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Ascent of Raven Ridge on 2019-01-26

Climber: Eric Gilbertson

Date:Saturday, January 26, 2019
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Raven Ridge
    Location:USA-Washington
    Elevation:8572 ft / 2612 m

Ascent Trip Report

Eric Gilbertson and Jake Robinson

Friday – Drive to North Fork Gold Creek Road and camp
Saturday – Skin up to 8,000ft, scramble to summit, ski down and camp at Crater Lake
Sunday – Ski out and drive home

Jake had five Bulger mountains left, and Raven Ridge was one of them. I’d climbed Raven Ridge a few times before, but never in winter, so it was on both of our lists. It looked like a great weather window was setting up for the weekend, so the only decision was what route to take, and to do an overnight or a day trip.

There are two standard approaches for Raven Ridge – the north side from the Libby Creek approach, or the south side from the Crater Lake approach. In winter, of course, the roads are unplowed to each trailhead and require significant additional mileage. There are no official sno parks on either access road, so without local knowledge it’s difficult to know exactly how far each road will be plowed in winter.

Luckily I had some first-hand knowledge about those road conditions in winter. I had climbed nearby peaks Bigelow, Martin, and Switchback in March 2016 via the Crater Lake approach, which involved 8 miles of snowshoeing on roads to reach.

the trailhead. That road is plowed to the last house before the forest service boundary. I’d climbed Hoodoo peak in February 2016 via the Libby Creek approach, which involved 10 miles of snowshoeing on roads to the trailhead from the farthest place with a plowed area large enough to park off the road.

Jake needed to do both Raven Ridge and Hoodoo, but the winds were predicted to be very strong, so we wanted to minimize our time above treeline. In order to hit both we would have to traverse the long ridge between, which would require a short section of roped climbing near Libby Peak. To give us the highest chance of success we decided to just climb Raven Ridge via the southeast ridge

from the Crater Lake side. This would require only a short section of above treeline travel and lighter packs since we wouldn’t need a rope and rack. Moreover, this route stayed clear of avalanche terrain.

We decided to bring overnight gear and skis to maximize speed and probability of success. We hoped to summit Saturday if the trail breaking went well, with Sunday as a backup day.

Friday night we left town at 6pm and made it to the end of the plowed section of the North Fork Gold Creek Road around 11pm. There was a plowed pulloff, and we quickly parked and went to sleep in the front seats of Jake’s car.

We got up at 3am after not enough sleep, and started skinning directly from the car. I had just bought two plastic sleds, and we towed our packs in the sleds to make the going easier. For the first 4 miles we followed snowmobile tracks, but then had to break trail on our own for the remaining 4 miles to the trailhead. We arrived at the trailhead at 8:30am and took a long break.

I ditched the sleds in the woods at the trailhead and we soon continued up the Crater Creek trail with packs on our backs. I had a GPS track I’d recorded in September 2018 when I had climbed Raven Ridge, but luckily the snow was thin enough that we could find the trail without the GPS track.

We took turns breaking trail as it climbed at times steeply up Crater Creek. As the sun rose higher by mid morning the snow got softer and eventually stuck stubbornly to our skins. This significantly sapped our energy, carrying extra pounds on each foot. We got into a routine of taking 5 steps, then banging each ski twice with the poles to release the snow, then repeating.

By 12:30pm we finally arrived at the lake and took a break. We propped our skis up vertically with the skins facing the sun, hoping they would dry out and maybe not stick to the snow so easily. After setting up the tent and melting some snow we headed up to bag Raven Ridge.

We basically climbed directly up from the lake to the 8,000ft col on the southeast ridge of the summit. The trees were dense enough and the terrain low-angle enough that avalanches were not a concern, though we still brought avy gear to be safe.

At the ridge crest the trees ended and the boulders were only minimally covered with snow. We ditched skis here and continued scrambling up the boulders, reaching the summit at 3:30pm. Amazingly there was very little wind, and we resolved to stay on the summit until sunset.

Jake somehow got cell service and updated his peakbagger and facebook pages. We dug around for the summit register but it was nowhere to be found with all the snow. I had remembered signing the register on Sept 15, just a few months earlier, but it wasn’t where I’d remembered placing it.

The sunset view was amazing looking out over Bonanza, Glacier Peak, Rainier, and many other cascade peaks. As twilight set in we scrambled down to our skis, then skied back down to the lake. It wasn’t easy skiing through dense trees on breakable crust in the dark, but we managed.

We camped out on the lake that night, then left around 8am the next morning. The trail out had numerous small
uphill sections, but we somehow managed to get down without changing to climbing skins. The descent was challenging on the narrow trail with overnight packs. Interestingly there was a strong inversion, which made the snow warm and slushy up high, but colder down low. It felt like April up at the lake but January down at the trailhead.

We reached the trailhead around 10am, tied our sleds to our packs, then cruised back down to the car by 10:45am. After a stop at McDonalds in Wenatchee we got back to Seattle by late afternoon.

Link to full trip report and pictures.
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