Ascent of Gilbert Peak on 2019-11-23

Climber: Eric Gilbertson

Date:Saturday, November 23, 2019
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Gilbert Peak
    Elevation:8184 ft / 2494 m

Ascent Trip Report

31 miles, 6,500ft gain

November 23, 2019, 4:30am – 5:30pm


The big blue hole for the weekend appeared to be in southern Washington Saturday, and there was a top 200 peak down there I’d been meaning to hit – Gilbert Peak. Satellite images showed very little snow cover, surprising for this late in the season, so I figured I could do it as a day trip.

I left town Friday evening and was asleep at the Conrad Meadows trailhead by 8pm that night. Unsurprisingly I was the only one there. This trip looked to be much less distance than my other recent trips so I decided there was no need to get a super alpine start. I got a full 8 hours of sleep and was moving by 4:30am Saturday morning.

I followed the very flat trail along the South Fork Tieton river for a while, but then my headlamp started dimming. My spare somehow didn’t work, and my spare batteries were dead. I did have a spare phone charge battery with a built-in light. I strapped this to my head with my headlamp strap. I realized then I had been following a dirt road which dead ended at a cabin. I pulled open my GPS then bushwhacked to the true trail, and continued following that.

The trail was snow free and I was hiking in my trail runners, carrying my mountaineering boots, crampons,
microspikes, and snowshoes in my pack. As expected the trail remained snow free until about 5,000ft just past Surprise Lake. I reached the lake around sunrise as the snow started. The snow cover was intermittent and had gone through enough freeze-thaw cycles to be quite firm. So I continued in my trail runners.

I soon reached a pass at 6,000ft, then left the trail heading southwest towards Warm Lake. On this stretch I got my first view of Gilbert Peak. The east face looked intimidating, with the icy Meade Glacier flowing down the flank, but I knew my route would spiral around to the back side and should be third class.

Near Warm Lake I finally ditched my trail runners and changed into my big mountaineering boots. I also ditched the snowshoes. This fall I’ve had a pretty spotless record of not needing the snowshoes when I bring them, and wishing I had them when I don’t bring them. This trip was no exception.

I needed to gain the southeast ridge of Gilbert, and the snow looked thin and intermittent enough that I went with microspikes instead of crampons. I crossed heather slopes, then hiked up frozen scree, ice, and snow to gain the ridge. The ridge was quite narrow, with long steep snow slopes on the right and steep scree slopes on the left. Snow drifts covered the top, with occasional goat tracks in the snow.

I scrambled along the ridge in my microspikes, occasionally traversing around gendarms on the right or following goat trails on the left. I soon approached Gilbert, kicked a few steps up a steep snowy section, then made the final short third class scramble to the top around 10am. In the register it looked like I was the first person up in the past two months (since Sept 21).

It was still early in the day, so I decided to hit another peak. There was a prominent peak west along the ridge that stuck out like Devil’s Tower. It was called Goat Citadel, and I hadn’t done any research on it but decided to give it a try. Hopefully there would be an easy way up the back side, because what I saw was all vertical cliffs.

I downclimbed from Gilbert, then scrambled along the ridge west. At the base of Goat Citadel I kicked steps up a firm and steep snow slope, then traversed around the left side of the base of the cliffs. I then scrambled up some third class blocks and saw a gully that looked like it would reach the top. I ditched my poles, took off my microspikes, and started climbing up.

The holds were secure, but icy and snowy. I think I would probably rate it class 4/5 and it was pretty fun. I soon topped out and tagged the highest point. It looked kind of like a sketchy choss pinnacle just farther west might be a bit taller, but I was at the surveyed summit and the peakbagger location at least. I had no desire to solo that pinnacle without a rope in my big mountaineering boots.

I carefully downclimbed my route, then continued west to look for more summits. The next one was Big Horn, which I’d heard was solid 5th class. It looked like something I didn’t want to solo, especially having not done any background research on the route, so I instead turned around.

I scrambled back to Gilbert, then retraced my route down the southeast ridge. Interestingly there were fresh goat tracks on top of my tracks in the snow. I descended back to my shoes by 12:45pm, but it was still too early to head back. There was time for one more peak, and Gilbert North was just 1000ft above me.

I continued back toward the base of the Meade Glacier, then scrambled up the southeast face of Gilbert North (akaPeak 7527 on peakbagger). Near the top I scared away a mountain goat. As I topped out the summits of Gilbert and Goat Citadel were engulfed in lenticular clouds, as was Rainier in the distance. The wind was ferocious – so strong that I could barely stand up on the summit. I’d guess maybe 75mph, based on my experience hiking on Mt Washington in NH and checking back on the recorded wind speeds.

I quickly took some pictures and retreated. Back at the 6,000ft I switched back into trail runners, then hiked back to the car in the dark by 5:30pm.

Link to full trip report and pictures.
Summary Total Data

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