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Post subject: Gateway to the North Cascades, Whitehorse
Posted: Thu Apr 16, 2009 9:33 pm
Joined: Mon Feb 25, 2008 12:40 pm Posts: 527
With large amounts of accumulation over the past few days and a forecast of partly sunny skies and lower freezing levels Hannah and myself were ready to tackle something big. The question was where to go and what area would deliver quality snow. Whatever it was it had to be north facing and top out at a relatively high elevation. After combing topos and passing ideas back and forth there was one peak that kept on coming up, Whitehorse right outside of Darrington had all the right components, a long North facing run, relatively easy access and A summit just under 7’000 feet.
We knew it was going to be a long day so we arrived at our starting point under the cover of darkness at 5:00 AM and started the Trek around an hour later. Our first view of the objective was discouraging, a huge cliff cirque with no obvious ramps up to the mellower terrain above and the largest avy debris piles I had ever seen at the base, this was going to be a challenge. The first thousand vertical feet was slow moving as we bush whacked for hours through dense forests to make our way to the base of the massive cliff band covered in small patches of snow and multiple waterfalls ranging from ten to hundreds of feet. After close inspection we found a ramp to gain access to the higher terrain and switched from shoes to ski/snowboard boots. We left our shoes at the top of the ramp and started a long traverse through deep heavy mank with avy scoured drainages.
Hiking on the road through the moss covered forest
Crawling across the tree bridge (notice my ski pole stuck in the tree)
Hiking through the massive debris pile
Same debris pile with Whitehorse in the background
Bush whacking through the dense forest (notice the skate shoes)
Getting out of the bush whacking and to the base of the cliff band
The cliffs were covered in waterfalls
The sound of Avalanches echoed through the canyon every few minutes as the sun heated up the massive rock walls around us. It was unnerving to see the wet slides slowly move by as we made the skin track on areas that had minimal exposure. The snow conditions changed rapidly as we gained elevation changing from wet nasty mank to quality dry snow on the more shaded aspects above 4’000 feet. Breaking trail was tiring with well over two feet of new accumulation and the sun over us most of the time. The objective loomed over us as the hours passed by and seemed almost untouchable but we still kept going.
It’s all about the BROS
Contrasts in the high terrain
Getting out of the Mank and into the mellower terrain
Slowly gaining elevation
Contrast on the rollers with our objective in the distance
The biggest stress crack I have ever seen
Surrounded by massive peaks
Breaking Trail Looking back towards the valley more then 5’000 feet below
Enjoyed the lines of our skin track as we get near the top
Awesome terrain up high
The time started getting late so we decided to make it to what we believed to be a low spot on the summit ridge then turn around. The last few hundred feet was the steepest and we felt the most avy dangerous so we switched over to boot packing to gain the high point. When we finally made it up to the ridge the summit proper came into view 600 feet above us and a decision had to be made “what to do, take a big chance and go for it or turn around and be safe”. After a long mental debate we both decided turning around was the right choice, so we said farewell to the looming giant and started our decent.
Switching to boot pack
Climbing with Darrington in the background
Near our high point
Enjoying some candy with the summit proper in the distance
Switch over for our decent
The Darrington valley in the background
The top 2’000 vert was amazing ranging from a foot to three feet deep and to our surprise it was stable with minimal sluffing and no slabbing. Around 4’000 feet it was a completely different story the Wet heavy mank had developed a nasty Ice crust and changed the riding to survival skiing.
And now a few riding shots (sadly my camera batteries died so I only got pics on the accent)
We slowly made our way down trying to stay in the untouched as it was smooth compared to the now hardened avy debris. We finally made it back to the cliff cirque as the sunlight had depleted and dusk had started to take over. “Where is the ramp and where are our shoes?” It was important to find the right ramp as it was the only one to get off the cliff band but our marker the shoes and our boot pack was gone. Avys had run down the area leaving a smooth slope and taking our shoes with them so after checking out a few different ramps we went down the one that seemed the most familiar.
By the time we made it into the drainage filled with avy debris darkness had settled into the valley leaving dark sky and stars as far as the eyes could see. That morning I had made a stupid decision that I would come to regret for hours upon hours, I decided to leave my headlamp in the car and now the only light was the headlamp that Hannah had brought and worst of all we still hadn’t made it to the most technical terrain. Travel was slow as we carefully made steps on the now icy slopes with Hannah following behind me as her headlamp illuminated our path. I felt frustrated with my decision as we slowly bushwhacked back down the dense steep forest using trees as hand holds trying to stay on our old trail. After what seemed like hours we made it to the massive avy deposit zone which was even more impressive in the dark. It felt like an alien landscape with the glowing white mounds going for what seemed like forever. After countless ups and downs we finally made it to our last main obstacle the fast moving creek crossing in which we had used a slippery log as a bridge. We slowly crawled across the bridge making sure we didn’t slip into the creek. We had been hiking for well over 18 hours and we were both exhausted as we made the slog down the 2 mile stretch of road back to the car. We made it back to the car around 1:30 in the morning worked and without shoes.
Post subject: Re: Gateway to the North Cascades, Whitehorse
Posted: Fri Apr 17, 2009 10:59 am
Joined: Mon Feb 25, 2008 12:40 pm Posts: 527
We both had point and shoots. I have a I have a sony Cybershot w-7 and Im not sure what Hannah has. I like small cameras because you are more willing to take shots when you have easy access and i'm to poor to afford a nice camera.
We had no overnight gear what so ever. We were going to dig a cave and tough it out but we decided it would be a long night and a really bad idea. I have to thank Hannah for her patients with me I made a stupid mistake leaving behind my headlamp .