The other Plan ‘B’, Big Snagtooth 8330’ (p570’)
Trying to sneak in before a storm
-via Early Winters Creek
July 17, 2011
Carla Schauble and Franklin Bradshaw
Weather –high clouds & muggy, mostly sun, Surrounded by clouds and rain –in an island of dry.
What led to the other “Plan “B”
Last year we went earlier up to Big Snagtooth (image gallery here, and story here). Click here for a comparison of early spring v early summer. The day started well with high clouds and promise of better weather. We snowshoed, took a “hidden” gulley, though NOT the one that people mean when they say Hidden Gulley. Why don’t they say the obvious gulley? It’s not hidden and it sure looked obvious? Well, that day the weather tanked. Winds built above 25mph, temps into the 20s then snow. All we wanted to do after a few attempts on the frozen slippery rock with frozen fingers was get the heck out of there. Though only ten feet vertical from the summit, it would have to wait. How close can one be and still need to turn-around?
Summer came, fall past and winter we thought about heading up again. This time we’d save for a sunny, warmer day. Being only a shorter day trip multiple day trips took precedence. The past week many good trips planned. By midweek again hopes thrashed by a tanking weather forecast. Maybe an in town weekend? I sat down to analyze the forecasts. The MM5, precip, clouds… Looking at many locations. Almost all knocked out in a definite no. The Washington Pass area showed hope. Morning good, clouds most the day, but all above 10k. Forecast looked that by 2pm precipitation would hit the area. Well, hmmm… based on time of last trip it was possible to summit and start down before the rain… I hoped.
Let the plan roll
9pm Saturday sent a text to Dicey, “leaving Seattle 5am, Snagtooth”. No answer, sent another tease. No answer. I did have a plan “D” that would also be fun and solo, but was aiming for fixing a tooth. 12:40a the phone rang. In a daze I fumbled it and dropped. I was out of it, but did get from a tm to call in AM. How’s that for last minute planning? 5am we were motoring north out of Seattle. Passing Everett the morning glowed with oranges and red clouds reflecting on the sewage lake. It was worth the trip just for the light show.
On the way I outlined my thoughts. Get to the TH at 8, summit and off before 2. May not have great views, and may walk back in the rain.
8:00 we pulled to a stop along highway 20 at the boulder field for going to Burgundy Spire/Snowfield. 8:25 were started down the trees climbers right. This part is the brushiest of all the bushwhacking. We easily found the log we’d used to cross last year. Not appealing at all. With snow it made a great bridge. Sans snow it was a large bald wet slippery no go. Eric’s tr had mentioned finding a better log, so we ventured upstream finding flagging on a tree. At the creek a smaller log mostly covered with peeling bark and only a four foot section of slippery in the middle. Half way out I paused. I hate crossing a torrent on small slipper log. Too low to cheval, water too deep for poles to touch. The knees may have done a little wobbling by the time we both crossed.
On the east side of the creek we looked for the old Early Winter’s Creek trail. Expecting a well trod path we missed it. Same as before we worked up and right steep mostly treed and open terrain (imagine sidehilling). No real trail, many animal trails and easy to see open routes heading generally up and right slowing rising.
First view of Early Spires (SEWS, Lexington Spire, Concorde Tower, & Liberty Bell
C5500’ we went too uphill following a ridge. At this point on our last trip wed kept traversing. So if you do it stay lower for flatter walking or your ankles can suffer like ours did with the endless sidehilling (sorry Carla). We should have followed a far parallel of the main creek then up near the end of the basin. Instead we went up. Crossing south of the ridge we saw we’d worked out way up high into a nasty gulley. No more up we traversed across it and to the other side. Now instead of easier flatter terrain, we’d be going deep into the basin sidehilling.
Big Kangaroo and Kangaroo Ridge
Time to head up
Views would show the point of rock on the west end of the ridge we needed to gain. We aimed left of it, going up between creeks. At 6700’ (2.2m, 2h40m) hit solid snow. Well, not solid as in standing on it, but no more dirt. The pitch mellowed, trees changed to bright green budding larch and red stains of blue algae on the snow. Approaching the upper basin was gorgeous, deep brown boulders, larch of vibrant green and brown, Blue skies surrounded by white and dark clouds and warm. Odd after so many cold trips. This one was a sweat fest.
