Ascent of Little Chief Mountain on 2014-07-19

Climber: Duncan Lennon

Others in Party:Monk
Date:Saturday, July 19, 2014
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Little Chief Mountain
    Elevation:9541 ft / 2908 m

Ascent Trip Report

This, Mahtotopa, and Red Eagle were my 38th-40th peaks in the Park. It was a smoky and windy day, not an ideal situation for such a long and exposed ridge walk. We began from the St. Mary Falls trailhead at 7:30. Our trail crew friend who had climbed these years ago tipped us off to a game/climbers' trail that begins about 50 feet short of the Virginia Falls outhouse. We located this, only to lose it almost immediately. It picked back up about 300 feet up the slope, and was incredibly easy to follow for almost a mile. It had been flagged with pink tape earlier in the summer (don't do this, please!), which wasn't necessary because the tread was pretty well-worn. This trail popped us out in a dry drainage, which we climbed to the algal reef via class 2 and 3 ledges. Above the reef (easy), we traversed southward on game trails, often hugging the base of the huge summit cliffs. After a while, Nate saw a likely-looking 3rd class chute leading up toward what appeared to be the summit. We climbed up this for an unbelievable distance, finally popping out on the ridge just south of the summit. We reached the top in 4:00 from the car, which is no indication of the difficulty (physical, not technical) of this climb.

Speaking of difficulty, we downclimbed the southeast aspect of the summit pyramid (the technical crux of the day; class 4 unless you're a decent routefinder) and continued to Mahtotopa, everyone's favorite peak, and thence to Red Eagle. Since the winds were persistently high, we opted to descend to Red Eagle Lake instead of continuing on the ridge to the St. Mary Lake Trail. This descent wasn't too bad (stay to skier's left of the waterfall near the bottom), but left us 7.5 miles from St. Mary on the wrong side of Red Eagle Creek. A sweet log at the lake outlet helped us here immensely. We slogged it out on the trail, finally arriving back at the house at 8:30, 13 hours after we began hiking.

This was a good day and a fun challenge, but we all agreed we wouldn't be doing it again. Two of us had just climbed Rainier two weeks before, and agreed that this hike was physically much harder than that one! These were fun and interesting mountains, but with the perspective of having climbed here for four summers, I think there are more engaging climbs to be had in the park.
Summary Total Data
    Quality:3 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)

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