“#100 of 100…”
Mt Ballard (8365', p780')
Via East Face -Cady Pass Tr, South Fork Slate Creek
Sept 8, 2013
Weather: Hot sun, very light to no breeze, very wet vegetation
So, why Ballard –or Just Seven More…
Why, beside that it is there… Well, upon completing the Bulger Rules Washington T100 (Bulger List), there are seven peaks that qualify as Top 100 elevation with 400’ of prominence. That is 400’ minimum from highest saddle to next highest taller peak. I’d done several of the peaks. Some because I was in the area and I like going up peaks. Some because I felt I wanted the challenge. And the last two because they were the last to complete the seldom done list. As of last spring, only eight had completed and Pat became number nine with Lincoln Peak.
I started my first one on a ski trip with Nikolia up Mt Baker. The trip felt short, so we made a circle tagging Sherman above the bubbling fumeral. Then on the way back to Heliotrope Ridge a quick jaunt up Colfax. Colfax gave me a first look at the east face of Lincoln. Dang it looked nasty. Real nasty. I mean, REALLY nasty.
· Sherman Peak (10160’, p400’)5/15/2010 2:50p
· Colfax (9440+’, p400’) 5/15/2010 4:52p
On a trip into the northern Pickets with MattB, DaveC and MikeT, I tagged Luna early in the morning as we passed on our way to wait out a blizzard in July.
· Luna Peak (8311’, p3071’) 7/11/2010 (false 9:34a) 9:48am
Lincoln was years in waiting –good weather, good conditions and good partners. It came down to when it was ready, we’d go. Sick leave, whatever, we’d get to it while we could. Time after time the conditions were draped with red flags. Then it opened. DonB (PJ), DonB, TomS and I, went to the base. Watched it all day and very early morning ascended with timing to summit at 6am and be off the slopes before the sun started the days warmup.
· Lincoln Peak (9080+, p720’) 6/21/2012 6:10am
So at this time is when I saw the potential of completing the “Clean 100” list. Nothing opened in the summer. Many other awesome distractions. Waited for the heat to settle then a choice Castle or Ballard? Castle was the longer peak needing three days and not easy back-out. Ballard was a day trip. Last year, I was hesitant on Castle after reading so many nasty trip reports coming to it from the NE. Then Martin mentioned his trip going up Frosty and traversing the high alpine lakes and ridges. Timed perfectly with MildaT and DaveS to hit the golden larch and full moon. A spectacular trip in many ways. One of those I’ll return to soon.
· Castle Peak (8306’, p3226’) 10/6/2012 12:16pm
That was the end of the fall season, with the weather tanking, I was down to two peaks to complete. I’d hoped to tag Ballard to save Liberty Cap for the end, but I wanted good weather. So, Ballard would wait. Getting up Mt Rainier wasn’t happening. Then ski buddies sent a quick tag and we took a day off midweek to head back up Fuhrer Finger in perfect weather. Nice living close and being able to pick the days. While several groups that had caught up with each other (rush hour on FF) partied on the summit, I headed north to tag Liberty Cap. Crappy ice nodules and bad for skiing, it was not the joy that throwing Super G turns down the steep of FF face were.
· Liberty Cap (14112’, p472’) 5/9/2013 11:25am
Down to one. How hard would it be? One thing after another… Here’s the story of Ballard
Prequel to Ballard
It’s raining, really raining. Like major dump raining! Just got an email that Hwy 20 is closed due to washout –AGAIN! I’ve been working a year on getting to the last peak of the clean 100 list, and one thing after another distracts. Should I let landslides and highway washouts dissuade me this time? Even if I drove around, would the road to Harts Pass be open? And the road down to Cady Pass trail? How the Methow River, over Glacier Gap and traverse across then up the east face. Stefan, Don and others had success others routes. With the days getting shorter I liked the option Don had done up Cady Pass trail then up the east face. It would be a risk… Could I get there, not much details, so could I figure it out. Would it go as expected? Was it really cl3 or was that sandbagging? What about the summit bock…. Many questions and unknowns. I read several reports and it looked like I’d be able to figure it out given enough time.
Maybe just going into Ballard (in Seattle) to Senor Moose for margarita and cervesa would be easier? It’d be Ballard… right?
