Tenpeak Mountain + West Peak via White River + Thunder Basin / 十指山

  • Reading time:14 mins read

Tenpeak Mountain and the west peak rise above White River Valley to the south of Glacier Peak. Moreover, the main summit ranks #3 in the Dakobed Range. Together, both peaks share one rugged ridgeline extending west from Clark Mountain.

Tenpeak Mountain from the west peak
Tenpeak Mountain from the west peak

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Tenpeak Mountain at a Glance

Tenpeak Slam = Tenpeak Mountain + Tenpeak Mountain West Peak
十指滿貫=十指山+十指山西峯

Access: White River Trailhead
Round Trip: 26.8 miles
Elevation Range: 2280′-8200′
Gear: helmet, crampons, rope, rock
GPS Track: available
Dog-Friendly: no

The Preface

We attempted Johannesburg Mountain last weekend. But I stayed in the park and enjoyed a lovely day trip the next day. Then this week, I went climbing Tenpeak Mountain and the west peak in Glacier Peak Wilderness.

The White River Trail past Boulder Creek was overly brushy because of low care. Perhaps the negative reviews were from people who haven’t dealt with it before. But I brought garden gloves and a mosquito net just in case.

White River in the AM
White River in the AM

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Tenpeak Mountain via White River Trail

It was my second time on the White River Trail. The first trip was on my way to climbing the Dakobed Slam with the pups. Back then, we started super late and hiked into camp after dark.

There were over a dozen cars in the lot when I started walking at 7 AM. It’s been so long that I didn’t recognize the trail at all. But it wasn’t long before I reached Boulder Pass Trail junction. Then I continued.

Boulder Pass Trail junction
Boulder Pass Trail junction

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Brushy White River Valley

The trail was clear until the first clearing with a handful of large down trees. Oddly, they were the only ones before Thunder Creek. Despite the terrible reviews, the path was there, and it was decent. But the vegetation could use significant pruning.

I needed to be mindful of my steps since I couldn’t see my feet most of the time. At times, it felt like walking through a corn maze. The cut alder branches I noticed were likely the excellent work by this WTA user.

This way to Tenpeak Slam
This way to Tenpeak Slam

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Tenpeak Mountain South Route

I found a handful of reports of the Tenpeak Slam. Climbers either went in from White River or North Fork Sauk River Trailhead. Three groups traversed the Dakobed Slam. Aka Clark Mountain and Luahna Peak.

Two groups, including the most recent outing from two years ago, went in via the standard route to Glacier Peak. I didn’t want to do the latter again this year because we were just there in June.

Clark Mountain above the water gully
Clark Mountain above the water gully

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Weighing the Options

Since I wasn’t climbing the Dakobed Slam, it wouldn’t make sense to do the long ridge traverse. So the only other direct and the least technical option was to come in from the White River Trail.

The Cascade Alpine Guide had also listed the south route to climbing the Tenpeak Slam. But it didn’t give details about Thunder Basin. Above all, the fact that no one else mentioned going this way raised many suspicions.

Corn maze
Corn maze

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Thunder Creek to 3600′

One report mentioned a trail in Thunder Basin. But it didn’t give the specifics–not helpful. So I had to improvise somehow. After reaching Thunder Creek, I was back in the forest. Then I went uphill right before the stream crossing.

Since visibility into the higher ground was weak, I couldn’t plan my route. The terrain east of the creek looked to be slowly turning into cliffs. So I crossed the water to the west side. But the higher I went, the brushier it became.

Start of the real grunt work
Start of the real grunt work

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The Waterway Route

Things began to look dire when the slide alder overtook the forest. At first, I slowly weaved myself through the catching branches. But when that became unbearable, I slowly moved back toward the water. Then I was able to travel more efficiently through waterfalls and wet rocks.

Later, I worked my way back up the slopes when the brush dwindled. Then back in the forest, I took note of a faint path. “I wonder if this is the trail from the one report that mentioned it?” I thought.

This way to Tenpeak Mountain
This way to Tenpeak Mountain

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From 3600′ Log Jam to 4150′ Meadow

The next section, from 3600′ to 4000′ was the most excruciating and slow-moving. After coming out of the forest over down trees, a basin full of slide alder followed. None of the route options was helpful.

