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Matt Lemke
High on the Outdoors



Joined: 15 Jul 2010
Posts: 1812 | TRs
Location: My van
Matt Lemke
High on the Outdoors
PostWed Jun 13, 2018 9:39 am 
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NWH user "neek" (Nicolas) and I met up in Everett in the afternoon Monday for an attempt on both Azurite and Ballard in what we originally planned for a two day excursion. Although this isn't exactly what we ended up doing we still had a great day out on a fun scramble for my 84th Bulger Peak, despite all the clouds.

We drove all the way out to the Methow River Trailhead shortly passed the Ballard Campground, which to our surprise we saw quite a few campers for a Monday night in early June. We relaxed with a couple beers, and turned in early with the alarm set for 4:45am. I enjoyed yet another great night sleep in my van smile.gif

We left with bikes at 5:30am to perfectly clear skies, and started biking up the Methow River trail. However there is a bridge washout just 2.5 miles from the trailhead. The bridge over Trout Creek is gone. Despite the ranger sign at the trailhead stating the creek is impassible, we were able to either wade across (knee deep) or shimmy across on a log we spotted. We both made it across unscathed, however we had to leave the bikes as we couldn't take them across. Good thing though, as the next 5 miles of the trail is shitfucked.... impossible to bike, and horrible to walk on. The trail is totally overgrown with alders requiring constant schwacking, and many leg/arm scratches. Also it was difficult, sometimes very difficult to follow the trail; complete with dozens of large blowdowns. We went into this expecting to be able to bike all the way to the PCT, however this trail will probably never be biked again, and likely won't see many hikers either. Seems the Okanogan FS is unfortunately is letting it go, which is a real shame because it was such a major trail. Needless to say it took us 4.5 hours to go from the trailhead to intersect the PCT at Brush Creek.

Once here, we continued an additional 2 miles west on the flat PCT. This trail was downright luxurious in comparison! Eventually we made it to the small Azurite Pass Trail, which veered off to the right (north) at the west end of a large alder field, thankfully avoiding said alders. Amazingly, this small trail was easy to follow, and switchbacked nicely all the way until we hit continuous snow at roughly 6400 feet elevation. Once we hit the snow, it was easy to boot up to the 6750 foot Azurite Pass, then continue up to 7400 feet on the south ridge of Azurite. It was at this time the snow ended, and we took a long break on the broad ridge. Clouds completely obscured the sun at this point, and we discussed what we would do.


Trail completely overgrown
Trail completely overgrown
Lots of blowdowns from fires
Lots of blowdowns from fires
Finally reached the PCT!
Finally reached the PCT!
Tower Mountain from Brush Creek
Tower Mountain from Brush Creek
Holliway Mountain from the PCT
Holliway Mountain from the PCT
Nearing Azurite Pass
Nearing Azurite Pass
Ascending the easy lower south ridge
Ascending the easy lower south ridge
First up close view of Azurite
First up close view of Azurite
Tower and Golden Horn
Tower and Golden Horn

We decided to bail on the plans to traverse over to Ballard as it appeared the crummy weather was moving in faster than forecasted, so we ditched our overnight gear on the flat 7400 foot shoulder on the south ridge and continued with light day packs towards Azurite. The first part had us head up a loose gully, then leave the ridge and traverse left, across the west face of Azurite below cliffs and gullies almost until we hit the prominent west rib. Most of this traverse was dry, sans 2-3 short snow runnels that we easily traversed across with ice axe (but no pons). Once we were at the base of a large gully just before the west rib, we ascended loose talus/rock up the gully, then it narrowed to just 3 feet wide. We followed cairns off to the left, despite me thinking that wasn't the right way.

Lo and behold, we ended up on the west rib directly for a 200 foot vertical stretch where we did some sustained 4th class climbing. We got to a point where we could cross back to the south side of the rib, and back into the major gully, which we finished the final 200 feet up via class 3 rock. From the summit, which we reached at about 2pm, we had an amazing perspective of Jack, Ballard and the Pickets to the north, and Golden Horn, Tower and Black dominated the south view. Clouds began to obscure Baker, and I began wondering if our NWH friends made it up Lincoln Peak (hint: they did). Slate Pass and Harts Pass roads were easily visible, with still some snow covering them, however most of the peaks east of us were approaching bone dry. Crazy

Loose gully
Loose gully
Class 4 clikmbing ON the west rib. Don't go over here unless you like to add spice to your climb!
Class 4 clikmbing ON the west rib. Don't go over here unless you like to add spice to your climb!
Where we crossed back to the correct gully
Where we crossed back to the correct gully
Ballard at center
Ballard at center
Jack
Jack
Eldorado at center right
Eldorado at center right
Black on left, Glacier Peak in middle and Goode at right

View down towards Glacier Pass
View down towards Glacier Pass

The winds were picking up and the air temp was getting colder. Seeing snow falling on the peaks to the north of us, we began descending, taking a better way on the return and quickly made it back to our stashed gear. From there, we enjoyed views one last time, before running the entire way back to the PCT which we reached around 5pm. An hour later we were back at Brush Creek, then by 10pm we made it back to the trailhead (after plenty of cursing at the bushes, rangers for not clearing said bushes, whoever started fire that allowed said bushes to grow etc). We were able to bike the last mile and a half with just enough residual daylight to not need headlights.


