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DonnV

[TR] A Redoubt Loop - 7/2/2011

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Trip: A Redoubt Loop -

 

Date: 7/2/2011

 

Trip Report:

Jeff Hulbert and I just got back home Saturday from a great week-long loop trip around Mt. Redoubt, which included a bit of bushwacking, LOTS of snow, a couple days of rain, some stellar days up high and incredible views. Our original plan included several summits, but due to weather, snow level, underestimating some of the work involved on the approach, and exercising some common sense, our only ascent was a snowier than usual climb of Redoubt. We came into the area around the west side of Redoubt, via the seldom used Lake Fork and the upper arm of the West Depot Glacier, and then later came out using the more common route down past the waterfall to lower Depot Creek. I’ve included a couple comparison photos from a 2009 trip when there was far less snow.

 

I had been in this area a few times before and had always been curious about the Lake Fork approach option, but had never heard of anyone going in that way. I was able to find exactly one trip report, on clubtread.com, from someone who went in last August on a solo trip to Mad Eagle and Goliah Peaks. This was Jeff’s first trip in and he, as always, was game for anything, so we headed in on Saturday the 2nd after spending the evening hanging out with our friends Chad and Megan in Bellingham. After somehow getting my low-clearance minivan around most of the potholes on the Chilliwack Lake Road and at least a ways up the Depot Creek Road, we found 3 other parked cars, all with WA plates. Lake Fork comes into Depot Creek a bit over 2 miles from the border and, even though the guy from clubtread had given us detailed beta on how to best get up the side of the valley, we pretty much blew it anyway. He had stayed too close to the creek drainage and had warned us to stay farther right. We ended up staying even farther right than we should have and had an interesting time climbing and traversing ferns, berries, slide alder, mossy rock steps, avy chutes and steep forest before finally hitting easy snow for the last few hundred feet to the frozen lake at 5280. This approach might not be all that bad if you hit it right, but we turned it into somewhat of a chore.

 

Crossing Depot Creek.

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The boot toss.

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Just some of the interesting terrain coming up Lake Fork.

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Finally out of the woods and nearing the lake at the end of the first day.

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The source lake sits in a deep basin below Goliah and Mad Eagle Peaks and very likely goes most seasons with no visitors at all. We found an excellent place to camp on snow near a huge bare rock, close to accessible lake water, and settled in for a relaxing evening after a harder-than-expected first day, enjoying the solitude of being in such an infrequently visited place.

 

It would be a surprise to see anyone else up here. Goliah Peak in the background.

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The forecast had indicated we’d have some weather on day 2, but we had hoped to have a few hours to at least move camp up a ways. But the rain started a bit after midnight and essentially pinned us in the tent, except for occasional 10-minute breaks, for most of the day. We slept a lot. We had several rock throwing contests, all of which I won. Maybe. By evening it was clear that things were improving, again as forecast, and after a relatively dry evening of hanging out on our rock, and an amazingly solid night’s sleep given all the dozing we had done during the day, we awoke to clear skies and soon headed toward Redoubt and the West Depot Glacier.

 

We started with a climb and rising traverse out of the lake basin, below the north side of Mad Eagle, to the ridge high above the West Depot Glacier, where we had our first views of Redoubt and our objective col through to the south side. Across the valley I could point out to Jeff where Ouzel Lake sits and how we would be coming out in a few days.

 

Coming up out of the lake basin.

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Our first view of Redoubt and our target col on its west shoulder.

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The Apron on the NE Face route.

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Looking across to Spickard and Ouzel Lake, where we'd be in a few days.

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Where we reached the ridge there appeared to be a sure option of descending easy slopes directly down to the glacier, losing considerable elevation, but we chose to climb up the ridge a ways hoping to find a way to traverse into the glacier basin without dropping too far. Fortunately, with one short rappel tossed in, we were able to find snow slopes through the cliff bands (this would probably be an issue later in the season) and were soon trudging up the glacier arm toward the 7600’ col between Redoubt and Mad Eagle, arriving there about 3 ½ hours after leaving camp and getting treated to an immediate view of the North Face of Bear Mtn.

 

The other side of the col required some tedious downclimbing on loose rock and then a slow descent on steep snow before the angle eased a bit. Here one needs to drop down around a rock buttress on Redoubt, unfortunately losing about 1000’ (I was amazed at the amount of whining I heard here, and Jeff complained a bit, too), and then climb back up an exhausting 1300’ to a snow shoulder on the south side route. Our original plan was to drop our full packs at the shoulder and tag the summit before moving on to a camp, but this day had clearly bouted us a bit. We had taken longer than expected, it was really hot on the south side, we were tired and out of water, the route looked to be completely snow instead of the usual easy rock gully, and it seemed much the better idea to head down to a camp and do the climb the next day. We followed some very recent tracks (an hour or two old?) down the snow and then worked our way down and over to a bench area at 7200’ on the ridge between Redoubt and the Moxes. This was home for the next three nights and was an awesome place to camp.

