Ascent of McLeod Mountain on 2020-04-26

Climber: Eric Gilbertson

Date:Sunday, April 26, 2020
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:McLeod Mountain
    Elevation:8099 ft / 2468 m

Ascent Trip Report

McLeod Mountain (8,099ft) and Sunrise Peak (8,144ft)

April 26, 2020, 3:45am – 3:15pm, Eric
22 miles, 6,900ft gain

Saturday afternoon I drove from the edge of snowline on the approach to North Navarre Peak down to Mazama, making it to the Goat Creek sno park around 5pm. I’d been out here in February with Fred when we skied Sherman and the Craggies. On that trip we intended to also climb Sunrise, but skipped it Sunday evening when it was clear we were out of time. (We ended up getting back to the car at Goat Creek sno park at 1am and back to Seattle Monday morning at 6am, just in time for me to give a dynamics lecture).

This time the road was melted out so I could drive past the sno park. From the daily satellite images it looked like patchy snow a few miles in, but I managed to get through it in the forester and made it to the FS road 52-500 turnoff before the snow got more continuous. I planned to make a big loop to hit Sunrise and McLeod. There looked to be a nice ridge in between them, but I’d read from Milda’s Peakbagger trip report that the rock was a bit sketchy there. So instead I planned to connect the peaks by dropping below the ridge on the west side.

I planned to climb Sunrise first since it was farther away, then ski down the SW face and gain the NW ridge of McLeod. This way once I hit McLeod I could basically ski down roads directly back to the car to have an easy finish to the day. Doing a loop like this made it not practical to involve my bike, even though much of the route was on partially melted roads. I had some daylight left, though, so biked up the road a few miles towards Sunrise to scout it out. The snow was patchy enough that it wouldn’t be possible to ski the whole way, so I decided the next morning to start out in trail runners and go until I hit continuous snow. Then I would just carry the trail runners with me all day. Then at the end of the day I could change back into them for the road walk back to the car.

I ended up going to bed at 7pm at the intersection, and was up and moving around 3:30am. The patchy snow continued for a few miles then was completely melted out all the way to the end of FS 52-300. I could actually stay in my trail runners for a few hours, so I think I made the correct call. At the end of the road a bit of snow started so I continued in ski boots. I followed a faint trail to my old campsite at the Panther Creek – Goat Creek confluence. Then I left the trail and bushwhacked through the burn zone up Panther Creek.

I stayed on the right side in the melted out section until about 6,200ft, then hit snow and continued on skis. Panther basin had impressive views of Bullhorn Peak towering above with big steep cliffs. My route, though, was all low angle. I skinned up most of the way to the south ridge of Sunrise, then cramponed up between cornices to reach the ridge crest. From there I followed the ridge easily to the summit by 9am.

Across the valley I could see Sherman and the Craggies and recalled the fun ski tour Fred and I had there a few months earlier. The snow was melted enough on the summit that I could find the summit register. After melting the ice off I was barely able to extract the paper and sign in. I waited around quite a while on top, trying to give the icy snow time to soften up before I skied down. It was supposed to get above freezing on the summit, but unfortunately there were high clouds that meant the snow was still staying icy.

Eventually I had to get moving, though, so put my skis on and carefully skied down the SW face. I did a lot of side slipping on the icy snow, but it was pretty low angle so not too bad. Lower down it got slushy and I could make some turns. I skied and traversed around until I reached the base of the NW ridge coming down from McLeod. There I took off skis and scrambled steeply up the melted out burn zone to gain the crest. Then it was flat enough to skin up close to McLeod.

For the final climb I switched to crampons, reaching the narrow corniced summit by 12:30pm. I took another long break and admired all the snowy peaks to the west. I could actually see Mt Baker between clouds, somehow illuminated in sunlight. To the southeast was a maze of logging roads, and I managed to pick out the one that would get me back to my car. Luckily it appeared to be all snow as far as I could see.

I soon descended to my skis, then cramponed down the SW ridge until it leveled out and got a bit less icy. There were actually snowmobile tracks on the ridgecrest at 7,000ft, which was kind of surprising. I skied down following the snowmobile tracks down the south ridge and eventually met up with road FS 531. I skied down the road, crawling over the occasional blowdown, until I started running out of snow around 5,000ft. I skied and booted until 4,200ft, then switched to my trail runners for the final hike back to the car. I reached the car by 3:15pm and soon headed back to Seattle.

Link to full trip report and pictures.
Summary Total Data

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