Tieton Peak, Elevation 7,768ft
The Ladle, 50+ degrees
Leftovers, 45+ degrees
May 12, 2002
Ben, Troy, Josh, Jason
The North Face of Tieton Peak seen from the North Fork Tieton trail. The Ladle is in red (very likely a first descent). Leftovers is in green (most likely a first descent).
The North Face of Tieton Peak had been on my mind for quite a while. I climbed the East Ridge when I was a kid and found it to be one of the best rock tosses in the state. Charlie and I returned a few years later and skied a mellow north facing slope during a one-day traverse from Bear Creek Mountain. One need not summit in order to scare oneself of the skiing possibilities. The view from the north is quite compelling; at least for an elbow scraping, death facing, adrenaline junkie like myself. A summit ski down the North Face is definitely the sickest line in the Goat Rocks. One that we were destined to discover after passing it countless times on our way to Old Snowy. It's no surprise where our most recent trip led us.
If you've already read Jason's story from day one, keep reading. Otherwise, click here.
So, where were we? Jason was getting a good night's sleep, Josh and Troy were thinking of reasons why not to ski Tieton, I was waiting for first light so we could get on with it. I woke the others around 6am. It's amazing that the Hummels complain so much about their sleeping bags yet they'd rather shiver in wet +30 degree polarguard than uncover and get moving. Wet you ask? As if the snow soaking through their tent wasn't bad enough, Josh managed to spill a cup of hot chocolate before bed. They claim to have survived for weeks in the backcountry but I often wonder how. Nevertheless, they managed an extra 10 minutes of semi-sleep before I coerced them out of their tent with the sound of my stove. I had already packed, allowing myself plenty of time for breakfast.
The Hummels and I were expecting Troy to sit this one out but he emerged from his tent with just enough time to join us. We left camp between 7 and 8am. The weather wasn't quite as nice as the previous day's but we could hardly complain. Avalanche danger was a primary concern so the overcast skies and cooler temps were welcome.
A saddle to our south marked the beginning of our traverse. We reached it after a few minutes of hiking.
Jason heading south for the saddle while Troy finishes breakfast. Tieton Peak is seen in the background.
The view from the saddle was discouraging. Heading straight towards Tieton Peak would require a significant elevation loss to gain the North Ridge, which we weren't even sure we could climb. Instead, we chose to traverse south to the Southwest Ridge, which looked like a fairly straightforward climb. If we hit it right, we could save a good 500 vertical feet. If we hit it wrong, we could still be out there.
Josh and Troy traversing to the Southwest Ridge, seen on the left horizon.
Our traverse led us to the top of a cliff where the only option was to hike. We spotted a gully within a few steps and foolishly dropped in, hoping for a way through. Sure enough, there wasn't. Troy and I climbed out while the Hummels searched for another way through. A few steps higher they found another gully. Not as bad as the first but still foolish. The Hummels and I made our way through while Troy hiked a bit higher and continued the traverse on skis.
Troy and I retreat from the first gully.
The rest of the traverse went well and we reached the North Fork Tieton in no time. There we put on our skins and finished most of our water.
The basin was spectacular. Winter's fury reflected through jagged peaks and avalanche torn slopes. Not the safest place on earth although quite pleasant under the circumstance. I imagine that nobody had been there since our previous year's traverse.
Troy, Jason and Josh in the basin at the head of the North Fork Tieton.
We cut left on the first open slope seen in the above photo. Another left on a treed plateau led us to a chute where I managed to find some water. We filled our jugs and continued on foot to the top of the slope. There we switched back to skins to cross yet another spectacular bowl that led to the Southwest Ridge of Tieton. The views were unreal.
Jason, Josh and Troy at the top of the slope (beginning of bowl). Ives and Old Snowy can be seen in the background.
Troy, Josh and Jason skinning the bowl. The Southwest Ridge forms the horizon, with Tieton Peak on the left.
We each chose different routes to access the Southwest Ridge. Josh topped out with me, followed by Troy and Jason. Our final obstacle was in view although we spent as much time looking back as we did forward. The Northeast Face of Gilbert was begging to be skied but all we could offer was our appreciation.
Troy on the Southwest Ridge with theNortheast Face of Gilbert in the background.
The latter half of the ridge was an unpleasant surprise. 5th class rock with skis and plastic boots is never a good combination. I followed a goat on the north side of the ridge, with the exception of a few loose gullies that I was unwilling to cross. Instead, I pulled some low 5th class on solid rock to regain the ridge. Troy and the Hummels climbed steep snow on the south side of the ridge (too avalanche prone for me to consider). We finished it off with a couple hundred feet of 3rd and 4th class.
Billy showing me the way.
Myself and Troy near the top of the Southwest Ridge.
Myself finishing it off. Mount Adams is seen in the background and Gilbert in the foreground.
We summited shortly after noon. Rather than resting, I ditched my pack and continued down the North Face. There is a short section of 30 degrees before the face drops into oblivion. I approached with caution since a slip without an axe would still be deadly.
The first look is always a shock. I called it off. A few steps forward led me to reconsider.