 

One of our first views of the Pickets.

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Camp at 7200 feet.

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The two of us having climbed the NE Face of Fury last summer, we enjoyed having this view for 3 days.

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The next morning, again under bluebird skies and now well rested, we headed back up Redoubt, putting on crampons at the base of the face. At the top of the snowfields, where the route normally becomes an easy rock scramble, the gully was completely filled with snow and the tracks from the day before came to a stop. We continued up with crampons and axes on snow that varied from firm and kickable to hard ice. We simul-soloed for a short ways, then pitched out the rest of the climb to the top, placing a handful of pieces along the way. We found bare rock in one 20’ section just below the cannnonhole pitch, and then for the last 40’ or so to the top. We left our aluminum crampons on for the entire climb.

 

Jeff ascending the snowfield below the gullies.

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The North Face of Bear (compare to a similar shot below from 2009).

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The North Face of Bear on 7/17/2009.

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Me leading the cannonhole pitch. An easy but interesting combination of hard ice and bottomless soft snow.

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Jeff belaying below as I turn the corner at the cannonhole and head for the top.

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Jeff dug out the summit rap slings when he arrived, then we paged through the register (last entry had been September) and just sat awhile enjoying the incredible views and taking tons of photos. Eventually it was time to head down, and we pretty much rapped the entire route. By using some rock horns and a bit of downclimbing, I think we only had to leave two pieces of tat that will be useless once the route is in normal condition. We made quick work of the plunge-stepping down the quickly-softening snow to the base and in another 30 minutes or so were back at camp in time to enjoy the evening.

 

Jeff bringing the summit rap anchors out of hibernation.

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Me enjoying the summit on a gorgeous day.

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Jeff rapping the cannonhole pitch.

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The camp at 7200’ has a lot to recommend it, but there is unfortunately a high section of ridge between it and Redoubt that makes for a very early “sunset.” We lost the sun each night at about 6:30 and it wasn’t warm enough up there to comfortably hang out for very long afterwards, so it was early to the tent for those three nights.

 

Back to our camp at 7200. Our tent is on the rock island in the center.

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Hard Mox was on our original list of objectives, but we opted instead to just take a day trip over to the col between the two spires. The snow on Redoubt made us think that there may be similar complications in the key gullies on Mox, but mostly we just decided that dealing with that much loose rock to bag a summit wasn’t for us as a party of two. Since Jeff is relatively unseasoned as a technical climber, and I’m old and over the hill, we decided that, as far out as we were, being very conservative in our route choices was in our better interest. It was only 1 and ½ hours to the col from camp and well worth the jaunt. Great views and yet another perspective on the area. There was plenty of snow low on the north side of the Ridge of Gendarmes, and I suspect there would have been more on the other side. Never having climbed the route, I have no idea if that would have helped or hindered an ascent.

 

From the col between the spires, this is the start of the normal route on Hard Mox.

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Back to camp at 7200 for another relaxing evening.

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Not a bad place to just sit and soak it all in.

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Our plan for the next day was to follow the popular (at least apparently among the Top 100 crowd) strategy of climbing Easy Mox enroute to moving camp down to Ouzel Lake, in anticipation of climbing Spickard the next day. We awoke to see our first clouds in three days, including a lovely but unfortunately somewhat foreboding lenticular over Challenger. We packed up as the clouds thickened and the summits of Redoubt, Spickard and the Moxes all got socked in. After four bluebird days, something was clearly coming in from the SW as we moved down the Redoubt Glacier. It was an easy call to look at the obviously windy and clouded-in summit of Easy Mox and just head straight down to Ouzel. The rocky cliffs above the lake, usually class 3 ledges with a lot of scree at the base, were mostly an easy descent on snow. The lake itself was barely there due to the amount of snow in the basin.

 

Really pretty, but the first sign of a change coming.

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Leaving the high country behind as the cloud cover slowly builds.

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Mom and kids above Ouzel Lake.

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The “beach” at Ouzel Lake.

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Ouzel Lake on July 7, 2011 (compare to a similar shot below from 2009).

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Ouzel Lake on July 17, 2009.

