Forum Index > Trip Reports > Whitehorse Mountain - 1/20/2014
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Gimpilator
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PostFri Jan 24, 2014 5:48 pm 
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Video Link

If there was ever a peak I had a beef with, it was Whitehorse.  Over the last few year I came to think of it as my nemesis, although I knew simultaneously that I was being silly.  Since 2006 I have been involved in planning 5 different trips to climb Whitehorse without ever once setting foot on the mountain.  They were cancelled for various reasons ranging from last-minute increased avy danger, suspicion of the moat opening early, and team members falling sick with flu.  Whitehorse seems to have a short window of opportunity on the average year.  Most people do it in May.  Go too early and you have avy danger, go too late and the moat at the top of the glacier might be open.  For years we have discussed the possibility of climbing it in winter.

first light
first light
Round and Baker
Round and Baker

Recently Michael Lewis suggested that the current conditions might be ideal for Whitehorse.  As soon as he said it I knew he was right.  I started to get excited.  I contacted 7 strong people who would be capable of doing it in a day.  It looked like we were going to have a team of 8, but then the day before 3 of them dropped out for various reasons.  So at the trailhead, the night before our climb, we were down to 5.  Then on the way to Lone Tree Pass two decided to turn around.  We left the cars at 3:10am and crossed Moose Creek in the dark.  It was now just Josh, Jacob and I.

Jacob in the palm
Jacob in the palm

We fumbled through slide alder which was not fully covered with snow.   Higher up we reached open slopes.  Below the pass I put on crampons and got out my ax.  The snow had an icy crust and was getting steep.  We reached the pass just after watching the alpenglow on Mount Baker.  We turned east into the forest in growing light.  We stayed near the crest of the ridge until we reached a view point where we could see the summit above the So-Bahli-Ahli Glacier.  It was partly obscured by the craggy ridge that we needed to navigate around.

steep icy snow
steep icy snow

We descended several hundred feet to the south and then began a steep traverse.  Apparently we didn't drop far enough because soon I realized we were on a steep ledge above cliffs.  Jacob was leading and he seemed perfectly comfortable but I started to freak out a little when the mini moat between me and the rocks started to come apart.  I couldn't get a good ax placement and my current foot placements were unstable.  Josh was right behind me and he suggested dropping down a bit to get away from the collapsing moat.  I was grateful when he went ahead of me and made some new bucket steps.

first view of the summit (behind rocky ridge)
first view of the summit (behind rocky ridge)

We came through the worst of it and then we could see the easier terrain farther down.  I made a mental note to go back that way rather than the way we had come.  I hoped it would not be in the dark.  As we continued the traverse we could now see Point 6357.  What an impressive sight!

the traverse
the traverse

Then I heard a strange whizzing sound.  For a second I though a bird had flown past my head but I didn't see it.  I dismissed the thought and carried on.  20 minutes later I heard it again and this time I looked downhill to see a softball sized chunk of ice flying down.  The sun was melting the ice on the cliffs above us.  I yelled up to Jacob above and down to Josh below that we had to put our helmets on immediately.

High Pass above
High Pass above
nearing High Pass
nearing High Pass

We continued our ascent to High Pass, and as we climbed, the falling ice debris increased as it was funneled onto our path in the gully.  I tried to climb quickly but I was really tired at this point.  Near the top of the gully, the firm snow gave way to solid ice.  The last 20 feet was so hard that my crampons and ax could not penetrate.  Gingerly I worked my way through it and then I was rewarded with a view of the glacier and the summit.  Jacob was already well on his way to the final snow ramp.  Josh caught up with me shortly.  We decided to leave our snowshoes at the pass.  I also put on my harness for several reasons.  I wanted to lighten the load on my back and also I've heard it's difficult to put on a harness inside a crevasse.

glacier and summit
glacier and summit
Josh at High Pass
Josh at High Pass

We had two 30 meter ropes with us, but we had not planned to rope up on the glacier.  Our original plan was to save time and only use the ropes getting to/from the summit block if necessary.  Jacob even carried a few ice tools and chocks at my suggestion in case the summit block was more ice and rock than snow.  But we could see from our vantage it appeared as though the snow ramp went all the way to the summit without any visible moat.

