Forum Index > Trip Reports > Red, Thorp, Hard Knox, Kachess, 5 French Cabin Peaks -9/5/15
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Gimpilator
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Joined: 12 Oct 2006
Posts: 1155 | TRs
Location: Edmonds, WA
Gimpilator
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PostSun Sep 06, 2015 10:06 am 
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Having never visited the area between Kachess Lake and Cle Elum Lake, I figured it might be fun to cleansweep the area.  I noticed on the map a vast network of trails and devised a loop route which would include 12 peaks.  At roughly 22 miles, it would be an aggressive itinerary for a single day.  The most sought-after objectives were Red Mountain, Thorp Mountain, French Tongue, and French Cabin Mountain, the rest being mainly filler.  I pitched this idea to several friends recently but there were no takers.  Then with new snow on the ground above 6000 feet and bad weather forecasted for Sunday, Matt Below and I had to ditch our original weekend plans.

Little Joe Lake
Little Joe Lake
ridge to Red
1 label
ridge to Red
Matt scrambling
Matt scrambling

We parked at the trailhead for Little Joe Lake at 6:45am and hiked up to the Red Mountain Lookout Site.  Except it wasn't the lookout site.  Point 5722 is listed as the former lookout location, but in actuality it was at (47.395386, -121.145253).  There is plenty of melted glass and rusty wires to prove it.  We continued our traverse to the summit of Red Mountain which involved one spicy class 3+ move.  I was surprised to see in the makeshift register that Bob Packard had just been there a few weeks prior.


We descended back to Little Joe Lake and then took the trail west toward Thorp Mountain.  Traversing the southwest slopes of Point 5236, the trail fades and is completely gone for a few stretches.  We passed two trail junctions and then followed an unofficial trail up the east side of Thorp Mountain.  Matt spotted a skinny buck, still in velvet.  It was cold and icy on the summit.  We hid on the leeward side of the lookout.

Above Thorp Lake
Above Thorp Lake
velvet horns
velvet horns
skinny buck
skinny buck

Descending the south ridge trail on Thorp we encountered a family of four and the teenage boy had a pistol on his hip.  We hiked south past Thorp Lake and then up the south ridge of Hard Knox to the summit and then west over to the lower west peak “Not Knox”.  We were in a whiteout on the Knoxs and there was nothing to see.  From there we went south over Point 5766 “Hard Cheese”,  6 down and 6 to go!

Hard Knox north face
Hard Knox north face
Hard Knox summit
Hard Knox summit
nearing Not Knox summit
nearing Not Knox summit
"Hard Cheese" summit
"Hard Cheese" summit

Descending from “Hard Cheese” we came to a saddle where the trail meets the road.  The trail drops off the east side of the saddle but I was reluctant to go that way and possibly end up descending all the way to the other logging roads below, but my gut said don't follow the road in the saddle.  Despite that, we followed the road at my suggestion and this was a mistake.  It ended in a spot with no trail access.  Now allow me to explain...  We did not have any good paper topo maps for this trip seeing as Matt doesn't have a printer and my mapping software failed me the day before.  All I had was a rudimentary overview map without much detail and Matt had the Greentrails map.  So instead of backtracking to the trail, which we weren't sure about, we dropped down into the brush below the road hoping to find a trail leading up to the pass between French Tongue and French Chin.  Thankfully we found it.

West Peak
West Peak
French Chin and French Tongue
French Chin and French Tongue
French Tongue north face
French Tongue north face

From the pass we followed a boot path up onto ledges and ramps traversing the cliffy south slopes of French Tongue.  Then we ascended scree gullies on the southwest side to the base of the scramble route on the upper south face.  It was airy and loose and wet and mossy.  Oh, joy!  A fall here would be fatal.  There was just about 10 feet of wet class 3+, maybe 4 and above that it was loose rubble 3 to the summit.  I think we were both apprehensive about the down-climb.  Matt made quick work of it and I stalled a bit and traversed east into a gully to avoid the worst of it.

French Tongue upper south face
French Tongue upper south face
Matt above on the summit
Matt above on the summit
Matt on the summit
Matt on the summit
loose and exposed
loose and exposed

Then I hiked up Kachess Ridge while Matt headed back to the pass.  He had already done Kachess once as a snowshoe.  I had to descend several hundred feet below French Tongue to get around a cliff band and over to Kachess Ridge.  I did not stay long on the summit.  Back at the pass we hiked up French Chin together and went off-trail down to French Cabin Meadows.

