Forum Index > Trip Reports > Dumbell and Greenwood, Feb 11, 2023
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Eric Gilbertson
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Eric Gilbertson
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PostTue Feb 14, 2023 9:08 pm 
Dumbell Mountain (8,421 ft) and Greenwood Mountain (8,415 ft) 59/100 Winter Bulgers Feb 11, 2023 22 miles hiking, 46 miles snowmobiling 12:45am Saturday Ė 2:45am Sunday Eric and Anthony The weather and snow conditions looked good in the upper Chiwawa River drainage and I still had two more bulgers there to get in winter. So Anthony and I decided to climb Dumbell and Greenwood as a big single push on saturday before some weather rolled in Sunday. We would snowshoe since Iím close enough to spring expedition time now that I want to reduce risk of injury from skiing.
Climbing up Dumbell at sunset
Climbing up Dumbell at sunset
The route
The route
Loading up at Fish Lake sno park (photo by Anthony)
Loading up at Fish Lake sno park (photo by Anthony)
Iíd previously climbed both of these peaks in September 2017, but I expected them to be much more difficult in winter. I couldnít find reports of other winter ascents, so there was a bit of uncertainty in the best route. The standard summer route is to combine both peaks in the same trip and get between them by scrambling a narrow and exposed ledge around the base of Dumbell. This is usually done unroped in summer, but if it was covered in ice and snow it would be much spicier. Greenwood has been climbed in late March 2000 by Peter Krystad via Big Creek, and this route might make sense if just targetting Greenwood. But in order to combine both peaks in the same trip it appeared the ledge climb was required. Last May I did a scouting trip to assess how the ledge would look when snow covered. Paul and I climbed Genius peak on May 1 and I got some good pictures of the ledge in the deepest snow time of year. We planned to continue to climb it after Genius, but had to bail when the sun started causing loose wet slides. Based on those pictures it seemed like the ledge gets well-buried in snow but there may be enough rock to get protection in. So our plan this time was to rope up for the ledge. I couldnít remember exactly how long it was and I was optimistic maybe I could leave a 60m rope fixed on both ends to make the traverse easier for the second. But, worst case, we could always simul climb it out and back. We would plan to climb Greenwood first, since it was the crux of the day, then climb Dumbell via the standard summer route. I had previously snowmobiled in to Phelps Creek a few times and it has never been easy. Phelps Creek trailhead is the farthest trailhead from a plowed road for a winter Bulger peak, at around 23 miles. My first time in there in winter Fred and I went after a big storm that brought a lot of trees down and left deep snow that refroze. It took us three hours to get in, after getting stuck a few times and overheating on the ice. Then in May last year Paul and I sledded in to Phelps Creek and got slowed down by chainsawing out a bunch of trees past the turnoff for Trinity. This year I noticed the road to Trinity had been groomed in late January, so I expected conditions to be a bit smoother. But it is never groomed to Phelps Creek, so I still wanted to bring a chainsaw just in case. I also have two sets of scratchers now and a good rear rack to help prevent overheating. We met up at the Fish Lake sno park Friday night and managed to get a few hours of sleep. We were then up and moving by 12:45am. The first ten miles went by very fast since it had luckily just been groomed the previous evening. I was occasionally evening hitting 40mph. After that the road got rougher, but was still not bad and there were no blowdowns. I think the road to Trinity sees enough snowmobile traffic that trees get cleared out quickly.
At Phelps Creek trailhead
At Phelps Creek trailhead
Spider Meadows at dawn
Spider Meadows at dawn
Phelps Basin
Phelps Basin
Luckily there were other snowmobile tracks going up the switchbacks to Phelps Creek and travel was smooth and easy, also with no blowdowns. We arrived at 1:45am and I was amazed to have made it so quicky. One hour is now my personal record for getting in to Phelps Creek. I did a few loops revving the engine to clear the spark plugs and then we packed up and headed out. The snow was deep enough that the tall trailhead kiosk was reduced to a minor bump in the snow we could walk over. We were sinking in pretty deep even in snowshoes, but we switched out frequently and made good time. We were averaging 1.5mph on the flat sections, which is pretty good for breaking trail in the winter. After the Leroy Basin turnoff the trail got a bit harder to find in the dark and we pretty much just cut through the mostly-open woods heading in the correct general direction. By sunrise we emerged in Spider Meadows and were treated to excellent views of the surrounding peaks and clear blue skies. Red Mountain loomed above to our left and Genius peak up to the right. We stopped to take pictures, then continued through the trees on the other end and up into Phelps basin. From the basin we could finally get a glimpse of Dumbell tucked away up to the right. Greenwood was still hidden behind. I recognized the summer route going through an east-trending groove up the valley, and that looked like a good winter route also. We saw evidence of small loose wet slides on south slopes from previous days, but today was colder and that wasnít a concern. We alternated breaking trail up a steep face to gain the gully, then followed the gully all the way up to the base of Dumbell. The basin below Dumbell was scoured down and icy, but we continued on in snowshoes all the way to the southeast rib at 8000ft. Our plan was to climb Greenwood first since it was the farthest away and the likely the most difficult. This would give us a better chance of finishing it in the daylight. Also, in general when doing multiple peaks in the day I like to target the hardest and farthest away first, so I just have the easier one left afterwards and will be less likely to bail.