I could either fight my way through more brush on either side of Thunder Creek. Or I could try walking up the creek bed again and hope not to slip. I went through the first log jam and walked upstream very slowly. Feeling frustrated, I moved east into the forest.

First sighting of Tenpeak Mountain
First sighting of Tenpeak Mountain

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The Lush 4150′ Meadow

But even the trees couldn’t win, as the slide alder had also taken up their territory. So after a short, unproductive scramble, I went back to the west of the creek. By now, I had gone above the nastiest section of the brush.

Later I started seeing more game trails and flagging of various colors. So I continued going up the basin. Eventually, I came out into the 4150′ meadow in the lower basin.

Lower basin at last
Lower basin at last

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Onward to Thunder Basin

Before the edge of the forest was a campsite with a firepit. “You mean, people actually made their way up here?” I thought. Later I went through the knee-to-thigh high grassland. But the rocks and many down trees made this part laborious.

So I stepped carefully as not to trip and fall. A beautiful waterfall above the meadow was spewing out of the upper basin. The sound grew louder as I got nearer.

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Waterfall West Gully

Several animal tracks took me up to the alder-infested gully just west of the waterfall. Though, I was able to go through the brush on one defined game trail. I had to duck down or crawl through tight branches in some places.

But I was happy to have a trail to follow. Later the faint path took me through the open forest. Then it put me right on the ridgeline west of Thunder Basin at 5200′.

Evening colors
Evening colors

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The Upper Basin

Without going into the lower Thunder Basin, I stayed on the ridgeline toward the upper drainage. The loud thump and shuffling I heard must’ve been a bear. Though, it had disappeared before I could tell its whereabouts.

Soon, animal tracks led me into the open through blueberry bush-strewn slopes. Even the path couldn’t keep me from sliding as I sidestepped. Though, I’d periodically help myself to a mouthful of delicious wild berries.

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Thunder Basin 6400′ Camp

At last, the path dwindled before a water gully. It was also my last water source half a mile before camp. Then beyond the stream came the granite slabs. I. Love. Slabs! There was no shortage of those here, as they make for an enjoyable traverse.

At the top of the basin were two small lakes, but I decided not to camp below. Then I also wouldn’t need to deal with the moraine the next day. Soon, I found one of the several platforms at 6400′ and bivyed.

Humble abode by Tenpeak Mountain
Humble abode by Tenpeak Mountain

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Tenpeak Mountain Climb

The drizzles during the night had me worry about today’s weather. Luckily, it stopped a little while later. Then I rechecked the forecast this morning and found it mostly sunny. So instead of waiting out the clouds, I started moving.

From camp, I made a rising traverse north above the moraine basin. Then I stayed at 7200′ and rounded the south ridge. Then I reached Tenpeak Mountain’s southern slopes. Though, the actual summit wasn’t visible from here.

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Tenpeak Mountain East Gully

Reports mentioned the snowfield below the summit. Glad I brought crampons as the field wasn’t visible from below. Later I made my way up to the top of the snow that ended below the east gully.

It was full of loose rocks here. Then a few class 4 moves through wobbly stones put me on the incredibly windy notch. I took an extended break here to check out the crux over the east face.

Thank goodness for crampons
Thank goodness for crampons

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Final Stretch on Tenpeak Mountain

From below, I was able to see all the potential holds. But I waited for the wind to die down first before moving again. The climb turned out to be better than expected. There were more decent handholds lower down.

More footholds became available as I went higher. The climbing also became more manageable once I reached the first belay station with bits of webbing. Then another 50′ above the anchor, I finally reached the summit.

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Summit with Spotty Views

While the views weren’t superb, at least the clouds had moved around. So I saw snapshots of nearby peaks. Soon, sunshine seeped through the mist. But the major high points like Glacier Peak were never visible.

I got glimpses of Tenpeak Mountain West Peak as well as parts of the Honeycomb Glacier. I also saw the Suiattle River Valley through the mist. With minimal views, I stayed a short while before heading back down.

Honeycomb Glacier
Honeycomb Glacier

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Tenpeak Mountain West Peak

I regretted not bringing my 60m rope after getting up the east face. Since the 30m one wasn’t long enough to get back down to the notch, I checked out the southeast face. Earlier while I was in the gully, I remember looking up at the terrain, and it looked more moderate. Luckily, with ledges, I was able to get down to the big step above the snow. Then I rappelled just once to reach the bottom.

