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11/24/17, 11:41 PM

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Author Topic: May 7, 2017, The Brothers  (Read 1033 times)
moco
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May 7, 2017, The Brothers
« on: 05/08/17, 10:36 PM »

I've been wanting to climb / ride The Brothers since I moved to Seattle, and this past weekend, a group of friends and I knocked it out. All in all, it was an awesome and memorable time.

We started around 1pm on Saturday from the Lena Lake trailhead, and met up with another group of friends at the damaged bridge around the northeast side of the lake. Making our way across, we were all transported to a very happy place upon entering The Valley of the Silent Men. Steep walls lined with moss-carpeted boulders and giant Douglas Firs and Cedars greeted us in every direction, with the ever present East Fork Lena Creek dancing through the valley. About one to one and a half miles past the bridge, things get interesting. There was a lot of bushwhacking, creek crossing, and deep squats under logs going on here... the trail is often hard to find / non-existent in this area. We just stayed close to the creek and tried to find the path of least (most?) resistance. Snow started around 3000 feet, much lower than we expected. About 500 yards or so past a small fork in the creek, we found a great camping spot on soft and spongy decaying deadfall uncovered by snow. Trailhead to camp was about 5 hours.

A cold and rainy night led us to believe that we would encounter rather firm conditions in the morning, so we slept in and got a leisurely start at about 6:45am on Sunday. We walked on dirty spring forest snow, right of the creek, for about an hour until the valley floor makes an abrupt left (west) turn up into a steep sub-alpine basin. This was a pretty cool spot, with huge waterfalls tumbling down the steep walls all around. We continued to boot up the basin, staying right of the creek as described here on previous trip reports. Making our way out of some relatively steep trees around 4500 feet, we finally saw our objective laid out before us. We transitioned to skins and toured up varying steepness to a bench around 5200 feet. From there, you are in the alpine basin proper, with clear sight lines of the various lines off the ridge between the North and South Brother.

It was getting pretty warm up there around 10am, so we decided to move quickly. We skied up to around 5350 feet and traversed a wet slide path, probably the sketchiest part of the day. The slide looked to be at least a couple days old (probably from the warm-up late last week). Finally around 5500 feet, we transitioned back to boot-pack mode and worked our way up the obvious gully just south (looker's left) of the North Brother summit. There are impressive lines all around here. The snow seemed stable in general, but we noticed some minor wet sloughing down steeper pitches left and right of the gully as we made our way up.

It's a knife edge at the top, which we weren't completely expecting. Our group of 6 were yo-yo-ing with another group of 3, and when our lead arrived, he noted we wouldn't really have much room to transition. Everyone made it to the top right before noon and then we down-climbed the bootpack to various levels where each of us managed to build little ledges for ourselves to transition. The ski down was fun, but a bit tense down the main chute due to continued evidence of wet slides (across the valley). We then skied sticky slush down to about 4800 feet as the clouds rolled in, and then meandered through tight trees back to the valley floor. We booted back to camp, geared up, and rolled out around 3:30pm for the fun 7 miles back to the car. Some really smart person decided to pack a cooler with ice cold Rainiers, which were a welcome relief.

All in all, this was a really fun tour, seemingly involving all aspects of PNW adventure. It's a long slog, not really something I'd like to do in a day, but I know many do. It will probably be good for at least another couple of weeks - lots of snow up there still. We clocked it at around 20 miles, longer than what is described in Volken's book.

Cheers!
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