Forum Index > Trip Reports > Mount Logan via Douglas Glacier, March 12-14, 2021
Previous :: Next Topic  
Author Message
Eric Gilbertson
Member
Member


Joined: 04 Jul 2018
Posts: 73 | TRs
Location: Seattle
Eric Gilbertson
  Top

Member
PostMon Mar 15, 2021 7:30 pm 
Reply to topic Reply with quote
Mount Logan (9,087ft)

March 12-14, 2021

42 miles, 9,500ft gain

Eric and Ryan

For the first time in the past month a weekend weather window lined up with stable snow conditions in the north cascades and we decided to go for a big peak. Mount Logan checks all the boxes for a classic cascades ski mountaineering ascent long approach through old-growth forest, glacier travel, rock climbing in ski boots, and many thousand feet of ski descent. Its also a nine thousand footer, and the thirteenth tallest peak in Washington.

Ascending the Douglas Glacier
Ascending the Douglas Glacier
The route
The route
Thunder Creek trailhead
Thunder Creek trailhead

As far as Id researched Mt Logan has been climbed just once before in winter, and that was via the Fremont Glacier route in December 1981 (Crofoot, Hill, Ness). Ryan and I had previously climbed the Fremont Glacier route in the summer and I was skeptical that it was the best winter route, especially in a La Nina winter. On the upper mountain the route involves traversing on narrow exposed ledges that I feared would get filled in with snow and become sketchy in the winter.

I found records of several April ascents via Thunder Creek and the Banded Glacier route, but that route has long stretches of slopes greater than 35 degrees and is very cracked up, so also not great for a winter ascent. One early May ascent approached from Easy Pass and climbed the Douglas Glacier route. The Douglas Glacier route generally sticks to low-angle slopes and seemed like the best choice for the winter. Ive read groups climbing this route in the summer have recently encountered difficult bushwhacking in slide alder in the upper Douglas Creek, but based on recent satellite images that looked to be all covered in snow now.

Almost to skinnable snow
Almost to skinnable snow
Cougar?
Cougar?
Lots of blowdowns
Lots of blowdowns

The two options for approaching the Douglas in winter are to snowmobile to the Easy Pass trailhead  and then do a ~30 mile round trip ski, or drive to the Thunder Creek trailhead and do a ~42 mile round trip hike and ski. The Easy Pass route has the disadvantage that it has more elevation gain going up and over Easy Pass, and requires crossing a steep open slope >35 degrees on the south side of Easy Pass. The Thunder Creek approach is longer, but many of the miles are on flat low-elevation trail that appeared to be below snowline so would go quickly. It also sticks to low angle slopes, with no intermediate passes to go over.

We decided on the Douglas Glacier route from Thunder Creek, and planned to summit Saturday before some bad weather came in Sunday morning. We would bring standard glacier gear plus a light rock rack for the summit block. The final 30m to the summit is 4th class in the summer and a bit exposed, and we expected if it was covered in rime, snow, and ice we would appreciate a rope.

Friday evening we met up at the Colonial campground and were heading up the trail by 4pm. The lower sections of trail were melted to ground and we hiked in trail runners and boots carrying skis and ski boots on our back. Progress was fast for the first three miles, and then intermittent snow started slowing us down. By mile 4.7 we ditched the trail runners and optimistically put the skis on. There were long stretches where skiing made sense, but still many melted-out sections where we had to take off skis. Also, after about mile six we encountered very frequent and long sections of massive blowdowns. After about twenty transitions we finally strapped the skis back on our packs to make it easier to crawl under, over, around, and through the blowdowns.

Bivy at Logan Creek
Bivy at Logan Creek
Fisher Creek Sunday morning
Fisher Creek Sunday morning
Crossing Fisher Creek
Crossing Fisher Creek

The blowdowns ended after Tricouni camp and we started skinning up steeper switchbacks to Junction Camp. By 12:30am we reached Logan Creek and called it quits for the night. That was close enough to the summit that we could reasonably do a camp-to-camp summit push, so didnt need to push any farther. We threw out bivy sacks and were soon asleep.

