The Honey Badgers go skiing the Pasaytens
Remmel Mt (8685’, prom 4365’ 4573’)
Andrew Peak (8301’,prom 1581’ )
-ski via Andrew Creek trail (Okanogan/Pasaytens)
May 28-30, 2011
Carla Schauble and Franklin Bradshaw
Weather – A little everything, Overcast, light drizzle, fog, Sunshine, blizzard – spring warm, Hail and rolling thunder), light wind in day, high winds at night.
Celestial – Sunrise 5:04a, Sunset 8:51p; Moonrise 3:03a, Moonset 6:04p, 3 days until new moon
Short of it
Weather forecast that sucked, hey, let’s go and… well, For a sucky weather forecast we took our chances heading east to the Pasayten. An adventurous and long trail crawl up Andrew Creek. A blizzard, awesome rolling thunder and sunshine with great skiing. Out in the middle of nowhere, do you think we’d run into anybody? Now you can read on or just browse to the pictures. Without reading though you may not enjoy the joys of Andrew Creek trail and how many logs to crawl over, under or around? It’s hard to believe…
The weekends were serving up moisture for the past several weeks. Where to find something great for the three day weekend. So where are we going? Last trip was über packed St Helens and a short half day ski trip in the sun. This would be different, expecting no sun and no other souls. We had some unfinished business out east. As long as the weather wasn’t a total washout we were looking at the Andrew creek approach north of Winthrop. Many peak options, so if the snow was bad on an aspect we’d have other options. We hoped maybe snow around 4000’, skin up and up the south side of Remmel. Ski it then to Andrew and Amos if we had time. Not knowing how the miles would pass we also had info for Fred’s, Van and Peepsight. Pulled out the map and prep work I prepared last year and some images Matt had taken when he was in there (thanks Matt :). Now to see what we’d get.
Let there be traffic
Ah, the joys of getting out of Seattle on Memorial Day weekend. Heading north, and more joys through Everett. Oddly, the most traffic I’ve seen going east over Hwy 20. Noticeable as we passed the winter gate at Ross Lake was the lack of snow. And looking over at Ross Lake… looked more like a wide river than a lake it was so low. Seems crazy the amount of water drained.
In the past several weeks of trips I’ve noticed many places do not have as thick of a snow cover as I’ve been hearing boasts about. The passes are packed with snow, but other places seem thinner to me. Anyway, I can’t remember when the snow started, but higher than I expected. Three to four feet at Easy Pass and deeper onward. No pull outs plowed after Washington Pass, but looks like the melt is fast. Kudos to the clearing crews getting the highway plowed through and ready for the weekend visitors to the east side.
Getting dark to that time that the deer like playing scare the crap out of a driver. No players as we dropped down and past Mazama. Almost into town (Winthrop). A left before “The Barn” and up Chewuch road. Winding, dips, deer and a magic of steaming pavement. The campgrounds along the way had ample mega sized campers and bonfires. More steaming roadway and shortly after 10pm we arrived at the Andrew’s Creek TH. Quiet and dark… As I drifted off to sleep I wondered what would morning hold. People, weather, trail…? All a mystery.
The Andrew Creek trailhead area
To the creek, cross or bail
Pounding on the roof all night of rain. As the light of morning grew I buried my head in my bag. Still hearing rain pitter pattering. I didn’t want to do a hike in a heavy rain. Eventually the patter turned to quiet. It was time to get up and start hiking. Guess the trip was a go. First chance to pull out due to heavy rain failed.
Across the road from the outhouse and bulletin board and up the trail at 8:02a (c3000’). We were immediately into the skeletons of the burned forest. In less than ten minutes the trail dropped to not so “Little” Andrew Creek with the trail ending at the water (c3213’). Wandering paths up river and down. Some small cut logs in a narrow spot, water deep and ragging – not appealing. Up river some bare slippery trees, down river more. Still nothing.
