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[TR] Jagged Ridge Traverse - Hannegan Pass to Mt. Shuksan 7/1/2013

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Complete Jagged Ridge Traverse from Hannegan Pass over Ruth Mountain, Icy Peak, Cloudcap Peak, and Mt. Shuksan... (photo onslaught below)



Route Map



Flying over Cloudcap Peak and Jagged Ridge, February 2012.



Nooksack Cirque Avalanche


I have long looked at Cloudcap Peak (AKA Seahpo) as a climbing destination, especially after flying over it with John Scurlock and checking it out from the air last winter. Smack dab in the heart of some of the most wild landscape in the North Cascades, Jagged Ridge encompasses everything a Cascades mountaineer could want.. scenic views, rugged terrain, lack of visitation, and sheer beauty. Putting together a team for this objective proved difficult for a long while.. everyone I asked to join me either wasn't interested, wasn't sure, or didn't know enough about it to have the desire.


The best time to climb this peak is in mid June before the moat becomes too much of a hassle. Glacial recession over the recent years has given the climb a whole new character than when it was first climbed in the 50s. With the solid high pressure window approaching, I knew now was a good time. So last week as I was determined to get after it, I sent out a flurry of e-mails to the usual suspects in an attempt to get someone to join me on my quest. Not expecting anyone to sign on, I was surprised to have four people respond almost immediately. Usually five people on a climb is too much for me, and in the end, this rule was reinforced. Nevertheless, I had climbed extensively with every member of the team in the past, and I figured we could make it happen.


So the adventure began. Don, Sergio, Mike, and Franklin all managed to get Friday off for a 3-day adventure up Seahpo Peak, across Jagged Ridge, and out Mt. Shuksan's White Salmon Glacier to the Mt. Baker Ski Area. We all converged in Marysville at 6AM, and piled into two cars. Less than 3 hours later, we were dropping off a car at the Mt. Baker Ski Area and driving back to Hannegan Pass trailhead. By 10AM we were leaving the trailhead on our way to our first camp below Icy Peak.


We made quick work of the trail to a delightfully bug-free (but snow-covered) Hannegan Pass. From here, we ascended Ruth Mountain and hung out on the summit for over an hour enjoying the views and witnessing the ominous cloud swirling and building before our eyes. We dropped down towards Icy Peak on intermittent snow and rock, and climbed back up to a notch below the summit of Icy where we dropped our overnight packs. Don and Mike (who had already summitted Icy) kept going down to camp at the saddle between Icy and Cloudcap, while Franklin, Sergio, and I climbed the final few hundred feet to the summit of Icy. It took us about 25 minutes to reach the summit from there, first crossing steep snow, then finishing on a short section of class 4 rock. Icy is a fun scramble with great views, and we spent about 20 minutes on the summit naming peaks and taking photos.


We soon descended to camp and settled in for the night. That night it rained torrentially while lightning flashed and thunder clapped ferociously. It was a bit unnerving being so high up in the alpine in such an intense electrical storm.


The next morning we woke up late to give the rock time to dry out. Initially we had planned to leave camp by 5AM to give us ample time for our team of five to summit Cloudcap and get down the ridge far enough to set up a suitable high bivy. Because of the rain, we didn't wind up leaving camp until 9:30 or 10. We found out later that we could have gotten an earlier start, as the rock was bone dry when we got there.


The first pitch of rock was guarded by a huge, hollow moat at the top of a steep snow slope above a gaping bergschrund. We set up a belay there and I led off up the meagerly-protectable rock. After some futzing around, I got through the first pitch and belayed Sergio up (who tailed up a second rope). Sergio then belayed the three other followers on the second line while I scoped out the route ahead. The route ahead looked a bit daunting at first, but I was able to find a fairly straightforward route through on a steep, solid arete. This second pitch of rock was guarded by another steep snow finger with an unstable, hollow moat at its apex. My idea was to set a high belay, climb down the snow, set a solid deadman picket before the severely undercut moat in case it collapsed under my weight, and step off onto the rock.


After 1.5 hours of five people climbing the first pitch of rock, we were all huddled in the moat. We had a pow wow there, discussing options. At 1.5 hours per pitch, it would take too long to get up the peak. Sergio and Mike absolutely needed to get to work on Monday, so they decided the writing was on the wall for them and they bailed back down, rappelling back down to the snow. We kept the second rope, and they headed back to the trailhead.


