Ascent of Beckler Peak Central on 2013-07-27

Climber: Greg Slayden

Others in Party:Edward Earl
Date:Saturday, July 27, 2013
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Beckler Peak Central
    Elevation:5070 ft / 1545 m

Ascent Trip Report

We turned left off US 2 just beyond the Skykomish Ranger Station on Road 6606 and followed it uphill for over 6 miles to the trailhead. The road was in good shape, just a few potholes near the end. The new Jennifer Dunn trailhead has a nice restroom but not enough parking for sunny summer weekends—the hike to Beckler Peak, although only a couple years old, is already becoming a popular outing. We parked out of the way on the north side of the lot, and hiked up what was once an old logging road, passing a group of WTA trail maintenance volunteers working on a minor stream crossing. The trail passed a semi-open area and then entered nice old growth forest, switchbacking uphill at a very moderate grade. The open, rocky summit provided a huge 360-degree panorama on this clear day, and about a dozen other hikers where enjoying it.

However, we had read other trip reports that this popular destination is not really the high point of Beckler Peak, and, indeed, the view to the west featured a rocky fin, a huge rock monolith, and a forested bump. I had brought a sight level and we quickly determined that the both the fin and the monolith were higher, and that the monolith is almost certainly the apex of the massif. We had brought rock-climbing gear with us, so off we went to properly bag the peak.

A 50-foot cliff and a couple gendarmes blocked access from the trail summit—we snooped around and decided to hike down one trail switchback to get a better view. From there, we could see that the cliff was very steep and continuous, and the only option for us now was to rappel, or to lose hundreds of vertical feet and pass around the cliff bottom. We decided on the latter course, because we simply could not see below from our clifftop vantage and did not want to rappel into the unknown. We also had a trip report from Chad Straub saying the cliffs could be passed at the 4400’ elevation.

So we hiked down the trail a ways, and unfortunately it led away from the cliff. So we left the trail at about 4600’ and bushwhacked through easy open forest (with some sidehilling), and, sure enough, at about 4400’ there was OK going to get out into a huge open talus basin below the monolith and fin. Once in the rocks, we clambered over and around boulders the size of cars and trucks uphill, aiming for the monolith. We used some sandy/grassy terrain when we wanted a break from the big rocks, but overall it was not too bad. Just below the monolith we passed over a definite abandoned trail that had been blasted through the talus, oddly enough.

Near the SE corner of the 40’ high monolith was a staircase-like feature that looked like a promising ascent route. We decided we didn’t need our rope, harnesses, and rock gear, and Edward went first after we dropped our packs. The route was definitely exposed and airy Class 4, but it had enough hand- and footholds to be safe for our rudimentary rock climbing skill. There was an 8-foot block that was surmounted using a crack, and the final pitch was a relatively smooth sloping “roof”.

The summit was a very airy perch, and we didn’t stay long. There was a register canister, with a dried out notebook that only had one entry—Andy Boos and party from 2002. It seemed unlikely that we had made the second ascent, but this was, until recently, a pretty obscure corner of the Cascades. I sighted with my level and it was clear we were at the highest point, well over the fin and the trail summit, and only a few tall tree tops on the forested far western summit were even close to our elevation. We took some photos and then carefully downclimbed back to our packs. There was a rappel sling near the summit, perhaps from 2002—it certainly would have made our lives a little bit easier to have brought our rope for a rappel, but as it was we didn’t really have any issues with the downclimb.

Top get back to the car we decided to forego the talus and bushwhack of our upward route, and instead try to climb more directly back to the trail summit. In the open talus basin, we could now see the cliff, and there was a clear ramp that led to a notch between the trail summit and a gendarme, and it looked like a viable route. If it went, it might be a useful route for others to follow.

We found the abandoned trail and followed it east for a couple hundred feet and it died, and we then downclimbed and traversed a bit to reach an easy access to the ramp. To make a long story short, it was pretty ugly and we don’t recommend it. The ramp was mostly steeply sloping sandy soil and slippery vegetation, bereft of handholds except for prickly ground cover. At one point the ramp narrowed to next to nothing, right where a dense pine tree was in the way, forcing us to bushwhack while stepping over a huge airy gap. Above that it was more slippery sand. I powered up it the best I could, almost loosing my footing a couple times, and finally reached a flat col just below the trail summit.

Edward was still below on the ramp, and I offered him a rope for a handline, and he said that would be helpful. I tied the rope to a tree and then it took me about 5 tosses before I got the rope down to him, but once he grabbed on he was able to move uphill much faster with the rope offering better handholds than loose sand.

From the col it was 20 vertical feet and one class 3 move to get to the trail summit, at the moment deserted. We rested briefly as some people showed up, and we got someone to take our picture in front of the monolith we had just climbed.

It was a trivial hike back to the car from the trail summit—about halfway down we ran into someone Edward knew from his orchestra.

If you want the real summit of Beckler, we recommend that you follow our route that leaves the trail about 4600’, traverses into the talus basin at 4400’, and goes up the basin. If you are a competent rock climber, you likely will not need a rope or protection to climb the monolith. Others will want a rope, harnesses, some protection (a few cams, maybe) and slings for a rappel. You definitely want to return the same way—our ramp to the trail summit was, to me, much more scary than the monolith.

You could perhaps rappel from the trail summit by downclimbing about 20’ to the col before the first gendarme, and then going off the cliff from a little ways down. But it is complex terrain and it is hard to see what is below, so I don’t recommend this option.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:670 ft / 204 m
    Total Elevation Loss:270 ft / 82 m
    Round-Trip Distance:0.6 mi / 1 km
    Grade/Class:Class 4
    Quality:6 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Unmaintained Trail, Open Country, Bushwhack, Scramble, Exposed Scramble
    Weather:Pleasant, Calm, Clear
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:670 ft / 204 m
    Distance:0.4 mi / 0.7 km
    Route:SE Corner
    Start Trailhead:Talus Basin  4400 ft / 1341 m
Descent Statistics
    Loss on way out:270 ft / 82 m
    Distance:0.1 mi / 0.2 km
    End Trailhead:Ramp Buttress  4800 ft / 1463 m
Ascent Part of Trip: 2013 - Beckler

Complete Trip Sequence:
1Beckler Peak2013-07-27 a2302 ft / 702 m
2Beckler Peak Central2013-07-27 b670 ft / 204 m
3Beckler Peak2013-07-27 c262 ft / 80 m
Total Trip Gain: 3234 ft / 986 m    Total Trip Loss: 3234 ft / 986 m
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. accepts NO responsibility or liability from use of this data.

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