We awoke with renewed spirits. Mount Challenger looked so close we could feel our skis gliding across its broad glaciers. We traversed the top of the ridge (which wasn’t necessary in hindsight) finally skiing down to the imperfect impasse. What looked like an easy crossing, suddenly morphed into something entirely unexpected, a waterfall surged down into a deep chasm. We packed our skis and started up, soon ruling the wet rock and more importantly draped snow too much of a hazard. I am sure there is a way but with ski boots, skis and a 90lb pack, there was no will. We clambered back down to safety. From there we skied down several hundred feet, pursuing the narrowing fingers of snow until we were beneath the cliffs.
Jason skiing down from Easy Ridge. So close yet so far.
Jason going low to avoid the imperfect impasse.
On the far side of the valley, we climbed up the woods and finally to a snow finger that allowed easy access to the upper valley. We found this to be much easier of a way than it looked from below. We rested on a rock slab where a stream rushed down over the cliffs before finally making our way to Perfect Pass. Reality struck.
Jason nearing Perfect Pass.
Fury was still out of view but our hurt was beginning to show. We lay our packs down on the smooth rock slabs, took our boots off, soaked our feet and started munching. Ben proposed, "How about we ski Whatcom Peak today, Challenger tomorrow, and hike out on the final day?" The remainder of our trip was starting to make sense and becoming more palpable to the mind and body. Rather than a death march, we relished the idea of enjoying the remaining two and a half days. This contentedness began with Whatcom Peak.
Jason on his way to Whatcom Peak. Our camp at Perfect Pass is near the large cornice on the right.
Almost… Whatcom's north summit can be seen in the background.
Ben on Whatcom's south summit with Mount Blum rising above the Baker River and Mount Triumph in the distant left.
The road home. We'll get to that later.
Whatcom Peak rises from Perfect Pass and has two main summits. We decided to climb/ski the south, which offered the best turns. The climb was relatively painless except for my feet. Suddenly they were hurting bad, but somehow it was less of a concern and more of an annoyance. At the summit I enjoyed views of Baker, the Chillawacks, Shuksan, and of course Challenger. After a picture we glided off the small summit where sweet corn was ripe for reaping. Without packs we felt like we were flying. Ahh! So this is what we came for?
Shady turns on the East Face of Whatcom Peak.
Need I remind you of the nearest hospital?
Back at camp I stared at my mangled, sunburned feet and wondered if I would be able to climb Challenger. I was disappointed about my foolishness. How could forget sunscreen? There was little wishing could do about it now. I asked Ben what he thought and his grimace and subsequent laugh made me wish I were Italian rather than German. Argh!
That night I discovered a cure.