Mount Degenhardt, Via Terror Creek
June 17-18

Success felt guaranteed

Sky Sjue, Ben Kauffman, Ross Peritore and Jason Hummel

Story By: Jason Hummel

"The fun farm is open for business, take a ticket and come on in. Over here [pointing] you'll see ski mountaineers. They're quit dumb and unpredictable, so stay away from the fence now children. Back on Planet Earth they used to carry sticks through forests and swamps, over rivers and snow just to slide down them. We're still trying to understand their anatomy, but eventually we hope to solve this puzzling mystery. Moving further to the left you'll see...."

So...the Southern Pickett's? I had plans, Sky had plans too. Somehow we agreed on a thursday through saturday with an option for sunday. I checked the weather the week before about a million times and couldn't convince myself of even the smallest chance of anything but sun. I left work on wednesday with a grin from ear to ear. I was the Joker on Batman, 'cept I think the joke was on me.

I received a call from Sky that night and we set a five o'clock meeting in Seattle at his new house. He offered directions to which I retorted, "You sent them to me in an e-mail, I'll copy them down." I think the proper retort to Sky's offering to fit the reality of what I actually did would've been, "I'll copy most of them down."

The next morning comes around and I'm on my way... and I'm still feeling great. It's gorgeous out! It wasn't until I couldn't find Sky's house that I knew I blew it. I drove in circles and found nothing. You see, Sky doesn't have a phone and I remembered something about meeting in Marblemount (with others) at eight in the morning, so I hightail. At the first gas station off hwy 530, I decide to call home where my brother was just beginning to get ready for work. He says, "Sky just called, try this number." Anyhow, long story short, we met off hwy 530. I told Sky he writes crappy directions, he says you must've wrote them down wrong. Well, maybe so. He still writes crappy direction. Over the next hour, I enjoyed writing in my journal and bathing in the morning sun (turns out the most I'd get) along with the fine entailments of Texaco's best breakfast dish.

I then drifted off...

My nap was interrupted by Sky's, "Yo, HUMMEL!"

Sky decided to jump in my car and we made the mad rush to the parking lot. More shenanigans and Sky's insistence that "This is the trailhead, they'll be here eventually." Not so. We left in search. We drove up several dead end roads, to the ranger station, and then I left Sky at the head of the road to the supposed trailhead and went in search. A nice ranger lady met both of us as I picked up Sky and said, "Are you looking for two guys in a Subaru? They are up at the trailhead." We both had a nice round of laughs at that. Taking a right up a steep road led us to the others who were already getting ready.

Enjoying the oh so good lovin' at Terror creek.

The beginning wasn't bad. There was a nice old road to follow, which was only occasionally covered by a log or overgrown by the lush brush that makes this place as wild and surreal to enter as we were soon to discover. Our first mistake and definitely not our last was when we schwacked up the wrong creek. We soon realized the error of our ways and schwacked back and over and up the other side of the creek and down to the road; a wasted forty minutes. Our foolishness continued to confound us even after we left the old road. At which point, we lost the trail without much adieu and continued down our ill fated path. It is a well known fact that skis and tight spaces don't mix. Thus a dash of devil's club, with a splash of Salmon berries, several cups of vine maple, and some cliff spelled the recipe of our machonist adventure's death. Add in some crawling and groveling in mud and you've got the beginnings of a slow, miserable slide off the wagon into the dungeons of mindless self-depervation.

Here's the view for most of the hike.

