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

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Devils Tongue by Mount Spickard in Chilliwacks overlooks the vast Silver Lake. At the same time, it ranks #10 in the Custer-Chilliwack Group after Mad Eagle Peak. Best of all, the route via Galene Lakes through the border boasts an idyllic traverse.

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. Alas, fall has finally arrived!

Nepopekum Day Use Area
Nepopekum Day Use Area

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Skagit River Crossing

The pup and I used the same route as the 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, the last thing I wanted was to cross the river in the dark. So we drove to the Nepopekum Day Use Area late Friday evening. At least that would give us enough daylight to ford the river before nightfall.

Crossing Skagit River
Crossing Skagit River

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Hiking Through the Lush Forest

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

I soon found the half-hidden orange flagging on a tree branch. Then I stashed the rain boots, and we proceeded to walk on the decent path. Then right after dark, we found a flat spot off the trail and pitched the tent.

Finding a suitable campsite
Finding a suitable campsite

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A Cloudy Day Ahead

I anticipated a long day, so we started walking a few hours before sunrise. The trail was in excellent shape, with only a few down trees on the way to Galene Lakes. Meanwhile, the long switchbacks had offset the altitude.

The daylight soon arrived on this cloudy morning. Higher up, the vegetation in the few brushy areas was still damp from the night before. So we were both soaking wet as we reached the lake basin.

A hazy morning
A hazy morning

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Galene Lakes Basin

I later saw the lower lake before reaching the campground at the middle pond. Then I looked for the reported direct route to the upper lake but couldn’t. So we walked along the east shore to the north end of the lake.

From there, we went west in the mists up over the talus. Glad to have my GPS device to know which direction we were moving. But I couldn’t pinpoint the upper lake’s location until we were right next to it.

Upper Galene Lake view
Upper Galene Lake view

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6360′ Ridge Camp

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 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.

When life gives you lemons
When life gives you lemons

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Side Trip to Silver Ridge East

Shortly, we walked south on a faint trail and soon reached the international crop line. We took a break and marveled at the fallen obelisk of monument 70. Then I tried repositioning it, but it was heavy!

Soon, we hiked west through the broad clearing and went farther south on the US side and up the ridgeline. Through the heavy mists, 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. Without much to see, the ridge walk was incredibly uneventful. In other words, it would’ve been more enjoyable with views!

Summit register on Silver Ridge East
Summit register on Silver Ridge East

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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.

McNaught Creek Valley
McNaught Creek Valley

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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.

En route to Point 7103
En route to Point 7103

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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 mists. 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.

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

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Route Finding in the Mists

At 7200′ was a moderate snow ramp that 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 higher. So we continued uphill in the mists.

Shortly, we moved through more talus after checking out the snow ramp. Then we went above the downward slabs with solid holds to 7400′. From there, we were able to walk south over the east face.

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

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The Final Stretch on Devils Tongue

We later used narrow ledges and reached the southeast ridge via a notch. At last, terrain eased after 200 more feet of steep climbing in the clouds. At 7800′, I caught my first glimpse of Mount Spickard.

Terrain steepened again in the final 250′. So we moved through narrow ramps and carefully made our way up to the ridgetop. We briefly stayed on the narrow crest 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

I had looked forward to seeing Silver Lake, but that didn’t happen. So only the 8000′-plus high points were visible through the mists. The shady side of Mount Spickard, Mount Custer, and Mount Rham seemed eerie.

Above us was a blue sky plus the sun. Everything to the east was still under thick clouds to see inside Canada. But I saw Redoubt Glacier to the west, and a quick glimpse of Jack Mountain before the clouds engulfed it.

Spickard-to-Rham panoramic view from Devils Tongue
Spickard-to-Rham panoramic view from Devils Tongue

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Outro on Silver Ridge

Despite the rough terrain, leaving the mountain didn’t take long. The talus in the basin took some time until we reached Point 7103 to pick up the pace. Then the goal was to go as far east as possible on this first fall weekend.

It darkened past Silver Ridge West, where we stayed on the boundary until terrain steepened north of Silver Ridge East. That forced us up to the west saddle before bypassing the peak. Soon, we were back on the ridge above the lakes.

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

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Sunday Morning Rain

It was starry until clouds slowly moved in from the west. Then it rained at 4 AM as in the forecast. Like last weekend, we stayed inside the tent into the late morning before the downpour stopped. We packed up soon after.

It was still misty, including the area over by Devils Tongue. Too bad we never saw the peak in its full glory, but the inversion gave us some views. I had wanted to see Hozomeen Mountain but only saw the north summit through the mists.

Where we were yesterday
Where we were yesterday

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Returning Through Galene Lakes

It soon drizzled as I saw Upper Galene Lake barely visible the day before. We took the east ridge down to the outlet, then continued on the ridgeline for the middle lake. The dense brush here explained why I couldn’t find a way up.

Once on the trail, we quickly went through the long switchbacks. We had walked past this part in the dark, so everything looked greener in the light. Before long, we were down by the river en route back to the trailhead.

Back to the Skagit River
Back to the Skagit River

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