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Tom_Sjolseth
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PostSun Jan 10, 2010 10:52 pm 
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Another perfect day in the North Cascades.

With forecasted low to moderate avalanche conditions, and unseasonably warm temps (42 degrees at 5300'), a strong team of 10 climbed this excellent peak in the heart of the rugged North Cascades National Park today.

Dicey, Yana, Iron, Hotpantz, FWB2, Matt, Mike_Collins, Mudslinger, Cartman and I converged at the P&R at 5AM for what was sure to be a great day in the hills.

We arrived at the Thornton Creek TH at 7:30, after being able to drive all the way up to the end of the road (2700').  After sorting gear and packing, we headed up cross-country directly behind the outhouse.  This is a route I've done 3 times in the past, and it saves a lot of time over the trail under certain circumstances.

We gained a prominent ridge and ascended it to 5200', where we met up with the main ridge separating Damnation and Thornton Creeks.  Along the way we encountered bare ground down low, then patchy snow, then full on mashed potatoes higher up (steady snow above 3900').  The ridge dividing Damnation and Thornton Creeks is a scenic one, with excellent views into the Pickets, the Snowfield/Colonial group, Triumph/Despair, and Bacon/Hagan/Blum.  These views are some of the best around that are fairly easy to get to.

The ridge undulates quite a bit, losing and regaining 500' or more along its length to where it ends just South of Thornton Peak.  The snow was very soft, and breaking trail was tough, but thanks to Iron (and a lesser amount of my own trailbreaking), we were able to make quick time.

Climbing the South slope below Thornton Peak was fairly straightforward - 35 degree snow slopes.  Once below the summit, there was a 40' section of 60 degree+ firm snow/ice guarding the summit block.  It was thin and fairly exposed here, and one slip would send you pinballing down the steep couloir to the W.  Everyone made it through unscathed, and we took turns enjoying the fantastic summit views.  There is room on the summit for about 3 people.  The remainder of the summit ridge was a rhime-encrusted knife edge straight out of Peru.  Beautiful!

It was already 1:30 when we started heading back down the ridge, and we finally made it back into the woods before it got dark.  From here, we had about an 800' loss in cross-country brush to manage.  This went suprisingly easily and we were back to the car at 5:40, 10 hours after we began.

Snowshoes were a necessity on this outing.  Without them, we wouldn't have made the summit.

There were a total of about 600 photos taken on this trip, and I'm sure they'll get posted soon.  They will be worth seeing!

Thanks everyone for a fantastic trip!  I can't wait for the next one.   up.gif
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Matt
Tea, Earl Grey, Hot



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PostMon Jan 11, 2010 12:34 am 
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Tom_Sjolseth wrote:
The snow was very soft, and breaking trail was tough

Strange, the snow seemed to be a well-packed easy trench from my position trailing along at the end.

Well-packed snow
Well-packed snow

Tom_Sjolseth wrote:
From here, we had about an 800' loss in cross-country brush to manage.  This went suprisingly easily

Translate that to mean: the final 1300' feet of descent was steep cross country brush underlain by slippery mud and icy snow, accomplished by stumbling downward in the dark with the headlamps periodically flaring in wild jerks as people slipped, narrated by the grunts and curses of same slipping people.   But if you're superhuman like the trip organizer, I suppose that counts as surprisingly easy.

Descent
Descent
Descent
Descent

Anyway, that part aside, it was a fine day with a beautiful high ridge and very dramatic summit.

Running the ridge crest
Running the ridge crest
Snowshoe line turning the corner (center of picture)
Snowshoe line turning the corner (center of picture)
Looking back along the ridge
Looking back along the ridge
Snowshoe line starting up the summit area.
Snowshoe line starting up the summit area.
Approaching the summit col
Approaching the summit col
A different steep col off to one side
A different steep col off to one side
Pickets catching the sun
Pickets catching the sun
Logjam waiting to go up or down the summit pitch
Logjam waiting to go up or down the summit pitch
Yana descending the summit pitch
Yana descending the summit pitch
The dropoff by the summit
The dropoff by the summit
Mt. Triumph
Mt. Triumph
The snowshoe line heading home
The snowshoe line heading home

More photos later.

Thank you, Tom, for organizing the trip.

--------------
“As beacons mountains burned at evening.” J.R.R. Tolkien
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Yana
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PostMon Jan 11, 2010 12:53 am 
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I'm tired. Regarding this outing: My eyes say YES! but my knees say NOOOOO!!!!!!

I lagged behind most of the group on purpose to take dramatic action photos.  Coincidentally, there was a lovely snowshoe trench for me to follow.  clown.gif

I think others have much better photos, which they will hopefully post, but here are a few of mine.

The first part of the ridge is treed and not very scenic, but once it opens up its undulating ( rant.gif  mad.gif ) length provides plenty of eye candy around every corner.

