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Ascent of Goode Mountain on 2013-08-12

Climber: Greg Slayden

Others in Party:Dave Covill
Edward Earl
Adam Walker
Date:Monday, August 12, 2013
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Goode Mountain
    Location:USA-Washington
    Elevation:9200 ft / 2804 m

Ascent Trip Report

Saturday, August 10:

We drove from our motel in Wenatchee to the Fields Point ferry terminal and took the Lady Express (the “fast boat”) to Stehekin, from 9:20 AM to 11:15 AM. Our friend Trapper happened to be on the boat, on his way to his cabin in Stehekin—we chatted with him and hoped to see him on the way down. We docked and Trapper’s wife Roxanne was waiting for him, and she helpfully pointed me in the right direction to get our camping permit at the visitor center. I jogged uphill and scored our free permit for the exact sites and nights we wanted, and then we caught the 11:30 NPS shuttle bus towards High Bridge. It made a 10-minute stop at the famous bakery, where we carbo-loaded on pastries, and at 12:30 deposited us at the end of its run.

The road actually continues for about 1.5 miles past High Bridge, to where a major 2003 washout has permanently closed it, but this was as far as the bus goes. So we got our packs together, stashed our spare duffel bag in the woods under a rock, and at 12:30 started hiking along the hot, open road. It was a 90-degree day and the heat, flies, and heavy packs were bothersome despite the scenery.

We took the road continuation for a mile or so, then a cutoff trail to the PCT (confusingly, called the “Old Wagon Road” even though it is not a road) and hiked that north for 3 miles, and then another cutoff back to the actual road, now vehicle free. Another mile took us to the Bridge Creek area, a spread-out complex of campsites, picnic tables, and trail junctions. But we just stayed on the main road, which crossed Bridge Creek and headed west for 2.5 miles to Park Creek camp. So far we had gained very little elevation on flat roads/trails.

After a break at Park Creek camp we headed uphill on the Park Creek Trail as it climbed for a thousand feet to a nice overlook, and then contoured to Two Mile Camp. We had reserved Five Mile camp (3 miles further, obviously), but we were tired and that site was actually a mile beyond the start of the climber’s trail to Goode. We debated what to do—Dave was especially tired with his huge pack, and wanted to camp at Two Mile—but we eventually continued and hoped to find a good campsite a mile or two further on.

The Park Creek trail is very poorly marked on the USGS maps and we found ourselves hiking through brushy spots and steep forest with no water sources for the next mile or so. We were very beat and it looked like rain, so at about 3.2 miles up the trail we took a break and Adam and I hiked downhill into open forest towards the river and found a pretty good flat campsite. Eventually we decided to take it and set up for the night there. It was a good thing we did—not long after pitching our tents the heavens opened and it rained heavily all night long, making for miserable evening cooking and apprehensive thoughts during the night. The thunder and lightning were almost non-stop and I worried a bit about being only about 10 feet above the raging waters of Park Creek.

Sunday August 11:

The rain had stopped but the woods and our tents and other gear was drenched, so packing up our camp was a joyless task. We returned to the Park Creek Trail 100 feet uphill and continued, looking for the start of the Goode climber’s trail. Based on our trip reports, we located the large rock with a cairn 300 paces past a large open area, and, not seeing a trail, bushwhacked uphill through fairly open forest. We switchbacked a bit and soon Adam, in the lead, found the distinct trail. Once we found it, he and I took off uphill at a fast clip, since we wanted to get Storm King this afternoon after setting up camp, while Edward and Dave would proceed at a slower pace and save their energy for Goode tomorrow.

The climber’s trail was extremely steep, but efficient and easy to follow for the most part, going up the rib to the NW of the large open slide/brook area. About midway up the 3400-foot slope it entered an area of grassy fields and essentially disappeared, but the turf terraces were easy to hike up and the way ahead was clear. The rib became a rocky crest, and after the field areas intermittent cairns and footways led uphill on the very spine of the ridge. Adam and I made good time, checking in with Dave and Edward on walkie-talkies every hour, until we crested a small 7400-foot knoll and saw a rocky flat are in the col behind it. This was obviously the Goode high camp, so we dropped our packs, pitched our tent, ate lunch, and got ready for our side trip to Storm King.

After a walkie-talkie chat with Dave, we set off at about 12:45. We know we had to monitor the building clouds and unsettled weather, but the terrain seemed pretty easy to get to the base of Storm King. We climbed the dirt/talus slope NW of camp to a col, traversed a mixture of talus and snow while mostly maintaining our elevation, went around a corner, contoured some more, and entered the basin directly below the forbidding craggy spires of Storm King. Although just a sub-peak of Goode, it looked very intimidating.

