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"Nookie with the Tanuki" VI 5.9 FA of the SE ridge of Seahpo (cloudcap) into Jagged Ridge

Sam Boyce

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From Aug 20th to 24th Lani Chapko, Nick Gonzalez and I did the first ascent of the direct SE ridge of Seahpo Peak. The SE ridge gains roughly 4400' over around 1.5 miles of horizontal. Jagged Ridge adds roughly another 1.5 miles of ridge traversing. We climbed roughly 30 pitches on the SE Ridge of Seahpo with another 6-8 or so on Jagged Ridge. I would consider the SE ridge a Grade V as a stand alone if a team were to descend the standard route, and while maybe controversial, consider it a Grade VI with its continuation through the Jagged Ridge (Grade V 5.6). We had 18 hours of climbing time on the SE ridge and around 12 hours of climbing time on Jagged, totaling just shy of 30 hrs of climbing time over the course of 3 long days. Lani and I's climbing time on Mongo Ridge was around 17 hours and our non-speed-climber NIAD time last year was 16 hours. While not really relevant, these seem to be common benchmarks that people like to compare to. IMG_7767.JPG.9213684df31c4d577e2b040de3e1b27f.JPG Photo I found last year from the summit of Icy showing the entirety of the ridge (sorry i don't remember who took it...)

Early Attempts:

I first spotted the line last year when Joe and I went in to do Spectre. It is a sneaky ridge that is only visible from a fairly narrow window of the North Cascades. We both agreed it looked massive and epic. I convinced Lani to give it an attempt late September. This was a couple weeks after a bad ankle sprain on Jo Berg. We ended up bailing after around 800' of climbing because of extreme heat, dry conditions and mild hallucinations from intense smoke. We approached via the Baker River and Crystal Creek. This year in July we had a window and decided to give it another go. We figured the Baker River approach would not go smoothly so we decided to try a high route approach via the Ruth-Icy traverse. Once at the Icy-Seahpo col we dropped down the head of the Crystal creek cirque and tried to find an access point to the ridge from the north. The climbing looked like 5.10X with minimal anchors, so we ultimately bailed out with the knowledge that we would have to repeat the heinous munge we found on the ridge last year.

Day 1:

We knew we were heading into dry conditions, so we sought out a third person to join the party to help distribute water weight on the harder climbing near the toe of the ridge. We reached out to Lani's friend Nick the morning of to see if he would be down, and he somewhat reluctantly joined knowing he would be procrastinating some work. The last minute shuffle meant we were in for a bit of a long packing session and late start. We got to the Baker River Trailhead in the mid afternoon and started our approach around 3PM. The approach went smoothly as the Baker River was super low and the crossings were super chill.


We again picked up the old trail up crystal creek. We were initially super confused about the existing trail until we consulted with Eric W and learned that there used to be a trail up crystal creek.


We got up into crystal creek basin right as it was getting dark and decided to set up camp in the trees just after crossing crystal creek. Near the end of our approach, Nick got stung by a ground wasp and started developing some full body hives. He had previously never been allergic to any kind of stings so this was a new development. Luckily we had just added some Benadryl to the first aid kit. He reacted well to the Benadryl and the hives subsided after around 20 min.


Day 2:

We started out the day finishing our approach up the crystal creek basin. This involves some mellow, but overhead grassy bushwhacking. When we were here in 2022, there was clear evidence that a ton of bears had trampled the valley. Adding a very eerie feeling to the endeavor. We felt like we were being taunted by Tanuki, hence the name. The climbing on the ridge starts around 2900-3000' depending on how your device is feeling. 




 Once at the base of the ridge again we were back in familiar terrain. Ignorance may have been bliss... The first 1000' of the climb involves some substantial, runout and sometimes challenging munge-a-neering. 


