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2016 Backcountry Trip Reports => March 2016 Backcountry Trip Reports => Topic started by: radka on 03/24/16, 10:06 PM

Title: Chewbaukum Traverse/ Chiwaukum, March 17-20, 2016
Post by: radka on 03/24/16, 10:06 PM
Chewbacca-m Traverse


<insert picture of Chewbacca here>

The crux of every traverse is figuring out the car shuttle. Fortunately, Kenji was eager to come on the trip and recruited Paul to join as well. For this traverse specifically, the crux appeared be the 7 miles of road along Icicle Creek from Bridge Creek to Chatter Creek.

Tuesday arrived and we were pretty certain the trip would be happening. The forecast had continued to call for 3 ˝ days of good weather. I called Northwest Mountain School and talked to Olivia, seeing if they offered a snowmobile shuttle service up Icicle Creek to Chatter Creek. They don’t, but she suggested I contact Adam and Leavenworth Mountain Sports. I left a message for Adam and talked to him the next day. He said he might have someone. Thursday morning, while driving to Leavenworth and after dropping one car off at Cascade Meadows, Adam told us to meet him at the shop. There we met Jeff and learned he had 2 sleds that he and his wife could tow us up Icicle with! Bam, the stoke was high!

We drove to Bridge Creek and got ready. Soon after Jeff arrived. 10 minutes later we were on our way and after 45 minutes we arrived at Chatter Creek around noon. While getting towed is no picnic, it beats 2-3 hours of flat road skinning with ~40 pound packs. We were all happy it worked out – thanks again to NWMS, LMS, Jeff, and Elizabeth!



We encountered lots of patchy snow from the trailhead up to about 4500’. Several sections required hiking with shouldered skis. Somewhere around 5000’ the glopping started since the snow under the trees was still cold powder and our skins were thoroughly saturated from conditions below. Once above treeline, we hit a pretty steady breakable crust. On steeper slopes we were forced to break through it which was quite tiring. We made the col around 6pm and were happy to ski down to the first bench and set up camp there. We all agreed there was no way we would have made it this far without the snowmobile tow.

Skinning up Chatter Creek Valley

[img width=1000 height=667]https://radkaandchris.smugmug.com/Skiing/2016/Chiwaukum-Traverse-March-17-20-2/i-tRcDr93/0/XL/RAD_2790-Edit-XL.jpg[/img]

The first night was the coldest, down to ~10F. We periodically heard the winds above us but very little disturbed our camp. A small mouse scurried around our tent, likely eating scraps of food off our stove’s windshields.

[img width=1000 height=736]https://radkaandchris.smugmug.com/Skiing/2016/Chiwaukum-Traverse-March-17-20-2/i-g2NLVKR/0/XL/RAD_2797-XL.jpg[/img]


[img width=1000 height=667]https://radkaandchris.smugmug.com/Skiing/2016/Chiwaukum-Traverse-March-17-20-2/i-vGg4997/0/XL/RAD_2817-XL.jpg[/img]

Day 2

Radka and I were ready to go a bit earlier than Kenji and Paul so we started out to Lake Edna. They caught up to us at the col below Cape Horn. I initially went to the “higher col”, which is where the summer trail goes, but its north side was corniced with steep entries, so we dropped down to the “proper col”. We ripped skins for the short descent and traverse. Some face shots were had here. We traversed as far as we could, basically to the bowl below Ladies Pass. Skins came back on we started the climb over to Snowgrass. Or at least what we thought was Snowgrass.

leaving camp
[img width=1000 height=667]https://radkaandchris.smugmug.com/Skiing/2016/Chiwaukum-Traverse-March-17-20-2/i-N32cDCW/0/XL/RAD_2820-XL.jpg[/img]

oh helo!
[img width=1000 height=667]https://radkaandchris.smugmug.com/Skiing/2016/Chiwaukum-Traverse-March-17-20-2/i-pgqJ5P5/0/XL/RAD_2831-Edit-XL.jpg[/img]

