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On the summit

Makin’ It Happen at the 11th Hour!

Last sea­son I had the plea­sure to work with local Seat­tle climber, Michael Knoll, on a trip to one of the North Cascade’s most hal­lowed peaks, Mt. Goode. It was one of those phone calls that comes at 4 p.m., when all your ducks are in a row for the com­ing day, and you’re half out the door: Got any guides inter­est­ed in climb­ing Goode’s NE But­tress?” he asked casu­al­ly. Umm, ya, of course,” I respond­ed. ANY of our guides would glad­ly take on that mis­sion!” Well, con­di­tions are per­fect and I’m pack­ing NOW — I’d like to leave tomor­row at 6 a.m.”

I had, in fact, nev­er heard of a suc­cess­ful guid­ed ascent of Goode (or even an attempt, for that mat­ter), let alone one that was con­ceived 12 hours before lift-off. I’ll make some phone calls and get back to you, Michael” In the spir­it of Scott Fischer’s Make it Hap­pen” cre­do I pulled out all the stops and plucked MM Guide, Jaime Pol­litte (who was rock climb­ing in Squamish, British Colum­bia on a day off), for the once-in-a-life­time mis­sion. Jaime is one of those nat­ur­al super-ath­letes, with a stel­lar com­bi­na­tion of pro­fes­sion­al­ism and tech­ni­cal exper­tise, a long career teach­ing in the moun­tains, and a will­ing­ness to throw him­self at any­thing. A per­fect match real­ly – espe­cial­ly giv­en the fact that he knew next to noth­ing about the route and he would have lit­tle time to think about it and chose the soft­er path of sun­ny rock climb­ing by the water! He balked a bit on the phone when I men­tioned the 2 day approach, bush­whack­ing and long dan­ger­ous descent. But it’s a hal­lowed clas­sic’ Jaime,” I implored. You’re gonna love it!” Three days into the trip I thought about those guys, high on the NE But­tress, 20 miles in, and won­dered if Jaime was wish­ing he was climb­ing one of the hal­lowed clas­sics” of Squamish’s Grand Wall instead of one of the North Cas­cades most remote peaks. 

Mt. Goode NE But­tress. Jaime Pol­litte photo

Fast for­ward a year (after Michael and Jaime suc­ceed­ed in great style on Mt. Goode)….

Jere­my, it’s Michael Knoll.” Hey, how are you? O’…wait…what do you want to do tomor­row?!” We both laughed, rem­i­nisced briefly about Goode and serendip­i­ty and life in gen­er­al, and then he dropped it: Well, I was think­ing about Redoubt, Spickard, Bear, or any­thing in that area….TOMORROW!” Of course. Fig­ured. Big, remote and clas­sic. Sel­dom, if ever, guid­ed. We agreed to go in via Cana­da. I wran­gled anoth­er keen moun­tain guide with the an amaz­ing com­bi­na­tion of skills, enthu­si­asm and thirst for adven­ture – Ian Nichol­son. Made anoth­er round of calls, bust­ed out the logis­tics, per­mit­ting and pay­ment. And they were off. 

Jere­my Allyn, North Amer­i­ca Pro­gram Director

Report by Ian Nicholson:

Michael and I met at my house in Seat­tle at 6 a.m. for a quick gear shuf­fle and, before we knew it, we were on our way. The U.S.A –Cana­da bor­der cross­ing was smooth and took less than 10 min­utes. The dri­ve down to the east end of Chill­i­wack lake was extreme­ly bumpy – one local guide­book describes this part of the road as being a pot hole breed­ing ground.” The final 2 miles of the road were extreme­ly rough with full blown four-wheel­ing over big rocks, deep wash-outs, and across creeks. 

USA-Cana­da bor­der. Ian Nichol­son photo

We got to the trail head around noon and then hiked one mile up the old road to the bor­der prop­er. Inter­est­ing­ly, this was the first time either of us had crossed an inter­na­tion­al board­er on foot. After a cou­ple of hours we reached the near­ly 800-foot tall Depot Creek Falls – one of the region’s many high­lights. We got to camp late that after­noon and set up our tents around 5,000 feet below the North face of Mt. Redoubt. 

Depot Creek Falls. Ian Nichol­son photo

Michael Knoll. Ian Nichol­son photo

The next morn­ing we awoke at 5 a.m. and left camp at 6 a.m., trekking just over an hour up the val­ley to the beau­ti­ful Lake Ozuel. Above this, we ascend­ed the Redoubt glac­i­er and wrapped our way up and around to the West Ridge of NE Mox Peak (8,404 feet). To get to the base of the rock climb­ing sec­tion we had to climb a short sec­tion of 50 degree névé. The upper ridge was approx­i­mate­ly 10 – 12 rope lengths of slight­ly loose, but incred­i­bly enjoy­able, rock in a spec­tac­u­lar posi­tion. The views from this remote sum­mit were amaz­ing – the north­ern Pick­et Range, Mt. Bak­er, Mt. Shuk­san, just to name a few. 

Guide Ian Nicholson

Sim­i­lar to the pre­vi­ous day, we woke up at 5 a.m., and left at 6 a.m., for the now famil­iar hike to Lake Ozuel. This time we head­ed north, gain­ing the col between Mt. Custer and Mt. Spickard by 9:45 a.m.. From here we were greet­ed with excel­lent views of Sil­ver Lake and the Sil­ver Lake Glac­i­er. We both talked about how long we had want­ed to vis­it this place since we first saw a pho­to of it in Fred Becky’s Cas­cade Alpine Guide. 

Sil­ver Lake. Ian Nichol­son photo

The climb of the Sil­ver Lake Glac­i­er route was steep and we belayed the final 400ft as the angles hit 50 degrees and where we were forced to cross sev­er­al steep crevass­es. The final 5.0 ridge was on sol­id rock and very fun! We sum­mit­ed the 8,979 foot Mt. Spickard by 2 p.m.. It was amaz­ing to think about how we were only 1.5 miles from Cana­da. We took a break to enjoy the sum­mit with its breath­tak­ing views of the largest road­less area in the low­er 48, com­plete with hun­dreds of glaciat­ed peaks stretch­ing off in every direc­tion. Off the top we mis­tak­en­ly took the wrong gul­ley down for about 350 feet. After real­iz­ing this, we climbed back to the sum­mit for a sec­ond time, picked the cor­rect gul­ly, and made our way down the south face route and back to camp.

On the sum­mit! Ian Nichol­son photo

Redoubt, Shuk­san and Bak­er in the back­ground. Ian Nichol­son photo

On our fourth day – with the goal of the clas­sic North­east Face of Mt. Redoubt – we woke up ear­ly again. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, Michael’s feet were in pret­ty rough shape with blis­ters after three full days of Cas­ca­di­an trav­el. After a quick but heart­felt dis­cus­sion, we decid­ed to take it easy and not attempt Redoubt – one of the giant peaks of the range. After a bit more sleep, we ate break­fast and cov­ered crevasse res­cue and some rope management/​efficiency tricks around camp until ear­ly after­noon. The hike out took us 3.5 hours and went smooth­ly. Thanks to Michael for the super fun trip – one of my favorites of the year!

NE Face of Mt. Redoubt. Ian Nichol­son photo