Not Again!, Clark strives to maintain it’s reputation
Clark Mt. (8602', p1522')
Luahna (8450’, p720’)
August 26, 2011
Hot, real hot, sun, no clouds
The falling trees of Clark
Clark and Luahna have been on my wish list for many years. Long before even hearing of peak lists. My previous reading was of the nasty White River trail, the trip being over glacier, and taking three days. Then BB, DC and Mike’s stories of several attempts and of trees falling around them in a wind storm and a retreat. Clark had built up a big reputation in my mind. And that was without the extra day I’d heard some putting in for Luahna.
Since then I’d read several reports, Matt’s and others gave a new light. And the notion to do it in clear weather. Then TJ… now a dark cloud and my thinking of the reputation again. So finally, this year delaying over a month due to the heavy snowfall and beautiful weather it was time. New research and seeing old sheep herders trails on Routes and Rocks maps, hmmm. Maybe not as a biggy as I expected.
I had a three day weekend. I blocked out two days for Clark and Luahna and then to cross paths with Andy for Sherpa –another long awaited trip and another story in itself.
Giants in the dark
This would be a long trip, so wanted an early start. I car camped at the White River trailhead. Oh, to get there head east hwy 2, left on the Wenatchee river road, veer left at the turn off to Fish lake. Past the Ranger Station and Dirty Face TH road. At the west end of the lake take the White River road (follow signs for “Tall Timber”). Road diminishes after “Tall Timber” to rocky. End of road is the White River (FST #1507)trailhead.
An early wake up and hiking in the dark at 4:45am. Walking up the well maintained White River trail surrounded by magnificent giant trees. Amazing the girth and size illuminated through the dark. The trail is fairly flat with maybe 300’ up and down over Boulder creek at 3.8+m and in ten minutes a right turn on Boulder Pass trail (FST #1562) (3.8m, c2360, 5:55a). It was light now and time for the first mosquito of the day. Or is that, ‘let the fun begin?’
Boulder Pass signage
Still in the cool of the day I started the slow ascent up the Boulder Pass trail. In just over a mile the old camp at c4060’. In another 10 minutes a multi branch creek crossing as the trees opened to the open Boulder basin
Past the creek the basin opens. Boulder Pass is near the low point
–shade, a Chinook wind, smells of flowers and views to Boulder Pass. What a great beautiful morning. Just after 8:00 at c5000’ the trail flattens and another camp with privy.
Luckily this is the east peak and lower than the main peak
Above where the Sheep Herders go
After a short breakfast break I started up the trail. In a couple minutes, a left on the old sheep herders trail (c5015’) across the meadow and far side creek –filtered some water.
Cutoff to herder’s trail
The trail starts traversing SW up the east side of the slope (west side of basin) becoming overgrown with flowers.
Flowers and the herders trail
And now for some of the flowers
A switchback or so and the first sun hit me of the day (8:36a). Another twenty minutes the trail leveled at the next small basin with patches of snow over the creek (9.5m, c5545’, 8:56a) –Hey, it’s supposed to be near end of summer and still snow?
The first basin along the herders trail
Another ten minutes and at another small basin (9.8m, c5730’). Not as nice as the lower basin, hmmm, if I have to stay the night, the lower one would be a great camp –I had a great option : )
The morning sun was now intense. Amplifying the feel of the Chinook wind and the rich flower smells.
And more flowers (and bugs)
The trail led up through snow and heather to a ridge (10.2m, c6170’, 9:30a). The ridge had a wind lip of snow so I cut it uphill and tried going up it. Not a good idea. Looking down I saw a trail lower on the east side. Dropping to the trail for better travel then onto the snow of the large basin on the east side of Clark’s dividing south ridge.
The second basin up and the ridge to cross to the west
This was a real flower (and rock) trip
Looking NE to Boulder Pass
Over the ridge and up the Ledges
StefanF’s tr made sense of heading to the flat on the ridge at c7200. Up the softening snow to the dirt and rock ridge (11m, c7277, 10:55) for grand views to Clark in the NW. Looked just like all the numerous pictures I’d seen.
Looking overt the ridge west to Clark –I took the lower ridge then up to the upper ridge
Rock formations are aiming the direction to go
Looking back to the gulley to descend next to (went climbers right of the snow
Exploring south a little I found that the gulley I was looking down was the only viable option into the western side of the ridge. I descended the gulley on its left (south), mostly cl2 with a cl3 move lower down. Was easy to avoid the snow and half way down it rolled left and down to its base (c7000’). I headed across dry rock and dirt dodging some snowfields to the lower long upward sloping snow ledge direct toward the main summit (donned crampons).
Looking east to the eastern summit
And NW up the traverse to Clark’s summit
Started following the goats
In an hour (c8360’) I transferred up to the upper ledge, then up the steeper SE slope to dirt and rock not far below the summit and in only 10 minutes from moving up to the upper ledge was at the easily accessed windy Clark summit (via cl2 rock) (12.2m, 8602, 12:45pm, 8hrs, 6845vert).
