Prologue: A (stomach) bug in our backpacking plans
The favorable weather report last weekend had us looking forward to a backpack. We’d wanted to go back and climb some of the peaks around the Golden Lakes Loop and John Morrow’s trip report convinced us that it was time. We cleared our schedule for Sunday-Tuesday and set out on the 6.5 hour drive after work on Saturday. Along the way, we stopped in Auburn and had an absolutely awful dinner at Red Robin – we can’t believe we used to be regulars at this chain. By the time we reached the trailhead late Saturday/early Sunday, Babe made a beeline straight for the bathroom. We slept in the car parked next to the bathroom as she made several trips to the facilities throughout the night. Needless to say, she was not in any shape to hike when morning came so we drove down to Twisp to grab breakfast at the bakery John recommended. Of course, it was closed on Sunday so we decided to eat next door at Antlers Saloon and Café. Do not give this place your business – we finally walked out after sitting there for 25 minutes without our order being taken while the servers paid attention to the locals. We walked across the street to BJ’s Branding Iron Bar & Grill (we counted five Bar/Pub/Saloons in one block) and had a good meal with great service. Babe was feeling a little better so we drove back to the trailhead with a modified itinerary. After only hiking a couple of miles we decided to call it quits and save this trip for next year. So we drove the 320+ miles back to Sequim.
Stats: ~650 miles driven, ~3miles hiked, 800’ elevation gain
On the Crater Creek bridge
A big thumbs down to this adventure
Chapter 1: The Wakeup Tull
After resting up on Monday, Babe felt better and we just had to take advantage of the good weather at least once. We’d made an attempt of Mount Worthington earlier this year and we decided it was time to knock it off the D-list. We figured if we were up there we should try for Iron Mountain as well and if we did Iron we should see if we could connect up with the Buckhorns and then we decided to make it a big loop trip.
We hit the alarm a few too many times and left the house about 45 minutes after we had planned, drove up to the Tubal Cain trailhead, and we were pounding trail by 8:20AM. We made it to the Tull Canyon junction in just under an hour and followed the steep trail to the meadow at the bottom of the canyon that is the site of the 1952 B-17 bomber crash and the remains of Tull City, the town that housed the miners when they used to mine in the area. Someone had tacked to a tree a laminated copy of the newspaper article outlining events of the plane crash and subsequent rescue of the crew.
From the crash site we continued to follow the trail as it headed south deeper into the canyon and then climbed up to the col between Hawk Peak (Point 6545) and Mount Worthington (Point 6938), which we call Copper Col. Since it was late October we had planned on cool temperatures and wore some of our thicker clothing. We were equally pleased and dismayed that it was 60 degrees when reached the col.
Crossing Tull Canyon Creek
The base of Mount Worthington from Tull Canyon
Why does the pass seem so far away
Are you guys coming or what?
Chapter 2: Worthy of Worthington
Olympic Mountains: A Climbing Guide wrote:
. . .climb to the 6100-ft saddle in the E-W ridge connecting Mt. Worthington and Hawk Peak. Climb W to the summit over steep, rotten rock.
From the col we picked a line we thought would go and started climbing, taking the path of least resistance. We started out heading towards the notch between two pillars we could see far above us, then went up to the left (north) of the northern most pillar, and up to top out at the false summit. Based on Don’s report we were prepared to find the false summit and we were glad we had read it or it would have been real disappointing to find out the directions in the book lead you to the wrong summit. The book was right about the rotten rock though.
From the false summit (Copper Col Peak?) we could see the true summit about a quarter mile or so away with a lot of intimidating rock in between. We descended into a gully east of the crest about 100’ and then climbed back up to the ridge crest to get around the first set of pillars and then found a nice route on the west side of the crest down to the saddle between the false and true summit. From this point we again descended down the east side of the ridge and made a traverse at about 6500’ until we were beneath the broad, grassy ridge south of the summit. We then climbed back up to the ridge and followed it north to the large cairn next to the summit block.
To obtain the summit, we followed a ledge system that makes a complete 360 degree spiral up the rock. We found a summit register placed by Mountaineers in 2001. We signed the register and enjoyed the views before returning to the whippets who were freaking out down at the base of the summit block where we left them.
Just find a way up
Dude experiences the rotten rock
Hawk Peak from Worthington
Babe on the false summit
Dude surveys the route
Traversing over to the true summit
Rowena on the grassy slopes
Dude and Kief in matching blue
At the base of the summit block
Iron and Buckhorn from Worthington
Worthington summit shot, 6938'
Chapter 3: Pumped On Iron
From the summit of Worthington, we followed the ridge SW down to the col between Worthington and Iron. From the col, the ridge leading back up to Iron looked really steep and intimidating but once we started climbing we found it went quite nicely. We knew the SW summit was the tallest, so at about 6600’ we wrapped around the mountainside to the left (south) and made a relatively straight traverse to the notch between the peaks of Iron. From the notch, we climbed about 50’ of class 3 with two class 4 moves that required us to lift the dogs up to the next ledge above us, to the summit.
