Or as we renamed it.... UpChuck Mountain. White Chuck Mountain is a Class 3 Alpine Scramble. It is a desirable peak to summit because it is about 2,000ft higher than most of the nearby mountains and its prominence leads to incredible views.
It was aptly renamed as I felt nauseas for most of the climb. Attempting this summit (in the clouds in the center of this photo) was definitely the most terrifying thing I have ever done in my entire life.
The day was glorious, the sun was shining and even Mt Baker was showing! I felt confident and energized in the morning. The views even from the road were breathtaking - and that is one thing about the North Cascades; you really can't fully understand or even fathom their beauty until you go up high. This is not a place you can truly experience from the valleys below, but a place where their wonder is only evident from up high.
My new camera has a panoramic setting and I tested it out from the spot we parked. Pretty cool!!
So we began our trek... supposedly 4 miles round trip (a little more due to the snow on the road) and usually completed in 5-8 hours.
We saw some bear tracks along the way - side by side Lauren's shoes for comparison. You can see her crampons on her boots as well.
After a short hike on hard snow we began our assent across a steep talus field still covered in snow - which meant digging in with our crampons and really using our ice axes for safety. There were sections where we had to transition between rock and snow - and crampons on rock are one of the more challenging mountaineering techniques I've even done. We also learned the "veggie" belay - which meant digging your ice ax into the heather and hoping it holds.
Taking a quick break.
A view of the false summit after the steep snow slope and slippery rock section. I really should have called it quits right here.
But we kept going.
At some point we lost the climbers trail and ended up on a very precarious ledge. I'm not joking when I say one bad step would have been fatal. The rocks we highly metamorphosed, unconsolidated and slatey - everything we were stepping on or holding onto was falling apart.
At one point our leaders realized that we were on the ledge below the trail and that we needed to go up - but it took over an hour to find stable enough rock to set up a belay and lower a rope. You can see Kevin belaying - he places some protection but was mostly relying on his feet against that boulder. Our leaders climbed up without a belay - there's no way I would have done that!!!
The summit is at 6989ft - we lunched at around 6800ft. Those are not smiles of joy - they are smiles of "thank goodness we are still alive!" We decided to turn around at that point due to various reasons; inexperienced climbers (this was an experience climb for BASIC students) who were scared out of their minds, it was already 3:30pm, the conditions were terrible, and the snowfield on the summit might have made it unsafe for even experienced mountaineers.
Our good friend Lauren at lunch.
And our other fellow Basic climbing student and friend John. I swear if it wasn't for the fact that Ross and John and our leaders held it together and encouraged us on this sketchy mountain I don't think I would have made it down. I fed off their confidence as fake as it may have been. (Everyone admitted once we were down how terrified they were. I'm glad they didn't tell me sooner.) This was scarier than sliding into a crevasse!
One spot of the down climb that I felt safe was in this snow moat - where the snow had melted away from the rock. We thought that we could take a picture with the mountains in the background and pretend it was the summit, but I'm not even pretending we made it.
Yep, there's the summit over Lauren's shoulder.
The small White Chuck Glacier.
Ross on the traverse down.
We arrived back at our vehicles just after 8:00pm (12 hours later!), desperate to get in touch with our family and friends (i.e responsible party - always leave an itinerary with someone when you venture into the wilderness!!!) to tell them we were safe.
John had a six-pack of Fat Tire waiting for us in the back of his car - a much welcomed treat after such a treacherous day.
I took a few last photos through my tear stained glasses as I thanked God for safety in this wilderness and the rugged North Cascades.
Three redeeming qualities of the day:
1.) The views were incredible.
2.) The weather was perfect.
3.) We're alive.
I feel changed. I still feel terrified. Typing this has brought me to tears, my hands are sweating and my heart is still racing. I could have slipped and fell to my death. A scarier thought was the same happening to Ross and losing him. I just kept thinking about all the things we haven't done yet - like see the final Harry Potter movie or have children. That motivated me to keep going. I have our unborn children and Harry Potter to thank for keeping us alive. I'm rambling.
Will I ever climb a mountain again? Yes. But it will only be ones accessible by class 1 hiking trails. Otherwise, I will enjoy their beauty and respect their jagged peaks from below. I will wait until I have lived a long life and died at an old ripe age and then I will see the summits from the heavens.
What's the scariest thing you have even done?