Devils Tongue in Chilliwacks / 奇利瓦克裏的魔鬼舌

Devils Tongue revealing itself
Devils Tongue revealing itself

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Devils Tongue was our third time going through Canada this year. It was initially going to be our Labor Day weekend trip. But after seeing Eric‘s report from one month before, I knew that pup and I could potentially climb the peak in two days. So I dedicated the three-day weekend to climbing Booker Mountain and Johannesburg Mountain.

The Lowdown on Devils Tongue

Access: Nepopekum Day Use Area
Round Trip: TBD
Elevation Range: 3160′-8048′
Gear: helmet
GPS Track: available

Skagit River Crossing

The pup and I took the direct approach like the few parties before. Since heavy rain was in the forecast for Sunday, the goal was to climb Devils Tongue on day one. But an early start on Saturday meant that we had to cross the Skagit River in the dark. Being an so-so swimmer, that idea didn’t sound like fun. So, armed with an hour of daylight, we began hiking from the Nepopekum Day Use Area late Friday evening.

The water was shallower than anticipated; it was only up to the knees. The rain boots came in handy for the crossing; I used them for foot protection. After getting to the other side, we met two fishers and another pup. From the somewhat hidden orange flagging by the shore, we then went into the forest hiked a short distance before dark. Later I found a flat-ish spot off the trail and set up camp for the night.

In search of a suitable campsite
In search of a suitable campsite

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Cloudy Approach to Galene Lakes

Since we had a long day ahead, we began hiking a few hours before sunrise. So far, the trail was in much better shape than I thought. The long switchbacks over some down trees offset the elevation gain. So made good time in getting through the wet vegetation up to the Galene Lakes Basin. It became light shortly afterward. But the sky remained cloudy.

We had glimpses of the lower lake before arriving at the middle lake camp. I searched for the reported direct way to get up to the upper lake but had no luck. So instead, we hiked via the eastern shore to the north end of the lake. Then from there, we scrambled east up through talus in the mist. We couldn’t pinpoint the location of the upper lake until we were standing right next to it.

Upper Galene Lake view
Upper Galene Lake view

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Silver Ridge East

Visibility continued to be terrible everywhere. So we didn’t see much of anything before getting onto the ridge above the lake basin. The initial plan was to camp closer to Devils Tongue. But needing to summit the peak on day one had me rethink my strategy. Then I realized that it made more sense to shed the extra weight. So I behind the overnight gear and took the day pack with the essentials.

We followed a faint trail and walked south. Before long, we were at the international crop line marveling at the fallen obelisk of monument 70. That thing was heavy! Then we briefly hiked west in the clearing before heading south and up the ridgeline on the US side. We navigated awhile in the most and then made it up to Peak 6434. Aka Silver Ridge East.

Monument 70
Monument 70

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Silver Ridge Traverse

We spent a few minutes on the summit before heading west on Silver Ridge. I couldn’t believe how weak the visibility was. The dreadful weather brought back memories of the first Johannesburg Mountain trip back in mid-August. Our next stop was Silver Ridge West by way of Peak 6535. This part of the approach would’ve been the most picturesque. In other words, the traverse would’ve been way more enjoyable with views!

I used Peak 6535 as a reference since it sat just north of the border. But we nearly went down the wrong ridge by heading north at the international crop line. Glad I caught my mistake when I turned around and saw the top of Devils Tongue looming in the distance. Once we arrived at Silver Ridge West, the visibility improved a bit. Then from there, we went down onto the western saddle.

Devils Tongue in clouds
Devils Tongue in clouds

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En Route to Point 7103

We’ve been without water since Silver Ridge East. Thankfully, the two large puddles on the saddle provided our first water source after leaving the Galene Lakes basin. Below the 6600′ shoulder, a dozen carefree mountain goats sensed our presence right away. So they quickly went out of sight as we made our way up the ridgeline. From 6600′, I finally saw Devils Tongue’s glaciated, dramatic north face.

We traveled on the northeast ridge while gaining moderate elevation. But as terrain steepened, we began weaving our way through steep slabs. At the top of Point 7103 was another big pool. It would be the much-needed water source on the way back. Clouds persisted over the mountaintops and to the south. So despite the proximity, there were still no signs of our destination.

