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Ascent of Tomyhoi Peak on 2010-10-17

Climber: Greg Slayden

Others in Party:Eric Noel
Ken Russell
Adam Walker
Maria Higham
Date:Sunday, October 17, 2010
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Car
Peak:Tomyhoi Peak
    Location:USA-Washington
    Elevation:7435 ft / 2266 m

Ascent Trip Report

We all met at the Gold Run Pass Trailhead on the Twin Lakes Road at 7:20 AM—Eric, Adam, and I were the last to arrive, 20 minutes late. We met Ken (who had spent the night in his truck) and Maria (who had driven up by herself), and were soon hiking at 7:40 AM.

It was an absolutely gorgeous day, and the trail up towards Yellow Aster Butte was fantastically beautiful. It was a bit cool, and the mud and puddles on the trail were frozen in the morning, but overall it was a classic crisp, cool, clear autumn day. Once we broke out from the trees, views of Baker, Shuksan, American Border, and a huge universe of other nearby peaks were stunning.

After a long traverse and easy climb over the south shoulder of the Yellow Aster Butte ridge, the trail descended 230 feet on steep switchbacks to a series of tarns, ringed with the tents of weekend backpackers. Our route threaded the lakes and headed uphill north, towards Tomyhoi. We took a rest below the first big slope, and when we took off Adam set a blistering pace, and I followed, barely keeping up with him, and Maria not far behind.

The three of us continued uphill on the easy-to-follow climbers trail as it went up and over several grassy humps and past more scenic tarns. There were a couple places where we lost a hundred or two feet of elevation, but overall the wide-open vistas and easy grade made for pleasurable hiking. I had not met Adam prior to this hike, and we kept up a good conversation as we cruised uphill.

By 11 AM or so we reached a spot where the climbers path split—Adam knew from prior experience that the uphill branch dead-ended at a cliff overlooking a notch in the ridge, and that we needed to traverse a short way to a snowfield just around a indistinct ridge. So we hit the snow, and followed footprints as they led us across some snow and up some rocky ribs. The snow was very hard, but steps from earlier climbers were secure enough that we didn’t need crampons.

We knew we had to regain the ridge again, and from a rock rib we headed uphill into some chutes that looked like they had seen some recent foot traffic. The interface between the snow and rock was a series of moats that were awkward to negotiate, but safer than the hard, icy snow or sheer rock walls. Adam probed one route and determined right away it was too difficult, and then I tried a mini-gully just to the left, doing a couple of class 4 moves before deciding it, too, was a dead end. So the three of us (Eric and Ken were still catching up) retreated downhill and decided to try to traverse further along the lower-angle snow to find the next set of gullies.

However, once down a bit, to me it looked like the gully just before the one we retreated from was the way—it was the one that led to a col underneath the sheer drop-off dead-end of the ridge route. I saw footprints heading that way in the snow, so we agreed I would go reconnoiter. I put on my crampons, and went up the snow, but it was rock-hard and therefore a bit dangerous, so I recommended that Adam and Mariah use the parallel rock rib instead. I think most members of our party had no ice axes and just micro-spike crampons. Near the top was a mini-arête of snow and a moat, and after I got onto the rock I took off my crampons and was able to scramble up to the col at the ridge crest. It looked like easier terrain on the other side of the ridge, so I hollered back that this was the way.

While I was doing this, Eric and Ken showed up, and I think they started thinking about going further than the route I found. So no one followed me for a while, and I decided to make 100% sure my route went, so I started scrambling up and to my right (as I faced outward from the col). The terrain was steep with loose rock, but it was sunny and had no snow. I probed a bit, and finally found a near-class 4 move up and over a minor buttress that led me to much easier terrain beyond. I rested for a long time at this spot, intending to tell the others to come this way, and once even yelled back to Adam, who told me that they were either resting or thinking about going another way. While waiting, I saw two climbers get dead-ended at the sheer drop above the col I had just been in—I told them that it did not look like there was any way down and they had best follow our route.

I got tired of waiting, so I went over the small buttress crest and shortly found a boot-path, and it took me easily to the rounded hump of the false summit. From there I was able to walk out a bit and look down on the snowfield, where I could see Eric, Ken, and Mariah, plus the two other climbers, who apparently where thinking about a route up a gully or rib further out than we had gone. I shouted down to my companions that my way worked, and they seemed to take my presence on the false summit as proof and start following my route.

I then turned around and saw the true summit ahead—a pretty appalling sight, since there was a very deep cleft just below my perch, and a foreshortened view of unclimbable-looking cliffs guarding the main summit block. I was concerned with the time, since I had obligations at home this evening, so I decided to head for the top and wait for my partners.

The route to the true summit was not as bad as it looked. Some steep but easy downclimbing on terraced rock with some snow soon brought me to the notch, and the climbing up the main block was actually pretty easy class 3 stuff for the most part, on pretty good rock. The two other climbers passed me on this section, moving quickly, and I could not match their pace—I was even getting some leg cramps at this point. The rock ridge led up a steep section and then to a short section of knife-edge (a “gable” to Beckey)—I mostly tip-toed across, bending over a couple times to make sure I had my balance. Not long past there I found a boot-path that wound past some crags and finally led to the true summit, a precipitous set of rock fins kind of like the back of a stegosaurus. It was about 1:30 PM.

