Joined: 20 Feb 2007
Posts: 2810 | TRs
Thunderstorm looms over Hurry-up
A couple of years ago Eric E. (raising3hikers) put together a fantastic list of the Top 500 peaks in Washington with 400' of clean prominence, the lowest being 7177' in elevation.
As I'm always looking to get to the top of mountains, the higher the better, this list is a great resource for finding new places to go. So I put out a request for partners who might be interested in climbing obscure 7000' peaks in the Cascades, and Tauschia was game to head up to Cascade Pass and give a peak I'd been near a couple of times but had not climbed a go. Tauschia hadn't climbed in the area before, so this would be new terrain for her.
Day 1: Up the Cache Glacier to Cache Col, and a storm forces a decision
The trail was in its usual fine shape as we approached the pass, and the rugged peaks just to the south came into view.
On the way to Cascade Pass and Cascade Peak
There was some haze in the air from the forest fires when we reached the pass.
On the trail, Magic beyond
Hazy Pelton and Magic from Cascade Pass
I'd been here five times previously to climb various peaks, though the last time was 7 years ago on an inadvertently epic trip to do Magic. This trip was to be a return to the scene of our adventure, hopefully with a bit less of an epic outcome. We hoped.
Starting up the climber's trail that begins the Ptarmigan Traverse,
Cascade Peak and the beginning of the traverse
The start of the traverse
we quickly gained several hundred feet to fine views of the area, if a bit hazy from the smoke.
The trail was mostly snow free for the first mile, and the usual eroded gully was just as unpleasant and sketchy to cross as I remembered, not helped by the fact that I had decided to wear light boots for this trip instead of proper mountaineering boots.
Another half mile or so, now on intermittent snow and rock/green stuff, we reached the overlook and the first view of the Cache Glacier,
First view of Cache Col and the Cache Glacier
Gendarmes on the traverse
and even better views of the peaks across the valley.
Dropping the hundred feet on the path to full-on snow, we put on crampons for the climb up the Cache Glacier. The snow was in great condition as we ascended the right side of the glacier; the Cache is a fairly benign glacier and we did not bring a rope for this trip.
Tauschia led up and soon neared the col.
Tauschia approaching Cache Col
The snow crest at the top of the col didn't look quite as dramatic as when Matt and I were here to do Magic, so I was hopeful the snow would require a bit less gymnastics to bypass than on that trip.
I watched Tauschia as she easily kicked steps directly up the snow,
Tauschia climbing the snow plug
and over the snowbank.
Good! Looked very straightforward this time, and it was. I reached the wall and put my pole against the snow for perspective.
Pole for perspective
This is the third time I'd crossed Cache Col (really have to do the Ptarmigan some day...), and each time has been different. In late August 2005 to do Formidable the snowbank wasn't as steep but was cut shortly below by a crevasse, necessitating a bootaxe belay coming back--in the dark, on a trip even more epic than Magic. For Magic, we went around to the left and straddled rock and snow to bridge the gap. This time was the easiest, about 10' of front-pointing to gain the crest.
Tauschia checked out the bivy spot to the left Matt and I had used on the Magic trip--a truly gorgeous spot, but rather small--then we went up on the right to see what the camping would be like up there.
Turns out there is more room on the right, including a spot with a rock wall just big enough for one not very large tent. So we set up camp here and looked at the views some more,
The Torment-Forbidden Traverse and Sahale from Cache Col
and then started to fret as the storm clouds began to build to the southeast.
Hurry-up looks steep
The clouds kept building, and the wind direction had them coming directly for us. The chance of thunderstorms had been forecast at only 20%, but it was clear this was going to be much closer to 100% for our area.
Now we had to make a decision. We had three choices: stay put; move camp; or bail.
Staying put was not a great option. Being on a high ridge is one of the worse places to be in a thunderstorm, as electricity often travels along rock crests, and the chance of T-storms was forecast to last through the night.
Bailing was a possibility, though I was loath to tank the trip if the storm turned out to be a transient one, or if the wind direction were to shift and push it away.
Moving camp seemed to be the most palatable option. But first we wanted to see if the storm continued to approach, and then make the call.
Initially the late afternoon storm did not look good,
Thunderstorm looms over Hurry-up
Spider and Formidable
as thunder rolled and I saw one lightning strike beyond Spider Mtn. Clouds continued to build to the east as well.
Clouds over Booker
However, as we watched and prepped for moving camp or bailing, the wind shifted direction from a northwest bearing to a more westerly direction as the storm seemed to stall beyond the peaks.