The log I shimmied over
The log I shimmied over

Great trip and one I'll remember. Now if I can just go do Ballard...
Thanks Nicolas for joining me!

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The Pacific coast to the Great Plains = my playground!!!
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WYWA_climber
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WYWA_climber
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PostWed Jun 13, 2018 10:02 am 
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Darn.  I was looking forward to climbing this later this year, maybe trying to meet up with a friend thru-hiking the PCT, and using a bike to get there, but I guess I won't plan on biking much of it.
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iron
getting old



Joined: 10 Aug 2008
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iron
getting old
PostWed Jun 13, 2018 11:41 am 
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looks like a nice 4th class stairway.

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man, you go through life, you try to be nice to people, you struggle to resist the urge to punch 'em in the face, and for what?

--- moe sizlack
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geyer
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geyer
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PostWed Jun 13, 2018 11:46 am 
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WYWA_climber wrote:
I was looking forward to climbing this later this year, maybe trying to meet up with a friend thru-hiking the PCT, and using a bike to get there, but I guess I won't plan on biking much of it.

It's easy hiking to just take the PCT all the way to the Azurite pass spur if you want to ditch the bikes altogether

Nice trip, Matt. Azurite looking chossy as ever.
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Brushbuffalo
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Location: there earlier, here now, somewhere later... Bellingham in between
Brushbuffalo
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PostWed Jun 13, 2018 12:50 pm 
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Looks like a fun route, except that approach.
You're gonna hate me, but that trail was an easy bike ride to the PCT in 2005 when I did it. Part of the route had been burned but many trees hadn't fallen and the brush hadn't grown thick yet.
Way it goes. frown.gif

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Passing rocks and trees like they were standing still
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neek
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neek
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PostWed Jun 13, 2018 1:32 pm 
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hobbling over to computer to add a few photos...

Trout Creek crossing
Trout Creek crossing
Azurite from about 7300'
Azurite from about 7300'
The traverse
The traverse
Heading up
Heading up
Some geology going on
Some geology going on
Some class 4
Some class 4
Getting back to the right gully
Getting back to the right gully
Summit shot
Summit shot
On the return - rubber boa?
On the return - rubber boa?

Link to summit photosphere

This was a great trip and the peak itself wasn't nearly as bad as I expected.  Thanks for all the planning, waiting around for me to catch up, kicking steps, etc.
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Mikey
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PostWed Jun 13, 2018 4:27 pm 
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Matt and Nicolas
Great photos!  What cameras are you using?
Thanks, Mike
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Matt Lemke
High on the Outdoors



Joined: 15 Jul 2010
Posts: 1812 | TRs
Location: My van
Matt Lemke
High on the Outdoors
PostWed Jun 13, 2018 4:28 pm 
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Mikey wrote:
Matt and Nicolas
Great photos!  What cameras are you using?
Thanks, Mike

I use the Sony rx100

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The Pacific coast to the Great Plains = my playground!!!
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http://www.lemkeclimbs.com
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Mike Collins
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Mike Collins
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PostThu Jun 14, 2018 5:56 am 
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The snake is a rubber boa, the northernmost representative of the constrictor family. The head and tail tip look similar with both being tapered. A defensive ploy used by the boa is to wiggle the tip of he tail which lures the unsuspecting mouse to attempt a bite. It is a trap though for the constricting death to follow. It is the only tactic it has to use so is doing so when you happened by.
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Dave Creeden
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Dave Creeden
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PostThu Jun 14, 2018 8:05 pm 
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Matt,

Not that it does you any good now, but here is a link to a report I posted in 2015 on the trail maintenance that I was doing at the time, which included the West Fork of Methow River trail.

http://www.nwhikers.net/forums/viewtopic.php?t=8016413&highlight=methow+river+trail

The last time I did any maintenance on the trail was in the summer of 2016, which was an exercise in futility. I spent two days working on the trail. After the first day I returned to my camp spot next to Trout Creek. During the night a storm came through with thunder, lightning and strong winds. When I got up the next morning and hiked back up the trail to resume clearing it, there were numerous trees that were blow down over the trail section, which I had cleared the previous day.

The fire was in 2003. In 2006 I climbed Ballard with the aid of bike using the West Fork of Methow River Trail. I tried to use my bike to climb Holliway in 2011, but had to stash my bike soon after crossing Trout Creek due to numerous blowdowns and brush. I still managed to climb Holliway in a long day.

BTW in about 1998 three us us went into the area with split climbing agendas. My two friends wanted to climb Azurite and I to make an attempt Ballard. I convinced them to ascent from Glacier Pass to the saddle between Azurite and Ballard and to hang a left turn (going southward), then curl around the toe of the west ridge of Azurite, just below the summit. Then go straight up. It worked better for them, rather than going to Azurite Pass, then traversing up trying to nail the route to the true summit.

Meanwhile I struck off northward, traversing on the west slopes of Ballard. I go stymied by a huge gully which would have required me to give up over 1,000 feet of elevation. The south ridge of Ballard was not appealing, so I backed off.
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