A little more on the history
Last year, a choice was Ballard or Castle. Castle had a great route Martin recommended and a treasure trove of golden larch. A choice between the two and Castle was the pick –a great choice! Then the weather tanked and a wait for the pass to open. One drive in the spring got to within 2 ½ miles of Harts Pass, but not close enough to warrant an attempt. As weather improved other great “hike” options un-folded. Most the people I was hiking with had done Ballard, and none interested in a repeat (that should have told me something). One great distraction peak after another. Now waiting for timing with a climb partner. A few made trips, bummed to not be able to join. Would I get this peak off my back this year? Giving it a go was not looking to line up and the summer flew by. Early storms threatened an early snow and I was wedged between the second major washing out rain storm and an upcoming cold front to make my 2013 attempt in the next two weeks. A small two day window, then I’d have to wait who knows how long?
Oh, did I mention I was also in classes 4 days a week on top of work? My window was now limited to Saturday evening and Sunday.
So, my (Mt) Ballard attempt was on…
The North Cascades highway was still closed and it was raining. Forecast was for rain to stop mid-evening. I left Saturday after class from Snoqualmie Pass at 4pm. Easy drive up the Columbia, then up the Twisp. Passing through Winthrop it was getting dark. Dinner at Wesola Polana at the Rolling Huts before Mazama. In the dark the drive up to Harts Pass. I was ready for it to not go and had alternate routes. Two fresh washouts up to Harts Pass were passable. At the pass a few campers and the light was on in. Across the road entrance to Cady Pass a plastic chair with a sign.
“Washouts at 2 miles passable only by 4X4, Big washouts at 4.5 mile impassable..."
Hmmm, well, they do say to touch the rock before you make the decision. On I drove in the rain and darkness. The first four washouts were passable, another more dicey and then a huge washout that looked like it may be a no go. Big dips, a steep side angle… Slow going, a few dips and a drop back to the road. Was that it? Or was there more? I made it to a gate. In the rain I could see the road went through the gate and also to the right across the noisy creek. I circled around and didn’t see any trailhead. Was this it? I got out and walked past the gate looking for a trailhead. I wanted to know where to go in the morning. After another washout I returned to the car. It was nearing 11pm and I needed to get some sleep. I wanted an early start, but from where? Some careful map consulting showed that the road was probably the trail. I did remember reading a TR that mentioned a trail and also going up a road. I was confused. Off to sleep I drifted, rain drops on the roof of the car. A hope to wake with their absence.
The day is here
Oatmeal done, boots on and off past the gate and up the road (Cady Pass Trail) at 5:52a (4000’).
Trailhead –go through gate and follow road From gate looking back up road
Several washouts along the road, but no car to worry about. The road only rose 100’ in 1.4 miles to the bridge (6:10a). Less than a hundred feet past the bridge (road U turns right) I heading left (west) up the bank, intersected a trail and followed it south (to the left). Open forest, abundant mushrooms and easy walking. At 4400’ I came to the first creek, headed up creek and crossed above steeper banks at 4600’ (2.1m, 6:45a). I headed up from there. A flatter area at 4800’ then the open forest turned to wet brush. In 100’ I was wet. I put on rain pants, but the water laden blueberry brush had the upper hand and in a few hundred feet more I was soaked. I kept heading up and at 5100’ (2.6m, 7:15a) diverted left (south to avoid cliffs. Down and around and more cliffs. I traversed south and down into a huge basin and up.
First views from the large north basin The ridge north of the basin (not the way up)
The ridge north of it I was heading to earlier may have gone, but how would I know. I was in a thick cloud. Very little visibility. A runnel on the south looked like a vestige of the recent rain storms (2.8m, 7:45a, 5120). Consulting the map, I needed to head south.
Runnels in the fog I went up to the green under the upper cliffs, then traversed south
Rather than dropping elevation to go south around a buttress, I headed up the north side of the runnel. Some cl3 to a place to drop a little and cross the stream. Some vegi action and a flatter area traverse south to the next basin (3.1m, 8:00a, c5460’). This basin was not rain torn. Through the fog I could see the upper area was surrounded by cliffs with possibly a way up and out to the top left (SW). Up steepening heather and rock and to the left.
Finally out of the cloud From the buttress camp area looking at the cliff/gulley area to get past
Luckily, the route did go and I found myself on a flatter buttress ledge that could be a possible camp (3.6m, 8:55a, c6220’). High enough to be finally out of the fog it was a good time for a break. I sat and looked up the hill. More a look up at the cliffs due west. Yikes! Is there a way through them? How? To the right they steepened to near vertical. Far left to the south a basin hovering above a sea of fog stretching to Glacier Pass. The far slope a zig zag of the PCT. How many through hikers would be passing up that trail today? Back to my route, a cliff far left and a gulley near left. Nothing apparent.
