Mount Maude, Elevation 9,082ft
North Face, 50+ degrees
July 27-28, 2002
Ben, Jason, Josh, Bill Frans
The North Face of Mount Maude from Seven Fingered Jack. My ski descent is in red. Bill and the Hummels stopped near the green dot. This photo was taken the day before my ski.
A 9,000ft peak in eastern Washington? "Yea, I think I have a free weekend next July." A 2,000 vertical foot 40-50 degree face that hasn't been skied? "Sure, this weekend sounds good."
That was more or less the conversation Jason and I had in planning this trip. I had never heard of Mount Maude but a photo that Bill Frans took the previous year was enough to convince me that it was worth a weekend of good weather and a six-hour drive.
The North Face of Mount Maude from Seven Fingered Jack taken July of 2001.
Photographer: Bill Frans
I left Bellingham Friday night after work, reaching Stevens Pass at the onset of dark and the turnoff to Lake Wenatchee shortly after. The road to Trinity is too good for night driving. Misled by a lack of potholes and washboard, my temptation to speed was punished by blind corners. The final mile up Phelps Creek slowed me enough to spot a couple bums on the side of the road. Wait a second, that's the Hummels. They carpooled with Bill Frans and were all attempting to sleep at a pullout just shy of the trailhead. Within minutes, I was deep dozing in the cab of my truck, unaware of the mayhem taking place outside.
I woke up around 6am and found the Hummels tent had shifted. A fierce wind allowed them little sleep despite their attempts to find shelter. They had a few choice words for the weather but their whining was short lived as Bill emerged from his sleeping bag in a cloud of dust. Welcome to eastern Washington.
We pulled our cozy gear from the rigs and finished packing. I carried one of Bill's half-ropes but all the Hummels could fit was a spoon's worth from Bill's cook kit. Like all good supermarket shoppers, I started the diesel and we finished the remaining road in search of front row parking. All the good spots were taken so we ended up parking in a nearby ditch. More cars arrived as we made our way into the forest.
The first 3.7 miles was quite pleasant. I thought it was only a mile and a half so it felt a little long but there was plenty to talk about between the Hummels, myself and the new guy. Bill entertained us with stories from around the globe and, as you might expect, the Hummels had plenty of local tales to share. The punishment begins at the turnoff to Leroy Creek. I did battle with a mile and a half of in-your-face steeps while Bill and the Hummels took a more reasonable pace. We met up in the basin for more conversation and drink. Surrounded by steep brush and scree, we kicked ourselves for not coming sooner.
Jason making his way up the basin towards the col. Glacier Peak is seen in the background.
We planned on camping near the col between Seven Fingered Jack and Maude. I ditched my pack a couple hundred feet shy at the most probably camp.
My hopes took a blow at the col. I could see part of the North Face but nothing looked skiable and I had doubts that we could even climb the thing. Jason joined me after a few minutes and I convinced him that the route was hidden. To make sure we needed to head to a different vantage. Glancing down, we saw Bill and Josh unpacking at camp. We spent a good hour chilling in the sun before deciding to climb Seven Fingered Jack. The others felt it wasn't worth bringing skis but after seeing the limited snow on the North Face of Maude, I convinced them that it was.
The south-facing scramble was a pain. Most of the rock was loose and we spent as much time going sideways as we did going up. We ditched our skis and boots near the highest snow so the remainder wasn't so bad with a light pack.
We got what we came for in terms of views but the snowpack was far from what we had expected. The North Face was in clear view but it took some detective work to decipher the route. Bill and the Hummels were pretty sure that it wouldn't go. My thoughts, well, it could be worse.
Jason, Josh, Bill and the North Face of Mount Maude.
We stayed on the summit long enough to convince ourselves one way or the other. I compared Maude with the likes of Mount Gilbert and Tieton Peak in the Goat Rocks whose slopes, from a distance, appear too steep to ski. My only problem with this route was that it appeared too steep and too narrow to ski. Regardless, I figured that it was worth a shot.
In addition to a panorama of breathtaking views, we noticed three climbers on the summit of Maude. Unfortunately, Josh's binoculars were focused elsewhere. You'll hear more about the naturists later.
As soon as the wind became a nuisance, we headed down.
Myself on the summit of Seven Fingered Jack. Bonanza Peak is seen on the right, Dome Peak in the center and the Cascade Pass range in-between.
Bill heading down. Glacier Peak is seen above the clouds.
Getting down the scree was almost as fun as going up. I'm a big fan of tennis shoes but after soiling my socks nearly every step, I was beginning to wish for boots. Worries faded as our ski gear came into view. Despite perfect weather and corn, the ski back to camp is hardly worth mentioning.
Josh skiing the South Face of Seven Fingered Jack on our way back to camp.
Flat space was limited so the Hummels ended up setting their tent up on some nearby snow. Bill and I found the rocks more than adequate for our bivies. We absorbed what was left of the sun and spent the rest of the evening giving thanks to every piece of clothing that we brought. The weather forecast was bomber so the clouds to the west did little more than enhance the already spectacular sunset.
Bill huddles at his bivy on the rocks.
The Hummels' tent on some nearby snow. Note the clouds to the west and their invisible fly.
The previous night's wind was nothing compared with that night's gale. Tack on clouds and morning drizzle and you've got a miserable day ahead. I slept relatively unscathed but Bill, sans bivy sack, and the Hummels, sans fly, counted the seconds until daylight. Given the change in weather, Bill and the Hummels were convinced that it wouldn't go. My thoughts, well, it could be worse.