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Nika Toce

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About Nika Toce

  • Birthday 04/29/1978


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    Seattle, WA

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  1. [video:youtube] This is Eric making the jump back across... It took me a minute to get my nerve up to do it. Obviously, I made it back to a computer safely...
  2. To be honest, going up was the easy part... just thinking about the jump down on the return, though, still makes me a bit queesy... To go up, stand on the very edge and fall forward in a pushup position, the handholds and the rock are good.
  3. Thanks for showing the beginning of the SE Buttress, that's awesome! I'm hoping to go back and do more climbing there...I may need to wait until next year with the 20 mile walk in, but I'd love to hit some routes on Amphitheater, too...
  4. We did actually throw rocks at the goats on the second day... that didn't seem to deter them much, but seemed to help a bit. Regardless, they came back in force the third day...
  5. Trip: Cathedral Peak - NE Buttress Date: 7/15/2015 Trip Report: Trip Report: Cathedral Peak – NE Buttress Route Date: 7/14-7/16 There seems to be quite a bit of dispute about just how long the approach to Cathedral Peak is. Most trip reports talk about 20 miles, some mention 18… Eric Thompson and I added up the sections on the map, and came up with 19.1 to Upper Cathedral Lake, where we made camp. Day 1: We’d slept at the trailhead for Andrews Creek the night before, and awoke to the smell of pancakes cooking in the camp nearby. We were considering getting out of bed to go ask for some when we smelled the burnt one and opted for another hour of sleep. We knew we had a long day ahead of us, and decided the best way to prepare for it was with rest. We had hopes of being able to convince the guys with the horse train to carry our packs in for us, but they didn’t seem too interested in a couple climbers rolling out onto the trail at 9am. Nor did they really seem to believe that we were heading 20 miles in that day. We managed to convince them we were serious when we passed them 8.5 miles in. They asked where we were heading, Eric told them to Cathedral Peak. The response from the oldest cowboy was, “I don’t think you can just walk up that mountain….” We informed them that was the point. It turns out they don’t see a lot of climbers out there; for some reason, the 20 mile approach of walking through horse shit doesn’t seem to be that popular. After walking through 12 miles of burnt forest and multiple small stream crossings up through a gentle valley, we reached Andrew’s Pass around 3 pm. We were feeling optimistic about only having another 7.1 miles to go, and looking forward to seeing some different landscape. Before we rounded the corner to get to Upper Cathedral Lake, we were greeted by the beginning of Amphitheater Mountain. Amphitheater Mountain is a breathtaking expanse of granite cliffs with tons of fractures and buttresses, and almost all of them lead straight up to the top. Our first real view of Amphitheater Mountain from the trail: We hiked about a half mile farther down the trail and finally set up camp. I was exhausted, and worked on making something hot to eat. Eric dropped his pack and headed around the lake to the base of Amphitheater Mountain to take some pictures of the sunset, and to check out a particularly interesting looking buttress. A view of Amphitheater’s Middle Finger Buttress from camp: A closer view of Amphitheater: Video of the views from Upper Cathedral Lake: [video:youtube] Upper Cathedral Lake at Sunset: Cathedral Peak and Upper Cathedral Lake: I fell asleep mid conversation that night. Apparently, while the 20ish miles in weren’t that bad for 20 miles in, it was still 20 miles… at least in my narcoleptic stupor, I had the manners to thank Eric for hanging our food in a tree to protect it from snaffle hounds. Day 2: It turns out mountain goats in the Pasayten are prevalent and not easily deterred. After breakfast, as we were packing our gear for the day, we found ourselves being investigated by roughly 15 mountain goats, ranging in size from babies to adult males who had to weigh over 300 lbs. They were super excited about us. We were a bit less excited about them, considering one of our good friends had just been stabbed in the leg by a mountain goat horn in the Enchantments a couple weeks before. Nothing seemed to convince them that our camp wasn’t interesting, so we made the decision to break down the tent, hang the food, and stash our camp stuff on a boulder they couldn’t get onto. There was also some discussion of which of the baby goats would taste the best, and what the best way to cook it would be. We set out on the well established trail to Cathedral Pass, on our way to the NE Buttress. The plan was to climb the NE Buttress on day 2, and move on to the SE Buttress on day 3… The view of Cathedral from camp: The closer view of Cathedral took our breath away. The granite formations really look like blocks building a cathedral. In order to get to the NE Buttress, you climb