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| |-+  May 2015 Backcountry Trip Reports
| | |-+  May 9-10, 2015, Mesahchie Environs
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Author Topic: May 9-10, 2015, Mesahchie Environs  (Read 1798 times)

Posts: 124

May 9-10, 2015, Mesahchie Environs
« on: 05/13/15, 06:51 PM »

Narrative by Chris, photos by Radka


A hot weekend in a brilliant setting that demands respect, admiration, and caution.  Isothermal mush is no joke especially in the complexity of the North Cascades.  Bug season has begun.

Full story:

Inspired by recent trip reports of Ragged View and Kitling Peak, and discouraged by a last minute weather forecast of a windy and potentially wet Sunday summit on Baker, we decided to check out the Mesahchie environs.

We left the Easy Pass trailhead on Saturday around 11 and after ¼ mile started the off-trail traverse over to Kitling Creek since our destination for the evening was a great camping destination known as Ragged View.  The terrain is generally open forest with many blow downs, requiring some up and down, and a few places with tightly packed newer growth.  In general we made a rising traverse gaining about 400’ over the course of a mile and half.

We read about a good crossing over Kitling Creek around 4200’ but never found it, as our GPS seems to be reading about 50’ – 100’ greater than the true elevation, so ended up settling for a fallen log across steep banks.  A few minutes before the creek we encountered snow and given the frustrating post holing, weren’t too interested in exploring other options so gave the mediocre crossing the green light.

Once on the other side we transitioned to skinning and were delighted to see the presence of mosquitos, our favorite creature!  We were able to skin from here, crossing only 3-4 short patches of dirt, paralleling the creek.  It was clear that the further away from the creek the less snow there was. 

The skinning around 5400’ was pretty steep and tricky given the tree well situation but we got through it with aid of several side steps and eventually arrived at Kitling Lake.  We decided to pump our water here and carry a few extra pounds instead of melting snow later in the evening.

At this point it was clear to us a solo snowshoer was also in the vicinity.  We made Kitling Pass and got our first views of Ragged Ridge – pretty ragged for sure.  We still had another 700’ to go to reach Ragged View camp and continued on.  Once we gained the saddle at 6400’ we joined with the snowshoe track to the 6700’ camp, where we met Opus, who we learned had also been inspired by the recent trip reports.  It was about 7pm now and ~5 miles, 3000’ from the car. It took longer than we had expected, but in review seemed reasonable given the cross country travel and snow conditions.  The evening was surprisingly calm and clear skied.

We left camp around 11am the next morning, seemingly suffering from sleep deprivation.  The snow was already too soft but high clouds were starting to build and temperatures cooling down.  We dropped back down to Kitling Pass and started our traverse towards Mesahchie Glacier to get a better view.  We could see very large cornices at the Cub-Kitling Col.  We also had an idea of the terrain between the col and Easy Pass, which would be thoroughly sun baked by the time we got on it.  This forced a discussion which was well let’s at least head up and check it out.  We hooked into an existing skin track.

As we were skinning up, we noted quite a few rumbles of snow\rock coming down off the north faces.  We also gained a deeper appreciation for the raw edge of the Cascades, particularly the North Cascades.  These mountains are very complex and sharp.  Eventually a window of the Pickets opened, and higher, faint views of Shuksan and Baker.

About 200’ feet below the col, we admired some semi-truck sized pieces of the cornice that had already collapsed.  While this mitigated some of the risk getting to the col, it didn’t eliminate all of it, since other semi-trucks were still hanging.  So we moved as quickly as possible and reached the col around 2pm.

Then we stripped skins, and started traversing the south facing bowl between Kitling.  This section of the mountain is melting out rapidly and we hit at least half a dozen partial collapses between thin snowpack and buried boulders underneath.  Once getting around the bowl, we decided to gain the ridge line, as traversing sunbaked slopes in gullies with cliffs lurking below didn’t seem the brightest idea.  Turns out this is actually the best choice regardless of snow conditions or time of day.  Once on the ridgeline we booted for about 20 minutes before clicking the skis back on.  During the traverse from the col, we gained views of Eldorado, Forbidden, Logan, Goode… The Fisher Creek valley is nothing but an avalanche collector.  We couldn’t help but appreciate how serious the terrain is!

With careful appreciation, we ski cut all the slopes to get the loose wet slides started before dropping in.  This was critical for one slope in particular.  The slope was about 38 degree, southeast aspect, a transitioning slope between south facing and avalanche gulley.  The second we ski cut it, it popped readily, about 4 inches deep, 40 feet wide, and rapidly accelerated down the gulley.  I could feel the weight of the snow on my lower ski, trying to pull me down, not enough to cause me to lose balance but certainly attention grabbing!

We gained Easy Pass around 5pm, our first time being here.  Given all the avalanche debris, it seemed like the name should be Not-So Easy Pass.  From here we were able to ski down to about 4600’ then transitioned back to shoes. 

We lost the tracks from other parties, unable to follow them to the trail proper.  The map on our GPS showed an apparently older trail so we cross country’d down to an expected intersection at 4100’ that never materialized.  From here we headed left and found the trail about 5 minutes later, and arrived back at the car around 7pm.

Stats for the trip were about 11 miles and 5500’ of elevation gain over 2 8 hour days.  This seemed relatively weak but given the complexity of the terrain makes sense.


Posts: 648

Re: May 9-10, 2015, Mesahchie Environs
« Reply #1 on: 05/14/15, 09:50 AM »

Hi Radka, cool traverse. I imagine that cross-country route to Ragged View was challenging. Interesting to see your semi-truck cornice chunks next to the booting skier. Those were still hanging above us when we booted out of there two weeks back, and they certainly pushed me to motor up that slope.

Posts: 124

Re: May 9-10, 2015, Mesahchie Environs
« Reply #2 on: 05/14/15, 10:36 PM »

Hi Kameron,

Looks like we switched destinations this past weekend, with your group going to the Goat Rocks (though using a different approach) and us going to Mesahchie. I'd say that approach via Kitling Creek was pretty straightforward, and would have been even easier with more snow. The bushwhacking is really not that bad, just a few logs and some light brush. The cornices are SCA-RY! We saw a few collapse on Saturday. When you see them from the top, they have tons of cracks on them and they are ready to GO.

Posts: 498

Re: May 9-10, 2015, Mesahchie Environs
« Reply #3 on: 05/15/15, 10:42 PM »

Jealous.  I was hoping to get up there Thursday/Friday.  But plans changed... and I can't complain.  I ended up on the real authentic genuine Birthday Tour with Mr. Rolfs and Tackman and then a nice day of climbing on Castle Rock.

Mesahchie is in my sites. 
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