Mount goats down on the ridge
Mount goats down on the ridge

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Devils Tongue Climb

The clouds continued to crowd around the area. So I couldn’t get a good look at the actual route. Below the west saddle was the group of goats we saw earlier. They were heading in the same direction as us. But then quickly disappeared into the mist after seeing us. Using the two reports in hand, we then traversed on the scree below the east ridge toward the basin.

Maintaining an elevation of 6900′, we eventually came to the bottom of a broad gully. The real climb began there. The reports didn’t give a clear indication as to where to start heading south to reach the southeast ridge. Through clouds, I saw a snow ramp at 7200′ leading to what looked like a notch on the east ridge. It looked quite tempting. But my instinct told me that we needed to go higher.

Scoping out the route
Scoping out the route

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Route Finding in the Mist

We continued to go higher up in the talus gully after surveying the snow ramp from the eye level. So we went up the overhead downsloping slabs with decent holds to 7400′. Then we traversed south over the east face. There we relied on narrow ramps and ledges to reach the southeast ridge via a notch finally. Terrain eased up after 200′ of steep scrambling.

We continued to ascend in the clouds. Then at 7800′ below the cliffs on Devils Tongue’s south face, I caught the first glimpse of Mount Spickard. So that was very exciting. The terrain became even steeper in the final 250′. So we carefully weaved our way through small ramps and ledges to reach the ridgetop. The final scramble onto the broad summit required us to be on the narrow ridge briefly.

Vertigo
Vertigo

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Devils Tongue Summit

Clouds were either too high or too low to see most peaks. Only the 8000’+ high points were visible from the summit. I was looking forward to seeing Silver Lake on this trip, but sadly, that never happened. Maybe next time when we were back in the area! The shady side of Mount Spickard, Mount Custer, and Mount Rham made them look even more intimidating.

Everything east of us was under the thick clouds. So I also couldn’t see anything inside Canada. I did, however, get a quick look at Redoubt Glacier to the west. A brief glimpse of Jack Mountain before the clouds quickly swallowed it back up. The blue sky above us plus the warm afternoon sun made it hard to leave the summit.

Spickard-to-Rham panoramic view
Spickard-to-Rham panoramic view

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Silver Ridge Outro

Despite the sketchy terrain, it didn’t take long to get off the summit block. But the goal was to get as far east as possible on Silver Ridge before sunset. Fall has officially begun this weekend. So that meant the daylight was now getting shorter by the day. The talus down in the basin took some time to get through. But after getting back to Point 7103, we were able to pick up the speed.

It became dark just as we passed through Silver Ridge West. We followed the boundary until terrain dropped sharply into the north basin of Silver Ridge East. That forced us to have to climb back up to the peak’s west saddle. Then from there, we bypassed the summit to arrive at the north on the international border. Slowly, we made back onto the ridge above the lake basin.

A long way back to camp
A long way back to camp

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Rainy Sunday Morning

The night was starry. But then the clouds gradually moved in from the west right before midnight. Just as the forecast predicted, it began to rain at 4 AM. So we stayed inside the tent while listening to the raindrops well into the late morning. It felt like a repeat of last Sunday on Milham Pass. Once the downpour stopped, we got up and quickly packed up the wet gear.

It was still misty around us. And everything over by Devils Tongue was in the clouds. Too bad, we never had the chance to see the peak in its full glory. But thanks to the inversion, we had some views on top. Another high point I wanted to see on this trip was Hozomeen Mountain. But I only caught glimpses of the main summit a few times through the mist.

Where we were yesterday
Where we were yesterday

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Back Through Galene Lakes Basin

It began to drizzle just as we were leaving the campsite. On the way back down, I got a clear view of the Upper Galene Lake from above. It was barely visible the day before. We followed the east ridge and got to the lake’s outlet shortly afterward. Then we stayed on the ridgeline and took a direct route down to the middle lake. The brushiness explained why I couldn’t find a way up.

It felt great to be back on the trail eventually. So we quickly made it down to the long switchbacks in the lower elevation. Since we walked past through this part of the forest in the dark, everything looked so much lusher in the light. Before long, we were at the river crossing en route back to the trailhead. But no fisher sightings today.

Back to the Skagit River crossing
Back to the Skagit River crossing

See more trip photos here.

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