Once I came out from under the moat, I retraced my steps back down to the edge of the snowfield. Then I proceeded to get back to 7000′ elevation below the connecting saddle. From there, it was rock hopping plus scree to reach the east snowfield below the west peak summit. I wanted to avoid the snow altogether. But from where I stood, it made more sense to make a rising traverse. Soon, I was up on the 7500′ south saddle.

Beware of rockfalls
Beware of rockfalls

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Tenpeak Mountain West Peak Climb

The south ridgeline looked tame on the map. But in reality, it took a while to get to the upper crest. Once above 7900′, I traversed toward the summit before getting around down onto the north side. Other reports weren’t too clear about this last part of the climb. So I studied the terrain for a bit before moving again. I stayed close to the wall and relied on ledges and narrow ramps to get up into the gully.

I continued to use ledges and ramps to get up to the top without significant issues. But I did make a mental note of one big step right below the summit. I knew I’d either need a handline or rappel to get off of it. I wish I had my camera out during this part of the climb to take photos. But it was steep back here. So I needed to be as close to the wall as possible to avoid mishaps.

A shot of Tenpeak Slam
A shot of Tenpeak Slam

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Tenpeak Mountain West Peak Summit

This summit also boasted huge stacked rocks like the other peak. I sat on a downsloping rock and hanged my gear on the uneven surface. Now that the sun was out, views were much better up here. Clouds in the direction of Glacier Peak had lifted. But they continued to hover over the top of the nearby peaks. I got a full view of Glacier Gap Peak at one point. But the scenery to the east and the south was much more excellent!

From here, I could finally see the Dakobed Slam, Clark Mountain, and Luahna Peak, in full view. Distant views weren’t great. But I caught a glimpse of Indian Head Peak and Bandit Peak. I looked to the White River Valley and realized the amount of work involved to get out of the area. The thought of getting through the endless slide alder began to make me cringe. I left the summit after an extended stay.

The Hive and Gorgeous Day Peak
The Hive and Gorgeous Day Peak

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Exiting

The 30m rope got me down on the steep north face onto more gentle terrain. Then from there, I worked my way back up to the south ridge before traversing. It felt taking even longer to get back to the 7500′ south saddle. I used granite slabs to get back down to camp instead of having to go over Point 7652. A quick pack-up at camp, I then started making my way down toward Thunder Basin.

It became dark after I got above the alder swatch west of the waterfall. So I decided to crash on a flat spot in the forest. I texted work using inReach to let everyone know I was still in the wilderness. The night was starry. But the sky wasn’t visible through the dense forest to take shots of the star trails. Although I kept thinking about that bear from yesterday, I slept well, surprisingly!

Morning of day three in the lower basin
Morning of day three in the lower basin

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Back to White River Valley

I was nervous about getting through the alder swatch between 3600′ and 4000′ basin. So after I reached the brush, I took a minute to check out the terrain. Then I did notice a couple of game trails heading upslope to the west of Thunder Creek. I’m always in awe of animal intelligence. “Of course, they’d look for terrain with the least resistance, just like us humans!” I thought.

The paths bypassed the alder altogether. But it was fascinating to find how high up the brush grew on the slopes! I stayed above the creek until I reached a small talus field. Through rocks and light vegetation, I was able to get back down into the forest more efficiently. After a short walk back through down trees, l then came upon the faint path I saw two days ago.

Seeing White River Valley
Seeing White River Valley

Back on White River Trail

I had no desire to bypass the slide alder by going via the creek bed again. So I decided to follow the trail to see where it’d take me. “Please let this be the trail,” I repeatedly told myself. The path took me through to the western edge of the brush on moderate terrain. It even moved in and out of the alder at times. “What do you know?!” The defined pathway ended before a shoe on a stick! Another 500′ of scrambling south, I was right back on the White River Trail.

As it turned out, the hidden entrance of this trail was half a mile west of the Thunder Creek crossing. The two hours I had allotted to get out of the brush took me just half an hour. Sweet! Back at the Boulder Creek junction, I took a break and chatted with two rangers. They were on their way to Boulder Pass to pick up 25 pounds of trash. Seriously, people?

Back to fighting the good fight
Back to fighting the good fight

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