The rest was short, though, and after three hours of napping we packed back up and continued up the trail. As usual it was a bit difficult finding a winter trail in the dark, and I tried to use my GPS watch to help. I started out following some fresh bear tracks, but ended up going high and sidehilling. I think we lost some time but we eventually dropped back down to the creek and regained the trail.

Douglas Creek
Douglas Creek
Ragged Ridge
Ragged Ridge
Upper Douglas Creek
Upper Douglas Creek

As dawn began we crossed over Fisher Creek on a good snow bridge next to a destroyed hiker bridge. We continued up the north side of the creek through mostly-open forest until we reached the confluence with Douglas Creek around 7:30am. Ive read about some groups having difficulty crossing Fisher Creek here, but we had no problem in winter with plenty of snowbridge options.

The forest on the south side remained open and we soon found ourselves out in the open looking up at the Douglas Glacier. Stoke increased dramatically and I quickly forgot about my sleep deprivation. We skinned up icy snow to the pillbox and then zig zagged around it to the right. There was evidence of old avy debris, but it was well-covered and smoothed over with more recent snow.

Past the pillbox we came to a routefinding decision. Our planned route was to hook way to the east and ascend gradual slopes wrapping around to the Douglas Glacier. We had also read reports of a more direct snow ramp bisecting the headwall. With the very stable snow conditions we opted to take the more direct and hopefully quicker snow ramp variation. The ramp was hidden behind a rock outcrop at first but became obvious as we got closer.

The snow ramp
The snow ramp
Climbing the headwall
Climbing the headwall
Cresting the headwall
Cresting the headwall

The ramp trended up and left and looked just about as steep as going directly up the headwall. I believe later season the direct variation is more difficult, but in winter with it covered in deep snow it didnt look too bad. It was too steep to skin up, though. So we put skis on our packs, got out our ice axes, and Ryan led the way kicking steps up steeply. In my mind the distinction between skiing and ski-mountaineering happened on that headwall. Any time Im carrying my skis up something while wearing crampons and using an ice axe it automatically turns into ski mountaineering.

The wind picked up on the headwall and it quickly drifted our tracks over. As we crested the top at 5,800ft we put the skis back on and roped up. I took over the lead and went straight up towards the flat bench at 7,000ft. By now we were in the sun and the powdery snow was getting sticky. I had anticipated this and rubbed skin wax on my ski skins the day before. But unfortunately on the approach Friday night I had been a bit careless about walking over short dirt patches in my skis, and I think I rubbed it off. The result was snow was glopping up significantly on my skis. I had to either bang them with my pole each step, kick down my heel each step, or trudge forward with an extra five pounds on each foot.

Starting up the glacier
Starting up the glacier
Views of Goode and Storm King
Views of Goode and Storm King
Approaching the swale
Approaching the swale

Ryan eventually took over and I felt like I was really dragging with the glop sapping my energy. But above 8,000ft the snow cooled enough that the glopping ended. We made it to the base of the swale below the Banded-Douglas col around 1pm and ditched skis there. Id read of groups skiing from the false summit in the spring, but the headwall above us looked too steep and icy for my liking, and I thought the skiing would likely be a bit exposed for my liking up higher.

We decided to climb up the leftmost edge of the swale, which looked the shortest. Ryan kicked steps up the ever-steepening snow and ice slope. It actually got very steep, and as we topped out we both agreed wed find a better way down. From there we took turns kicking steps up until we did a small rock scramble up to the false summit.

Climbing the swale
Climbing the swale
Up to the false summit
Up to the false summit
Looking over at the true summit
Looking over at the true summit

I quickly recognized the true summit as the next maximum along the ridge to the north. It was useful to have already climbed Logan before to know exactly where the summit is. In the summer I had been a bit confused since multiple points are of similar height, but now we definitely agreed which one was the summit.

