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Having the Time of my Life: A 9 Day Extravaganza through the North Cascades
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Having the Time of my Life: A 9 Day Extravaganza through the North Cascades

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Having the Time of my Life: A 9 Day Extravaganza through the North Cascades

Page Type: Trip Report

Location: Washington, United States, North America

Lat/Lon: 48.76796°N / 120.9557°W

Object Title: Having the Time of my Life: A 9 Day Extravaganza through the North Cascades

Date Climbed/Hiked: Jul 7, 2011

Activities: Hiking, Mountaineering, Scrambling

Season: Summer


Page By: Josh Lewis

Created/Edited: Jul 14, 2011 / Dec 24, 2014

Object ID: 728803

Hits: 7225 

Page Score: 92.32%  - 38 Votes 

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"Getting up is optional, getting down is mandatory" -Ed Viesters

"I'll interpret the rocks, learn the language of flood, storm and the avalanche. I'll acquaint myself with the glaciers and wild gardens, and get as near the heart of the world as I can." -John Muir

"This is just what I needed!" -Sebastian Rosa

"Two Thumbs Way Up! I can never live the adventure of a life time just once!" -Personal Statement

This was an extraordinary adventure, perhaps one of the greatest weeks of my life. Although I had many summit attempts, I certainly was living out the true spirit of mountaineering. Mountaineering to me is about adventure, companionship, and having the time of your life. Every new person I met during this extravaganza was from SummitPost, which I'm always impressed at how the internet has made finding partners much easier than it used to be.

Day 1: Checking out Crater Mountain

Crater Mountain
Crater Mountain from the Highway

We originally made plans to climb Mount Hardy, but the South Face appeared to have some bush whacking involved which my partners were not to keen about. So instead as an alternative plan we went back West for Crater Mountain. The trail started out nice and easy, although it felt a bit like a jungle from the humid forest environment. After a few miles of hiking we came across a creek crossing which had a bit of a waterfall to the side of it. Joanna did not feel comfortable taking Holly across the creek, so we came up with an alternative plan which was to bush whack up the slope and find a safer crossing.

Michael Crossing the Creek
Michael Crossing the Creek

After going up about 500 feet we still did not find any decent crossings, so we decided to go up to the water source and cross there. I decided it would be best to follow a small creek up, which to my luck it surprisingly brought us to a lesser brushy area.

Traversing the side of Crater Mountain
Traversing the Side of Crater Mountain

From here we traversed around to the right of the mountain. I had only briefly looked at a map of the mountain, which I suppose my navigation skills have gotten better at finding the way up. At the top we could see Jack Mountain, as well as many other North Cascade Peaks.

Eldorado and Tricounti Peak
Eldorado and Tricounti Peak

Myself with Jack Mountain in the Background
Yours Truly with Jack Mountain

We wondered whether we should find the trail or take the way we originally came. Considering we would run into the same problem as when we came in we came back the same way we came in. At the trailhead we decided it would be a good place to camp at and enjoy the stars while I cooked hot chocolate for my brother Michael.

Day 2: Driveway Butte

In the early morning we could hear it raining outside which we all decided to sleep in late considering that we would not want to climb anything big if the weather was bad. Fortunately weather forecasts for the eastern Cascades were looking decent, so we went over Washington Pass for Driveway Butte. The weather here was perfect, light passing clouds casting cool shadows over the mountains. The beginning of Driveway Butte has all sorts of wild flowers covering the mountain side. To the South we could see the Gardeners as well as Silver Star Peak as well as a few others.

Joanna and Holly in a Field of Flowers
Joanna and Holly in a Field of Flowers

Driveway Butte Panorama
Driveway Butte Panorama

Looking West
Looking West

A ways up we traveled through a burnt forest which in this area of the mountain there were no more flowers. Unlike most adventures, our turn around time was based on when the store in Mazama closed which was 7 p.m. The walk to the summit of Driveway Butte was relaxing, although with good views. We went down the mountain in decent time, while making it to Mazama just before the store closed. From here we went back West for Stetattle Ridge the next day.

