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Tvashtar
Tvashtalker



Joined: 22 Aug 2005
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Location: The 11th Dimension
Tvashtar
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Tvashtalker
PostTue Aug 23, 2005 10:59 am 
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Imagine gently lowering yourself through a thicket of vertical salmon berries sprouting from the sides of a 30 foot high dry waterfall.  Your previously testy relationship with the slide alder you’re substituting for a rappel rope has suddenly evolved to one of trust and gratitude.  Even as your slightly sunburned legs are being lovingly exfoliated with nature’s own wire brushes, you stop momentarily to suckle a golden berry the size of your lacerated thumb, courtesy of your tormentor, using your only unoccupied appendage: your lips.  Pain and pleasure in perfect balance.  The essence of  the Snowking – Chaval Traverse in late season.

My only previous experience in the Snowking – Chaval area had been a single day ski ascent/descent of Snowking in late spring from the Illabot Creek Bridge.  I was lucky enough to immediately stumble upon the fisherman’s trail, zip up to snowline, glide across perfect corn snow, tag the summit, and enjoy a fantastic run back down.  8 hours after putting on my pack I was driving home.  The most formidable obstacle was a gauntlet of face-level spider webs in the forest.  Chaval’s imposing towers, visible from the car, remained burned into my memory.  Someday, I would return.  And I did,  15 years later.

9:30 am, Thursday, Aug 18th, 2005

My plan was to meet my girlfriend Joanna in Rockport the following day at around 8:30 pm, then hike up to Cyclone Lake together on Saturday morning.  I told her I would have already had a refreshing dip in the Skagit and a shower.  I’d be hanging out in my Crazy Creek chair, sipping a Foster’s, perusing the New Yorker I’d brought along to kill all the time I’d have waiting for her to arrive.  The previous summer I had traversed Bacon, Hagan, the other Hagan (I got confused as to which one was higher…turns out my first guess was right after all), and Blum, tagging each of the four summits,  in a single 15 hour push, so hey, two summits over as many days should be no problem.  This is the kind of simpleton’s math that causes much pain and suffering in the world.

The weather forecast was perfect, so I packed as light as I could.  A down liner with a space blanket bivvy sack (just in case), cold meals, aluminum six point crampons (whoever invented these 7 oz beauties deserves a Nobel Prize), low top approach shoes (Garmont Sticky Twists…stupid name, good shoe), and a toy ice axe.

I made Enjar Lake in 2 hours.  The fisherman’s trail was a bit shy in spots but could be coaxed out of the bush with a little patience.  From Enjar I executed a rising traverse up east slopes of the drainage south of Otter Creek to 5100’.    Open and easy.  As I turned the corner eastward, however, I found myself threading the needle between an upper and lower band of cliffs.  The key here is to a) not go this way, or b)  traverse east between at around 5200’ for a half a mile or so, then ascend talus slopes to the Elysian Fields of Snowking’s western flanks.  I didn’t do this.  I chose, instead, to tiptoe up a very steep and not completely dry creek, with a short but gymnastic slide cedar pull up session at the top.  Once safely on the upper bench, I reached for my only water bottle and found that it had opted out of the remainder of our journey.  Golite’s velcro water bottle holding strap had apparently silently unvelcroed.  I’d intended to replace it with a more secure bicycle toe clip strap, but if I was that organized I’d be someone else.

Water is seldom in short supply in the western Cascades, hence the name, as long as you’re slutty enough to suck from any seeping, algae choked grotto that comes your way.    I am.  I decided then and there that losing the bottle was a good thing.  Two pounds lighter.  Good riddance.  Damn am I thirsty right now.

I ambled up the gorgeous white granite blocks of Snowking’s west ridge to a col at  7000’.  From here I began to crampon across the glacier, now almost completely bare ice.  Late season glaciers can be relatively safe for non-epileptic soloists who can discern the difference between the soft white stuff with the big holes underneath and the hard dirty grey stuff without.  I was easily able to discern that a blank expanse of soft, white snow guarded Snowking’s summit pyramid, so I crossed it probing like a coked-out wood pecker.  I should never have gone to see Touching the Void.  My probing was rewarded with a little mountain booty.  Here’s a puzzler:  you find a locking biner clipped to a short loop of line that has a completely closed, empty stuff sack tightly tied to it lying on the snow.  How did it get there?  Correct answers will receive a free gift of uneaten cheese from this traverse.