Grindstone Mountain
[img width=1000 height=667]https://radkaandchris.smugmug.com/Skiing/2016/Chiwaukum-Traverse-March-17-20-2/i-dQmVKKG/0/XL/RAD_2834-Edit-XL.jpg(https://radkaandchris.smugmug.com/Skiing/2016/Chiwaukum-Traverse-March-17-20-2/i-NvSKBxD/0/XL/RAD_2855-Edit-XL.jpg)


The terrain ahead
[img width=1000 height=667]https://radkaandchris.smugmug.com/Skiing/2016/Chiwaukum-Traverse-March-17-20-2/i-zfQvq4n/0/XL/RAD_2869-Edit-XL.jpg[/img]

Fortunately, we had a steady east wind during the traverse that kept things cool despite the full on sun. This was ideal because the avalanche terrain on this section was quite committing in places and it was reassuring to know we weren’t getting any major changes in temperature. We encountered breakable crust and powder along the traverse depending on aspect. We also observed no avalanche activity other than a southern aspect that has probably slid on Thursday.

[img width=1000 height=667]https://radkaandchris.smugmug.com/Skiing/2016/Chiwaukum-Traverse-March-17-20-2/i-CkkCRbh/0/XL/RAD_2897-Edit-XL.jpg[/img]

Looking north, Big Chiwaukum
[img width=1000 height=667]https://radkaandchris.smugmug.com/Skiing/2016/Chiwaukum-Traverse-March-17-20-2/i-mTRQBkt/0/XL/RAD_2913-Edit-XL.jpg[/img]

We reached the saddle between Snowgrass and Point 7955’. We all thought 7955’ was Snowgrass and no one bothered to check the various maps and GPS we had. Sure looked steep. Steep enough that we better boot it. Radka was the only one who brought boot crampons and put them on. The rest of us would have liked a pair as well but conditions weren’t too bad for kicking deep-enough steps in. About halfway to the summit, I turned around, and saw this mountain directly behind us, that was obviously higher, with this north facing slope that fit the description of what we would ski down. Instinct immediately told me that was Snowgrass and that we were climbing the wrong peak. Through the gusty wind, I shouted to Kenji and pointed, “I think that’s Snowgrass!” We forged ahead anyway, after all there was a cairn on top of this peak, so we were obligated to hit the summit of it now. Gaining the top confirmed it was the wrong peak. I spied 2 possible ways down the north side of it, above Lake Charles, but we opted to re-trace out steps back to the saddle. We named point 7955’ Wookie Peak.

It's a mountain, let's climb it!
[img width=1000 height=667]https://radkaandchris.smugmug.com/Skiing/2016/Chiwaukum-Traverse-March-17-20-2/i-VxNV4Cw/0/XL/RAD_2914-Edit-XL.jpg[/img]

We're on the summit!!! Of the WRONG mountain!
[img width=1000 height=667]https://radkaandchris.smugmug.com/Skiing/2016/Chiwaukum-Traverse-March-17-20-2/i-HgKb72r/0/XL/RAD_2917-XL.jpg[/img]

Having a Rumdoodle moment here, our mountain is in the background :D
[img width=1000 height=667]https://radkaandchris.smugmug.com/Skiing/2016/Chiwaukum-Traverse-March-17-20-2/i-pdmMjfK/0/XL/RAD_2919-Edit-XL.jpg[/img]

[img width=1000 height=630]https://radkaandchris.smugmug.com/Skiing/2016/Chiwaukum-Traverse-March-17-20-2/i-7StVZhs/0/XL/RAD_2944-Edit-XL.jpg[/img]

Kenji the pioneering the Japanese route on Wookie Point
[img width=1000 height=667]https://radkaandchris.smugmug.com/Skiing/2016/Chiwaukum-Traverse-March-17-20-2/i-8TDm96q/0/XL/RAD_2954-Edit-XL.jpg[/img]

Wookie Peak was an exhilarating experience. Several parts of the ridge are knife edge with full exposure on the west side. Radka and I both had a rush of excitement here and it was likely the highlight of the entire trip, despite it being the wrong mountain.

