Trip: Jack Mountain - Nohokomeen Headwall
Trip Date: 05/12/2018
Well, I am back from 4 months in south america, and didn't waste any time starting my quest to finish the Bulgers this summer. After hearing Fletcher's report for Jack mountain via this route, Jake, Josh Lewis, Elaine, and Steven joined me to climb the Nohokomeen headwall knowing the conditions would be good. In short, we had a very successful, fast ascent of the route and topped out on number 79 for me.
Now for the slightly longer version...
I picked up Josh in Lynnwood in my van and met Steven and Jake at the Highway 20 closure late Thursday night May 10th. Elaine was with us as well. Around 630am we started biking the 4 miles up the road past the closure, passing by a line of cars waiting for the road to open for the summer at 10am. Too bad they couldn't open it 4 hours earlier!
In the cold fog, we biked along, and after just 25 minutes or so we reached the east bench trail, locked up the bikes and began the 8 mile walk. After a few hours we reached the point to leave the trail and started up the steep slopes towards the upper Nohokomeen Creek basin. at 4500 feet we hit continuous snow, and everything below was not too bushy thankfully. We crested over the ridge at 5000 feet and put on our snowshoes here to finish the approach traversing into the basin, and making our way up to where Elaine, Josh and I decided to camp at about 6000 feet elevation in a small snow gully sheltered from the wind just above the base of the glacier. Jake and Steven, who would climb the route as a separate team of 2, decided to continue on all the way to 8000 feet to camp on the glacier...something I had no interest in doing haha.
It was a beautiful afternoon with amazing lighting on the Pickets directly across from us. East Fury and Luna stole the show from our tent view!
Elaine decided to skip the remainder of the climb, but Josh and I woke up at 3:30AM, ate a quick breakfast and by 4 we were off, following Jake and Stevens tracks 2000 feet up the glacier in the glow of twilight. At 6am, we reached their tent, and awaiting us was Jake and Steven, who were just about to begin up the route. At this point the sun was just rising and our eyes were glued to the red glow lighting up the landscape. Mount Baker was particulairly stunning along with the Hozomeen Spires and the Pickets. Jake and Steven decided to sleep in a little, which worked out great with timing as all 4 of us began climbing the route together. Unfortunately for Josh, one of his crampons broke at the beginning of the headwall, so he was forced to wait it out and return to our tent.
Jake, Steven and I then all solod the route, alternating leads and kicking steps. It only took us an hour and a half to climb the headwall from their high camp at 8000 feet and we reached the summit at 7:30am. The snow conditions were nothing short of perfect as we easily kicked great steps the entire way up the headwall. Steepness averaged 50 degrees with a couple short spots at 60 degrees. Once on the ridge, it was a beautiful ridge run to the summit only 150 feet further.
On the summit we ate our snacks and enjoyed the spectacular views for 30 minutes or so. There was a brisk wind but not quite enough to chase us down real quick. This was my 79th Bulger, and the first one in 2018 for me. I couldn't really do any while in South America lol.
We made quick work of the descent and was back at the base of the headwall in an hour. We used our same steps on the descent which made it feel very secure. We packed up and were snowshoeing back down in no time. We reached the east bench trail around 2pm, at which point my feet were in serious pain from wearing the mountaineering boots so long, and I was glad to switch back into trail runners. The 8 mile hike back was uneventful, and Jake offered to run ahead and drive my van back so we could all get a ride back to the Ross Lake Trailhead saving us the bike back on the road, which now was full of cars.
Once we were all back, Jake and Steven returned to Seattleland, while Josh, Elaine and I proceeded to Winthrop for Mexican food, and to prepare to climb Robinson Mountain the next day. More on that climb in just a bit...
Brought 30m rope and pickets but didnt need them. Crampons and one quark were all I needed.
East Bench Trail for 8 miles. Continuous snow began at about 4500 feet