Lassen Peak Ski Mountaineering

Lassen Peak (10,457 ft)

Eric on the summit

March 18-19, 2017

Eric and Matthew

I flew down to CA for the weekend on Friday night, and Saturday morning Matthew and I drove north from Palo Alto to Lassen Volcano National Park. We checked in with the rangers and started skinning up the road towards the peak.

The weather was pretty miserable, with cold 34F rain occasionally transitioning to snow, then back to rain. The rangers advised us to take the “ranger cutoff” over

Carrying the skis up Diamond Peak

Diamond Peak to avoid some avy slopes, but this turned out to not be worth the effort. We ascended Diamond Peak, then descended the incorrect ridge and met back up with the road shortly above where we’d left it.

There were a few snowshoers here turning around for the day, and we continued skinning  up the road. We eventually reached Lake Helen, and saw another group who had just set up camp for the night. It was getting a bit hard to navigating with low visibility, but the rain had ended and there were several hours of daylight left so we pushed on.

By 4pm we reached the last of the trees at a flat shoulder around 8,800ft and decided to set up camp. We spent a few hours constructing a huge snow wall to defend against the strong SW

Approaching camp

wind, then cooked some cous cous and went to bed. Unfortunately our gear was pretty wet from the rain and had trouble drying out.

There was supposed to be a local minimum in the chance for precipitation the next morning, but when we got up at sunrise it was still a whiteout and very windy. We still suited up and wandered over toward the SE ridge, and actually saw some other footprints in the snow. It must have been the group camping near Lake Helen.

Near the summit in a whiteout

We started up, following the tracks until they disappeared in the rime ice, then navigating by GPS along the ridge. Eventually we encountered the group of three descending. They said they’d summitted and we were very close. It looked like a guided team, since one experienced guy in the back was short-roping two other people in front of him.

Matthew led the way, navigating by GPS in the whiteout, until we reached the summit around 9am. By then the wind and freezing fog had accumulated a 0.25″ layer of ice on my trekking pole and ice ax!

Matthew on the summit

We took a few pictures and movies, then returned back down to camp. The wind and whiteout persisted as we packed up and started skiing down, but once we descended to Lake Helen the weather started clearing and we got an awesome view of the surrounding mountains.

We skied past the guided group as they packed up, then skied all the way back down the road to the visitor’s center. It appears we were the last team to summit this winter.

The original plan had been to stay in the park until Monday, but with our gear soaked and the weather predicted to stay wet we decided to drive somewhere else. Matthew had never been to Yosemite, so we drove down there, arriving that night.

We camped out in Camp 4, then hiked up to the top of Yosemite Falls the next morning. We drove back to San Jose in the evening and I caught my flight back to Seattle.



Driveway Butte

On the summit

Driveway Butte – 5,982 ft

February 26, 2017

Eric and Katie

The original plan was to climb a Washington Hundred Highest mountain – Silverstar Peak (8,800ft). But when we arrived at Mazama in eastern Washington friday night, we discovered the road was closed an extra 7 miles from the trailhead. The WSDOT report online said it was plowed, but that was apparently not true.

Our weather window would close Saturday afternoon when a storm was predicted to come in, and the extra 7 mile approach made it pretty unlikely we could beat the storm. So instead we decided to hike up a closer, shorter mountain below treeline. Driveway Butte fit the bill.

Saturday morning we walked past all the backcountry skiers snowmobiling up the closed highway 20 and soon reached our trailhead. A few hours of snowshoeing brought us to the summit and we had excellent views of peaks in the Pasayten Wilderness to the north. We saw Silverstar as well, and by mid afternoon it was enveloped in clouds as predicted.

We found a good car camping spot that night, and Sunday stopped for a small detour in the wild west town of Winthrop before returning to Seattle.


Mt Washington

Mt Washington – 4,400ft

Feb 18, 2017

Eric and Katie

We were looking for a short hike in the rainy/snowy weather, and Mt Washington is about the closest 4,000ft mountain to Seattle. We hit the trail by noon, ran into another group of Mitocers on they way up, and were back to the car before sunset.

Oval Peak Ski Mountaineering

Oval Peak (8,795ft)

David approaching the summit

Eric and David

February 11/12, 2017

We left the Twisp River Sno Park at 6am Saturday morning and skinned up about 9 miles to the west buttermilk trailhead. After following the trail for about 3 miles we cut up into the woods on the right. It was very steep and slow going on the skis, but an hour after dark we reached a flat area around 6500ft and set up camp.

The next morning we left camp around 5:45am, ascended an even steeper slope, then reached a big plateau east of the peak. We ascended the east ridge of oval peak, and were forced to ditch our skis just above treeline. There were too many boulders sticking out for it to be skiable. We continued climbing, avoiding huge cornices on the right side of the ridge, and summitted at 9:30am.

The ski back to camp was amazing, but descending from camp to the trail was difficult in the dense trees. We eventually reached the road, which was compacted by snowmobiles, and arrived at the car at 5:30pm, ready for the long drive back to Seattle.

Mt Osceola Alpine Ice Climbing

Osceola Dog Leg Slide Alpine Ice Climbing

Kyle climbing one of the WI2 bulges

February 4, 2017
Eric, David, Kevin, Kyle, Mike, Ana, John, Donald, Greg, Nicholas

We parked at Greeley Ponds trailhead, and walked down the Kanc for 1 mile to the East Pond trailhead, which is currently unplowed. From here we hiked up the east pond trail until about a quarter mile beyond the stream crossing, then cut left into the woods near a large boulder on the right.