The climb to the base of the summit cliffs was an ugly mess of steep talus, loose dirt/gravel, and sloping slabs—not fun. We plugged on up and I headed for a notch in the craggy ridge, but after looking at our trip reports we identified another notch as the correct destination—the gully leading to it looked almost vertical and nasty.

We started up the gully on loose rock and the semi-solid blocks on either side, but then it started raining. Beating a retreat, we huddled under a cliff off to the side of the base of the cliff and waited. The sky was still mostly blue, so we thought this little squall would pass. Indeed, a few minutes later it cleared so we tried again. Back at our turnaround spot the terrain looked forbidding above, so we broke out the rope and I agreed to lead the pitch up to the notch.

I do not have a lot of alpine lead rock climbing experience, and the rock in this gully was rotten and often unprotectable. I got a few cams in as I made my way up, either in the gully or off to the right side. Near the top the main gully was overhanging, so I put in a final cam and made some low 5th class moves to get up to the right. It was now raining again, but the only way I could retreat was to get to the notch and its supposed rappel rings. At last I grabbed a big handhold above me to mantle up to the ridgecrest just right of the notch, and once up there I was appalled at the exposure—my handhold had been the other side of the notch, dropping down a thousand feet below where my fingers had been. The crest was a very narrow knife edge.

Just like the trip reports said, a sandy ledge led to my left, behind the summit block, towards the next pitch. And the rappel slings were there as promised. I started setting up an anchor to belay Adam up, but the rain was getting stronger and after a brief shouted conversation we agreed to bail—this terrain would be scary enough in perfect weather, let alone a thunderstorm. So instead I added a sling to back up the two already at the anchor, and then rappelled my pitch, cleaning my pro as I went. I rapped past Adam, who followed for the short bit below his stance.

It was now 3:30 PM. We rested again against the lower cliffs, radioed camp and told Edward we would be back in an hour, and set off. The upper talus/scree/slab mixture was not fun in a rain-slickened state, but we carefully downclimbed to a patch of dirt/gravel that allowed nice scree skiing. Now all we had to do was traverse flat, easy snow and talus to camp. We both talked about how happy we were to have the dangerous steep terrain behind us, especially since we could see some very nasty storm clouds were imminently above us.

I was going first on a gentle snowfield, following our upward footprints, and as I put my weight on the last footprint before the big rocks, the snow gave way beneath me. I dropped about four feet into a quasi-moat, and as I tried to get out I noticed my hands were covered in blood. I had cut them both, especially my left palm, but otherwise I was OK. I had to take my pack off to get out of my hole, and then Adam helped me bandage the gash in my hand. It was hailing at this time and we got drenched.

After gauze, duct tape, and a cloth rag had stemmed the flow of blood, we put on raincoats and headed back to camp. We arrived at 4:30 without incident during a lull in the rain, and Dave helped clean out my wound and patch it up the best we could with our first aid kits.

For the rest of the evening we rested, ate, and organized, between occasional bursts of rain. The cliffs of Goode above us were intimidating, and we got ready for an early start.

Monday, August 12:

We were up at 5:30 AM and heading uphill at 6:50 AM for the summit of Goode. My left hand felt OK and I wore liner gloves all day to keep my bandages in place. The first part of the climb was a short climb of the moraine parallel and in front of the cliffs of Goode—I chose to climb up the large solid blocks on the far left side instead of the loose dirt—and from the moraine crest a hidden snowfield offered easy travel eastward towards a talus ridge. We stayed on the snow as long as we could and then hiked up the talus and curved uphill to our left, heading for what looked like a big gash in the side of Goode’s cliffs.

This section of climb featured standard-issue Cascade loose-rock that was pretty miserable. We cached our ice axes, and shortly afterwards our crampons, as we made our way past loose towers of rotten rock. We could soon see up the Southwest Couloir, unmistakable due to the famous black stairs on its left side, and started looking for the ledge that entered it. We found a ledge, but it was pretty low and led us to a steep slabby white wall that was not easy to surmount. We had to go around it to the left, but once above it the black stairs were in full view and we headed for them.

This is a pretty amazing feature of this route, looking like the work of Tolkien’s elves—a winding staircase of black basalt, making for relatively easy travel. Some of the steps were four feet tall, there was still lots of loose rock, and sometimes our stairs would peter out and we’d have to move over to another basaltic staircase, but overall it was a nice way to gain a few hundred feet in an otherwise loose gully. The verticality of the terrain around us was scary, and eventually the gully got very steep and the black stairs were no longer easy class 3 climbing.