Little Andrew Creek -
Further downstream one large tree broken in pieces. -at least it had bark. Well, the broken part of the log in the middle rocked and one step was upon a piece of bark looking ready to peel off. Dark and shiny with the wetness of the water, knees a wobble, a large step up another broken steep piece. Careful balance, step, step… hop off. WHEW! Safe on the other side my knees felt like they wanted to go Elvis. All I needed was a dark hair wig and white suit. So glad to be across, but damn, I’d have to cross on the way back… yuck. It would haunt us for the trip. Looking at Carla I realized it was not of her liking at all. I crossed back and after a short discussion brought her pack over. Figure now she’d have to cross (hee, hee…). This was a (the?) crux and both of us were easily ready to turn around rather than make that crossing… And now neither of us looked forward to a re-crossing.
They call this a trail
Okay, the fun wasn’t over. Now in the middle of a massive log jam on the west side of the creek. A cliff to crawl up and logs to crawl over. Skis on packs catching the trees and brush, with boots making us wide arses. Trail shoes slipping, hands grabbing. A lot of energy for a little progress. The crossing, log crawl and bluff scramble only took 25 minutes for 250’. We hoped that was it for the slowdowns. Little did we know…
A sweet dry easy trail, gradual up and a little down. This was nice. Then the sign of the start of what was to come.
The Andrew Creek trail
It started with a few small logs over the trail. Then more logs, then overgrown rain soaked brush, then more logs, big, small, exploded trees, branches, more logs. Where’s the trail? Oh, just look for the fallen logs and the water trench 3-8” deep. We were getting the hang of the over and around. It was the ducking under that was the challenge. I was feeling old standing up again while tangling in the branches, with their insistence to keep me on the ground. When the trail was clear it was easy to spot, just look for the deep water filled trench or deep flowing creek/path. The trail had been re-built after the wildfire, and now each year the winter winds create much windfall from the still standing skeletons of forest. It was hard to believe all this windfall was from the past winter? But come summer outfitters clean it all up to get pack horses in. I dug many cuts to drain and invite the water to flow off the trail. Besides the feel of walking up a creek there were several bonifide creek crossings. Carla must have been bored or trying to maintain her swim record. A step on what appeared a solid large rock, it rolled and she found herself standing a foot deep in the cold creek –I guess better than swimming (3.3m, 10:23a, c4261’, one stream before Blizzard Creek).
Bits of garbage here and there and just past Blizzard Creek (3.5m) a large black garbage bag stash hanging from a windfall stump. Inside two pairs of shoes, one pair of boots, plus a bottle of something. There had been no car at the trailhead and no fresh footprints. We pondered what the story was. Maybe this is where the snow started when they came in. Is the trail that bad that they abandoned their gear rather than comeback this way to get it? I hope not.
Onward through the stark and fallen ghost of what was a thick forest. Around 4.7 miles (c4600, 11:20a) a rise in the terrain and veer right and drop in the trail. A view of ghost trees standing in the wide long valley as far as we could see. Coleman ridge on right and something missing... Well two things missing. It was quiet with the flatness and calm of the river, frogs speaking out and… and, oh what was missing? Snow, there was some way up high on the valley sides, but as far as the eye could see no snow along the trail. How many more miles would we need to lug the packs with skis?
Onward, we veered and skirted trail ponds and fallen logs. The flattish terrain making a swamp of the trail, or in places a trench overgrown with scrub trees and much deep water (4-8”). We were being creative trying not to get wet hiking in our trail shoes trying to work around the mess.
The largest creek since Little Andrew was Ram Creek with an ample log jam to scoot over (5.8m, c4569’, 12:08p). The crossing kept in theme the bark bare log being nice, wet and slippery. Looking across Andrew Creek an interesting view of lines and shadows, a long line of fallen domino like dead timber. Blown over, laying on the ground stump and all aiming north up the valley. Intermingled around the dead ghost short young bright green pines bringing the new start of a future forest. Life is persistent.
