Keith wanted to climb the North Face of Maude since last year but the weather window had never opened. So finally this weekend the weather looked nice and he had his mind set on climbing the North Face of Mt Maude. Not being a big fan of steep snow I tried to convince him to climb on rock without luck. The climb was supposed to be a good introduction to steep snow and ice with the steepest section to be about 60 degrees. At the last moment we had Chris join us who got interested in the climb as well.
Approach (Saturday July 15, 2006)The drive from Portland went by fast as we engaged in a heated and passionate discussion on subjects from evolution of civilizations to the education system. The world would be better off in the hands of climbers, ha!
Once at the trailhead we were greeted by the large group of SAR folks looking for Roger Jung who went missing last October and whose red Jeep was just discovered after the road was opened. We promised them to be careful and keep an eye for the missing young man.
Soon after we started hiking along Phelps Creek which goes gently for 2.5 miles. At Leroy Creek the trail started climbing steeply towards Leroy Basin reminding us this was the North Cascades after all. None of us had been here before and we got our first glimpses of Seven Finger Jack and Maude from the beautiful Leroy Basin. We were planning on climbing from the Ice Lakes so we traversed the basin to the south. Higher up ahead of us was a waterfall and Keith claimed that he saw a naked lady, which reminded me of Warren Harding’s white rabbit story from their first winter ascent of Mt Williamson in the Sierra. After all we had been hiking for several hours under the sun and we had only skipped lunch…
We went through two passes but no sign of the lakes so we went straight up to the ridge extending from the south face of Maude and spotted the lakes several hundred feet below. We camped at the south end of the partially frozen upper Ice Lake on a snow free spot. This was a barren place giving us the feeling that we were out there in the wild.
We decided to get going at 4 o’clock in the morning so we hit the sacks early. The wind had picked up in the evening and the Megamid tent was flapping so badly that neither Chris nor I could sleep. At midnight Chris got up and took down the tent in hopes to salvage couple hours of sleep but now Keith’s snoring kept us awake, it was going to be a very short night.
Climb (Sunday July 16, 2006)
At 3:15am we got up and I had to express how much I “loved” snow climbing. It had been a clear and cold night and the snow was frozen hard. We went around the east side of the lake and looked for a passage to the glacier. The obvious notch looked hard with steep heather and slabs above so we contoured further north and finally found an easy access to the Entiat Glacier. It took us about 1.5 hours to reach the glacier. We enjoyed the sunrise and changing colors of the mountains as we geared up for the glacier traverse. Anxious and excited one by one we set foot on the hard snow of the glacier. Chris took the lead and traversed slightly downhill on the hanging glacier. This was a wild and isolated place and we were totally circled by mountains with nobody insight. The hanging glacier steeply rolled down and disappeared out of sight to our right as we passed under the Entiat icefall. The sun was rising and the snow was softening quickly. Chris spotted the first few crevasses and took us down and around them. Further ahead at a rock rib we encountered a huge moat, which we skirted again by going down. We now could see the entrance gully to the north face. A bergschrund was forming at the entrance of the north face but we found a way to the right. From here Keith led for three rope lengths. If you come from the Maude & Seven Finger Jack Col you would bypass this section. The snow was steep and I realized my axe was too long for this but I was happy that we started going up and the traversing was over. In the middle section the angle somewhat eased and Chris took us up for more than three rope lengths. He stopped at a bench just above a section where the snow had melted out and the crumbly rock was exposed.
From here we could see the final steep funnel to the summit ridge. The death cornice was mostly melted out but there was a big block of ice sitting on top waiting to come down. There were rocks falling down every now and then. We had to keep moving. The top section looked steeper than anything we had climbed so far. The snow here was still in the shade and was hard. Keith led out front pointing all the way and started yelling full of joy how much fun it was. Despite the steepness the snow was firm and there were sun cups and steps from previous climbers, so the climbing was secure and quite fun when I got into the rhythm of stepping and plunging my tools. The pitch ends right on the summit ridge, we all wished it was little longer. We rejoiced and congratulated each other for a great team effort and fun climb.
We basked in the sun on the summit for an hour. It was an unbelievably clear day and we could see from Mt Adams deep into the North Cascades. It had taken us about 4 hours from the edge of the Entiat Glacier to the summit. The Maude Seven Finger Jack Col traverse looked nasty from above and we were happy about our decision of coming via the Entiat Glacier. We had done about a third more climbing on the north face in addition to the glacier traverse, under the conditions we had it was well worth the extra bit of effort.
From the summit we went down the scramble route on the south face all the way to our camp at Ice Lakes. We broke camp and quickly dismissed the thoughts of going out via Carne Mountain high route and hiked out the way we came in. It was pretty hot and it seemed to take much longer and there was no sight of the naked lady at the waterfall…