The two young speedy climbers were resting just beyond the summit rocks at a flat spot, and after carefully touching all the projecting rocks I sat down facing back towards the way I had come, looking for Adam, Maria, Eric, and Ken. But they never appeared on the false summit, where I thought they would at least be by now. The speedy guys (they had gone car to summit in 2:45) split to head down after a while, and I started getting concerned about the fate of my 4 cohorts—did they bail? Or was there an accident? So after about 10 minutes I took some photos, gobbled down some food, and headed back down.

The trip back to the false summit was uneventful—the scrambling was fun and not too bad, and I caught up to the resting speedy guys when I reached the false summit. But there was still no sign of the others in my group. But once the speedy guys split I soon saw Adam and Eric heading towards me on the boot path. Glad that they were OK, I gave them some quick route beta as they quickly headed down to the notch and the summit beyond. It was getting late, and they wanted to get up there. I waited a bit more and Maria and Ken appeared not too much later. Maria wanted the summit and continued after a brief pep talk and a drink of water, but Ken, after some thought, decided he was turning around. I told him it would likely be an hour round-trip for him to tag to top, but he thought it would be even more. I was disappointed for him, but it had been a longer and harder route that we expected.

So Ken and I sat down and watched the others as they descended to the notch and then climbed up to the top—we shouted encouragement and route directions across as they scrambled. I saw Eric top out first, and then we saw Adam help Maria across the knife edge. By this time it was about 2:15, and I was concerned about the stuff I had promised my wife I would take care of this evening, including getting her at the airport. I knew it would be quite a while before everyone was down off the technical terrain, and longer to get to the cars.

Ken, very generously, had previously offered to loan me his pickup truck so I could drive home early. I had carpooled with Eric to the trailhead, so now Eric would have to give Ken a ride to the park-and-ride where I had left my car. So I took him up on his offer, thanked him profusely, and, at about 2:20, left my team behind. I felt bad about this, and I vowed that in the future I would always try to be more realistic about how much time a hike will take when I have time constraints.

I hiked the bootpath that meandered below the ridge crest, and then clambered over the little buttress before my col, where I hollered back to Ken that this was the way I had gone. Then I scrambled down the short section of tricky loose slopes towards the col. Here I had the worse mishap of the day, when a huge rock came loose and nearly crushed my right hand. I hoped that my companions would not have similar issues if they followed my route. As it was my hand was pretty well scratched up and painful.

At the col I found Ken’s spare car key in his cached pack, put on my crampons, and carefully made my way down the arête and moat to the footsteps that traversed the snow to the dry climber’s trail. By 2:40 I had my crampons off, and just 6.5 miles of trail remained to get down to the car.

It took me about two and a half hours to boogie downhill, past all the scenic meadows, tarns, and awesome views. I was tired, but the cool, crisp air was invigorating, I had plenty of water (even though I had left a spare liter with Ken, since everyone else had cached their packs), and the only annoyances were the three relatively short stretches of uphill that needed to be climbed. And, as always, the last couple of miles of trail seemed to stretch of for an eternity.

I reached the cars at 5:15 PM, and, as per Ken’s instructions, I put his tennis shoes and gym bag of clean clothes underneath Eric’s car and was soon driving his rig down the road towards home. I left Ken’s truck at the park-and-ride, and later that evening, on my way home from the airport, I saw it was gone, so I knew that my teammates had made it down. The next day I heard that the others had gotten back to the trailhead at about 8 PM.

Overall, this was a great hike and scramble. The late-season conditions certainly made the short section of the route on snow very difficult, and our route-finding was not easy as a result. But the weather, the company, the scenery, and the fun scrambling on near the top made this a worthwhile trip. My only regret was the real-world obligations and constraints that intruded on my mountain time, forcing me to leave early. And a huge thanks to Ken for kindly loaning me his truck, allowing me to spend as much time as possible up high.
Summary Total Data
    Elevation Gain:5143 ft / 1567 m
    Extra Gain:704 ft / 214 m
    Distance:13.2 mi / 21.2 km
    Route:Yellow Aster-S Slopes
    Trailhead:Twin Lakes Rd  3700 ft / 1127 m
    Grade/Class:Class 3/4
    Quality:7 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Unmaintained Trail, Snow on Ground, Scramble, Exposed Scramble, Snow Climb
    Gear Used:
Ice Axe, Crampons
    Weather:Cool, Breezy, Clear
Ascent Statistics
    Time Up:5 Hours 50 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Time Down:3 Hours 30 Minutes
GPS Data for Ascent/Trip


 GPS Waypoints - Hover or click to see name and lat/long
Peaks:  climbed and  unclimbed by Greg Slayden
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Note: GPS Tracks may not be accurate, and may not show the best route. Do not follow this route blindly. Conditions change frequently. Use of a GPS unit in the outdoors, even with a pre-loaded track, is no substitute for experience and good judgment. Peakbagger.com accepts NO resposibility or liability from use of this data.

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