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best of cc.com [TR] Torture Memo #3: Embracing the Schwack - Crag

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Trip: Torture Memo #3: Embracing the Schwack - Craggies Rock Glacier Exporation, No Dice Basin


Date: 9/16/2009


Trip Report:

TR: Craggies Rock Glacier Exploration






Sphagnum moss, No Dice Creek



If you’ve waded through the first two chapters of this 3 part series, perhaps because you’ve lost use of your arms and legs or Netflix is late shipping the Temptation Island series, you’ll recall that Max (a friend’s 21 year old and ‘student’, of sorts) and I had one more double plus secret bonus mission to complete on our six day alpine short course before heading home.


I climbed the Craggies, bordering the Pasayten Wilderness, several weeks back. From West Craggy’s summit I could see that the basin to the north, above No Dice Lake, was filled with what appeared to be a rock glacier. Was there ice under there? Apparently, an informal survey team several years ago had found ice under a very similar rock glacier on Bigelow Peak’s (Sawtooth Wilderness) north side at about the same longitude and elevation. Max and I had to go in and try to find out.




Craggies Rock Glacier, from West Craggy’s summit ridge



Max hadn’t had a chance to enjoy any bushwhacking yet; this would be a perfect opportunity to do so.




Max embraces The Schwack, No Dice Creek



We got going just before 7:00, passing the Pickwickian, Tre-Bark clad predator who’d helpfully reminded us that very morning of the wilderness area prohibition on bikes (and hang gliders) even though we were neither taking our bikes nor going into the wilderness area, as he stealthily patrolled the quarter mile apogee from his camper’s strong gravitation.


He was after deer. I couldn’t help thinking; why not just walk onto someone’s lawn in Winthrop, close your eyes, point any direction, and let fly? Or just drive Hwy 20 at night? Mind you, hunting for an animal that tastes like freezer burned goat’s ass is not a sport I pretend to understand.


After the two quick miles of trail to Eightmile Pass we dropped onto a game trail and traversed to No Dice Creek. I instructed Max to avoid Creek bottoms whenever possible, so started to do just that. We stayed in or near the creek bottom nearly the entire two miles to the lake.




No Dice Basin, from near Eightmile Pass



After 3 hours or so we emerged from the jungle to spectacular No Dice Lake, where pan sized trout leapt out of the sun warmed shallows onto dry lakebed, they were so happy to see us. We should have duct taped frying pans to our shoes. A strong, chill wind roared through the larches. Beneath the Craggies dark precipices, the Rock Glacier snaked towards, guarding its secrets.




No Dice Lake





Craggies Rock Glacier, from No Dice Lake




I discovered a camp site.


“Why do yahoos always leave a half burned Jiffypop packages in their fire pits?”


“What’s Jiffypop? Is it some kind of soda?”


It was then I realized that Max and I, from a relativistic standpoint, were borne of two entirely different universes in space time. To be sure, the digital age is a form of time machine that compresses past and present; I caught Max humming Jim Croce’s “Car Wash Blues” on the hike in, but still, the planet that forged his experience is an alien one. It has twice the population as the one I came from, for starters. It also has World of Warcraft and Oxycontin addicts, no privacy, a collapsing environment, a collapsing economy, a fully militarized, humorless, police state mentality, corporate supremacy, a record number of Americans living in the streets or in prison…thank God it still has the Dick’s Deluxe. That, and you no longer have to gap your points. And you can still rant and rave, but now you can have a much larger audience. I just hope some new technology never compresses future and present: the parking would be horrific.




Larches Larix occidentalis, No Dice Lake



The rock glacier itself consisted of ‘flowing’ rills, the top of which were covered with heavily lichened rock, indicating that the rock was relatively stationary. Between the rills were ravines of fresher, non-lichened rock. At about 6860’ elevation, we came upon what appeared to be a sink hole in one of the ravines. It’s bottom was filled with ice and silt. It was multi season ice, for sure, but we couldn’t determine the depth, of course. Frozen snowmelt from last year? Exposed glacial remnant? We certainly couldn’t tell, but the cause of the sink hole remains an interesting mystery.




Max descends into a sink hole, Craggies Rock Glacier





Ice at the bottom of the sink hole



Other than the sink hole and a few more pieces of sculpted ice at the bottom of a couple of caves, the rock glacier was dry.




Larch snag and Big Craggy, Craggies Rock Glacier



On the way out, I remembered one of the reasons I love to hike in the fall so much





Puffball Lycoperdon perlatum, No Dice Creek





Eyelash pixie cup Scutellinia Scutellata, No Dice Creek





Hygrophorus sp., No Dice Creek





Elfin saddle Helvella sp., No Dice Creek





Waxy caps (hygrocybe), lichen, and moss, No Dice Creek





Alien fungus, No Dice Creek




Gear Notes:

B52s, Agent Orange

Edited by tvashtarkatena

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cause of the sink hole remains an interesting mystery.


the sinkhole was most likely caused by deflation of the surface after a buried mass of ice melted - a pretty common occurrence in morraines that have burried, stagnant ice. The sinkhole feature is usually referred to as a "kettle" (and sometimes form "kettle lakes").


Thanks for revisiting this feature - I was really curious after the first photo you posted, but not enough to hike in there myself!

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my bet is that is just the tip of the iceberg. you just saw the little bit of it that is exposed. it probably goes to the center of the earth.

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How long would a kettle like the one shown typically last before it filled in? Is there anyway to tell whether or not the melt is still happening?


Not really any easy way to tell if there is still melt going on - precision GPS or transit surveying over a couple years would tell you if it was still sinking. The kettle will last until the slopes surrounding it diffuse. In areas that have numerous geomorphic agents such as high rainfall, vegetation/roots, burrowing animals, mass wasting, etc., slope diffusion is relatively rapid (geologically speaking...). But on a probably-not-very-active-or-dead rock glacier in an alpine setting, the diffusion will be slow. Your scrambling around in the sinkhole was probably the fastest erosion that the kettle feature will experience.


But Porter is right, the Earth's core is actually frozen, Hollywood just hasn't released the film yet so most people don't know about it.

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As always, a lovely TR, but did you break this into a three parter just for the sake of trumping Ivan's TR count?

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