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Author Topic: Traverse: White River to Holden 5/11 - 5/14  (Read 2116 times)
jwplotz
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Traverse: White River to Holden 5/11 - 5/14
« on: 05/16/18, 09:47 AM »

Birthday challenges. They're so trendy these days.  I just turned 50 this past March, so what to do for my own challenge... Could I do 50 pitches at Vantage? Yeah whatever. Kill me now.  I helped a friend do 40 Sunshine Wall pitches for his challenge and I haven't been back since. Well, I've been back but it took some convincing.  That almost broke me.  Maybe a skiing B-day challenge.  Way better.

I've been eyeing a traverse across the White Mountains/Napeequa area for a while. The cleanest most do-able line I could trace on a map was from White River Falls to Holden. It seemed to offer the greatest amount of approach to adventure ratio that I could see.  And most of the skiing would be above treeline.  And who could argue about the scenery. The peak bagging would only be limited  by time and energy and weather.  And Holden is a cool place to end a ski outing. Hands down.

I floated the idea to my friend Jason Schilling, a recent Wenatchee transplant. Surprisingly he seemed interested, but considering his mountain cred it wasn't at all surprising. Thankfully he had the flexibility to take days off with short notice. We saw a good window of weather and pulled the trigger on this tour starting 5/11.

I have to say this was a brutal tour with more than enough adventure for the average half centenarian.  All said and done, Jason's tracking had us at 44 miles and 19,079 vertical feet by the time we reached Holden four days later. We had mush snow for the majority of the trip. Sloppy, hair triggered snow slides, relentless heat, and heavy packs that only seemed to get heavier the further we went. And by the time we dropped the final 3,000' of (finally!) perfect corn snow off the top of Chiwawa Peak, Jason and I were left in awe by the totality of our time in this amazing range.

Jason drove us to within 1.5 miles of White River Falls trailhead. Patchy snow made for easy navigation to the Boulder Creek turnoff up to Boulder Basin.  From there we trended West to a 6,000' bench to set up Camp 1 after 11 miles on the go. In the planning stage I looked at photos and topos that showed a couloir that provided more direct  access to the Clark Glacier than the typical roundabout way over Boulder Pass.

Day two we cross the couloir and run (slog) up to Clark's summit. We work our way down the glacier, foregoing Luahna due to the sloppy unstable snow.  We snake and traverse the Clark Glacier which turned out to be much more complex than we had anticipated.

Once off Clark, we ski a forested slope east of Butterfly Butte down to the Napeequa River where we cross, which I've always wanted to do. From there we access the North Fork of the Napeequa and work our way up the mellow slope to Camp 2.

We needed a rest day, a descent without the burden of a crushing load on our backs in the middle day sun, so we chose Napeequa Peak above where we camped.   We probably slept in a little too late, as the snow was mostly mushy but still very fun.

We pack and hoist the pigs onto our backs to get to a hanging meadows on the south side of Fortress. Again, what looked straight forward on a map proved to be much more complicated in real life with cornice hazards and cliffs. We eventually found an entrance to the slopes East of High Pass which allowed us to traverse North until we could ski fall line towards Helmet Butte and just below Buck Creek Pass.  We cross the Creek and head up to a hanging meadows at 6.200' on the south side of Fortress for Camp 3. 

We skin straight up out of camp and proceed to the crest of Fortresse's SE Ridge. There aren't many good options from what we could see from the crest and chose what looked to be the safest slopes considering the heat and mushy snow. 

Jason dives in first and is almost immediately knocked over by a wet slide. Self arresting is no problem for him, but his ski unfortunately does not have that same skill as it slowly slides towards the cliffs.  Jason realizes this highly precarious scenario playing out.  This is just not the place to lose a ski and also not the place to get swept over cliffs. With a monumental effort, sliding with the snow towards the void, he makes a last ditch stab for the ski and somehow snags it.  I make a long end run around the cliff bands  through several annoying runnels to the safety of continuous snow to Chiwawa Basin.

Safe in the flats, we sit in the shade of a pine and reflect on a lot of things and laugh hysterically at the dumbest things that come to our minds. It's the sort of irrational and hysterical laugh that only the extremely lucky can understand. 

Jason has a searing pain in his ribs, which will plague him for the rest of the tour. Laughing makes him double over in pain.  It's an effort for him to take his pack on and off, even to just stand up.  Nevertheless, once he's on his skis again he motors on and I struggle to keep up.

The South side of Chiwawa has been baking all day in this the hottest day of the year thus far. I stop every few moments to put snow on top of my head under my hat just to keep my brain from boiling over.  I follow Jason's boot pack for the last pitch to the summit. 

We relax on top of our final high point and look way back at Clark.  It seems so distant, both in time and miles.  We sign the summit register and ski off the top on the very best and consistent turns we've had all tour. We go until our thighs start screaming at us to stop. Rest briefly then go again.  I'm thinking, "We earned this.  We really did." Turns forever in one of the coolest locales in WA.