View of Kangaroo Ridge
Entering the Upper Basin
Upper Basin view of Snagtooth Ridge
Shutter Delay, Shutter Delay…
The sun was warming and the snow softening. Short cutting to the right we worked through a pile of rocks and boulders. A reminder of how loose and chossy the rock is up here.
Break time above the basins central rock and larch island. Two options, right side of ridge we’d done before snow up with 30-50’ of rock at the top. Or direct east toward the summit mostly loose rock. After the memory of the short bit of rock, we opted for snow as far as we could go on the right. There were faint tracks from maybe Eric’s trip last week. Staying close in the rock part we avoided showering each other with debris.
Luck of snow most the way to the ridge
Choss to the ridge
Tower west end of the ridge
Running the Ridge, and dark skies
The sun was washing the basin and Tooth peaks while clouds hung around adjacent peaks. From the west end of the ridge we could see we seemed to have our own private magic weather pocket. A few faint drops had fallen in the sun and gone just as quick. An easy direct line toward the Tooth Peaks along the ridge. Above the direct gulley route several 1 x2 and 1 x 3 tall stakes with bright orange flagging. A sign of debris left by the heli ski tour groups. Many of the saddles in the area are littered with them.
The ridge to the summit block
Click and drag interactive 360 pano
Stakes from Heli tours
The pitch increased and so did the choss. To the SE a dark ominous rain cloud was approaching. The dark grey oozing below it to the ground, a wind of coming change. I tried to move quicker, but the lack of traction just had me huffing and puffing more. The progress became serious work with the lack of traction. Even stepping on big rocks helped little as most just slipped downhill as easy as the little stuff. Would we get up the top boulder before it got wet, or would we again get to the summit boulder and turn-around…
Silverstar in the clouds
Will we beat the weather
Last time up I’d gone up Willow Tooth (Peakbagger.com has labeled Big Snagtooth) and taken pictures of the west face. There were several appetizing routes up. We’d done the wrong (far east) gulley before (no way going that way again) and what I’d read of the normal (“Hidden”) gulley I wasn’t thrilled with it. At the saddle between Willow and Big Snagtooth we stopped at the base of Big Snagtooth.
Heading to the west wall
We went to the rap route this time
As we prepped to climb the rain started. A faint drop here and there. Not too large of drops but the promise of wet. As they say, “it’s not over til it’s over…” I led up a weakness the far left. A crumbly crack took a .75 cam. Good little ledges to find a purchase. My fingers were so cold I could not feel them. A narrowing area had a smaller solid rock seemingly jambed good, but the rock next to it very loose well above my head. All I’d need to do is pull up, maybe no great foot hooks, then up mantle onto the flatter spot. A no go, with the loose rock and the potential of the one next to it breaking loose.
Down I went, hand at the base trying to warm my hands. A cold wind, sun on Carla and no rain. The next crack to the right started out great. Maybe easier if I could feel my seemingly frozen fingers. Just to be safe I stuck a yellow BD into a crack on right and slung a large rough out crop. A bit of whining and whimpering and I was over the one spot. 10’ ahead of me on an easy walk a set of rap slings. That was all there was too it. From below, “ON BELAY?”. From me, “BELAY ON!” At that moment one solid loud thunder clap filled the air. Not close, but sure got my attention. My response was, “not now…” I then brought up the ever patient Carla, pulling over the longer stretch like a honey badger. May have been easier without those gloves. We both wanted to keep going. No heavy clouds around and in sunshine we still hoped to toss one or the other up and get the heck outta’ dodge. I was feeling like as a kid sneaking into the neighbors pasture to get apples without the bull knowing I was there. There’d be no tree to hide in here.
A very short pitch
Better climbing with gloves –not what they meant by climbing with protection?
We coiled the rope, hopped over the boulders in direct line from what we’d climbed to see the now dry gulley we’d rapped off last time. The Chock boulder below with some cordelettes wrapped on a boulder above. (hint, easier the rap off to the west than under the chokestone). We’d been here before, but it was still a little confusing. The bump on the right looked taller. I recognized features we’d crawled over when buried in snow so knew the true summit was on our left (west side) (3m, 4241ascent, 4h34min) . Someone had put a cairn on the right (middle) summit –could be confusing til you are up there.
