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Ascent of Snowfield Peak on 2019-08-18

Climber: Ian Culhane

Date:Sunday, August 18, 2019
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Snowfield Peak
    Location:USA-Washington
    Elevation:8347 ft / 2544 m

Ascent Trip Report

Climbed Snowfield in two days via the standard route. Left the trailhead about 9:00 to start the long slog up to the high camp. The trail above Pyramid Lake is worse than I thought it would be (I would say worse than Eldorado), but once you get to about 5000' the views start to open up. After traversing to Colonel Falls we found a crossing for the creek about halfway between the falls and the outlet of the lake. Traversing around the left side of the lake proved to be pretty darn easy; we crested the small ridge (lots of good sheltered campsites here), walked along the ridge for 5-10 minutes, then made a gradual downward traverse in order to reach the spot where the choss meets the Colonel Glacier.

The Colonel Glacier is pretty rotten at this point, and the majority of it is glacial ice at this point. We decided not to rope up since the crevasses down low were small and easy to avoid. When we reached the steeper section of the glacier we decided to transition to rock, as there was a bit of snow from this season that seemed to be concealing a few slightly larger crevasses. Once on rock we found a fairly easy class 3 route that got us past the glacier.

We reached the Colonel-Neve col camp at about 4:30, so about 7.5 hours after leaving the car. Amazingly even though the camp is on a saddle, there were small creeks flowing on both sides of the saddle, each less than a hundred feet from our tent. The camp has room for two 2-man tents positioned right next to each other, which we did (the space is too small for vestibules to fit, so we open the doors on both tents to sort of create one larger tent). Wind really rips through the col, so be sure to tie down your tent well; we spent about 45 minutes figuring out how to anchor ours down. Weather was mostly cloudy, so we only got partial views of Snowfield that evening.

Woke up at 4:00 and were on the Neve Glacier by 6:00 (we might have been moving slowly...). Getting down to the Glacier at first seemed hard, but we basically headed straight down the gulley (essentially following the creek), and after about 20 minutes we were at the glacier. The glacier started out rotten, but once we started gaining elevation it transitioned from snow to ice. There were two sections with crevasses; the lower one at 6800' had a clear path through it, but the second one at 7300' proved much more difficult. At the upper rollover there is about 300' where numerous crevasses spanned the whole length of the glacier. After some wandering around trying to stay on the exposed ice (as opposed to the much more questionable white snow that had partially filled in some of the larger crevasses), we found a decent path through by traversing far right to end run the worst of the crevasses. At the end we did have to jump one large crevasse that was 3-4 feet wide, which we placed a picket for.

After the crevasse jumping shenanigans it was a straight shot for the summit block. We decided to bring the rope up the west ridge, but never felt like it was necessary. Navigation on the summit block isn't too hard, although we kinda screwed it up a few times. When the ridge turns from class 1/2 to class 3, look left and cross a small deep gulley, onto the next ridge. Once on this ridge don't go to the top of it. Instead look left again for cairns leading onto the NW face. Here there is a class 3 series of ramps that take you all the way to the top.

Arrived at the summit at 9:00, after about 3 hours from camp. Views from the top were amazing, far better than I expected. We had some cool cloud cover down low, so only the tops of a lot of peaks (Triumph, the Pickets, Shuksan, etc) were visible. The view towards the Cascade pass area was also cool; Snowfield has a pretty unique view of a lot of the classics like Eldorado and Forbidden.

Left the summit at 10 and retraced our step, which was pretty uneventful. Packed up camp and began the long slog down at 1:00. We scrambled back down the rock to avoid the Colonel Glacier, which involved a bit of sketchy scrambling. We got back on the glacier near the bottom where it flattens out, then traversed the solid ice back over to the side of the lake. Saw a goat near the outlet of the lake. The descent down the trail was a pain but we managed, arriving at the car at 6:30, 5.5 hours after leaving our high camp.

Final note on conditions: Within the next week or two navigating the upper Neve will be pretty difficult. Going early in the season definitely makes sense in this regard; we wasted a lot of time on both the Neve and the Colonial navigating the exposed ice/crevasses.
Summary Total Data
    Route Conditions:
Unmaintained Trail, Bushwhack, Snow on Ground, Scramble, Glacier Climb
    Gear Used:
Ice Axe, Crampons, Rope, Headlamp, Tent Camp



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