We catch our breath then kick and glide over the Lyman Lakes to the outlet.  After many dead ends we at last pick up the trail below the lakes, and hike down to an abandoned campground one mile outside of the village, 16 miles on the go.   


















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« Last Edit: 05/16/18, 10:47 AM by jwplotz » Logged
jwplotz
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Re: Traverse: White River to Holden 5/11 - 5/14
« Reply #1 on: 05/16/18, 10:12 AM »

Mr. Schilling will have a nice GPS (Backcountry Pro) tracking overlay that will outline our route nicely.  I'll get that posted as soon as it's done. 

Plus many more photos...
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Pete_H
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Re: Traverse: White River to Holden 5/11 - 5/14
« Reply #2 on: 05/16/18, 10:21 AM »

Nice job Pops!
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Stefan
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Re: Traverse: White River to Holden 5/11 - 5/14
« Reply #3 on: 05/16/18, 03:50 PM »

Safe in the flats, we sit in the shade of a pine and reflect on a lot of things and laugh hysterically at the dumbest things that come to our minds. It's the sort of irrational and hysterical laugh that only the extremely lucky can understand. 

Cool.
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rlsg
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Re: Traverse: White River to Holden 5/11 - 5/14
« Reply #4 on: 05/16/18, 04:37 PM »

Fantastic...what a great accomplishment..looking forward to more photos..what an epic!!!!
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ryanl
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Re: Traverse: White River to Holden 5/11 - 5/14
« Reply #5 on: 05/16/18, 05:45 PM »

Awesome John, congrats on making 50! Quite the accomplishment given your.......proclivities.

It sounds like Jason slid near where Jason Hummel slid back in June of ‘08. Hummel got washed over those cliffs on the SE side and came to a stop on that bench about 800 ft below the summit. One of the scariest things I ever witnessed. http://www.cascadecrusades.org/SkiMountaineering/fortress/fortressSEface2008/seface2008.htm
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JasonGriffith
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Re: Traverse: White River to Holden 5/11 - 5/14
« Reply #6 on: 05/16/18, 06:45 PM »

DAMN!  More photos please!
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mikerolfs
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WWW
Re: Traverse: White River to Holden 5/11 - 5/14
« Reply #7 on: 05/16/18, 06:51 PM »

Wow John - Awesome. Nice one.
Happy 50th!
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jwplotz
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Re: Traverse: White River to Holden 5/11 - 5/14
« Reply #8 on: 05/16/18, 08:10 PM »

Thanks!  I'm old and slow. Jason led the way!  Couldn't have done this tour without him.

For clarification, here's a photo of the SE Face we skied. You can see where Jason came to a stop, which is where he was finally able to snag his ski. Big cliffs below.  We made a long traverse skier's left to the safer slopes.







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Lowell_Skoog
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Re: Traverse: White River to Holden 5/11 - 5/14
« Reply #9 on: 05/16/18, 09:07 PM »

It sounds like Jason slid near where Jason Hummel slid back in June of ‘08. Hummel got washed over those cliffs on the SE side and came to a stop on that bench about 800 ft below the summit. One of the scariest things I ever witnessed. http://www.cascadecrusades.org/SkiMountaineering/fortress/fortressSEface2008/seface2008.htm

If I'm reading Jason Hummel's trip report right, his slide took place on the SW side of Fortress. The URL for his trip report appears to be wrong referring to the "SEface". The text of the report says "SW".

Anyway, I'm glad Jason Schilling's slide ended safely. I remember climbing that side of Fortress during the Suiattle High Route in 1989. We booted up a gully that led to a point a bit higher on the south ridge, near the upper right corner of John's photo. That whole side of the ridge is pretty steep and rugged.

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ryanl
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Re: Traverse: White River to Holden 5/11 - 5/14
« Reply #10 on: 05/17/18, 12:19 AM »

Yep my bad. Got all turned around in my memory. Those cliffs look gnarly. Glad no one got hurt! Heckuva trip you two
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jwplotz
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Re: Traverse: White River to Holden 5/11 - 5/14
« Reply #11 on: 05/17/18, 11:47 AM »

Okay, here are a few too many more photos with a bit of narrative.  Again, I have to say how much I appreciate Jason Schilling joining me on this one.  If you've ever climbed or skied with him, you KNOW you want him with you for these types of adventures. 

Camp One high above Boulder Basin on the East Side of Clark.  We had about a 1,800' climb and boot up to the entrance notch of the upper Clark Glacier from this camp.  Boulder Pass is seen on right side of photo.


For Ryan!  Bandit Peak with the Black Hole Couloir!


Skiing from Clark's summit on the South Side back to the Clark Glacier.   You can see the notch in the background that we used to access the upper Clark Glacier.  It worked out pretty nicely. 


Picking our way carefully down the Clark Glacier towards Butterfly Butte.  Luahna in the background. 


A look at the north side of Clark Mountain. 


After skiing down and then crossing the Napeequa River, we gained easy access up to the North Fork of the Napeequa seen here, for a mellow skin up to our second camp for the night.