The storm stalls
Tauschia and I continued to observe and consider options. We decided that staying on the ridge was not a good option, and finally I said "What's life if you don't take a few chances?" and we decided to move camp down to Kool-aid Lake.
The trail down to the lake was mostly free of snow. It had been 13 years since I'd previously descended the trail all the way down, and I'd forgotten the chossy section about midway down. Not too bad, and that led to the nice meadow traverse to the lake.
On the trail to Kool-aid Lake and a look at tomorrow's route
Choosing the farther of the two good camping spots, just above the lake, we had the area all to ourselves as the clouds moved off and the sun set on a very welcome calm evening.
Sunset from camp
No storms passed through during the night, and no thunder was heard even in the distance.
Day 2: Hurry-up Peak and out
The day dawned calm and cool. We had gotten a good look at the route above the lake up the NW flank of Hurry-up Peak and saw that we could connect snow bands to the rock above, so that's what we did.
Our snow route on Hurry-up
Tauschia, being the wiser one who'd worn proper boots, led up the excellent snow to the uppermost snow band.
Tauschia on the snow traverse
We knew we'd have to traverse this horizontal snow to the right to bypass the cliffy rock directly above. Though there was some steep snow to cross, this went well and soon we were on the West Face of Hurry-up.
West Face rock meadows on Hurry-up
Morning light on Formidable:
The face is fairly wide, with numerous options for staying on rock or on the greener terrain between the two rock bands. Tauschia went left of the green stuff while I went right so we'd not be in each other's line of fire if a rock were to let loose.
The meadow route to start,
soon became mostly rock and fairly steep, but with little exposure. Definitely class 3 terrain as I found myself using my hands quite a bit to clamber up the route. Every time I encountered a steeper bit I was able to make small adjustments right or left to find easier moves.
Eventually I approached a minor gendarme, and decided to go right to see if the terrain was easier than the chossier rock to the left.
A look around the corner and...
...voila! more meadows to the ridge
To my surprise rounding the corner led to an easy open meadow to the more rocky terrain leading up to the ridge. Tauschia reached the loose but short gully below the notch on the ridge, so she climbed this (more class 3) and I followed once she had cleared it.
The small notch to gain the ridge
Now on the ridge, it was a combination of class 2/3 scrambling to the summit block, and more class 3 to the top of Hurry-up Peak, 7821'.
Summit of Hurry-up, 7821'
This peak is not close to any other higher peak, so we were in a great place for terrific views of the surrounding area, with peaks literally in every direction.
Sahale, Boston, Ripsaw Ridge, Horseshoe, Buckner
The North Cascades
The southern summit seemed to be nearly the same height, so I thought I'd go take a look.
The southern peak
A bit of somewhat exposed class 3 got me to a point where I could see the route looked more complicated than it had from the summit, so I called my recon good and turned back.
Carefully working the upper face to mitigate rockfall, we descended the ridge and gully and decided to take Tauschia's route on the north side of the meadow band down on the rock. We worked well as a team to keep from kicking rocks down until the route widened and we were able to spread out and take separate routes.
Lower we could see various well-known features of the area.
Descending, Red Ledges upper left
Descent, Kool-aid Lake below
Reaching camp, we packed up and shortly after leaving Kool-aid Lake encountered the first people we'd seen since leaving Cascade Pass the day before, five climbers hoping to continue on the Ptarmigan Traverse. The most recent beta they'd received was the crossing of the Red Ledge was now more difficult as the snow bridge at the beginning of the ledge had just collapsed.
Traversing the meadows and climbing up the choss, mostly via the climber's path or even a bit easier terrain on goat paths to climber's left,
Choss above Kool-aid Lake
we reached Cache Col and downclimbed the snow bank,
Tauschia and Mix-up Peak from Cache Col
then out the usual path to Cascade Pass,
The traverse to Cascade Pass, Eldorado in the distance
and back down the much too indirect trail to the parking lot.
The way back
Tauschia helped me out by taking some of my gear, as I've still not recovered from the viral bronchitis I've been dealing with for the past two months that has slowed me down considerably on uphill terrain. Thanks Tauschia, I really appreciated the offer to help me out.
This was an interesting trip in a beautiful area. Returning to a route I'd not been to in over half a decade, there was an intriguing combination of the familiar and the new, as I'd forgotten some of the details of the approach though I remembered the gist of it from the last time I was here.
Tauschia was a fine partner, and we climbed a rather chossy route on Hurry-up well together, making good decisions to prevent any rockfall. We might have gotten a bit lucky in dodging the weather; if we'd been much farther east there's a good chance we would have had to bail on Saturday. Overall, a good trip on a rarely climbed mountain.
15 miles, 6400' gain
Eric J. Johnson