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Matt Lemke
High on the Outdoors



Joined: 15 Jul 2010
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Matt Lemke
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High on the Outdoors
PostSat Jan 23, 2016 10:25 pm 
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NOTE: If you haven't seen part 1 and 2 yet, see them here:

Part 1 - Oval Peak and the Gardners
Part 2 - Mesahchie Peak

Now I know it has been a long time since I last posted to this series, but in my defense, I got a job frown.gif

If you read the past 2 reports, you probably realized I wasn't working most of last year...indeed, 2015 was probably the best year of my life (that is becoming common each year lol). For this trip, I would make my first venture into the Chilliwacks with Josh and John to try for all 6 Bulgers in the area however due to time we only topped out on 4. In order, we did Spickard and Rahm on July 28th, Redoubt on the 29th, and Hard Mox on the 30th. Also note that we did part 2 of this trip (Mesahchie Peak - linked above) after part 3. I don't know why I got them out of order.

Day 1
So on the 27th of July, the day after hiking out from the Gardners, we piled up in John's Jeep and drove to Bellingham. After a stop at the Fred Meyer to pick up more food, we proceeded to the border, where as was expected Josh and I had to be pulled aside and interviewed. Josh was barely let in but we all made it through.

The drive to Chilliwack Lake went smoothly and I loved seeing a new area. The feel of each town I saw in Canada was a little different than I was used to in the US. Somehow it still felt a little foreign. Once we arrived at the south end of the enormous Chilliwack Lake, we located the Depot Creek Road. This was a real fun drive to ride along in the jeep as we made it past where most people park. We pulled off at a point when the bushes were too thick to plow over and then went on to make the first mistake of the trip.

Instead of heading left up the road we continued straight because we saw many foot prints headed that way. It wouldn't be until after we got back 5 days later we would realize that that entire road was so washed out no one could drive it anymore. The cairn I remember commenting on as we drove in was the correct way to go (which lead up the hill).

As we continued hiking along to the SE, I soon realized we were too close to the valley floor, where the brush was just getting thicker and thicker and the foot prints we had followed quickly ended. I consulted my phone, where the map had the old road a couple hundred feet above us. So I led us straight up some of the worst duff I had ever been on (not to mention the stinging nettles) and after 15 minutes of intense effort bushwhacking up we hit the old road. I remember thinking how relieved I was knowing that we would be able to make it to Ouzel Lake, since the rest of the hike we were informed was easier to follow.


From there we made quick work to the border, where I was finally able to see for myself the border swath. All I could remember thinking was that people are weird. the mountains give zero f**ks as to where international borders are. The streams keep flowing, and the mountains keep rising regardless as to where arbitrary borders are placed.

We crossed the border easily without being seen and found the old Depot Creek Trail. Why was this trail even made? was there at one point a time where crossing the border here wasn't an issue and people did it regularly? If there was, I wish I was alive during that time. The hike up the Depot Creek Trail went by fairly quickly, apart from John getting stung by a bee. It was filled with some of the best old growth forest I have seen in WA and plenty of wild fresh blue huckleberries that we ate constantly as we hiked along. Man I love those berries!


When the large Depot Creek valley narrowed and started getting steep, we began climbing out of the dense forest and passed through some brushy avalanche chutes. After about 3 hours from leaving the car we reached the base of Depot Creek Falls and the tales I have always heard were proven true! This has to be one of the best waterfalls in WA.

We climbed up the wet slabs with the help of a couple hand lines already in place and entered the trees just to the left of the waterfall. The trail here was very steep and just a few feet from the raging waterfall cascading down over a 60 degree slab. Had you fallen here and managed to hit the water it would have been a long unfortunate ride to the bottom.


Eventually the trail cut left and onto a steep talus slope that we continued up. Off to the right, inside a narrow, deep set channel was the upper falls dropping vertically nearly 200 feet below the flat meadow just above. At 4,800 feet we reached the meadow and was done with the steepest hiking!  Here we were 2,200 feet above the car but it felt like more.