Sunset over the Ridge
Sunset over the Ridge

Day 3: Heading Back to Stetattle Ridge

We woke up early this time for Stetattle Ridge which has at least 6,000 feet of elevation gain which meant we were in for a full days work. The trail this time was much friendlier, hardly any fallen over trees and a few flowers on the way.

A Beautiful Tiger Lily
A Tiger Lily on the Trail

As we curved on the mountain we had to cut off the trail and onto the ridge. Unlike the past two times I been here it was now summer which we had to bush whacking through, I now understand why most do this one during winter time.

Heading off Trail and onto the Ridge
Heading off Trail

After going through a bit of bush wracking the ridge opened up and we came onto familiar grounds. Joanna did not like what she saw at the crux because it was melted out and was a class 3 rock scramble, fortunately we managed a way around it to the left in the woods to get around it and back onto the ridge. From here we walked out for a ways on the ridge to get some of the best views of the area.
The Crux during Summer
The Crux We avoided
Cornice Break Off
Cornice Break Off
It s as steep as it looks
It's as Steep as it Looks
Michael Getting into it
Michael Getting His Alpine On

Michael with Rainbow Clouds
Michael with Rainbow Clouds

At around 4 p.m. we finally decided it was best to start heading back. After getting off of the upper ridge we got a bit lost on the way down, which we had to carefully descend in the woods. "I'll bet we'll get out of this mess in a few minutes" I announced excitedly because I heard water noises below. "Alright, if we get out of this within the next couple of minutes I'll buy you guys ice cream!" I heard. Sure enough we found the trail, and they kept there word. This was a very good deal I thought as I enjoyed the fireworks on the car ride home.

Ptarmigan on Stetattle Ridge
Ptarmigan Off Trail

Day 4: Heading up to South Twin

On the Night of July 4th I knew that if I wanted this line of adventure to continue on, I had to contact Eric as soon as possible. I gave him a call, he said him and Sebastian were climbing South Twin and Mount Shuksan. Immediately I was on the trip as well, which even though it was the night of forth July which most people around were lighting off fire works, I had a trip to prepare for. After packing up my gear I managed to get a few hours of sleep, which Eric picked me up in the morning to meet up with Sebastian (aka Sebas). I found Sebas to be an interesting character, when looking at our route on a map he would grab a piece of grass to use as a pointer and say "See zis Ridge, we will be taking zis guy here". Both Eric and Sebas were easy going, and were great company. After figuring out all the plans we left Bellingham and on to South Twin. We decided to go for the East Side of South Twin up to Wiseman Lake for our route.

Twin Sisters from the Road
Twin Sisters on the Way

"I can see why they call you Sebas!" Eric announced while the car went over a bump while driving swiftly down the road to South Sister. "This is nothing compared to the old me a few years back" Sebas replied. The drive it self was a bit exciting on its own with all the bumps and curves in the road. When we got to the trailhead Sebas said "Alright, I'll drive a bit more gentile on the ride back". But I gotta admit it was kinda fun.

Although I love my boots, they unfortunately give me blisters. I know it's not my feet because with other boots on long over night trips I don't get blisters on my heels like I do with these ones, so I finally decided to bring approach shoes. This turned out to be a great idea. Starting out the hike we immediately came to the river crossing which the bridge was washed out. Fortunately there was two very nicely placed logs to cross on, which made things a lot easier.

Creek Crossing
Crossing the River

The trail up the forest was in relatively in good shape, although with a tree slide area. After passing a small creek we then forked left off the trail and onto the boulder field. From here it was a bit of scrambling up trying to figure out the way to Wiseman Lake. This route seemed not very well known, although fortunately Sebas had been there before. Above us were cliffs with a class 3 access point, which we carefully ascended.

