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Author Topic: May 28, 2015 - Snowking Mountain  (Read 2863 times)
Lowell_Skoog
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May 28, 2015 - Snowking Mountain
« on: 05/29/15, 03:36 PM »



The western peaks of Snowking Mountain from the main summit.


Snowking Mountain was among my earliest climbs in the North Cascades when I did it in 1975 with Gary Brill. In 1988, I skied the peak via the West Route with my wife Steph as a day-trip. Around that time the "alternative approach" described in Beckey's green guide was popular with my ski friends. But since then, I hadn't been back for 27 years.

When I saw Jake the Brit's March post about Mt Chaval, I was intrigued to learn that the Illabot Creek road was still in good shape. That road has had problems over the years, and I didn't realize it was still being maintained. So on March 22, I did a reconnaissance hike to see if the old fishermans trail on the "alternative approach" to Snowking's West Route was still in existence. It is, though some sections are pretty faint. I started thinking about a return trip to ski Snowking again.

Having missed some of the nice weather earlier this month due to other obligations, I abandoned the idea of a multi-day trip through the area. The snowpack has been melting too fast. Instead, I recruited Crispin and Garth for a one-day outing. We left our car at Illabot Creek around 8:45 a.m. on Thursday and plunged into the brush. After some thrashing (and checking my reconnaissance track on the GPS), we found the trail again and continued to the 4800-ft lake west of Snowking. We climbed SE from the lake to timberline and switched from hiking boots to skis. We ascended Snowking's NW basin on a thin snowpack, crossed to the Snowking Glacier, then scrambled the west ridge to the true summit. This took around 6-1/2 hours.

We enjoyed the view and a lunch break on the summit, then skied to the 7360ft+ peak at the west edge of the Snowking Glacier. This provided a high point for our ski run back into the NW basin. We eventually returned to the lake and descended back to Illabot Creek. Unfortunately, we lost the fishermans trail a couple hundred yards from the road (I still don't know where it goes) requiring bushwhacking up to BW3 on the Cascade Brush and Bushwhack Scale. My legs burned from the nettles during the drive home. About 11-1/2 hours round trip. A few pictures:



Over the years, some significant work has been done on the Illabot Creek fishermans trail. But other sections are faint.




Ascending the NW basin toward Point 7360ft+. Near timberline, there was only a foot or two of snow on the ground, requiring a few short ski portages.




The Snowking Glacier has diminished significantly when compared to the Austin Post photo in Cascade Alpine Guide.




Eldorado Peak from the summit of Snowking Mountain.




Point 7360ft+, the high point of our ski run on Snowking Mountain.




Crispin and Garth begin the descent from Point 7360ft+.




Garth skis the NW flank of Snowking on fine summer snow.




On the theory that the west approach to Snowking could use some love, here is a rough track of the fishermans trail. Notice that I haven't drawn the trail between the Illabot Creek road and 2600ft elevation. That's because I haven't found it yet. Whoever finds it deserves a prize. For those who don't, be prepared for a North Cascades sub-alpine experience.   Wink


« Last Edit: 05/29/15, 11:47 PM by Lowell_Skoog » Logged
joecat2
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Re: May 28, 2015 - Snowking Mountain
« Reply #1 on: 05/30/15, 07:42 AM »

my notes from 2001 for finding the trail to "King" Lake: 50yds up the road from the Illabot Creek bridge find a wet area/seep/tiny creek.  Go up this 50 vertical feet (some alder, no nettles) to trail.  trail starts 20 feet left of a large log lying down the fall line.
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Lowell_Skoog
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Re: May 28, 2015 - Snowking Mountain
« Reply #2 on: 05/30/15, 06:28 PM »

my notes from 2001 for finding the trail to "King" Lake: 50yds up the road from the Illabot Creek bridge find a wet area/seep/tiny creek.  Go up this 50 vertical feet (some alder, no nettles) to trail.  trail starts 20 feet left of a large log lying down the fall line.

My notes from 1988 are similar, but I didn't find the trail following these notes during my March reconnaissance. Maybe I didn't try hard enough. Eventually I just started crashing up-valley until I went crazy, then I headed straight up the hill and ran into the trail.

On the way back from the lake, I found that the trail was maintained to a point much closer to the road than where I found it on my way up. But I lost it after crossing a log over a stream bed. I looked around for a while, then figured since I was pretty close to the road, I would just make for it. A reasonably short thrash.

A similar sequence of events occurred during the ski trip.  Somebody needs to search more patiently (or do some clearing) near the road. Once you find the trail you can make very good progress, with the occasional pause when it gets faint. It's only near the road that I've been stumped, probably because of impatience born of "horse to the barn" syndrome.

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Jake the Brit
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Re: May 28, 2015 - Snowking Mountain
« Reply #3 on: 06/01/15, 11:46 AM »

The Illabot road is in astonish9ingly good shape. I think it may partially maintained by the locals. I know that if I lived there & needed a good sunset &  view down onto my home turf I'd head up that way.
It could also be that it was originally very well thought-out & made.
Excellent photos as usual Mr Skoog
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Kenji
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Re: May 28, 2015 - Snowking Mountain
« Reply #4 on: 06/02/15, 12:24 PM »

Thanks for the report.  It may be time to establish the skier's trail.  Hats off to those fishermen! I guess collapsible fishing rods are easier for shwacking than our skis...
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danpeck
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Re: May 28, 2015 - Snowking Mountain
« Reply #5 on: 06/02/15, 09:18 PM »

What Kenji said!

And what a cool mountain.  Created for skiing I'm sure.
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