Little Tin Cup Cirque - East Ridge Route
The Shard – 9,883’
Elevation Gain – 4,017’ +
Ascent Date – 30aug06
Total Route Time – 9 hours
For some time I’ve wanted to climb The Shard. After lots of research and a couple of reconnaissance hikes, I was as ready as possible. With a couple of friends, Gary and his dog Trixie, I set out to give it a try using a route I’d established during a previous outing. The crux of this particular route is a steep climb up a gully which bisects the north rim of the Chaffin Creek Drainage.
I decided to call it the Little Tin Cup Cirque – East Ridge Route because it ends in a cirque from which the headwaters of the Little Tin Cup flow. Because the cirque is along the ridgeline east of The Shard, the name seems appropriate.
7:55 am – Knowing it would be a fairly long day we got an early start from the trailhead. The air was cool, but not unbearably so. I started out wearing gloves to keep my hands warm.
8:30 am – We reached the first fan of talus flowing down from the north rim of the Chaffin Drainage and got a good view of the rock making up the rim. From this point on, the rim walls get higher and higher.
9:15 am – Now about 2 miles from the trailhead, we could see the access route (a talus slope with little vegetation) up to a small lake high on the rim wall. We couldn’t actually see the lake but knew it was there from our study of the topo map.
10:40 am – We had reached the place where we would leave the “official” Chaffin Creek Trail and begin climbing the gully to the headwaters of the Little Tin Cup Drainage. Just below the slab rock at the base of the gully, we sat on the grass-covered moraine and had a bite to eat.
11:00 am – We began the climb up the gully. The first order of business was to get around an especially steep section by climbing up a 2-foot wide crack to a ledge of rock. We managed that okay and continued climbing uphill over talus at the base of the south-facing cliff.
Once we reached the base of the cliff we followed it west around the corner and returned to the gully. The messiest portion of our climb was about to begin as we approached the plant-choked section of the route.
Plenty of water flows down this gully, mostly under the talus, and the plants here thrive. Talk about bushwhacking. By staying close to the east wall of the gully, we were able to find our way around much but not all of the obstacle plant growth.
12:15 pm – Finally, we managed to reach a point where the talus was no longer choked by brush and small trees. To avoid the plant growth along both sides of the gully, we moved out onto the talus and took a break.
It gave me some time to take pictures of the gully walls and Sugar Loaf on the south side of the Chaffin Creek Drainage. We were pretty close to the top of the gully and could see what lay between us and the canyon’s rim.
12:30 pm – Now very close to the top of the gully, Gary was taken by a Whitebark Pine Human Devouring Tree Ent. Trixie looked on, wondering, “What are these humans up to now?”
12:40 pm – We reached the top of the gully and the entrance to the Little Tin Cup Cirque. What a sight. A perfect setting for camping. The landscape is covered with grass and Mountain Heather, interspersed with larch and whitebark pine. Surrounded by a ridge crest on which sit several points above 9,000’, the area is partially protected from the prevailing winds.
Within minutes we were sitting on the soft grass, had taken off our shoes, and were leaning back on our packs to spend some time eating, resting, and contemplating the blissful surroundings. Having just climbed 1,900’ while covering only one half mile, we felt we’d earned our rest.
1:20 pm – As rested as we were likely to get in just a few minutes time, we decided to continue toward our destination, The Shard. But as we stood to shrug into our packs, our sunny day disappeared. Within minutes the entire area was enshrouded in clouds, hiding the ridgeline around the cirque from view. The wind began to pick up and the temperature dropped appreciably.
Time to reconsider. Did we want to climb along an unknown ridge crest under these conditions? One of the reasons for having made this climb was to be able to “see” our destination and study possible routes. With the possibility of “seeing” having been taken from us, continuing had less to offer. We also decided there was a likelihood of precipitation and we had no desire to be climbing in exposed areas over slippery rocks. We determined we should “bag it.”
1:40 pm - Rather than immediately heading down the gully, we did take a few minutes to explore the cirque. We knew there was a small lake and wanted to know its location. I also took a few pictures of the surrounding highpoints for later study.
2:00 pm – Gary and Trixie posed for one last picture before we began our descent of the gully.
3:00 pm – One hour 45 minutes to climb the gully, one hour to descend. We were back on the grass-covered moraine. A few minutes rest and biscuits for Trixie, and we were back on the trail.
It began to rain, not heavily, but enough to make us damp and most importantly, our footing got slippery. Our decision to not continue along the ridgeline was validated.
4:50 pm – After an uneventful hike along the remainder of the Chaffin Creek Trail, we arrived back at the trailhead and our truck. Although we had been unable to accomplish everything we wanted because of weather, we had gotten nearer the goal and learned a few things along the way. All-in-all, another successful day.
|The Shard – 9,883’ |
Elevation Gain – 4,017+’
Ascent Date – 30aug06
Total Route Time – 9 hours
the Chaffin Creek Trailhead.]