It was about 5:30 once we got back to the saddle. We decided we would ski down to the valley floor and camp there for the night. Our beta mentions a route to Lake Charles that skirts over the ridge east of Wookie Peak. We saw a snow ramp, a break in the cliffs that led to this route, but it required more uphill travel, likely booting. Only Radka wanted to check it out, the rest of us were too tired. So we dropped about 1000’ feet more to 6200’ where I spotted a bench that would work for camp and save us going all the way down to valley floor. The skiing was a horrible breakable crust at this point anyway so going down continued to be very laborious. The nighttime low was around 20F and again we had very little wind to contend with.

Crustbusters in action
[img width=1000 height=667]https://radkaandchris.smugmug.com/Skiing/2016/Chiwaukum-Traverse-March-17-20-2/i-DJCmvfL/0/XL/RAD_2976-Edit-XL.jpg[/img]

[img width=1000 height=684]https://radkaandchris.smugmug.com/Skiing/2016/Chiwaukum-Traverse-March-17-20-2/i-T8dt3Vz/0/XL/RAD_2994-XL.jpg[/img]

Day 3

The plan for this day was to start with an easterly rising traverse around the SE ridge of the unnamed high point in front of us. Once around the ridge, then climb to 7000’ saddle SE of Lake Charles. The initial traverse consisted of a lot of steep sidehilling and ski crampons were required. The breakable crust was frozen solid in several sections and impenetrable given that this aspect is southerly. Part of this traverse was the same slope we observed had already slid the day before.

Sidehill fest!
[img width=1000 height=667]https://radkaandchris.smugmug.com/Skiing/2016/Chiwaukum-Traverse-March-17-20-2/i-RBJnXWJ/1/XL/RAD_2997-Edit-XL.jpg[/img]

[img width=1000 height=667]https://radkaandchris.smugmug.com/Skiing/2016/Chiwaukum-Traverse-March-17-20-2/i-7nZRfXq/1/XL/RAD_3009-Edit-XL.jpg[/img]

We eventually made the ridge and like many of these, it’s no always obvious we’d be able to cross to the other side easily until we were right on top of it. Sure enough, our traverse brought us to a spot directly between cornices and cliffs, and it was easy to cross over the east aspect slopes and begin the climb to the 7000’ saddle. The snow here was soft and powdery. Our route through here was never intended but it was a reward in itself to discover an area where some nice snow remained. The ski runs in this basin looked to be 2000’-3000’ long too!

We gained the saddle and saw the terrain of Big Chiwaukum that we’d have to travel through. More committing terrain similar to yesterday. We ripped skins and traversed west as far as we could, eventually ending south of Lake Charles. Then we climbed up to a bench below the 7804’ spur.

The terrain ahead
[img width=1000 height=667]https://radkaandchris.smugmug.com/Skiing/2016/Chiwaukum-Traverse-March-17-20-2/i-kxpNVfp/0/XL/RAD_3025-Edit-XL.jpg[/img]

[img width=1000 height=667]https://radkaandchris.smugmug.com/Skiing/2016/Chiwaukum-Traverse-March-17-20-2/i-kKfFqng/0/XL/RAD_3040-Edit-XL.jpg[/img]

[img width=1000 height=667]https://radkaandchris.smugmug.com/Skiing/2016/Chiwaukum-Traverse-March-17-20-2/i-mftx5GP/0/XL/RAD_3058-Edit-XL.jpg[/img]

There was no wind today and the clouds were in and out. The temperatures kept climbing and the glopping kept getting worse. Past the bench, the wind started to pick and keep things cool, once again ideal. The more we travelled along the east side of Big C, we wondered how we were supposed to summit it, since the east side of the mountain is flanked with cliffs and large cornices.
We eventually made it to the entrance of the NW Couloir and started to boot up from there. After about 5 minutes we gained the ridge and saw a slabby rock caked in rime ice. I checked my pack for Colin Haley but apparently I forgot to bring him and so we realized we’d been Jeff Smoot’ed (ie. Cannon Mountain). Yep, apparently the route description in Volken’s new book is incredibly incorrect here – a dotted line on the map accompanied with a “ski to the summit” description. No, that’s not possible from the east side, sorry. It made a lot more sense to us now why others do the traverse along the west side of the range and summit Big C from Upper Grace Lake.