We took a nice long break here while Josh pondered which was we should go. He mentioned there was more bushwhacking the next 200 feet before we would reach the open talus gully leading the final 700 feet up to Lake Ouzel. We went too far to the south and ended up doing more than we had to. We reached the gully where Depot Creek rushed down over large boulders and made the final ascent to the lake, which we reached just after sunset. It was a beautiful one too!


We put up the tents right on the north end of the beautiful lake and after a quick dinner we went to sleep. It was at this time Josh realized he forgot his headlight! The huge walls surrounding us towering high above the lake were a real treat with the red glow of sunset hitting them. It was an awesome evening.

Day 2

When we woke up, there was some remnant fog lingering around the summits of the high peaks above us which made for some really cool scenes! It was fairly chilly so we slept in a little until the sun hit us. We decided to climb Spickard and by 9am we started up towards the northeast towards the saddle separating Ouzel and Silver Lakes.


At about 6,800 feet, we cut to the south and traversed into a small bowl left behind by the receding glacier on the west side of Spickard. We hiked up the pocket glacier, at which point Josh realized he forgot his ice axe! Lucking the snow wasn't too hard and I lent him my trekking pole to use. We decided the glacier didn't warrant the need to rope up and we continued to the notch at 8,000 feet without incident, apart from a small section of ice that was a little tricky to traverse across with just micro-spikes.

From the notch, the route to the summit was pretty easy. We traversed left and continued up snow and talus (which was loose at times) up the south side the final 800 feet to the summit. I was just in awe at what surrounded us and John, who had never climbed much in the Cascades before constantly commented how different the area was to Colorado and compared it to some of the things he saw in the Alps. The view of the Mox Peaks, and in particular the east face of "Hardest" Mox was a real gem to see. There is a report of just one ascent on that face.


Looking north, we saw Rahm and Custer, which Josh and I would be continuing for the same day! We enjoyed ourselves for a half hour on the summit and saw our friends Adam, Fletcher and Jacob in the summit register who were there a month earlier. The descent went quick as we ran down the snowfields and back to the base of the pocket glacier. Josh and I then continued up the the Silver/Ouzel saddle while John went back to camp at Lake Ouzel.


Josh and I decided we would make the long traverse to Rahm first and hopefully grab Custer on the way back. Traversing to Rahm with Silver Lake below us was an incredible sight. The large rock spire above the lake to the east of Rahm was inspiring to say the least. We finally reached the steep class 3 gully that leads to the upper part of the peak. This was a loose class 3 bowling alley of which we went one at a time. There were a couple class 4 moves but since it was shady, and the wind picked up it was a little chilly in there.


Only a few hundred more feet and we stood on the top of Rahm, where we could easily see the border swath stretching both to the east and west. The summit of Rahm, although not having a full 400 feet of prominence is still a Bulger Peak since it is a named peak, and it sits only a quarter mile from the border. It's definitely a cool spot and at about 6:30 in the evening, the sun was low to the west making all the Cascade Peaks glow a bright red and orange. The view from this peak is one I will never forget.


We ran out of time to try and also summit Custer Ridge so we returned back to Lake Ouzel, as the sun was setting and provided us probably the best photos of the trip, as the Mox Peaks, and the north glacier on Spickard were just perfectly lit up. I can't say enough how much that view from the saddle above the lake rocked! We also passed by a weather station what I had no idea existed.


Upon reaching the tent, I managed to corss the outlet stream just before it got dark and Josh was maybe 25 minutes behind me. John was relaxing and enjoyed the sunset as well. I'd say we did good getting both Spickard and Rahm the same day.