Jacob on the hogsback
Jacob on the hogsback

We crossed the glacier and passed a few obvious crevasses which were filled in and covered up.  The snow on the north face was wind-loaded but without any obvious weak layers underneath.  It seemed solid enough to me.  As I was nearing the hogsback formation below the final snow ramp, I watched Jacob climb the last 20 feet to the summit ridge.  He was climbing slowly and methodically.  I could tell that it must be very steep.  The ramp sort of ended 20 feet short of the top and above that it was just icy snow plastered to the rock.

Jacob at the bottom of the last 20 feet
Jacob at the bottom of the last 20 feet

I admit that I was nervous about this final section.  The runout looked ok in case I screwed it up.  I would probably just fall a couple hundred feel and end up in a snow bowl.  But considering we had ropes and pickets, I prefered to use them.  I asked Jacob to set up a belay.  He did that while I was climbing the hogsback and then threw the rope down to me.  Being a 30 meter rope, it only came half-way to where I was in his steps.  The other rope was in my pack.  The belay rope dangled too far to the right on steeper harder snow.  I psyched myself up and then climbed over to the end of it.

Jacob belaying Josh
Jacob belaying Josh

The snow here was about 65 degrees with an icy crust.  I tied a figure 8 knot on the end of the rope with my left hand and my teeth, never letting go of the ice ax in my right hand.  My heart was racing.  I clipped the knot into my locking carabiner and then relaxed a little.  Jacob belayed me as I climbed straight up to the last section.  Here the snow was somewhere between 70 and 75 degrees.  Jacob had made excellent bucket steps and it was better than it looked from below but the snow made weird hollow noises when I kicked into the steps.  I reached the top edge and mantled up, just like coming over the lip of a crevasse.

summit
summit
summit
summit

I thanked Jacob for the belay and then walked over to the summit.  Whitehorse!!!  In January no less.  I could barely believe it.  It took several moment to sink in.  I looked around at Three Fingers and Glacier Peak and everything in between.  Josh was still below climbing up to where he could get a belay.  I watched as he came up over the lip and then we were all on top.  I looked Josh in the eyes and there was joy there.  But we didn't stay long.  It was 1pm and there was only about 4 hours of light left.  We wanted to get back to Lone Tree Pass before dark if possible.

Josh on Rappel
Josh on Rappel
rappelling
rappelling

Jacob backed up the anchor with a second picket that Josh had been carrying and equalized it.  Then he tied our two lightweight 30 meter ropes together for a 60 meter rappel.  I went first.  I had to stop at the half way mark to unclip and get past he knot.  After Josh and I were both down, Jacob removed the anchors and climbed down.  He left no doubt in our minds who was most comfortable on such exposed terrain.

rappelling
rappelling
descending the glacier
descending the glacier

We made good time getting back to High Pass.  Josh described a “hidden path” he had found through the ice at the top of the gully and I found that he was right, it was much better.  There was still some falling ice during our traverse but not as much.  The snow was softening now and we were sinking in some, but not enough to warrant snowshoes.  This time we descended farther and avoided the steep ramp between the upper cliffs.  We got back to Lone Tree Pass around 4 pm and the sun was setting.

below High Pass
below High Pass

We descended the open slopes and it started to get dark.  We were all exhausted and Josh was acting kind of loopy.  Although we had carried a lot of water, it was gone and we were dehydrated.  We thrashed through the slide alder following our tracks and I used my GPS to hone in on the waypoint which marked the end of the trail.  After some troubleshooting we found it next to a campfire ring of stones.  We got back to the cars around 7:50pm.  Just under 17 hours round-trip.

Point 6357
Point 6357
Below Lone Tree Pass
Below Lone Tree Pass

I'm grateful to Josh and Jacob for their confidence and mountaineering skill.  Hypothetically, if Jacob hadn't been comfortable leading the steep icy snow at the end, we could have set up running belays with the 3 pickets, but the the way we did it was fast and efficient.