Climbing up to Big C
[img width=1000 height=667]https://radkaandchris.smugmug.com/Skiing/2016/Chiwaukum-Traverse-March-17-20-2/i-DBb4FjN/0/XL/RAD_3069-Edit-XL.jpg[/img]

"Ski to the summit" - are you out of your mind?
[img width=1000 height=672]https://radkaandchris.smugmug.com/Skiing/2016/Chiwaukum-Traverse-March-17-20-2/i-jTmTn8b/0/XL/RAD_3086-Edit-XL.jpg[/img]

The couloir
[img width=1000 height=667]https://radkaandchris.smugmug.com/Skiing/2016/Chiwaukum-Traverse-March-17-20-2/i-skJpFBQ/0/XL/RAD_3085-Edit-XL.jpg[/img]

We shook it off. This range is so darn cool we’ll gladly come back to it again. Then we ripped skins and skied to the col able Cup Lake. The descent to Cup Lake was mostly breakable crust followed by supportable crust. We stopped at the outlet of Cup Lake for a break in the sun and decided that it would be best to gain the next col leading to Scottish Lakes this evening. This was the correct decision as by the time we got to the south slopes leading to the col they were shaded and started to firm back up, but not overly soft (and not frozen solid as they would have been the following morning). We were able to skin all the way to the top even though the route description said booting was required.

Dropping down to Cup Lake
[img width=1000 height=667]https://radkaandchris.smugmug.com/Skiing/2016/Chiwaukum-Traverse-March-17-20-2/i-wfBLTqX/0/XL/RAD_3103-Edit-XL.jpg[/img]

Once we gained the col we immediately saw a skin track and evidence of a solo skier. We speculated it was Eric, the host at High Camp, since he was aware of our itinerary. He confirmed with us later that it was his track and he had come up earlier in the day to look for us. Eric had showed us this area back in 2012 when we summited Baldy (7132’) under his direction to Loch Eileen. Exhausted, we all skied down the flat area and set up camp in a small strand of larches. This was the warmest night, somewhere in the upper 20s.

[img width=1000 height=670]https://radkaandchris.smugmug.com/Skiing/2016/Chiwaukum-Traverse-March-17-20-2/i-PGwvRjV/0/XL/RAD_3133-XL.jpg[/img]

Day 4

It was 35F when we left camp to head over to the Swath. The ice on my skis was now watery drops. A top the Swatch, we noted the Rock-Howard-Mastiff traverse is getting pretty boney down low. It took a bit of poking around to find a suitable place to drop in. The first 100’ of turn were good powder, followed by breakable crust, then supportable crust. Finally, once below 5000’, it was champagne Cascade concrete. We soon spotted other ski tracks lower down. This was great news to us because it meant there would be a skin track to glide down the road on. Otherwise, the road would have been much more effort. We skied the Swath to ~3900’ then hit the road. We were home free now! An hour later we were back to Cascade Meadows and happy to see Paul’s car was still there.

Awesome old wind-sculpted larch trees!
[img width=1000 height=667]https://radkaandchris.smugmug.com/Skiing/2016/Chiwaukum-Traverse-March-17-20-2/i-9x6z83K/0/XL/RAD_3163-Edit-XL.jpg[/img]


[img width=1000 height=667]https://radkaandchris.smugmug.com/Skiing/2016/Chiwaukum-Traverse-March-17-20-2/i-Nzzj9zw/1/XL/RAD_3177-Edit-XL.jpg[/img]

[img width=1000 height=667]https://radkaandchris.smugmug.com/Skiing/2016/Chiwaukum-Traverse-March-17-20-2/i-tSHckFm/0/XL/RAD_3199-Edit-XL.jpg[/img]

