In spite of the fact that my attempt a few days prior was only half-cracked, I felt the need to knock North Gardner out at my next earliest convenience to take care of business. So I returned for a Tuesday-Wednesday attempt.
This would be my third attempt, as my first attempt was a single-day car-to-car push a year prior; I got turned around by thunderstorms not 300 vertical feet from the summit.
Two vehicles at the trailhead and the register indicated a party of 1 that had arrived a day prior to me and another party of 2 that had arrived earlier in the day than me. I'd done some work before taking off, so I set off walking at 3:30. Initially I'd entertained thoughts of a possible bivy atop Gardner, though I knew I would likely arrive up there after sunset. However, when I started walking, the temperature was 99°. I had not been in such temperatures for quite some time, and I believe the highest temperature I'd hiked/climbed in this summer was the upper 80s. Within the first hour I developed a headache, so I continued downing water like it was my job. At 7.3 miles, at the Abernathy Trail junction, I stopped to filter water. It had only taken me 2.5 hours to get here, but the heat just sapped my energy. Rather than slog my way up Gardner, I decided to give myself a break and crash here for the night, taking some time to hydrate as much as possible.
Just after dark, shortly after I had dozed off, I heard footsteps. Sure enough it was the party of 1. The guy was pretty excited to make conversation, so I obliged for a little bit until I begged off as I needed sleep myself. He did mention that taking off from his campsite at Goode Meadows, summiting Gardner and North Gardner, and making it back to this point, had taken him 12 hours.
I was up and going at around 7 a.m. It was a bit later than I had planned but the extra sleep was helpful. As I headed off my eager conversation buddy was still sawing logs. I left camp with 5 liters of water on me, prepared for the heat. It took 1.5 hours to get to Goode Meadows -- a slow pace but it was as comfortable as I could go. At Goode Meadows I noted the campsite left by the party of 2.
From the campsite I directed my steps uphill. Although there are faint paths here and there (some from people, some from goats), I opted to beeline it toward the start of the scramble route. All of the terrain here was quite familiar from my previous attempt. The elevation gain here is pretty relentless, and the heat of the day was continuing to bear down on me. I continued downing water.
About halfway up the scree & talus, I encountered 2 women and a dog descending. They said they had done Gardner but did not have intentions for North Gardner. As soon as they packed up their camp, I would have the entire valley to myself.
Two things I learned from my initial attempt to this one:
1) By veering climber's right toward and up a short gully at around 7600' I was able to avoid much of the nasty scree that slowed me down considerably on my first attempt. In fact much of the route that I picked from this point was fairly solid. This renders ascending North Gardner via Gardner even more desirable than I had previously thought. (Ascending North Gardner directly from the Meadows is certainly an option, but I think it would make for a less pleasant and more cumbersome day. Ergo although I had already summited Gardner on my first attempt, I opted for this ascent route again on my second attempt.)
2) Scrambling on the traverse from Gardner to North Gardner is unnecessary as most of this stretch can be walked if staying below the ridgeline. This does require descending an extra distance which does not seem ideal, but you will easily lose and have to regain all that elevation -- and more -- if you choose to stick closer to the gendarmes.
It took me 3 hours to ascend from Gardner Meadows to just below the summit of Gardner. I bypassed this summit as I had already hit it a year earlier. Thus I started traversing towards Point 8487. At times a path quite clearly presents itself. However if you find yourself exposed or scrambling, you are likely doing so unnecessarily. It took me 75 minutes to make the traverse to Point 8487. At this point in the day I was definitely feeling the heat and I was running quite low on water.
On the final ridge traverse to North Gardner, very little scrambling is required as well. Cairns mark the way but are often extraneous as the path is apparent much of the way. With a couple exceptions, you will want to avoid options leading directly up to the ridge. I faced very little in the way of exposure. In fact the only point on this final stretch that I encountered scrambling and some exposure was at the gendarme at the bottom of the saddle -- and even here there may have been a better route that I somehow missed. At a snowfield I stopped to scrape off the surface and throw some snow into my remaining water, which at this point was a scant 16 ounces. At least I could gain a few more precious ounces with the heat bearing down on the snow.
