Nick and I had the goal of climbing Mount Challenger via Easy Ridge, then exiting up and over Whatcom Peak and back to car out Hannegan Pass. We missed out on the summit of Challenger because of the large Bergschrund, but Whatcom Peak we bagged. But what a challenge. The Potterfield/Nelson guidebook says about the route into Challenger this way (backward of our route), " From Whatcom Pass, Whatcom Peak presents a formidable obstacle to reaching Perfect Pass and the Challenger Glacier. The rock is loose and extremely exposed." We took the North Ridge down to Whatcom Pass. It is NOT as easy class 3 scramble. With heavy packs and route finding challenges, it is committing, exposed and ...breath taking, but lots of fun too. Hey, why do we go into mountains like this if it were not a challenge? A traverse is always a good way to go.
[img:327982:alignleft:smallThere are two basic ways to climb Whatcom Peak, neither is quick and easy.
1. Via Perfect Pass. You begin on the Hannegan Pass trail which is accessed from the Mt. Baker Hwy (#542)in Bellingham WA, off I-5. The Trail Road is a left turn off Mt Baker HWY about 13 miles beyond the town of Glacier. Don't take the Twin Lakes Road immediately past the Transportaion Maintenace buildings, but real close is the second gravel road taking you to Hannegan Pass Trail. It's less than 5 miles from the Mt Baker Hwy and dead ends at the trail with good car camping here if you come the night before. This is a huge parking area with many destinations for hikers and climbers. A good trail beginning at 3,110 feet to Hannegan Pass at 5,100 feet in about 4 miles. You now descend into the Chilliwack Valley 5 miles passing Boundry and Copper Creek Camps. There is an unmarked "sort of trail" leading down to the Chilliwack River crossing (you can see from main Trail)that will take you into the cross country zone. You are back to 2750 feet. There is an unofficial camp at this river crossing. You have to kind of hunt for the abandoned Easy Ridge Trail after crossing the Chilliwack, but it's there and gets more defined the higher on the ridge and trees you get. You will find open vistas that will knock your socks off above 5100 feet. Up over Easy Peak (just hight point on ridge) then on and on Easy Ridge, up and down for 5 miles or so of superb vistas. You will not get tired of the scenery here if its clear. The high point on this Ridge is over 6,000 feet. Some distance before you run smack into The west side of Whatcom Peak, descend down (south) and around the foot of Whatcom Peak. Here's where is gets really tough. There is a higher route through what is called "imperfect impasse" which is an exposed and hard to find short traverse through an deep gully. If you can find it, you will save time and hard earned elevation. However, the safer and surer way is to descend still further to a place where you can cross more safely the same gully. We were at 4400 feet before we could cross on snow and beging the unmarked and awful trip back up to Perfect Pass at 63000 feet. From Perfect Pass, Whatcom Peak is an easy grab, another snow slope of moderate angle and a short, but expose ridge to the summit at 7,574 feet. We did rope for part of the ridge, but it's not very hard climbing. There are two summits, the northeast point is higher. Looking up from Perfect Pass this is the right high point. From here, you can see forever. Large area to sit and think and dread the way back out.
2. You can climb Whatcom Peak via the North Ridge from Whatcom Pass at 5200 feet. (We reversed this as a traverse, down climbing the North Ridge).There are two ways to get to Whatcom Pass. One is from Haneggan Pass (note info above), but stay on main trail system to Whatcom Pass 17 miles from the trailhead at the Hannegan Pass area. The second way to Whatcom Pass is from Ross Lake. Trails or a boat for hire From the Ross Lake Resort (206) 386-4437) will take you to closer to the Little Beaver River trailhead at 1600 feet and 17 miles of Trail in trees. We traversed Whatcom Peak from Perfect Pass down the North Ridge. We had heavy packs and many days climbing, so take this for what it's worth: The Guidebooks make this sound like and easy route. But be warned, it is a long exposed ridge climb up high. We roped and belayed some of it going down. Was it worth it? Definitely, but it is not Ruth Mountain walk up and down. Spell EXPOSSED in capitals.
You need permits and a plan. Glacier Ranger Station (360) 599-2714, issues quota permits for every camp spot, including the cross country zones at Perfect Pass. Fire pits are at the camps in the trees, but not up high. Kind of different, be careful. Bears are there (we never say any, but many hikers did, so be creative and hang your food.
The Hannegan Trail parking area has several spots with tables and outhouses. There are numerous formal campgrounds and lodging available on the Mt Baker Hwy. Contact the Glacier Ranger for camping (360) 599-2714 or the real big shots at the Ranger District in Sedro Wooley (360) 856-5700. I have found you really have to have patience with these numbers. Some of the people are very knowledgeable and helpful, but others I don't think have every been out of the office. We met a very nice Ranger the last day of our 6 day trip. She was heading in on the Hannegan Pass Trail. She did ask to see our permit. That is the first time ever for us, but we were glad
to furnish the "needed documents". What do they do if you run for it?
This link is for the boat ride on Ross Lake if you choose. http://www.rosslakeresort.com/ross-lake-resort-transportation.cfm