The Middle Chiwaukum Tale and a North Chiwaukum Summit!
I have read a lot about Middle Chiwaukum recently and I decided I had to try this peak for myself. I really wanted a couple of 5000+ elevation gain days (No Si twice deals) under my belt and I also wanted to try to get a good summit while the "winter" was as good as it was. So I sent out invites for this week climb and compiled a strong team, some who I will be doing much larger and taller summits in the upcoming months and years.
Out of the invites my friends Joanna, Dave, Mike, Josh, Bruce, Jeff and I attempted Middle Chiwaukum today. Most of the info I had I got from a good number of NWHiker trip reports. The weather reports were looking very good so I knew that Saturday was going to be the time that we give it a shot. This was a strong team and I knew it was probably one of the best times to get this summit.
We all met at the trailhead around 8:15 and started on the climb around 8:30 the first section up the mountain was a road walk. We wore snowshoes to prevent post holing here and they worked out very well. After the 1.75 mile road walk into the trailhead we used a number of footprint I assume that either Iron or Loper from NWHikers left and headed up the mountain. Jeff let most of the way up this mountain from the beginning. The first 1200 feet from the trailhead was very slippery and required crampons in order to get good traction. It was also very steep and time consuming. Jeff did a good job leading the way here though and eventually we got into some good kick stepping snow. The only issue was that we were beginning to lose the others footsteps.
Heading Up The Steep Slope
Once we hit 5000 feet the snowshoes came on. Again our MVP Jeff led the way here kicking trail with Josh and Mike and me (though only in short stints) taking over from time to time. It was time consuming but we did well making up that trail. I am glad that we had so many strong people today on this trip because Middle Chiwaukum is quiet a leg killer. The weather was not so hot in the beginning though in that it was snowing and foggy throughout the morning, which was not very promising.
At about 5800-6000 feet (two altimeters giving different readings) we took a nice short lunch break. Just after the lunch the clouds began to then. We traverse near the edge of a ledge and the views really began to open up to the valley around 6200 feet. The mountains were revealing there dramatic self to us and it was looking very beautiful. We continue the climb here with our snowshoes up. Jeff again led the much of the way with Jimbopo helping with one long stretch. About 6400 feet we got a first glimpse of Middle Chiwaukum. We wanted to believe that the summit wasn't Middle Chiwaukum but I later found out it definitely was.
At 6800 feet we reached an open area and saw our first site of Point 7130. I wanted to believe that maybe this was Middle Chiwaukum and wanted to forget the other pictures but it clearly wasn't. By this time we were running out of time. It was 3:00 our turnaround. But I wanted to give a shot and we did. Some others stayed behind in the group while Josh, Mike and I led the way to this false summit.
The End of The Line: The False Summit
The snow conditions here became very wind loaded and icy. You really had to pound your axe hard to penetrate the layer. Somehow I had a newfound energy to power up this section and found myself on Point 7132 (North Chiwaukum). I was happy but then look right at Middle Chiwaukum and all the pictures finally clicked. It was far away and I was out of time. The sun was lowering in the sky and it looked like at least 30-45 minutes more to the true summit. Without question we were at the end of our line for today and it was time to turn back now. And that is exactly what we did.
On point we stayed two minutes to take pictures and then quickly head off the mountain. The others headed down as soon as they saw us descending Point 7130. The first little bit down was a little tricky but once we got past the icy section the speed could really go up in the snowshoes. It was pretty on the way down because many of the shots we could not see on the way up we could now see. This is a beautiful winter mountain and the scenery from here is quiet amazing.
The Sacrifice: Hopefully Only Temporary
The snowshoes made for quick travel all the way down to 4600 feet where the snow conditions became to hazardous to keep the snowshoes on. From there I strapped on my snowshoes to my pack and headed on down. Unfortunately one of the snowshoes was not put on well enough as I found out at 3100 when I felt the other hit me in my feet. I LOST ONE OF MY SNOWSHOES!! It was dark and it could be anywhere though my guess is that it is closer to 3100 feet. But after a quick look around I realized that I was going to have to let it go or jeopardize safety and though I really wanted to find my snowshoe, safety common sense comes first. I guess I will just have to go up next week and hopefully find my snowshoe along the way OR HOPEFULLY SOMEONE WILL BE READING THIS REPORT, LIKE THE PICTURES AND ATTEMPT THE MOUNTAIN ON A SUNNY MONDAY OR TUESDAY (hint).
The Rest of Way Down
Josh Lewis and I caught up to Joanna and Dave on the way down and on our crampons for traction all the way back to the road. From about 4000 on down all of us were taking tumbles on the slick conditions. but once we put on crampons slips and falls became much less of an issue.
The rest the way back on the road was a little harder for me only because I was missing one of my snowshoes. Hopefully either someone will find or I will find it myself. If the weather looks good and I can line up a good team I would like to try this mountain again maybe even next week. Now that the trail is well kicked in, I hope others attempt this mountain. The views are well worth it, the trail is kicked in and you might even get some compensation for finding my snowshoe.
I must say this team was a very strong team overall and a hard one to beat. Everyone held together very strongly and the trip would not have been nearly as successful as it was without all of you. Thank you everyone or coming out on this special trip. Thanks Joanna picking me for driving most of us from Monroe to the trailhead and to Jeff for picking up Josh and Mike. It was great to meet you Dave and I look forward to doing some killer climbs over the next couple months and it was awesome to meet you to Bruce. Happy birthday and hope to see you on many more. Awesome trip and awesome time.
The Snowshoe has been Found!!!
To conclude the sacrifice has been a temporary one. I am very thankful for Dave who climbed with us. He went back up there and found the snowshoe three days later. Yeah!