The route in (looking north), TH is behind where the middle long ridge drops to the canyon
Time to touch the rock
Leaving the fog far below, I headed up the cl2 ridge through thinning alpine trees, rock, gravel and heather. At c6860 (3.8m, 9:30a) I ran out of easy going. Time to wind up ledges. I stayed more right. In retrospect left to the gulley would have been much wiser. Cl 3 rock morphed to cl4 moves. Some holds and many very portable. Some uncomfortable moves that felt more cl5. I was not planning to come down this route and didn’t get pics of it either. If I had to come down that way I had slings and cordelettes I could use. Even the easy route wasn’t bringing me smiles. I slowed to check options, weigh risks and played safe. Time didn’t matter. Being above the rock was my goal and at c7670 (4.1m, 10:33a).
The typical sections I came down (much better than the up) Almost at the saddle. Summit is the far peak
I completed the climbing to be on cl2 scree. A long more gentle slope heading to the summits north saddle. To my right I gained the less loose ridge and walked in the now very warm bright sunshine to the rumbly saddle north of the summit (4.2m, c8080’, 10:56).
View down the East Face (looking east towards Harts Pass)
Looking west –Azurite Mine far below –Azurite peak far left
Azurite Mine Ore
I felt lighter just being at the saddle with grand views around. To my south the route up the summit was not apparent. The east side looked cliffy, but I wasn’t worried. Carla and Don had told me to head along the west side heading south then up. Not sure what that would entail, I dropped south, then followed the base of the western summit wall south.
From saddle looking south (go right side) Keep traversing south past this too
Just around this corner is the gulley (Azurite Peak in full view) The gulley just south of the peak to ascend to the ridge
Good scrambling, I kept a slight rise and south. A pitch to the left looked possible ad cl3-4. I passed around a corner and into an easy looking gulley (cl2+) heading NE (11:07a, c8212’). One move and I was at the ridge due SE of the summit. Now the best scramble up ten or so feet.
On the south ridge… Now head north and up the bump View of the north peak and the ridge I came up (on right)
Azurite to the south Me and MrH
My head popped over the rise and I could see nothing higher. So many peaks were great summits. Wonderful trips all, but this was one that brought a big smile. All those twists and turns getting here, Last minute “road blocks” and here I was. Funny, a crappy rock peak (read, “a peak of crappy rock”), feeling so good to stand on the top of and soak in the warm sun and great high cascade views (4.4m, 11:16a, 8365’). Even with the few wrong turns, I made the summit in 5h 24 min (4343vert). An elation of gaining the summit, yet I still had the nag of the drive in. Could I drive out when I got done? The thought kept haunting me. That would have to wait. Now was time for a summit break, lunch and taking in the moment.
360 degree interactive Ballard summit pano.Click and drag in viewer -also zoom in (shift/scroll) and out (ctrl/scroll)
Azurite seemed a long ridge away. The newly cleaned up Azurite Mine to the west and a long way down to the valley floor. A good day, good enough for Mr. H joined for a little celebration. He seemed enamored in his summer suit, waving his flag with 100 on it and making passes at an X rated playing card.
The summit register was in a plastic juice bottle and on scraps of paper. Original paper with first recorded ascent by John Roper Oct 10, 1986 and not a lot of people signing in compared too many peaks nearby –even Azurite.
John’s original post
Time to move on
11:45a, down to the ridge I found a notebook in a rock crack, easy walk back to the saddle (11:54a)…
Heading back to the saddle from the Main Summit Heading from the saddle to the North Summit
Looking from north summit south to Ballard main summit, Azurite…
and kept on north around a bump and up to the north summit (12:05p, c8309’).
360 degree interactive North Ballard summit pano. Click and drag in viewer -also zoom in (shift/scroll) and out (ctrl/scroll)
Looking north to Rolo… Lago… Monument… Robinson
I dropped direct off the east side, traversed SE back to the east ridge to the rock pitch I so joyfully hoped for a better route down than that I took up. I stayed south of my way up, but still had a few cliff outs.
The ridge to the gulley/cliff area The gulley to go down
Heading down the cliffs the “flat” buttress camp area mid center lower third.
Some back tracking and I worked down the gulley a bit then left. Not the most aesthetic down climb, but it got me back to the cl2 walk to the flatter camp (possible) area (5.6m, 1:37p, 6300’). Such a nice day, I took a break to enjoy the warm sun –and dry the clothes that got drenched in the morning brush fun.
