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Author Topic: May 1, 2016 - Chiwaukum Traverse  (Read 3800 times)
Lowell_Skoog
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May 1, 2016 - Chiwaukum Traverse
« on: 05/02/16, 05:54 PM »



Tom Janisch and Ross Freeman skate toward McCue Ridge at the north end of the Chiwaukum Range traverse.


On Sunday, May 1, Ross Freeman, Tom Janisch and I did a one-day north-to-south traverse of the Chiwaukum Mountains. We staged a car at Chatter Creek on Saturday evening, then bivied at the Whitepine Creek road overnight. We started walking up the Swath access road a little before 5 a.m. on Sunday.  The road was good hiking except for an abundance of alder that was only partially freed from the snow, causing it to lie sideways and impede our passage somewhat.

Beyond the 3800ft hairpin, we found continuous snow on the road. The Swath itself was scrappy enough that we decided to ski the road to its end at 4200ft.  Here deeper snow allowed continuous skiing across the Swath into the woods just to its east.  The snow was steep and crusty, so ski crampons were essential and kick-turns were acrobatic at times. 



Tom skis down toward Ross in Chiwaukum Lake Basin on the south side of McCue Ridge.


At the ridgetop above The Swath we encountered a brisk NE wind and fantastic views. We skinned to the divide above Loch Eileen, then removed skins and skated across the basin to McCue Ridge. This was one of those ecstatic times in the mountains when spectacular scenery is combined with nearly effortless movement.



Ross and Tom traverse toward Cup Lake.


We traversed to Cup Lake and climbed to the 7400ft saddle beyond.  Here we had a brief encounter with Sam Lien and partner who were doing a two-day traverse in the opposite direction.  (Another party was doing the route in two days from north-to-south, but we never got close to them.)

From the saddle, we climbed a couple hundred feet, then removed skins and began an amazingly efficient two-mile traverse across Glacier Creek Basin, powered entirely by gravity, poling, and side-hill skating.



Ross and Tom approach the saddle that we should have climbed to from this side, but didn't. Point 7680ft+ is the peak on the left.


Here we made a mistake, caused mainly by my lack of attention.  We had intended to vary the route around Snowgrass Mountain by crossing the 7480ft+ saddle on its east ridge.  This route looked promising on the topo map before I left home and the Volken guidebook mentions it as an alternative to the more common route via the NE Face of Snowgrass.

For some reason, I turned my brain off while we were approaching the saddle and we climbed instead to the saddle east of Point 7680ft+.  We found getting around Point 7680ft+ puzzling and time-consuming.  We got cliffed out a couple times but we finally found a reasonable ledge system about 200 feet below the top that we could traverse across the south face.



Ross traversing the south flank of Point 7680ft+, about 300 feet below the summit.


The ridgeline between Point 7680ft+ and Snowgrass Mountain was easy to walk along, but getting off it on the south side was tricky due to snowmelt.  It went okay for us with a bit of class 3 down-climbing, but I can imagine times when you might get stuck here.  For parties planning to take this route, I would recommend carrying a rappel rope. 



Ross skis toward Tom on the SE flank of Snowgrass Mountain.


Our mistake getting around Snowgrass Mountain cost well over an hour, so we continued without delay to the summit via the SE slope, reaching the top around 3:30 p.m.  We enjoyed fantastic skiing back into the basin, then traversed and climbed to the pass next to Cape Horn.



Ross looks across the basin above Lake Edna toward Mt Cashmere and Chatter Creek Pass.


With lengthening shadows, we traversed above Index Creek Basin to the pass at the head of Chatter Creek.  The snow has been melting fast in the Chatter Creek drainage, and we picked our way over rocks and carried our skis along the patchy trail to the valley bottom. Skis went off and on many times as we slowly made our way down-valley. Finally we stowed the skis for good and hiked to our car at Icicle Creek, arriving around 9 p.m.

This trip was a great way to see sections of the Chiwaukums I hadn't visited before. I could easily see spending many days in the area, skiing basins that could be billed as the Corn Snow Capital of the Cascades. It takes some work to get in there though.



Tom negotiates the crossing of Chatter Creek near the end of the trip.


« Last Edit: 05/03/16, 03:00 PM by Lowell_Skoog » Logged
Lowell_Skoog
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Re: May 1, 2016 - Chiwaukum Traverse
« Reply #1 on: 05/02/16, 06:25 PM »

Oops, just realized I posted this in the April trip forum. Could somebody move this to May when that forum is created?
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Seth
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Re: May 1, 2016 - Chiwaukum Traverse
« Reply #2 on: 05/02/16, 07:21 PM »

Awesome trip guys!
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bs.
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Re: May 1, 2016 - Chiwaukum Traverse
« Reply #3 on: 05/02/16, 07:37 PM »

great photos!  it would take me more than a day for sure.