Day 3

The next morning we got up early and just before the sun reached us we headed west, up the slabs towards the Redoubt Glacier. We reached the glacier, roped up and ascended the far west side until it flattened out. It was quite the slog to get to the 7,200 foot camping spot. We made camp and ate lunch, then continued up the Redoubt Glacier all the way up to the notch just below the flying buttress on the SE ridge. We had to climb 15 feet of low 5th class to get over the ridge since the glacier has receded. This part of the route will only continue to get harder in the years to come. We then dropped off the other side and descended a few hundred feet until we spotted the gully leading up the south side of the mountain.


Rather than ascend the normal route which leaves the gully to the left about halfway up, we continued all the way as the gully narrowed and into some very steep, loose terrain. I was leading so I had to be extra cautious not to knock stuff down. John meanwhile was at the end so he was knocking huge boulders off left and right. The huge crashes as rocks thundered down the mountain never got old.

Once we emerged out of that awful gully, we met up with the normal route on the south ridge, although continued to skip the switchbacking boot path as it cut off to the left and up another small snowfield. We continued straight up, climbing more steep gullies until we reached the cannon hole at the top of the small pitch some people will rope up for. We all solod it fine and finished the exposed scramble to the summit. It was a beautiful spot, and I then realized how big this peak really is. It has numerous ridges and bowls dropping off from it and really is a complicated mountain!


We actually went down the normal route, which was much easier in reality than the route we ascended. We made it back to camp before dark this time, and the sunset on the Mox Peaks was once again fantastic, however we also had an excellent view of the Pickets!


Day 4

This would be the day we go for the Mox Peaks! We got up early and quickly started towards the Col of the Wild, which that traverse without snow kinda sucks. The soutb side of the ridge separating us from the Redoubt glacier was full of steep cliffs though. Amazing how the south side looks completely different though. Just as the sun was reaching us, we got to the base of the final 600 foot ascent to the col of the wild. This was the loosest crap I think I've ever been on though. I am very good at not knocking stuff down, but even I had to stay way off to the right side of the broad gully to avoid being above Josh and John.

We all eventually made it to the col of my dreams (lol I have been excited to be here since I read about the Mox Peaks in the Beckey guide 6 years ago...at a time when I thought I'd never be comfortable climbing the Mox's). We quickly spotted the route heading up to the ridge of gendarmes, which was mostly a cairned path but did have a couple Class 3-4 spots. One of which was a 10 foot step just above the first notch you get to above the col of the wild.


Unfortunately my camera died once we reached the top of the ridge of gendarmes, so I took some photos with my phone, and used Josh's camera a little bit. We crossed the ridge and dropped a little bit until we reached the large gully that you must descend 100 feet to get past a steep rib. There was a very airy step across a tiny ledge that was getting smaller and smaller after every step! This was by far the scariest part of the route as one slip would leave you sliding down a steep slab and over a cliff. This appeared to be a new difficulty though as no one had mentioned anything about it until this past year. Past this, we searched for a safe way down the gully, but there wasn't much snow in it, and what was left was solid ice. We tried to descend the slabs but none of us felt comfortable doing so. After 15 minutes of looking for a rappel anchor, we finally found a grey sling perfectly camouflaged with the rock. We quickly set the rope up and rappelled down the worst of it. Looking at the obstacle from below we felt comfortable climbing back up it on the return.

We descended to a large flat bench and went around the rib that posed the difficulty, then continued climbing 4th and low 5th class terrain aiming for the right most gully. The exposure, looseness and difficulty was real. Once we entered the gully, we went one at a time for parts of it as the gully was deep, narrow and loose. Eventually we reached the tiny notch where most people will rope up for the final ascent. We switched into our rock shoes and I prepared the rope. Since there were three of us, I would lead with Josh and John following on the twin ropes climbing at the same time.

The first couple moves were the hardest part but I managed fine and got to the first anchor, located on a square block offering only enough room for one to sit and belay. I got some great photos from this spot with my phone.


The next pitch was easier and wouldn't even be 5th class IMO. We all then solod the final pitch to the summit, and we then proceeded to bask in its glory. The hardest Bulger Peak was completed and I wasn't even halfway done with the list! The views on this windless, cloudless day were perfect! We all took photos and looked over the summit log, which had unfortunately been changed quite a bit since Beckey first stood on this peak, but the original brass mountaineers tube remains!


