Option ‘C’, Copper Peak
-Winter style in summer, via Holden & east face
July 9-10, 2011
Carla Schauble and Franklin Bradshaw
Weather – Sun and hot, minor wisps of cloud hints, winds near calm.
A new plan
We just bailed on going into the Ptarmigan. Bummed since I’ve still to venture there, but relieved given less than optimal conditions. Factors weren’t stacking up and little flags started popping up. It was best we saved that trip for another day. Driving out, we explored our other options. “B” and “C” literally… B was a nice one day trip close by. C a challenge of a one day trip stretched to two due to transportation issues. C also lead a path to Java Man for a breakfast Burrito and the Entiat Shell for a Rusty burger. They say a way is through the stomach. The food alternatives tilted the scale. We would be off for option “C” as our new primary.
An easy morning –cars, boats and buses
Warm and dry car camping. No cars in the lot. We loaded up and headed east. Still snow at Rainey, plenty at Blue Lake. A few deer, and we pulled into Winthrop to visit the old timer locals while Java Man made us a breakfast burrito… yummm. Looking up we could see the issues with 6:45am rush hour in Winthrop. A doe walked by down the middle of the street (highway). Followed by two very small fawns and another doe. The sights one gets early day when town is more at peace.
Burrito and Java in hand we made our exit. Next stop Chelan. Circles around town –just like how I hike ; ) we found the banking center of town. Cash in hand an exit NW to Fields Point passing both ferries still at dock in Chelan. It was warm, like summer warm and day would be hot. Empty and reload packs, pay for parking ($7 a night) and joined the crowd waiting to purchase tickets at the dock ($39.50 RT to Holden via slow boat). A few people get antsy as the fast boat pulls in, but it only goes to Stehekin. Shortly after it leaves the Lady II pulls in and we settle in for a two hour morning nap to Lucerne (9:45-11:45). Mid nap I was awoken by a rush of a crowd. Pulling to shore to drop off a couple to hike the shore trail about the whole boat load figured they needed to crowd the foredeck. I wonder if they figured the extra foredeck weight in the design when they built the boat?
The crowd was feisty on deck and inside. I on the other hand felt very mellow. The Lucerne dock was so piled in luggage I wondered how they expected to get it all on a boat. It looked like Holden was emptying out. Heard they almost had to shoe-horn them into the Lady Express.
On the dock the driver from last week (John) said hi and said I need a frequent traveler pass or something. Two buses today allowing the small up valley crowd to spread out. We loaded on ‘Pookie’ (their largest bus) and settled for the slow half hour ride to Holden. Holden always has a grand welcome. Town shows up running to be there waving and applauding as the bus pulls up and passengers depart. Are they as cheerful when it’s raining?
Phase two –approach, second times a charm
Registered out at the Hikers Haus. Filled with water and off on foot finally at 1:20. Gees, seems late to start a hike. Three employees took off in high spirits ahead of us. We’d see them later. Shortly up the road a left over the foot bridge, past the sauna, the hydro power station. Dry dusty road veering left. Straight up leads to the maintenance barn, bus parking and old concentrator building. The road levels as we try holding our breath… OY! The smell of llama scat brewing in the sun pile next to the road. Hot, wide open road along the top of the tailings with a right up the connector trail shortly after crossing the raging Copper creek. The sign here can be confusing, just take the trail after copper creek. Up a steep very short pitch to the old road to cross and up the Copper Basin trail proper.
The Connector trail
Pictures don’t show, this tree looked like an old candle thick sap over 25’ long from a high wound
The trail rises quickly in about 35 minutes the roar of the creek can be heard and soon trail levels for a nice walk in the woods. First view of Copper gave me pause again. I’d been restless all night worried about the basin creek log crossing. Last week it was under water. Could we go up basin and around? I hoped it wouldn’t become the crux. Now seeing the mountain I got that little lump in the throat again. Dang it’s steep and loads of snow. Would it be too soft and thin like Bonanza?
