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[TR] Holden to Tall Timber Ranch ski traverse (sort of) - 3/16/2012


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Trip: Holden to Tall Timber Ranch ski traverse (sort of) -


Date: 3/16/2012


Trip Report:

This trip was many things, too many for a simple plebian like myself to properly articulate in whimsical, flowing pros. So instead I will give a brief overview of the trip and let the pictures do more of the talking (everyone likes pictures, right?).


The Plan:


Two of us, Brian and myself, would traverse from Holden to Tall Timbers Ranch by climbing up and around Dumbell, Chiwawa, and Fortress mountains and traveling on the Chiwawa ridge attempting to hit Buck Mountain and some of the lesser peaks until we hit Schaefer lake, at which point we would ski a prominent couloir on the west side of the ridge down into the Nepeequa valley and out to our truck.

What actually Happened:


It took us longer than expected to make it to Dumbell lake due to deep, unstable snow. We spent an extra day in the tent waiting for the sun to bake and solidify the slopes leading up to Dumbell pass. Eventually we were able to ski up and over dumbbell pass. We had originally thought we could summit a number of the peaks, which are simple class 3-4 scrambles in the summer, but were corniced death pits at the time. This should not have come as a surprise but I think we had convinced ourselves that it would go, which was not the case.


We skied down into the basin on the north side of Dumbell in deep, amazing powder. We then proceeded to skin up to the ridge on the West side of the basin over to Spider gap. The next obstacle was getting around Phelps ridge. We managed to find a ledge system up high on the East face that lead to a weakness in the South ridge. It was steep, unstable snow. We were very happy to be done with that section. However, we could not see a feasible way across to Chiwawa that did not involve traveling on more steep avy prone terrain.


We eventually decided to drop down from the ridge into the upper Chiwawa basin. We had around 3k of amazing skiing. We thought that we could drop south towards Trinity and hit the trail up to Buck creek pass which would put us back on the ridge in more mellow terrain. That night it snowed 14 inches. The snow down low was already deep and made for slow going. Brian and I talked about our options. We both agreed that it would take us a whole day to get to Buck Creek pass in the current conditions and we were running out of time.


To make a long story short we skied out the entire Chiwawa river road. It was 30 miles of blister inducing drudgery. Definitely not the ending we had in mind for this trip, but such is life and such are the mountains.


We were lucky to get a ride back to our car from Joe, the owner of the 59er Diner, and his dog, Milkshake. The guy is awesome. We didn’t even have to stick out our thumbs; he just stopped his car and gave a honk. Seriously, if you find yourself out in the area, go to the 59er Diner and support a local asset to the outdoor community. It that’s not enough, the food is awesome. Thanks Joe!

In the end, it was a truly great trip. There is a quote from Dwight D. Eisenhower that sums it up well,


“In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensible”


I would like to thank the people in Holden who were extremely hospitable and provided us with great information regarding current snow conditions. I would also like to thank the Director of Tall Timber Ranch who was gracious enough to let us park our vehicle in his parking lot for the better part of a week, and of course Joe and Milkshake.



Route Overview. Red = what we actually did (crappy triangles are camp spots), Black = what we wanted to do.



Lake Chelan






Crossing the Creek



Looking up Big Creek



Copper peak from Big Creek



Camp at Dumbell lake



Some of the views from camp



Some more views from camp (notice the avy crown)



Brian heading up towards Dumbell pass



Brian leading up



Me following



Looking back towards 7 finger jack and Fernow



Me about to crest the pass



At the pass, Bonanza in the background



Brian starting the ski down Dumbell



Me and my ski tracks down Dumbell



Off Dumbell and heading towards another ridge above Lyman lakes



Looking back at Dumbell. Our line went from the obvious pass down skiers right into the drainage



Views from on the ridge heading towards spider gap



Brian on the ridge



Brian closer to spider gap



At spider gap (we went up the bank on the right to gain the ledge system)



Sketchy traverse on Phelps ridge



Down in Chiwawa basin



Lots of this






Gear Notes:

Cheese and sin dog

warm clothes





Approach Notes:

Take the Lady express to Holden

Edited by jordansahls
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Winter has a way of crushing grandiose plans of epic ascents and descents.

Way to enjoy the splendors of solitude in such a remote place of the cascades.


Aint that the truth. But your right, it was just awesome to get out into such a remote area this time of year.


Nice pictures of blue skies and Dumbell pass. We skied to just short of the pass last year. At the time the cloud deck was dropping fast. We turned around short of the pass so we didn't have to ski in a white-out.


That area is cool :tup:


Yeah, I should thank you for your TRs in the area. I used them a bit for the planning stage of this trip. Definitely an amazing area, I will be going back.


