With plans to climb Lemah Mountain ruined due to a late late friday night, Bob and I drove up to the PCT trailhead at Snoqualmie Pass around 11:00 am on Saturday. Our new objective was to climb Mount Thomson by the west ridge. We took overnight gear so we could relax at Ridge Lake after the climb rather than hiking out in the dark.
Bob in Bumblebee Basin
The hike up the Commonwealth Basin trail was fast connecting us to the PCT. The PCT eased back to it's annoyingly gentle grade but allowed us to move fast. By the time we got to Kendall Catwalk, the sun had risen to the top of the sky and the wind stopped heating up the air to temperatures too high for comfort. From the catwalk, the hike to ridge lake was uneventful and easy. We dropped out packs at Ridge Lake, sorted the climbing gear and headed off for Bumblebee Pass. We rested and took pictures at Bumblebee Pass when I realized I left my rock shoes in the trunk of the car. Mainly it frustrated me because I had just got a new pair of shoes and was excited to climb in them. But my mountain boots would have to do (it sure made the climbing feel more exciting!).
scramble around the gendarme
Bumblebee Basin was tedious and annoying but gave us the chance to fill up water with the abundant streams. The scree and talus added to the tedious factor but as soon as we gained the ridge all that was left behind.
leading out on the first pitch
The first pitch was fun and easy. There are a few different gully's to go up and I took the one with a big overhanging chockstone at the top. This proved to be fun moderate climbing. Going this way however made the rope run around a flake which caused a lot of rope drag. I had originally wanted to run the first and second pitch together but the rope drag made me take Bob up at the normal second belay.
Bob following the second pitch
The second pitch was interesting. I got sucked into a right trending line by some fixed protection. This forced me to make an exposed and unprotected traverse to the left and then up over a bulge. By the time I got a piece in over the traverse I had run it out a least 45 feet. I was not happy to be in my mountain boots during that runout session. But the climbing eased off after that and became protectable again. Before we knew it Bob and I were simuclimbing the first slab traverse and the step above it.
Bob on the first slab Bob on the second slab
From the top of the 4th pitch it was easy scrambling to the top!
scrambling the east ridge
We had read that you can make two rappels down the east ridge to easy terrain so we automatically looked for the rappel anchors. The first anchor we found forced us to climb through a small section of trees to right on the edge of a 50' drop. It was an awkward move through a small hole in the bushes to an awkward stance to get on rappel.
awkward rappel station
In the end the rappels turned out to be a waste of time when we could have downclimbed on the north side of the ridge. From the bottom of the rappels the descent was uneventful except that the sun went down halfway back to camp. At camp we enjoyed a night sky full of stars.
The next morning, we woke up at 11:00 am to a bight sunny day.
Within an hour we were under a layer of high clouds. an hour later the clouds lowered to our level and it began to pour 1 mile from the parking lot. From the side of Kendall Mountain we watched clouds drop about 4000' in 2 minutes to engulf Rainier. About 7 of us gathered along the trail to watch in disbelief! I've never seen anything like it in my life.
All in all it was a great trip with perfect timing as we just missed the weather.