Clark summit ho!
Looking NE from the summit over the Clark Glacier
Benchmark on the side of the summit block
You can see the BM a little up and left of center
A rather involved summit reg tube
Great sights and beautiful day. I relaxed on the summit for 45 minutes, browsed the new summit reg art brought up last year. This peak gets many ascents compared to most I’ve done lately. Took many panos, played name that peak. Not the risk in that game when nobody there to correct or work on figuring some of them out. Now it’s been, which ones have I summited and which ones to add to the list. It’d been a good trip, some reading on my next destination and off I went…
Around the bump and follow the 27 goats
I headed SW taking the second gulley west from Clark’s summit. Cl3 with a touch of maybe 4 due to loose stuff.
From the west end of the Clark Gl looking east to Clark Mt. I descended the notch with the tower on the right
Looking up the gulley I dropped down (on Clark)
Tedious rock scrambling down, so thought a quickie to head over the ridge and onto the north side to shortcut on the west side of the Clark Glacier. Angles got steep so back I go over the south side of the west trending rib for more ledgy and loose rock fun. Past a flatter spot obviously camped in recently (by SASH and group the week before). A peak (7970) stands between Clark and Luahna on this ridge. Beta and a herd of 27 goats led me to follow CW around about the height of the east saddle on typical alpine loose rock and sparse heather. Below to the south the wide basin of heather, snow fields and waterfalls –very picturesque. Another similar basin on the west side of peak 7970.
Heading up the SW side of Luahna
Looking down the route up the SW side of Luahna –came up left of the independent rock wall
Looking back to Clark Mt over the Richardson Glacier
Looking north up the Napeequa –Clark on the far right
Looking west to Ten Peaks and Glacier Peak (aka Yes! Peak)
Click and drag to interactive pan. Shift and Ctrl key to zoom in and out
From the south ridge I headed NW direct to the SW flank of Luahna and up the SW side above the snow fields on cl2-3 ledges. Though a ramp with a thin fin wall on its outside (left) and to the comfy summit (~13.5m, 8440’, 3:20p).
The day was getting warmer with a slight breeze helping to keep the temps comfortable. I lounged on the summit for 50+ minutes, checking out the views, reading the reg and checking out staying another day to go over and do Ten Peaks. Couldn’t remember at the time if a rope was needed, so not too hot for it til I re-read Fay’s recent tr.
A brief timeout for the rocks. All sorts of cool shiny rocks…
The rocks were as cool as the flowers, or more so since these rocks you don’t see everywhere.
I was feeling good and he way down should go fast. Hmmm, a ways back to return the way I came. I read in Eric Hoffman’s report he had located the old herders trail to Thunder Creek trail. I had my Old Route and Rocks map showing the trail and sounded nice to drop down it to the White River trail and out. LOL, little did I know how the rest of the day would follow. I figured I play it smart and not get caught in the trap so many people have in the past of going straight down and getting cliffed and slide alder trapped. There was a good reason the trail didn’t go straight down and why it hung over connecting to the Thunder Creek trail. But, oh, so much more I’d soon learn.
Heading down beautiful meadows (looking SE)
Looking up (north at 7970 and Clark)
Looking back up to Luahna (right side of image)
Dropped down the basin below Luahna south finding a faint trail at c6060. Then a left on this trail heading east. The map showed the trail below and on the west side of the ridge more east under Clark. Around the first rib the trail petered out into a broad meadow. About 5:40, I found it again on the bottom of the flat lower end of the basin west of Clark. Whew! I was in luck. I followed this solid trail east to the next rib. Now my choice. Follow it east, then up over the Clark south ridge to return to the basin I thought would be a nice camp? Or being early, plenty of time to get out by dark and maybe hit another set of peaks tomorrow?
Looked like the trail…
I took a right on a cairned trail heading down. Thinking this was the old herder’s trail. The trail soon diminished to nothing and I was in a steep open flower meadow. I rechecked the map. This is exactly where the trail should be. I went down and again found a very well trod trail that headed down to the SW. It took me into a lower basin (c5600’) and looked to traverse west. This was not right (or so I thought at the time). The trail on the map followed the ridge down and above 4500 to 4200’ cut west above cliffs. Here I made the mistake. Believing a map, and not the trail at my feet. The one on the map was 500’ or so higher, so this couldn’t be it –ha, later found out it was!