One hour from Holden at the north end of the snow covered avy field we took a break. I hung my trail loafers in a slide alder replacing with semi-plastic boots. This hanging stuff in a tree to retrieve later would be a repeat. Across the west facing avy fields, well melted out from last week. Easy now to find the way with footprints and melted out trail to follow. We donned crampons for this crossing. Maybe not really needed, but easier than trying not to slip. Across the last snow covered avy field the trail had a long orange ribbon marking it. Holden didn’t want their guest to get lost in the nearby cliffs… The ribbon would have been handy last week. The trail past the avy area was melted out compared to last week. The boulder filed (c5200’) dry with not a splattering of snow. Still some snow patches on the trail. The trail easy at times to follow as it resembled a creek. Above the boulder field (that you never enter) the trail began to be more covered then totally covered by c5400’. We followed to 5550’ then dropped down with a slow traverse directly to the log I found for crossing last week (2h25m from Holden). Sweet, today only a bit of it was under water. Another break and a venture into the basin for pictures. The three Holden hikers were in the snow covered basin having a good time…
280+ degree pano of Copper Basin. Buckskin on left, Copper far right
And she said the brushwhack was the tough part
Across the log and tried a rising traverse north and counter clockwise. Didn’t work well, buttresses, tree wells, sidehilling. Would be much better dropping the short bit to the flat area. Around the ridge we headed up into a short bit of serious schwaking. Vegie belaying and log crawling. Just enough to get up the less than 100’ steep area. Then the pitch mellowed and trees opened up (3h10m, c5770). Well, a lot of zigging, zagging and later to find snagging.
Shot from the flat creek area north of Copper Basin
Into the open Carla notice her camera had be deftly snatched from its snug pouch. I offered to descend and look for it. She didn’t want to slow progress and decided we’d search on the way back. You’ll laugh later…
Out of the brush and clear going to camp –still humping the overnight pack
Our entire route was open before us. Terminal moraine less than a thousand feet up (hopeful flat for camp). Glacier above. Ledge that we must not miss easily visible. Snow and rock patches… We tried to scope a route and options out. It looked different from the first look down lower. The closer we got the more feasible the project looked. Carla had wanted to justifiably leave packs at the basin, but I felt better to camp up higher. Warmer and drier on a ridge than in a basin, closer and less issues getting down on a return from summit if dark and if we needed two attempts we’d be setup higher. Snow only a little mushy (3”sinking) we topped out on the terminal moraine at 5:00 (c6530). Time for food, drink and setting up camp on the nice flat rib with panoramic views.
Will the route go…
Seemed early as the sun set behind Copper. Temps instantly started to cool. We loaded summit packs and started up with crampons already on. We could feel the snow was starting to firm up a tad now in the shade. We moved right to the top of the north lateral moraine top, then direct up zig zagging (can that be direct?) around rotted snow, runnels and rock that had glissaded.
Copper blocks the sun early. Looking back from near bottom of the glacier
At rest stops I was checking out Buckskin. Looks like some fun scrambling
And remembering a great ski trip earlier this year camping on Riddle and skiing off the summit of Flora
A rock feature with running water for future reference then c7500’ started a northward traverse for the “upper” notch that is key to getting onto the NEE face. As the snow steepened we exited to a rock island for some cl3-4 action, I was getting tired of all the kick stepping. Kick, kick, kick, stab ax, stab again, next foot kick, kick… Above this another less than hundred feet vert to attain the notch in the rib (c7650’). For such an important feature I didn’t get any images of approaching it. Well, it is very obvious and the only option at that altitude. We could have gone straight up the glacier more and then a long level traverse. I voted against that due to the exposed rock below and it looked somewhat steep. Well, almost everything looked steep or steeper than…
Route up the bottom of the glacier
We had the get to the notch dialed. Now what
Reports I read, hinted at a possible step enough gulley to want to belay past. All we saw was steep snow, cliffs and a few rock islands. We painted a route option, just under 1000’ vert to gain the ridge... And started a rising traverse to a “grassy” patch above the cliff a few hundred feet north of the notch.
View from the key notch looking north
Skirted under the snow field on the rock and heather to a high point. Then Carla leading up crossing numerous ever increasing in size runnels. Each steep pitch kick-step was predicated by a firm full ax belay.
