Ascent of Fortress Mountain on 2018-09-24
|Date:||Monday, September 24, 2018|
|Ascent Type:||Successful Summit Attained|
| Elevation:||8760 ft / 2670 m|
Ascent Trip ReportTrace and I climbed Chiwawa, Fortress, Berge (SW summit), and Buck from 9/24 to 9/25.
Day 1: Chiwawa and Fortress
After an early departure from Seattle, we started hiking from Trinity at 9 AM. We hiked the Chiwawa River trail to its end then crossed the river - a simple rock hop this late in the year. We avoided almost all brush below Chiwawa by hiking up a forested rib that begins N of '31' on the USGS map. From there it was a steep grind up open terrain to the saddle between Chiwawa and pt. 7852'. The standard class 2 route up Chiwawa was complicated a bit by fresh snow. We reached the summit at around 2 PM and there was over a foot on N and E facing aspects. We dug out the register placed by Dan Lauren in 2015 and signed in (the notebook is completely full - Chiwawa seems to see a lot of ascents), then returned to our gear at the saddle and began traversing over to Fortress.
We traversed under pt. 7852' then made a rising traverse on slabs and snow to a gully NE of the summit. The terrain below and in the gully was seriously unpleasant and loose, some of the worst rock I've been on in some time. We reached the crest of the NE ridge and found the rest of the route to the summit covered in over a foot of new snow, with <100 feet of visibility from the afternoon clouds that had built up. Trace took the lead as he knew the route from a previous ascent. He guided us up the ridge and excavated hand and foot holds when necessary. Anything on the N side of the crest was a no-go since it was coated in rime ice and deep snow. I found this climb to be kind of intense and I surely would have turned around if it weren't for Trace's leading. We reached the summit in a whiteout and signed the register, perplexed at the presence of a metal pipe sticking out of the summit rocks. We descended the SW slopes of the mountain, which were much simpler than our ascent route, and worked our way over to Buck Creek Pass. We reached Buck Creek Pass a little before 6 PM and set camp at a great water source beneath the pass. We made some tea and watched the sunset over Glacier Peak, then turned in early.
Day 2: Berge and Buck
Up and moving towards High Pass at 7 AM and incredible views opened up right off the bat. What a place! I hardly even noticed the elevation gain to High Pass, being surrounded by beautiful scenery has a way of doing that. We reached High Pass without having to cross any snow then began traversing S through a basin towards Berge. The area south of High Pass, between High Pass and Buck Mtn, is one of the most beautiful places I've ever been. At a water break, I took a moment to reflect on just how lucky I am to have had the ability to experience all these wonderful places week after week this summer. Of all the areas I've visited though, this one really stands out.
We traversed around the W shoulder of Berge and made a steep climb up the the SW summit (class 3). Topped out at 10 AM. Then we dropped to about 6700' in the basin between Berge and Buck and climbed open larch and pumice slopes to the basin W of Buck. The middle summit (the summit south of the one marked 8528') is the highest, though it doesn't appear so until you're actually on top. We arrived at 12:30 PM and as expected, the views were phenomenal.
We descended the west side of Buck directly to the Chiwawa River (see Justus S trip report: http://www.nwhikers.net/forums/viewtopic.php?t=7961444 and Josh Houser recent TR here on Peakbagger). This is definitely a massive shortcut. This route has some unpleasantness - a little tedious loose rock at the beginning, some minor brush in the middle, and some steep forest down low - but it goes pretty quick. Back to the car by 5 and out to the familiar Cole's Corner Shell for coffee before driving back to Seattle.
Overall this is one of the most scenic and enjoyable trips I've done. If I were to repeat this trip I'd budget at least three days, preferably more - this is a good place to take your time and savor the scenery.
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