past the beginning of the route for the SE Buttress which leads up the gulley between Cathedral and the Monk. Various trip reports we’d read had mentioned that the routes were sandbagged, one mentioned that the 5.6 start to the SE Buttress route mentioned in the Beckey guide might not even exist, one had mentioned being able to get on the route from the top of a table top boulder farther up the gulley… The short answer is that there was no clear easy way onto the SE Buttress. We kept going farther up the gulley towards the beginning of the NE Buttress. There is a junction of several gullies at the top of the one that comes up between Cathedral and the Monk: one runs down to the right above the Monk, one runs steeply up and to the left, following the North face of the SE Buttress, and the middle gulley, which goes up and slightly to the left is the one we took. Unlike the route for the SE Buttress, once we got to the top of the gulley where the NE Buttress was supposed to start, the route was fairly obvious. Again, going back to trip reports we’d read before starting our trip, the scramble to the beginning of both buttresses was classified as an easy class 4. This was mostly true, but there were definitely some moves that required considerably more skill. The NE Buttress is classified as easy class 5. This is also mostly true. Again, as with the gulley, there were several places that were more difficult. While mostly easy 5th class, I would rate the hardest sections of the NE Buttress in the 5.6-5.7 range. This route was a choose your own adventure climb, with both easier and more difficult pitches you could choose to take almost the entire way up. That said, the climbing was enjoyable, the rock quality solid, the views incredible, and the route finding pretty straight forward. About 400 feet from the top, we reached an amazing ledge big enough to park a large school bus. There is a break in the continuity of the route, in that you have to cross over a little gap in order to get back onto it. Eric standing on the giant ledge overlooking Amphitheater: Looking up Cathedral from the ledge. It shows an excellent view of both the SE Buttress and the NE Buttress: Once at the top of the route, we realized we weren’t quite at the true summit, so we started to walk over to it. It is not a simple walk. There is a leap of faith you have to make to get to the summit proper over a chasm that drops roughly 200 feet down onto sharp rock and snow. The handholds are good, however; the hardest part by far was convincing my head that it was an easy move. Eric stoked to be on the summit…. The view was incredible. 360 degrees of horizon showing mountains the entire way. The only sign of civilization in any direction from the summit was a single hiking trail. 360 degree video footage from the summit: [video:youtube] The summit is in the background, this is on the way back down: The way down is marked by cairns. If you can’t figure out how to get from one cairn to the next, start looking for tat. There was a single rappel to get off of Cathedral Peak. I might recommend bringing some new tat and a ring, however. What was there was well weathered, and not pretty, but it worked. About to test the tat with my life…. Day 3: Have you ever wondered what it would be like to wake up in mid July in a snowstorm surrounded by a herd of mountain goats? No?…We hadn’t either. But, we got to experience it first hand. It turns out waking up in a low cloud, full of precipitation doesn’t make for good climbing weather. Tent bound, cold, and frustrated about not climbing, we did our best to entertain ourselves and to sleep as much as possible. ....and a mid July snow storm and goats.... because why not? [video:youtube] When we finally got out of the tent at 12:30 in the afternoon we were both wearing all of the clothing we’d brought with us and still were uncomfortably cold. We made the decision that we were going to head out that day instead of repeating another no climbing day with potentially even worse weather on the next day. Despite not getting underway until 1:45pm and dawdling a good amount of time on the way out, we made it to the car by last light. To be fair, we jogged about the last 2.5 miles to the car and it was some serious Cascade Army Training. ...nothing like the life in the Cascade Country Club! Gear Notes: rack to 3.5" – bigger could have been used if we’d felt like carrying them Approach Notes: Long