From the false summit we did a short down-scramble on bare rocks and then a snow traverse to the col below the summit. In the summer Id easily scrambled up without a rope, but now the face was covered in unconsolidated snow and rime, and I was happy to use a rope. I was already racked up so volunteered to lead. The climbing was easy, but the snow very loose so footholds were not very trustworthy and there was some exposure below. I managed to get a few cams and a nut in after excavating some cracks, and soon pulled myself up over the chockstone below the summit. Then I marched up and slung the summit horn.

Climbing up to the summit (photo by Ryan)
Climbing up to the summit (photo by Ryan)
On the summit
On the summit
On the summit
On the summit

I soon belayed Ryan up and we both sat down admiring the views. We could see Goode and Storm King just to the south, the Ragged Ridge to the north, and Buckner, Boston, Forbidden, and Eldorado to the west. I half expected to see skiers on Eldorado with the great weather and snow conditions, but couldnt make out any tracks. We hung out for a while in the sun, then started our retreat.

Summit views
Summit views

Our route wasnt great for rappelling since it was a diagonal ascent, and our 30m rope wasnt long enough anyways. But Ryan had left all the gear in place on the climb so I just belayed him down and he clipped gear as he went. Then when he got to the col he belayed me down. It was a bit insecure downclimbing the loose snow and rock but there was plenty of gear in so it was very safe.

Back at the col we packed back up, then scrambled back over the false summit and downclimbed back to the swale. This time we walked over to the low point of the swale a bit farther north and downclimbed there were it wasnt quite as run out or steep.

Downclimbing from the summit
Downclimbing from the summit
Downclimbing from the false summit
Downclimbing from the false summit
Downclimbing the swale
Downclimbing the swale

By 4pm we were back in our skis and began our 5,000ft descent. The glacier had gone back in the shade and by now the slushy snow had unfortunately developed a breakable sun crust. This made the first 500ft very challenging, requiring either side slipping or jump turning. But as soon as we turned onto slight north aspects the snow turned to fun powder. We shredded turns in a traversing descent, going all the way to the east end of the glacier. Our ascent route had been steep enough that we were worried about descending it if it had iced up. But the east side of the Douglass was all low angle.

We wrapped around back to the 5,000ft basin in great powder, then skied down to the edge of the trees at  3,800ft. What had taken over four hours to ascend we had descended in about 40 minutes. But the terrain flattened out considerably in the trees, so we switched back to skins there. It was easy going following our skin track back, and we eventually made it back to our bivy sacks by 8:30pm for a 16 hour day.

Last summit views
Last summit views
Skiing down
Skiing down
Skiing down
Skiing down

We bivied again that night, then were up and moving by sunrise Sunday. We skinned to a bit past junction camp, then changed to ski mode and skied turns down almost to Tricouni Camp. When we hit blowdowns we just saddled the skis on our packs and started booting out. This went a lot faster than doing all the transitions wed done on the way in. After a few hours of crawling over and under trees we reached our shoes stashed in the middle of the trail.

Hiking out
Hiking out
Lots of blowdowns
Lots of blowdowns
More blowdowns
More blowdowns

It was an easy hike out from there, and we got back to the car around 2:30pm, just 30 minutes before it started raining. I drove up to scout out the Ross Dam staging area for potential future trips, then made it home at a reasonable hour.

Link to more pictures.
Back to top
View user's profile Search for posts by this user Send private message Send e-mail Reply to topic Reply with quote
iron
Member
Member


Joined: 10 Aug 2008
Posts: 6171 | TRs

iron
  Top

Member
PostMon Mar 15, 2021 10:49 pm 
Reply to topic Reply with quote
really nice! a little bit of everything. amazing how small you guys can pack for trips like this. i remember seeing the same thing on hummel's trip in the pickets years ago. i suppose the known bivy in the snow with a simple tarp helps to keep weight/bulk down.
Back to top
View user's profile Search for posts by this user Send private message Send e-mail Reply to topic Reply with quote
puzzlr
Mid Fork Rocks



Joined: 13 Feb 2007
Posts: 6835 | TRs
Location: Stuck in the middle
puzzlr
  Top

Mid Fork Rocks
PostMon Mar 15, 2021 11:14 pm 
Reply to topic Reply with quote
Another one! You're knocking these off like it's prime summer climbing season. Nice work.

