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

Devils Tongue was our third time going through Canada this year. It was going to be our Labor Day weekend trip. But after seeing Eric‘s recent report, I knew we could probably climb it in two days. So I used the three-day weekend to climbing Booker Mountain and Johannesburg Mountain instead.

Devils Tongue revealing itself
Devils Tongue revealing itself

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Devils Tongue at a Glance

Access: Nepopekum Day Use Area
Round Trip: 23.5 miles
Elevation Range: 3160′-8048′
Gear: helmet
GPS Track: available
Dog-Friendly: on the trail

Skagit River Crossing

The pup and I used the same route as other parties. Heavy rain was in the forecast for Sunday. So the goal was to climb Devils Tongue on day one. But an early start meant we would need to cross the Skagit River in the dark. As a so-so swimmer, I wanted to avoid doing that. Instead, we hiked from the Nepopekum Day Use Area late Friday evening.

The water was only up to the knees. But the rain boots came in handy as foot protection. We met two fishers and another pup on the other side. Then I found the half-hidden orange flagging on a tree. Soon, we were hiking in the forest. Just after dark, I found a flat-ish spot off the trail and camped for the night.

Finding a suitable campsite
Finding a suitable campsite

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Cloudy Day in Galene Lakes Basin

We had a long day ahead. So we started 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 we made a decent time going through the wet vegetation up to the Galene Lakes Basin. Before long, the daylight had arrived. But the sky was still cloudy.

I got a glimpse of the lower lake before reaching the middle lake camp. I searched for the direct way up to the upper lake but couldn’t. Instead, we hiked through the eastern shore to the northern end of the lake. From there, we then moved east in the mist up through talus. I couldn’t pinpoint the location of the upper lake until we were right next to it.

Upper Galene Lake view
Upper Galene Lake view

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Side Trip to Silver Ridge East

Visibility continued to be weak. So we didn’t see much of anything before going up to the ridgeline above the lake basin. The initial idea was to camp closer to Devils Tongue. Then the weather made me rethink the plan. But it would make more sense to shed extra weight. So I dropped off the overnight gear on the ridge. Then we left with the day pack plus the essentials.

We followed a faint trail and walked south. Before long, we reached the international crop line. Then I marveled at the fallen obelisk of monument 70. It was heavy! Later, we hiked west through the clearing. Then we moved south and went up the ridgeline on the US side. Through the mist, we made it up to Peak 6434. Aka Silver Ridge East.

Monument 70
Monument 70

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Devils Tongue via Silver Ridge

We spent a few minutes on top before moving west on Silver Ridge. I couldn’t believe how weak the visibility was. The poor weather brought back memories of the first Johannesburg Mountain trip in mid-August. Our next stop was Silver Ridge West through Peak 6535. The ridge walk would have been picturesque. In other words, it would have been 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 side by staying on the crop line. Glad I caught the mistake when I saw the top of Devils Tongue looming behind us. Once we hiked up to Silver Ridge West, the view improved. Then from there, we walked down onto the western saddle.

Devils Tongue in clouds
Devils Tongue in clouds

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Getting to Point 7103

We had been without water since Silver Ridge East. Glad we were able to get water from the two big puddles on the saddle. The last time I filled up my bottle was back at Galene Lakes. Below the 6600′ shoulder was a dozen carefree mountain goats. They sensed our presence and went out of sight fast. From 6600′, I could see Devils Tongue’s glaciated north side.

We moved up the northeast ridge while gaining some elevation. Soon, the terrain steepened. So we weaved our way through slabs. At the top of Point 7103 was another big pool. It would be our water source on the way back. Clouds stayed on the mountaintops. So despite the proximity, there were still no signs of our goal.

Mountain goats down on the ridge
Mountain goats down on the ridge

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Devils Tongue Climb

The clouds continued to crowd around the area. So I couldn’t have a good look at the route. Below the west saddle was the group of goats we saw earlier. They were going in the same direction as us. Again, they disappeared into the mist after seeing us. Then we crossed the scree slope below the ridge toward the basin.

Staying at 6900′ elevation, we came to the bottom of a broad gully. The goal was to somehow get up to the southeast ridge. But the reports weren’t clear about where on the east face we would start moving south. At 7200′ was a snow ramp. It led to what looked like a notch on the southeast ridge. It looked tempting. But my instinct said that we needed to go up higher.

Scoping out the route to Devils Tongue
Scoping out the route to Devils Tongue

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Route Finding in the Mist

We continued up in the talus after scouting out the snow ramp. Then we went through the downsloping slabs over our heads. There were solid holds up to 7400′. Later, we went south through the east face. Then we relied on narrow ledges to get up to the southeast ridge over a notch. Terrain eased up after 200′ of steep scrambling.

We continued in the clouds. Then at 7800′ below Devils Tongue’s south face, I caught the first glimpse of Mount Spickard. The terrain steepened even more in the final 250′. So we moved through narrow ramps to reach the ridgetop. Then we needed to be on the narrow ridge briefly before making our way up to the broad summit.

Vertigo below Devils Tongue
Vertigo below Devils Tongue

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Devils Tongue Summit Plus Views

Clouds were either too high or too low to see most peaks. Only the 8000′-plus high points were visible. I had looked forward to seeing Silver Lake on this trip. But sadly, that never happened. Maybe if we ever come back here! The shady side of Mount Spickard, Mount Custer, and Mount Rham looked even more intimidating.

Everything to the east was still under thick clouds. So I couldn’t see inside Canada. But I did get a quick look at Redoubt Glacier to the west. Also, a brief glimpse of Jack Mountain before the clouds engulfed it. 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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Outro on Silver Ridge

Despite the rough terrain, it didn’t take long to go down the mountain. The goal was to go as far east as possible before sunset. Fall officially began this weekend. So that meant the daylight was now shorter by the day. The talus back in the basin took some time to go through. But after going back up to Point 7103, we picked up the speed.

It got dark just as we passed through Silver Ridge West. Then we stayed on the border until terrain dropped steeply into the north of Silver Ridge East. That forced us to climb back up to the peak’s west saddle. Then from there, we bypassed the summit and went down to the border. Later, we made it back up on the ridge above the lake basin.

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

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Sunday Morning Rain

The night was starry before midnight. But the clouds slowly moved in from the west. It rained at 4 AM, just as the forecast predicted. So we stayed inside the tent and listened 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 packed up the wet gear.

It was still misty. And everything over by Devils Tongue was still 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 while on top. Another place I wanted to see was Hozomeen Mountain. But I only caught glimpses of the north summit a few times through the mist.

Where we were yesterday
Where we were yesterday

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Back out Through Galene Lakes Basin

It drizzled just as we were leaving. On the way 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. We stayed on the ridgeline and then made a direct path down to the middle lake. The dense brush explained why I couldn’t find a way up.

It felt great to be back on the trail. So we quickly made it back to the long switchbacks down below. We walked past through this part of the forest in the dark. So everything looked 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

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