  6. Trip: Sahale Peak - Quien Sabe Glacier Direct Route Date: 7/6/2015 Trip Report: We slept at the trailhead for Boston Basin, and awoke in the morning to the monolithic figure of Johannesberg Mountain across the valley from us. The trailhead is a pullout that could park 6-8 vehicles on the left side of the road, just past the 22 mile marker. Sahale wasn’t visible from where we parked. We started on the trail to Boston Basin at 6:20 in the morning. This is the map from at the beginning of the trailhead. We followed the route up to the lower bivy area and headed straight up from there: The first mile or so of the trail is relatively good and has an easy pitch. And then it becomes what you’d expect of any climber’s trail. It is overgrown with vegetation, there were many downed trees, the ground is extremely dry, the pitch is steep, and the footing is loose. To be fair, it is easily discernable, and, while not maintained, was easier going than having to create your own trail. We were grateful to be heading up in the cool morning air. The trail crosses 5 streams, the last of which could easily disappear in late season conditions. Higher up, the going became less difficult as we entered an older forest of large pine trees. We came out of the trees into Boston Basin. Entering Boston Basin: Once we came to the top of the tree line, we continued to follow the moraine up and slightly to the right. We opted for crossing the water into the middle of the cirque and climbing the slab instead of continuing on the loose and unstable footing offered by the moraine. The slab was super fun to cruise up, offering stable footing, breathtaking views, interesting plants, and the occasional boulder field or stream crossing to navigate. Finding our way up through the streams flowing over the slab: We reached the base of the Quien Sabe Glacier at 9:45 am, and enjoyed a leisurely lunch while checking out the glacier and deciding which route we wanted to take. Because of our ascent route up Boston Basin, we came up pretty much right under Sahale Peak. Rather than traverse across the basin, ascending under Sharkfin Tower and traversing back across the more gradual route to the Boston-Sahale col, we opted on the steep and direct route. The snow was soft, but it was possible to kick good steps. The traditional route up the Quien Sabe Glacier ascends up under Sharkfin Tower, on the far side of the basin from where we were. We opted for the steeper direct route in the middle of this picture: We roped up and put crampons on at the beginning of the glacier. I would do this again, as the least stable of the snow bridges we crossed we low down on the glacier and the crampons made traction possible on the snow, which was soft in places and icy in others. We climbed up steeply between the outer edges of the rock fall from the tower on the right and the beginning of a crevasse on the left. Crevasses on the Quien Sabe glacier: Once we crested the first steep section of the glacier the pitch mellows, and we had to work our way through 3 different crevasses before reaching the final steep pitch of the glacier. I’d estimate the steepest pitch we climbed at 35 degrees. We reached the top of the Boston-Sahale col at 11:45 am. Getting onto the rock from the glacier was a piece of cake. We ditched our crampons and ice axes, pulled out a few pieces of rock pro and started the traverse towards Sahale Peak. The snow cap we crossed was pretty overhung but stable. After that, there was one short, steep section of snow to climb, and then it was all rock to the summit. This is the traverse to the summit from the top of the col: Jeff on the snow cap we along the ridgeline. This was pretty badly overhung, but still solid and it felt safe to cross: The scramble to the summit is classified as class 3-4. I would put it much more firmly to the class 4 side of things. My husband is the glacier expert, I do more rock, and he mentioned he wouldn’t have felt safe without the rock pro I set on the way up. The final section of rock before reaching the summit of Sahale Peak: The summit of Sahale is unmistakable… Climb to the highest point possible. Look for the rappel station… you’re there. The marker for Sahale Peak is on top of the rappel station. We reached the summit at 12:45pm. Both of the rappel rings set up face Sahale Arm, and were not intended for use to rappel down to the Sahale-Boston col, and there are cracks in the direction of the col that could easily pinch a rope if you’re not careful. One of the rings was on enough material that it reached around the boulder it was on, and we were able to get a clean shot with the rope up and over a large boulder. A single rappel with a 60m rope brought us down to a solid ledge that we took back to the ridge. Rappelling back down to the ridgeline: The traverse to Boston: Travel down the glacier was fairly uneventful. We set pickets for the steepest of the sections traveling between the crevasses. I would highly recommend bringing snow pro as the crevasses on Quien Sabe were close to each other, deep and plentiful. This is the view of the Quien Sabe glacier from the top of the ridge: Once off the glacier the descent was straightforward. We opted, once again, to head down the slab until we neared the tree line, and then crossed over to the moraine, which descends into the forest. The trail was hot and dusty on the way down, but each step brought us closer to the cold beer in the car, and to taking off our hiking boots. Jeff picking his way down the slab through the streams: This was the amazing view from Boston Basin with Johannesberg Mountain in the background. The moraine that we followed back to the climber's trail is visible in this picture right below Joberg: It was a great day in the Cascade Country Club! Total time: 11 Hours 40 minutes Gear Notes: We brought and used all of the following: crampons, 60m rope, ice axes, 2 pickets, small rock rack.