Back uphill I go into the trees, a right on a bit of trail to a well dug in camp with large flat tent sites dug into the hill and a giant fire pit area –hunter camp? From here the trail went down the ridge then petered out. I zigged east then back west. It had to be here somewhere. I knew above 4200’ it’d cut west so with easy forest descending I’d work west and intersect the trail. The going was getting less of what I wanted. I was on a trail of sorts, and with boot prints. Even found a water bottle. I think this was the trail of the lost. Ahead an open are proved to be cliffs. Not right, I should have intersected the trail. To my right a continuously waterfall healthy creek. I went uphill 30’ and found a way across without having to wade. Then out of a thin 20’ stretch of alder to a grand cliff overlook. I thought to myself, “not so bad”. I descend to what I thought was a trail –no dice. Now a traverse without elevation loss as shown the trail would. A short extra nasty alder patch found me hanging on feet dangling as I crossed a depression of a creek. Once out and again on some sort of faint game trail I decided to head an angle upward. I was low and now the trail would be above me. No use beating myself up on fighting the alder since I knew no trail below and a substantial way still to get to the White River trail. Also was the dangling of large log walking uphill to avoid the alder. Well, the alder did have its fun with me and I did go into “sailor mode”. Oh, my, those words don’t belong on a hike…
A clear view to where I wished to go after the waterfall creek crossing
This last short bit down low had eaten up way too much time. It was now past 7:30p and would be getting dark in 40-60 minutes depending on trees, angle… My hope was to hit the Thunder Creek trail before dark. Poof, think of something else and good things happen. At c3900’ (17.5m) I was standing starring at a wide trail sloping down to the southwest. This was it, YEAH! I’d finally found the dang herder’s trail. I wish I’d had the patience for more time and walked up to find where it opened into the upper basins. Later, I’d learn the map has the trail located on the long ridge. Looks like Eric Hoffman had found it on the ridge to the west. And after later reading the chapter in Routes and Rocks I would have hit the turn off if I’d followed the trail though that lower basin (c5600’).
So…, home free… or was I
I made great progress down this awesome trail. Man, if I’d taken it from above I’d be most the way out, or at least I thought that as I walked on. The terrain flattened and I could hear a creek west –should be Thunder Creek. Trail less for a couple hundred feet I worked through brush and easily crossed Thunder Creek over a massive wide logjam. The devastation extended up the hill and I luckily found the partially covered trail.
Logjam crossing at Thunder Creek
The upper Bachelor Creek trail was good training. Now heading downhill on the west side and several hundred feet from Thunder Creek on great tread. I great weight lifted from me. I felt good now on a trail, even with it occasionally being lost due to windfall. As the terrain flattened the trail vanished. Easy walk to the White River trail (18m, c2835, 30 minutes from crossing Thunder Creek) , but how would I re-find this trail next year for Ten Peaks?
The Fabulous White River Trail – or – where the #$%& IS IT
The trail was flat, wide and great. Cool, I was going to make great time. It was 8:15 and not dark yet. Only 6.5-6.8 miles to the car, could be back late, but in 2 hours or less. Refreshed with filtered water at a stream .4m from the turn off. Then past a camp and over Thunder Creek in the dark on a large log. Then the trees opened. This is where the fun began. What happened to the trail? Tall brush over head high. Only way to find the trail was spread the brush and push a foot ahead. Sounds easy, but this was slow and tedious –and to rub it in, the brush was wet from dew. How long could this last? I’d hear a rushing sound and look down to the parted brush to see a creek. Some work not wading in it and even more figuring were the trail had gone. Wet, hard to find trail, oh, and nettles… This went on and on. A large creek poised a crossing issue that took time. I didn’t want to wade it in the dark. If for some reason I was benighted, I wanted dry feet. Then a savior of trees. I saw many points in my notes stating brush from hell over, as each time I found woods I felt I was home free. Only to find the trail fun repeated.
Getting late not a problem
When I was tired I could pull out the stove, make dinner and the sleeping bag and catch shut eye. Was all worked up from the brush, so in no mood to sleep. How could the trail be so un-maintained when it was such a freeway up to Boulder Pass trail? Later, I read in Rocks and Routes, that even in the 60’s the trail was not well maintained or used. Too bad, it leads to some nice areas to explore. Would be nice if some trail crew cleared it someday.
Less than a third of mile from the Boulder Pass trail the meadow gives way to trees and the trail is a nice walk. I’d been an hour and a half to go the brush strewn mile and a half. Holy smokes, am I ever slow! Enough of that, now I good tread I didn’t feel like camping or waking to this trail. Slower walking at night it took another 1h25m to walk to the trailhead finally arriving at 11:20p.
Well, I’d made the trip in a day, even with an overnight pack. But didn’t feel good, as it would have been sweet to bivy under the stars as I’d thought in a high basin as I’d thought earlier in the morning. So many have had “issues” on these peaks. I guess my story is not an exception there.
Biggy here is as Bill would say, “there is not time for a shortcut”. I’d read numerous reports of people heading straight down. Even with being armed with a map showing the old trail, I got some of their fun. At least I had it much easier than what I hear many have had since I finally found the herder’s trail off the high basins and Thunder Creek trail. Next time I’ll take that trail herders trail east to camp in the beautiful basin and return the easy Thunder Pass trail… or head over for an adventure into the Napequa…
A long day and now feeling it. I decided tomorrow would be arrest day. And then on to more adventure. Well, the morning brought another story…
Stats: 24.8 miles, 7683 ascent, 18 ½ hrs
Gear: ice ax, crampons, brain bucket…
Casual reading at the TH
Copyright 2011, FWB, all rights reserved