June 25-27, 2011

Kimtah Peak attempt (8600+)

——————– Trip Report Summary ——————–

Starting Point: Easy Pass Creek & Easy Pass & Kitling Col & Mesahchie Col  (hike & climb)

Campsite: Mesahchie Col

Sidetrip: Mesahchie Glacier & Katsuk Glacier & Katsuk Cirque & Katsuk-Kimtah Notch & Northeast Kimtah Col  (snow climb)

Summit Attempt: Kimtah Peak attempt  (climb to Third Grotesque Gendarme via Southeast Ridge)

Summit: Point 7690  (climb via West Ridge)

——————- Full Trip Report ——————–

Eileen and I did a Saturday – Monday trip into Ragged Ridge with a plan of hitting some sunny weather that was being promised. As it turned out, we had only one sunny day, but we hit it right on the head for this adventure.

Day 1 – Under gray skies, we started from the Easy Pass TH shortly after noon and headed up the mostly bare trail to Easy Basin, then continued up continuous snowcover to Easy Pass. Shortly below the pass, we encountered a textbook example of a “rock table.” From the pass, we continued on an ascending NW traverse over moderately steep snow slopes and snow gullies to Kitling Col, then contoured over to 7400’ Mesahchie Col. A half hour of stomping and re-grading resulted in one small tent platform with marvelous views to the south and north.

Camp At Mesahchie Col

Day 2 – The day dawned clear and cool, just as promised. We had a leisurely breakfast in hopes of letting the Mesahchie Glacier soften slightly (on a gamble, we left crampons at home). The snow didn’t really soften much by 8:00am, but most of it was perfect “styrofoam” anyway. We zigzagged down the glacier for 2000 vertical feet, then traversed westward under the great north buttress of Mesahchie Peak (at 5200’).

Traversing Mesahchie Glacier

Our goal from there was to ascend the Katsuk Glacier to Kimtah Peak, although a lack of clear beta lended some question regarding the feasibility of a summit bid. But it was a beautiful day, so we figured it was worth a try. We worked up the lower glacier, which had a very thick snowcover and fresh coating, then climbed onto the upper glacier. Here, on the upper-west head of the Katsuk Glacier, we found ourselves wandering through a vast sea of stark whiteness framed by the incredible “Grotesque Gendarmes”! This high cirque had a feeling of remoteness and isolation perhaps rivaled by only a select few places in the Cascades; an alpine location seldom visited by people, simply because there would be little reason to come here.

Katsuk-Kimtah Notch and Grotesque Gendarmes

We easily scrambled through a narrow 7500’ notch in the ridge spanning between Katsuk Peak and Kimtah Peak, with the Grotesque Gendarmes towering overhead. Kimtah Peak has undoubtedly been climbed from this notch before, but the distance and complexities were more than we had time or energy for today.

Grotesque Gendarmes and Kimtah Peak

At this point, our trip shifted into the category of “exploratory,” which is a well-known climbing euphemism for “summit-skunked.” We decided to explore our way to a high (8100’) col on the NE ridge of Kimtah Peak. Beckey describes a Class 5.5 rock route starting from this high col, but Eileen and I found the 50-degree snow climb to be sufficiently exciting. We also verified that this col does NOT offer an easy route to the Kimtah Glacier; the other side is horrendously steep.

Methow Mountains and Kitling Peak From NE Kimtah Col

It was mid-afternoon when we turned around and began retracing our steps back to camp at Mesahchie Col. Several long glissades speeded up our descent of the Katsuk Glacier, but we had no such relief on the tiring 2200’ slog back up the Mesahchie Glacier in full evening sun. We arrived shortly after 8:00pm (12.4 hours R.T.).

Day 3 – Instead of another sunny day, as had been forecasted, we awoke to high clouds and stiff winds. Fortunately, this kept the snow from freezing during the night, so we had good plunge-stepping conditions for our descent to Easy Pass. We did make a sidetrip to Point 7690—the closest thing we had to calling a summit—and enjoyed nice views in all directions. The big slopes above and below Easy Pass also gave some long, fun glissades.

Eileen Glissading Below Easy Pass

Stats: 16 miles, 10,000 feet gained and lost.

—————- Route Map / Sketch ————————–

Katsuk Cirque Map

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