To our right were some white slabs and a downsloping ledge, and here we consulted our trip reports. One party went straight up the main gully, another climbed a slab crack above the ledge, but the guidebook told us to simply follow the ledge—that definitely seemed like the right ticket. So we broke out one of our 60m ropes and Dave led across the ledge, putting in lots of pro due to pendulum possibilities. He got across using half the rope, so next Edward went, then I pulled the rope back and I went, and finally Adam. We were finding out that rock climbing with four people can be time consuming.

Above the ledge pitch, a tough class 3 climb brought us steeply and quickly to the Black Tooth notch—Edward scouted this for us and soon we were all up there. This is on the main crest of the peak, and a nice sandy ledge led to our left, on the “back side”. This ended soon, though, and we either had to climb up and do a tricky traverse, or go down 8 feet to another ledge. We could see that this lower ledge led easily to the plainly visible rib of the Northeast Buttress, our objective, so after some messing around we set up an anchor and did very short rappels to the lower ledge and went across to the buttress.

The Northeast Buttress is the most popular route on Goode, and it is mainly nice solid blocky rock ranging from class 3 to easy class 5. To Edward and I, it looked like we could scramble the crest, and we started doing just that. A short way up Dave said we should protect it—indeed, the exposure here was horrific, with thousands of feet below us to the Goode Glacier. So we regrouped a short way up the buttress to a flat spot and set up an anchor.

Edward led this pitch, and took the rack of protection from Dave—good thing, too, since there were a few tricky spots where he put in some cams that definitely were helpful. He climbed up about 50 meters, and we decided that for the sake of speed that Dave and Adam would climb and slide a prussik along the rope as their belay, and I would follow last on top-rope. This worked fine—we all had a bit of trouble with one awkward block, but soon were all on top of this pitch. While we climbed we say a pair of climbers behind us, doing the entire Northeast Buttress from its base, a 20-pitch rock climb. They were moving quickly and it looked like they would catch us.

Our position was now tremendously exposed—we were on a tiny sub-peak of rotten rock kind of like a knife blade. A little notch was between us and the main summit block of Goode, but from our angle it looked unclimbable. Edward got on belay and tried to find an easy way up but was not having any luck. We eventually noticed a nice sandy ledge below us that led NW and it dawned on us that we had probably climbed too high on the last pitch. The two other climbers (Doug and Roy) we just below us and we told them what we were thinking and they agreed, so they easily traversed the ledge below us. Edward downclimbed to the ledge, followed by me, and we joined the other two climbers in setting up anchors for the final pitch, using our second rope.

It was a little odd to be almost atop Goode and standing next to another belayer as we both watched our leaders scale the 4th class rock above on parallel routes—it was like being at a rock gym or sport crag area. Doug and Roy went to the left of Edward—I could tell he was having an easy time of his climb by the rate at which I played rope out of my ATC. By the time Edward was on top Dave and Adam showed up, and they did the prussik belay again, troubled a bit by not being able to follow the line of least resistance due to the taut rope between pro. I followed last, heading up the relatively easy terrain as Doug and Roy descended—this was actually the first indication to me that the summit really was close. Sure enough, just above Edward’s anchor I clambered up to a small bivvy site on the very top of Goode Mountain, 9200 feet high, my companions already resting and enjoying the view.

We were very happy, but could not stay long—it was already 1 PM and while still nice out, clouds were increasing. We ate some snacks (Dave had some sausage, cheese, and crackers he shared with us), signed the register, named the countless peaks around us, and took photos. A little past 1:20 we headed down—we used our two 60m ropes and set up a long rappel down to the ledge below, with Dave going first, then Adam, myself, and Edward.

Once we were all down I tried to pull the ropes, but they were stuck solidly. I tried from different angles and started scrambling uphill, put no matter what it would not budge. So I borrowed a prussik from Dave and reclimbed the entire pitch again with a prussik belay, tugging on the rope every 20 feet or so, but even just below our anchor it was stuck—very strange. Our anchor simply had too much horizontal rope drag below it, I think. So I moved the anchor down to a lower one that Doug and Roy has used, rapped down, and was finally able to pull the rope.

We next traversed our ledge, unbelayed, over to the spine of the Northeast Buttress, avoiding the detour up to the notch/tower area we did on the way up. But the ledge became a very exposed series of class 4 moves, and once on the Buttress we had to downclimb about 20 feet on very exposed blocks to a rap station. This terrain was a bit outside our comfort zone, and at one point I (going last) threw the rope ahead to Dave, who was leading, and he tied some cams on it, which I hauled back and used to make a quick anchor to belay Adam below me.