It took me an hour to reach the summit, and at this point I had gone through almost all of my water. Only on this final traverse did an occasional light breeze provide respite. Yet at the summit it was still calm enough for swarms of bees and black flies to buzz around. I found no benchmark but I did find a cast-iron cylinder left by the Mountaineers containing the register. I spent nearly an hour on the summit savoring the views and the redemption.
I made it back to Point 8487 in 45 minutes. From here I happily plunge-stepped and ski-glissaded down the scree. It was fast work, as it took me 12 minutes to descend 1000'. I really think this ascent route seems unpleasant. At 7000' the stream was finally considerable enough for me to filter water, and I stopped to fill up. Between Gardner Meadows and my campsite I met a young couple who was planning to attempt Gardner and possibly North Gardner the following day. They were already blasted by the heat, and they were quite shocked to hear how much water I had blown through. I reassured them as a bigger guy and a heavy sweater, my water needs exceed those of most people.
I was back to my campsite at the Abernathy Trail junction 2.25 hours after I was at Point 8487. I slowly packed up camp, filtered some water, and downed some more calories before heading out. I was back to the trailhead shortly before dark.
Crossed the ridge to North Gardner after Gardner. Very fun scramble.
My first critical error here is that I planned this as a car-to-car without looking at the distribution of elevation gain. Thus my estimation for my completion time was off, which led to one long damn day and one late damn night.
My second critical error is that I put in a solid day's work and left for the trailhead only after I felt good taking Thursday off. By the time I got to Rainy Pass it was well after midnight, so I pulled over to rest. This meant that I did not set foot on the trail until 10 a.m.
The Wolf Creek trailhead is accessible to all vehicles, though at this time an active tree felling project has torn it up a little bit. At the trailhead I only saw one other vehicle, and the registry indicated that party of two would be camping in the area for an entire week.
The approach here is mostly flat, rolling terrain. The trail only gains 1900 feet in the first 7.5 miles (and you actually lose 200 feet from the trailhead right at the outset). Thus I made it to the first camp site in 2.5 hours, including breaks. Here I met the other party on the register, two bear hunters from Spanaway. They had arrived the night prior, having carried 90-lb packs (!) with their week's supplies. If they managed to bag their bear, they said it would take them 2 or 3 trips back to the vehicle.
It was also at this point that I filtered and refilled my water bottles, as reports indicated it is the last best reliable source. (In fact another 2 miles farther is a small dribble of a stream, and in the basin descending from North Gardner are a couple other sizable streams. YMMV depending upon time of year.)
At 10.3 miles, the trail ends at an idyllic campsite -- though I am not sure of where one finds water nearby if you choose to use it. Likely most users of this site arrive on horse; even relatively recent horse dung was present throughout the trail on the approach.
The "trail" from here is faint. I just pointed myself uphill to the left of the largest gully as you face Gardner. As I learned descending North Gardner, your best bet for efficiency and ease of travel is to head up Gardner first. You get a portion through grass to warm up until you arrive at the choss of talus and scree. Trekking poles were my friend here. I made the summit of Gardner in 3 hours, which is a fine pace, but it was much slower than I had anticipated.
As I reached the summit of Gardner, I noted some scattered clouds across the sky to the north and east. However, I was unconcerned as the forecast had called for perhaps a 10% chance of rain, and that only for a couple hours to the late afternoon and early evening.
The traverse to North Gardner was another time-suck as I followed the ridgeline. Multiple gendarmes presented several options, and I always seemed to choose the wrong option before getting cliffed out and having to backtrack. Although I was following routes that had been obviously traveled, I was uncomfortable with the subsequent exposure on a solo trek. Save yourself some time and traverse below the gendarmes. In any case some scrambling is still required; bring your helmet.
