Close, but so far...
I felt I had to put up a trip report this year although we missed the summit of Challenger... again. The bergschrund was too big with alternatives more than we wanted to do. However, the area is so spectacular and we did accomplish our traverse of Easy Ridge, Perfect Pass (attempt Challenger), exit over Whatcom Peak, down to Whatcom Pass (side trip up to Tapto Lake)then back out 17 miles over Hannegan and to our car where we started 6 days before. Just the trip up to and along Easy Ridge is worth the effort if the weather cooperates. We began at the Hanegan Pass Trail Sunday evening with Copper Creek camp our first goal that night. Trail starts at 3100 feet, Hannegan Pass is 4 miles away and 5,060 feet.Copper Creek camp to Perfect Pass. You continue descending to the Chilliwack River crossing (2500 feet, not marked, wade the cold water and find the climber's trail up to Easy Ridge). There is a great camp spot at this crossing, but it's not an "official" camp. The trail becomes more defined as you get into the trees. We top out on Easy Ridge about 5600 feet. This time of year, there is no water between the Chilliwack River until you almost top out on Easy Peak where a year around snow field is melting for your water. The next water is another 5 miles plus when you descend off Easy Ridge toward "Imperfect Impasse" where you will find more snow and melt. We chose to descend nearly 2,000 feet for a safer?, surer route through this difficult, miserable, necessary transition to make your way back up to Perfect Pass. What a struggle. Come prepared to suffer. There is a higher, exposed route through this, but be warned: you've got to be able to find it and negotiate it with heavy packs. Average mortals like us wonder if it's all worth it at this point. It took us 12 hours plus to go from Copper Creek to Perfect Pass! We never claimed to be fast.
We got up at daylight and began our climb of Challenger. Climbing the Challenger Glacier was easy compared to getting up to Perfect Pass the day before. But that bergschrund was too big and the alternatives were too much. Played it safe and wait until next year. It's not the first peak that took multiple trips to get to the top. Our plan is to come in from Ross Lake next time. We'll see. I am getting older...
Over Whatcom and out.
The climb out of Perfect Pass to Whatcom Peak was no technical challenge. Just over another 1,000 feet from Pass to Summit with a moderate snow field and a nice exposed ridge climb. With the heavy packs we did rope on the ridge and used some pro. The packs made any moves more cautious, why take chances when we had the gear? Down climbing the North Ridge was also a challenge. The guidebooks make it sound like a walk, but we didn't feel that comfortable. Again, we took our time, played it safe and belayed some going down, even one short rap. Just be prepared. Views were just perfect. Skies were clear. We had't seen anyone for three days. That was unusual for our climbs. Plenty of water and 17 miles to go. We had a permit for Whatcom Camp, then Copper Creek and on day six to the car. Fast forward to real food at the town of Glacier where we recommend Graham's beer, burger and fries. Missing out on the summit of Challenger was very disappointing. I still see us standing at that bergschrund in disbelief, thinking we can go around. But we did the safe thing and hopefully we'll make it next year. The trip was worth it. No regrets.