We needed a rest day, so we chose to skin up Napeequa Peak (on the left) and ski its East Side.  Cirque Mt. is on the right.


Jason's brain cooking at a rest around High Pass.  No breeze.  Just the swealtering doldrums all the way up the this spot. 


The traverse to Buck Creek on the east side of the High Pass ridge crest.  Helmet Butte in the background.


Jason at Camp 3 at the 6,200' meadows below the SE Ridge of Fortress.


Buck Mt., Berge Mt. and Mt. Cleator in the morning.


Jason at the SE Ridge crest getting ready to drop in.  We were very anxious about the heat and cornices, so were in a hurry to get through it.


Jason safely arrested and with his ski after being knocked over by the slushy snow, with the rollover not too far below him on the SE Ridge of Fortress.


Jason following my boot path to the small heather bench that led us to the safer slopes.  We had to cross several large runnels, the largest of which was about two body lengths wide and about 4 feet deep.  The hanging cornices above them were anxiety provoking.


Composed and rested, we headed up to the baking south side of Chiwawa for the final 1,200' climb (from the Fortress/Chiwawa Col) to Chiwawa's summit.


On the summit of Chiwawa at last, the final climb of the traverse. 


Fortress North Face and Glacier Peak.


Jason dropping the North Face of Chiwawa on fantastic corn snow.  The best moment of the traverse.


More of this!  Bonanza Peak in the background.


Chiwawa's North Face.  Time to go home.




Holden Village.  The smells of soil and trees invaded the senses after being in the dry alpine air for the past four days.


The End
« Last Edit: 05/17/18, 12:30 PM by jwplotz » Logged
jtack
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Re: Traverse: White River to Holden 5/11 - 5/14
« Reply #12 on: 05/17/18, 01:05 PM »

What a awesome trip!  I have done some of the parts, it sure is inspiring terrain.  All I could think of when I read, you saw a good weather window, was, when was that? All I could remembered was hot mush! Seems like that was what you were served up! Some pretty harrowing travel, glad you made it more or less intact. Thanks for the great TR and pictures, makes me feel lazy!
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jwplotz
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Re: Traverse: White River to Holden 5/11 - 5/14
« Reply #13 on: 05/17/18, 05:11 PM »

What a awesome trip!  I have done some of the parts, it sure is inspiring terrain.  All I could think of when I read, you saw a good weather window, was, when was that? All I could remembered was hot mush! Seems like that was what you were served up! Some pretty harrowing travel, glad you made it more or less intact. Thanks for the great TR and pictures, makes me feel lazy!


Thanks Jamie!  When we launched our tour, the last forecast we saw said ~9,000' freezing levels. We learned afterwards that that was upgraded later to much warmer temps obviously.
An interesting side note, there was a 4G signal on the peaks we summitted.
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Splitboard Graham
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Re: Traverse: White River to Holden 5/11 - 5/14
« Reply #14 on: 05/18/18, 09:15 AM »

Love this. I need to start planning!
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Jake the Brit
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Re: Traverse: White River to Holden 5/11 - 5/14
« Reply #15 on: 05/20/18, 10:34 AM »

Wow..epic traverse, not bad for an old guy Grin

...that Lauhna image is fabulous, wall-worthy & provoked a bit of ski-line drooling.
Great effort, I rekcon you don't need to go back there for a while!
« Last Edit: 05/20/18, 10:38 AM by Jake the Brit » Logged
kamtron
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Re: Traverse: White River to Holden 5/11 - 5/14
« Reply #16 on: 05/20/18, 11:30 AM »

...that Lauhna image is fabulous, wall-worthy & provoked a bit of ski-line drooling.

I thought the same thing! Beautiful slope.

Badass tour you guys pulled off. Very neat looking terrain. That traverse on Clark looked a bit spicy. Traverses are calling!
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jwplotz
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Re: Traverse: White River to Holden 5/11 - 5/14
« Reply #17 on: 05/20/18, 07:04 PM »

Wow..epic traverse, not bad for an old guy Grin

...that Lauhna image is fabulous, wall-worthy & provoked a bit of ski-line drooling.
Great effort, I rekcon you don't need to go back there for a while!

Thanks sir!  I think I'll give it a couple weeks before I go back..
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jwplotz
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Re: Traverse: White River to Holden 5/11 - 5/14
« Reply #18 on: 05/20/18, 07:05 PM »

I thought the same thing! Beautiful slope.

Badass tour you guys pulled off. Very neat looking terrain. That traverse on Clark looked a bit spicy. Traverses are calling!

Thanks!

Clark Mt. proved to be much more complex than we had imagined it to be.
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cumulus
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Re: Traverse: White River to Holden 5/11 - 5/14
« Reply #19 on: 05/20/18, 08:48 PM »


Happy birthday young man! cool to see pics of places I've only been to when mostly free of snow... that's quite a traverse!  Makes the one we just did look rather paltry...  Wished you (we all!) had better snow--for safety, fun and freedom of line selection.  Way to make it a memorable celebration
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Stefan
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