the chatter creek crossing looks pretty hairy.  none of those little logs look confidence inspiring!
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jtack
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Re: May 1, 2016 - Chiwaukum Traverse
« Reply #4 on: 05/02/16, 08:21 PM »

Looks like a great trip, great to do it in one day, to say you did, but think I would be tired, and the creek crossing would scare me.
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ski_photomatt
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Re: May 1, 2016 - Chiwaukum Traverse
« Reply #5 on: 05/03/16, 03:58 AM »

Rockin' 5-0, strong work Lowell, Ross and Tom!
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Kyle Miller
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Re: May 1, 2016 - Chiwaukum Traverse
« Reply #6 on: 05/03/16, 10:57 AM »

Looks awesome! Strong work pulling that off in a single day.
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In a perfect world, everybody would act with the correct etiquette and follow the rules. Human nature as it is= NOT GOING TO HAPPEN....no matter how many discussion on ski blogs/websites. Face reality............
Lowell_Skoog
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Re: May 1, 2016 - Chiwaukum Traverse
« Reply #7 on: 05/03/16, 11:33 AM »

Don't forget these guys who did a more impressive (and much faster) trip from south to north last month:

http://www.turns-all-year.com/skiing_snowboarding/trip_reports/index.php?topic=36288.0

http://toddkilcup.blogspot.com/2016/04/chiwaukum-traverse-in-day_12.html
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slien
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Re: May 1, 2016 - Chiwaukum Traverse
« Reply #8 on: 05/03/16, 06:19 PM »

Great to see you up there Lowell - glad you guys had a good day in the mountains. A couple notes for those doing the traverse S to N in the future - the N bowl of Snowgrass is relatively steep but probably takes a bit of time off the traverse as opposed to the lower pass further to the East. We dropped into the bowl from a notch around 80 meters or so E of the true summit after looking around for a shallower entrance. Skiing off the summit of Snowgrass would have required more guts than we had that evening. We weren't sure exactly where the summit of Big C was, but getting up there without some serious technical climbing didn't look possible. We scoped out the further North of the two NW Couloirs and found bulletproof snow in the couloir (large rocks were bouncing off it without leaving a dent) at around 11:30 AM, along with a mandatory sketchy down scramble on loose talus to the top of the couloir, where the transition would have been much sketchier. I think in late season it would make more sense to do a short rappel into the top of the couloir with skis on. The loose rock down scramble is probably a pleasant side-slip with better coverage. Also, it looked like the W side of Deadhorse was pretty melted out and would have required some hiking on dirt/rock to get back on track. Finally - we found the booting up to the pass between point 7423 and 6935 a bit steeper than we thought it would be. Hats off to you guys for sliding off that wind lip and sticking those first few turns - a fall would have been ugly right there. The top 2k of the swath was amazing, but a bit mucky lower down. We got violated by the slide alder on the logging road. Not the most pleasant way to end such a great traverse, but "distinctively cascadian" nonetheless.
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ADappen
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Re: May 1, 2016 - Chiwaukum Traverse
« Reply #9 on: 05/04/16, 11:58 AM »

Nice effort all. Looked like a beautiful day, though maybe warmer than ideal?
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Lowell_Skoog
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Re: May 1, 2016 - Chiwaukum Traverse
« Reply #10 on: 05/04/16, 12:45 PM »

We weren't sure exactly where the summit of Big C was, but getting up there without some serious technical climbing didn't look possible.

I think the Volken guidebook is wrong in its description of Big Chiwaukum. Once you pass the east spur of Point 7804, there is no route up the east side of Big C that doesn't involve serious technical climbing. Plus, most of the potential routes are threatened by scary snow features that cling to that side of the ridge. It looks possible to ascend Point 7804 via a snow slope on its SE side (before you pass the east spur). Once on the ridge you could probably climb along the west side of the crest to Big Chiwaukum (about a half mile away). I've climbed Big C from Upper Grace Lake, and I think the finish would be the same.

Quote
Finally - we found the booting up to the pass between point 7423 and 6935 a bit steeper than we thought it would be. Hats off to you guys for sliding off that wind lip and sticking those first few turns - a fall would have been ugly right there.

Yeah, the top of that slope was steeper and rockier than I expected from the map. It was around 9:15 a.m. when we got there and the sun had been working on it for a while. I was able to poke the snow below the lip with my ski pole and could see that the sun had softened it. I dropped in first and verified that it was okay. We skied those first turns very carefully.

For steepness, it was like dropping into the north side of Silver King at Crystal. But in real backcountry, that kind of slope angle feels more serious, and it is.

« Last Edit: 05/04/16, 10:14 PM by Lowell_Skoog » Logged
Lowell_Skoog
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Re: May 1, 2016 - Chiwaukum Traverse
« Reply #11 on: 05/04/16, 12:53 PM »

Looked like a beautiful day, though maybe warmer than ideal?

Actually, the temperature was quite comfortable (it was breezy), and the snow didn't over-soften too much. For early May, I think the snow this year is more consolidated than normal.
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