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Ski adventures out of Holden Village

Riddle Peaks (8200+’, p1120’)

Flora Mt (8320’, p1800’)

-ski from Holden via Tenmile Creek

April 29-May 2, 2011

Carla Schauble and Franklin Bradshaw



Weather – Sunshine, mid 30s, eve temps 16F & 24F, light to no winds on summits.

Celestial – Sunrise 6:04a, Sunset 8:14p; Moonrise 4:40a, Moonset 7:11p, 2 days until new moon


Short of it

Take advantage of a three plus day weather window to tag a couple peaks in the Riddle/Castle Creek areas.  Ski an awesome col off the east flank of Riddle Peaks.  Two great camps, one on the upper face of Riddle and another ridge camp, both with beyond stunning views. More skiing from the summit of Flora (8320’) and… well, it’s not getting short, an this is supposed to be the short of it.  We had a good time…


The plan…

Another weekend with a short weather window.  Looked like three solid days of goodness then “rain after 11am”.  Dicey wanted a three day max trip.  With looking at a trip up Lake Chelan she had the wisdom to not want to spend the “best day” waiting and on a boat.  It was something like, “I don’t want to waste a good sunny day on the boat…”  or something of the sort.  Several options looked interesting out of the Lucerne/Holden area.  Jason had been up that area the week before. A few quick emails and it looked like good skiing right from Holden with “about four feet of snow in town”.  So… with a few back-ups our prime choice was to get into the Riddle/Castle Creek area, tag some peaks, ski some cols and take in the sunshine and views. Game on, catch 10:50 boat and start skiing up Tenmile Creek around 1pm…


Starboard…right, okay, but 50 cents

Early morning, but not a too early drive to Lake Chelan.  A stop at the Anjou bakery… did I mention I have a weakness for bakeries?  Arrived at Fields Point with fifty minutes to spare.  High clouds, cold winds –puffy with hood type weather.  All okay, the weather was just as forecasted. 







Questioning the seasonal changing boat schedule while on the boat brought up even more questions. They didn’t know if they could start using the big boat and what the schedule would be if they didn’t.  Disembarked at Lucerne and the passengers created a passing line to get the gear and food from the boat to the waiting bus (sign on side of the bus said 50cents… ???).  While we loaded the bus the deckhand was taking depth readings -Not good. The power company had been draining the lake too low.  They hoped it wouldn’t get drained much more and restrict further docking of even the faster shallow draft boat..  Already stops were restricted to Fields Point, Lucerne and Stehekin. And on the question of schedule… basically, no answer for our return trip.




The bus pulled out at a slow rumble, gaining elevation up the switchbacks.  Some obvious inside jokes amongst the other passengers.  Along the way, some interesting cardboard signs on route.  The bus stopped at one for a passenger to get out and “oil his sideburns” –another inside joke.  A few questions revealed everyone on board, but us, were returning employees.  Today was a bit of a party day, a homecoming for them.


After a nine or so switch backs in 2 miles the bus shifted out of granny gear, giving more entertainment bumping up the muddy Railroad Creek road.  After miles of flatter road we saw the first building of Holden and on a platform a cheering mob of 30 or so people waving signs and each a finger with a blue bandaid… more inside jokes.  The party crowd left into the cafeteria and the gal in charge greeted us with her little girl (Sophie) and little boy.  Money for bus ride exchanged ($15rt each) and still no better answer on boat schedule, “just be here by 10:30”.  And we found out the 50 cents referred to a music group, fav of one of the crew.









From 50cents to Tenmile

A stash of our shoes and a few other items.  Snow about three feet deep in town, so we skinned to the TH between Chalet 5-6 (1:36p, c3260’) and a long traverse to Tenmile falls with only a few dry patches (.7m, c3416’).  A turn uphill (left) and the trail hard to follow the next 300’ vertical.  Not enough snow so booting and post holing up the rocks and snow patches. 