Wow! What a great effort! I did that sketchy traverse from Spider Gap to Phelps Ridge in early Spring and remember having to double time it under giant sagging cornices.


Yeah, the cornices are a bit unsettling. My partner and I were talking about maybe going back in the spring to do the traverse proper. It seems like you could still ski a fair amount but have better snow conditions for climbing and scrambling.

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That is a great area for sure, and getting in there in winter conditions is tough work. A couple of years ago me and two friends did a similar trip in reverse direction. We started from Tall Timber, climbed up through Boulder Pass and on to Clark Mountain and the first part of the Dakobed Traverse. The plan was to hit Chiwawa and Fortress but the avy conditions got super sketch so we headed for High pass, then over Cloudy Pass and out past Railroad Creek. Even with the forced reroute we had an incredible time.


I can imagine that ski out the Chiwawa River Road was truly brutal :crazy: , but nice job doing what it took to get out of there safely!

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Sounds like an amazing trip Josh. We had considered trying to hit Ten peak and Clark and coming out the white river road but as you can tell, that did not happen. Really, the crux in the winter is getting from the Lyman lakes/spider gap area over onto Buck creek pass and the Chiwawa ridge area. You just need the conditions. There are so many cool possibilities in the area, it's crazy. I'm looking forward to getting back in the area. I think moving in the reverse direction is the better way to do it.

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Hey Brennan!


Thanks for your help and all of the useful information. If you get a chance and you have good conditions you could easily hit the pass in a moderate day from Holden. We took a lot of time getting up and over the pass because of the deep snow and avy conditions. I would think that spring would be an awesome time to hit a number of these spots, but you probably have a better idea of seasonal snow conditions and what would, or would not go.

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Hey Jordan or Brennan,


Do you mind a quick question about logistics to Holden - how is the ferry and Holden shuttle on having lots of gear? I have been toying with the idea of a base-camp style backcountry ski trip in there for the last couple years. To ease the pain I was considering ski pulks to help sled the gear in.


Basically the each on the team would have a large backpack, pair of skis, pulk and pulk poles. This sounds somewhat over the ferry luggage limits and stuffing it all into a school bus seems daunting as well. It could essentially all be strapped into the pulk, but then it is a large single, heavy piece.


Do you guys have any thoughts? If it isn't really workable it will focus my thought more on a traverse style trip like what you did. Either way a sweet place to get back in to. Again, nice trip and much thanks for any time spent reading and/or responding.



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I'm certain they would be able to accomadate the items you are talking about. If you get on the Lady of the lake website they have most of the information you need. Each full fare ticket holding individual is allowed 75 lbs of gear at no extra cost. Here is what they say about extra freight:


Freight exceeding the weight allowed with ticket purchase is charged at $6.00 per 75 lbs or .75 cents per cubic feet, whichever is greater.


For freight exceeding a total weight of 75 lbs, the charge will be $.08 per lb with a minimum charge of $6.00


If any single item requires special handling or exceeds 55 pounds, that piece must be charged at Special Handing rates (see Special Handling)


Hope that helps. Also, they are easy to talk to on the phone so give them a call.

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My experience with gear was the same; the LotL ferry folks were very helpful and frequently shuttle climbers and skiers, so they are used to large packs, gear bags, etc. The Holden folks were as nice as they come and also very helpful with large loads. The experience of visiting Holden alone is worth the trip in to the area.

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For the Holden end of things, all you need to do is email the registrar - registrar@holdenvillage.org - I think - (check the website to make sure this is correct) and let them know when you are coming and that you have extra gear. Then we'll make sure we have plenty of room for you and your stuff on the way up.


If you have any other holden logistic questions, or want to know what the snow conditions are like, give me an email - tbvanloo at gmail



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Strong effort gentlemen!


That sounds like Joe Cannata to me. A great boss, good friend, and one of the nicest guys you'll ever meet. He's employed a number of local climbers up at the 59er, stop by and give him some business if your in the area.

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Ha, thanks for the info Sol. He certainly was a life saver for us on this trip. If you happen to see him anytime soon let him know how greatful both Brian and myself (Jordan) are for his generosity. We have a great climbing community around these parts thanks to people like Joe.

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Great TR, great pics. Just wanted to echo the sentiments about Joe and the 59er Diner. When one of the Lifties at Stevens got injured early in the season (has a family etc) the 59er Diner sponsored a benefit party for him and provided a bunch of food that we scarfed down in exchange for donations. So please go get a milkshake or some food from them. PLUS THEY HAVE $1 BEERS, THAT'S RIGHT, $1 BEERS!

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