Now, it was just Don, Franklin and myself continuing on. I got past the second moat problem with a few tense moments, but safely. I belayed Don and Franklin over and we climbed the fun second pitch in good time. We continued to make good time all the way to the summit. At the summit, we found a register in a film canister with a signature John W Roper business card. In the summit register there were three parties signed in since 1992. We were the fourth.


As it was getting late in the day, we decided to bivy just below the summit in a magnificent spot in a comfortable (for me) bivy site. We saw an amazing sunset over Mt. Baker, and it looked like the forecasted high pressure weather was setting in as forecasted. We all slept well that night, and got up with the sun to begin the long, uncertain descent to the glacier below.


After a lot of downclimbing and ~3 double rope rappels (and a lot of route finding - Franklin was a huge help finding suitable anchors here), we all safely reached the snow. The descent culminated with a double-rope free-hanging rappel over a huge moat.


From the snow, we angled up the snow to the base of a 3rd class rock/heather gully that we climbed to the crest of the eastern end of Jagged Ridge. We could see our route from here, and it looked long. As the crow flies, the route consists of ~1.5 miles of scrambling up and down gendarmes and towers shaped like toothpicks. Unfortunately, we aren't crows, so our mileage turned out to be slightly higher!


The Jagged Ridge portion of the climb, in my opinion, was an absolute pleasure. Airy, exposed, rugged, scenic, and enjoyable... all suitable adjectives for the climbing that would ensue. Uncertain routefinding made it that much more exciting. Where do we go? Will it go? Why haven't we seen a single rappel sling or sign of human visitation? We felt like Neil Armstrong stepping onto the moon!


The climbing, for the most part, is fairly straightforward. Many spots were solid with great exposure, other spots were loose with scary exposure. Routefinding was a continual challenge, but overall, we did an exceptional job only finding a couple of dead ends.


We bivied at the W end of the ridge again, after running low on time on Sunday. Unfortunately, this meant that Don and Franklin would be no-call no-shows at work on Monday. I had informed my Dad that I might be a day late, and not to worry if I was. I had a hunch the route would take a while, especially with 3 people. Fred says to expect 8-10 hours on the traverse. If everything went perfect and there was no snow on the route (requiring multitudes of crampon off/on transitions and sketchy runouts), then that might be true. It took us more like 12 hours in the conditions we found it.


After a restless night of sleeping in tied to the rock (and getting harassed by snafflehounds who gnawed on anything and everything), we got up again with the sun and continued on towards the W end of the traverse. From what we could see, we had one daunting snow crossing left, followed by a steep, loose chimney, followed by an unknown route to the Crystal Glacier. The snow here was some of the steepest I've ever seen (I didn't know snow grew that steep). It came to a knife-edge point at the top of a gully and dropped off at least 2500' on both sides. I soloed through this in the interest of time and to scout ahead for the route while Don and Franklin belayed through. The route immediately above us looked fairly straightforward, but loose. Above that, there was an impossibly steep tower with seemingly nowhere else to go. Would we be able to climb out and get to the relative safety of the glacier on the other side? Would it go? Why haven't we seen any rap slings???!!! Have people really done this traverse before?!


At the top of this pitch was one last (unbeknownst to us at the time) pitch to glacier travel and a ticket home. This pitch was alarmingly loose, sparsely protectable, and steep. I made my way VERY carefully through this section, triple protecting every placement I could while being careful with my cumbersome overnight pack with foam pad afixed to its outside. Huge blocks were stacked in a jumble together.. one slight nudge is all it took to dislodge huge hundred pound rocks. I was worried about cutting my lead rope, or having one catch the rope and pull me off my stance (and/or pull out my protection). I have climbed much more difficult rock before, but never something this loose and steep. Needless to say, I was completely relieved to grab the ridge crest, look over to the other side, and see that we were a class 4 downclimb away from reaching the safety of the Crystal Glacier.


I belayed Don and Franklin up and we all sat there exhausted, dehydrated, and elated to have our ticket home in hand.


The final portion of the climb was a traverse of Mt. Shuksan via the Crystal Glacier. It would have been appealing to climb the summit pyramid at this point to cap a great traverse, but we had all been there before, and we decided it was important to get back within cell phone range quickly so Franklin and Don's loved ones didn't worry.