A bit of bushwhacking led us to the main slide, where we split up into four rope teams, two groups of three and two groups of two. After staggering our starts, there was plenty of room in the gully to accommodate all climbers.

The route was a bit snowy, so only had about 3 or four short pitches of WI2 or so ice, but we had fun climbing the snow in between and practicing mountaineer rope coils.

At the top of the climb we followed a secret trail to the summit of Osceola, then had fun glissading back to the cars. In all it was about a 10-hour round trip.

Mount Lowell Ice Climb

Rapping the route

Mt Lowell, Unnamed route on SW face (WI 3)

Eric and Dave

February 3, 2017

We left Boston at 5:30am Friday morning, seeking an ice climbing place where there would be no crowds. That weekend was the annual New England Ice Fest, and all the usual places would likely have lines. Not Mount Lowell. The ice there was not in any guidebook, and it’s unclear if it’s ever been climbed. It also required a 6-mile hike in plus some bushwhacking. There was a good chance we’d have it all to ourselves.

I’d seen a broad 250ft tall cliff on the side while hiking up Mt Carrigain years ago, and had wanted to check it out for a while. By 9:30am we were on the trail hiking. We pulled sleds on the mostly flat trail, and encountered a few other hikers descending the mountain. A few hours later we reached the height of land in Carrigain notch, and saw a few promising ice lines on the cliff on the southwest face of Mt Lowell.

We kept hiking until we’d seen the whole cliff, and chose to climb the line on the far left (north) side of the cliff. We would have to save the other lines for another time.

A short bushwhack, then a snowfield climb led us to the base of the cliff and a wide WI3 flow of yellow ice all the way up the cliff. Dave led up with me belaying in the snow. When Dave reached the end of the rope, we started simul-climbing until Dave reached the trees above and built an anchor. The climb was fun, but it was hard to keep my hands warm in the cold.

It’s unclear if the route has been climbed before, but we left a rappel anchor so now anyone else going in will know it has been climbed. We rapped down, and started the long hike back to the car, reaching it by 7pm.


Robinson Mountain (attempt)

Robinson Mountain (8,726 ft)

Birkan on the summit ridge

Eric and Birkan

January 28-29, 2016

Robinson Mountain is one of the few Washington Hundred Highest mountains with a trailhead that is reasonably accessible in the winter. With a good weather forecast, we drove out to near Mazama Friday night and camped out in the car at the Yellow-Jacket sno-park. By 5:45am Saturday morning we started hiking the 3 miles to the trailhead on snowmobile trails.

The trail was (unsurprisingly) not broken, and we spent the next 9 hours breaking trail. Shortly before sunset we reached a flat area at 6,5000ft in the cirque southeast of the peak, and  pitched camp. I had a bit of extra energy, so while Birkan was melting snow I broke out a trail up to the SE ridge to  give us a head start the next morning.

We were hiking by 6am the next morning, and soon gained the ridge. The conditions were tricky, with the snow deep enough to warrant snowshoes, but steep enough to want crampons. We carefully avoided cornices, and at one point pitched out a short 4th class section. By 9am we determined our progress was much too slow to reach the summit that day, so we bailed out and descended back to camp. We made it back to the car that afternoon, and back to Seattle that night.

Keechelus Ridge

Keechelus Ridge (5,151 ft)

Eric, David, Birkan, Julia

January 22, 2016

Keechelus Ridge is one of the few mountains near Seattle that you can count on to have a broken trail. This is because most of the route is on a popular groomed snowmobile trail. With snowy weather predicted, we thought this would be a good chance to get some mellow backcountry skiing in.

We started hiking up Sunday morning, with me towing my backpack and skis up in a sled, Birkan hiking up, and David and Julia skinning up in their backcountry skis. The road zig-zagged up the mountain, and we were passed occasionally by snowmobilers. By about 1pm we reached the end of the groomed trail at a big radio tower, and Birkan and I pushed a quarter mile farther along the ridge to tag the true summit.

On the way down Birkan made good use of the sled, while everyone else skied, for a fun decent back to the car.

Gold Mountain

Gold Mountain (1,761ft)

Eric Gilbertson

January 16, 2017

I headed out to the Olympic Peninsula on Monday and hiked about 4 miles up to the summit of Gold Mountain. There were great views of the Olympic Mountains just to the west, and an awesome lenticular cloud was forming on Rainier to the east, signaling the bad weather coming soon. I was the only one on basically the whole hike, and had no trouble reaching the summit.

Rampart Ridge (Attempt)

Eric Gilbertson

January 15, 2017

I headed out on I-90 on Sunday morning at parked in the Gold Creek sno-park near Snoqualmie Pass. This is an extremely popular place for snowshoers and snowmobilers. I hiked up the groomed snowmobile trail for a few miles, then ditched my skies and started bushwhacking through the deep snow in the woods. After a few more tiring hours I reached Lake Lillian, then climbed higher to the ridge above. The trail breaking had slowed me down, and it was close to sunset at the top of the ridge with the summit still far away, so I turned around early. I soon made it back to my skis and had a fun ski down back to the car.