Lani following one of the 5.9 munge pitches on the first attempt


Looking up at the crux munge pitch after bailing on attempt #1

After reaching our high point, we continued questing upward. We had a hunch that we were through the major difficulties of the lower ridge on the first attempt, and luckily that prior assumption was true. 1000' more munge led us to the summit of the first major tower. This tower rises over 2000' over crystal creek basin and feels like a major accomplishment in and of itself.


Lani and Nick Following near the top of Tanuki Tower



Looking back down at the long scrambling section in the middle of the route

After reaching the summit of the first tower, which we later dubbed Tanuki Tower, the ridge eased back for a massive, long section of 3rd and 4th class scrambling, separated by the occasional pitch. We were able to make good time to the base of an obvious gendarme to camp at 6900'. When we arrived at camp we were able to locate a 3rd class access ramp that allowed for access to the glacier on the south side of the ridge. This allowed for a much needed water top off. Future parties could consider gaining the upper (more classic) ridge via this hanging basin and scrambling access ramp to avoid the munge on Tanuki Tower.


Looking up at the upper ridge from camp.

Day 3:

We started by climbing the obvious Gendarme above camp and traversing to the main summit massif and upper ridge.


Classic moderate climbing on the Gendarme above camp

The upper ridge provided a ton of clean, moderate ridge climbing with a bunch of awesome position and good climbing. 







Nick leading the upper crux, a clean 5.8+ lieback

After a bunch of false summits, gendarme traverses and generally entertaining ridge climbing, we finally found our way to the summit of Seahpo. Stoked on our success we started the debate about continuing. We all had trail runners and light aluminum snow gear. After an hour long debate we decided thin conditions meant we could work around the snow and manage the little that we had to, so we began our committing raps off the summit of Seahpo. We started off with the moderate snow traverse across the glacier to regain the ridge. Conditions were super firm, so while only being around 30 degree traversing terrain, we ended up pitching out this short section. 


Looking out from the start of the Jagged Ridge Traverse


Clean Rock on Jagged Ridge

Once back on the rock, we were able to make super quick progress soloing a bunch of 4th class terrain to near the mid point on the Jagged Ridge traverse. There were minimal opportunities for bivies, but we found a reasonable, albeit exposed ledge near the ridge crest. If we would have been able to continue for another 20 min, we would have made to to a kush ledge on the north side of the ridge that would have been sheltered from winds.




A nice ledge amongst the choss traversing near the end of Jagged Ridge

Day 4:

The remaining part of Jagged Ridge was honestly kind of awful without snow coverage. Very loose compact dirt and unstable talus traversing above big exposure. There was the occasional pitch but mostly scrambling. We ultimately made it to the final group of towers that define the exit to the ridge. We didn't really find the "lethal choss chimney" described in other reports, though there was a low angle choss gully with a 5.6 boulder problem around a chockstone. The final pitch to exit was the definitive crux and decent climbing, though a bit steep and committing for 5.6. Once off the traverse, we realized our mistake in equipment selection. It was clear that heading up onto the crystal glacier with so much blue ice exposed would be an awful test of our mediocre snow gear. That and a whiteout shielded the bergshrunds from our vision, so we didn't have a clear view of our exit. Our original plan was to head up and maybe tag the summit pyramid, though we decided to bail onto the slabs below the crystal and sulphide glacier. There was a level of uncertainty with terrain and overhead hazard, though the seracs looked quiet enough to feel comfortable with the traverse. The 2 mile long slab traverse took what felt like days, but we were able to link into the sulphide route right at the standard sulphide camp, avoiding all of the steep exposed ice.


We took the slabs just below the snout of the crystal, then back up the rocky passage on the Sulphide 


Typical terrain on the slabs after a waterfall crossing

A quick jaunt down the shannon ridge trail got us back to civilization, but not out of the clear... as we opted not to spend the time to set up a car shuttle. Nick in all of his glory had volunteered to run the shannon ridge trail and road all the way back to baker lake trailhead to shuttle the car, for a total of an 11 mile run to finish off the trip!! Overall, this was a grand journey up one of the largest technical features in the lower 48. I would recommend the whole ridge as an awesome cascadian, blue collar route!