We made our way up to the col at ~8200', then descended to the White Salmon Glacier route and the White Salmon Creek, before bushwhacking our way back to the ski area. I was not happy to relive this bushwhack as I have several times before, but I was so ecstatic at having completed such an awesome Cascades adventure than I couldn't help but have a huge $hit-eating grin on my face the whole time.


Indeed, this was one of the best trips of my lifetime, and the good times I had with my climbing partners on this trip will be vivid memories forever in my mind. This traverse had everything a Cascades mountaineer could ask for, and lots of it. I am amazed at the place we live in, and inspired to keep climbing and exploring as long as I can.


Thanks to Don and Franklin for such an awesome trip, and thanks to Sergio and Mike for being great sports.
































































































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Tom, you want me to fix those links quickly for you?

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I started to sweat just looking at those photos, wow. I can see why Seahpo doesn't get climbed that much, and I bet Jagged ridge has been done only a handful of times. Truly a wild trip, amazing.

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Nice work Tom. I imagine even photos don't do that experience justice. Would you care to comment on the technical difficulty? Would you solo it? I know the Beckey guide calls Jagged Ridge 4th or even possibly 3rd class but that never sounded particularly realistic to me. FWIW Les MCDonald is my hero.

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Wow! I am curious what you rate the route up Cloudcap and ridge. A group of three of us are heading up there this week. We have talked about this one for years... Congratulations.

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Darin.. I would probably not solo the traverse, not because of technical difficulty, but because of loose rock and moat issues. You could get by the moat issues by going later in the season, but the loose rock is a deal breaker for me. The last pitch was steep and loose and didn't look to me like it had ever been climbed.. which is crazy because it looked to be the only feasible way off the traverse (aside from dropping down to the glacier).


Norman.. I'd rate the route up Cloudcap mid-5th at the worst. Probably 5.6/5.7. Most of it was 3rd/4th and steep snow.


Steve.. I'd love to do that Natal/Indecision/Meulefire traverse. Next up is the Pickets next week.

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Good work team, thats a long weekend of mountaineering! I would love to see a map and link this to my traverse page!

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Nice work Tom & Co. Tom, you were eyeballing that traverse when we were on Ruth 2 years ago, glad you finally nailed it. Great set of pics as usual!

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Nice Tom, what great weather and amazing location! I'm jealous, when are we gonna finally get out on something? I'm free pretty much after July 21st and all through August. Might see you in the Pickets if you are there through next weekend.

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Wayne, no problem. I will come up with a map!


Geoff, let's get out again this year.


Stewart, I'll be in the Pickets all next week.. going from S to N. Let's connect on a trip this year. Bear N Buttress???

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right on Tom, solid exposition of a stellar trip. gotta get back to that adventure zone...

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That is really cool Tom! I have been wanting to do Seapho for years, thanks for the beta and photos- very inspiring.

Good luck in the Pickets!

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Awesome Tom. Great vision AND execution.

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Hey Tom, I have been meaning to ask you how you feel Seapho holds up, difficulty wise, to the peaks included on the Kloke list? I know Dallas climbed Seapho way back when but did not include it...but maybe they had different conditions and less snow recession....

I sure sounds harder by the standard route(although a standard route on Cloudcap sounds laughable), than say Burgundy Spire, but maybe an easier way to the summit exists?

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Thanks mountainsloth, I appreciate that.


Scott... Seahpo is a fairly difficult peak to climb by this route, although I do think there is an easier route (technically) up from Baker Lake if you can manage the brush. None of the climbing on the route we climbed was by itself super difficult, but the whole package is a challenge. I personally felt it was more difficult and a lot more serious than Burgundy Spire.



RIP Dallas!



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Thanks on that, I know Dallas considered Seapho to be the Full Deal, not sure why it did not make the cut, perhaps he felt a easier route would be discovered. Is the Kloke/Tindall summit register pic from Seapho? and what is the material that they scribed there names on?

I was looking at your thread on NW Hikers about additional peaks to be added to the "Difficult" List. I like it! And I know Dallas was all about making list.

Sometime this year a meeting of Choss Dogs seems advisable and revision of the ever mutating "Repulsive 69" seems to be in order. Your input is needed Tom!


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