One of the first views in our direction of travel was the scary looking Mt. Triumph:

Hiking in front of triumph
Hiking in front of triumph

Other views (only a few of which I actually photographed due to the need to at least try to keep up with the group) also presented themselves:
Bad weather threatening from the north (it failed to arrive)
Bad weather threatening from the north (it failed to arrive)
White mountain and gray DOOM
White mountain and gray DOOM

Once we got into the open, we stayed right on the crest of the ridge for quite some time.

Matt admires the views
Matt admires the views
On the ridge toward Thornton Peak
On the ridge toward Thornton Peak

Eventually we had to traverse below some of the more exciting bits of the ridge before briefly regaining it once more.

Getting back onto the ridge.
Getting back onto the ridge.
Following the ridge
Following the ridge
Matt admires more views
Matt admires more views

A final traverse took us below the south face of the peak.

The group traverses toward Thornton Peak (visible in upper middle of photo)
The group traverses toward Thornton Peak (visible in upper middle of photo)

There was also a neat view of all three Thornton Lakes lined up all in a row from here.
All three Thornton Lakes
All three Thornton Lakes

Here is a photo from August a couple of years ago taken from almost the exact same spot.
Thornton Lakes
Thornton Lakes

Thornton Peak looked really far away right up until we finished the traverse. I was convinced we would never make it up there! Right below the summit more glorious views with interesting lighting opened up.

Southern Pickets in the sun
Southern Pickets in the sun

The last bit of the summit block was... um... interesting.

YIKES!
YIKES!

Mt. Triumph looked even scarier from the summit:
Mt. Triumph from Thornton Peak
Mt. Triumph from Thornton Peak

Unfortunately it being January we couldn't really linger and were forced to retreat pretty quickly:
The return trip on the ridge
The return trip on the ridge

The "descent" involved what appeared to be an interminable amount of elevation gain and, of course, slithering down steep forest duff in the dark.

This is how trips end when you hike with crazy people
This is how trips end when you hike with crazy people

I was hesitant about going on this trip because I thought I was too slow, but I think it worked out okay. The shutter delay, however, was sadly unavoidable.

--------------
PLAY SAFE! SKI ONLY IN CLOCKWISE DIRECTION! LET'S ALL HAVE FUN TOGETHER!
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tmatlack
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PostMon Jan 11, 2010 3:14 am 
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All,

Looks like a great outing.  Cool photos, especially to the north.  I'm surprised that road was open...it climbs pretty hard to the TH.

Tom
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Kat
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PostMon Jan 11, 2010 5:43 am 
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Matt wrote:


Tom_Sjolseth wrote:
From here, we had about an 800' loss in cross-country brush to manage.  This went suprisingly easily

Translate that to mean: the final 1300' feet of descent was steep cross country brush underlain by slippery mud and icy snow, accomplished by stumbling downward in the dark with the headlamps periodically flaring in wild jerks as people slipped, narrated by the grunts and curses of same slipping people.   But if you're superhuman like the trip organizer, I suppose that counts as surprisingly easy.

rotf.gif   Thanks for the "mere mortal" perspective - got a great chuckle out of that. Probably because I can relate oh to well!

That final summit block looks downright scary.
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DIYSteve
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PostMon Jan 11, 2010 9:04 am 
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Cool winter stroll.  up.gif   I love walking along the Thorton-Damnation divide.  Looks like a spectacular place in the winter.
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wildernessed
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PostMon Jan 11, 2010 10:15 am 
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up.gif Nice

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Living in the Anthropocene
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Don
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PostMon Jan 11, 2010 10:26 am 
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Sounds and looks like an excellent trip Tom.  Thanks for the pics Matt & Yana!  Glad the clouds allowed you those awesome views!  up.gif

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iron
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getting old
PostMon Jan 11, 2010 1:13 pm 
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all i have to say is wow...
tom, five steps from the summit
tom, five steps from the summit

okay... more will come later.

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man, you go through life, you try to be nice to people, you struggle to resist the urge to punch 'em in the face, and for what?

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Ingunn
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PostMon Jan 11, 2010 1:18 pm 
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Holy crap. If you look at the skyline in iron's photo, you can see that it's crooked...which means it was even steeper than it looks in the photostun.gif

Great photos, people. I like that you went out on a weekend everyone assumed would be crappy and then you did this. up.gif
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cmurph
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PostMon Jan 11, 2010 1:39 pm 
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Awesome work everyone...looks like a great trip!  I love the pictures along the ridge...props to Yana for taking one for the team and bringing up the rear just for the photo ops of the group wink.gif

Matt wrote:


Tom_Sjolseth wrote:
From here, we had about an 800' loss in cross-country brush to manage.  This went suprisingly easily

Translate that to mean: the final 1300' feet of descent was steep cross country brush underlain by slippery mud and icy snow, accomplished by stumbling downward in the dark with the headlamps periodically flaring in wild jerks as people slipped, narrated by the grunts and curses of same slipping people.   But if you're superhuman like the trip organizer, I suppose that counts as surprisingly easy.

glad I'm not the only one that has felt that way.  It is amazing what Tom's "easy" translates to in my world!
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iron
getting old



