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New Route Potential I-90/Gold Creek

Phil K

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I just got back from a lake loop up out of Gold Creek and found what has the potential to be an awesome, and reasonably accessible line. There is a second moderate route which might be more difficult to find in prime condition. I am way to old to consider either of these, but would get a kick out of seeing someone else tick them off.

Let's start with the moderate. Approximately three trail miles N of the end of the private road, around waypoint 47.43423, -121.34919 there is a creek which drops about 2000' from Rampart Lakes. This is in a huge avalanche swath; trees are blown down several hundred vertical feet up the opposite hillside. It appears there would be multiple pitches of mostly moderate climbing up this creek, with one or more difficult cruxes. The route is generally low angle enough that late in the season it would turn into a Cascade s'nice wallow. We often (or used to) have some hard early season freezes, and with the right timing the route could be just right. Water flow rate is moderate, so it could form up early. Climbing starts at around 3200' elevation.

Now the good stuff! Another two-plus miles up valley a creek drains out of Joe Lake. The approach crosses another alder choked slide path coming off Alaska Mountain. There is a quite decent trail through the alder, and this may be follow-able in winter. Once the trail leaves the valley, it crosses the creek and ascends steep terrain toward Joe Lake. Perhaps 400 vertical feet higher the trail approaches the creek at the toe of a steep rocky canyon. The climb starts with a rambly section.


At the very head of the canyon there is a vertical drop that I'd guess is about 200 vertical feet. This would be spectacular, steep, and easily grade V. Again, flow rate appears to be moderate enough that this should form up nicely, and the upper steep section could be prime throughout the season. Climbing starts at about 4200' elevation. From the top one would have the option to walk off climber's right and descend on foot. The trail is quite steep, and exposed enough in places to really get my attention, so treat the descent with appropriate respect. Waypoint for the upper section approximately 47.46544, -121.33019. This climb has a real Canadian Rockies ambiance to it.


If you do this, and would indulge this geezer, I'd suggest the name Joe's Garage.

Certainly the first climb, and potentially second could be do-able in a day by a fast party. With a good bit of mandatory road walking (probably sled trafficked in winter), and several miles of good trail before getting into the alder messes, one could start well before first light. Go get it. Yo!


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My partner and I went up gold creek 1/20-21. We had your waypoints marked, but in cascadian fashion we were thwarted by the winter approach and didn't even make it to the first waypoint point marked moderate ice.

The play by play: Parked on FS 4832. First 2 miles were easy snow road walking, but as soon as the tourist trail ended, we were breaking trail through deep powder. We were also traveling very heavy; packs were loaded with winter camping gear, partly to test some kit for Denali. With the conditions we got, flotation was paramount - skis fared well but snowshoes were sketchy and punched chest deep into some hidden snow bridges. Needless to say, our pace slowed dramatically. We eventually stopped and set up camp, just after the Alpine Lakes Wilderness border, when faced with a creek crossing with steep powder banks and no bridge. We found a bit of ice out there! A few hundred feet above our far point was a tantalizing 10m flow of WI3/4. But we did not launch on it, being generally exhausted, close to night, and the main flow was dripping wet. We settled for a bit of ice bouldering on a dry section before returning to camp. Next morning we woke up to dumping snow, even warmer temps, and we were still tired. I think the weather was trying to tell us it was a ski weekend, or maybe we should have gone to franklin falls (in all-time condition!) like everyone else, lol.

A competent crew experienced in winter backcountry travel could probably get out to your waypoints, climb, and get back in a day, but that crew was not us. A steep cliff would be best in winter as anything less than almost vertical was covered in powder.  spring or fall would have less snow but probably not be cold enough to have the ice.

Main flow (center looked fun except for being dripping wet). Waypoint: 47.42359, -121.35594

Ice bouldering


approach fun:



Edited by Kipper
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Nice try! Ice climbing in Washington is always conditions dependent, and sometimes you've just got to slog in to see what's happening. I think that upper climb could be easier to access with good snow coverage when it's well consolidated. There is quite a bit of slide alder to negotiate traversing below Alaska Mountain, and doing so while floundering would suck, big time.

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