Devils Tongue by Mount Rham in Chilliwacks via Galene Lakes / 魔鬼舌

  • Reading time:10 mins read

Devils Tongue by Mount Rahm in Chilliwacks overlooks the vast Silver Lake. It’s also the #10 highest peak in the Custer-Chilliwack Group after Mad Eagle Peak. Best of all, the standard route shows off a scenic traverse through the border.

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
Route Info: Eric Eames
GPS Track: available
Dog-Friendly: on the trail

The Preface

Devils Tongue was our third time going through Canada this year. I had initially planned on climbing it over Labor Day weekend. But after seeing Eric‘s report, I knew we could perhaps climb the peak in two days.

So I reserved the precious three-day weekend for climbing Booker Mountain and Johannesburg Mountain instead. And that worked out well in terms of logistics and pet boarding.

Nepopekum Day Use Area
Nepopekum Day Use Area

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Skagit River Crossing

The pup and I used the same route as other parties. Unfortunately, heavy rain was in the forecast for Sunday. So the goal was to climb Devils Tongue on day one. But an early start meant crossing Skagit River in the dark.

As a so-so swimmer, crossing the water in the dark was the last thing I wanted to do. So we drove to the Nepopekum Day Use Area late Friday evening. And that gave us enough daylight to ford the river.

Crossing Skagit River
Crossing Skagit River

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Hiking Through the Lush Forest

The river turned out to be knee-deep. But the rain boots came in quite handy in protecting the feet. Later we met two fishers and their pup on the other side. I bid hello and then looked for the trail entrance.

Shortly, I found the half-hidden orange flagging on a tree branch. After stashing the boots, we proceeded to walk on the decent path. Then just after dark, we slept on a flat spot right off the trail.

Finding a suitable campsite
Finding a suitable campsite

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A Cloudy Day Ahead

I anticipated a long day ahead. So we started walking few hours before sunrise. The trail was in such good shape, with only a few down trees. Plus, the long switchbacks had offset the altitude gain.

Higher up, the vegetation in the few brushy areas was still damp from the night before. So we were both wet going into Galene Lakes basin. Before long, the daylight had arrived, though it was a cloudy morning.

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Galene Lakes Basin

Later I got a glimpse of the lower lake before we reached the campground at the middle pond. Then I looked for the reported direct route up to the upper lake, but no avail.

So we hiked along the eastern shore to the north end of the lake. Then we walked west in the mist and up through the talus. I couldn’t pinpoint the upper lake’s location until we were virtually next to it.

Upper Galene Lake view
Upper Galene Lake view

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A Change in Plans

Visibility continued to weaken. So we didn’t see much of anything before moving up to the ridgeline above the basin. Then I thought we would camp close to Devils Tongue and climb it on the following day.

Though, the weather had made me rethink the plan. It made better sense to drop the overnight gear above the lake basin and camp here later. Then we left with a light pack with the essentials.

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Side Trip to Silver Ridge East

Shortly, we walked south on a faint trail. Then it wasn’t long before we reached the international crop line. There I marveled at the fallen obelisk of monument 70. I tried repositioning it, but it was heavy!

Later we hiked west through the clearing. Then we went farther south on the US side and up the ridgeline. Through the heavy mist, we soon reached Peak 6434, aka Silver Ridge East.

Monument 70
Monument 70

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Silver Ridge Traverse

We stayed on top only a few minutes before moving west on the ridge. I couldn’t believe how much of the scenery we had missed in the terrible weather. It brought back memories of our mid-August trip.

Our next stop was Silver Ridge West via Canada’s Peak 6535. The ridge walk here was relatively uneventful. In other words, it would’ve been more enjoyable with views!

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Devils Tongue via Silver Ridge West

I used Peak 6535 as a reference as it sat north of the border. We almost went down the wrong side by staying on the crop line. But not before I saw the top of Devils Tongue looming behind us.

We quickly retraced our steps and hiked up to Silver Ridge West. There the view slowly improved. Then from there, we quickly walked down to the west saddle. And OMG, water!

Devils Tongue in clouds
Devils Tongue in clouds

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En Route to Point 7103

The last time I filled my bottle was back at Galene Lakes. So we had been without water since before Silver Ridge East. But I was happy to drink right from the two big puddles.

Below Point 7103 were a dozen roaming mountain goats. But as soon as they sensed our presence, they took off fast and went out of sight. Later at 6600′, I saw Devils Tongue’s glaciated north side.

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One Step Closer to Devils Tongue

We walked up the northeast ridge of Point 7103 and gained a bit of altitude. Though soon, the terrain steepened as we weaved our way up through slabs.

Atop Point 7103 was another big pool. It would be our water source on the way back. Clouds remained throughput. 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 East Basin

The clouds continued to obscure the route. Below the west saddle was the same group of goats we saw earlier that had soon vanished into the mist. Later we traversed west on scree and went into Devils Tongue’s east basin.

We stayed at 6900′ and came to the bottom of a broad gully. The goal was to somehow make our way up to the southeast ridge from there. But the reports were vague about where to move south on the east face.

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

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Route Finding in the Mist

At 7200′ was a moderate snow ramp. It led to what looked like a notch on the southeast ridge. As tempting as it looked, my gut told me that we needed to go up higher.

So we continued up the talus after checking out the snow. Then we went up through the overhead downward slabs with solid holds up to 7400′. There we moved south over the east face.

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The Final Stretch on Devils Tongue

Later we used narrow ledges and went up on the southeast ridge via a notch. At last, terrain eased up after 200 more feet of steep climbing in the clouds. At 7800′, I finally caught my first glimpse of Mount Spickard.

Terrain steepened again in the final 250′. So we moved through narrow ramps and reached the ridgetop. We stayed on the narrow crest 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 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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