At peak 8487 it was a short downhill on the ridgeline before continuing up to North Gardner. Another couple gendarmes present themselves but are minor in my opinion compared to the previous ridgeline.
This is where my third -- and most critical -- error comes into play. I was focused on the summit without paying attention to what was going on around me. Just underneath the summit (<100 ft), I heard a loud rumble of thunder. I looked up to see that the sky had gotten quite dark, very fast. Immediately I descended to below peak 8487 where I waited underneath a gendarme. It was here that I sat for over 2 hours. The weather was never directly above me, but I watched as lightning struck surrounding peaks. Only a few drops of rain fell during that time.
By the time I felt safe descending the basin from North Gardner, it was after dark. For the first 1000-1500 feet, at least it was easy to plunge-step in the scree. My water supply was long since exhausted, I stopped to refill at the first available stream farther down the basin. As I filtered water, I looked up to see a dark mass hovering behind Abernathy Peak. This did not look like a storm cloud. I turned off my headlamp, and once my eyes adjusted, I noticed an ephemeral glow in the cloud.
Only a few weeks prior, my wife finally beat me into submission and convinced me to get an inReach. Here it came in handy, as I sent her my coordinates and the bearing of the fire. She contacted the Okanogan County Sheriff, whose operator/dispatcher said that the Twisp Smokejumpers had eyes on all area fires from lightning strikes, and that each of these had been downgraded to non-spreadable. This entire process took over an hour as my wife relayed messages.
With that in mind, I continued down. Somehow I ended up mired in a mess of trees and deadfall which took far too long to get through. In the meantime, not only did every insect in the area fall in love with my headlamp, but a number of bats did as well.
From the trail it was at least easy walking, if not long. Just a mile back on to the trail, it was apparent that they had received rain throughout the entire rest of the valley. Within 100 yards of brushing up against trees, I was completely soaked and was so for the rest of the evening. I had my rainshell and pants in my pack, but it was pointless at this point to put them on.
The bear hunters had bedded down for the night by the time I arrived at their camp, and given the Okanogan County Sheriff dispatcher's response, waking them to warn them of a fire seemed unnecessary.
Finally I arrived back at my car at 4 a.m. Zero is the number of records broken by me on this day.
Purists will clearly have a problem with me claiming the summit of North Gardner, though I was clearly within arm's reach. Feet planted on the block was inevitable. I am claiming this summit even though I am likely to revisit it another day.
Part of a weekend scramble of Abernathy, Gardner and North Gardner
Both of these mountains were a piece of work. North Gardner was more enjoyable than its counterpart. The approach in is long, hot, and boring. The valley you approach in is aligned perfectly west to east so the sun literally follows you as you hike up. Good thing there are lots of places to replenish water. Must have gone through at least 5 liters on the approach. The last mile of the approach is very pretty and makes the approach feel more worth it. North Gardner took longer than expect for some reason. It has pretty ice views and the scramble isn't too bad. You can make it harder if you want. The "traverse" was awful. Ended up just descending way down at eventually found a sketchy gully that brought us onto the massive choss/scree slopes on the south facing side of the mountain. It was awful. One step up, two steps down. On the positive side, the way down was really fast and we got back to camp in no time. The hike out was the worst part. It was hot and boring and would not end. Feet were miserable too. Got more on these than expected.
Traversed over from Gardner. Fairly obvious where you need to be on the traverse from Gardner to Point 8487. I messed up and went left twice around gendarmes from 8487 to N. Gardner though. Go over the first one and slightly right on the second. Avoid the left, like I didn't. :-) By the way, how can this mountain, connected to Gardner by a ridge, not be in the Lake Chelan Sawtooth Wilderness? Who decided that?
Summited both on day 1 due to weather concerns. Camped and went out by day 2. Be sure to scramble on the right side of the ridge when it becomes more scrambly. The trail will try to dump you into harder terrain. We ended up doing class 3, but could be done as a class 2.
