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Nika Toce

[TR] Whitehorse - Niederprum Trail to High Pass 6/13/2015

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Trip: Whitehorse - Niederprum Trail to High Pass

 

Date: 6/13/2015

 

Trip Report:

View of Whitehorse from Hwy 530:

IMG_7359.jpg

 

My husband, Jeff, and I started on the trail at 6:30 am. The trailhead is somewhat difficult to discern, but we parked in front of the barricaded bridge marked with the Road Closed sign, and headed down the trail. We reached the Niederprum Trailhead a little over a mile in.

 

From that point on, the trail rises steeply and unrelenting. Foliage hangs over the trail from all sides, and the ground is littered with a combination of tree roots, loose rock, downed trees and mud. You rise roughly 4,000 feet from the beginning of the trail before reaching a long traverse to your left to reach Lone Tree Pass.

 

This is the view from partway through the traverse towards Lone Tree Pass:

IMG_7392.JPG

 

Some trip reports speak of a lower trail from Lone Tree Pass. Don’t take this trail unless you’re interested in bushwhacking through an incredibly steep forest with a slippery pine needle floor through young hemlock trees that hide any form of possibly existing trail. Take the high trail instead. It cuts sharply left from Lone Tree Pass and stays on the ridge until it finally drops down to the backside of Whitehorse.

 

Once you break free of the forest on the backside of Whitehorse, you feel like you’re really in the North Cascade wilderness. It is steep, wild country, whose vegetation does it’s utmost to erase any signs of trails as quickly as possible. The thing that slowed us down on the backside of the mountain wasn’t the elevation gain or the terrain, although those didn’t help…It was the difficulty in locating where the trail went. There are, thankfully, pieces of tape tied to trees, but they are few, hard to find, and the dead pine needles on some of the trees can look like orange tape when the light hits them right.

 

The traverse on the backside of Whitehorse is a combination of slick grass, scree of various sizes, boulder fields and steep cliffs:

IMG_7397.JPG

 

When you see a prominent pinnacle rising up in front of you, you’ll know you’ve reached the gully to take to High Pass. You won’t actually catch a glimpse of the pass until you’re almost there, just keep rising up and you’ll find it.

 

The pinnacle is in this picture, immediately to the right of where the trees end in the top of the picture. It is an unmistakeable landmark to follow:

IMG_7402.JPG

 

Jeff coming to the top of High Pass:

IMG_7364_small.jpg

 

From High Pass, we stepped out onto the glacier and headed up to the summit. The glacier snow was fairly soft, but crampons still helped our travel across it. The crevasse and snow bridge are both easily visible and avoidable.

 

The crevasse and snow bridge on the glacier:

IMG_7408.jpg

 

We skipped climbing to the absolute summit as we’d brought ice climbing gear instead of rock pro, and the true summit was wet, littered in loose rock, and chossy. The views were breathtaking, and the wind and clouds provided all the drama you could hope for from a North Cascade peak.

 

Panoramic view from the snow summit:

IMG_7411_small.jpg

 

We thought the way back to Lone Tree Pass would be faster than the trip out to High Pass, but we were wrong. From the outset of our way back to the car, I found the most clearly defined trail we’d seen on the backside of the mountain, and it made going quick. Until we realized it was a goat trail that had led us on top of the rock face we’d passed down below on the way to the summit. A quick backtrack and bit of exploration later, we found a ribbon tied to a tree, and thought we had it made. In reality, until we were back into the woods on the ridge, the route finding on the backside of the mountain was difficult and slow.

 

Crossing through steep rock on the return trip to Lone Tree Pass from High Pass:

IMG_7415.JPG

 

To give you an idea of how steep the terrain is:

IMG_7368_small.jpg

 

The trip down from Lone Tree Pass was grueling and seemed just as long as the way up. You get used to grabbing for foliage to prevent yourself from sliding down the hill, but make you’re not grabbing for devil’s club.

 

All in all, with getting off the trail 3 times, the trip took us 13 hours car to car. The conditions were as perfect as you could hope for in the North Cascades. If Whitehorse is on your to do list, now is a great time to do it.

 

Gear Notes:

Rock pro would be useful, if you want to make true summit.

Crampons and ice axe were nice to have on the glacier.

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Nika and Jeff,

 

Way to get after it! Congratulations on your first trip report!!!

 

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Nice job.

 

I have been wanting to do this climb for a long time. 13 hours car to car doesn't sound so bad.

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Wait until next spring when Lone Tree Pass is snow covered. The summit is easier to attain, and the whole trip more enjoyable.

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I did the route July 5-6 last year. I have to agree with Jason, with more snow it would be much more enjoyable and cruiser. There was far more snow when we went than in current photos on this TR, but the summit block was still exposed rock. A bit chossy with no real pro, I'M LICHEN IT!

The only rock we found that was decent to rap off could only be loaded in the direction of pull........don't kick it while your partner is heading down :)20140706_082557.jpg

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I tend to think Whitehorse is best in May or early June, and that is in a normal snow year. The snow may be soft, but you can often kick steps right up on to the summit and never touch rock. Bonus points for the wicked fast glissade right off the summit.

 

 

 

 

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Based on what we saw last year I'd agree. Although I'm thinking it might be best mid winter with a high pressure window straight up the north with some planks under your feet, might have to take the splitboard out there one of these days.

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