Kick, kick, kick, stab ax, stab again, next foot kick, kick…
We both were taking effort to set a tread and ax holes for our deproach. The snow pitch eased to walk able, a nice respite before it angled up again. We worked right (north) to another rock island above the east cliff. Snow again then more right (north) to rock below a more gentle ridge that appeared to lead to the summit. Semi rock, snow chimney action, then up the more moderate (than the other options) ever firming snow ridge. It looked to be 2-300’ to the ridge with more rock to savor below it. I wanted to front point run up to this rock and hug it, but the increasing elevation caused me to stop and let the heart rate settle. And good ax holes would be needed for coming down this pitch. Kick, kick, kick…
Off snow onto more rock. It’s a long way down…
Soon enough we were there –where ever there is. The rock was loose and a pain in the butt with my ever dulling aluminum crampons. Good grips (if not loose) were faster and more assuring than the snow travel. A pause below the rock get a clue on a route to the ridge. Again I asked Carla if she wanted to turn-around and pull this off early in the morning. She was an all go.
“Heck yes, let’s keep going. I’m not coming back in the morning…”
A hundred feet or so of cl3-4 rock and we topped out on the ridge. Nice to be in the sun again. It’d be short lived as the colors had long ago started to change to oranges and the sun was barely above the distant Ptarmigan peaks. Light play on their mounds and clouds filling the valleys. I guessed 45 to 60 minutes to the summit and it did not look inviting. The higher we went the tougher this mountain looked. The snow changes the options and the temps dropping changed boot buckets to front pointing. East side was now firm enough for an ax shaft to no longer penetrate the surface. The west side still a little soft for easy a walking. If you don’t mind the exposure.
The Ridge at dusk
A short break for some happy snaps of the setting sun. Again I looked at Carla and asked. Do we turn back, ridge bivy or continue. She looked at me like I was batty. Like, what do you think? No doubt, onward while we still can. Oh, okay… For this trip she gets the Honey Badger award.
Back in the suns warm late glow. We’d come up the other side of the rock behind Carla and a dicey climb down it.
We were part of the alpine glow today
The sun sets showing the clouds in the valleys of Sibley creek area
Following sunset, immediately a dicey down climb off a gendarme then some west side rock and snow. A low angle, almost flat part of the ridge was like a two foot wide boardwalk with a precipitance drop to the side. We scratched it up well with crampons before a little more cl3 rock then back to a longer snow pitch on the west. I kept getting the urge to be sucked up to the crest, but fought it to do more traverse. This snow was a monster cornice on the east side. The easy low angle ridge changed to ever steepening. Snow on the west side not feeling inviting. A 20+ foot tall cornice on the ridge, and us dropping east for more rock traverse under the cornice. And again back to rock on the east side. We hugged up to the underside of the cornice, dwarfed under its towering height. Some more thin sketchy snow over who knows what type of rock. Enough of it.. it looked to be rock up to regain the ridge so off with the crampons for some rubber traction. Good hand grabs and careful grip checks brought us to the ridge less than a hundred feet from the ridge. Skies mostly dark a bit of color out west and dark black ink to the east. The temps were mild, enough to put on a puffy, hood and gloves, but very serene the last bit of snow to the melted out narrow summit.
A black reg in the dark faded reg from Aug 16, 1979
Our route up vanished in the surrounding void. Barely a wisp of wind brushing the cheek. The roar of waterfalls 5000’ below faded. It was calm and peaceful sitting on the summit. Stars beginning to dot the sky. I whipped out a tub of fresh strawberries to celebrate. A bit tired (10pm, 8964’), and at the same time energized by the top of the world view. Seemed late, but we’d not started the approach til 1:20p. The reg was under a rock on the summit peak. No cairn, just a 2” black tube with a notebook place Aug 16, 1979 by Jim Smith and crew. Many familiar names. We’d taken 8 ˝ hours from Holden (with an hour to setup camp, so 7 ˝ hiking), 3:50 from camp. Don Beavon had in 4 ˝ from Holden in the Fall. We could tell it we’d slowed to a crawl in the steep snow. And it was very apparent these steep snow trips were a load of work and time.