  7. Trip: Whitehorse - Niederprum Trail to High Pass Date: 6/13/2015 Trip Report: View of Whitehorse from Hwy 530: My husband, Jeff, and I started on the trail at 6:30 am. The trailhead is somewhat difficult to discern, but we parked in front of the barricaded bridge marked with the Road Closed sign, and headed down the trail. We reached the Niederprum Trailhead a little over a mile in. From that point on, the trail rises steeply and unrelenting. Foliage hangs over the trail from all sides, and the ground is littered with a combination of tree roots, loose rock, downed trees and mud. You rise roughly 4,000 feet from the beginning of the trail before reaching a long traverse to your left to reach Lone Tree Pass. This is the view from partway through the traverse towards Lone Tree Pass: Some trip reports speak of a lower trail from Lone Tree Pass. Don’t take this trail unless you’re interested in bushwhacking through an incredibly steep forest with a slippery pine needle floor through young hemlock trees that hide any form of possibly existing trail. Take the high trail instead. It cuts sharply left from Lone Tree Pass and stays on the ridge until it finally drops down to the backside of Whitehorse. Once you break free of the forest on the backside of Whitehorse, you feel like you’re really in the North Cascade wilderness. It is steep, wild country, whose vegetation does it’s utmost to erase any signs of trails as quickly as possible. The thing that slowed us down on the backside of the mountain wasn’t the elevation gain or the terrain, although those didn’t help…It was the difficulty in locating where the trail went. There are, thankfully, pieces of tape tied to trees, but they are few, hard to find, and the dead pine needles on some of the trees can look like orange tape when the light hits them right. The traverse on the backside of Whitehorse is a combination of slick grass, scree of various sizes, boulder fields and steep cliffs: When you see a prominent pinnacle rising up in front of you, you’ll know you’ve reached the gully to take to High Pass. You won’t actually catch a glimpse of the pass until you’re almost there, just keep rising up and you’ll find it. The pinnacle is in this picture, immediately to the right of where the trees end in the top of the picture. It is an unmistakeable landmark to follow: Jeff coming to the top of High Pass: From High Pass, we stepped out onto the glacier and headed up to the summit. The glacier snow was fairly soft, but crampons still helped our travel across it. The crevasse and snow bridge are both easily visible and avoidable. The crevasse and snow bridge on the glacier: We skipped climbing to the absolute summit as we’d brought ice climbing gear instead of rock pro, and the true summit was wet, littered in loose rock, and chossy. The views were breathtaking, and the wind and clouds provided all the drama you could hope for from a North Cascade peak. Panoramic view from the snow summit: We thought the way back to Lone Tree Pass would be faster than the trip out to High Pass, but we were wrong. From the outset of our way back to the car, I found the most clearly defined trail we’d seen on the backside of the mountain, and it made going quick. Until we realized it was a goat trail that had led us on top of the rock face we’d passed down below on the way to the summit. A quick backtrack and bit of exploration later, we found a ribbon tied to a tree, and thought we had it made. In reality, until we were back into the woods on the ridge, the route finding on the backside of the mountain was difficult and slow. Crossing through steep rock on the return trip to Lone Tree Pass from High Pass: To give you an idea of how steep the terrain is: The trip down from Lone Tree Pass was grueling and seemed just as long as the way up. You get used to grabbing for foliage to prevent yourself from sliding down the hill, but make you’re not grabbing for devil’s club. All in all, with getting off the trail 3 times, the trip took us 13 hours car to car. The conditions were as perfect as you could hope for in the North Cascades. If Whitehorse is on your to do list, now is a great time to do it. Gear Notes: Rock pro would be useful, if you want to make true summit. Crampons and ice axe were nice to have on the glacier.
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