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thompson approach 2008



ridge lk to bumblebee pic.

Boeing Alpine Club (Boealps) Intermediate Climbing Course (ICC)
ICC 2008 - Alpine2, 21-22jun08
Instructors: Joe Vlaming and Gary Hehn, Larry Kucera accompanied us to the Kendall Catwalk
Students: Aude Sevestre, Charlie Mencke, and Mandie Majerus
Intended Route: Mt. Thompson, west ridge route

click images for large view

thompson pic. thompson pic. thompson pic. thompson pic. thompson pic. thompson pic.

While Alpine 1 seemed to go pretty much by the text book I have to declare that this outing certainly did not. The text book got buried in the snow at the trail head parking lot that was still buried in snow. We had/got to make route and navigation decisions immediately upon departing. We saw no bare ground from the trail head to the Kendall Catwalk and essentially none beyond the catwalk except for a couple short south facing stretches of Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) near exposed rock.

Turns out that a good route to the catwalk when everything is covered with snow and the avalanche danger is low is to head directly across the Commonwealth Basin in the direction of Red Mountain. One can stay on the south side of Commonwealth Creek the whole way. Then, ascend the base of the canyon between Red Mt. and Kendall ridge. It was covered with snow and good travel. Last winter's collection of avalanche debris was impressive and sobering; many many trees annihilated.

We had carried three pickets anticipating a need for them at the Kendall Catwalk. We were surprised to find the catwalk mostly bare save for the far end of it. This is where we roped up for a short distance and used our pickets. We then hiked to Ridge Lake; everything completely covered with snow despite this being nearly the end of June!

Ridge Lake to the base of Bumble Bee Notch was where travel got the most interesting for us. The slopes here are steep (45-50 degrees). The next time you are there cruising the trail it might be interesting to take an added notice of this as you gaze down at Alaska Lake. Besides being steep there is no friendly run out the whole nearly half mile if it. We roped up, used pickets, rock pro in outcrops, and trees for protection while gingerly traversing our way towards Bumble Bee Notch. At the base of the notch we started doing some math as we belayed the others up into a moat.

It was nearly 7:30pm and it had taken us ten hours to get here. We would still have to work our way up and over the notch. Tomorrow we were looking at a climb that would likely take us at least ten hours, the condition of the East Face descent was a complete unknown, and then we would have this very long and tedious work getting out. We determined that we had to concede that it was no longer reasonable to continue, that we better work our way back to Ridge Lake, spend the night and hope for good weather the next day. We felt that if the weather was good we could try climbing Lundin Peak and call Larry from the Catwalk with our change of plans.

When we settled in for the night stars were out. About midnight the wind above us howled. A short time later there was the pattering of rain on our bivy sacks. Morning was wet, dreary, gray. But, we were in good spirits and watching for sucker holes as we worked our way back towards the Kendall Catwalk and then, Commonwealth Basin. The weather never cleared and so we continued our way out to the trail head, admiring water falls, gawking at avalanche debris, actually rather pleased with the weekend.


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