My sincere condolences to the friends and family of Franklin Bradshaw.  This trip report is dedicated to his memory.

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http://www.summitpost.org/user_page.php?user_id=25744
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Keep climbing mountains and don't slip!
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wildernessed
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PostFri Jan 24, 2014 5:58 pm 
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up.gif Nice !

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Living in the Anthropocene
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Michael Lewis
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Taking a nap
PostFri Jan 24, 2014 6:10 pm 
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Good reporting. Looks like it was pretty icy! I will be back.
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Jeb
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Joined: 21 Jul 2012
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PostFri Jan 24, 2014 6:55 pm 
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Awesome! Congrats on making it happen! up.gif

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Josh Houser
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Up up and away!
PostFri Jan 24, 2014 7:13 pm 
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Heading up in the Dark
Heading up in the Dark
Taking a Night Picture
Taking a Night Picture
Distant Headlamps
Distant Headlamps
Morning Light on the Mountain
Morning Light on the Mountain
Sunrise Colors
Sunrise Colors
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Matt Lemke
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PostFri Jan 24, 2014 7:22 pm 
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Nice work guys! May have to move that peak higher on the priority list  smile.gif

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The Pacific coast to the Great Plains = my playground!!!
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GaliWalker
Have camera will use



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Have camera will use
PostFri Jan 24, 2014 7:39 pm 
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Gimpilator wrote:
descending the glacier
descending the glacier

An incredible photo! up.gif

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'Gali'Walker => 'Mountain-pass' walker
bobbi: "...don't you ever forget your camera!"
Photography: https://www.flickr.com/photos/shahiddurrani/albums
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RichP
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PostFri Jan 24, 2014 7:54 pm 
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The tiny hiker shots really show the immenseness of that peak.

Great job getting it done.

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Without obsession, life is nothing. John Waters
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Fletcher
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PostFri Jan 24, 2014 8:11 pm 
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Awesome job guys! Wish I could have been there with you.
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Redwic
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PostSat Jan 25, 2014 5:47 am 
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Nice job on a worthy summit... and in January, no less.

The photos are *excellent* as is the video. Nice choice of background music.

Your description tells me the conditions are a bit icier/gnarlier than normal with the goofy Winter season we have been having. It sounds like you needed the collective skills of each team member for the trip to be a success.  up.gif

Perhaps I will find some partners and go later this year.

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"Revolutions are not overnight. The heightist mindset has minimally a 100 year head start. Eventually the climbing community will embrace geocaching." -Paul Michelson
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Jim Dockery
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PostSat Jan 25, 2014 6:11 am 
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Good job, and nice pics. I agree with Gali, that shot really stands out. That mountain kicked my butt every time I've done it.

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Jetlag
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PostSat Jan 25, 2014 1:43 pm 
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Exceptionally beautiful video footage! We had just been discussing the possibility of this climb last week - so glad to see you guys pushed it beyond talk and found such awe-inspiring conditions.
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zephyr
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Joined: 21 Jun 2009
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aka friendly hiker
PostSat Jan 25, 2014 6:40 pm 
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Congratulations on a successful climb!  Whitehorse is such a beautiful mountain.  Great teamwork and wonderful photography to show us what it was like up there.  This shot really shows the scale well.

Flow wrote:

Edit:  I had missed the video earlier.  Wow!  Very nice job Gimpilator.  Amazing footage, great editing and excellent music choice.  Really liked that bit where Josh is climbing up on belay over that snowy edge.  The video really does convey more of what it took to accomplish this climb.  ~z
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Magellan
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PostSat Jan 25, 2014 10:15 pm 
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Burly!  up.gif  up.gif  Helluvan effort, fellas.
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Rainie Too!
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PostSat Jan 25, 2014 10:24 pm 
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up.gif  up.gif  up.gif  Really enjoy the humbleness of your TRs G!
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