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rubywrangler
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rubywrangler
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PostTue Aug 31, 2021 9:57 pm 
Julia and I were hoping for a quick overnight so we could be back in town by dinnertime Sunday. This was not that. We both thought it was harder than any part of the Bailey Range traverse! I'm sure the lingering bacterial infection in my gut didn't help.

The first 2 miles took us almost 2 hours, and almost a mile of that was a road walk. huh.gif  My guess is that the fisherman's trail to Bluff lake has deteriorated a bit since the last report on this route (r3h's in 2014). The first half mile of trail was particularly bad, with one huge blowdown that took us awhile to work our way through. We found a better way (below it) on the way out.  The trail is obviously being maintained to some extent. There are several handlines in place and it is still flagged, although a good number of flags are on the ground now. We tried to put a few back in key places. On the approach, we lost the trail totally in the swampy meadow below Bluff lake, but it was pretty easy to follow in the other direction. There is still no sign of a trail between Bluff and Cliff so we ended up doing some brush bashing in that area. Thankfully there were huge salmonberries and huckleberries to distract us. We reached Cliff lake after a demoralizing ~6 hours, and the excellent camp mentioned by Boo (~5400') an hour later, after a short detour to fill up water.  There is a little stream that runs right by the excellent campsite, so the detour was actually unnecessary. The campsite has nice views of the Darrington area peaks and 4 bars of LTE, so I spent a few minutes watching the Katmai bearcams after dinner. Excited to head back there in a couple weeks!

huge annoying blowdown
huge annoying blowdown
trail work
trail work
one of many handlines
one of many handlines
yum
yum
bluff
bluff
chaval
chaval
pugh, white chuck
pugh, white chuck

On Sunday, I hit the snooze button a few extra times and we headed for Chaval around 6:45am. We planned to take the Beckey west route (also iron and Carrie's route, also described by a few folks on summitpost). From camp, we traversed at 5500-5600 and then traversed below a big buttress to get around the first cliffy rib. We saw a bear ahead of us and attempted to follow his/her route over the next cliff band. (This was dumb, bears are way better climbers than Julia and I!) We were stymied and had to backtrack and drop below it. Then we made a descending traverse to 5280 as described by iron, but did not find an obvious way through the next rib. We spent way too much time looking for the "best" route, then just gave up and worked our way along the rib until we found a place that was not terrifyingly steep to descend. The easiest route is much more obvious on the return - there is a ramp leading to a mossy ledge, around 5300'. From the ledge, ascend about 10' to the ridge proper and then it's fairly easy to descend to the west side.  On the approach, once you get to around 5300, I think the best strategy would be to make your way to the east side of the talus field and then head up to the rib and look for the mossy ledge below you and to the left.

After crossing the cliff band we traversed at ~5200 until we hit a dry, mossy stream gully which we ascended to another talus field, but I think it would be quicker and less brushy to contour around the cliff bands as much as possible (this is what we did on the way back). Once we hit the talus field, the rest of the route was wide open across huge boulders and talus, then heather slopes, and we quickly made it to the basin below chaval's west ridge.  Julia wasn't feeling well so she decided to wait there while I headed to the summit.  I climbed up to the west ridge, then ascended the obvious ramp, which looked a little intimidating from below (steep wet moss) but was actually fine. At the top of the ramp, I headed left up the ridge, over a false summit, and then it was a short, exposed class 3 climb to the top.  It was about 11am by this point. Since Julia was waiting below I didn't stay long.  Just signed the register (last entry was Ozzy and Hans), snapped a few photos, waved in the general direction of Chaval lake in case Tom was there, and headed down.

traversed high near buttress in the background then dropped down to get around cliff band in the middle
traversed high near buttress in the background then dropped down to get around cliff band in the middle
finally nearing the basin beneath the west ridge
finally nearing the basin beneath the west ridge
basin beneath west ridge
basin beneath west ridge
view from the west ridge
view from the west ridge
the ramp
the ramp
summit block
summit block
chaval lake and beyond
chaval lake and beyond
chaval east ridge
chaval east ridge
snowking melting glacier lake
snowking melting glacier lake
chaval lake
chaval lake

We made much better time back to camp (2 hrs vs 4) and then much better time to the car (4.5 hrs vs 7), but still totally blew our "back by dinner" goal. Julia basically had to pull an all-nighter to prep for a Grand Canyon river trip she's assisting on this week and make a 6am flight, while I slept like a baby. Sorry Julia!  biggrin.gif

looking back on the route
looking back on the route
camp
camp
cliff
cliff
"route" around the big blowdown goes downhill and under the log!
"route" around the big blowdown goes downhill and under the log!

Approach note: we followed Boo's driving directions in r3h's 2014 report.  After turning off of Grade Cr Rd, there are many drainage? ditches in the road. We had no issues on the way in but scraped the bottom of the CR-V several times on the way out. So, high-ish clearance recommended.

neek, Prosit, Route Loser, raising3hikers, Tom, ozzy, contour5, RichP, ONELUV1, Chief Joseph  awilsondc
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ozzy
The hard way



Joined: 30 Jul 2015
Posts: 380 | TRs | Pics
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ozzy
The hard way
PostWed Sep 01, 2021 7:58 pm 
Nice! Chaval is a tough one to get...that's probably what makes it awesome lol! Cheers and sweet pics too! cheers.gif

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“I don’t know what’s gonna happen, but I wanna have my kicks before the whole shithouse goes up in flames”-Jim
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Tom
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PostWed Sep 01, 2021 9:28 pm 
rubywrangler wrote:
chaval lake and beyond
chaval lake and beyond

Dang, so nice, love zooming in the 5K version of this shot, what a phenomenal view!  Wish I had been rafting Chaval Lake on Sunday for you to holler down but I was a day late and a dollar short from a weather standpoint.

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Backpacker Joe
NWH Joe-Bob



Joined: 16 Dec 2001
Posts: 23712 | TRs | Pics
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Backpacker Joe
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PostSat Sep 04, 2021 6:20 pm 
Great report.  Thanks for posting.  I always meant to get into Cliff/Bluff.

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"If destruction be our lot we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen we must live through all time or die by suicide."

— Abraham Lincoln
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silence
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silence
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PostSun Sep 05, 2021 4:26 pm 
Wow ... nice work! up.gif  up.gif  up.gif

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