September 9-11, 2011

Devil’s Tongue (8048’) 

——————– Summary ——————–

Starting Point: Chittendon Trailhead (Silver-Skagit Road)

Way Points: Chittendon Bridge & Chittendon Meadows & Skagit River & Galene Creek & Middle Galene Lake & Upper Galene Lake (hike)

Campsite: Upper Galene Lake

Sidetrip: Silver Ridge & West Silver Ridge Peak & Point 7103  (hike & climb)

Summit: Devil’s Tongue (climb via East Face—Southeast Ridge)

Summit: Silver Ridge Peak (hike via Northeast Slope)

——————– Full Report ——————–

I look forward to hooking up with Mike T and Fay at least once every summer to do a climb, but it has become increasingly difficult to find a peak that neither of them has already done. This year, I hit the jackpot by suggesting Devil’s Tongue, a relatively obscure peak in the northeastern Chilliwack Mtns. My interest in Devils Tongue began a few years ago, when I first saw the new North Cascades National Park commemorative license plates; the “Tongue” stands out like a stone beacon in Lee Mann’s remarkable long-distance photograph (although it took me some head-scratching to identify it). Mike and Fay had their own reasons for wanting this peak. Ultimately, it proved to be a worthy summit in an incredibly scenic part of the Cascades, but the Devil managed to get plenty of licks in.

Day 1: We drove to Hope, B.C., and followed the loooong Silver-Skagit Road to Chittendon Trailhead. Our hike began by crossing the Skagit River on an interesting suspension bridge, then working upstream about 3 miles on a crude shoreline trail, then hiking up to Galene Lakes on a well-defined miner’s trail. Early in our hike, it became painfully obvious that getting to the Devil’s Tongue would involve passing through the Devil’s Petri Dish: we were hounded and attacked by hordes of voracious mosquitoes for mile after mile. Even though we hiked with headnets on, the buzzing squadrons made it nearly impossible to stop for any reason, except in some areas of very dense forest partway up the trail. At one point near Mile 7, I stopped to rest in a swarm of biting blackflies and actually found that they offered a nice reprieve from the mosquitoes…but only for about 10 minutes.

Hozomeen Mountain From Trail

I pushed on up the trail at frantic pace, trying to outrun the insect pack. Only by jumping into Middle Galene Lake, farther up the trail, was I able to escape satan’s little minions. Around 5:30pm, Mike and Fay arrived at the lake, which had some agreeable campsites, but we decided to ascend another 500 feet to Upper Galene Lake in hopes of getting above the bugs. This strategy did not pan out at all, because the mosquitoes were every bit a prevalent when we arrived at 7:00pm (7.4 hours from car). On the positive side, we had better views and were closer to our objective peak.

Middle Galene Lake At Sunset

Day 2: We awoke about a half hour after the mosquitoes began their morning onslaught. After a non-relaxing breakfast, we headed up grassy slopes to the ridge crest above camp. The bugs were still plenty bad on the crest, but the wildflowers and mountain views were wonderful. We headed southwestward to Monument 70 on the international border swath, then turned westward and followed “Silver Ridge” for about 3 miles over several wide-open knolls.

Mike and Fay At Monument 70

Terrain on the gently rounded crest alternates between big patches of green heather and bleached-white rhyolite fragments. Hozomeen Mtn, Jack Mtn, Mt. Prophet, and the Chilliwack Mtns all stand out strikingly on the horizon. Undoubtedly, this must be some of the finest ridgetop strolling in Washington.

Jack Mountain and Mt Raeburn From Silver Ridge

The only obstacle along the ridge was Point 7103, which we surmounted on the left side via a steep, loose, rock face. After more easy wandering, we finally reached the base of Devils Tongue.

Fay and Mike Below Devils Tongue

The tall, triangular east face looks quite intimidating, with its steep rock bands separated by four distinctive horizontal snowfields.. However, we easily traversed across to the southeast ridge and found fun Class 2 – 3.5 scrambling over a series of ledges, ramps, and faces.

Scrambling Up Devils Tongue

We reached the seldom-visited summit at 2:30pm (6.8 hours from camp). Mt. Spickard and Custer Ridge rise above the summit and form a ring around the unearthly blue water of Silver Lake. Perhaps more than any other summit scene that I can recall, this one seems like a painting. The total absence of mosquitoes here made for a truly enjoyable visit.

Mike and Silver Lake From Summit

After an hour on top, we carefully down-climbed our route and then began a long traverse back to camp. But not directly back to camp, mind you, because Mike insisted on tucking in a bonus summit. So, in the waning dusk, we marched up “Silver Ridge Peak” to plant a register. Getting off the summit and back to Monument 70 in the dark was made somewhat more interesting by the fact that both Fay’s and Mike’s GPS units suffered power failures. No matter; our IFR navigation quickly turned to nighttime VFR, and with the help of my trusty analog compass, we soon located the monument. From there, we were able to take advantage of a full moon illuminating the wide-open wildflower meadows. If not for the return of mosquito swarms, this would have been pure delight. We stumbled into camp at 9:30pm (6.0 hours from summit).

Moon Over Hozomeen Mountain

Day 3: This day was a blur of mosquitoes and downhill trail as viewed through a headnet. Upon reaching the Skagit River, we elected to make a quick ford through the hip-deep water rather than follow the 3-mile shoreline trail. If we thought this place seemed like an insect hell, it was confirmed by a nearby angler who told us that this is the worst mosquito season he’s encountered in 20 years of fishing the Skagit. I should hope so! Once across the river, we hurried along a wide trail to the Nepopekum parking lot. I dumped my pack and set off 3.5 miles down the road to fetch our car. Even on this dry, dusty road, the mosquitoes tormented me and demanded a brisk pace. I also discovered that no driver will pick up a hitchhiker wearing a headnet. Who knew!

Approximate Stats: 25 miles, 10,700 feet gained & lost, 1000 mosquitoes killed (mostly by Mike), 3 pints of blood lost.

——————- Photo Gallery (click to enlarge) ——————-