3:30 pm Thursday

The summit itself was a pleasant scramble up not-so-bad rock.  Once on top the views are indescribable, so I won’t describe them.

The descent down Snowking’s southern bowl was as pleasant as the ascent, if your aesthetic tends towards walking on millions of Peterbilt sized boulders delicately balanced on a few grains of glacial silt.  I only saw three ‘relax’ their positions on the way down.  I had nothing to do with these events.  OK, I did push one.

At 6000’ Snowking’s waste management system empties into scene from the Pleistocene.   Enormous blocks of angular, blonde granite resting on a naked, remnant glacier riddled with moulins and lacerated with open crevasses.  Several of these rock platforms were large enough to house an encampment of Mountaineers.  I gained the lake at 5900’ by circumnavigating the mocha colored lake at this glacier’s toe to the west.  Gaining the ridge to the east the basin, I settled down on a dish shaped boulder cupping a very convenient pool of drinking water (remember, no bottle).  The setting sun levered a full moon up from behind Buckindy’s rusted ruins.  The peaks of the Ptarmigan traverse, Formidable, Sentinal, Old Guard, surrounded my perch like, well, you know, old sentinels guarding something formidable.  In front of me:  Chaval’s looming towers taunted my waning energies like valkyries hovering over a battle in the throes of decision.  I thought to myself: Jesus, who writes this crap?

6:30 am, Friday

Back at it, feeling as spry as a squirrel after being rolfed by a Hummer.  Somehow I got around the nasty ridge connecting my two objectives.  First to the west, then the east, then down to 4600’, then back up a swath of steep forest with some climbing gym sections.  My recommendation?  Astral projection.  Or just close your eyes and pretend you’re invisible.

The glacially sculpted granite slabs of Chaval’s eastern slopes quickly sooth any discomfort experienced on the way over.  Bivvying on one of the numerous wide ledges here would be incredible.  Rushing water is everywhere.  It’s your basic alpine paradise.

After passing through a section of iron oxidation accented with pyrite (yes, I’ll admit I actually had a moment where I thought I’d discovered gold in them thar hills), I scurried through the pass SE of Chaval, made an end run around her SW buttress, and ascended to a col to NW of her summit.

12:30 Friday

Only the lower half of Chaval’s  ‘Ramp’ was still snowbound.  Not wanting to mess with what little gear I had, I skirted around it.  The ascent of the mossy grass carpeted ramp in dry conditions is basically an airy walk for those who do not suffer from vertigo, followed by a short bit of loose rock scrambling.  There are rappel slings at the top for those so inclined, but the local fauna has been sampling them.

A short glacier traverse on bare ice brought me to Chaval’s bucolic western ridge.  At the pass SE of Jug lake I thought:  Mission Accomplished.  And I still felt that way after descending granite slabs to 5100’ and traversing to the pass NW of Jug.  The climb down the first 30’ dry waterfall put a slow leak in my optimism.  By 3:30 pm,  when I found myself experiencing the opening paragraph of this report,  the salmon berries and slide cedar had ripped my optimism off its rims and left it’s shredded remains hanging from the branches I was dangling from.

5:00 pm Friday

Jug Lake, finally.  Hot.  Sweaty.  A thousand tiny cuts.  The smell of bear piss.  Hemlock needles down my back.  Hands sticky with sap and berry juice.  T minus three and a half hours to Joanna rendezvous.  Want to swim.  No time.  Nighttime bushwhacking BAD.             Must      Find     Fisherman’s      Trail.

This track starts subtly.  Much of its flagging is lying unhelpfully on the forest floor.  I picked it up on the north side of Arrow Creek.  About half a mile from Lake the trail becomes more distinct.  Some angel of backcountry mercy had freshly pruned the veggies nearly all the way down.  Whoever you are, your flagging sucks, but I kiss your feet anyway.