Checking out the boulder
My images from last year and looking over and over I’d seen a crack on the west that looked promising. I went to the west side to look at it. Hmmm, interesting, an off width slab, not pro-able. Looked feasible, but very awkward. Carla felt the same. Okay we’d go the standard route. This time with climb slipper on Carla was the brave one to step from my knee to shoulder to boulder. I spotted and tried to do what I could. Most the way up she seemed to be having a problem. I finally figured it out. The rope had snagged and she couldn’t go forward. Oops, sorry. I’ve been there, not fun. A few more feet and she was at a flat safe spot and a rap sling.
Carla topping the boulder
I’ve had my dealing with a friction slab and didn’t want to jug up or be taught lined. So while she was setting up I worked CCW around the boulder. What was snow filled before were deep gaps between tall on end boulders. Further north from a seemingly okay spot we’d tried in the blizzard I found a crack. Up a mini ledge left to right, stand up, grab, the spot for a left foot hook looked iffy, but held for an easy pull up and there I was at the rap station. Cool, fun to try the other than “standard” and I got to avoid the friction fun (1:20p, 4h55min from car).
Crack/ledge on the far east
At the Rap station Carla found a Fay register. Book inside soaking wet. We tagged the summit, shutter delay then back to the rap to relax, read the reg and wish we’d tossed a pack with food up. I tried drying the reg in the sun and wind. That wind, brrrr. We found a somewhat leeward ledge west of the true summit to settle in and take in the views.
Reg at rap station
Smiling –last year we came over that other bump and froze our butts off. Today… warm sun…
On the boulder…
Click and drag interactive 360 pano
The dark rain squall had disappeared. Clouds around, engulfing Silverstar and other tall peaks. Good views to the engulfed Gardners, Tower big and bould, Ragged Ridge seeming far off. Just east of Silverstar, Peak 8252’ (aka Silver Moon, Silver Tip, Silver Horn… Silver Leap per Peakbagger.com) looked like a serious peak. We’d turned back on it several weeks ago when the day turned wet, then cold, then snowing then high winds. How much did it take to tell us it wasn’t the day? FYI, TomS made it up last week.
Peak 8252 (Silver Leap, Moon, Horn or what ever they call it)
Burgundy Spire and Silverstar
Hardy and Tower
Gardners, Lamont and Abernathy (in a cloud) –Cedar Creek below
Snagtooth Ridge; Willow to Dog Tooth Spire
There comes a time to go – or oh, not again…
It was even more enjoyable to take extra time on the summit after being such a freeze fest last time. Feeling we’d already been pushing our luck with taking in the sunshine and spectacular dramatic day. By drama, I don’t mean the scramble, my whimpering while on rope or Carla’s Honey Badger style friction slab crawl. I mean the contrasting scenery and vibrant colors of green trees, orange and brown rock, white snow, white/grey wisps engulfing tall peaks and looming dark menacing clouds.
Oh, time to go. Re-tubed the now only damp reg. checked the rap station and Carla rapped off the block. I cleaned out six or so useless slings. Rechecked the station and, and, okay, have to do it at least once a trip… standing up the GPS fell from my coat pocket, hitting the slab, Carla ducked, it flew (quite nicely for an expensive electronic device), hit a boulder in the saddle then made much more noise out of sight down a small hole. Well, at least it wasn’t a camera or phone.
Carla looked down and said maybe if I had a headlamp. I rapped down and still on rap looked down. A boulder tunnel, ice flows and could see over 300’ down to a snow field. Darn! Headlamp on neck I shimmied into the slot and lowered, as I lowered there was a small narrow hump on a boulder 10” wide. On it sat the GPS. Either way an inch or so and it would have had a freefall to the snowfield far below. Careful not to nudge it, I retrieved it and Carla belayed me as I climbed up the tunnel/chimney. Much more fun to climb than the west face. Oh, and the GPS works fine.
Okay, enough of the fooling around. 2:15, time to get a move on. 2:30 finished rap and time to slip and slide down to the upper gulley.
Top of summit gulley
Rap route (same as climb route)
Ridge route from Snagtooth
More über loose slip and boot slide, hang a little left, then right. Near the bottom glissade dodging sun-cupped rocks and a walk back to the middle to the upper basin in much softer snow (and sunshine:) (3.5m, c7045’, 3:00p)
Found some snow close to the bottom of the gulley –finally, much nicer than the choss
Stopped several times before leaving the snow to admire the scenery. I didn’t expect such a beautiful day of sites. We were blessed today.