Hwy 2 is below us
[img width=1000 height=667]https://radkaandchris.smugmug.com/Skiing/2016/Chiwaukum-Traverse-March-17-20-2/i-7NF9tJt/0/XL/RAD_3212-Edit-XL.jpg[/img]

At the entrance to the Swath
[img width=1000 height=667]https://radkaandchris.smugmug.com/Skiing/2016/Chiwaukum-Traverse-March-17-20-2/i-ZVfvwFt/1/XL/RAD_3219-Edit-XL.jpg[/img]

Ready to Swath!
[img width=1000 height=667]https://radkaandchris.smugmug.com/Skiing/2016/Chiwaukum-Traverse-March-17-20-2/i-2tX5z69/0/XL/RAD_3224-XL.jpg[/img]

The Swath
[img width=1000 height=667]https://radkaandchris.smugmug.com/Skiing/2016/Chiwaukum-Traverse-March-17-20-2/i-mF9j4Ld/0/XL/RAD_3236-Edit-XL.jpg[/img]

On the road
[img width=1000 height=667]https://radkaandchris.smugmug.com/Skiing/2016/Chiwaukum-Traverse-March-17-20-2/i-sjmk6hD/0/XL/RAD_3237-XL.jpg[/img]

Thanks Chewbacca! May the force be with you!

[img width=419 height=800]https://radkaandchris.smugmug.com/Skiing/2016/Chiwaukum-Traverse-March-17-20-2/i-KmjRPT4/0/X2/Traverse-3-17-2016-3-20-2016-X2.jpg[/img]

More detailed picture report here: http://www.nwhikers.net/forums/viewtopic.php?t=8020080

Title: Re: Chewbaukum Traverse, March 17-20, 2016
Post by: lrudholm on 03/24/16, 10:23 PM
Cool trip, cool pics.

Title: Re: Chewbaukum Traverse/ Chiwaukum, March 17-20, 2016
Post by: PowderT on 03/25/16, 07:37 AM
What a trip! 3 of my favorite things; skiing, backpacking, and adventure. Cheers

Title: Re: Chewbaukum Traverse/ Chiwaukum, March 17-20, 2016
Post by: danpeck on 03/27/16, 04:22 PM
Ja Gern!

Title: Re: Chewbaukum Traverse/ Chiwaukum, March 17-20, 2016
Post by: Dave_R on 03/27/16, 06:53 PM
Thanks for the report!  Very, very nice and I'm very, very jealous!

The 17th found Debbie & I up above Scottish Lakes on our last of 9 days, enjoying the snow and the view.  Had we known you'd be blasting through in three days, we would've built a snowman/cairn for you guys.  That afternoon, Eric took advantage of our skin track and made a run up to Baldy and down the north/west-facing bowl beneath Baldy out to Cascade Meadows.

Kenji, I have to ask: were you on your Meidjos?  (You can PM me me if you don't want to drift this thread.  Just the standard durability & icing questions....)

Anyway, nice report and as usual, gorgeous pictures.  All hail the Chewbacca-m!!


Title: Re: Chewbaukum Traverse/ Chiwaukum, March 17-20, 2016
Post by: Kenji on 03/27/16, 07:19 PM
I really enjoyed the tour, the condition was very good for traveling though not ideal for turns.  W all want to go back and ski many slopes we just skinned across.
Quote from: Dave_R on 03/27/16, 06:53 PM
Kenji, I have to ask: were you on your Meidjos?

Yes, Meidjo V1.1 on G3 Synapse 101, worked great, no failure to affect the trip.  However, I did discover a minor breakage afterward, see my posts, broken stub (http://www.backcountrytalk.earnyourturns.com/vb/showthread.php?2213-Meidjo-Experience&p=36455&viewfull=1#post36455) and my temp fix (http://www.backcountrytalk.earnyourturns.com/vb/showthread.php?2213-Meidjo-Experience&s=670eda6532fad2e0b116dacd5d660f5f&p=36498&viewfull=1#post36498)

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