Walking on snow Finally on skis
Is it really snow
Finally at 7.7 miles (c4900’, 1:16p) we were walking in snow (not on, but in). After 5 hours and 15 minutes of lugging the skis and boots over logs, creeks, overgrown trees and wet trails it was time to switch to ski boots and skis –finally! It felt good to be sliding. Feeling a rebirth gliding among green live tall trees mingling among the blackened ghosts. A few bare spots and of course more logs, past Peepsight creek trail in another .7m (c5197’, 2:08p). Somewhere around here we knew we’d need to start up toward the north of Coleman Ridge. Massive log fall mess gave the impetus to start a gentle uphill traverse north (rightish, 9.1m, c5500’, 2:44p). We’d gone up an eighth mile too early and a thick wall of trees and marginal snow kept us too far east to hit the flatter ridge we were hoping to gain.
After a lunch break and one of my mondo heavy sandwiches we headed up to c7000’ and traversed due north with views west of the easier flat ridge we’d hoped to follow and Peak 8318 (south of Remmel). Live trees in the basin, a mix of pine and larch. At the head of the basin we veered due west out of the trees toward the SE trending ridge of Peak 8318).
A little bit of sunshine
Out of the woods
Up to peak 8318 and into the cloud
Over its summit ridge on the SW side to an ending looking down into the basin south of Remmel’s summit. Cold wind, a long day. A little break to figure things out. No views with the cloud filling it in as we arrived. All I got was a few seconds of view to remember it by (12.25m, c8239’, 7:35p). Could we make it down into the basin? It looked like a steep drop. There had been a route that went around the north of the peak through a steep slope under cliffs from the saddle of the flat basin we’d ascended around earlier. We’d avoided that due to snow, avy and warming conditions. But up here the snow was thin, windblown to snice in places, rocks exposed and below us a drop with zero visibility and who knows what.
I dropped in cutting the hill, steep, but doable, the snow stayed solid. At an arête I couldn’t tell what happened so back to where I could see a little. Carla followed and soon we got in a couple whiteout turns and traverse to the head of the basin (12.4m, c7993’, 8:10p). Where could we go to get out of the driving wind? We went up over a saddle and hid on the west side, a calm from the east wind. This would be Remmel Camp, home for the night (12.5m, c8093’, 8:23p).
Were not to pitch a tent
We dug into the back of the snow bank and made a nice ledge protected from most of the wind. Seemed nice –oh, just wait. The wind shifted a little and the tent was sounding like a nacho chip bag crinkling while some one is digging for another chip to feed their fat face during the quiet part of a movie. The snow was accumulating around the tent and at midnight we had to dig out the top of the tent. The sides were being pushed in, the entry pit was full and all the bracing and pushing wouldn’t move the snow away anymore. Upon crawling out of the top of the tent, the snow was over three feet deep around the entire tent. For a solid hour we dug by headlamp in the howling wind to clear the tent. This time extending the platform away from the wall and putting the tent as far away from the snow bank as possible on the edge overhanging the steep west facing gulley. Snow cleared sleep was difficult with more of the bag crinkling and snow blowing. Learned… don’t pitch the tent close to a lee wall. Guess where all that snow likes to go?
Camp in the morning
Is it Winter or Summer
Not a lot of sleep last night. All clouded out with peak-a-boo views around and none of Remmel’s peak only a short 600’ above us. Views or not Remmel was close. The snow had stopped and the wind subsiding. After digging out the skis (buried well over 4 foot deep and showing less than a foot of the tip). We dropped down the gulley to check out the option of skiing it. Some History finding old posts from the lookout comm. wire stretched down the gulley. The Gulley steep and narrow, looking like a good option to descend.
A peek at Andrew The gulley we skied down to the creek with an old comm pole
Time to start skinning Up to Remmel in the cloud
Looking back to 8318
Remmel Col Camp
Now to head for Remmel. We skinned up the upper basin. A sneak view of Remmel then gone in a cloud. A few hundred feet from the summit the skies cleared and the views opened.