Passing the snow patch we used to get to the ridge
Time to leave the upper basin (with spires in the background)
Basically retraced our track up, dropping lower to go under the big gulley like we should have on the way up (4.2m, c5500’, 3:45p). Below that managed to hit the only cliffy area and below that followed a creek toward the highway. The north side was drier. A crossing back south of that creek onto a flattish treed and almost no brush easy walk towards Early Winter’s Creek. We found the old Early Winter’s Creek trail heavily camouflaged from non-use (5.3m, c4235, 4:35p) about 250’ before the bank of Early Winter’s Creek.
Typical of the route lower down
A log, a log, my kingdom for a large bark covered log
We’d stayed far south to intersect the creek hoping for a better log crossing. Only a tenth of a mile following it down a bank was a prize of a crossing log. Large, above the water and heavily barked. Oh, and it went all the way across (c4197’).
An awesome log (10 U 675070 5379984, c4200’)
Easy heading direct to the highway with a little deviating in some thickening small trees. About 1400’ from the creek we topped out at the highway (5.6m, c4365, 5:11, 2h56m from summit. This would be the best spot to drop in if you are heading in. In the edge of the trees (southside) uphill from the large boulder field used to access Snowfield and Burgundy Spire. Right at a sign that says “Pass with Care”
Bring on the rain
Lazy at the car we were inspired by a growl. A honey badger was around and it was hungry. At times like this don’t think twice, load car and head direct to the Diner. Over Rainie Pass the skies opened. Rain, a lot of rain, a lot of heavy rain. Water on roadway and slow cars. Another growl. Hey folks, we got a hungry honey badger here and I need to get her to the diner… With the distraction of the worse looking weather in the Snowfield area, tourist peeling off to look at waterfalls and look outs, rain stopping and an “open” sign at the diner, We’d made it. Burgers and brew down, MikeT and MattB arrived to find nary a scrap. They were heading over for a Monday trip. Very inviting to do it, but for me work was in the calling for the morrow. I hope they had good weather and look forward to the tr.
This was a nice trip to see the terrain in a different state. Not difficult if you don’t mind the sliding choss, a little climb or to us the still unknown empty Hidden gulley, or… the hoisting up to the slab on the summit. Don’t be stymied. I heard Fay surmounted the summit by using a throw line to pull a rope up over, anchor it and go up the other end.
Thanks for reading and Happy Trails!
Ascent: 4h55m, 3.0m, 4241ascent
Descent: 2h58m, 2.7m, 170 ascent
Totals: 8h43m (7h43m + 55 min break) 5.7m, 4411 ascent
Copyright 2011, all rights reserved
Summit reg entries:
Reg placed Fay Pullen 5/26/2005
2005 1 person, 1 group
5/14/2006 Eric Johnson, Matt Burton
6/7/2006 Art Freeman (61/100), Craig Rowley, Brett Dyson
8/28/2006 Tom Sjolseth (94/100) age 30, Dan Sjolseth, 4hours from mp166
2006 7 people, 3 groups
5/11/2007 Randy Busch, Mike Collins, Craig Beaver
2007 3 people, 1 group
5/25/2008 Bill Hepler, David Steiner, Peter Mullen
7/20/2008 Chris Robertson, Dave Seman, Stan Boyle
7/31/2008 Andy Boos, Hal Watrous (?),
8/17/2008 TJLangley, Jeff Aker
2008 10 people, 4 groups
6/13/2009 Jason Downs, Kenny Downs
6/13/2009 Allen Gerber
6/13/2009 Kyle Graunke
2009 4 people, 1 group
7/16/2010 Philiip Nicolello(?), Peter Schmidt
10/3/2010 Greg Lewis, Dwayne Dunaway
10/3/2010 Dave Salinger, Milda, Tautvydas
10/3/2010 Greg Gleason, Signe Franzen, Carter Nelson
2010 9 people, 4 groups (why all on Oct 3?)
7/9/2011 Eric, Ryan (age 10), Jayden (age 12) Eames
7/17/2011 Carla Schauble, Franklin Bradshaw
2011 - 5 people, 2 groups