Eric Gilbertson wrote:
Downclimbing the swale
Downclimbing the swale

This is an amazing photo but I can't quite figure out the geometry. It looks like the climber is standing on a vertical cliff.

--------------
Mid Fork Rocks flickr
Back to top
View user's profile Search for posts by this user Send private message Send e-mail Reply to topic Reply with quote
Stefan
Member
Member


Joined: 17 Dec 2001
Posts: 4669 | TRs

Stefan
  Top

Member
PostTue Mar 16, 2021 8:51 am 
Reply to topic Reply with quote
you make this stuff look easy!

--------------
Art is an adventure.
Back to top
View user's profile Search for posts by this user Send private message Send e-mail Reply to topic Reply with quote
williswall
seeking tailwind



Joined: 30 Sep 2007
Posts: 1804 | TRs
Location: Now Undertermined
williswall
  Top

seeking tailwind
PostTue Mar 16, 2021 12:48 pm 
Reply to topic Reply with quote
You guys rock!

--------------
It's not the getting old that's hard, it's staying awake long enough to enjoy it: William F Pitsenbarger
williswall.com
hikethewonderlandtrail.com
Back to top
View user's profile Search for posts by this user Send private message Reply to topic Reply with quote
geyer
Member
Member


Joined: 23 May 2017
Posts: 393 | TRs
Location: Seattle
geyer
  Top

Member
PostTue Mar 16, 2021 4:55 pm 
Reply to topic Reply with quote
I've wanted to ski Logan ever since one of my favorite CC trip reports was written! I bet this one will inspire a few more people. Man this looks sweet
I say this with all sincerity - you're killing me  lol.gif

iron wrote:
really nice! a little bit of everything. amazing how small you guys can pack for trips like this. i remember seeing the same thing on hummel's trip in the pickets years ago. i suppose the known bivy in the snow with a simple tarp helps to keep weight/bulk down.

hummel packing 70 lbs of camera gear might have something to do with it...
Back to top
View user's profile Search for posts by this user Send private message Send e-mail Reply to topic Reply with quote
Eric Gilbertson
Member
Member


Joined: 04 Jul 2018
Posts: 73 | TRs
Location: Seattle
Eric Gilbertson
  Top

Member
PostTue Mar 16, 2021 8:49 pm 
Reply to topic Reply with quote
Quote:
amazing how small you guys can pack for trips like this

Yes, it's definitely important to pack as light as possible. Bivy sacks save a lot of weight over tents, and very light sleeping bags or quilts help too. My pack still felt pretty heavy though.

Quote:
This is an amazing photo but I can't quite figure out the geometry. It looks like the climber is standing on a vertical cliff.

Maybe this other picture gives a better perspective. The col was basically flat then the swale was very steep except one spot we found that only required a short section of downclimbing.



Quote:
I've wanted to ski Logan ever since one of my favorite CC trip reports was written!

It's definitely up there among my favorite ski descents. It would probably be a good trip to go in there from easy pass as soon as highway 20 opens in spring and before the slide alder melts out down low. That would avoid all the blowdowns on Thunder Creek that might not get cleared til summer.
Back to top
View user's profile Search for posts by this user Send private message Send e-mail Reply to topic Reply with quote
   All times are GMT - 8 Hours
Forum Index > Trip Reports > Mount Logan via Douglas Glacier, March 12-14, 2021
  Happy Birthday blue_tuberosa, ASBrauer, jabenoi!
Jump to:   
Search this topic:

You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot vote in polls in this forum
You cannot attach files in this forum
You can download files in this forum
   Use Disclaimer Powered by phpBB Privacy Policy