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puzzlr
Mid Fork Rocks



Joined: 13 Feb 2007
Posts: 5772 | TRs | Pics
Location: Stuck in the middle
puzzlr
Mid Fork Rocks
PostTue Sep 27, 2011 10:02 pm 
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"Climb either NE or SE to the N or S ridge on brushy rock. Follow the selected ridge to the summit"
     1949 Climbers Guide to the Cascade and Olympic Mountains of Washington, Bessemer Mountain

Getting to North Bessemer constitutes most of the challenge in climbing this prominent Middle Fork peak. The guide book approaches recommend coming in the North Fork via Hancock Lake (now on gated roads), or up Quartz Creek road to Blethen Lakes (now overgrown). Most recent ascents are via the SE ridge or traversing from South Bessemer after a 5-mile walk up the Bessemer road. Martin and I chose the latter route, and brought mountain bikes along to speed up the descent, in theory at least.
North Bessemer route map and notes
North Bessemer route map and notes
Prepping bikes for the long push up the Bessemer road
Prepping bikes for the long push up the Bessemer road
Martin approaches Blowout Creek bridge
Martin approaches Blowout Creek bridge
Brawling Creek crossing at 2000'
Brawling Creek crossing at 2000'

We got started early at 7:30am which was good, because pushing/riding the bikes up 5 miles and 3000' of road was hot work. We briefly rode past the turn-off that heads up to the pass, but corrected our error within minutes. Near the ridge we caught the road heading north to South Bessemer, and turned right again onto a spur at 4480' that traverses below South Bessemer and towards North Bessemer. Martin brought his full suspension bike nearly to the end of this spur, but I left mine at the 3800' switchback because the road was getting too steep and rough for me to ride my generic bike down safely.
Turnoff to the logging road that heads toward the pass and Bessemer mountain. Do not be tempted by the more maintained level road that keeps going without elevation gain here.
Turnoff to the logging road that heads toward the pass and Bessemer mountain. Do not be tempted by the more maintained level road that keeps going without elevation gain here.
I left my bike here at 3800' because I didn't think I could ride down a gravel road this steep, and sections of it had large rocks.
I left my bike here at 3800' because I didn't think I could ride down a gravel road this steep, and sections of it had large rocks.
The Bessemer South road is not being maintained and sections like this would be difficult to bike down, but Martin is still taking his bike uphill.
The Bessemer South road is not being maintained and sections like this would be difficult to bike down, but Martin is still taking his bike uphill.
Martin decides this is as far as the bike is going to be useful
Martin decides this is as far as the bike is going to be useful

It took 3 hours to get to the end of the spur road at 4600'. We could see the North Bessemer summit a scant .75 miles away and the traverse across the clear cut slopes to the rib crossing looked reasonable. But it was not to be. There are a number of cliffy gullies running down that slope hidden in the huckleberries and stumps. It took almost an hour to cross the next half mile, with many ups and downs and side hill steps hanging onto to bushes to keep from slipping. On the way back we stayed higher and cut that time in half.
High points on the Bessemer ridge. The summit is the far right high point, but there is an intervening ridge that must be crossed. I recommend a high traverse to avoid cliffy gullies
High points on the Bessemer ridge. The summit is the far right high point, but there is an intervening ridge that must be crossed. I recommend a high traverse to avoid cliffy gullies
Huge stump. Trees were cut up to the skyline along this ridge
Huge stump. Trees were cut up to the skyline along this ridge
Martin scopes out a cliff, blocking a traverse along across what looked like a reasonable heather/huckleberry slope
Martin scopes out a cliff, blocking a traverse along across what looked like a reasonable heather/huckleberry slope
Martin chooses a steep brush downclimb to get through the cliffy gully
Martin chooses a steep brush downclimb to get through the cliffy gully
I found a higher but some what challenging upper route
I found a higher but some what challenging upper route
Nearing the SE rib where the traverse was easier with less brush and fewer gullies
Nearing the SE rib where the traverse was easier with less brush and fewer gullies