Dicey on Remmel summit
55 minutes (.3m) and we were standing on the summit. Views looking north to where we had been on a fall trip and west to Andrew still shrouded in clouds. It was a good morning sitting on top of the world (8685’) taking in the views. The top was snowed, but rocky, the register buried under the deep summit snow. We booted to the western bump a few feet lower for more photo ops, then skied back to camp. The sun out, fresh cold snow, great surface and sweet skiing. I remember smiles ear to ear. Who expected this with the wet forecast?
Time to leave Remmel Summit
And now for some turns : -) Dicey letting them rip
Back to camp And Dicey all smiles (Remmel Peak in the background)
Still cold and windy up high. We broke camp and headed down the gulley. Cutting didn’t move any snow.
Dropped the gulley directly below camp
The top was good skiing. The middle was cleaned out and some chunks. Down low exited the gulley for soft gladded skiing to a wide open flat spot in the Andrew Creek basin. Enjoying the warm sun, we took our time, set camp and had a late breakfast (1.4m, 10:20-11:30a, c6363’). This was a great camp, flowing water feet away, no wind, flat open field with trees far away (none to fall in a wind on the tent). Andrew due west and Remmel due east.
Camp 2 near the head of Andrew Creek –Remmel in background
Time for another peak. Breakfast done, camp set w skinned across well snow covered Andrew Creek and direct up the hill south of the mountain amongst skeletons of burned trees.
Huge cornice above to be avoided. Headed west (left) to the S ridge
Marmot that lives in the middle of the avy field
View down Andrew Creek. Looks like rain while we have sun
In less than 45 minutes (c7130’) the trees opened to a view of Andrew. Before us a direct approach unwise with a long band of crevasses on the ridge. Looking up (west) a steep gulley above a wide open area. Snow clumps down low and a mother of all crevasses at the ridge top. More traversing west, past a sunbathing marmot in the middle of the latter clearing. On the SW rib we heard noise. The slope above the open field had let loose snow balls rolling down the once smooth flat clearing. Snow was getting wet in the sun with only a whisper of wind. Up we went passing a nice flatter high basin that would be a good camp at c7680’ (1.1m from Andrew Camp, 13:10hours).
Gaining the crossover point (c7940’) of The south Andrew Ridge. Peepsight above Dicey, a storm brewing NW toward Sheep Mt –Uh, oh…
The route up the west face final tour to Andrew summit
The snow covering was solid til gaining the SW rib’s ridge at c7900 (1.2m from camp, 13:24). The view of the entire west face was of rocks and sparse snow. Too deep to boot and a maze to negotiate on skis. Careful route finding staying on a traverse we gained the gap just south of the summit with less than 100’ to the true summit. Not much of a summit, more a high point of a ridge (1.6m, 2h34m from camp, 8301’).
Looking east to Remmel And north at Amos –it’ll have to wait. Time to get out before the storm
Amphitheater and Cathedral on left, Remmel and Coleman Ridge on right
The coming of the storm, or will it miss
Great views all around. South down Andrew creek it’d been dark grey all morning. And gulp! NW up Glory Creek it looked like a wet dark McNasty storm on its way. The NW wind brought first drops of snow. Time to exit, but the way in sucked for skiing. North looked to have an optional rib to descend heading NE. We wound north on the west side of the summit ridge then crossed over it east to the NW rib of Andrew. Amos so close to the north looked easy, but not a blast – more partially covered rocks and no nice line to ski back. It would be an hour trip, but neither of us wanted to get caught in a storm. The Andrew rib was good skiing, How lucky and worthy of the afternoon : )
Dicey tearing down the NW Ridge of Andrew
Through more burn and back to Andrew Creek camp (2)
Ouch, and uhhh, cool
Down at Andrew Creek we headed SE and back to camp. Sun still shining and day young. Time to lounge and take it easy. Eyes closed soaking up the rays I felt a ping, then another and another –ouch. We both deserted our leisure rests quickly into the tent as hail started pelting down.
The skies opened and started to dump. A roar of hail and a crack. Then the symphony started. It was like being in the middle of a Kettle Drum set. Deep rumbling starting on one side and slowly rolling around a full 360 degrees. Followed by another deafening repeat. It was the coolest thunder storm I’ve experienced. A true adventure for the sensations. And I felt so blessed to have been mellow and not do Amos. Skiing in that weather would have brought a new definition of sucking eggs. The rest of the day was relaxing and eating. After yesterday’s trek it was nice to have a mellow day.