Looking north –the way out. Silver patch left of center is the large gulley/basin avy zone
Now, how to get down? There must be a better way than I came up. Later, and a bit late, I’d figure out the way I came up was good. Just the section where I went too high early wasn’t good. It looked like the basin to the south could be descended easily and get me pretty far down to the creek. If the woods were open like the way in, I expected an easy walk out. There I go thinking again… I loaded up and headed south into the south basin. A few creeks and waterfalls lead to the lower section. More south to zig back left and … yuk, well, I got to the lower basin.
The waterfalls and the easy bottom section
The lower section was easy walking. Until… c5240’, slide alder. Not up for slide alder, I traversed left (due north). Some open woods and slide alder, the way then got more congested. Wait, it gets better. Below the basin I used to access the campsite buttress the brush got thick (c5000’), very thick. Luckily, for only a short bit. So much for the easy walk out. I wasn’t in the clear yet, Traversing the large north gulley was a crawl over a wide swath of avy debris (c4800’). I’d advise staying well above that area.
Oh... (darn?) avy debris
Past the avy debris the woods opened. Still damp from last night’s rain. Mushrooms in abundance. Types I’d not seen before.
I traversed north and crossed the creeks at about 4600’. The woods opened more and c4200’ I followed it to where it intersected the Cady Pass Trail (Road) about 200’ from the bridge (8.2m, 3:40p, c4120’).
Trail heads up standing on Cady Pass “trail”, bridge on left
One of the washouts
Now I felt better, except for wondering if the washouts solidified, or if more moved in the night. Several washouts on the Cady Pass Trail looked older and had tracks looking like snow machines or motorcycles had cleared a path. I made quick time to the gate and car (9.8m, 4:10p, c4000’, 10h19m).
A minor washout
The bigger washouts proved no problem. A short stop to check out some old mining cabins and a slow drive up past more washouts to Harts Pass.
The drive down to Mazama was scenic. Even at Dead Horse Point that always gives me the willies.
Heading down from Harts Pass Dead Horse Point
It would be a long drive home down the east side and across Stevens Pass. Oops! WTF??? At Leavenworth a sign… “Highway 2 closed for blasting and new bridge work”. We missed getting through by 15 minutes. This was going to be a longer drive than expected with both Highway 2 and 20 closed. I didn’t even want to think of what could happen with Blewett Pass.
Well, this gave us a good excuse to stop at South for food and celebration. Mr H was his jovial self, I was a little tired from a good outing. But more up and buzzed on having good success on a peak that had been on my list for some time (or was it the tequila?). I’m still curious about some of the other trip options, but don’t expect me to be checking them out. A nice accomplishment to complete the peak and the Washington Clean 100 list, but a repeat not in my outlook with so many great peaks to visit.
When I was finished at the car, I pulled the GPS out of the pack and laughed... On the trip page, it showed the trip mileage as 13.13 -go figure! Of all the peaks, this one had been the most problematic and had the last word -lol.
Are you going
If you decide to do Ballard, the east face is a good daytrip route. This trip wouldn’t be as fun if it had been all easy and dry, but the rock section I’d only do when dry. The Cady Pass trail, is actually a road. They used I to access and clean up the Azurite Mine. There is a trail for a short bit that starts 200’ past the bridge on Cady Pass Trail (road). Once in the woods, follow the trail, then cross the creeks at c4600’. Head up gradually after the creeks aiming to hit the big gulley just under 5000’ (a guess). You need to get to the next basin south. On the map is more straight lines with barely a dimple at 5400-5800. Access the buttress at c6200’, moving left at the top of basin 2. Now it gets fun. Head direct up, bias left (south) up some rock and left (c7000’) into a gulley (don’t enter too low). Above 7600’ work left and at c7700’ NNW up out of the cliffy area to the talus/scree ridge. The saddle is very obvious. From the saddle, head south on the west side of the summit block. Follow the west wall up and around on easy and pleasant cl2-3 rock, ledges til SWW of the summit. Now a nice gully to the south ridge (one move to be had). And north on the ridge, turning west for the last ten foot or so cl3 scramble to the summit. –enjoy!
Thanks for reading, and happy trails,
TH to main summit: 4.4m, 4343vert, 5h24m
Summit to summit to Car: 6.9m, 4h55m.
Total: 9.8, +/-4473vert, 10h19m
Gear: Rain gear and pole -used for brushwack, pro and rope –not used.
Detail map (click maps to download) Overall map
Closer up detail map (click maps to download)
Washouts highlit in yellow
Copyright 2013, FWB, all rights reserved