Mount Blum-Northwest Rib
January 30, 2005

A line showing our route up Blum. There is more snow shown than we found during our climb.
Josh taking the lead, as we break out of the trees. Sky and Josh crossing a high tarn.

Sky worries me, but that's okay, sometimes that works out. Like this trip whose only memory should've been of our stepping out of the car, maybe walking up the trail. Surely nothing more than that. You'd think we'd be smart enough to choke down our pride, go home and on the way buy some cheetos, maybe crack a few jokes. "Gawd, it's sure raining hard. Too bad I'm not up in the mountains farming all of that powder (rolling eyes)."

But, we're all a little wrong in the head. We all worry ourselves. Plus, there's nothing like logic to jumpstart a healthy adventure. You see, getting out of the car made sense at the time. We had driven from Tacoma, picked Sky up in Seattle and driven all of the way to the end of Baker Lake in the middle of the night. That meant we had plenty of time to figure the correct approach, right? As for skis, we should bring those too, just in case we find snow. Sure hate to get up there and things clear out. Hell, we need the workout anyhow. So, "Let's go get wet."

Sky told me that there was no bridge across Baker River. After a short hike, I saw a dark silhouette and two towers rising above me with cables leading into darkness.

Once across the bridge, we were at a loss of where to go from there. Our sense of the area didn't take into account going upriver at all. Our only chance was finding the flags we had heard of, the finding of which became quite the ordeal. Lots of effort wasted eventually brought us back to the bridge where Sky and I crunched over the map and discussed logistics while Josh schwacked up valley. Once he returned Sky and I told our best lie, "We have to go up that stream down river from us."

"Are you sure," my brother asked? I laugh now since neither of us had a clue, and, as if clueless would lead us straight and true, we took a left.

When hope was gone, and the discussion had risen of returning, we decided that a little further made sense. We didn't want to make the same mistake next time we tried Blum. After pushing forward, the stink of defeat grew to the point where more stares backward were made than those forward. Just then Josh yells, "A flag."

Shocked, someone then cried, "Look up [pointing], up there, another!" Soon we found a very steep path.

The next 4800-ft weren't bad. Of course, parts we made difficult had no need to be. Overall, lots of steep forest with no let up in sight. Flags eventually vanished and a snowy ridge line led the way beyond, sparing us any further pain or so we thought.

Here is Sky putting crampons on. You can see our route above his head.

Hagan Peak beneath a shroud of fog and Josh can be seen working towards the first narrow section. If you look at the route photo, this would be below the first cliffs.

A dry patch of dirt under a wet tree protected us from wetter snowflakes. There Sky made the decision to traverse west to a glacier. My own look at the map solidified his reasoning. It was our best chance of getting any turns. We needed that at least.

Views to either side of the ridge showed deep valleys. Josh kept plowing above them through soft snow until Hagan Peak poked out of the clouds. This would lay the seeds for a return venture only a few weeks later, and at the time this one and only glimpse gave us the will to continue.

The snow worsened on the lee side of the final ridge, beyond tarns (small ponds) and beneath cliffs. Crampons moved us across until we came to what looked like the best way up. The fog covered everything, but as long as there was snow, we would continue up.

Once in the couloir, steep ice to 70 degrees quickly lessening to fifty brought us to flatter terrain. This wasn't to last. My plan had been the south face, so I hadn't brought an axe. To this point I'd been able to work without, due to conditions and luck. Up ahead Josh and Sky were climbing up exposed terrain. That kind of stuff that looks easy, but suddenly morphs into more than that. Very careful steps put me to the top where the others were stopped. No snow was above, as Sky determined after climbing up mixed terrain. Through the fog we glanced the summit just above. It was painful to turn around.

The ski down was as technical as any I have done. I know the photos make it look flat. I can guarantee you, it was anything but.

After sidestepping down through the chute, my fists loosened their grip on my ski poles, but my jaw remained clinched.

Ghost like forms materialized into skiers and back into ghosts as we proceeded down one at a time, looking for the correct chute. Sky and I decided on the place and he cut in and stopped. I inched over, took a photo and called Josh down. Next we both worked our way above the steepest section. Sky wanted to downclimb, but I told him that I thought I could jump it. I remembered a pocket of spindrift below. "Okay Hummel, go for it," was all he said and that's what I did. They followed. Once they were down, we were home free. Holly crap, glad that's over. Now let's get out of here.

Time is a predictable beast if your math balances out. Since the descent had taken longer than expected, Mother Nature, as hard nosed a teacher as she can be, was going to provide us exter-curricular activities to make up for our error. A needed hour of light was about to cost us half a night.

It may not look it, but it's steep. Hell, Sky is sidestepping. That should be proof enough.
It's all you Sky.
Wait, let's think about this. Okay, Hummel, go for it.

Josh following my lead and Sky finishing her off in style.

One hell of a fight was fought, but the cards were stacked against us. We kept losing the foot path, the bushes kept catching our skis, and worst of all the terrain was steep. I mean, you can get pretty fucked if you get off track. I once asked a guy what his most difficult trip was, and Mount Blum was mentioned. He spent several days lost. It wasn't raining and it wasn't dark or winter for him. Fuck. And I cuss as a warning to those who wish to follow us. I don't often do that in trip reports, but there are times where it's important. Don't take this trip lightly! In the light it is a joke, I've been back, but in the dark and off track, you can get in a world of hurt.

We found the trail for the last time above cliffs, and climbed down beneath them only to find more. Our Black Diamond lights had trouble, and this added to our pain. I followed Sky until his gave out. We had extra batteries, but that didn't help. I fiddled with the wires and eventually got mine to work. The mist was so bad that I may as well not even had bothered. We crawled more than walked. The slippery rocks and jungle-like nature of this place broke us. Cliffs and fallen trees, boulders and roots, moss and mud maddened us. I remember stopping once, disgusted and wasted to the point utter defeat. More humbled than I had ever been. The only words we had were obscenities that we threw at this place in every combination we could think of. The worst was when we ran out of even those, our voice too ragged to speak them. I couldn't believe it. I felt like a wounded animal waiting for the wolves to come, wishing them godspeed.

Finally we heard the river and thoughts of it being over pervated our minds. So glad that we'd finished the cliffs safely, so happy that we were nearly done, but - we weren't. It kept going on! Kept going fucking on!!! I felt more sketched climbing many of those fallen trees than I had ever felt climbing, but there was only a quarter of a mile. We knew that, and could not stop. And, then, it was over. Truly over. I literally kissed the dirt of the trail, laughed, wiped the rain off my face and mud out of my eyes before continuing back to the car.

So how did this trip workout? How did our madness make any sense? Well, two weeks later we went back and did it right. If it wasn't for this trip, we wouldn't have done that. Of course, we learned a few leasons that books can't teach you.

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