                                    Buckskin                                                                                                           Copper



We wove separate routes around some rock outcrops and below 3800’ (.9m, 2:40p) the pitch eased and enough snow to start skinning again.  The only info I’d found on this trail was a tr from Stefan and Fay from last July.  There was a trail there, somewhere, though harder and harder to find as we gained altitude and the snow more depth.  A third of a mile easy going and we were on a not as much fun traverse in thicker forest.  Past a set of fresh bear tracks lead down to the creek, we kept traversing.  Another .4 miles the forest opened to a large Avy debris field from the slope on the left (1.5m, c4400’, 3:40p).


The trail was buried beyond finding.  A few avalanches had spread debris flow across the creek allowing easy crossing.  Now on the east side we traversed with a slow rise weaving around trees and wells.  c4900’ (2.2m, 4:40p) we crossed Tenmile Creek below an ice filled waterfall.





 It appeared to be like a gorge above so we crossed below on snow.  The map indicated the Devore Creek trail on the west side of the stream with many switchbacks.  With the snow Carla just headed directly up.  Still in woods with not much for views.  I really do like the hiking with better views.  The slope eased (c5780’, 2.7m, 5:38p) and we veered right.  More openings and a sweet view east of Riddle Peaks.  Deeply snow covered and easy to see the similarities to the image I’d seen in Fay’s trip report from last summer.  Our upward progress was okay, but was taking time.  New Tenmile Pass and not 6:30 yet. Plenty of daylight, we decided to push on for a higher camp.  Carla also likes the high altitude views.





Riddle me this

Whew, a short day, but I was winded, 6:20p (3.2m, c6360’), so a little more food and confirming we agreed on the route up.  Route looked simple, a right heading east from Tenmile Pass, traverse up and under the buttresses and head for the saddle hoping to find a decent camp spot.  ¾ the way up a group of trees, we move higher looking for something on the ridge.  Too narrow a ridge so returning down 50’ on the west side we flattened and dug into a wind lip. 




Sweet camp, protected from the wind and the views while we prepped camp… oh my, stunning…




Clear skies, stars and temps dropping to 16F… brrrr!  I was happy I’d brought penalty weight of my down booties. : )  Morning brought clear blue skies. 





We ventured up for Riddle Peaks.  Maybe not the best way, but the way we took.  Traversed north and took the third gulley up (giant boulder on left shoulder).  At one point the pitch increased to 65-70deg.  I had to clear space for the knee to get up.  Too steep for one tool and what we were doing.  Wasn’t til then that it struck me how steep it was.  A traverse right and a more doable without the sphincter pucker factor.  Wheh! The pitch mellowed to a shallow walk amongst thin snow and rock to the false summit and true summit waiting due east (8:26, .3m, c8212). 



                        Our Path to the gulley                         



                        Gulley action



                                                On the ridge



                                                Devore                                                                                      Tupshin





                                    Cardnial                                                                                                           Bonanza



                                    Glacier Peak (YES!)                                                                                           Maude



                                    South Spectacle                                                                                   Fernow and Copper


                                    Fernow, Copper, Genius, Dumbell, Greenwood and Glacier peaks





                                    Riddle Peak Summit                                                      Not the summit, but an impressive Riddle Peak


From below a spire on the NW end of the ridge cirque looked like the summit.  We were very relieved that it was obviously not the summit.  Oh, the gulley up was cold, real cold.  Fingers and toes numb, it was nice to be in the sun and quickly warming up.





The Ridge back to camp                                                           Last look back at Riddle



Our route down was south following the ridge and taking the first gulley from the south that we hadn’t come up.  A much better choice.  Would have been easy to also have run the ridge from the saddle, moving to the eastside around a gendarme.



Last look back to Riddle                                   The saddle we plan to ski







Aren’t we here to ski

Camp packed away quick and we went up over the saddle east.  A serious drop, hmmm, could do it, but no.  We ascended to under the gendarme, traversed onto the SE face of Riddle Peak. 



