June 7-9, 2013

Kimtah Peak (8600′+)

——————– Trip Report Summary ——————–

Region: Northwestern Cascades

Starting & Ending Point: Easy Pass Trailhead (Highway 20)

Way Points: Granite Creek & Kitling Creek & Kitling Basin & Kitling Tarn & Kitling Lake & Kitling Pass (hike & snow hike)

Campsite: Kitling Pass

Sidetrip: Panther Creek Bowl & Katsuk Glacier & Katsuk-Kimtah Saddle & Kimtah Glacier & Kimtah-Thieves Notch (snow climb)

Summit: Kimtah Peak (climb via Southwest Face—South Rib)

——————– Full Trip Report ——————–

After getting stymied on our Kimtah Peak attempt two years ago, Eileen and I were eager to return for another early-season try from the north side of Ragged Ridge.  This time, however, we chose to approach the peak via Kitling Creek, Kitling Pass, Katsuk Glacier, and Kimtah Glacier.  Kevin K enthusiastically signed on for the climb, and Fay joined us for the hike up to Kitling Pass.

Day 1 – Trailhead to Kitling Pass:

We started at the Easy Pass Trailhead and hiked up the trail to about 4000 feet, then contoured northward at elevation 4100 feet for about 1 mile through reasonably open forest to reach Kitling Creek.  Patchy snow started around 4200 feet in the creek valley, transitioning into solid snow around 4500 feet.

We followed Kitling Creek 2 miles to frozen Kitling Lake and then onward to 6000-foot Kitling Pass (5.9 hours & 2500 feet from car).  This unusually long and level pass—almost a coulee—provided an excellent campsite with running water, plenty of flat snow, and a marvelous view of the huge Mesahchie-Katsuk nordwand.  You would be hard-pressed to find a better mid-elevation campsite vantage of Ragged Ridge than Kitling Pass.

Kimtah Peak From Kitling Pass

Mesahchie Nordwand From Camp

Day 2 – Summit Climb:

The morning was overcast and cool when Kevin, Eileen, and I departed camp, leaving Fay behind to tuck in some unnamed peaks north of the pass.  We dropped and traversed around the head of Panther Creek, ducking just below Mesahchie Peak’s immense north buttress at 5400 feet, then ascended the Katsuk Glacier to a 7100-foot snow saddle on Kimtah Peak’s northeast ridge (2.9 hours from camp).  The snow was quite firm below 6500 feet but became increasingly soft and deep above due to the recent snowfalls.

Heading Toward Saddle 7100

Eileen and Kevin ascending the lower Katsuk Glacier

Mesahchie Peak From Katsuk Glacier

From the snow saddle, we crossed onto the Kimtah Glacier and ascended southwesterly to an obvious 7900-foot snow step above the upper icefall.  One large crevasse guards this snow step, but a solid snowbridge gave us an easy passage.  We then descended and re-ascended the upper glacier to reach the Kimtah-Thieves notch at 7800 feet (5.3 hours from camp).

Traversing Toward Saddle 7900

From the notch, we began traversing across a series of steep snow gullies and rock ribs on Kimtah Peak’s south face.  The climbing was never technically difficult, but most of the snow gullies had deadly runouts.  Eileen and I used running belays and snow pickets for the worst places, whereas Kevin usually forged ahead unroped.

Kevin Traversing Steep Snow Patch On South Rib

After cresting a major rock rib directly below the false summit, we climbed straight upward to the true-false ridge and then scrambled Class 3 rock up the true summit (9.0 hours from camp).

Scoping South Face Of False Summit

Climbing Upper South Face

Eileen Climbing Final Snowfield

It had been a long climb, and we were all a bit distressed to notice that it was now 5:03pm.  Luckily for us, our predetermined turnaround time just happened to be 5:03pm.  High clouds were forming overhead, and valley fog was wafting in from the west, so we kept our summit visit short.

Eileen and Kevin On Summit

For our descent, we generally followed our tracks back down and across the south face.  One exception was on the last major gully crossing, where Kevin was able to tease out a higher and safer route to the Kimtah-Thieves notch (2.1 hours from summit).  

Kevin Crossing Back Over South Face

From this notch, we entered a thick fogbank and kept following our tracks back over the Kimtah Glacier.  Dusk replaced fog as we hurried down the Katsuk Glacier, and headlamps came out for our nighttime traverse back up to Kitling Pass (5.7 hours from summit).  Fay was waiting in camp, having returned several hours earlier from her enjoyable two-summit day.

Last Sun On Kimtah Glacier

Day 3 – Kitling Pass to Trailhead:

We awoke to sunny weather and slowly packed up camp.  Our return trip down Kitling Creek was pretty uneventful, and we were pleased to find a slightly better forest traverse route back to the trailhead (4.5 hours from camp) by making a descending traverse rather than contouring at 4100 feet.

Approximate Total Stats:  16 miles traveled;  8300 feet gained and lost.


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