How many logs to cross
Morning was uneventful. Some high clouds and promise of sun patches. Still a little dark looking down Andrew Creek. Camp packed we made our way on the rolling terrain SE staying on the east side of Andrew creek. It wasn’t apparent where the trail would be for some time. Eventually, we found signs of the trail (e.g. downed logs). Carla was skinning it and I was skinless gliding. Definitely much faster gliding than walking. We followed the no visible depression of trail spotting the better place we should have ascended on our way in and the start of the ample log debris.
Snow getting thin the trail had bare spots and creeks became more “interesting” to cross. At one we found many deep posthole marks. Weird, who else would be silly enough to come up that hellacious trail? 50 feet away was a large NOLS group. Not totally sure of all the details, but they’d had a rough time getting here. They went the trail to Little Andrew Creek. Too knarly with the water flow they turned back to the TH. Crossed Andrew creek on the road and headed up the west side. Nasty, even by Honey Badger standards. Trail-less, steep sidehilling, bluffs, miles of fallen logs to crawl over. Our trail trek as fun as it heinous as it was, was fun in comparison. What had been a morning trip for us to endure was a couple day serious Schawk for then –I’m a wimp.
Leaving the NOLs group with some beta we found our shoes. Tucked them in the pack, strapped the skis on the side and started the long log crawling, creek stomping, brush whacking trip out. Boots made it easier with just going direct along the trail not having to dodge the pure wetness. Then some wetness started from the sky. Glad we were heading out and not the group that would be out for weeks. We passed the time in conversation and I kept amused counting log jambs. Can you guess how many?
Little Andrew Creek
The log we used going in (I crossed these 8 times…) and the thin one going out
At Little Andrew Creek the log we crossed did not look like a good return option –bare sloping spots, loose bark and broken in the middle. Ski boots still on we went across a small log thrown over the creek. It bent and dipped into the raging creek. Wet rock, skinny log, ski boots and heavy ski laden packs –a real adventure.
Another camera gone
Safe on the TH side we found a camera missing from Carla’s camera pouch. Bugger. Carla went on to the car and I took a chance on finding the camera. Not sure how far I would go. Now with only a summit pack with water, food, and shoes in it, I made good time jogging back up the trail. At each log fall I stopped to search around and under. Rounding a corner and at another with a small blueberry bush I saw hanging from the small thin branch the camera. Up in the air, safe and dry. I’d had thoughts that it’d be laying in the trail covered under 4” of water. Luck was with us.
I changed from boots to shoes and making quick time back over logs and the creek with the short stretch down to the TH (13.7m (with return for camera), 7h35m).
Sunshine and Andrew Creek Trailhead
A good long weekend with great sights and skiing. I’d been thinking of skiing in the Pasaytens for a long time. It live up to expectations, except the windfall. Luck on our side returning to find the camera and topping it off with Pizza and beer at East 20 in Winthrop. Did you guess how many logfalls? 117 down +37 bonus camera logs. That made for 234+74= 308 !!!
Fun all the way. The mandatory stop at East 20 Pizza -Yummm
Hope you all get out there while there’s still some snow. Thanks for reading.
Day 1: Car to Remmel Camp
12.5m, +5732 -567
Day 2: Remmel .6m, +550’ -550’
move camp .8m, -1750’
Andrew 3.4m, +1993’ -1993’
total, 4.8m, +2543’ -4293’
Day 3: 11.6m, -3542’, +127’
extra, 2.0m, -524’, +524’
total, 13.6m, -4066’, +650’
Total: 31.3miles. +8925’ -8926’
Crossings of Little Andrew Creek =8x
Log windfalls to crawl over and around =308x
Gear: Skis/boots/poles, avy gear (shovel, probe, beacon), ax, crampons,…
And the important emergency info
Copyright 2012, FWB, all rights reserved