At the base of Dumbell looking back at Red Mountain
At the base of Dumbell looking back at Red Mountain
Looking back across the ledge
Looking back across the ledge
Anthony on the ledge
Anthony on the ledge
We ditched snowshoes at a flat spot on the rib at 12:30pm and got the rope out. It was hard to see what the ledge looked like from that angle, but I assumed it would be tricky and need the rope. I slung a big horn near the flat spot, took the rack, and Anthony started belaying me over. The snow was generally sugary powder all the way down to rock slab beneath, with a thin sun crust on top. At times I had trouble getting a secure foot placement, and had to pack snow down with my foot to make a step. But then I downclimbed a little lower and I think I found the small ledge that makes the route. I excavated out a cam placement, then downclimbed a bit more. Around the corner I saw goat tracks on a lower-angle rib, then I noticed the crux section. I was very prepared to bail if the rock was too crappy or devoid of gear placements, but I kept finding placements and continued. I hammered a nut into an icy crack, and found a solid flake to get a cam behind. At one point I got a #2 cam in a very wide crack and packed snow around it so it wouldnít wiggle itself free from the rope flopping around. Then I reached the narrowest part of the ledge, which has an overhang at the top and a very exposed drop on the side. I managed to get a piece in just before, then kicked my front points into the icy rock over the edge. I got some decent handholds and wriggled my way around while leaning backwards over the drop. I got another piece in on the other side to protect Anthony when he made the move. Just then anthony radioed me and we were about out of rope. My plan to just fix the 60m on both sides of the pitch for a running belay would not work after all. I radioed back that we would just have to simulclimb. But Anthony could leave the pieces in so I could sport lead it on the way back to save time. We simulclimbed across, and I soon reached the end of the ledge. I then traversed across a steep snowslope with big exposure beneath. I was very happy to excavate out a solid cam placement in the rock at the top. It was a bit insecure, though, near the rock-snow interface and a few times I poked my foot down into a shallow moat. But then I kicked snow in to fill it up to hopefully make things easier for Anthony. Finally I rounded a corner to a safe low-angle slope and built a two-picket anchor. I belayed Anthony over and we were done with the crux. We were running a bit behind my planned schedule so I quickly ditched some gear and started breaking trail while Anthony unroped. I kicked steps down the powder around the NE face of Dumbell, crossed a very windy notch, then started up the other side. The SW ridge of Greenwood was luckily scoured down to ice and rock and progress was reasonably fast.
Hiking up Greenwood
Hiking up Greenwood
On the summit of Greenwood
On the summit of Greenwood
Traversing back
Traversing back
Within 30 minutes I was on top of Greenwood. I had excellent views of Bonanza to the northeast then around to Fernow, Copper, and Buck. Anthony soon joined and we snapped a bunch of pictures. I was eager to be efficient with time, though, since we still wanted to squeeze Dumbell in before dark and there were only a few hours of light left. So I started back down and kicked steps back up to the anchor. Anthony belayed me across and the climb went much faster. I didnít have to kick steps or dig out gear placements. I could basically just march across and clip my old pieces like a sport climb. I carefully traversed around the crux section, then ran out of rope and we started simul climbing. Back around the rib I slung the rope around the horn again and belayed Anthony back by 4:30pm. We had an hour left of official daylight and started moving fast. We threw our gear in our packs then downclimbed to a low-angle section at 7800ft. There we ditched extra gear and started up Dumbell. I dug some snow pits and determined the face was very stable, so we proceeded up. I kicked steps up and left on the steep face aiming for the notch west of the summit. The summer route goes way left to a broad gully then traverses back right above a cliff.
Climbing up the south face of Dumbell with Fernow in the background
Climbing up the south face of Dumbell with Fernow in the background
Nearing the notch
Nearing the notch
Sunset over Glacier peak
Sunset over Glacier peak
