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Eric Gilbertson
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Eric Gilbertson
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PostWed Mar 06, 2019 5:16 pm 
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Golden Horn (8,366ft)

Eric and Tyler
March 2-3, 2019

Saturday – 3:30am leave Yellowjacket Sno Park, ski 19.5 miles to camp at upper snowy lake by 3:30pm.
Sunday – Summit Golden Horn at 7am, ski back to car (22 miles total)

Tyler and I headed out of Seattle Friday evening and made it to the Yellowjacket Sno Park in Mazama by 11:30pm that night. We slept in the car til 3am, then got packed up and started moving by 3:30am.

Our planned route was to ski up the Methow River Trail, meet up with the PCT, then bushwhack up to upper snow lake. The route was long but avoided avy terrain. I had previously climbed Golden Horn in July 2018 approaching from Rainy Pass, so was familiar with the route on the upper mountain. During that trip I had also hiked along the PCT to climb Azurite nearby, so was also familiar with half of the approach from Mazama. I recalled everything should be easy to ski, though I was unsure about the Methow River Trail. I had read reports from the summer that it was unmaintained, so our speed over that section was uncertain.

the route
the route
skiing up the Methow River
skiing up the Methow River
occasional water crossings
occasional water crossings

The first 3.5 miles of the route was on flat snowmobile trails to the trailhead, and to ease our travel I had two plastic sleds which we pulled our packs in. This was much easier than carrying them on our backs. Within an hour we made it to the Methow River trailhead and surprisingly there was a skin track heading up the trail. We ditched our sleds in the woods and followed the skin track for a few miles until it led south across the river to some glades on a slope. We intended to go much farther, so started breaking our own route.

We started following the trail, but it eventually climbed high on south-facing crusty slopes that were slow to traverse. Luckily the river valley below was very flat, so we dropped down to find more powdery snow and broke trail there. The snow was much more consolidated than the previous weekend and we made fast progress.

We mostly stayed in the valley, occasionally meeting back up with the trail, and making one water crossing that required taking our skis off. After a few hours we reached the PCT intersection and decided to stay in the river valley instead of climbing steeply up the right side to follow the trail. This was my favorite section of the approach. The West Fork Methow River was filled in deep enough with snow to ski directly in the middle of the steeply-walled and narrow valley.

the valley below the PCT
the valley below the PCT
skiing up the PCT
skiing up the PCT
our camp at upper snowy lake
our camp at upper snowy lake

Eventually we left the river and met back up with the trail near Jet Creek. From there we followed the trail up to 5,500ft, then left the trail and bushwhacked through open forest directly to Upper Snowy Lake. It was 3:30pm and would have been tempting to tag the summit then, but it was snowing and visibility was very low. We could not see Golden Horn from camp, though I remember it being a great view in the summer time.

We quickly set up the tent, cooked some dinner, and were asleep around sunset. The forecast was for mostly sunny weather the next morning, albeit cold. It was supposed to drop to around 0F at the lake, so likely about -5F on the summit. Our plan for the next day was to try to reach the summit block at sunrise. This would allow us to do the technical climbing in the daylight and maybe even get a great view.

We were up at 4am the next morning and moving by 5am. Unfortunately the clear weather hadn’t rolled in yet, and it was still snowing. We essentially navigated by GPS and my memory from July up to the east ridge of Golden Horn, then followed the ridge. Eventually around 7,800ft the snow cover got very thin with rocks protruding, so we ditched the skis and continued in crampons.

nearing the summit
nearing the summit
climbing the summit block
climbing the summit block
undercast sunrise with Tower Mountain sticking out
undercast sunrise with Tower Mountain sticking out

Just before 7am we climbed up the last steep gully and scrambled over to the summit block. Even though I had been there before, it took a bit of thinking to recall exactly how to get to the base of the climb. I can see how some people have gotten off track and climbed the false summit instead of the true summit.

Tyler wanted to lead the summit block, so I gave him a few cams and we roped up with our 30m rope. In July I remember the route hardly requiring a rope, except for one mantle move at the top, but now when it was covered in snow, I was wearing ski boots and crampons, and it was below zero, the route seemed much more difficult.

Tyler climbed up to the base of the mantle move, stuck in a cam, then tried the mantle. It was about forehead height and basically required doing a pullup, which was difficult with a pack on. So he left the pack at the cam and mantled up. I followed, passing up his pack then mantling up to the top.

Amazingly the sun was just rising and we were surrounded by undercast. Only the tips of the tallest peaks above 8,000ft were sticking out. Tower Mountain was a rocky island sticking out to the southeast, and Azurite poked out to the northwest. It was windy on top and very cold, probably -5F.

on the summit
on the summit
rapping off the summit block
rapping off the summit block
hiking back to our skis along the summit ridge
hiking back to our skis along the summit ridge

We soon located the rap anchor on top and rapped back down to our stashed poles. We then retraced our tracks back to our skis and splitboard, but by that time we were back below the clouds and visibility was again low. The ski and snowboard back to camp was amazing, with soft snow and fun turns through the trees.

At camp we quickly packed up and headed down by 8:30am. We generally retraced our ascent route back to the PCT, then skied down to the bridge crossing the West Fork Methow. Tyler had a bit more difficult time on a snowboard, but managed to propel himself across the flat sections with his trekking poles.

skiing and snowboarding back to camp
skiing and snowboarding back to camp
I've never seen a tree this coated in snow before
I've never seen a tree this coated in snow before
pulling sleds back to the sno park
pulling sleds back to the sno park

After the bridge we switched to skins because the route was mostly flat from there. We followed our tracks back, making a few improvements on the route, and made it back to our sleds by 3:15pm. From there it was a quick ski back to the car. A few snowmobilers passed by, and they were impressed we’d made it all the way in to Golden Horn.

We got back to the car at 4:30pm to start the long drive back to Seattle.

If you know of other winter ascents of Golden Horn I would be interested to hear about them.

Link to more pictures
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Jeff
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Joined: 18 Aug 2008
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Location: Someone get me out of Everett, WA
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PostWed Mar 06, 2019 5:31 pm 
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That mantle takes some faith between rubber and dry rock. I can't imagine doing it in crampons.
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Jake Robinson
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PostWed Mar 06, 2019 11:46 pm 
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Ok...but why didn't you tag Azurite and Tower while you were in there? You're getting soft, Eric... wink.gif

Amazing effort guys!
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Matt Lemke
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Joined: 15 Jul 2010
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PostThu Mar 07, 2019 6:43 am 
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Either you or Tyler have the exact same tent I do! Does it smile like mine wink.gif

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The Pacific coast to the Great Plains = my playground!!!
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See my website at:
http://www.lemkeclimbs.com
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Stefan
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PostThu Mar 07, 2019 12:55 pm 
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That's a lot of time in the dark.  Big effort I see!  wow.

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Art is an adventure.
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slabbyd
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PostThu Mar 14, 2019 2:30 pm 
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On a Split Board none the less!  Holy Moly!
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