Now only .25 miles from the peak, it's necessary to cross a precipitous section of the SE ridge and descend into a small basin below the summit ridge. First there's a steep fern-covered talus field where it's challenging to find secure footing, then the descent on the far side of the rib is a slippery sequence of lowering oneself down using huckleberries to avoid a fall. 4 1/2 hours after starting out, it feels like the climb can finally begin. We gained a couple hundred feet up a talus finger, then were pleased to find a remaining bank of snow nestled by the cliff that we used to replenish our water supply. This was important because even though we'd brought a lot of water, we were going through a lot with the long bike push and traverse on a hot day. We scrambled up the gully and took a short break before tackling the ridge and 4th class summit block.
Just before reaching the rib there is a talus slope that has a thick cover crop of ferns and false hellibore, making it impossible to see what you're stepping on.
Just before reaching the rib there is a talus slope that has a thick cover crop of ferns and false hellibore, making it impossible to see what you're stepping on.
View of SE ridge with location of crossing point and steep huckleberry descent
View of SE ridge with location of crossing point and steep huckleberry descent
After a steep huckleberry-assisted descent on the east side of the ridge (no pictures), this talus finger leads up to the base of a gully that provides access to the summit ridge
After a steep huckleberry-assisted descent on the east side of the ridge (no pictures), this talus finger leads up to the base of a gully that provides access to the summit ridge
Top of the gully that provides access to the summit ridge
Top of the gully that provides access to the summit ridge

The first 20 feet from the notch looked steep so we tied in 30' apart and moved together under the theory that if one of us slipped the rope wrapping around trees would minimize the danger. But after that first steep section, there's really no need for a rope until you reach the summit block. The one exception might be a short airy section where the ridge narrows down to a foot or so across. Martin led the final 40' section with a belay to the top, checking out both sides before deciding the left route around the overhanging block was easier.
Martin walks across an airy traverse just before the Bessemer summit block. We were using a short rope between us, but were not belaying.
Martin walks across an airy traverse just before the Bessemer summit block. We were using a short rope between us, but were not belaying.
Bessemer summit block. It's possible to go either right or left to avoid the overhanging top block. Both have exposure, but left is easier.
Bessemer summit block. It's possible to go either right or left to avoid the overhanging top block. Both have exposure, but left is easier.
Bessemer summit block. Martin is hidden on a ledge where the rope dissapears
Bessemer summit block. Martin is hidden on a ledge where the rope dissapears

There was lots of room on top and the views were great. The summit register was so soggy we didn't even try to sign it. I wonder how many other parties have found the same thing, because there are not very many entries in the book -- just three pages since it was placed in 2002 by Fay Pullen.
Bessemer summit register
Bessemer summit register
Bessemer summit register
Bessemer summit register
Bessemer summit register
Bessemer summit register
Bessemer pano NW, including Hancocks Comb, Blethen Lakes, Quartz tarn
Bessemer pano NW, including Hancocks Comb, Blethen Lakes, Quartz tarn
Bessmer ridge. One more 5040+ high point is hidden behind 5120+.
Bessmer ridge. One more 5040+ high point is hidden behind 5120+.
Martin on Bessemer
Martin on Bessemer

We didn't wait long because it was a long ways out. The rap off the overhanging summit block was interesting, and we rapped again to avoid the steepest down climbing in the summit ridge gully. Then down the talus finger, over the rib, and an easier and faster traverse back to the road by staying close to the ridge line to avoid the gullies.
Martin rappelling off Bessemer
Martin rappelling off Bessemer
Martin rappelling off Bessemer. Loose sling below is old stuff we cleaned out from below the summit block (we carried it out)
Martin rappelling off Bessemer. Loose sling below is old stuff we cleaned out from below the summit block (we carried it out)
Descending the gully
Descending the gully
Garfield from Bessemer
3 labels
Garfield from Bessemer
Higher on the slope we had a much easier traverse than down below
Higher on the slope we had a much easier traverse than down below
In much less time, the road is visible below
In much less time, the road is visible below