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We found a really nice site on a bench above and west of the lake and pitched the tent on a convenient flat rock and enjoyed being camped out of any wind, in fairly warm temps, and with the prospect of a sunset later than 6:30! We had a very good view across the basin below Redoubt to see our approach route from a few days before, and down below the clouds we could see Chilliwack Lake down the Depot Creek drainage. This pleasant respite lasted about 2 hours before the rain started, the packs went into the plastic garbage sacks, and we were relegated to the shelter of the tent. The rest of the afternoon gave us plenty of breaks in the rain, and even patches of blue, but never came close to giving us the hoped-for window to make a late-day dash up Spickard. Both Spickard and Easy Mox would occasionally pop into the clear, but we never did see the summit of Redoubt.

 

Enjoying a great campsite before the rain began.

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More tent time!

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When your wife makes all of your dogs’ food from scratch, your climbing food labels sometimes get confusing….

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By late evening things were starting to look much better and we were optimistic about climbing Spickard the next morning before hiking out. On a midnight trip outside the tent Jeff reported seeing the silhouette of Redoubt’s summit and mostly stars. Even so, I guess we weren’t all that surprised to later wake up to snow falling on us and all summits in the clouds. There was nothing to indicate anything was going to change soon, and I was all out of Dog Pork, so we packed up and headed down the valley. The snow really helped on the hike down into the basin atop the waterfall. I was hoping Jeff would get a good look at Redoubt from that aspect, but he at least got the full waterfall experience, which is definitely a highlight of any trip into this area. Once down to the lower creek basin, the rest of the hike out was really very pleasant. It’s a pretty trail for sure, at least to the border.

 

Waking up to this pretty much sealed the deal as far as making a run up Spickard.

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Hiking down from Ouzel.

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Jeff finding some walking room between stream and boulders as we neared the bottom of the basin.

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Jeff using the convenient handline on slippery rock.

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Other than the old logged area on the Canadian side, I think the Depot Creek trail is really pleasant hiking.

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Once changed at the car and well into our bags of potato chips, we began the last crux, getting the car past a couple tough spots on the Depot Creek road, and then crawling at about 5-10 mph up the bumpy Chilliwack Lake Road before finally reaching blessed pavement. Back to Bellingham to hang out another night at Chad and Megan’s (thanks again, you two!), and an easy morning drive back to the PDX area the next day.

 

All in all a great trip. We only hit one of our objective summits, but we had a great time, laughed a lot, really enjoyed our high camp, stayed safe, and it was rewarding to approach through an area that not many people see. Lake Fork is definitely not the most efficient way into Redoubt, but it satisfied a longstanding curiosity of mine (thanks for indulging me, Jeff) and the area below Goliah and Mad Eagle is a very appealing place to spend some time. Jeff is already looking forward to another trip into the Ouzel Lake area, and I’ll gladly go back if we can take someone else’s car.

 

We had running water everywhere we camped. At the 7200’ camp, it had probably just started running a day or two earlier.

 

We had essentially no bugs once we left the trailhead (where they were terrible).

 

Although we saw some tracks in the Redoubt area, and quite a few up on Spickard, we never saw a soul in the 7 days we were up there.

 

 

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Donn,

 

Thanks for the trip report and happy to have you any time! Great pics and the "dog pork" Ziploc photo really made us laugh. Here's to another great trip for you up there.

 

Best Regards,

Chad and Megan

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that area is tits! sometimes the border crossing issues fuck me though :grin:

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Wow. Thanks for the pics of the Lake Fork Approach. The North Arete of Goliath Peak has always looked really aesthetic on a topo map it's cool to see a pic of it.

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An awesome trip for sure! Access Creek last year, Lake Fork this year. Can't wait to see what you come up with for next year's "interesting" approach! Seriously, any suffering that took place was quickly forgotten as the camps, views, and the summit of Redoubt were worth every minute. Besides, coming down with all the extra bars was more painful (both physically and mentally) than any of the approach work we did. At least it wasn't dog pork in the pack...

 

I'm pretty sure I might have won at least ONE of the rock throwing contests and I know for sure I whined as much, if not more than you Donn. The only reason you didn't hear it was that you were way out front most of the time. Thanks for a great trip and especially driving your van. If we had taken my car, it would still be up there!

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This seems like one of the few areas people go and have an AMAZING time not reaching their initial goals. Instead they succeed in a completely new and compelling way. What a huge payoff just being in a beautiful place that so few will ever see and sometimes these high camps make the trip when the gear has to stay in the pack. I think it's one of the more interesting aspects of Alpinism to find such satisfaction in "plan B". Much respect to you two for putting in major work in a big snow year up there.

 

BTW Jeff, that helmet looks way sexier on you than it ever did on me.

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