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Joined: 04 Jul 2018
Posts: 149 | TRs | Pics
Remmel Mountain (8,685 ft)
Jan 21-22, 2023
6:30pm Saturday Ė 6:30pm Sunday (24 hr car-to-car continuous push)
Eric, Mo, Talon
Remmel Mountain has been on my radar for a while for a winter ascent. Iíve previously climbed Remmel in October 2017 with Katie, but it gets a lot more difficult and fun in the winter with approach roads snowed over and undriveable.
Iíve considered three main approaches in the winter. The first is drive to Loomis and continue up Toats Coulee road until snow line, then snowmobile in about 20 miles to the Cathedral Butte trailhead. Then hike the standard summer route to the summit. This was the route Katie and I climbed in October and is the shortest hiking distance. However, itís a long drive to Loomis and thereís a lot of uncertainty in the road condition to get to Cathedral Butte since it is ungroomed and there are no sno parks nearby.
Another option is to snowmobile from the Eightmile sno park about 20 miles up to the Thirtymile trailhead and hike in from there. This connects with the standard summer route and avoids all avalanche terrain.
The final option is to snowmobile from eightmile sno park 15 miles up to the Andrews Creek trailhead, then hike up the Andrews Creek trail. From here one could either climb up the steep west face from Andrews Pass to the summit, or bushwhack over Coleman ridge, drop down a short steep slope, and connect with the summer route.
In December 2020 I planned to go for the Thirtymile trailhead approach, but the day before departure it snowed much more than anticipated and we were concerned about trail breaking speed and snow stability. So we changed objectives.
In January 2022 I snowmobiled up to Andrews Creek and hiked in with plans to climb Cathedral, Amphitheater and Remmel. Cathedral and Amphitheater ended up being much more difficult than anticipated so I ended up skipping Remmel.
It finally looked like it made sense to give Remmel another try. I was looking for an ďeasierĒ winter bulger after failing on an attempted Hard Mox climb last weekend. Remmel is non-technical and I was already pretty familiar with the route in winter from last year. This weekend Remmel looked much drier than my other potential bulger objectives, getting only and inch or so of snow saturday then sunny sunday.
I decided to go for the Andrews Creek to Coleman Ridge route. The conditions looked like the snow would be stable, though I still like avoiding avy terrain as much as possible. This route only had a short 100ft drop through avy slopes, but they looked like they might be in dense enough trees to not be a problem.
Mo and Talon were interested in joining. We decided to go light and do the trip as a single car-to-car push. We would leave the Eightmile snow park Saturday evening once the last snow squall ended. Then weíd hopefully be back within 24 hours Sunday evening.
Mo planned to snowshoe, so I agreed to snowshoe also so he wouldnít have to work as hard trail breaking and we could go the same speed. Talon would be on his splitboard. This allowed me to take two passengers on my snowmobile. I would have Mo ride passenger and Iíd tow Talon behind on a rope like a water skier.
I remembered my last trip to Andrews Creek I had gotten stopped by lots of blowdowns a half mile before the trailhead. I just had an ax at the time, and that would have taken too long to chop through all the trees. So we had parked the sled there and continued on foot. This time we would bring a chainsaw.
Saturday morning I drove out to the eightmile sno park, arriving 1pm. I wanted to give us the highest chance of success with minimal delays, so I planned to snowmobile up the road and saw out all the trees, then return in time for us all three to head up together by 6:30pm. I unloaded my sled on a snow bank and got it all packed up. Then three other snowmobilers came back from a morning of riding.
On the summit
At eightmile sno park
They said they had ridden all the way up to the Thirtymile trailhead, past Andrews Creek, and there were no blowdowns. That was great news! I was kind of looking forward to cutting out some trees, but there was no need now that I knew the route was clear. Also, it started snowing pretty hard then and I could save myself getting soaked on the ride by just waiting in the truck.
So I took a nap in the truck. I knew sleep would be important now if I was planning to pull an all-nighter that night and probably not get much sleep sunday night either (I teach an early morning lecture Monday morning so if I got back late sunday night to Seattle there would likely not be much time for sleeping).
Talon and Mo arrived on schedule and we had the sled all loaded up by 6:30pm as planned. We strapped Talonís chainsaw on the top just in case something still needed sawed out. I gave Talon my bike-tube-belt with 3-1 rigging for the rope. We then continued up the snowy road. I tried to maintain a constant 20mph speed, which Iíve found is reasonable for towing skiers or riders. Mo checked back every minute to make sure Talon was still on.