Now the fun begins and we head for our bikes  agree.gif . But Noooooo! Martin's front tire had somehow gotten a flat while it was laying by the side of the road  confused.gif  shakehead.gif . On top of that, neither of us had brought a patch kit or a pump. This was not going to be the quick thrill ride down to the car we expected. Martin made the best of it by shifting most of his weight onto the rear tire, and riding down slowly on the flat tire. But it was still 3-4 times faster than walking. We got back to the car at 6:30, 11 hours after starting out.
Martin bemoans his flat front tire, robbing him of a hard-earned thrill ride down the Bessemer road.
Martin bemoans his flat front tire, robbing him of a hard-earned thrill ride down the Bessemer road.
Martin's flat front tire
Martin's flat front tire

Don't underestimate this trip because of the access via a road and the short linear distance to the peak from the end of it. The traverse may go easier with spring snow covering the brush, but makes other parts more difficult. I highly recommend a fall trip, but bring enough water -- we were lucky to find a snow bank still there at the end of September. Most years that will not be true.

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Mid Fork Rocks flickr
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cartman
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Joined: 20 Feb 2007
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Location: Fremont
cartman
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PostTue Sep 27, 2011 10:39 pm 
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Great pics and beta.  Quite involved for less than a mile of actual foot travel, but an interesting route.  More fine Middle Fork fun.
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RichP
sin rumbo



Joined: 13 Jul 2006
Posts: 3299 | TRs | Pics
Location: Seattle
RichP
sin rumbo
PostThu Sep 29, 2011 3:09 pm 
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Are you working on a Middle Fork guidebook or just enamored with the area?
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puzzlr
Mid Fork Rocks



Joined: 13 Feb 2007
Posts: 5772 | TRs | Pics
Location: Stuck in the middle
puzzlr
Mid Fork Rocks
PostThu Sep 29, 2011 4:04 pm 
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I have had some thoughts about creating a website for the Middle Fork, and I miss midforc.org. If I do decide to do that, I'll want to launch it with a lot of content so in that sense yes, I'm "working" on it but I'd write up these trip reports anyway. The real answer is that I'm obsessed by the Middle Fork because it's close and wild and has a huge variety of things to do. Much of that is off trail, which is what I really enjoy. I don't like driving too far to get my hiking/exploring jones satisfied.

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Mid Fork Rocks flickr
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RichP
sin rumbo



Joined: 13 Jul 2006
Posts: 3299 | TRs | Pics
Location: Seattle
RichP
sin rumbo
PostThu Sep 29, 2011 4:24 pm 
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Great idea about the website up.gif  up.gif . I am starting to catch the Middle Fork bug for the same reasons as you.
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daffish
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daffish
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PostThu Sep 29, 2011 4:43 pm 
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I like the way you add the route lines to some of the photos.  up.gif  up.gif
It really helps to tie in the photos to the write-up.

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"Be moderate in everything, including moderation"     Horace Porter
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Bernardo
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Bernardo
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PostThu Sep 29, 2011 9:27 pm 
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Thanks for another nice Middle Fork report.
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EastKing
Summit Addict



Joined: 28 Mar 2007
Posts: 2041 | TRs | Pics
Location: 40 hours week work; 40 hours summit
EastKing
Summit Addict
PostSat Oct 01, 2011 3:44 am 
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Excellent TR on a peak I have always wondered about! Good pics and details.

--------------
I am addicted to summits! I can't eat, drink or breath without them. Life without mountains would really suck.

http://www.myspace.com/climbandsurfmackg | http://www.summitpost.org/user_page.php?user_id=894
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Magellan
Brutally Handsome



Joined: 26 Jul 2006
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Magellan
Brutally Handsome
PostFri Apr 26, 2013 1:58 pm 
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Nice work!  up.gif  It is crazy how difficult some of these 5k peaks on the Middle Fork are.
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like2thruhike
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like2thruhike
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PostSun Jan 19, 2014 1:57 pm 
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Quote:

Next time try disengaging one side of the tire bead and packing the tire with leaves and duff. Stuff it full then reseat the tire bead.

A buddy of mine claims this "works" or at least won't do as much damage to the rim as the weight transfer technique.
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