Mesahchie Pk Icefall and Southeast Gullies
Mesahchie Pk Icefall and Southeast Gullies
Page Type: Trip Report
Washington, United States, North America
48.57890°N / 120.8792°W
Aug 12, 2001
Created/Edited: May 24, 2002 / Aug 22, 2006
Object ID: 168551
Page Score: 71.06%
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Date of climb: August 11-13, 2001
Note: any information gleaned from this trip report must be taken with the knowledge that this climb was done in the “dry” season of mid-to-late summer. Ascents done earlier in the year may experience completely different conditions.
Trailhead to Easy Pass:
Easy (unless it's exorbitantly hot like it was for us): 3.3 miles; 2 hours with heavy packs
Take bug spray! Last water before bivy site is along this trail. The trail crosses Easy Pass Creek about 1.5 miles in. Good water fill up here. The last water on this side of the pass is at the top of the forested rise to the right of the trail (right before going up last basin to pass).
Easy Pass to bivy site and/or Mesahchie Col (if doing Mesahchie as ice climb): 1.1 miles; 1.5 to 2 hours depending on load & temperature
Either ascend meadow on north side of pass up to near ridge crest then start traverse or drop down below 6,400 ft to start traverse. DO NOT TRAVERSE BETWEEN 6,400 FT AND 6,800 FT (CLIFFS and GULLIES are UGLY)! The high traverse avoids the cliffs and most of the gullies but can't avoid the scree--scree which varies in type and looseness. You can never really figure out the scree and how to best proceed across it because it changes all the time. The high traverse also is more scenic and goes past a potential bivy site on the ridge line just east of the saddle SE of Kitling Peak. This bivy can be used if the regular bivy site below is already taken. The regular bivy site can sleep six comfortably. It's really the only prepared bivy site in the basin below Mesahchie Col; the rest would be on heather. Also, don't continue on to the col expecting to find bivy sites there. The col is very rocky (no flat spots). One could bivy on the glacier but I don't know about rock fall. There wasn't much rock fall strewn about it as I recall, though. The low traverse from the pass will go through more forest and heather, but loses some altitude. It's a toss-up, but I say this having not gone the low way. We made the mistake of traversing at 6,600 to 6,800 ft. There is no water on the traverse. There is water at the ridge bivy (snow) and the regular bivy (stream). The regular bivy currently has a little league field-sized snow patch next to it that feeds the stream.
Ice Climb: 1.0 mile; 3-4 hours depending on group skill level.
Basically, as ice climbs go, I was disappointed in there only being one steep pitch. I suppose it could have been climbed as a running belay, but I chose to set two screws (as much for practice as for the need). The angle of the first pitch was about 50 degrees but I didn't really measure it up. For sure it required front pointing. Four screws may be necessary on it: two for the climb and two for the anchor. There was also a little bit of rock fall problem on it as perched rocks had a tendency to slide in the summer heat. The rest was easy. The couloir leading up to the ridge was also easy as there were steps kicked into it all the way (five climbers had gone before us that day). It angled up at 50+ degrees and I set three pickets in the process of doing it as a running belay. If you are strong climbers you
could get away with two pickets per team, but having four is safer.
Mountain Climb: 700 ft of gain; 1 hour if weighed down with packs, 1/2-hour if no pack and strong climbers
From the top of the couloir (est. 8,100 ft), descend the prominent south-facing gully ~100 vertical feet to where it meets a beige-colored gully leading up the mountain. Take this gully. It goes up less than 200 vertical feet and ends at a pyramidal black headwall. Climb to the obvious notch left of the headwall (class 4 in deep cut on left side leading to notch is easiest but not as aesthetic as low class 5 rock on right side leading to notch). At the notch, the rest of the way up to the ridge crest reveals itself by way of a class 3 gully. It even has some heather patches in it. And above this gully: well, that's not the summit but one of about five false summits. Near to where this second gully heads there is a leftward scramble over to the top of the next-most southward gully. Once in this next (third) gully, a rock pitch (the second false summit) will impose itself and seem as if it will require technical climbing. But this is not the case for it can be surmounted on the right (north side). On the other side of the second false summit, the climbing alternates between south side, ridge crest, and north side for a couple hundred yards until FINALLY the real summit is attained. There is a register. Up to last weekend, only seven parties had signed it this year. A note about the false summits: they're not really false summits but humps on the ridge. However, the way the climbing is, they are a let down in that when you get past one, another pops up. It's hard to see them in advance. You won't need a rope to climb to the summit or for any rappels. I saw nary a rappel station. Besides, though I didn't really check, setting firm anchors might be difficult. The mountain is very chossy. As for water, it can be made from snow at the top of the couloir, but none elsewhere.
Mountain Descent: 20 minutes
Beware of party-induced rock fall! There's more than enough loose stuff to kick down accidentally whether in the gullies or between gullies. Climbers should stay close together and zigzag down the gullies whenever possible. In fact, completing any of this climb without causing at least one medium-sized rock to bound down the mountain would be an achievement to say the least.
There are three options:
1) Descend into Fisher Creek valley and take the trail back to Easy Pass. This is certainly a viable option if doing climb as a day hike or a carry over. I would recommend looking at this option while on the way in. It eliminates any and all of the awful traverse. It could even be taken on the way in if not doing the ice route (leaving trail when southeast of Mesahchie and ascending meadows and heather and what appeared to be an inconsequential rock band). 3 hours max to pass and then 1.5 hours to trailhead (one hour longer than traversing but much less prone to put blains on your toes). This is also the best option if darkness rapidly approaches as the trail is much easier in twilight than any traverse would be.
2) Make a descending traverse around Pt. 7,985 to the basin below the regular bivy site and continue traversing to Easy Pass. This way will see a lot of scree followed by heather followed by more scree and then trees and heather on way to the pass. 2 hours to pass then 1.5 hours to trailhead.
3) Make a largely level traverse at ~7,400 ft around Pt. 7,985 to the regular bivy site. The scree below Pt. 7,985 is lame but the intermittent cross-gullies and rock outcrops are not as pronounced. Once around Pt. 7,985, keep an eye out for a climber's path cut into the scree just above a heather bench and just below the "scree slope of all scree slopes". This climber's path helps speed the traverse and numb the blains. Once at the bivy site, make the quick ascent east up to the ridge line, pass the ridge bivy, and continue on the south side of the crest through scree gullies and rock outcrops to the meadows above Easy Pass. 2+ hours to pass then 1.5 hours to trailhead.
There are three options:
1) Stop at beer garden
2) Stop at foot doctor
My opinion as a day trip: It's a long way, a lot farther than what a map might show because of the terrain encountered. Ergo, I wouldn't recommend it in a day--especially if doing the ice route. Ice climbing necessitates bringing heavy gear, so it's not as if one would travel really light for the traverse. A two-day endeavor with a bivy at either of the bivy sites would be the best option. In this case, get an early start on the second day to ensure ample time to get out before dark. Climbing to Mesahchie Col and then descending to near the start of the ice climb should not be a problem in the early morning crepuscule. If the other climbers in your party are not fast or as competent, then a day hike is out of the question. A two-day hike may even be questionable depending on the time of year and the number of daylight hours. Speaking of time of year, I'm not sure the traverse would be much easier with snow covering it.