July 16-17, 2011
Mount Prophet (7640’)
——————– Trip Report Summary ——————–
Starting Point: Ross Lake Landing (hike); Ross Lake & Big Beaver Landing (boat ride); Big Beaver Creek & Thirtyninemile Creek & Thirtyninemile Ridge & Thirtyninemile/Firn Lake Basin & Prophet Ridge (hike & climb)
Campsite: Prophet Ridge
Summit: Mt. Prophet (climb via South Ridge—Southeast Ridge)
——————– Full Trip Report ——————–
Mt. Prophet is the highest peak of a small subrange enclosed by Big Beaver Creek, Little Beaver Creek, and Ross Lake within the central-northern Cascades. It appears as a cluster of high, attractive peaks and scalloped ridges when viewed from one of the scenic pullouts on Highway 20. Kevin K and I decided to gamble on a deteriorating weather forecast last weekend and make a summit attempt. The weathermen were unanimously predicting doom and gloom for us, but I was secretly counting on riding the wake of Kevin’s enormous karma bank.
We rode the water taxi to Big Beaver Landing on Saturday morning and hiked 5 miles up Big Beaver Trail. Just past Thirtyninemile Creek, we plunged into the forest and headed northerly alongside the creek. After a few hundred yards of typical valley-bottom brush, we worked our way onto a relatively brush-free rib located closely right (east) of a minor gully. This rib became more distinct and more open with elevation. We saw traces of old boot tread along the way, but the route-finding was always fairly easy. In contrast to the horrible bushwhack I had been expecting, this cross-country route was—dare I say—almost pleasant by Cascade standards. Even the cool, overcast weather was greatly appreciated on this south-facing slope, but the hungry mosquitoes kept things from getting truly pleasant.
By the time we reached snowline at 5000 feet, heavy gray clouds were starting to descend on the mountain, and rain showers intermittently passed through. We got a short view of the upper ridges and rocky points above Thirtyninemile (“Firn”) Lake just before they were swallowed by fog; after that, visibility was down to 50 yards or so for the next several hours. We gained a 6600-foot saddle on the high ridge, then generally followed the crest up and over Points 7361 and 7567. The crestlines offered straightforward Class 1-2 travel, which was quite enjoyable under the circumstances. The false summit and true summit had some steeper Class 3 rock, but the exposure was never bad. We topped out in the late afternoon (8.8 hours and 6500 feet from Big Beaver Landing).
There was a summit cairn but no register, so I left a makeshift register consisting of a Nuun bottle (we thought this appropriate for Mt. Prophet). The weather was cold and windy, with rain sprinkles, and the views were non-existent. This was especially disappointing because we’d hauled our full backpacks all the way in hopes of doing a summit bivouac. Given the horrible weather and the lack of any decent bivouac sites, however, we re-shouldered packs at 6:00pm and started retracing our up-route back along the ridge crest.
About an hour after leaving the summit, we stopped for a rest on a rocky knob at 6700 feet, and this is where Kevin’s good karma finally kicked in. The clouds and fog miraculously began to dissipate! We scouted around the vicinity and found a splendid bivouac site on small patch of ridge-crest greenery. Dinner and ever-improving views were enjoyed from our bivy sacks until nightfall, which was followed by a near-full moonrise.
In the morning, we awoke to a sky of blue above and a sea of clouds below. The rising sun splashed across the cloudscape and protruding mountains as we ate breakfast. Kevin must have cashed in a ton of karma in exchange for this incredible visual presentation!
We reluctantly packed up and headed down at 7:30am. Our descent was reasonably quick and uneventful, and the afternoon rain showers held off until we reached the trail. Two hours later, we found ourselves sprawled across the dock at Big Beaver Landing (5.9 hours from camp) awaiting the water taxi—and the next rainstorm. Our good-weather window had been brief but spectacular.
Stats: 18 miles; 7200 feet gained and lost.
——————– Photo Gallery (click to enlarge) ——————–