A half hour of summit relaxing and it was time to work our way down. It was going to be slow –one step at a time. We backtracked down rock, under the cornice, over to the west side of the ridge down snow over the ridge top sidewalk and short of the gendarme down rock on the eastside. A shortcut of the gendarme landed us on snow too steep and solid for only one tool and dull crampons. Back up and traversed via a moat north to the rib we came up (1:30 from summit). Much of the route was steep needing down climbing. The buckets we took time to make on the way up were a blessing. Rock went quicker than snow. At the grassy area we refueled our water bottles. Traversed back to the notch, wheh! We were making progress.
Why is she smiling?
Down to a last rock pitch (cl3-4) and the traverse back to the glacier. Felt lifted the final stretch being able to walk almost normal downhill. Sun cups as it flattened added to the joy. Finally sitting at the tent surrounded by stars and the milkyway we consumed food and felt come morning maybe we’d not be charging off for another peak.
Stars to sun, a burning light
It wasn’t long for sunrise. The eve was spent with tent door open. Warm, no bugs and great views. A brightness and warmth tugged at me, but I resisted and relaxed feeling the warmth. That burning light was the sun. Too warm trying to hide in the sleeping bag.
Our moraine camp at c6500’
What a joy to be warm and not the conserving heat tactics so needed til recently. A casual morning stuffing the packs and starting down with a long series of glissades –the snow was still a little firm (9:50). We had plenty of time to catch the 1:45 bus back to the ferry.
Very wispy clouds continued today. Looks like a weather change coming
Mid July and the larch just starting to bud
Above the brushy area Carla mentioned it was where she realized her camera was gone. About 50’ lower hanging from the branch of a larch a camera hanging like an ornament.
The brushwack relied on veggie rappelling and tree well dodging. The brushwhack was short. This time we dropped to the flat at c5600’ rather than hassle with the sidehilling. Leftish (NE) was flat and open with a bend in the creek.
An even better log crossing
A last look up at copper
Rightish (SE) some large trees and a up a bit Copper Basin. Before gaining elevation to the basin we found several large logs for easy crossing of the creek. A little hassle traversing back to the trail at c5477’. Not much excitement on the way down. Good scenery, good flora action for the nose and eyes. Pictures don’t capture the entire essence of being there.
Last week this field was totally buried in snow
Last week snow, this week flowers
About 15 minutes from the tailings several groups were working their way up the trail with young children. Hiking was pleasant with the day still cool. Nice view of Northstar and Bonanza and… tailings. Held our breath past the llama droppings.
The tailing road w/ Bonanza
I’d been afraid to mention it, but at some point it dawned on me that the ice cream shop is closed on Sunday. Darn! Back at the Hike Haus at 12:25 (2h35m from camp including a 20 minute break for final views of our route last night.
CLOSED!, what? Closed on Sunday? Bummer…
Axe, pickets and Rusty
The buses brought a new load of visitors. A few packs and a pile of ice axes and very long pickets. Soon looking for their packs were several NWHikers bound for Bonanza (gimilator, redwic…). We gave them recent beta of the route and another for Martin Peak. Then time for our bus ride, feet dip in the lake and a rough nap on the boat back to Fields Point.
The highway sign said 7 miles to Entiat. Like Pavlov’s dogs I’m trained to read that as 7 miles to a Rusty burger. Who’d guess a Shell station would harbor a burger shop? Bing on the late boat didn’t help for traffic. The scenic route over Stevens had a 45 minute backup starting long before Goldbar extending to the Sultan light. Maybe next time we’ll avoid a Sunday and that light.
I’m getting tired of writing. Carla got the Honey Badger award for this trip. The conditions made for a real challenge. Not often a chance to share a summit under the milkyway and down climbing by headlamp. I’d thought to wait til fall for this trip. It’d be much easier and should have some great larch colors. It wouldn’t have the warm eve and sights. Good, just different. Thanks for making plan “C” a success.
Approach: 3:40, 3.3m, 3325ascent
Ascent: 4:00, 1.0m, 2465ascent
Descent: 3:30, 3.6m
Return: 2:25 (with 20min break), 3.2m, 100ascent
TT: 13 :35, 6.8m, 5890 vert ascent
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