Little Tahoma, Elevation 11,138 feet
South Face: Grade II, 4th
August 19, 2001
Jason, Josh, Ben
Author: Jason Hummel
Looking back at Little Tahoma from above Indian Bar. Our ascent can be seen in green and our descent in red. Ben took this photo on Day Two of theWonderland one week before our climb.
Josh and I were back from Alaska and after a few days we were itching to do something. The weather was beautiful! I was glad to be home, but I missed Alaska. I swore one day I would return to the Wrangle Saint Elias range to climb and ski. There is soo much potential up there for skiing and climbing. In the meantime, I was in Washington, and it isnít a good idea to pretend to look for a job when the weather in absolutely pristine blue and blazing hot. Ben and I formed a plan where him and I would kayak the White River and Josh and Troy would mountain bike. The river was dirty and the mountain bike was fun. Ben and I had earlier read a sign that read to the effect, "Do not enter HIGH FIRE DANGER" We didnít think much about it, but 15-miles later at the take out two trucks were waiting for us. An older guy walked up just as we are climbing over the gate and said, "who has the money and who is going to jail?" This took us by surprise and so we said, "Excuse me." And he said, "You are trespassing, the police are on their way." Ben replies, "But this doesnít make sense." The guy then points at this sign, which reads, "Closed to the public due to severe fire danger" in bold read letters. It was drizzling and we were soaked. Ben then says, "Closed for kayaking?" The guy then says, "Havenít you heard of the fires in Eastern Washington?" Anyway, since we were nice he let us off with a written warning. He asked if we had a job and whose truck the Mazda was. Weird. On Sunday Ben and Troy were planning on climbing Kayes peak, but Troy slammed his knee into his headset and decided against going.
Sunday morning I joined Ben in his Mazda and Josh tagged along in the Sport Truck. We were headed for Little Tahoma but we left our skis behind. We had skied the mountain a day later the previous year (see Summer00), but we figured in a low snow year it wasnít worth it to bring skis. We were on the trail by 7 or 8 in the morning, cruising without the added weight of skis. I felt empty.
For once we enjoyed the climb and before long we were on top of Meany Crest. I donít remember stopping for a break though. Soon the snow met the dirt. I love the way it looks because the snow and ice bulge up threatening to bulldoze the dirt away. We didnít bother putting on boots. From there we saw no more people.
Where the snow meets the dirt.
Ben took the lead and managed to wind his way through the glacier. He ended up 30 minutes ahead of me but I didnít care. The glacier was quite a challenge. I know most people would look down on crossing a glacier without a rope and in tennis shoes, but there are times when some things that arenít possible become such. The rope stayed in Benís pack. I crossed several snow bridges and jumped many crevasses that had none. Josh, Ben, and I met on the small saddle that seperated the Fryingpan and Whitman glaciers. We rested and debated over which route we should take. The route up the main face didnít look possible at the time (we couldnít see it all) and so we decided to climb a steep snow face on the climberís right. At the bottom of the face we finally put our boots and crampons on and pulled our ice axes out. We were going to need both now.
The face was a fun climb but it felt too firm to descend. We agreed to look for a different route on the way down.
Josh and I below the snow face.
After traversing over we were now on the main snow slope. Now I was glad that I didnít bring my skis. The snow was terrible, but sometimes it just seems that way on the way up. Often after my skis are on, I forget how bad I thought it was. I knew I wouldnít have the luxury of skiing this time. Crevasses are a bit harder to cross when you canít just jump them.
Finally the snow met rock and I exchanged my boots for shoes. I hustled to catch Josh and Ben. It wasnít long before I was on the summit. We didnít sit long because it was getting late. I was the last to leave and followed reluctantly.
Josh on the summit ridge.
Once back to the snow we considered pulling out the rope. The down climbing didnít look too appealing but after Ben headed off, I decided it would go. We traversed across the face to some loose rock we avoided on the way up. Every step up on snow is one step up as opposed to a half-step down on the loose rock. However, downclimbing on steep snow and ice just isn't fun. Once across, I took off my crampons and ran down the scree while avoiding my own rock fall and slides. Approximately 500ft lower, I put on my crampons and traversed again.
Myself, traversing the firm snow slope for the second time on the way down. Josh is waiting by some running water in the rocks.
We decided to try and find a way down the face we avoided earlier. The prior year we had skied this face. It's an easy ski in early season but in late season it can be a challenge.
Josh skiing above one of the large cracks, the year before.
We had an exciting time discovering a way through the maze. Ben snapped a few photos as did Josh. At this point, Ben wished he had brought his good camera. It would have been an easy trade for the rock shoes, rack and rope that he carried for no reason.
The eerie views resulting from the clouds offered some visual entertainment. We were somewhere between gray fog and blue sky. We also had some challenging crevasse crossings here.
Josh and I wondering where to go.
Josh winding his way through the maze.
We finally returned to the saddle in the fog. We kept our boots on but not our crampons. We ran down the glacier in boots and switched to tennis shoes on Meany Crest. It was a good climb. My knee hurt a bit and so I took it slow until we reached the nice trail at Summerland. After that we cruised until we got to the car. It was nearly dark when we got there. Josh and I had a long drive back to Bellingham and envied Benís comparably short drive back to Seattle.
Ben taking his last photo while I wind my way down to Summerland.