Once at the set of slings we rappelled down the right side of the Northeast Buttress, into a shallow basin. Instead of going down to our upward sandy ledge, which would have entailed a tricky climb up to the Black Tooth Notch ledge, we instead did a high traverse across some exposed cliffs. For this, we used a set of existing slings as an aid handhold to get us over to the main ledge and the Black Tooth Notch. Once over the other side of the notch, one 50m rappel and one 25m rappel took us down to easy scramble terrain where we picked up the black stairs of the Southwest Couloir—it was good to bypass the downward-sloping ledge.

The black stairs were easily descended, and we found a higher exit ledge from the couloir than the one we got in on, and cairned it since it would have been a better entrance, too. From there to camp it was just a lot of tedious downclimbing on annoying loose scree and talus—we stayed out of each other’s way as we could not help letting loose some big rocks. The final bit down the moraine to camp was just about the worst—unconsolidated gravel and small rocks.

We got into camp at 6:20 PM, an 11.5 hour summit day. For an 1800-foot gain this is certainly no speed record, but any rope-work with a party of four will be time consuming. Overall I would say the terrain on the route is never harder than low fifth class, but the exposure is huge and the routefinding can be challenging—we made a couple of mistakes there. We all agreed it was a harder challenge than any County High Point peak in the USA outside of Alaska.

We had a pleasant evening back in camp, resting, eating, and recovering. Our original itinerary had us getting back to camp by early afternoon and moving camp down the Park Creek Trail this night, and tomorrow we had grandiose plans about going for Mount Logan or McGregor Mountain. But all of that was now out of the question given our long summit day and fatigue. I showed Adam a map of how far it was to Logan and we just laughed at the preposterousness of that idea in our current state.

Tuesday, August 13:

Today we packed up our Goode High Camp and hiked all the way out to High Bridge, a 13-mile hike that dropped 6000 vertical feet. We wanted to make the 3:00 PM park service shuttle bus, and then take up Trapper and Roxanne on their kind offer to spend the night in their cabin—there was no way we were going to make the noon bus and get a boat ride out this day. So we left at 6:45 AM for the hot, sweaty hike with heavy packs, and we were all dragging to various degrees. The climbers trail was steep and hard on the knee—oddly, the lower part of it near the Park Creek trail will likely always be indistinct, since most Goode climbers use the Northeast Buttress route and descend our route, and once in the flat, open forest they just fan out to intersect the trail, leading to a lack of distinct beginning for upward hikers.

We reached the High Bridge bus stop at 2:20 PM, where we rested, fetched our cached duffel bag, and got on the crowded bus at 3 PM. We got off at Harlequin Bridge, and Dave and Edward waited with our gear while Adam and I volunteered to walk the mile up to Trapper and Roxanne’s cabin. Fortunately, they were home, and we enjoyed some wonderful hospitality as they put us up for the night. The next morning they even drove us into Stehekin, where, after a big breakfast, we caught the noon Lady Express boat back to Fields Point.
Click on photo for original larger-size version.
High on the Northeast Ridge of Goode Mountain-the craggy and icy majesty of the North Cascades exemplified (2013-08-12).
Click here for larger-size photo.
Summary Total Data
    Elevation Gain:2020 ft / 615 m
    Elevation Loss:7780 ft / 2371 m
    Distance:15.1 mi / 24.3 km
    Grade/Class:YDS 5.2
    Quality:9 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Road Hike, Maintained Trail, Unmaintained Trail, Bushwhack, Snow on Ground, Scramble, Exposed Scramble, Rock Climb
    Gear Used:
Ice Axe, Rope, Tent Camp
    Weather:Pleasant, Breezy, Partly Cloudy
Ascent Statistics
    Elevation Gain:1820 ft / 555 m
    Distance:1.1 mi / 1.8 km
    Route:SW Couloir
    Trailhead:Goode High Camp  7380 ft / 2249 m
    Time Up:2 Days 6 Hours 10 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Elevation Loss:7780 ft / 2371 m
    Extra Gain:200 ft / 60 m
    Distance:14 mi / 22.5 km
    Route:SW Couloir
    Trailhead:High Bridge TH  1620 ft / 493 m
    Time Down:1 Days 5 Hours 0 Minutes
Ascent Part of Trip: 2103 - Goode (3 nights total away from roads)

Complete Trip Sequence:
OrderPeak/PointDate
1(Attempt) Storm King2013-08-11
2Goode Mountain2013-08-12
GPS Data for Ascent/Trip


 GPS Waypoints - Hover or click to see name and lat/long
Peaks:  climbed and  unclimbed by Greg Slayden
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Note: GPS Tracks may not be accurate, and may not show the best route. Do not follow this route blindly. Conditions change frequently. Use of a GPS unit in the outdoors, even with a pre-loaded track, is no substitute for experience and good judgment. Peakbagger.com accepts NO resposibility or liability from use of this data.

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