Blue Slam via Stehekin / 經斯特希金上憂鬱滿貫

Blue Slam, aka Agnes Mountain and Gunsight Peak, was a lot of work! I was so grateful for my climbing partner, Patrick, for helping make this trip possible. Not to mention sacrificing his time with four days away from his fiance and two small kids.

Agnes Mountain of Blue Slam from Gunsight Peak
Agnes Mountain of Blue Slam from Gunsight Peak

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Blue Slam at a Glance

Blue Slam = Agnes Mountain + Gunsight Peak
憂鬱滿貫=艾格尼絲山+瞄準峯

Access: Stehekin, Washington
Round Trip: 33.2 miles
Elevation Range: 1600′-8198′
Gear: helmet, ice ax, rope, rock
GPS Track: available
Dog-Friendly: no

Logistics Overview

July 17-20, 2020

Overview > Day 1 > Day 2 > Day 3 > Day 4

Day 1 – Friday, July 17
Approach to 5000′ Camp
Night 1 – 5000′ Camp

Day 2 – Saturday, July 18
Icy-Spruce Creek Pass + Anges Mountain
Night 2 – Icy-Spruce Creek Pass at 6760′

Day 3 – Sunday, July 19
Gunsight Peak
Night 3 – Pacific Crest Trail (PCT)

Day 4 – Monday, July 20
Exit


Day 1

Approach to 5000′ Camp

Overview > Day 1 > Day 2 > Day 3 > Day 4

Finding Partners for Blue Slam

Before the trip, I had reached out to several people. But from my past experiences, I expected a no from everyone who responded. People either were pursuing their lists, or the obscure places didn’t interest anyone. I get it. If I weren’t working on a climbing list, I probably wouldn’t give these peaks any thought.

Then at the last minute, Patrick agreed to come along. He and I met on the Chickamin Slam trip. Then we followed up that outing with Bonanza Slam. Our last trip together was climbing Mox Peaks in the Chilliwacks. I didn’t think anyone would take that much time away from family. But I wasn’t about to refuse his offer!

Lady Express arriving
Lady Express arriving

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Lady Express Ferry

It was my first time riding the Lady Express. Though, I wasn’t sure how effective social distancing would be out here on the water. Most of us headed up to Stehekin. So that meant that we would be in tight spaces for several hours.

I don’t remember seeing a “face coverings required” sign when I boarded. But I did read through the Lady of the Lake COVID-19 Policies page beforehand. Glad everywhere I looked, people had on their masks. The two-hour boat ride went by in the blink of an eye with a nap.

McGregor Mountain above Stehekin Valley
McGregor Mountain above Stehekin Valley

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White Bus to High Bridge

The Red Bus wasn’t running this year because of the outbreak. So the Stehekin Valley Ranch provided transportation services for the season. We shared the bus with two other parties. One was a group of four climbers on their way to climbing Goode Mountain and Storm King.

Later we all got off the bus at High Bridge after an 11-mile ride up the valley. Then we took a lunch break before continuing. Patrick was eager to get going. So we made a last-minute gear check and then went south on Pacific Crest Trail.

Stehekin dock
Stehekin dock

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PCT to Blue Slam

Views in the forest were minimal. Then after we lost sight of McGregor Mountain behind us, the walk became uneventful. But I was glad for Patrick’s company. So we talked just about anything to pass the time. He must have packed the entire produce aisle because his pack was huge!

At 8.2 miles in from High Bridge was the Swamp Creek junction. We took a foot taping break there just as the memories of climbing Dark Peak surfaced. After walking for another 1.5 miles, we reached the confluence of Agnes Creek and Spruce Creek at last.

Agnes Creek
Agnes Creek

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Agnes Creek Crossing

We started looking for logs to cross the raging Agnes Creek. The first one near the camp looked like the one other parties have used before. But we continued on the trail in the hope of finding something larger. Patrick felt uneasy walking on the small log.

After finding nothing upstream, the small log was our only option. It took some acrobatic moves to get ourselves and the heavy packs to reach the down tree. Then we each took turns scooching our way over to the other side. The two upright stobs halfway were tough to get around.

Agnes Creek Crossing
Agnes Creek Crossing

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Spruce Creek Crossing

Until we neared Spruce Creek, we had forgotten all about this second creek crossing. Luckily, the only down tree over the creek was beefier. So we took turns and carefully walked right to the other side. But the battle was far from over.

Soon, we entered the open forest north of Spruce Creek. I had initially wanted to go up the slopes. Then we would traverse west over the top of the two north-trending gullies. But shortly, it became too brushy to navigate. So we backtracked toward the creek, which would be the only water before camp.

Spruce Creek crossing
Spruce Creek crossing

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5000′ Camp Below Blue Slam

We went east a short distance. Then we realized that the only feasible way was up. Not unless we wanted to submerge ourselves in the sea of vine maples. From 3000′ to 3600′ was excruciatingly slow. There was no easy way around the brush. Then slowly, things began to look promising.