Sebas Leading the Way
Sebas Leading the Way
Getting a little Bushy
Eric going through Slide Alder
On the Class 3 Section
One of the Class 3 Sections
Sebas heading up the Slope
Going up the Snow Slope

The Approach to Lake Wiseman
Getting Close to Lake Wiseman

The Sun Setting over the Twin Sisters
The Sun Setting over the Twin Sisters

As the sun set, Mount Baker and the Black Buttes were looking fabulous. We could see pinks and reds across the sky, and on the other side of the horizon the moon setting. At lake Wiseman we set up camp quickly before it got dark. We all set out for our choirs, I was the water guy, while Sebas and Eric did the cooking. After coming back with the 10 liter water jug, it was time to have dinner.

Classic Moment on Mount Baker
Sunset on the Black Buttes with Mount Baker

Alpenglow on the Summit of Mount Baker
Alpenglow on Mount Baker

Setting Up Camp During Sunset
Setting up Camp During Sunset

Moon Setting over South Twin
The Moon Setting
Sunset Colors on the Mountain near by
Sun Colored Hills
Alpenglow on the Rocks
Alpenglow Rocks

After having dinner we got warm in our sleeping bags, and Eric brought his book. Never before had I found it so interesting listening to someone read, I would hear out bursts of laughter and "Oh that's too funny!". After this we got some nice rest, unfortunately we slept in a bit too much...

Day 5: Attempting South Twin

We woke up a little after the sunrise which we cooked breakfast and got ready for the day ahead of ourselves. We started out hiking around Lake Wiseman, up a saddle and then we ended up loosing a lot of elevation to go down to the lower basin in front of South Twin. From here we roped up in case we got onto the glacier at any point.
Heading out to South Twin
Heading out in the Morning

Sebas and Mount Baker
Sebas with Mount Baker

Eric Approaching South Twin
Eric Approaching South Twin

As we ascended the slope, we realized more and more that going this late in the day was a bad idea. Above us we could see a large snow break off right along our planned pathway, Eric was not feeling too good about the idea. As we climbed higher the snow got steeper, we had to cross a bit of a narrow section in the snow field to cross onto the glacier. To my left was a moat, and to my right was a cliff which I made sure to make each step nice and solid. But we all realized that the snow had softened up significantly, and that snow/rock fall hazard was becoming more evident. So we made a group decision and decided to turn around. No hard feelings, after all we needed to get down in time to get our permit for Mount Shuksan. We quickly hiked back to camp, packed our gear and went down the mountain. Coming back down the way we came in was not quite ideal considering the class 3 scrambles with heavy back packs on, but when trying a new route down we ended up at a very steep section. So Sebas set up an anchor and we repelled down.

Heading Down
Looking Down Below
Repelling Down
Repelling Down the Forest

Besides the bush whacking to the trail it was pretty much smooth hiking to the car. From here we got to the ranger station about 5 minutes or so before they closed. In a sense we were lucky we did not get the summit.

Day 6: Getting Sketched out on Mount Shuksan

On the ride to Mount Shuksan we all were wondering what route we should take up it, for the longest time the North Face seemed like it would be the one. When we got to the "parking lot" (it was more like a grassy pull out) we had a great view of the route. Looking up at it I just couldn't help thinking "wow, this is quite the route". I was intimidated looking up at the face, not quite sure what I was up against.

Mount Shuksan s North Ridge
Mount Shuksan's North Ridge

After re-thinking over the plans we finally decided that it would be best to for the Fisher Chimneys because at least then we would not have to go through massive bush whacking. So we drove on over to the Mount Baker Ski area, which to our luck did not require a Northwest forest pass (I left my pass at home on accident). At the parking lot this is where we met up with Ski. From the beginning he was a entertaining guy with lots of funny things to say and amazing plans like climbing the North Ridge of Mount Baker. He convinced our group into making this a 1 day trip, which I agreed with because Eric said there was a 10% chance of rain, and many people from the Northwest know that the weather is hard to predict around here. So when you know things could get bad, you gotta make sure you avoid the bad weather as fast as possible.

