Post subject: From Cayuse to the Cowlitz Chimneys and beyond in MRNP
Posted: Thu May 28, 2009 3:35 pm
Joined: Mon Feb 25, 2008 12:40 pm Posts: 531
First off Sorry for blowing up the trip report board
The Cowlitz Chimneys is another one of those lines that Crystal Locals drool at from the top of the King. There have been multiple occasions where I’ve had discussion with patrollers about accessing the Giant. Originally I had planned on getting out there right after the opening of Cayuse pass but for one reason or another that didn’t happen.
When people think of Mount Rainier National Park the first place that pops into there mind is Paradise but for me the best area and place where I would call home is the NE/E side of the park. The East side boasts more then a few massive peaks with crowds that are 1/10 the size of the crowds at Paradise. I had been toying with the idea of coming up with a circumference tour starting out at Cayuse and ending up at the White river road via the Sarvant glacier and if the time span and route worked out I was going for it.
Governor Ridge in the Foreground with the Cowlitz Chimneys behind it
I started at Cayuse pass around 8:00 in the morning and hiked 600 feet up to the pass just south of sheep skull gap. From the gap I made a downhill traverse east to around 4800 feet where I switched over to skins for an ascent up Governor Ridge. I was able to find a low col in the Alpine bowl just North of Barrier peak which gave me access to the Owyhigh lakes valley to the East. From 6’200 I was able to take a 1000 vert run down to Owyhigh Lake where I took a quick break and refilled on both calories and Water.
Looking south at Barrier Peak once I finally hit alpine
The Col getting up to Governor Ridge
Cowlitz Chimney to the left Rainier and tamanos to the right
Looking east at Chinook pass Yakima to the left and Naches to the right
First view of Owyhigh Lake with Tamanos behind it
From Owyhigh Lake I skinned south to a ridge that Separated Barrier peak to the North and the Cowlitz chimneys to the south. By now wet slides were becoming a concern so I decided the safest way to climb the ridge was to go up a slope that had already slid and had minimal/ no exposure. So after finding a feasible area I switched over to bootpacking and climbed 700 feet up to the ridge. From the ridge I got my first up close view of the Chimneys which was filled with avi chunder. Normally I wouldn’t be stoked on this but with the conditions the way they were I was happy to see that it had already slid. I was somewhat lucky then I had climbed up where I did which was one of the only places where I could ride down with no exposure so I carefully rode down the 300 feet making sure not to get nailed by any wetslides along the way.
First up close view of the Chimney
Looking south towards Double Peak goat rocks and Adams
Finally I was at the base of the Cowlitz chimney. For years I had wanted to ride this aesthetic line and know it was easily in my grasp. The crux area was steep so I decided I would bootpack the 1800 vert to the summit right up the pre slid terrain. I had given myself a timeline that if I didn’t reach I would have to turn around and that timeline was an hour so I ran up the chute in 50 minutes. From the col I did some rock scrambling up to the high point at around 7400 feet to check out conditions on the Sarvant Glacier and Tamanos Mountain all of which looked fine. So I rode down the chimney back to my original starting point taking a few turns on steep slopes then traversing to safe spots with no exposure along the way. The ride down was quite enjoyable and to make thing better I had a bootpack back up the chimneys which saved me some time.
So close yet so far the Chimneys col
The View of Rainier and Ohanapecosh from the Cowlitz Chimney col
Looking back at the Col and another Chimney
Looking back at my route (governor ridge)
Same tatoosh different view
Looking down the Chimney
And now a few shots from the top of the chimney Looking west at Rainier and the top of the Sarvant glacier
Looking down at the Sarvant Glacier
Looking North at Tamanos
Looking South at the Col
At the top of the col I made a 500 vert traverse east and boot packed up 100 feet to a low col accessing the Sarvant Glacier. The Sarvant was a amazing low angle perfect corn snow run that ran for 2000 vert (this place would be a dream during the winter) where I took another quick break to refill on water and calories. I had rode from 7200 feet all the way to 5200 feet and was sitting at the base of Tamanos Mountain where I would ascend up a low saddle and get the summit. By know my boots were soaked from all the bootpacking so I decided I would skin until the terrain became too steep for comfort (I was still spooked from the wetslide slab earlier in the week. Conditions on the west slope were perfect for skinning not too wet and not too firm so I was able to skin all the way to the col then the summit of Tamanos where I got amazing views in every direction.
Looking into the Sarvant Glacier
Looking back at the sarvant Glacier while skinning up Tamanos
Looking west from the summit of Tamanos
The NE chute of Tamanos
From the top of Tamanos I spotted a sweet looking chute (thanks boot) on the NE face that rode all the way down to a trail that I would be able to ride all the way to the white river. Conditions in the chute were great by the time I dropped in the snow had refrozen but was still carve able and had minimal sluff. I ripped down occasionally stopping in a safe spot letting the sluff run by for 1400 feet until riding to a flat basin where it met up with the trail. Trails are almost impossible to spot when they are covered in a five foot snowpack and this was the case. After checking my map I made the decision I would ride down to Shaw creek and follow it to the White River road. I was stoked I had found a drainage that went perfectly to the creek and as I dropped around 700 feet I started hearing a noise you never want to hear when riding a drainage. It was a waterfall and with closer inspection it was big enough that I wasn’t going to down climb it.
By know it was around 7:45 and though I was close to being done I needed to start moving so I wasn’t bushwhacking in the dark. I put my board on my back and traversed north through the woods slowly loosing elevation along the way. It’s weird to say it but I was happy to be bushwhacking it reminded me that I was back home in Washington (the bushwhacking capital) and how different the forest was from the forests of the backside of Crystal. After about fifteen minutes I was able to access Shaw creek and with a few small hops here and there I walked all the way down to the white river road. I was stoked the tour was over and I had made it out before it was dark Mission accomplished.
My car was up at Cayuse but I was sure that someone would pick me up along the way. The 3 mile hike to the junction of 410 was uneventful as not a single car came by. By the time I made it to 410 it was dark but the moon was providing enough light to make travel easy. I would just keep moving and stick out my thumb when a car came by. Now I didn’t expect anyone to pick me up and I put myself in the situation not anyone else but its just wrong to stop on the side of the road then drive off as I get close to the car and this happened more then once ( I think it was the snowboard ). Long story short it was an additional 4 miles back to the car which I arrived at around 10:30.
Trip Stats Ascent/Decent 10,500 feet Around 11 miles + 7 miles back to the car.
This is an amazing tour and if you have the time and energy I highly recommend it but the route may be melting out soon. So if you go for it you better hurry