Tenpeak Slam via White River / 經白河上十指滿貫

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

See more trip photos here.

It was fun to visit Trappers Peak and X Mountain last weekend. Then this week it was back to the big mountains.

Due to the lack of maintenance, White River Trail past Boulder Creek was beyond brushy. I read several negative reviews from people who presumably hadn’t dealt with something similar before. But to plan for the worst, I brought a pair of garden gloves and a mosquito net. So at least I’d have prepared myself for the unforeseen mess.

The Lowdown on Tenpeak Slam

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: TBD
Elevation Range: 2280′-8200′
Gear: helmet, crampons, rope, rock
GPS Track: available

White River Trail

This trip was my second time accessing the White River Trail. The first time was on the way to climbing the Dakobed Slam with the pups. Back then, we started super late and hiked into camp after dark. So I didn’t remember this trail much. There were over a dozen cars in the lot when I started walking at 7 AM. Soon, I was at the Boulder Creek Trail junction and then continued.

The trail was clear of debris to just before getting out of the forest. There I hopped over a handful of big down trees. Oddly, they were the only big logs before Thunder Creek. Despite the terrible reviews, the trail 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.

Glove time
Glove time

See more trip photos here.

Route Selection

I found a handful of reports of Tenpeak Mountain. People 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.

Since I wasn’t climbing the Dakobed Slam, it wouldn’t make sense to do the long traverse either. 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 this south route. But it didn’t go into details about getting from the main trail up into Thunder Basin. Above all, the fact that no one mentioned this approach in their reports raised many suspicions.

Taking the waterway
Taking the waterway

See more trip photos here.

Thunder Creek to 3600′

One report mentioned a trail in Thunder Basin but didn’t give the specifics, not helpful. So I had to improvise somehow. After getting to Thunder Creek, I was back in the forest. Then I headed uphill right before the stream crossing. Since visibility into the higher elevation was weak, I couldn’t plan my route. The terrain east of the creek looked to be gradually turning into cliffs. So I crossed the water to the west side. Sadly, the higher I went, the brushier it became.

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 from the creek bed, I was able to travel more efficiently through waterfalls and wet rocks. Later, I worked my way back up to the slopes when the brush dwindled. 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?”.

First sighting of Tenpeak Mountain
First sighting of Tenpeak Mountain

See more trip photos here.

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 had the choice of fighting my way through more brush on either side of Thunder Creek. Or I could try to walk 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.

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 brush. Then here’s where I started seeing more game paths and flagging of various colors. So I continued heading up the drainage and eventually came out into the 4150′ meadow in the lower basin.

Lower basin at last
Lower basin at last

See more trip photos here.

Onward to Thunder Basin

Before getting out of the trees, I noticed a campsite with a firepit. “You mean, people made their way up here?” I thought. Getting through the meadow was laborious. There were rocks and many down trees among the knee-to-thigh high grass. So I tread carefully as not to trip and fall. A beautiful waterfall was spewing out of the upper basin into the meadow. The sound grew louder as I got nearer.

I followed several game trails toward the alder-infested gully west of the waterfall. Surprisingly, one relatively defined game trail took me through the brush. I needed to duck down or crawl to get past tight branches in some places. But I was happy to have a pathway to follow. The faint path eventually took me through the forest and up to the ridge west of Thunder Basin at 5200′.

Evening colors
Evening colors

See more trip photos here.

En Route to the 6400′ Camp

Without getting into Thunder Basin, I followed the ridgeline toward the upper drainage. The loud thump and leaves shuffling I heard must’ve been a bear. It had quickly left before I could tell its whereabouts. Game trails continued to lead me out of the treeline. Soon, came the blueberry bush-strewn slopes. Even having a path couldn’t keep me from sliding many times while sidestepping. I’d periodically help myself to a mouthful of delicious wild berries.

Eventually, the path dwindled before a water gully. It was the last real water source half a mile before camp. Beyond the stream was the granite slabs. I. Love. Slabs! There was no shortage of them in this basin. They’d always make for a fun and efficient traverse. I looked down at the two small moraine lakes and decided not to camp there. Instead, I found one of the many decent platforms and bivyed at 6400′.

My humble abode
My humble abode

See more trip photos here.

En Route to Tenpeak Mountain

It drizzled during the night, so I was concerned about today’s weather. Luckily, the light rain stopped a short while later. I rechecked the forecast this morning, and it’s mostly sunny. So rather than waiting out the clouds, I decided to start moving. From camp, I made a rising traverse north above the northwest basin. Then I stayed around 7200′ to round the south ridge and reached the southern slopes of Tenpeak Mountain. The real summit still wasn’t visible from here.

Reports mentioned a snowfield below the summit. Glad I had packed crampons since the field wasn’t visible from below. Then I made my way to the top of the snow that ended below the east gully. The route was full of loose rocks. A few class 4 moves through unstable rocks put me on the notch. It was very windy up here. I took an extended break here while studying the crux of the climb: the east face.

Thank goodness for crampons
Thank goodness for crampons

See more trip photos here.

Ten Peak Mountain Summit

After spotting all the possible holds from below, I waited for the wind to die down first before moving. The climb turned out to be better than expected. There were more decent handholds lower down. But then more footholds became available as I went up higher. The climbing became more manageable once I arrived at the first belay station with pieces of webbing. Then I reached the summit above the anchor in another 50′ or so.

While the views weren’t great, but the clouds were moving at least. So I could still get snapshots of nearby peaks. The sun was beginning to shine 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

See more trip photos here.

En Route to Ten Peak 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

See more trip photos here.

Ten Peak 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.

Another shot of the both Tenpeaks
Another shot of the both Tenpeaks

See more trip photos here.

Ten Peak Mountain West Peak Summit

This summit also boasted huge stacked rocks like the main 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 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

See more trip photos here.

En Route to 6500′ Camp Plus Outro

The 30m rope got me down on the steep north face onto more manageable 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. Though I kept thinking about that bear from yesterday, I slept well tonight surprisingly!

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

See more trip photos here.

Getting out to the 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 at how smart animals are. “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 eventually 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

See more trip photos here.

Leave a Reply

Close Menu
%d bloggers like this: