Here are some pictures Mike and I took when we tried to climb Dome Peak in
September of 2002... This trip is more memorable than pleasurable
though... Not only did we not summit, we couldn't even see the
summit. Plus, as we tried to make Itswoot Ridge in a day with overnight
climbing packs, I hit a wall on Cub Ridge, got chilled, and then had to dry
heave to keep from convulsing. All this time with weather moving in - I
was lucky Mike didn't mind setting up the camp so we could hop into shelter just
before the lightning and rain!
The pictures in Jim Nelson's book are inspiring - a massive cascade glacier,
a prominent summit, a remote approach. Mike was pumped to give this climb
another shot. He had tried to solo it several years earlier, but turned
back before even making Cub Ridge. He convinced me this was going to be
fun, in on Friday, climb on Saturday, and come out either Saturday night or
Sunday. We left Seattle early Friday morning, and got to the trailhead
around 9:00. On the trail shortly thereafter, it takes a couple hours to
make the six-plus mile journey to Six Mile Camp along Downey Creek, where the
real hike begins. After a break, we head up the trail next to Bachelor
Creek. We figure we have 6 hours to make 5 miles - no problem. About
a mile up Bachelor Creek, we hit one of the signature traits of this trail -
shrub growth that all but obscures the trail, six and seven feet tall.
This goes on for about 2 miles... The trail breaks out of the weeds into a
stand of timber, just before the real elevation gain takes place. When we
hit the base of Cub Ridge (my name for it), we find a massive area of blow-down
due to a spring avalanche. There is no trail left... So knowing we
need to make the top, Mike plots a beeline up the ridge over logs, and
kick-stepping in to the exposed soil. I'm already feeling the strain, so
I'm lagging... Mike makes a knoll above the avalanche area, and comes down
to my position to take weight, and help me up. Once on the knoll - we can
see the pass that leads to Cub Lake, and we can also see the weather soon won't
be cooperating with us.
Back on the trail, Mike moves ahead to scout the area, while I do what I can
to get up to the pass. Finally, at around 6:00 pm, I make the pass, and we
make the decision to camp here, instead of heading down to the lake, or
further. Mike finds a fairly protected area in the trees, and we start to
set up. Meanwhile, the day's exertion has taken it's toll on me - and I'm
spent. The only thing I could do was watch, puke, and then climb into my
sleeping bag and warm up. Meanwhile, the lightning had begun, followed by
a steady rain. The next morning, feeling better, I get some food in me,
and we talk about our options. Mike wants to at least get up Itswoot Ridge
to see the summit. I make no promises, but will at least go down to Cub
Lake to look around. While still fairly socked in, at least it isn't
raining and we head down to the lakes.
The lakes, Cub up above and Itswoot lower, are typical high Cascade lakes
with steep banks, and crystal water. The surrounding meadows would be spectacular
in earlier in the summer. We move around the lakes, and Mike decides to
head up Itswoot. We had decided a climb was out of the question, and that
we might as well head out that night. So I head back up to camp to start
breaking it down. Mike made it up Itswoot in about 45 minutes, and radioed
over that it is completely socked in, and the glacier and summit are nowhere to
be found. After he returned to camp, we head back down about 3:30.
We get back to Six Mile Camp at about 6:30, break, and head out on the final
push at around 7:00. The light is gone by 8:15, so we put on our
headlamps. Mike was having trouble with his the previous evening, and it
was totally inoperative now. So we had to hike out under my
headlamp... Then, at around 9:00, the weather had moved back in - the rain
starts first as a drip, and then settles in as a steady shower. Slowed by
the visibility and slippery trail, we finally get back to the car at 10:45, thoroughly
exhausted, and soaked.
So, below are highlights to the trip - to view the
pictures full size, just click on the thumbnails... For reference, here is
a topo map and a profile of the
approach, and here is a relief map
showing the surrounding terrain.
hike up... - The hike to
Six Mile Camp gains around 800 feet, but is up and down gentle
grades. It stays along Downey Creek. At Bachelor Creek,
where the camp is located, there is a log crossing. Mike
snapped this shot as I made my way across. On the way out, a
slip had me in around a foot of water. But since the hike
through the weeds had already soaked me, it didn't make much
difference... If attempted in the spring, the extra run-off
would make this thoroughly exciting.
Mike will climb anything. Here, I caught him up on some
Elephant Ears fungi. This spot marks the beginning of the
trail overgrowth area. The trail makes its way through plants
varying from just a couple feet, to over seven feet tall. It
seems like they never dry out, always willing to drip into anything
open in your clothing...
the jungle encroaches... - As the
trail follows up Bachelor Creek, the timber opens up to
meadow. The meadows are thick and green this time of
year. Here Mike is standing in one of the more open meadows...
summer flowers... -
The extended summer, and high previous
winter snow pack has allowed the flowers to flourish late into the
summer this year. Also continuing to bloom were large stands
there is a rock... - Mike
will climb it. Here I catch him on a large boulder sitting
out in the open. When we come across rocks like these, I
often wonder how long that rock has been sitting there.
Out in the open, it was probably left by the last glacier in
this area, around 10,000 years ago!
the weeds... - As we start
to make our way out of the vegetation, Mike snapped this shot
of me. Next, it's a stand of timber where the hiking was
great, but followed shortly by the avalanche from hell.
was a big one... - Once out
of the timber, the trail is suppose switch back up the
ridge. Instead we were greeted with this sight of mass
destruction. And the pictures don't do it justice.
Hundreds of feet inside the forest still standing, lay the
trunks of trees 2 feet in diameter that were tossed around
like toothpicks. The scars left on still standing trees
document the chaos that must have been... With no trail
to follow, we decide to just make the ridge on a straight
going... - In the debris
zone of the area, the going is extremely slow as we carefully
make our way up on fallen logs. Mike snapped this shot
as I tightrope a sixty foot log. Although it appears
that I'm only a few feet above the ground, I'm actually around
ten feet up as the logs are stacked like pick-up sticks.
what's next... - Mike
catches me as I breathe a bit easier after a log
crossing. Another five hundred feet, and we'll be over
the debris, and then it's a matter of kick stepping up the
loose soil of the slope, and avoiding other logs.
Cub Ridge... - As we made
our way to the top of Cub Ridge, above Cub Lake, the weather
is rolling in. Thoroughly exhausted I let Mike know that
this it for me for the day. Mike took these shots as the
ridge becomes enveloped by the clouds.
morning... - Mike catches
me as I'm finally able to get some food down the next
morning. While I managed to sleep pretty well, I wasn't
able to drink or eat anything the previous evening. A
pot of my favorite Japanese noodles will soon set me
right. The few english characters on the package
indicate that I will be getting 2300% of my normal daily
requirement of sodium!
above Cub Lake... - Following
breakfast, we figured out what the remaining itinerary was
going to be. I let Mike know that moving camp over to
Itswoot Ridge wasn't going to happen for me, and we both
realized weather going to make things difficult anyway.
So we decide to explore Cub Lake, and try to get up Itswoot to
at least get beta on Dome. The trail descends steeply to
Cub Lake, and we get there in about 20 minutes. After
some looking around, Mike decides to head up Itswoot, while I
head back to camp to start the teardown. This waterfall
is located above Cub Lake, and feeds a drainage that runs to
on Itswoot Ridge... - It
takes Mike only 45 minutes to get up to the pass on Itswoot
Ridge. Once there, he finds nothing but clouds - no
glacier, no peak, no vista... He took this self portait,
before radioing the conditions over to me...
weather... - Mike took
this other shot while on Itswoot as the weather simply rolled
over the ridge. It would have been nice to see some real
scenery, but it's still an experience to catch the mountains
when they are less friendly.
cave... - Mike loves snow
caves. Whenever he comes across one, it's like a cat
into a bag! He found this one while on the ridge.
During nicer days, the sun must reflect well into the cave as
he found moss growing deep inside. The action of
photosynthesis was releasing heat as he mentioned that cave
was warmer and more moist than it was outside...
skies... - As we made way
off of Cub Ridge, bluer skies were prevailing, briefly making
us second guess out decision to leave that night. A look
around the surrounding ridges convinced us that this evening
was going to be no different the previous one though.
But with the unexpected sunshine, came this shot of some
scenery... - As the clouds
lifted for a bit, some of the surrounding peaks become
visible. Figuring they would disappearing again soon,
Mike took this shot...
through the ruins... - On
the way down, we tried to follow the real trail as long as
possible before getting into the avalanche area. It
didn't take long before trail slipped in obscurity, forcing us
to head down more or less in a line towards where we knew it
resumed. Here, Mike catches me as come across the last
of the debris. It also shows a bit more of the scale of
this event. It's hard to believe that anything, or
anyone would survive if caught this scale of a slide...
we're back into the weeds... - With
the toughest part of the descent out of the way, it's back
into the weeds for the rest of the way out. This picture
more or less summarizes this trip. While my spirit was
dampened by fatigue and weather, I'll be much better prepared
to go back. Next time, we plan to get to Six Mile Camp
during the evening, camp and start from there. That
should allow enough time and energy to make the Itswoot for a
base camp, making the climb that much more doable.
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