Ascent of Mount Bethel on 2019-10-13

Climber: William Musser

Other People:Solo Ascent
Only Party on Mountain
Date:Sunday, October 13, 2019
Ascent Type:Unsuccessful - Turned Back
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Car
Peak:Mount Bethel
    Elevation:12000 ft / 3657 m

Ascent Trip Report

Not a good trip! I had planned to bushwhack above the houses and along the gentle ridge but I did many things wrong. Note on the GPS track that the southern steep track was my ascent and the more gentle track further up the gulch was my descent. It snowed early in OCT this year but it had been a few days and it was melting out and I wanted to get in one last higher ascent of a new peak before more snow this weekend. I had already climbed all the peaks on the eastern side of the gulch and they all have a sunny southwestern exposure so snow was melted out. To get this peak I needed to climb an eastern or northern exposure and I knew it would still have snow but I misjudged how much. So here is what went wrong in order:

1) I left late in the afternoon and felt rushed to get up and get down leaving time for any emergencies but that meant I was not checking my map for the easier terrain
2) I remembered incorrectly that Bethel was all easy class 2. No, it has some pretty difficult areas you have to pick you line
3) I started my bushwhack too late or too early. I was going to either take the gentle eastern ridge or up one of the slides past the tree line. But the creek crossing was very icy and I continued up to where the crossing looked easy and as a result started my bushwhack too far upslope and as it turns out at the steepest bushwhack possible ( I meant to start where the "h" in Gulch is on the USGS map ooooops)
4) I did not have all the snow gear I needed. I had microspikes and trekking poles but one of my poles broke as soon as I started so now I had one point in the snow and microspikes not what you need to self arrest
5) when things suddenly got steep I wore myself out climbing over downfall logs and snow so made myself over to a snow gully that was not too deep with snow (only 2 to 5 inches) but it became steep to where if I fell I could slide at least a 20 yards and hit trees below not ideal when you are by yourself.
6) Once I got up about a 40 degree slope of snow and looked down, I realized i needed to get where I could not slide and get hurt so I went back in the woods but was wearing myself out kick stepping in snow
7) I moved over to a class 3 scramble thinking it would be safer but as I climbed the rock got worse and soon every other rock I touched crumbled away. Finding safe footing in the snow, and hand hold that would not break away became impossible. Down-climbing became too risky so I continued up grabbing on to the only reliable handholds I could find which were only the small fir trees.
8) Once I got to a fake saddle at about 11,500 and out of the treacherous terrain, I just wanted to get to the summit safely as I was way off trail and without an emergency beacon nor a partner. But more snowy woods were above the fake saddle.But now at a manageable slope and past the "difficulties" i proceeded up the next snow-slipperly section of bushwhacking and made it past the subalpine (which was a very short easy section) and then I was in the talus fields
9) the talus was hard. It was moving around and not interlocked. I found a rock pile of large boulders and but snow drifts make the snow in the those areas post-holing depth. Draining more energy. Then a great wall of class 5 rock. To downclimb and around the difficulties it was a very steep section of loose talus or I had to go straight up through some class 3 of what looked like more crumbly rock and snow. 700 feet more to go.

Realizing that there were far too many ways to roll and ankle and get hurt and had no partner with me if I had a serious fall, I did what I rarely do.....I told myself not today....bad route. And began downclimbing. Of course on the way down, I found an easy bushwhack route on much gentler terrain, no downfall, nice plunge step snow and got down easily some half mile further up the gulch and back to the Herman Gulch Trail.BUT, on a nice patch of snow I was following deer tracks when suddenly, I was following huge cat tracks the size of a baseball! Ughhhhh they looked fresh today. I loved the line the big cat was taking but I started to imagine what a cougar encounter in the side slope of fir trees would be like and strayed off its nice line to some thick woods for awhile to prevent meeting the cat.

Bottom line: Do not follow my approach line in snow it is bad. And the rock is dangerous. Either go up the hip immediately or go up the gulch to where the tree line is not bad and you can pick a more gentle sloped line up the talus and not be along a wall of bad rock. Or, if I had a partner for safety (where were you Glenn???) I would have continued

Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:1814 ft / 552 m
    Total Elevation Loss:110 ft / 32 m
    Round-Trip Distance:4.8 mi / 7.7 km
    Quality:4 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Bushwhack, Snow on Ground, Scramble, Snow Climb
    Gear Used:
Crampons, Ski Poles
    Weather:Cool, Calm, Clear
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:1749 ft / 533 m
        Gain Breakdown:Net: 1704 ft / 519 m; Extra: 45 ft / 13m
    Loss on way in:45 ft / 13 m
    Distance:2.1 mi / 3.4 km
    Route:Herman Gulch to bushwhack see GPS
    Start Trailhead:Herman Gulch Parking  10296 ft / 3138 m
Descent Statistics
    Loss on way out:65 ft / 19 m
    Gain on way out:65 ft / 19 m
    Distance:2.7 mi / 4.3 km
    Route:see GPS track
GPS Data for Ascent/Trip

 GPS Waypoints - Hover or click to see name and lat/long
Peaks:  climbed and  unclimbed by William Musser
Click Here for a Full Screen Map
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. accepts NO responsibility or liability from use of this data.

Download this GPS track as a GPX file

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