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[TR] Mt Pugh - West Face 1/4/2014

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Trip: Mt Pugh - West Face


Date: 1/4/2014


Trip Report:

I climbed Mt Pugh back in Nov. 2011



I remember easy access, stunning summit views, and no one around.

Ideal ingredients for a day trip in my mind.

So when a few friends and I wanted to get out during the deep freeze of early December, I recommended Pugh. We had a great day out but we did not give ourselves enough time to summit and descend the technical portion before nightfall.

We did, however get a good glimpse at Pugh's West face.




We vowed that we would return later in the Winter to give this face a go.

Scouring the interwebs and Becky's bible I found no information on any ascents of this face. The thought of the unknown amped my desire even more.


Finding a weather window at the tail end of my Winter break, 2 out of the 3 friends from the last trip were excited to return to Pugh and give the West face a try. We found a fourth member for our team and at 5am the 4 of us piled into my Subaru and left Seattle.


1 month ago, the gate for the 1 mile road to Pugh's trailhead was open, this time it was closed with 4 large boulders in front of it. WTF?! A simple lock would have deterred us. Anyone know if they are closing this FS road for good?


Oh well, an extra mile of road walking never hurt anyone.


We followed the road, and trail to treeline and found way more snow than expected. Avalanche forecast reminded us to beware of wind-loaded slopes.



note the snow blowing over the ridge line.


We tested the stability, of the lower slope and found about 1-2 feet of powder on top of a fairly consolidated base under with little-to-no sliding.


We discussed the pros and cons and made an educated decision to ascend.


We broke into teams of 2, each with a 25M rope and an assortment of protection.












half way up we broke out the rope for some thin 60+ degree snow over rock. No photos, sorry.





The face was fun, engaging, and at times, exposed.




We reached the ridge line in a few hours and found ourselves inline with the standard route, but running low on time. Not wanting to get turned around in virtually the same spot again, we decided to risk getting caught up high in the dark and pushed for the summit.


In the Summer the standard route is mostly a walk with exposure, but in Winter conditions, things got a bit spicier.




The crux's seemed to be steep, and exposed with no pro and shitty snow and/or ice.


As we got higher, the angle mellowed and it was just snow wallowing to the summit.



We reached the summit around 4pm.


The views were crystal clear. We were even able to make out Seattle along the Puget Sound!



We celebrated, ate, took photos in 5 minutes, and turned tail.

That left us with approximately 45 minutes to get back down to Stujack pass where the route finding and exposure was over. This was going to be a close one!


The sun began to sink into one of the better sunsets I have experienced in recent years.






All I wanted to do was stop and enjoy this golden hour...




but a few quick snaps from the camera was all I had time for.




We reached a little above Stujack pass before we had to switch to headlamps. I thought back to the descent we took a month ago and remembered just one last technical 50+ degree slope we had to down climb and traverse. It would have to be in the dark.


From the pass we traversed and glissaded in the dark until we found our tracks from earlier.

We reached tree line and made the long march back to our cars, anxiously hoping we would make it back to Darrington before the Burger Barn closed.

We got there at 9pm thinking that is when they closed. To our dismay, they had been closed since 7pm. All that rushing for nothing.


The West face of Pugh has a few options from mellow to downright spicy. There was little-to-no ice present, but there are at least 3 routes up there for some great snow climbing.

I have no idea if this is a first ascent or not.

Anyone know?

Either way, I highly recommend the area for some fun climbing in the snow with views that are hard to match.



Gear Notes:

We had two tools or a tool/axe combo. Both worked just fine.

Crampons for the icy bits up high

helmet for the icy chunks that rained down for much of the route.

Pickets, 25M rope, and long slings for trees if you plan on pitching any of it out.



Approach Notes:

From Darrington, follow the Mountain Loop HWY for roughly 12 miles. There is a sign marking the FS road on the left for Mt Pugh. Follow the road for a mile to the trailhead, then take the well maintained trail to tree line for about 3 miles.

  • Rawk on! 1

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Very cool! Looks like a fun route.


The USFS closes that road seasonally, but it will reopen in the spring or early summer. A lock may have stopped you, but it wouldn't stop the locals!

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Great work guys. I've been tossing the idea of a winter ascent of Pugh around for a while now but never made any sort of plans for it. Looks like a good route!

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Beautiful adventure! Keep exploring!

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