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

  • Reading time:29 mins read

Tenpeak Mountain and West Peak rise above White River and Thunder Basin south of Glacier Peak. They share one long, rugged ridgeline extending west from Clark Mountain. Moreover, the main summit ranks #3 in Dakobed Range after Luahna Peak.

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

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Tenpeak Mountain and West Peak 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 Mountain
This way to Tenpeak Mountain

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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.

Waterway to Tenpeak Mountain
Waterway 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.

Meadow in the lower basin
Meadow in the lower basin

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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 hidden rocks and down trees made this part laborious.

So I stepped through the grass carefully as not to trip and fall. Meanwhile, 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. However, 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′ before it faded.

Evening colors
Evening colors

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The Upper Basin

To bypass the lower Thunder Basin, I stayed on the ridgeline toward the upper drainage. During this, I heard a loud thump and shuffling, likely from a bear. But the animal had disappeared before I could tell its whereabouts.

Later more animal tracks led me out into the open through blueberry slopes. But even the path couldn’t keep me from sliding down the bushes. I’d occasionally help myself to a mouthful of delicious wild berries.

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Thunder Basin 6400′ Camp

At last, the path dwindled before a gully, with the only water source half a mile before camp. 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 low. Otherwise, I’d need to deal with the moraine on the way up the next day. Soon, I found one of the several platforms at 6400′ and bivvied.

Humble abode by Tenpeak Mountain
Humble abode by Tenpeak Mountain

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Tenpeak Mountain Climb

The drizzles in the night had me worry about today’s weather. Luckily, it only lasted a little while. I rechecked the forecast this morning and found it to be 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 to reach Tenpeak Mountain’s south side. But the actual summit wasn’t visible from here.

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Tenpeak Mountain East Gully

Reports I had mentioned a snowfield below the summit. Glad I brought crampons as the snow wasn’t visible until I reached the bottom. Soon, I made my way up to the top of the snow that ended below the east gully.

It was full of loose rocks here. A few 4th class moves through wobbly stones later put me on the incredibly windy notch. I took an extended break avoiding the gusts and checking 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. There were more decent handholds lower down, but it went smoother than expected.

More footholds became available as I went higher. Then climbing was more manageable at the first belay station with bits of webbing. Then moving another 50′ above the anchor put me on the summit at last.

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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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Leaving Tenpeak Mountain

Earlier, as I made my way up, I realized I should’ve brought my 60-meter rope. The 30-meter one wasn’t long enough to reach the notch. So I improvised by scoping out the southeast side instead.

While I was down in the gully, I looked up at the seemingly mild southeast face. Luckily, with ledges, I was able to drop onto the big step above the snow. Then I made one rappel and reached the bottom.

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En Route to West Peak

Once I came out from under the moat, I retraced my steps back to the edge of the snowfield. Then I made my way back to 7000′ below the joining saddle. From there, it was more rocks plus scree to the snow.

At first, I had wanted to avoid the snow altogether by dropping more altitude. 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 was rocky and took a while to reach the upper crest. Once above 7900′, I traversed toward the summit before going around to the north.

Other reports weren’t too obvious about the final portion of the climb. So I studied the terrain a bit before moving again. I hugged the wall and used ledges plus narrow ramps to go up into the gully.

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The Final Tretch on West Peak

From the gully, I moved up using ledges and ramps without significant issues. But I did make a mental note of the one big step below the top. I knew I’d either need a handline or rappel to get off of it.

I wish I had taken photos during this part of the climb. But because of the steepness, I needed both hands and stayed as close to the wall as possible. It was easy to get into mishaps back there.

A shot of Tenpeak Slam
A shot of Tenpeak Slam

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Tenpeak Mountain West Peak Summit Views

This summit also boasted huge stacked boulders like the other peak. I rested on a downsloping rock and hung my gear on the uneven surface. Now that the sun was out, views up here were much broader.

Clouds over by Glacier Peak had shifted but continued to hover over the peaks. I even saw Glacier Gap Peak at one point. In contrast, the scenery to the east and the south was much more excellent.

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The Nearby Scenery

At last, I saw Dakobed Slam— Clark Mountain and Luahna Peak, in full view from here. Distant sights weren’t terrific, but I still caught a glimpse of Indian Head Peak and Bandit Peak.

When I looked to White River Valley, I realized the work still needed to make it out of the area. But the thought of going through the vast slide alder started to make me cringe. Later 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

My 30-meter rope took me down the steep north face onto more gentle terrain. From there, I slowly worked my way over to the south ridge. As the rocks became more solid, I could move quickly again.

It felt like taking even longer to return to the 7500′ saddle. But instead of going over Point 7652, I used granite slabs and made a beeline for the camp. I quickly packed up and then went down to Thunder Basin.

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A Night in the Forest

The sky darkened when I reached the alder swath west of the waterfall. So I decided to crash on a flat spot in the forest. I also texted work using inReach to let everyone know I was still in the wilderness.

It was a starry night, but the sky wasn’t visible through the dense forest to photograph the star trails. Meanwhile, I kept thinking about that bear from yesterday. But I eventually fell asleep and slept well.

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

It made me nervous about having to go through the scary alder swath at 4000′. Right then. I saw a few game trails west of Thunder Creek. “Animals would, of course, look for a least resisting path!” I thought.

The tracks bypassed the alder, but it was fascinating to see how high it grew. I stayed on the hill until I could go down into the forest through a small talus. Soon, I came upon the faint path from two days ago.

Seeing White River Valley
Seeing White River Valley

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Back on White River Trail

I had no desire to cross the creekbed again and followed the trail to see where it would lead. “Please let this be the trail,” I thought. Then I went over the west edge of the brush on mild terrain.

At times, the trail even moved through the alder. “What do you know?!” The defined path soon ended before a shoe on a stick. Then another 500′ scrambling south over the open forest, I was back on White River Trail.

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Back to the Trailhead

As it turned out, the trail’s hidden entrance was half a mile west of Thunder Creek. But the two hours I had allotted to leave the basin ended up taking me only half an hour. Sweet!

Back at Boulder Creek, I chatted with two rangers while taking a break. They were on their way to Boulder Pass to pick up 25 pounds of trash someone had left behind. Seriously, people?

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

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