Conrad Meadows to NF Tieton (Gilbert, Old Snowy, Ives)
July 3-5, 2001
Ben, Troy, Jason, Josh
Some of our traverse can be seen in red. Old Snowy is just out of view but Gilbert and Ives are visible. Our second camp is near the blue dot. There was much less snow when we did it. This photo was taken from the Hogback in Spring 99.
The four of us had just gotten back from a three-day beach trip. It was supposed to be a break from our recent ski and kayak blitz but it ended up being another epic. 5 miles in with heavy packs, no permits, and a late start. 12 miles exploring from our camp. 5 miles out and a long drive home. We did manage to find some cool bouldering though.
I had a job interview the next day but it wasn't long before the weather brought us back to where we belong. The Hummels drove down from Bellingham that night. We were planning on climbing and skiing something on Rainier's Mowich Face. I called NPS the next morning to make sure that the road to Mowich Lake was open and sure enough, it wasn't. Their estimate of late June was a pretense for hopeful climbers and skiers like myself.
Josh and Jason didn't have their bikes and none of us felt up to walking the 5 miles of road to reach the trailhead so we decided to bail. It wasn't until 9am that we figured this out so we wouldn't have had time to make it to basecamp anyway. We spent the next couple of hours trying to come up with a worthy alternative. This wasn't easy because the Mowich Face would have been an incredible climb and ski under those conditions -- 12,000-14,000ft freezing levels after several weeks of consolidation. Did I mention the full moon?
We finally decided to do a ski traverse of the Goat Rocks. Troy was waiting for a phone call from a job prospect in Tacoma but we convinced him to go with us. It was a long drive but we figure it was worth it to climb and ski several of our favorite peaks. We left Seattle around 11am. Jason and I drove in the Mazda and Josh and Troy in the Sport Truck. We met up at the NF Tieton trailhead around 4pm. This is where our trip would end.
We all piled in the Sport Truck and drove the remaining 20+ miles around Rimrock Lake and up the SF Tieton. Jason had to ride in back. Fortunately the road wasn't too bumpy. We reached the Conrad Meadows trailhead at 5pm. This is where our trip began.
We were hiking by 5:30pm. The trail is flat for the first 3 or 4 miles. Then it climbs up several switchbacks to a steep ridge below McCall Basin for a total of 7 or 8 miles and approximately 3000 vertical feet.
The scenery is quite enjoyable -- through the meadows, along a creek, into and out of trees. The trail isn't as pleasant -- a dusty path (or series of paths) that the horses tromp each year. Things improved as we reached the ridge. The temperature cooled down and we started to see snow. We found a nice camp on the east side of the creek and settled in for a break/camp. We made it nonstop from the trailhead in under three hours.
McCall Basin with Gilbert in the background.
There was a full moon over clear skies so we weren't too worried about it getting dark. We took our time unpacking and had dinner over a warm campfire. There was a creek nearby to drink and bathe. Everything was shaping up just as we had hoped.
Dinner by the campfire under a full moon.
We awoke at sunrise the next morning. The plan was to climb and ski Gilbert with daypacks while scoping our traverse. The climb went well except for Jason who tried to skin. He fell 30 minutes behind. The rest of us wore tennis shoes and made it to the top in just over an hour. Josh and I carried skis thinking that we might be able to ski the Northeast Face. A quick look down 60 degree scree made us think otherwise. Troy and Jason left theirs at the saddle. That was ok because there were several steep lines on the south side of the basin that looked like a worthy alternative.
We found the register and signed in. There were two groups that beat us. The rest of our time was spent looking northeast for a suitable traverse. Old Snowy became our beacon but there was a lot of terrain in-between. We finally decided to try and traverse from a saddle about halfway between the summit of Gilbert and camp.
Troy nearing the crest just below Gilbert.
The summit of Gilbert with Old Snowy (green) and Ives (red) seen in the background. Our second camp is near the blue dot.
We put our skis on back at the crest and headed back towards camp. The skiing was excellent. Josh, Jason and I headed south towards some chutes that we scouted on the way up. Troy skied down the route we climbed. Josh and I skied a chute on the south center of the basin while Jason traversed further south to a steeper face. We met up at the bottom of the face and coasted back to camp.
Josh turning just below the crest.
Josh dropping in the south center chute.
Josh exiting onto the face.
Jason near the bottom of the face.
Our lines. Josh and I skied the chute on the right and Jason skied the face just left of center.
Some of us felt lazy when we got back to camp. We considered staying there the next night and heading down the way we came up. I was determined to finish the traverse so I started packing my gear. The others agreed to join me. It wasn't long before we were on our way.
We followed our tracks about half way up Gilbert to a saddle where we decided to traverse. Josh and I put on our skis and continued north below the Northeast Face of Gilbert. Troy and Jason were close behind. We couldn't quite coast to the next saddle so we ended up hiking a couple hundred vertical feet on rock. Troy and Josh had a bicep and calf competition where we took off our skis. The heat must have been messing with their brains.
Jason and Troy traversing from the saddle below Gilbert.
All of us at the next saddle.
The next saddle had a spectacular setting. Gilbert was to our back, Old Snowy and Ives to our front, Tieton to our right and series of rugged peaks in-between. We had just finished crossing a remote glacier and were about to set ski on another. The path to our next camp was clearly visible but it looked as though we would have to do a fair amount of hiking to get there.