                        South to Buckskin and Maude                                                   Carla heading up to pass over Riddle Ridge to the east




                        Heading to the East Riddle Saddle                                                       One pitch skied, many more to come : )






A few turns and at a saddle due west of the summit (.9m, 7565’, 11:10a).  After looking back, if we had dropped to the slope at the south Riddle saddle we would have been on the wrong face and had to ski north to get to the east Riddle saddle.  The snow was very consolidated and slightly softened by the morning’s sun. Turn upon turn on the easy slope.  Hindered by the overnight packs affected balance, but not spirit.  All the up and we were finally skiing and in the sun –Yipee!



                                                East Col of Riddler



                        Carla putting in some morning turns                                                      Happy skier in the Larch shadow web


Still plenty of turns left, we traversed at c6200’ north around a ridge and into the end of Riddle Creek to a beautiful basin full of larch that would be beautiful in the fall.  On the far north end we stopped to enjoy the basin and lunch (2.4m, c6980’, 12:58p).  Hard to leave, this would be a great camp. 


The NW end  or Riddle Basin



            Looking back at the col, Riddler peak mid-right                                                Happy skier in Riddler Basin




Let’s go higher

A comfy lunch break and then 600’ up to the Riddle/Castle Ridge (2.6m, c7455, 2:00p).  A little scouting and another camp site with views in all directions (c7375).



                        Heading up to the Riddle/Castle ridge                                                              tree patterns



            The shadows looked like lungs                                      Sometimes better to boot it


 The summit of Riddle had shown that half snow covered rock was more challenging than we wished for this trip –no rope and plenty of exposure. Gave thoughts to the peaks we wished to pursue.  Looking at the terrain, what we thought may go from the maps and time left in the day… our calculations were we could nab Flora today. Dropped down from the pass (3:05p), traversing in the virgin snow through the bare larch glade east to a firm snow traverse above cliffs (low point of c7090’).  A few spots very firm, enough to warrant having the ice ax at the ready.  Wouldn’t be so bad, but at times the ski edges felt to be barely holding at times. 



Our route from Riddle-Castle Saddle to Flora                                                  Looking east, leaving the ridge


                        A bit of a traverse                                                                           traversing under the Camp ridge



  Carla rounding the north traverse to head east to Flora                     From the ridge traverse looking north up Castle Creek



                        White Goat Peak                                                                                              And finally, Flora!


Around the north ridge rounding from north toward SW the snow was softer from sunshine.  Again through another larch glade veering east to the base of Floras west face (3.8m, c7616’, 4:56p).  This would be another great camp, so many choices.  To our east, the massive face of Flora.  Snow in the middle, rock ridge on right and dropping to a basin on the left (north).  Two summits, one north and one south.  Our beta assured us it was the south summit –hope so.  It all looked easy enough. Our route was straight forward.  Except the traverse to this point.  It may have been better if we had dropped below the cliff bands and lost more altitude. 




Niko has been wanting to do a more direct route from Lucerne Pass to the south, I didn’t confirm whether it would go or not.  Looked possible, but at the moment getting up to the summit so we could catch some late afternoon turns was more on my mind.  Long zigs and zags brought us to skiing literally onto the high point of the summit of Flora (4.1m, 8320+, 5:40p). The ascent went faster than expected.  Nice… Allowed us plenty of time for shutter delay and enjoying the summit.  The summit rock was bare.  Looking around we found bare wire on a rock, but no register –left a new one).


                                                            Flora Summit Pano


                                                            Looking south to the Entiats



            To the west crest was getting charming weather                      Almost s summit shot, more a butt shot


Flora Mt 360 interactive pano – click and drag:




Rush hour to dinner

Summit antics aside we ripped the skins and in less than five minutes had left our mark in round ski tracks down the entire west face of Flora.  Even with a long day, setting tracks down a high peak energized us.  The sun had done a great job softening the snow.



Hey, look at my turns (oh, much softer snow up there  )                                               See… from 8320’ : )


We followed or traverse tracks back to the camp ridge (5.8m, c7370, 7:13p).  Just in time for me to bobble and my glasses to fall off.  A quick grab brought back empty fingers…  I watched as they slowly slid down the hill.  Dang!  Dang!  Many antics searching and good luck to find them and a nice penalty skin up to the ridge to catch the final bit of sun as it set (6.2m, c7385, 8:14p, 4131’ ascent for the day).  Good lounging at camp with stars coming out.  We’d had two  great days and tomorrow was predicted to be warmer and the last sunny day.  We decided to pull the plug on peakbagging and head back in the good weather.  I drifted off to warmer than last night and the buzz of peaks and nice springs skiing.