I remember reading Sean's entry, which he solod both hard and easy mox in a day from Ouzel! After nearly an hour on the summit, and studying the route up easy mox, we began the rappels. We decided to rappel not just the last 3 pitches, but also parts of the gullies below. John had a scare when we got back to the notch as the base of the final pitches where his boot somehow got dislodged from the rocks it was sitting on, and almost tombled all the way down the north side of the mountain! As I am coiling rope, I suddenly hear two gasps from John and Josh as they watch his boot slowly tumble down a few ledges, stopping just before the big cliff!

I scramble down and grab it for John and we make good work descending the gullies, then re-ascending the snow gully and making our way back to the ridge of Gendarmes. Once we get there, we finally take a sigh of relief that we are out of the woods, and enjoy the sun lighting up Hard Mox and looking at the route we climbed.


We then decide it was too late to continue going for easy mox and we return to camp, getting there in the evening as the sun begins to set. The sun made the traverse back quite hot!


Another sunset just as good as the last one was awesome to see. Since my camera was dead, I just sat and enjoyed it.

Day 5

This would be the day we hiked out. We returned down the Redoubt Glacier to Lake Ouzel. Josh and I went on ahead of John thinking we would have the energy to run up Custer but when we got to the lake we decided we were both too tired and hungry to go back up hill, so we waited for John and explored the lake. Once he arrived, we continued down back to Depot Creek Falls. The rest of the hike out was uneventful, apart from getting caught by the North Cascades rangers as we drove out! They wanted to see our permits and of course, we didn't get any due to the border crossing. Luckily he was nice enough to give us a warning, and advised us we can get the permit for that area because the border crossing issue is nothing they concern themselves with. We also found the correct way on the old roads back to the car.

As we drove back out the Depot creek road, we stopped to take a picture of the jeep barely clearing the downed tree that crossed the road.


We drove back through Sumas and John dropped us off at my car parked in Bellingham. We then agreed to take a rest day (which Josh and I used to climb Mesahchie Peak) and then come back to do the Inspiration Traverse, which will be described in part 4 of this series. Stay tuned smile.gif

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Michael Lewis
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PostSun Jan 24, 2016 10:18 am 
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Awesome, Awesome looking trip! I could feel the cool breezes, the hot sun, hear the rocks tumble and crash. Excellent write-up!
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contour5
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PostSun Jan 24, 2016 8:31 pm 
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Fantastic TR and excellent beta. Thanks for posting.
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Brushbuffalo
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Location: there earlier, here now, somewhere later... Bellingham in between
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PostSun Jan 24, 2016 10:08 pm 
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You had some good times in one of the great regions of the North Cascades.  Your pictures are fantastic and your narrative is fun.

Matt Lemke wrote:

I hate to cast any sort of a downer on your fine TR, but yikes, this picture shows a dangerous way to hold an ice axe while glissading!  That he made it OK (I assume) is an example of "negative event feedback", where if nothing bad happens, that encourages a repeat of the questionable practice next time (i.e., not having control of the head of the tool, especially to keep the pick away from oneself).

P.s. ... Mt. Rahm was named for Dr. Dave Rahm, a former geology professor at WWSC  (now WWU). He was an amazingly gifted teacher,  and being one of his graduate students, he had a significant influence on my career. The peak was named in 1977 after he tragically died performing aerobatic stunts in his biplane for the King Hussein in Jordan in August 1976. He was distinguished for his aerial photography of geologic features and known as the "flying professor."  I bet he and John Scurlock would have hit it off just fine.

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Passing rocks and trees like they were standing still
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Distel32
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PostMon Jan 25, 2016 9:09 pm 
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Forum Index > Trip Reports > N Cascades Bulger Blast 2015 Part 3 - Chilliwack Mini-Slam
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