Still Winter on White Chuck-
Date of Climb:
While the consensus has been that this winter sucks, on the bright side getting into the mountains is substantially easier than usual. Yesterday Dave Brannon and I decided to take advantage of the unusually high snow levels and take a swing at White Chuck Mountain.
The logging roads were in great shape and Mattp’s concise directions
eliminated any early morning anxiety from the drive. We were stopped by snow around 3800’ though a 4wd might get half a mile further. An hour of hoofing it up the road got us to the timbered ridgeline leading towards the peak. Around 5000’ there is 1’ to 4’ of snow depending on exposure.
We had decided to climb the northeast ridge. Getting there required skirting the toe of the long northwest ridge of the lower northwest summit. So far conditions had been more spring than winter-like but as we passed the ridge toe and scrambled into the large north-facing basin below the mountain we entered an amazingly different landscape.
A thick layer of verglas covered the exposed rock slabs of the basin. In the distance a slender pillar of ice teased us through the clouds. Numerous climax slides during the pineapple express had left huge piles of ice blocks scattered about. A football field size section of the snowpack had slid maybe 20’ cracking and warping into standing waves of snow. We were surprised to find the glacier to be significant and heavily crevassed.
The mountain was still buried in clouds, and our route began from the highest point of the glacier, so we ascended directly to the north face then traversed along it to find the “down-sloping gully” that started the route. We were impressed by the extensive amount of water ice on the north face of the peak. It seems that the snowpack has become so waterlogged that any steep terrain below a snowfield is now frozen over in ice.
In pour visibility we reached the “down-sloping gully” which is better described as a steep bowl. A climax slide had stripped it’s center down to verglas covered rock, so we followed a thin band of firm neve along it’s right hand side using a running belay. Protection consisted of pins, our one ice screw and the occasional cam or nut. After two pitches of neve, we climbed a short pitch of genuine WI2, then more snow to the ridge crest.
The next pitch, a smooth downsloping slab of greenshist, was rated 5.2 in the guidebook. Covered in more verglas and snow, and with massive exposure down the east face, it was one hell of a pitch of 5.2! Dave methodically led it with mediocre protection finishing on an arête of 60-degree neve. About this time the clouds we had been buried in all day rapidly burnt off revealing a panorama of the Cascades from Baker to Stuart.
From here a final pitch of steep snow led to the ridge crest maybe 100 meters northwest of the summit. A quick rappel and a long running belay on more exposed snow got us to the summit at 4 PM.
As great as the views were we wasted no time beginning the long, somewhat complex and definitely exposed descent of the standard route. While not technically difficult, when covered in snow this is genuine “don’t-fuck-up” territory. Moving fairly quickly it took an hour and a half to reach the basin at the foot of the peak. The snow pack is so minimal on south facing slopes we were able to easily follow the summer trail and eventually our morning tracks back to the car by 7PM.
As Dave summed it up “That route had everything but a bivouac…thank god!”
small rock rack
KBs, LAs, baby angles
snow pro would have been nice
Can drive to 3800'. Road in good shape.