After about 45 minutes we reached the Andrews Creek trailhead. Talon stayed on the whole time and there were indeed no blowdowns. We quickly repacked and headed up the trail.
The snow started out crusty but soon became deeper and deeper powder. Talon and I took turns breaking trail, and I was very happy not to be solo. We made good progress, taking occasional breaks, but about 8 miles in Mo said his leg was hurting. He thought he may have pulled a muscle. He thought it would be unwise to continue, but he would be ok hiking back out slowly and waiting for us at the sled.
Talon and I continued as planned. We reached 5700ft around 5am and then left the trail heading up to the east towards Coleman Ridge. Low down there were a lot of blowdowns to negotiate, but as we got higher the terrain opened up more. Eventually by first light around 7am we crested Coleman ridge and started looking for the crossover point.
Loading up the sled (photo by Mo)
At Andrews Creek trailhead
Hiking up the trail
I found the planned location from the shaded relief maps, and it was a little more open than I had expected. I really wished I were on skis then instead of snowshoes so I could cut the slope and get down quickly. But I knew I could still manage in snowshoes.
I dug a quick pit and the snow was not reactive, so we assessed it would be safe to descend. We planned to cross a narrow gully and then downclimb in the trees. Talon first cut the gully in his snowboard. This is a safe way to test stability on a slope like this since even if it slides Talon would be on the other side before the snow would react. But, as we found in the pit test, the snow was nice and stable. I followed on snowshoes, and then I downclimbed the gully while Talon rode down.
At the base we crossed a small bowl, then traverse to gain the standard ascent route. We hiked up the southeast bowl headed for the south ridge. Unfortunately the predicted sunny weather had not yet materialized and it was a windy whiteout. Talon was moving a little slower so I pushed on ahead breaking trail, with the plan that he would follow my tracks.
I followed mellow slopes up to gain the south ridge, then hugged the ridge on the way up, avoiding any slope greater than 30 degrees. Visibility was low but navigation was pretty easy following the ridge. I also had three GPS devices as backup.
Higher up the rocks started poking out and the powder snow turned to rime. It would have been difficult skiing, so I guess I was ok being on snowshoes then. Finally by 10am I popped out on the summit.
Breaking trail in the dark
First light near Coleman Ridge
Dropping down the steep slope
It was very windy and visibility was only about 30ft. I took a lot of pictures and videos, though unfortunately didnít get a view. I had kind of hoped I could find the summit register, but there was no chance. It would have been under several feet of rime and snow, and the only hope of finding it would have been with a metal detector (if it was a metal register, which I canít remember exactly).
After 5 minutes I headed back down. My tracks were starting to get drifted over but I could still vaguely find them. I made it back to the bottom of the bowl and didnít see Talon. I did see a clear set of descending snowboard tracks, and I learned he decided to not continue in the bad conditions.
I soon caught back up to Talon at the base of Coleman Ridge, and we took turns kicking steps up the steep gully.
From there we met back with our up trakcs. I plunged down in snowshoes and Talon skied down in split board mode. We eventually got low enough that Talon converted to snowboard mode. It looked like he had a lot of fun riding down while I plodded down in snowshoes. It would have been great skiing.
Traversing the southeast face
On the summit in a whiteout
We soon reached the trail, then continued out. It was much easier hiking out since we had already broken trail. By 4:45pm, just before sunset, we emerged back at the trailhead. Mo was waiting, and we quickly got the sled rigged up and headed out.
Talon wanted to spice things up a bit and go 30mph instead of 20mph on the way out. I reluctantly obliged, but after a few wipeouts I decided Iíd dial it back down to 20mph. From then on we had a smooth ride out, getting back to the truck by 6:30pm for a solid 24 continuous push.
After some delays rigging the snowmobile and dropping it off at storage I eventually got home by 2:30am, in time for a three-hour nap before heading in to school to give my statics lecture.
Link to more pictures: https://www.countryhighpoints.com/remmel-mountain-winter-ascent/
Finally a view of Remmel on the hike out
Fishing for water
Back at the trailhead
Now I Fly, Dave Weyrick, call-151, Mesahchie Mark, Waterman, peter707
Now I Fly, Dave Weyrick, call-151, Mesahchie Mark, Waterman, peter707
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