Ascent of Big Chiwaukum on 2012-09-02

Climber: Greg Slayden

Others in Party:Craig Willis
Date:Sunday, September 2, 2012
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Car
Peak:Big Chiwaukum
    Elevation:8081 ft / 2463 m

Ascent Trip Report

This was a pretty long dayhike (17 miles total, over 5800 feet gain) but the route is almost entirely good trail, open country, and easy scrambling. By Cascades standards, it’s pretty reasonable.

We took the White Pine and Wildhorse Creek trails to a spur trail junction (see GPS waypoint), where a small trail sign indicates which ways are the main trail. This path leads gently uphill to the large, open northwest basin of Big Chiwaukum before disappearing quickly. Here we headed SE towards an obvious gentle saddle in the west ridge of the peak, across grassy meadows, knee-high bushes, small streams, and some short stretches of annoying brush. We did have to do some semi-steep hiking on grass or in stream beds to get to the upper basin area, where a talus/dirt slope led pretty easily to the saddle.

From the saddle you can look over the other side of the west ridge down to Grace Lakes, where we say three or more tents on this Labor Day weekend—this is the preferred campsite for making this an overnight trip. (Using our route to the saddle and dropping down to the lakes might be quicker than using the roundabout abandoned trail). A good use trail leads uphill from the saddle along the spine of the West Ridge, through a notch, and up through some krummholz to the broad upper grassy section of the ridge. This leads easily to the main N-S crest of Big Chiwaukum.

Here we headed north, staying west of the crest and 10 feet below, as our TR beta indicated. However, 100 feet might be a better idea. We came to a big drop-off, and, to avoid a ton of elevation loss in skirting it below, I found a short downhill ramp that led to an airy corner (class 3 but a bit exposed-see GPS waypoint) that led to easier terrain below. We continued our easy traverse until we came to another gully, this one just before the main summit block. Cairns marked an easy route into the gully, across it, and then by a Class 2 ledge around a corner, where about 100 feet of easy scrambling led us to the summit pinnacles.

It was surprisingly windy and cold up on these small, airy rocks, considering it was a pretty nice warm summer day. A huge drop-off to the east dropped down to a snowfield, large for September. We signed the register book (with ascents back to 1982 recorded), took some photos, but didn’t stay long. Our main rest was down at the cairned corner ledge, out of the wind.

Our descent was uneventful—we cut off a bit of a corner when starting down the west ridge, and in the large basin we looked for a route minimizing brushy stream crossings (our downward GPS track, to the north, is probably a bit better, using a rib instead of a stream valley). We only saw two other parties all day—a young couple with two black dogs high on the west ridge who were unsure about making the summit, and an older couple hiking out on the Wildhorse trail after camping at Grace Lakes.

We were back at the car by 4:45 PM, about 11.5 hours after we left (6 hours up, 45 minutes total at summit rests, and 4.75 hours down).
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:5881 ft / 1792 m
    Extra Gain:300 ft / 91 m
    Round-Trip Distance:17 mi / 27.4 km
    Route:W Ridge
    Trailhead:White Pine TH  2800 ft / 853 m
    Grade/Class:Class 3
    Quality:7 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Unmaintained Trail, Open Country, Bushwhack, Scramble
    Weather:Cool, Breezy, Partly Cloudy
Ascent Statistics
    Time:6 Hours 
Descent Statistics
    Time:4 Hours 50 Minutes
GPS Data for Ascent/Trip

 GPS Waypoints - Hover or click to see name and lat/long
Peaks:  climbed and  unclimbed by Greg Slayden
Click Here for a Full Screen Map
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. accepts NO responsibility or liability from use of this data.

Download this GPS track as a GPX file

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