                                                Morning view from camp south to Riddle Creek Basin


And the view north into Castle Creek Basin


Which way to go

Morning light had me burying my head in the sack.  Early warm sun heated the camp for a good morning.  We headed west on the ridge (9:55a) traversing down and counterclockwise around the top of Riddle Basin. 



            Riddle Creek and Lucerne view for Niko                                    First view of Riddle Pass (north of the north peak)                                   



Carla eyeing a north col of North Riddle Peak                               Sastrugi



Firm snow with a promise of softer later in the day.  Rounding the ridge (c6874), we skinned up to Riddle Pass (1.1m, c7084’, 10:45a).  Morning sun warmth of winter though cool for spring, we gave a last look into Riddle Basin and up some impressive gulleys of North Riddle.  No rush, as we took in the views, Riddle waved a nod with a snow slough off her east fluted slopes.  A fitting goodbye.  The top of the west slope below the pass was wind sculpted.  What a relief looking down from the pass.  Until now we had no idea if it would be skiable.  And it proved to be a bonus of looking very good.  Tentative first sets of turns in the sastrugi, then lower more linking out of the shade and into the sunshine.   We linked turns down and left (SW) out the gulley (2.1m, c5850’, 11:15a).  Now some traversing through the thickening woods til no more down into Devore Creek’s valley (2.5m, c5400’).



First look west into Devore Creek                                             A small dot skiing from Riddle Pass



Fourth of July in a winter coat

Time to skin again –of course after a nice break.  In less than .2 miles the trees opened to the next breathtaking view of our trip.  Each corner brought more surprises, luckily good ones.  We stood in the middle of Fourth of July Basin surrounded by the cirque of tall peaks, Riddle, Johnson’s Jonah, Black Tower, Wy East (2.7m, c5556’).  All beaconing, I’ll be back for them and to see this area with a little less snow. 


                                                Looking south from the end of Devore Creek/Fourth of July Basin



I was thinking of all the people that wait for the snow to melt.  The sights and variety for me are too tempting…  Well, things got a little sticky.  Real sticky.  After our pause we hit a patch of still cold snow to have it stick like glue.  4” on top and bottom.  Was like walking in 12” deep mud.  Each effort of moving a leg a workout.  We pounded, we scraped.  Hey, we weren’t into this for work!  Okay, off with the skis, sink, sink…  Out with the wax and waxed up the skins.  Seemed to work a bit then back to a similar glorious fun.



            Not the big piles from before waxing                                       Heading up to Tenimile pass in the sunshine




                                                                                                Johnson’s Jonah and Black Tower


 We’d not been in this area and it was hard to tell how to get out of the basin.  In the trees to our right a cliff.  Map showed trail that way, but didn’t look fun.  Skis stuck more in the shaded snow.  Back left in the open we worked a pushdown scrap shuffle to clear the skins each step.  Not a no effort event, but better than the alternative.  We stayed more left of the trees starting a traverse westward (right) at c5940’ (3m).  Across a ever steepening north slope and an easy pitch up to Tenmile Pass for lunch (3.5m, c6500’, 1:59p).  Today nice long breaks seemed to be a theme.  We had plenty of time and were waiting for the snow to soften for the skiing down Tenmile Creek.