That looked a little sketchy in winter and would take longer. Instead we saw a direct narrow snow gully leading directly to the notch. I got to the base of it and found a short mixed rock and ice step. But it looked doable, so I carefully kicked steps in and balanced my crampon frontpoints on the rock ledge to scramble up. Above that I kicked steps through sun crust and reached the notch in the waning light. The colors at that hour were beautiful, with Fernow lit up in alpenglow and the surrounding mountains a purplish blue. The sun had just set over Glacier Peak, which was capped with a small lenticular.
View from the summit
View from the summit
From the notch I headed up the west ridge. The angle was mellow but got increasingly steeper. I kicked steps to near the summit, then scrambled up a short exposed rime-covered rock step. By 5:50pm, just at the end of civil twilight, we finally reached the summit. Iíd say our timing was perfect. We got to witness a spectacular sunset from the summit of an extremely remote peak. We were surrounded by snowy mountains in blue and purple tinges. We snapped a few pictures, then headed back down. I really wanted to admire the view longer, but I knew within a few minutes darkness would set in and navigation would become difficult. We downclimbed back to the notch, then debated which way to take down. The rock and ice step would be tricky to downclimb in the dark, but I didnít like the idea of following the summer route, which was a slightly different aspect and we hadnít tested the snow stability there. The safest bet seemed to be to follow our exact same route.
On the summit of Dumbell (photo by Anthony)
On the summit of Dumbell (photo by Anthony)
On the summit
On the summit
Downclimbing
Downclimbing
Downclimbing
Downclimbing
Back down the south face
Back down the south face
I led the way carefully downclimbing the snow to the rock step. I then delicately placed my frontpoints on the small rock ledges and kicked into the ice. Soon I was below the step. Anthony followed and then we downclimbed back to our gear in the dark. I breathed a sigh of relief once we were off the steep slope. It was dark but we no longer had to worry about navigation, timing, snow conditions, or technical climbing. We changed to snowshoes and were soon following our tracks down the slope. We made good time down to Phelps Basin, then marched back into the trees. We were both out of water and a bit dehydrated, and I considered stopping to melt snow. But then we found a hole in the snow above Phelps Creek. It was a 10ft drop down the snow walls to a pool of water, but I had a special trick. I tied a rope to the end of my pole, then tied the other end to my nalgene lid. I then cast the nalgene into the pool like I was fishing, bobbed it up and down a bit, then reeled it in. I did this a few times and we topped off our water bottles. Then we began the long march out. That terrain would have been excellent for skinning out, but I was ok with snowshoing and reducing injury risk. We took a lot of food breaks and eventually made it back to the sled at 1am. I was a little surprised to see a few fresh snowmobile tracks, but nobody made any tracks up the trail. We loaded up and were soon headed out. It was easy cruising down the switchbacks, and then I was pleasantly surprised to find the main road had been freshly groomed! There were a lot of new snowmobile tracks on it so it must have seen a lot of traffic that day. It had already developed a lot of whoops, but was still much smoother than it had been on our ride in. I recalled checking the grooming calendar and hadnít seen any plans to groom to Trinity that day, but they donít always follow the schedule Iíve found.
Hiking out
Hiking out
Back at Phelps Creek trailhead
Back at Phelps Creek trailhead
Back at the sno park (photo by Anthony)
Back at the sno park (photo by Anthony)
We made excellent time out, though I was getting pretty tired. We had been up for over 24 hours and I had to slap my face periodically to keep from dozing off. By 2:45am we cruised back to the sno park. I did a few loops revving the engine then got the sled back up in the truck. One of my scratchers had gotten ripped off, but otherwise all the gear made it back fine. It 3:30am by the time I unloaded all the gear and hitched up the sled, and that was too late to justify driving home. I didnít have to work the next day so decided to sleep a few hours at the sno park before driving home. Unfortunately Anthony had to work that day. But, somehow his Jeep keys had gone missing and he was locked out. They must have fallen out somewhere on the mountain, and were now hopelessly lost. When I tried to open my truck but the RFID key for some reason didnít work. So it looked like we were both locked out in the cold! But I have a spare mechanical key and was able to open the door (though not start the engine). Iíve heard the RFID key can get messed up if it gets wet, but I had kept it in a dry bag. I figured maybe the issue was it got too cold. Anthony needed to wait until business hours anyways to call a tow place to unlock/tow his vehicle and make him a new key. So we both just got in the truck and went to sleep. I gave Anthony a spare duffle bag to use as a blanket but I donít think it was very warm. By 6:30am Anthony started calling up tow companies and I tested the key that had been warming in an inner pocket. Luckily it worked this time and the truck started up. I blasted the heat and we waited as Anthony made a bunch of calls. Finally he got someone to agree to help him out, but it would be a few hours. So I drove Anthony in to Leavenworth where he could wait, then headed back to Seattle. Link to more pictures: https://www.countryhighpoints.com/dumbell-and-greenwood-mtns-winter-ascents/