Long drive and late start. Camped near South Fork trail junction. No one above tree line.
For a reason that made sense at the time, I decided to climb this mountain in running shoes. That was a bad start. Add to that a late season heat wave, very little water, slicing my hands on sharp rocks on the ridge (blood everywhere), and the broken yellow jacket nest along the trail. The result was an unnecessarily painfully two day tagging of North Gardner.
On the other hand, the weather and the views were top notch (heat wave not withstanding).
John, Josh and I hiked up Wolf Creek, set up camp then went straight up the south slopes of Gardner Mountain which was fairly loose in places. The wind was howling since a storm was brewing (the same storm that thwarted us from heading to Mount Waddington). John headed back to the meadow while Josh and I ran the traverse to North Gardner. After quickly nabbing the summit of North, we were being engulfed by clouds and saw it was raining on Silver Star. Luckily it never rained on us but as we hiked back over Point 8,487, it was 50 MPH winds! I was chilly without pants and gloves but we got into the scree basin and it quickly eased up. Reached the tent where John was waiting at 9pm. Hiked out the next day.
Traversed from Gardner, then boot-skied the scree back to above Gardner Meadows and out Wolf Creek. Being northeast of most of the major peaks, North Gardner has a great view. Trip report.
climbed with Fletcher Jordan and Heather Anderson in the morning from Gardner Meadows before going to Gardner. Cramponing up pt 8487 was fun and the scrambling along the ridge was easier than I expected. Great viewpoint of the area.
First ascent!... of 2015. I do think I probably did bag a first, that of skiing the heck outta the basin below the ridge into Gardner Meadows… because who else would be crazy enuf to fight their way up that long Wolf Creek valley with skis, frequently having to carry them through snowless sections of lower trail. I musta put on and taken off those damn things a hundred times. But it was worth it, snow up high was perfect.
Those ledges shown in Gimpilator’s image labled “The Crux” were quite challenging buried in several feet of snow.
Does anyone else find it odd that with the Gardner mountains, the higher summit is called North, while the lower summit gets the general “Gardner” designation? Seems like it should be “Gardner” for the highest point, and perhaps “East Gardner” for the lower summit. Just sayin’.
Came in via Cedar Creek - fairly straightforward scramble.
made the slog up Wolf Creek and summited both Gardner and N Gardner (and the hump between them) all in the same day.
Completed the Gardner traverse starting from the lake at the head of Wolf Creek @ 6970.
Made it up to the 8400' saddle a few years previous and hiking buddy didn't want to go on. This time I claimed both Gardners like I knew I would. Met Brett and JB and climbed with them when they caught up with me at the basin in the morning.
I started with a trail head bivy at Cedar Creek, bushwhacked to the lake and finished the day with two summits. I used a rocky gully above the lake to avoid some of the scree. I hit camp just before I needed a lamp. It was about 3 and a half hours back to the car the next morning. Safe to say, it was much shorter than the Wolf Creek route and the basin around the lake was gorgeous.
Gimpilator and I summited North Gardner Mountain, and then Gardner Mountain during the same outing. We briefly attempted the semi-popular "Gardner Traverse" connecting the two peaks, but the mixture of bad snow conditions and loose scree caused some concern. Instead, we descended from the saddle to ~7400' elevation, side-traversed east along Gardner Mountain's south slopes, and ascended via a central gully. It was a great weekend, with great views and a great mountaineering partner. With extra hiking included, we did nearly 30 miles of hiking with over 9000' of vertical gain in less than two days. For me, it was Washington County Highpoint #21 (out of 39).
You know how you always forget at least one piece of gear? I forgot my sleeping bag. Two nights I slept wearing all my layers. Actually it wasn't that bad. Gardner and North Gardner were pretty good. My climbing partners good attitude and outlandish jokes made it a great trip.