiwaukum
North view from North Chiwaukum

See more trip photos here.

Middle Chiwaukum via North Chiwaukum

We took a much-needed break here. Then we enjoyed southern views for a while. Clouds were high enough to see the familiar places: Big Jim Mountian, Mount Stuart, and Big Chiwaukum. Just on the other side of the ridge was the impressive Middle Chiwaukum. It was calling our names. So off we go!

We went down toward the saddle on the broad terrain. Then I noticed the wind-blown snow piles had buried the old tracks. The new ski trails from the backside of the ridge had also made their way over to Middle Chiwaukum. Then when we went up to the east shoulder, I knew right away why a group had turned around here.

Getting up to the snow arête
Getting up to the snow arête

See more trip photos here.

Middle Chiwaukum via the East Ridge

For me, traction from the snowshoes sufficed. But one slip could easily send one down either side of the snow arête. So I used ice ax for the 100′ steep section below the false summit. Much of the snow on the south slopes had melted. So I made the final stretch in boots. Soon, we were on the windy summit adorned with cornices.

Clouds had gathered around the horizon when we went up on top. Then within half an hour, places like Big Chiwaukum, Mount Stuart, and the Stuart Range were the first to go. Glad I saw them before they disappeared entirely. There was still lots of snow in Ewing Basin with its two lakes–Chiwaukum Lake and Larch Lake.

South panoramic view
South panoramic view

See more trip photos here.

Outro

Going back down the east ridge took less time. Snowshoes alone provided enough security. So the crampons stayed in the pack. Soon, we were back on North Chiwaukum. Then we continued down the northwest ridge. Snow quality had worsened in the afternoon heat. So it was easier to carve out a new path for the traverse.

The annoying part of the descent was in the forest. Even our tracks over the popcorn-textured snow couldn’t keep us from stepping through continually. But my constant yell probably scared off the nearby wildlife, if any.

Thanks for a long but fantastic day
Thanks for a long but fantastic day

See more trip photos here.

Two Miles of Road Walk

We later made it back down on the trail. Then we just needed to hike two miles back to the car. That ended up bein one of the lowlights of this trip.

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