furthur, Bruce Albert, The Ghost of Bear 380, BarbE, reststep, NWtrax, awilsondc, Bramble_Scramble, zimmertr, Alpine Pedestrian, Tom, LukeHelgeson, SeanSullivan86, Mesahchie Mark, Now I Fly, John Mac, peter707, raising3hikers
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LukeHelgeson
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PostWed Feb 15, 2023 10:36 pm 
Nice one! Making it seem like a walk in the park, haha. This one has been my favorite of your winter ascents this year. It is such a beautiful area and I can only image what it feels like in the winter. Those views of Fernow are gorgeous!

Eric Gilbertson
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Get Out and Go
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Get Out and Go
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PostThu Feb 16, 2023 7:36 pm 
Nice! One of my favorite places to hang out, in the off-season of course! wink.gif

"These are the places you will find me hiding'...These are the places I will always go." (Down in the Valley by The Head and The Heart) "Sometimes you're happy. Sometimes you cry. Half of me is ocean. Half of me is sky." (Thanks, Tom Petty)

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awilsondc
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PostFri Feb 17, 2023 8:36 am 
Nice job again, Eric! The improbable ledge didn't look quite as bad as I would have expected in winter conditions. Sorry to hear about Anthony's key issues. That's unfortunate... But, excellent job getting both these peaks in winter in a single push! I always look forward to your reports. Good stuff! up.gif up.gif

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peter707
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peter707
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PostFri Feb 17, 2023 1:24 pm 
Awesome climb. Absolutely wild stuff, truly at the limit of single-push logistics in the winter. Just curious, how reliable are snowmobiles, have you had issues before? It's not quite the winter in Yukon, but it's not exactly summer in Paris if you get stranded on the way back. The worst case would be a 23 miles snowshoe out, after an already 22 miles of climbing!

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Eric Gilbertson
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Eric Gilbertson
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PostFri Feb 17, 2023 5:43 pm 
Thanks! That's neat to see the side-by-side pictures from summer vs winter!
Quote:
how reliable are snowmobiles, have you had issues before?
This is my third season with the snowmobile and it's always gotten me back from the trailheads. I got it new, but I've heard older ones can have reliability issues. The most likely issues I'm aware of are spark plugs fouling and drive belt breaking, but those are easy to fix in the field. Of course, the best situation would be to have multiple snowmobiles at the trailhead so if one doesn't start everyone can ride out on the other. But I haven't had much luck yet convincing partners to get snowmobiles so it's always just mine. I usually ski, so if the snowmobile didn't start it wouldn't be too bad skinning back out a road that's mostly downhill and already packed down from the ride in. If I snowshoe I usually strap a pair of skis on the snowmobile to use to ski out just in case. I have a binding setup that is compatibile with mountaineering boots. But I've never had to ski out.

peter707
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