As luck would have it, animal trails began to appear. So we followed them for a while. By the time we reached 4000′, we were in the semi-open forest. But the steepness persisted. Patrick had been feeling ill since we left the creek. But he managed to make the final push up to 5000′.

Glacier Peak Wilderness's dreams
Glacier Peak Wilderness’s dreams

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Day 2

Icy-Spruce Creek Pass + Anges Mountain

Overview > Day 1 > Day 2 > Day 3 > Day 4

En Route to Icy-Spruce Creek Pass

We awoke to another glorious day! Our first goal for today was going up to 6760′ pass. Then we would climb Agnes Mountain after setting up the camp. Patrick passed out after we reached the 5000′ bench the night before. But he had a restful evening and was ready to go again.

We continued up the steep slopes. So we could bypass the two ravines I had intended to avoid yesterday. At 5400′, we started moving west-northwest. Meanwhile, we aimed for the 6760′ pass as we went in and out of several ribs. Later at 6400′, our goal for day two–Gunsight Peak–came into view.

En route to Icy-Spruce Creek Pass
En route to Icy-Spruce Creek Pass

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Agnes Mountain of Blue Slam

I had planned to spend the night in the beautiful 6400′ basin adorned with streams. But now we could even be one step closer to our first goal by being on the 6760′ saddle. We set up camp and relaxed a bit. Then we grabbed the gear and went up toward Point 7458.

Soon, we reached Point 7458 and checked out the terrain ahead. We didn’t have enough route information to bypass Point 7760. So instead, we scrambled down to the 7200′ notch. From there, we dropped 1000′ on the snowfield into Yew Creek. Then we went north toward the steep, narrow snow couloir south of Agnes Mountain.

The real Agnes Mountain please stand up
The real Agnes Mountain please stand up

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Agnes Mountain Climb

The steep couloir seemed to go on forever. It ended up being a 1300′ gain up to the col. Eventually, I left the snow at 200′ below the pass. Then I used a rock ramp to move more efficiently. Patrick stayed on the last 200′ of the steep snow up to the top. The final 50′ up to the notch was on a loose rock and hard dirt ramp.

Shortly, we dropped 20′ down the west of the col. From there, we then saw the next objective–the snow ramp. After going through a small snowfield, we kept our crampons on for the gully. Later we left our gear at the top of the snow. Then we scrambled up to the upper snow patch.

The narrow snow couloir
The narrow snow couloir

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The Chimney Crux

Patrick brought enough gear for an army. So we were rrady to tackle the 5.6 chimney crux. After following him through several pros, we reached the top of the broad chimney. Then from there, we reached the west face for the final 100′ scramble.

The last section was full of loose rocks. Plus, a decent amount of exposure and steepness. At the same time, everything moved as we carefully tested every hold. Then we made it up to the pointy summit in the remote part of the Glacier Peak Wilderness.

The chimney crux
The chimney crux

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Agnes Mountain of Blue Salm Plus Views

As I soaked in the views, it suddenly dawned on me the amount of effort it took to come here. This area seldom gets visitors. But when it does, often people come to climb the neighboring Dome Peak. Maybe also Sinister Peak if they were after the Bulger List. There were just too many peaks to name.

We left the beautiful summit 45 minutes later and rappeled twice down to our gear. Then back in the snow gully, we went down through the moat on choss instead. So we kicked down rocks with every step. Though, we stayed far enough apart that we wouldn’t knock things down on the other person.

Gunsight Peak of Blue Slam
Gunsight Peak of Blue Slam

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Back to 6760′ Camp

Neither of us wanted to go back down from the top of the steep snow couloir. We also decided not to spend time finding the ledge to bypass Point 7760. So we took the rock ramp I used earlier. From tyer we dropped 300′ before moving back into the gully. Another 1000′ descent then got us down to the tip of the buttress.

We opted for a direct route back up to the ridge. So we went up the steep snow ramp north of Point 7458. From there, we reversed the route and went back down to camp at sunset. Views to both sides were breathtaking. Later I spent the rest of the evening keeping the rats away from the tent.

Thanks for another beautiful day
Thanks for another beautiful day

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Day 3

Gunsight Peak

Overview > Day 1 > Day 2 > Day 3 > Day 4

Gunsight Peak of Blue Slam

The morning came too soon. Before long, we were on our way to Blue Glacier. The route consisted of bypassing Point 7070 over to the pass above Blue Lake. From there, we avoided the east ridge by making a rising traverse through the glacier. But we went up to the wrong col like Eric and his son did two years earlier.

So we went back down on the glacier and walked north for a short distance. Then we got back on the rocks one notch to the north. From there, we scrambled class 3-4 terrain to reach the col we needed. This part turned out to be quite exhausting. But it was a relief to see the pass at last.

Blue Lake
Blue Lake

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Gunsight Peak Climb

The view of Chickamin Glacier was beyond words. I never thought I would ever come back to this area again. Let alone seeing Chickamin Slam from the other side of the glacier, which we climbed together back in 2014. Before long, we arrived at the bottom of the broken snow ramp.