Tenmile in two

Skins dry and not able to eat anymore food, still hard to pull away from lunch hour.  Again looking north a goodbye to Devore Creek area as we started the gentle decent into Tenmile Creek’s valley.  Snow was soft, some open spots then some trees, some wide some tight.  A little of everything with nice snow.  Passed above the waterfall this time (c5500’) to traverse and take full advantage of nice open areas to lay down the best turns of the weekend. A wide open area brought us down and across the creek where we’d crossed on Friday, this time a little lower (5.3m, c4370’, 4:00p).  We were a little too low and near the creek.  Slow going and traversing out.  It finally hit us, “what would the Honey Badger do?”  blast through and…  So took off the skis to gain 50’ of quick elevation for easier traversing and back out where we could actually ski vs. fight our way through the trees.  Thinner snow, yet open and gladed feel (5.7m, c4155’).  More work, but still turns through the trees to an abrupt… What? No Snow!   I was having so much fun it was a shock to stand there looking at the rollover of a rock cliff and no snow.  Consolation was.  A good rock to sit on and enjoy the warm sun (5.9m, c3795, 4:40p).




            20’+ tall cornices the entire run of Martin Ridge                                              Close up of the top of Copper Peak



            Avy area on the right heading down Tenmile Creek                               Massive Avy came down Buckskin (south of Railroad Creek)


Sticking to our theme another half hour break and more views.  To our south Tinpan, Buckskin, Copper and the Sludge fields of Holden covered with snow below.  A short 15min walk down 400+’ to Tenmile Falls. We headed down further and found a flat camp site near the Monkey Bear Falls trail (6.2m, c3215, 5:40p). 



                                    400’ of no snow                                                                        camped near the busy Railroad Creek road


Only views of trees and some claim poles.  We needed some entertainment.  The Rain prevention medicine was gone… uh, oh!  First antic was a skinless ski with open pan to the creek.  Entertaining and somehow managed a full bucket of water back to camp.  Dinner polished off it was still early.  Now what?  Well, we were camped near the main thoroughfare to Holden.  Maybe check out the crowds at rushhour?  Nothing there.  Not a bit of movement all night on the road.   Carla had a great idea and we were off like honey badgers to do an uphill skinless ski a little less than a mile to Holden to raid our stash for a refreshing beverage.  I’ll hold off on the detail, we made it there and back in less than a half hour each way, with a cold Diamond Knot IPA as reward.  A good reward.  Oh, the days stats totaled a lazy 7.8 miles.  Oh, that was two hours to descend Tenmile creek.




                        End of day merriment


Weather and the forecaster

Ah, day 4, Hmmm, no sun. a little dreary in the woods with dirty snow.  Now late night rush hour to wake us.  I was laughing at the comment of, “how often can you camp near the main road to a town and have no traffic?” Another late morning and a half hour to Holden.



                        Followed Monkey Bear trail to Holden                                                  Time to walk, from Chalet #6



It was May Youth Weekends and the deck was filled with luggage. We were 40 minutes ahead of the time we were told to arrive.  Taking it easy and waiting.  Luggage loaded on the flatbed and 15 minutes ahead of schedule it started a light drizzle.  Gees, the weather man was off… well, not by much. 



Waiting for the boat at the thiving Holden Bus Depot


What to do? Door number 1, number 2 or 3…?

Doors 1, 2 & 3



Looked like a later boat and the idea of waiting in the building for four or five hours didn’t sound appealing.  We snagged a cookie and a ride down to Lucerne to catch the uplake boat to Burgers at Stehekin.  WSDOT building a new ferry dock and the restaurant remodeled (haven’t been there in a long time).  A delicious lunch and browsing the visitors center. 



                        Burger and beers in Stehekin                                                               Loading for the ride back to Fields Point



The skies gray and a much different feel from our sunny high alpine adventure.  We half expected Jason, Kyle and Scott to catch the boat, we hoped their trip was going well –that’s their story to tell. 


                                    Just in time


A good weekend. I pondered as I gazed out the rain spotted window and the darkening gray shapes or ridges.  Met many great people, saw new places, stunning views and high adventure –oh, and skiing too : )


Hope you all get out there while there’s still some snow.  Thanks for reading.


Happy Trails!




Day 1:  4.2m,  6h54min,  4260' ascent

Day 2:  6.2m, 12h47min, 4131' ascent

Day 3:  7.8m, 10h43min, 1620' ascent

Day 4:  0.9m, 35min,          270' ascent

Total: 19.1m, 30h59min, 10281’ ascent












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