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[TR] Kyes Peak - South Ridge via Blanca Lake TH 7/4/2009

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Trip: Kyes Peak - South Ridge via Blanca Lake TH


Date: 7/4/2009


Trip Report:

Sally and I climbed Kyes Peak via it's south ridge from the Blanca Lake TH on Saturday, July 4th, 2009. Although beautiful, there's a reason this route is not as popular as some neighboring peaks- its a long and arduous affair with lots and lots of steep traversing over a mile long heather and tree lined ridge.



The TH starts at 1900 feet elevation and follows a well maintained trail up 2700 vertical feet for 3 miles to Virgin lake, appx elevation of 4600 feet. After leaving the trail on the North end of tiny Virgin lake, the route follows a steepening slope that soon narrows to a proper ridge. Generally the route stays on or near the crest of the ridge to about 5300 feet elevation. To this point, we stayed south/east (climbers right) of the ridge when progress became blocked by steep rock. There are several variations and none seemed any better or worse than the others. Once above the first gendarme/rocky outcropping, the route broadened and flattened at 5400 feet for several hundred yards. Further up the ridge an impasse is reached, Point 5850 I beleive. At this point, we dropped climbers left into an open meadow passing difficulties located climbers right. We followed this slope for maybe 300-400 yards and then regained the ridge. As with the previous section, no one route seemed any better or worse on the way up, so we elected to stay lower and traverse.


After passing Point 5850, we regained the ridge and traversed to a low point (lost maybe 100-200 feet of elevation) before climbing the final steep heather and treed ridge. For the most part, we tended up and left alternating up and through several steep open heather slopes and treed sections. At about 6300 feet (give or take) we finally arrived at an open snow field. Here the nature of the climb went from unpleasant and difficult to scenic, alpine, and enjoyable. We both breathed a sigh of relief that we were nearer our objective.



Crampons on, we made a beeline for the gap between the third tower and point 7025, or the false summit. The false summit is easy to see, but the third tower is less discernable, so we aimed for the false summit and the gap became evident. At the top of the gap we made our way up and climbers right of what would normally be an exposed class 2 ledge. But when Sally and I did the route, the ledge was a very short 30 degree snow slope with zero room for error. It would have been difficult to self arrest quickly enough before transitioning off the top of a rock face some 500+ feet high.



Once around the corner, we continued past point 7025, now to our left, up easy snow to the base of the final south ridge. From a distance none of it looked like Class 3, but closer, the route came in to view. The last few hundred feet was lose class 3 with no ledge larger than a foot or so wide. In climbing terms, it was easy, but with death scree everywhere and a nice drop off to the south and east, the route wasn't trivial.



Views were spectacular with many famous Cascade peaks in sight. We enjoyed the late afternoon warmth and sunshine before beginning the long descent. The scary corner was in the back of both minds, but other than muttering a few choice words, we made it down with no real issues. Once on the lower snowfield, we found some much needed melt water below a rock outcropping and filled up 4 liters of water. Later in the season, or in cooler conditions, this may not be an option, so recomend filling up before at Virgin lake (would need a filter or iodine).


Tanked up, we sighed in disbelief that we now needed to down climb the ridge. Going down was some what better for obvious reasons, but mostly due to the fact we could follow the faint climbers trail we had lost going up. But often, this trail faded to nothing and we took a best guess as to the easiest route down. After what seemed an eternity, we reached Virgin lake and made our way back the the 4Runner.





Gear Notes:

Crampons and Ice Axe


Approach Notes:

Blanca Lake TH to Virgin Lake, then ridge to summit

Edited by TonyM

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Nice report. Challanging approaches mean you get the route all to yourself, even on a sunny day in July.

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Thanks Scott. We didn't see a soul the entire day which was unexpected given how popular Blanca Lake is. I still think dropping 600 vf down to Blanca Lake and skirting south/left of the lake would be the better approach. But that depends on crossing a log jam (risky?) and cliff access at the head of the Columbia Glacier. Would be an interesting try.

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