Mount Challenger West Peak in Picket Range via Perfect Pass / 挑戰者山西峯

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Mount Challenger West Peak by Perfect Pass is a subpeak of its notable main summit. The route over Easy Ridge gives an intimate look at the stunning landscapes inside the national park. It’s also a vantage point to see the northern Picket Range.

Mount Challenger West Peak one last time
Mount Challenger West Peak one last time

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Mount Challenger West Peak at a Glance

Access: Hannegan Pass Trailhead
Round Trip: 37 miles
Elevation Range: 2700′-8000′
Gear: helmet, crampons, ice ax, ice tool
GPS Track: available
Dog-Friendly: no pets

July 10-12, 2020

Overview > Day 1 > Day 2 > Day 3

Day 1 – Friday, July 10
Hannegan Trailhead to Perfect Pass (17 miles)
Night 1 – Perfect Pass at 6300′

Day 2 – Saturday, July 11
Mount Challenger West Peak (3 miles)
Perfect Pass to Copper Creek Camp (9.5 miles)
Night 2 – Copper Creek Camp

Day 3 – Sunday, July 12
Copper Creek Camp to Hannegan Trailhead (7.5 miles)


Day 1

Hannegan Trailhead to Perfect Pass (17 miles)

Overview > Day 1 > Day 2 > Day 3

Hannegan Pass Trail

I tried climbing the peak two weeks ago. But on my way to Hannegan Pass, I realized I had left my crampons in the car. I was at mile two and didn’t want to add another four miles to the trip. So I did a recon instead.

This time, I started hours earlier. My goal was to reach Perfect Pass before sundown and exit after the climb on day two. It’d also make going back to Hannegan Pass on day three relaxing.

Hannegan Pass to Mount Challenger West peak
Hannegan Pass to Mount Challenger West peak

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Chilliwack River Trail to Mount Challenger West Peak

I went down the other side of Hannegan Pass along the Chilliwack River. Broad views in the basin included a bit of Easy Ridge. But once I walked past the Pacific Northwest Trail fork, the landscape dwindled.

The overcast sky had made the otherwise warm temperatures more tolerable. Along the way were a few pretty waterfalls in the gullies. Then I took a break at Copper Creek Camp as it grew sunny.

Entering North Cascades National Park
Entering North Cascades National Park

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Crossing Chilliwack River

I followed a side trail down to Chilliwack River in another two miles. Today the water was only up to my thighs. I brought Crocs this time to protect the bottom of my feet through the mild current more quickly.

Before crossing the river, I did some surveying along the shore. The big log farther up had dipped into the middle of the water. The skinny tree downstream also didn’t look like it reached the other side to be of any use.

Chilliwack River
Chilliwack River

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Easy Ridge Trail

I took a break to wring out water from my clothes. Then I slowly scrambled uphill over down trees before finding the path by the 3850′ outcrops. Last time, I lost the trail soon after the flat part of the forest.

But this time, I followed my track and hiked the trail entirely but with many logs to step over. Views in the forest were scarce, so it was great to be out of the trees. Then I reached the 5160′ saddle soon after.

This way to Easy Ridge
This way to Easy Ridge

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Easy Ridge to Mount Challenger West Peak

Much of the snow had melted since two weeks ago. So I couldn’t take direct paths through the brush in the forest. I later put on crampons north of Point 5988 and soon walked up Easy Peak’s steep north ridge.

With the proper gear, I reached the peak with ease this time. But moving through to the summit on the southeast end seemed to take forever. From there, I dropped 200′ and continued to Point 6553.

Easy Peak straight ahead
Easy Peak straight ahead

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The Impasse Was a No-Go

Soon, I bypassed Point 6553 down the moderate, snowy slopes to the crux of this trip–The Impasse. Then after rounding Point 7037’s south buttress, I saw the deep gorge at 5100′. It was impressive and deadly!

The snow bridge below the waterfall would let me cross. But to get there, the two bypasses over downward slabs in Steph’s descriptions were damp and slippery. So I decided I was not ready to go today after some serious thinking.

The Impasse
The Impasse

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A Better Route to Perfect Pass

So I picked the lower route and dropped more altitude by the gorge. But glad I didn’t need to lose 1000′ suggested in the report. Soon, I crossed the streambed at the ravine opening and looked up at the impressive crux.

At 4500′, I began the arduous climb east of the gorge to regain the lost elevation. The terrain was brushy, but I avoided most of it by weaving through cliffs and outcrops. It took a while to gain back 600′.

Below the Impasse
Below the Impasse

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Perfect Pass West Basin

The sky darkened in the final 500′ to Perfect Pass. The thin snow over the constant running water in the gully made me nervous. So I took the muddy rock ledges to the right to reach the upper snowfield through scrubs.