The track slyly crosses the creek just below Lower Jug Lake.  From there it’s gravy, albeit steep, bushy, rooty gravy.  It spits its haggard pilgrims out at the Arrow Creek hairpin.  From there I walked the three miles of road back to my motorcycle.

8:30 pm  Friday

Zero hour.  I won’t have time to look at the New Yorker cartoons, never mind take in one of their interminable articles.  I’m late, but flush with victory.  I start my trusty war pony, let her warm up, crank the throttle, and promptly fall over.  Perhaps I should unlock the front wheel before proceeding.

9:30 pm

“Beer”.   The only word I could muster when I finally met up with Joanna.  I was down to monosyllables at that point.  Illabot Creek road is a tedious motorcycle ride at night, particularly when there is a plague of giant toads in progress.  Dodging the warty little bastards finished me off.

I had climbed 11,000’ in the past 36 hours.  Fortunately, there is a dive not 110’ from the showers at Steelhead Park that serves cold Bud and frozen pizzas.  As I was walking in a local who’d just tapped a keg in the back of his pickup offered me the first hit.  He must have sensed my pain.  I went in, ordered the only thing on the menu, and ate an entire 12’ pepperoni pizza minus one piece in a quiet stupor.

I then waited for two young folk to finish having sex in the only coin op shower stall (75 cents still buys something these days).  We drove back to Illabot Creek Road, pulled off, and I went comatose in the back of the Subaru, looking forward to the 4500’ ascent to  Cyclone Lake the following morning.

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"We are, all of us, in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars." - Oscar Wilde
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Backpacker Joe
NWH Joe-Bob



Joined: 16 Dec 2001
Posts: 23594 | TRs
Location: Cle Elum
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NWH Joe-Bob
PostTue Aug 23, 2005 11:08 am 
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Wow, great report.  Welcome to the site. Love to see some pics of this adventure.

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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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Allison
Feckless Swooner



Joined: 17 Dec 2001
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Location: putting on my Nikes before the comet comes
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Feckless Swooner
PostTue Aug 23, 2005 11:21 am 
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I wouldn't believe anything this guy says. hihi.gif
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Dayhike Mike
Bad MFKer



Joined: 02 Mar 2003
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Location: Going to Tukwila
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Bad MFKer
PostTue Aug 23, 2005 1:22 pm 
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Great write-up! Loved the imagery, writing style, and sense of humor. Sounds like one hell of an adventure as well.

As BPJ mentioned above...welcome to the site. Can't wait to see where your next trip takes you.

BTW - 12 foot pizza? Damn. You really WERE hungry. wink.gif

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"There is only one basic human right, the right to do as you damn well please. And with it comes the only basic human duty, the duty to take the consequences." -P.J. O'Rourke
"Ignorance is natural. Stupidity takes commitment." -Solomon Short
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dicey
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Joined: 11 May 2004
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Location: giving cornices a wider berth
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custom title
PostTue Aug 23, 2005 2:45 pm 
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tvashtar wrote:

Or just close your eyes and pretend you’re invisible.

This method does not work!

I bet the stuff sack/carabiner belongs to Gurian.  Do I get the cheese?

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I'm not always sure I like being older but being less stupid has advantages.
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Tazz
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PostTue Aug 23, 2005 3:00 pm 
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great trip report!!!!!!!!   what a good read.

excellent work up.gif
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Guiran
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Joined: 03 Mar 2004
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PostTue Aug 23, 2005 4:41 pm 
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The stuff sack and biner do not being to me.  Looks like no cheese for you, Dicey.

My guess would be that it's a lost tent anchor from a winter trip that recently melted out.  What type of cheese are we talking about here?

Great TR and great trip!  When I went through that area, I descended all the way down to 4200 ft in the basin between Cheval and Snowking.  The ridge traverse looked rather "sporty".
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Stefan
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PostWed Aug 24, 2005 10:36 am 
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Great write up!

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Art is an adventure.
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