While cooking dinner and have good talks, suddenly a cat came by. Never in all my mountaineering have I seen a cat already in the mountains come to me asking for attention. I gave it a good petting, washed my hands with snow, and then went on to get some rest for the morning ahead.

Mount Shuksan with a Cat
Mount Shuksan with a Cat
Messy Parking Lot
The Messy Parking Lot

At 1:18 a.m. I woke up a few minutes before the alarm in anticipation, I now could not sleep and had to get ready for the climb ahead. After packing up all our gear we started out for Mount Shuksan. At first we had a pathway in the snow which soon disappeared, around Austin Pass we were slightly confused on which way to go. Fortunately I could make out Mount Shuksan's shadow and figure out exactly what valley we had to go down, after all I been here before.

We lost a good 1,000 or so feet going down the valley from the high point we were on. Finding the way to Ann lake was better than I had expected in the dark, near the lake we went through a gap section in the cornice covered ridge which was a friendly hike to. From here this is when the trip started getting more interesting.

Mount Shuksan in the Morning
Mount Shuksan in the Morning

Ski and Sebas
Ski and Sebas near Lake Ann

From here we put on our crampons, harness's, and helmets. Eric offered to give Sebas the map because he considered turning around because he did not want to slow down there climb, but Sebas convinced him to continue and to keep the map. After heading over the hill we got a good view of the route ahead, for most of the night it had been clear, although now a few clouds could be seen on the horizon. Mount Shuksan had a lenticular cloud over the summit which already had us wondering if the weather would hold up.

Lenticular Cloud over Mount Shuksan
Lenticular Forming High up on Shuksan

Watching the Lenticulars Form on Mount Shuksan
Looking up at the Lenticular Cloud over Shuksan

We traversed a bit of a steep zone near the cliffs on Shuksan, I found out very quickly that the snow had not fully froze that night and was semi-loose. After down climbing a section I looked behind me which I could see a dark cloud head wall from the North to the South. Bad weather was inevitable at this point. It was a moment that was to beautiful, yet a bit frightening. To the left I could see Mount Baker glowing from the sunrise which stole my attention for a few moments.

Sunrise on Mount Baker
Sunrise on Mount Baker

Sherman Peak during Sunrise
Alpenglow on Sherman Peak

Storm Heading in
Storm Coming In

Sunrise on Mount Shuksan
The Sun Rise Looking West

After one last slope traverse we reached a section where we had to go straight up. It had a bit of a rock section, which they climbed first without too much difficulty. Ski made a snow bollard to use for belaying us up. To get the rope down he attached a large stick to it, the stick looked as if it was going to land on us, but fortunately went down right where he threw it. First Eric went up, then me. This was the first time that I have climbed on rock with crampons. I thought of a scene from Touching the Void which even though I was roped up, it may have been a false sense of security (who knows, perhaps it would have held well). When unclipping from the rope Eric and I did not feel comfortable on the slope we were on. Below us was the rock wall we went up with a moat at the bottom and more steep snow below that. After scrambling 20 feet on exposed loose rocks, Eric finally announced "Guys, I'm turning around. I don't feel comfortable with this kind of mountaineering". We all understood, in that very second I almost said "I'm going down with him" but then looked back up the mountain and thought "he will make it back down alright, you still have a shot at Mount Shuksan". It was right then that I was battling my guilty conscience against what I should do. What would Eastking do? For sure he would do the right thing and make sure that Eric would not go down alone. Sebas and Ski were already ahead by this point which I figured "I'll base my decision on if I can catch up to them in time". Just as I was heading up on the snow slope I had my ice axe nicely plunged in and I tripped on one of my prussik cords that I thought was tucked away. This put me in a instant panic. I caught myself, untangled my crampon from the cord, and had to take a quick rest. I had nearly fallen down the mountain which would have been very serious. It was right in this moment that I figured "It just wasn't meant to be, this is not worth risking everything