This part was steeper than the contour lines on the map and sketchy in the dark. But at least the snow was in excellent shape. Then I kept my crampons for the final 100′ of mixed climbing.

This way to Perfect Pass
This way to Perfect Pass

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Perfect Pass by Mount Challenger West Peak

None of the dry places on the pass was suitable for pitching my tent. So I went a bit higher on the ridge to find a sandy spot. Wow, what a long day! My fifth time in the Picket Range, and no easy way to access the area.

Despite my exhaustion, I was happy to have made it here on day one. Then I could enjoy a short climb and make the long exit. The wind gusts had kept me from taking photos, so I slept right after dinner.

Whatcom Peak above Perfect Pass
Whatcom Peak above Perfect Pass

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Day 2

Mount Challenger West Peak (3 miles)
Perfect Pass to Copper Creek Camp (9.5 miles)

Overview > Day 1 > Day 2 > Day 3

Mount Challenger Glacier

I began moving toward Mount Challenger West Peak at a quarter to 7 AM. The forecast for the day had held, so it started sunny with a slight tint of haze. Then I walked through the edge of Challenger Glacier on a pair of days-old tracks.

I later left the trail below the lower crevasse. It went to Challenger Arm, likely climbing Mount Challenger. But I continued southeast to the north of the peak atop the glacier. From there, I went to the west notch, aka Solar Pass.

Mount Challenger West Peak awaits
Mount Challenger West Peak awaits

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Mount Challenger West Peak Climb

Soon, I dropped onto the snowfield and up the snow ramp west of the summit block. Then the snow ended 30′ below the notch. The geological term of this type of gully was “dike,” according to the helpful info from trailcatjim.

I slowly went up to the notch with terrible rocks on the left and a solid wall to my right. Soon, I zigzagged up the west through class 3-4 ground using ramps and ledges. Then I reached the windy summit after a brief airy traverse over the ridge.

Mount Challenger West Peak summit block
Mount Challenger West Peak summit block

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Mount Challenger West Peak Summit Views

Mount Challenger marked the northern end of the Northern Pickets, and it was only less than half a mile away. Crooked Thumb Peak and Phantom Peak were farther south along the same ridgeline. We climbed them during our picket traverse as well.

Later I saw Mount Fury (both East and West peaks) behind Crooked Thumb Peak. I couldn’t see much of the Southern Pickets, but I spotted Mount Terror, Mount Degenhardt, and Twin Needles. Too many peaks around here to name them all!

East-to-south panoramic view from Mount Challenger West Peak
East-to-south panoramic view from Mount Challenger West Peak

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Leaving Mount Challenger West Peak

I enjoyed an hour on top before making my way down to Challenger Glacier. After scoping out the snow, I shortcut through the western edge of the glacier. Then I used an ice ax and an ice tool to go down the steeper parts.

While on the summit, I looked over to Challenger Arm, but I didn’t notice any tracks. Back at Perfect Pass, I took some time to marvel at the beauty of Whatcom Peak before leaving. What a beautiful peak it was.

Home sweet home on Perfect Pass
Home sweet home on Perfect Pass

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Exiting Through Easy Ridge

Since I wanted to go out as far as possible today, I packed up right after my break. Then I made my way back into the upper basin by the gorge. But going to the bottom of the crux from this side was very time-consuming.

Clouds moved in right as I neared Easy Ridge. Soon, the Picket Range behind me had disappeared into the mist entirely. Later the drizzle turned into rain just as I descended the other side of Easy Peak.

Finding my way home
Finding my way home

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Copper Creek Camp

I reached Chilliwack River at sunset. Somehow I lost the trail again before coming out of the forest. But glad that it was still light out when I crossed the water. Once on the other side, it was only two miles back to Copper Creek Camp.

Most of my things were damp, so I had hoped to dry them out in the open. But the rain returned right after I set up camp, and I had to keep everything inside the tent instead. Before long, I fell asleep to the sound of the rainfall.

Copper Creek Camp
Copper Creek Camp

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Day 3

Copper Creek Camp to Hannegan Trailhead (7.5 miles)

Overview > Day 1 > Day 2 > Day 3

Back to Hannegan Trailhead

I woke up to a cloudy morning after a restful night. The sun later showed up for a few minutes before retreating into the mist. It took me a while to pack as most of my belongings were still damp. Meanwhile, I enjoyed the stillness all around me.

Back on Hannegan Pass, I met a guy who had finished the Copper Ridge loop. I hadn’t heard of it before, but it sounded intriguing. So I added it to my laundry list as a possible backpacking option. I later met several groups as I hiked four miles back to the car.

Thanks for another safe outing
Thanks for another safe outing

See more trip photos here.

Overview > Day 1 > Day 2 > Day 3

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