Rack: Singles Single Rack to 3 with doubles up to .75, optional KB's, Single 60M Rope


A rough track showing our approximate route TH to TH


A Close up showing our rough track on route


Potential alternate approach tracks; Green showing an early season approach via the Icy-Seahpo col, this route may require some rappels down low angle slabs. Purple being a potential high route that would require a bushwhack up the ridge to the left of Crystal Creek. And Red showing a technical track up low angle waterfall slabs that would access the hanging basin to bypass Tanuki Tower. The two access points (red and purple) seem like equally easy and viable ways to access the ridge.





Edited by Sam Boyce
fixing photos and adding some commentary
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  • Sam Boyce changed the title to "Nookie with the Tanuki" VI 5.9 FA of the SE ridge of Seahpo (cloudcap) into Jagged Ridge

I finally was able to figure out getting the heic photos to display correctly in the forum. Apple has unfortunately and intentionally made it almost impossible to change photos to jpegs. Its one of their obnoxious attempts at encouraging people to commit to their entire platform. Luckily though, this is probably my last iphone, after the last IOS update, I have lost a lot of signal sensitivity in the mountains. 

I also added some rough maps to show where we went and potential optional routes for future parties. @manninjo The best approach in general is via baker river and crystal creek, this is fairly direct, with minimal bushwhacking and the least amount of gain. The best way to return to the Baker River TH without linking into the traverse would be to descend the standard E ridge route on Seahpo, then descend the first immediate drainage down into crystal creek basin (following somewhat closely underneath the ridge). We have been most of the way down these slabs, but not all the way, it looked like you would have to establish a few raps near the bottom when the slabs steepen. There looked to be ample trees and the terrain looked fairly easy/non-committing. Another approach would be to come in via the Ruth-Icy traverse. Then set up a camp at the Icy-Seahpo col, doing this slab descent as your approach to the climb. If done this way, it might be possible to do the whole ridge in a mega push and return to camp at the col. 

There appears to be two options to bypass Tanuki Tower for those who prefer to avoid the munge. Option 1 would be to climb the slabby ridge feature to the left of the ridge amongst the waterfalls. This looked no harder than 5.8 and would provide access to the glacial basin on the S side of the ridge. This approach would have the benefit of looking fairly munge free while avoiding a potentially questy and undone bushwhack. Option 2 would require an approach from the baker river side, the maps suggest its possible to bushwhack up the ridge to the climbers left of crystal creek, aiming for the talus and slabs that lead to the hanging glacial basin that could provide access for a bypass. All that being said, the munge pitches aren't that bad and are fairly short lived, anyone accustomed to the style of blue collar munge found in the cascades shouldn't be too phased by the climbing on Tanuki Tower. Think like a 5.9 version of Jo-Berg or N face of Index...

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7 hours ago, brooks said:

Is the title Tom Robbins inspired?

The name is inspired from the Japanese film Pom Poko. The movie follows some shape shifting raccoon dogs known as Tanuki in a not so subtle commentary on modern development. On The first attempt, we rolled into the crystal creek basin to find that all of the underbrush was trampled, like a herd of dozens of bears had rolled through (with plenty of scat to back it up). It was quite spooky to bivy in the valley. The smoke was epic and there was no signs of life in the valley, quite and desolate. It felt like the Tanuki were fucking with us. 

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  • 2 weeks later...

Lani will be putting on a sideshow of this climb and a couple others at the mountaineers this coming wed. You don’t have to be a member and they are offering free beer! 



Edited by Sam Boyce
Wrong day of week
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Wow awesome TR! There is a an app I've found on the iphone called "Heic to Jpg" that has worked for me.   When I downloaded it was free, not sure if it still is....

Anyway, thanks for sticking with it and fixing the TRs.   Lani has the coolest pants out of all you .

I created an event for the slideshow.  This Wednesday!  Thats tomorrow.

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