Forum Index > Trip Reports > White Chuck - Sea of Clouds  7-14-09
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cartman
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cartman
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PostWed Jul 15, 2009 6:56 am 
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Pugh, Sloan, Bedal from the summit
Pugh, Sloan, Bedal from the summit

How many times in your life do you get to experience something like this?


Brent G. asked me if I'd like to do White Chuck and I immediately said yes.  Last time we'd done a trip together we had a great time on North Twin Sister two years ago.  Driving the maze of back roads to the start of the NW Ridge was no problem, but with the low clouds we were worried that visibility would be poor up high and the rock on the upper exposed sections would be wet and too dangerous to get to the summit.

We started on the gentle approach ridge in the mist.
Approach ridge
Approach ridge

Then across the scree field below the NW peak.
White Chuck scree slope
White Chuck scree slope

After going up the wet slab and heather slopes to gain the summit ridge I stopped briefly and was joined by the friendliest pika I've ever seen.  He actually ran up to within a foot of me, twice.  And then followed me for a short distance up the ridge.

Gaining the summit ridge
Gaining the summit ridge
Friendly pika
Friendly pika
Closer
Closer
White Chuck NW Peak
White Chuck NW Peak

Shortly after gaining the summit ridge to our surprise we climbed above the clouds.

White Chuck ridge, summit on right
White Chuck ridge, summit on right
Brent summit ridge break
Brent summit ridge break

And were treated to some of the most incredible views I have ever experienced.

Sloan in the distance
Sloan in the distance
Glacier Peak
Glacier Peak
Ptarmigan Traverse
Ptarmigan Traverse
NW Peak shrouded in the mist
NW Peak shrouded in the mist

We continued on the trail on the exposed traverse until we spotted a promising gully to get higher and away from the edge.  Scrambling this upper class 3 gully for ~ 100' to the top of the ridge we were shortly at the first crux move, a cannonhole leading to a 8-foot drop.  But there is an easy exit left that avoids the drop, and we continued towards the clearly visible summit, and the second crux move, a fairly easy downclimb on a nose just before heading up the summit block.

Brent on the second crux move
Brent on the second crux move

Then we regained the trail up to the summit, and a sea of clouds in every direction, with only the highest summits visible.

Pugh, Sloan, Bedal from the summit
Pugh, Sloan, Bedal from the summit
Glacier Peak from the summit
Glacier Peak from the summit
Dome from the summit
Dome from the summit
Three Fingers, Whitehorse and Cloud Mtn
Three Fingers, Whitehorse and Cloud Mtn

We went down the trail instead of the gully.  With the loose gravel over slabs on the rocky and very exposed "trail" for a couple of hundred feet, I would choose the gully to come down in the future.  This is not a peak for the inexperienced or faint of heart.

I've only experienced climbing above the clouds once or twice before, including my first ever climb and summit, on Baker.  We thought as we were going up that we might have been better off waiting until the next day with the better forecast--but we wouldn't have seen this.  These mountains continue to surprise, amaze and inspire.


Eric J. Johnson
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Tazz
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Tazz
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PostWed Jul 15, 2009 7:12 am 
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i like nw peak shrouded in fog!  up.gif
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BigSteve
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Joined: 06 Mar 2007
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BigSteve
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PostWed Jul 15, 2009 7:19 am 
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Cool, eerie conditions!  up.gif  White Chuck is such a cool scramble.
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joker
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Joined: 12 Aug 2006
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PostWed Jul 15, 2009 7:45 am 
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Thanks for sharing. That's indeed a very special condition. A bluebird day has nothing on that sort of day. I was unable to join my buddies for an Oly hike on Monday where they experienced at least somewhat similar conditions. Last time I recall sometnhing similar was coincidentally on the upper slopes of Baker a few years back. Though in late May of this year, on a flight in from London, we were having such a day as we cruised over the Cascades, including a really cool line to the east where the clouds were pushing up against and pouring over eastern ridges. It was one of my favorite passes over the Cascades ever. But not the same as being down it, including the wonderful surprise of popping up out of the clouds.
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Magellan
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Magellan
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PostWed Jul 15, 2009 9:40 am 
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It's pretty sweet when you get those conditions!  up.gif   It can be unexpected as clouds like to hang on peaks, whereas fog stays in the valley.  When heading up, it's hard to know if you are in fog or clouds.

Nice picture of Brent on the Class 3 move near the summit.  Suck in your belly and hug some rock is the way I remember it.  What is the other 'crux'?  I remember some sloping gravely ledges, but even if I fell down I don't think I would have peeled off.
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cartman
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cartman
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PostWed Jul 15, 2009 9:55 am 
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Magellan wrote:

Nice picture of Brent on the Class 3 move near the summit.  Suck in your belly and hug some rock is the way I remember it.  What is the other 'crux'?  I remember some sloping gravely ledges, but even if I fell down I don't think I would have peeled off.

You probably avoid the first crux if you come up via the trail.  We came up earlier up a gully and crossed over, had to drop through a cannonhole to get to the second crux which leads to the summit.  As I stashed my pack right before the cannonhole, I came back that way prior to dropping to the trail for our exit.  I prefer the gully for coming down, think it would feel more secure.  Downclimbing gravel ledges 30' above a 700-foot drop not so great.
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Justus S.
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Justus S.
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PostWed Jul 15, 2009 12:29 pm 
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Nice!!! Glad to hear the road is still ago!  up.gif That is one of the best trailheads around. I'll have to head up there soon, maybe tomorrow if I can find the time.
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GeoTom
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PostWed Jul 15, 2009 12:49 pm 
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cool.gif My views yesterday included the hallway outside my office and the stoplights on the drive home. Not quite as spectacular as yours.

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loper
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PostWed Jul 15, 2009 6:50 pm 
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Nice!  We had similar conditions on HLP yesterday.  Was cool to pop up through the cloud layer!
L
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lopper
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Joined: 22 Jan 2002
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lopper
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PostWed Jul 15, 2009 7:15 pm 
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http://www.nwhikers.net/forums/uploads/070478.jpg

Early July usually provides several of these "cloud tide" kind of days.  Here is one from the July 4 weekend,  1978.

Staring down Sloan from atop Kyes Pk.
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Layback
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Joined: 16 Mar 2007
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Layback
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PostWed Jul 15, 2009 7:18 pm 
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Awesome Eric.  Those pics are amazing.  BTW, do you work anymore?   cool.gif
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Forum Index > Trip Reports > White Chuck - Sea of Clouds  7-14-09
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