There was no register and we continued on after having lunch on a ledge below the summit. We continued to head SW towards the col between Iron and the NE Buckhorn. Along the way we climbed up to the top of a pillar that looked to be lower than what we thought was the summit but we wanted to make sure.
After climbing both Worthington and Iron, we would strongly recommend not following the routes described in the climbing book. Instead, from the Marmot Pass trail make your way up the col between the two peaks and climb each from there. It’s a much better way to go, especially for Worthington.
A look back at the top of Worthington
Rowena scouts ahead
Looking back at Worthington
Our next goal - Iron Mountain
Nope, no chipmuncks here
Babe climbs the final bit to the summit of Iron
The altitude must be getting to Alti-Babe!
Dude on the rocks
Dude at the Iron-Buckhorn Col
Chapter 4: Buckhorn Shale Fail
Don’s trip report described the way between Iron and NE Buckhorn as being very steep and when we sized it up from the col between the peaks we couldn't see a route that we could safely climb with the dogs. That’s also when the nagging reminder hit us that we hadn’t actually told anyone where we’d be this day so SAR wouldn’t even know where to look if something did happen. Thus, we made the decision to descend down from the col S to about 5300’, wrap around the base of the mountain and come back up via the route described in the climbing book.
The gully down was full of loose rock and most of the time we didn’t need to move our feet as we screed the gravalanche down. Again we were surprised how warm it was this day as temperature was reading right at 70 degrees as we made our way down. We really regretted not wearing our lighter summer hiking clothes but not as much as we regretted losing all that elevation as soon as we found out the hillside leading back up the col between the two Buckhorn summits is covered with the loosest sand and shale we have ever experienced. It was pure agony climbing the 1200’ back up and it took us well over an hour. To top it all off, the tolerable 10mph wind that had been blowing all day was now a 20-30mph wind with gusts above that. We’d gone to 70 degrees in the valley to 40 degrees at the col.
Olympic Mountains: A Climbing Guide wrote:
From the col, climb the steep, exposed ridge NE to the summit.
We dropped our daypacks and walked over to the base of the climb. We looked for the best route but just couldn’t find it. The book says class 3 but it looked more like class 4 to us. We were cold and tired and with the wind blowing the way it was, we decided that the amount of exposure wouldn't make it a safe summit for this day.
Endless zig-zagging is the only way to make headway
I give up!!!
Buckhorn Col shot
A little Yukon Jack warms me up
Constance in the twilight
Chapter 5: Heading for Home
Back at our packs we had a decision to make. We wanted to be back on maintained trail by true dark and had less than an hour. The original plan was to climb up and over the true (SW) summit of Buckhorn and the down to the trail but we didn’t feel like any more climbing, especially up a mountain we’d already summited. So Babe suggested we make a cross-country down from the Buckhorn Col over to Buckhorn Pass. We made a descending traverse around the north side of SW Buckhorn, descended down into the upper Buckhorn Valley, crossed the stream flowing from the small upper pond and followed the terrain between 5800’-6000’ until we intersected the trail just below Buckhorn Pass about 10 minutes before we’d need headlamps to navigate.
We followed the trail for the six plus miles out to the trailhead by the light of our headlamp. It seemed to take forever, especially the “Rhody Corridor” of the Tubal Cain trail. We made it at 8:50PM, twelve and half hours after we started.
Buckhorn Pass basked in the last light of the day
Crappy loose sandy hillsides are much easier going down
Summit tai chi
Deception and the Needles
Worthington to Buckhorn from the Buckhorn Valley
Night shot of Buckhorn Mountain
Epilogue: 300K and Counting
On this hike we surpassed one of our goals we had for this year – over 300,000 vertical feel climbed (and counting). Also, at the risk of too much chest beating, the 7,349 feet we gained is the most we’ve done in a single day (so far). We’re all a bit sore especially the girls who had to be carried out to the lawn to go potty the next day.
-------------- "Forest 101: These big wood stick things are called trees. The big rocks are called mountains, and the little rocks are their babies." Elliott from Open Season
OK, we definitely need to split up the trip reports. I think we should have regular TR's and then "TR's with full length feature films". Way to go Alti's. I'm surprised you had enough time for all the photography on a 17 mile day hike. Wait.... you must have had the Wippets do the filming for you.
-------------- "There can be no greater issue than that of conservation in this country."
Teddy Roosevelt August 6, 1912
Awesome report & pictures! I was up in the Golden Lakes area Tue-Wed. That is an interesting route up Worthington & Iron, I've wanted to do those peaks for a while. One of these days I'll get over there. Thanks for the beta!
You guys amaze me. It's just wonderful to be able to read about these incredible adventures of yours and to look through these great pictures. (The tai chi shot is fantastic!) Thanks so much for taking the time to share this with us!
-------------- "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
You sure cover a lot of ground in a day.
So the whippets didn't make it to the top of Worthington? How do they handle it if you leave them behind?
Sorry to hear about the long drive frustrated by sickness the day before.
That scree/shale looks unpleasant.
-------------- “As beacons mountains burned at evening.” J.R.R. Tolkien
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