French Tongue west face (route annotated)
15 labels
French Tongue west face (route annotated)
Kachess summit
Kachess summit
French Tongue and Cheek seen from Kachess summit
French Tongue and Cheek seen from Kachess summit
West Peak seen from French Chin summit
West Peak seen from French Chin summit

We followed the trail over to West Peak (French Cabin main peak), encountering a couple along the way.  They asked us if we knew where the trail ended and if they were getting close to the French Cabin.  Matt waited for me on the south ridge while I went off-trail to the summit of West Peak.  The ridge crest was a series of rocky protrusions and I stayed to the left of those on grass and scree slopes.  The summit had commanding views and finally the clouds were clearing a little.  It was getting late, probably 6pm.  I hurried back down to Matt and we continued over to South Peak.  The trail goes withing 30 feet of the forested summit.  I didn't take any more photos after this point because it was too dark.

nearing West Peak summit
nearing West Peak summit
South Peak seen from West Peak summit
South Peak seen from West Peak summit

From South Peak we followed the trail over to North Peak and then ascended the south ridge in growing darkness.  A storm was coming. It was windy and began to rain.  From the summit we descended wet grassy southeast slopes in the dark.  Once we reached the trail, the rain increased intensity.  Furthermore Matt's headlamp was failing.  We followed the trail along the ridge to the northeast, passing over several high points.  We were both tired and soaking wet now, and not very happy about unexpected elevation gain.

South Peak summit
South Peak summit

Finally we came to a road and from there it was only another 3 or 4 miles back to the car.  I wore all my layers and I was still cold.  We arrived at 10:45pm for a round-trip time of 16 hours.  12 peaks in a day is probably a personal record for me, but you could argue that the Red Mountain Lookout site doesn't count.  9373' accumulative gain in a day is also a personal record.

Thanks Matt for joining me on this trip and I'm sorry the last 5 miles were so miserable.

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Keep climbing mountains and don't slip!
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Redwic
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Joined: 23 Feb 2009
Posts: 3206 | TRs
Location: Back on the saddle... between peaks
Redwic
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PostSun Sep 06, 2015 10:26 am 
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Wow! Great job! What an aggressive itinerary, and good thing it paid off!
up.gif  up.gif  up.gif

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"Revolutions are not overnight. The heightist mindset has minimally a 100 year head start. Eventually the climbing community will embrace geocaching." -Paul Michelson
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puzzlr
Mid Fork Rocks



Joined: 13 Feb 2007
Posts: 6164 | TRs
Location: Stuck in the middle
puzzlr
Mid Fork Rocks
PostSun Sep 06, 2015 10:48 am 
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Le Grand Tour! A lot to pack into one day. I've had many memorable days picking up a few at a time and don't envy the long cold walk out. But it's really impressive what you two did.

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Mid Fork Rocksflickr
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Redwic
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Joined: 23 Feb 2009
Posts: 3206 | TRs
Location: Back on the saddle... between peaks
Redwic
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PostSun Sep 06, 2015 3:19 pm 
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Gimpilator wrote:
We parked at the trailhead for Little Joe Lake at 6:45am and hiked up to the Red Mountain Lookout Site.  Except it wasn't the lookout site.  Point 5722 is listed as the former lookout location

Where did you see that listed?

The actual lookout location was at 5707'. It was a L-5 cab built during 1932 and abandoned during 1948.

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"Revolutions are not overnight. The heightist mindset has minimally a 100 year head start. Eventually the climbing community will embrace geocaching." -Paul Michelson
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Distel32
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Joined: 03 Jun 2014
Posts: 939 | TRs
Location: Edmonds, WA
Distel32
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PostSun Sep 06, 2015 3:44 pm 
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up.gif
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Magellan
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Joined: 26 Jul 2006
Posts: 13113 | TRs
Location: Inexorable descent
Magellan
Brutally Handsome
PostSun Sep 06, 2015 7:37 pm 
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Agressive and loooooonnnnnnnngggggg!  up.gif x12
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EastKing
Summit Addict



Joined: 28 Mar 2007
Posts: 2049 | TRs
Location: 40 hours week work; 40 hours summit
EastKing
Summit Addict
PostSun Sep 06, 2015 8:29 pm 
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No actually you got 13!! You forgot Easy Knox (Pt. 5575) north of Hard Knox.  up.gif  up.gif  up.gif. It's prominence is at least that of Hard Cheese if not more.

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I am addicted to summits! I can't eat, drink or breath without them. Life without mountains would really suck.

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Michael Lewis
Taking a nap



Joined: 27 Apr 2009
Posts: 436 | TRs
Location: Lynnwood, WA (for now)
Michael Lewis
Taking a nap
PostSun Sep 06, 2015 11:28 pm 
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Cabin fever seems to get you going like rocket fuel!
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Forum Index > Trip Reports > Red, Thorp, Hard Knox, Kachess, 5 French Cabin Peaks -9/5/15
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