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jverschuyl

[TR] Challenger Traverse - Easy Ridge to Big Beaver 7/16/2010

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Trip: Challenger Traverse - Easy Ridge to Big Beaver

 

Date: 7/16/2010

 

Trip Report:

The climb of Challenger has been on my dad's list for several years. He is now 65 and we decided after 1 failed attempt two years ago to make it happen this summer. We started Thursday (7/16) afternoon from the Hannegan Pass trailhead and made good time over the pass to the Copper Creek camp just above the Chilliwack river crossing.

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The next morning we got going and made the easy ford and started up easy ridge. The trail through the trees is still easy to follow with some blowdown. At about 4700ft the snow began abruptly and we followed snow filled meadows up to Easy Ridge.

 

We continued up to one of the few snow free campsites just above the saddle leading up to Easy Peak.

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It got cold enough overnight that crampons were useful in ascending to Easy Peak.

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From that point we made a long descending traverse (mostly on snow) to the entrance of "imperfect impasse". After much debate and a little frustration, we decided to go below the impasse. Despite the beautiful weather, the ledges accessing the impasse high route were dirty and water streaked.

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We ascended on decent snow (we were a little concerned with the strong afternoon sun) the steep slopes to Perfect Pass.

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The bank of wind blown corniced snow extended almost to the western edge of Perfect Pass still, but we found one semi-dry spot to camp. The next morning was chilly and beautiful.

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As we started across the well filled in glacier the temps were warming quickly.

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We made it across the glacier at a leisurely pace and saw another group of 4 that had apparently summitted the previous day camped high on the ridge above us. We dropped our packs at the other side at about 9 am and headed for the summit.

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The snowbridge across the bergshrund was enormous, and crevasse navigation even on the upper glacier was easy.

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When we got to the snow arete leading to the summit we found the amount of snow produced a challenge. The ledge leading to the summit block was filled in with hard high angle snow.

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There were two options go over the rock of the sub-summit or try to protect the traverse on the snow. We didn't feel comfortable with either and even though it was a tough decision we decided to call it good enough 40 ft shy of the summit. The previous day's party must have gone over the rock as we saw their tracks end at the sub-summit block.

 

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We descended and traversed north of Pt. 7374 to a campsite just below Eiley lake on Challenger Ridge.

 

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The next morning we got an early start and traversed the rest of Challenger Ridge (snow made it a little quicker than it might have been otherwise).

 

The bushwack down to the big-beaver trail left us wondering how people choose to come in that way. We were happy to be going down and made it to the trail in 1 hr 45 min from the top of Challenger Ridge.

 

The long hike out big beaver was buggy. We camped at 39 mile and then hiked to hwy 20 the next day and hitched back home to close the loop.

 

All in all a very successful trip, with beautiful scenery. I am determined to get back to the Pickets soon but will try a different approach. I think that is a common philosophy until one realizes that all approaches to that region charge a significant toll.

 

Easy Ridge (although more technical under current snow conditions from imperfect impasse to perfect pass) was my favorite of the two routes. That being said... the views along the whole route were unbeatable. Huge congrats to my 65 yr old dad for traversing ~55 miles with +/- 13k of elevation almost all of which with a heavy pack.

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Gear Notes:

crampons, ice axe, rope

we did not use pro or the 1 picket we brought

 

Approach Notes:

Snow covered along easy ridge. Wet and steep near perfect pass and imperfect impasse due to late melting snow. Buggy out Big Beaver Creek.

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Nice TR! I was one of the two bikers you chatted with in Newhalem. Great pics, and congrats!

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It looks like the impasse did not provide too much of a problem, other than perhaps being slightly longer for going low. Most reports on this site describe difficulties with the high route. Can you describe the low route a bit more?

 

I agree with your thoughts on the Challenger Arm route, having done it twice. I will probably try one of the Whatcom Pass routes if I go in again. But then again, as you say, there is no easy way in!

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I am totally jealous! I was supposed to be doing this exact trip, but my wife wanted a family trip. So while you had this beautiful climb, I was sweating in Washington DC. Nice TR and great pictures. I'll hopefully get there some day. Thanks for the post.

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Manacus:

There are many descriptions on this site of how to enter the impasse at the top. Despite that about 80% of people seem to write that they go down and around. I think the fact that at the impasse you are 2-3 days from either end of the trip makes you think a bit more about the risks of a dirty ledge. However, ours was not a hard-man trip and I am sure better climbers could cruise it. We found the entrance (or at least one of them) to the traverse over the top but decided not to go. The descent to go below is easy on the west (mostly talus and boulders) but the climb out on the east was a bit more technical. Some 4th class exposed slabs on the east (4500-4900 ft) have rappel slings at the top which I am sure would be nice if you were coming down in the wet.

 

The ledge at the top (from the uppermost large tree) was at 5100 ft the crossing at the bottom was at 4480. I understand there are ways to go ~ 2-400 ft higher yet and traverse above the entire impasse. We thought about re-ascending to look but decided to go with the sure thing and descend. Even looking down from perfect pass, didn't see anything that went too easily.

 

Another post on this site suggests "don't get psyched by the impasse it is just another part of the route". I agree with that, but it is certainly still the most technical section of the Easy Ridge approach. We were sure we would complete the route over the top if the weather was good, so it was a bit defeating to descend. However, it only cost us about an hour, or at most 2.

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I think so many people go down and around via the low route because if you choose the high route and screw it up, you basically kill an entire day of your trip, which for most parties means turning around. Going with the sure thing gives security that you should still be able to complete the climb.

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We met you two on the trail down to the boat dock as we were hiking in. Your TR and pics are fantastic and give your Dad a well done. We finally summited Challenger after 3 trys.

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nice trip. You guys made great time. Your old man kicks butt. I was in the group you met on the glacier, cheers.

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