With the heavy snowpack this year, I didn’t think that the moat would be there now. But to our dismay, the gap was already a few feet wide. So I belayed Patrick onto the rocks from the snow. Then he brought me up onto the wet slabs below the snow finger. I put a picket in the snow and then went across to reach the anchor.

Chickamin Slam above Chickamin Glacier Basin
Chickamin Slam above Chickamin Glacier Basin

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5.6 Crux to the Ridge Notch

Later I belayed Patrick through to the end of the ramp. Then he proceeded to lead up the crux in the corner. We were both glad that the rocks were dry. Other parties had encountered mud in the past. At the top of the pitch were two rappel stations. So we knew we were on the right track.

In hindsight, we didn’t need to rope up for the next section. The climb from there up to the chimney was on class 3 and 4 terrain. Once Patrick belayed me around the minor ridge, we then simul-climbed next to the dike. Then we made it up to the ridge notch. So we were now between the north and the middle peaks.

The crux
The crux

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Class 4 Chimney to the Top

From the notch, we roped up and then traversed the class 4 ledge on the west face for 100′. Again, we could have simul-climbed this part had we known what lied ahead. At the bottom of the chimney, we belayed up to the summit ridge. But the summit rocks still weren’t visible from there.

We stayed in the rope, and then Patrick led me up to the summit. It was a bit awkward going through this section. Most boulders here pointed at various positions. At times, we needed to take giant steps and to squeeze through the slabs.

Into the chimney
Into the chimney

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Gunsight Peak of Blue Slam Plus Views

Views on Agnes Mountain yesterday were excellent. But the landscape seen from the top of Gunsight was even more impressive. First off, the Chickamin Slam peaks were in our faces. It was hard to take our eyes off of them since they filled the bulk of the western skyline.

Other notable peaks in the area included Sentinel Peak and Old Guard Peak. Then there were the many high points above the glaciers that covered Spire Point. Bonanza Peak and Glacier Peak both dominated the southern skyline. Again, too many peaks to name them all.

Chickamin Slam from Blue Slam
Chickamin Slam from Blue Slam

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Back to 6760′ Camp

We rappeled once from the top of the chimney. Then we traversed back to the ridge notch. Later we scrambled down to the second rappel station. We rappeled one more time back to the ledge above the glacier. At the bottom anchor, we made another rappel onto the snow.

On the way in, Patrick’s CamelBak fell onto the glacier. So after the climb, he dropped another 200′ to retrieve it. Then we met back up after going around the buttress below the col. From the top of the pass, it was just a long ridge traverse to go back to our camp.

From Agnes to Bonanza
From Agnes to Bonanza

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Leaving Blue Slam

Later we enjoyed a brief stay back at camp. But we needed to pack up and make the long trek out. Or at least back down to the PCT by nightfall. The white bus would stop at High Bridge at 8:40 AM the next day. So we needed it to make the 12:30 PM ferry.

The part I dreaded was going back through the brush. Once we went down to the 5000′ camp, soon it was back to fighting the terrible fight. By then, it was too exhausting to worry about the amount of brush and down trees. At last, we made it down to Spruce Creek. Then the two log crossings put us back on the PCT.

Thanks for another beautiful day
Thanks for another beautiful day

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Day 4

Exit

Overview > Day 1 > Day 2 > Day 3 > Day 4

Hiking Out

We took a break by the creek camp. But I also napped while Patrick organized his things. Later we started the 10-mile hike down to High Bridge. At one point, I decided to listen to some podcasts to try and stake awake. Then during our last break by the trail, I asked Patrick to continue while I took another nap.

I had a hard time falling asleep. So I continued to walk some more before finally taking a much-needed nap by another trailside camp. My phone battery was low. Then it died after the alarm went off for a while since I was sound asleep. Later I woke up and then continued walking.

McGregor Mountain in the AM
McGregor Mountain in the AM

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High Bridge to Stehekin Ferry Dock

As I neared the switchbacks above the gorge, Patrick came back running. He asked if I had been looking for him, and I said no. Somehow Patrick thought had taken a different path and frantically searched for me. But he felt relieved after knowing we still headed in the right direction.

We still had a half-hour before the shuttle arrived. So we rested our legs and chatted with a group of PCT hikers who came out later. The bus made several stops on the way back to the dock, including the famous Stehekin Pastry Company.

Stehekin Pastry Company
Stehekin Pastry Company

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Outro

Back at the dock, we still had much time to kill. So after wolfing down the pastries I bought from the bakery, I took a much-needed nap on a trailside bench. Meanwhile, Patrick slept under the bulletin board. What an exhausting trip it was! The next time I come, I want to explore Stehekin without climbing anything!

It was a relief not to see as many people on the ferry for the return. Not long after the boat left the waterfront, both of us went back to sleep some more. Then neither one of us woke up until the captain’s voice came through the speakers. “We will arrive in Fields Point Landing shortly…”

Back to Fields Point Landing
Back to Fields Point Landing

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Overview > Day 1 > Day 2 > Day 3 > Day 4

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