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getting old
PostMon Jan 11, 2010 2:23 pm 
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my version:

an early start + icy roads up to the trailhead with enough snow depth to make driving my 2wd camry, umm, dicey, was a not so good way to start. at least the road walk up gave some nice colors until fwb2 picked us up.
early morning light on my road walk up from the car
early morning light on my road walk up from the car

the "route" behind the bathroom was interesting, until we came across the TH road again. hmm. right we turned and up some slick rocks and logs complete with veggie belays. i knew this would later become an issue as a nighttime descent appeared imminent.
slick rocks and logs
slick rocks and logs
undulation
undulation

eventually things mellowed out when we gained the ridge. the snow was wet and mushy - very tiring "if" you were breaking trail.
we're going where?
we're going where?
spring-like snowmelt
spring-like snowmelt
grey, blue and white
grey, blue and white
hotpantz soaking in the views on the ridge
hotpantz soaking in the views on the ridge
sunlit bumps on the ridge
sunlit bumps on the ridge
getting over a hump
getting over a hump

soon the snow firmed up a bit and it almost felt like, gassssp, powder. not quite, but good enough for this winter. as we emerged from the trees, the terrain exploded in front of us. amazing. i felt quite drawn towards mt. baker. instead of a white color against the sky and other mountains, it felt like a void of color (which i realize is black, but in this case, white). the open terrain called for me to kick steps; i obliged smile.gif
untouched!
untouched!
i can see you
i can see you
just licking my chops at this point
just licking my chops at this point
looks like a whale's back to me
looks like a whale's back to me
a little traversing for fun
a little traversing for fun
one big playground
one big playground
fun times
fun times
at least there's snow to play in at this elevation
at least there's snow to play in at this elevation
whispy clouds accent the whispy snow
whispy clouds accent the whispy snow
still movin' on up
still movin' on up
at the fork in the road
at the fork in the road
tom went up, over, and down. the rest of of traversed
tom went up, over, and down. the rest of of traversed
shadows in the mountains
shadows in the mountains
lots of bumps
lots of bumps
we came from where?
we came from where?
one gnarly cornice
one gnarly cornice
the conga continues
the conga continues
awesome snowshoe tracks
awesome snowshoe tracks

the final few steps to the summit were imposing. good thing tom was there, because if it was just me, i would have probably called it good at that point, fearful that the thin snow atop ice would breakout on the downclimb. this was definitely at the top end of my current comfort level.  doof.gif
tom saying: "c'mon, this is easy"
tom saying: "c'mon, this is easy"
at the 60 degree slope
at the 60 degree slope
no exposure here at the crux move
no exposure here at the crux move
pickets!
pickets!
ridgeline view from summit, with triumph looming nearby
ridgeline view from summit, with triumph looming nearby
more pickets!
more pickets!
group two ascends
group two ascends

the return trip was long and i was tired (shouldn't have done a 2 x si the day before with seattlehikertoo). the 1300' descent in the dark was challenging. the only time i'm on my butt more than that experience is at work.
montbell advertisement
montbell advertisement
1, 2, 3, 4. 1, 2, 3, 4.
1, 2, 3, 4. 1, 2, 3, 4.
hotpantz decides to lay down
hotpantz decides to lay down
clouds that more resembled the ocean
clouds that more resembled the ocean

one heck of a trip with a great group. 10p return time after a 4a departure. pizza and beer in arlington somehow made my knees not hurt as much  up.gif  i'm curious to see what fwb2's gps log says for distance and gain. it was just a smidge more than tom's original estimate of 6 miles and 4,500' - at least that's what a 10 hour day and a tired body indicates to me...

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man, you go through life, you try to be nice to people, you struggle to resist the urge to punch 'em in the face, and for what?

--- moe sizlack
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seattlehikertoo
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PostMon Jan 11, 2010 3:23 pm 
Great trip you guys
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I made a quick stop at Louisa Park in Seattle before spending the day with my family. The view is mainly NE, and I knew it was a great day to be in the north Cascades. Your Pictures prove it smile.gif  up.gif

I must say that I am astonished at Iron's ability to recover - not just recover, but to be able to kick the steps most of the way in gloppy snow for a very experienced and fit group is remarkable.  On saturday, we did the "Old, New" Si routine. We made it 1:05 and 1:11 respectively, and it looked like he had plenty of gas in the tank.

Haven't been posting much, but best to all and congrats on a wonderful trip.
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TrailPair
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PostMon Jan 11, 2010 3:28 pm 
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iron wrote:
all i have to say is wow...
tom, five steps from the summit
tom, five steps from the summit

okay... more will come later.

Inquiring minds want to know.....for the descent of that steep pitch, did you front point down or rap? dizzy.gif  paranoid.gif  confused.gif

--------------
This thing called work is interfering with my play
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Tom
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PostMon Jan 11, 2010 3:30 pm 
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Wow, some nice stuff.  Shouldn't be a problem having some cool winter shots for the 2011 calendar. up.gif
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