Mount Gilbert, Elevation 8,201ft
Southwest Face, 40 degrees
May 18-19, 2002
Jason, Ben, Troy, Kurt, Cameron, Josh
By: Jason Hummel
The Southwest Face of Mount Gilbert. Our ski descent is in red. This photo was taken fromOld Snowy a few weeks prior.
Gilbert is a great place to be. The weather looked good and we planned on having some fun. Next thing I know, we are at the Conrad Meadows parking lot, loading our heavy packs on for the 7 or 8-mile haul to the upper slopes.
The Old Man saw a black bear on the way in. Wildlife was bountiful, especially in the lower meadows, which are some of the biggest I’ve seen in the alpine. There are plenty of deer and elk to watch, and cows too. Much of the meadows are grazing ground for cattle. You don’t want to get in the way of some of these suckers.
Our group was split on which way to go. We’ve always gone up to the Meade Glacier, but the Old Man wanted to go up to Surprise Lake. I am usually up for going a different way cause the same routes get old and befit a slog rather than a climb. Going this route turned out to be the saving grace of the climb. Josh did end up falling off a log into a creek. Nice work, bro!
Several hours later, we were at camp just above Surprise Lake on a ridge in a thick grove of trees. At this point, we had a choice, relax and climb the next day, or get it over with. The weather had taking a turn for the worse, so we decided to get it over with.
There was a ridge above us. With Ben leading the way, we pursued the summit. The Old Man and Cameron stopped at the ridge, which was best cause some of the climbing was more interesting than they would have desired. Unlike them, we were enjoying the roundabout way. About halfway up, we saw a chute that made all our mouths water and hearts beat stronger. It was a treasure that none of us had noticed before, creating a large Y in the cliff face for nearly 1,000 feet.
Josh nearing the ridge. Mount Gilbert is seen in the background. Guess which line we skied?
The summit neared and as it did we became wishful of crampons, but we managed to scurry across the icy slope and up the face. Atop the summit ridge, we caught our first glimpse of the Northeast Face. Sitting on the summit, we couldn’t come up with any reason not to ski it. We’d all been on it before and loved the line, but after our short break, we made a short recon of the route and found the face to be knee deep corn, which would be a foolish hazard to expose ourselves too. We decided to ski the SW Face, which was cool. Unlike previous trips, there was snow within feet of the summit. Troy walked and Josh, Ben, and I enjoyed the terrain.
Troy and Josh checking out the Northeast Face of Mount Gilbert.
Jason nearing the summit.
Looking north towards Ives, Old Snowy and Rainier.
Looking east towards Tieton.
Jason skiing the Southwest Face.
At the saddle, we skied down the ridge, in an attempt to catch Troy who belined for the chute. By the time we reached the top, he had just finished his last few turns at the bottom. Josh followed Troy down the right chute and Ben and I headed to the left. Oh yea. I’m used to skiing big exposed snow faces and not chutes. I like chutes better…not as scary in my opinion and more fun. Ben and I set up for pics, but really we were more interested in skiing than photos. I’d say the chute was mostly 40 degrees at the top tapering off slightly towards the bottom. You could make it more interesting if you wanted and we did.
Josh dropping in the right chute.
Josh finishing off the main chute while Troy watches from below.
Jason looking down.
Jason looking up.
At the bottom, we skied out the valley and traversed back to camp across deep wet snow. Josh tried to see how big of a sluff he could cut off. He made some nice ones that none of us could match. One of the benefits of going first.
At camp, we ate and Troy started a fire in the giant shelter that the Old Man and Cameron built while they waited. About then, it decided to rain.
All night the rain continued and in the morning, we were thankful that we summited the previous day. I started packing before I left the tent. From Surprise Lake Ben, Josh, and I went one way and the rest went another. We met up where snow met dirt and rested next to a creek where we had left our tennis shoes the day before. From there, the trail went fast. Down in the flats, as we crossed one of the roads, we decided to take a shortcut. I don’t really know if it was faster. The Old Man took the trail, Ben and Josh took a different road and Cameron, Troy, and I made our way cross-country until we hit the trail again. All of us arrived at pretty much the same time.
Ben turning in the trees below camp.
Weather-wise there wasn’t much else we could have done. The climb was great and the chute was sweet. If you are up there, look for it. I think you would be pleasantly surprised.