The rocks at Terror creek provided a blissful respite and the cool water a relaxing elixir to salve our wounds. We probably spent too long enjoying them. From Terror Creek we went way too far up valley (not recommended). At one point I thought to better my counterparts route by forging one of my own. My reward was a jump off a monstrous log, 6-8 feet through into the brush. Occasionally I could here the others yell, "Hummmmmmel!" My frustration bloomed and I spent everything I had to escape my predicament. This being stuck on top of a bed of branches on top a floor of Vine Maple. Every time I would get a foot lose my skis would get stuck and as soon as I freed them, my ski poles. No effort could close the floodgates of my impeding destruction. I finally had to take my pack off and sit back and imagine a possible proposition to countermanding this reality. I drug my pack to a point where I could get my feet on two small branches and carefully get my pack back on. I found the others no less that 40 minutes after I left them and no further than several hundred feet from our juncture. From then on it was all downhill for me. I had very little energy to spare and we were way off track. We made a traverse back slightly and then continued up. We winded through imposing cliffs. Near the top of the ridge we climbed up through the worst of it. Ross forged an impressive line with unknown results and Sky dropped his ski pole and did the worst portion twice. Ben Kauffman and I met the stronger faction of our group on the ridge sometime after. It turns out the route Ross forged, we had to follow his many dead ends and chose the correct paths. Hanging on branches ingrown into cliffs above on 50 degree ledges above hundred foot cliffs inflicted much mental anguish but we eventually overcame Terror Creek. Believe it or not, there is an easier way. Summing up or error can be put simply, it took nearly six hours to go the half a mile from terror creek to the top of the ridge. Of course, we had a few detours.

One thing I did forget to mention was the muggy heat that pounded us in waves. Below the cliffs, Ben and I had finished our last sips of water. Once on the ridge we hoped to find water. A very dim trail led us up the ridge. There was brush of course whenever it disappeared, but the way was relatively easy. We were finally gaining some ground. Once on a rock overlook I could see down into the valley. I smiled. Soon after we found water in the form of a dirty snow patch. We had several handfuls each. In a small basin, we finally found a creek and took a long break.

There weren't many good places to camp. Sky and Ross's steps continued up to one ridge top and then the next and the next. We could hear their voices, but for some reason they always seemed to be just out of reach. By the time we finally got to camp, I could think of nothing but sleep and respite from my misery. It seems my chosen profession of abominable desk jockey was taking it's toll on my schwackadelic tolerances. I was able to drink some Top Ramen broth and eat some chips.

Before I went to bed I felt a few rain drops. I had no bivy and a down bag. As I went to sleep, my greatest concern was that I didn't roll off the bench I was sleeping on and slide down the way we had earlier climbed.

The next morning came all too soon. Ross ignored his alarm for a half an hour or so. I put off getting up for as long as I was able. By the time I was ready all I needed was my water bottle cap. The night before I had given Sky my bottle to fill with hot chocolate. He swore he put it up in the tree with his stuff by accident. I could barely reach the branch and when I did I dropped the damn thing. Once inside I didn't find any cap. Thinking of starving for water again wasn't something I was looking forward too.

Some future recconnaissance needed.

We skinned from our lopsided, tilted, and snow encompassed island to the nearest water. From there we climbed another 1500 feet or so to a saddle that looks over Terror, the Rake, Degenhardt and the Pyramid. To our back was the Chopping Block. It was something of a view. Macmillan Spires were to our side. Our success felt guaranteed.

Ben K. with the Chopping Block to his back. Triumph is the prominent peak to it's back.

The arete and Ross with some glistening goods behind.

From the saddle we skied down 500ft and them traversed across the basin. The snow wasn't very good and consisted of new snow over a consolidated hard corn base. The top foot to two feet was gloppy new snow. Before I had left I assumed a week would be enough for this to melt. I was wrong.

Ben K. climbing the couloir that we skied.

Continuing up into pristine country and what I thought was the Degenhardt Col.

We climbed up another snow slope that steepened as we neared the top. There was a nice snow arete there from which point the slope was less steep. Degenhardt was just above us. Choosing a non standard route, we climbed up a gully to access the summit. Near the top (within a few feet) Sky called it off. We had no pro and the exposure wasn't appealing. We had planned to possibly rap down to the Degenhardt-Pyramid Col. Instead we opted not to waste valuable time looking for another way up. We were here for one thing only. Since Ben Manfredi, Sky and I stood up on the summit of Mount Fury waiting for it's NE face to soften, I could think of nothing but the Degenhardt Glacier. It was a disease. Sky had plenty of time to go whenever the weather was good. He nearly went several times, but I convinced him to wait. Now I was here. We were so close and yet as we were preparing to cross the final slope our minds were forced to face the reality. The slope was avi prone to the point that tossed snowballs triggered wet slides over intimidating cliffs. We were in a flat area overlooking this slope we had skied down too. Looking back, we may have found another way but what would the degenhardt offer? We didn't know. The danger forced us to swallow our foolhardiness and the taste was bitter.

The way down wasn't pleasant. In fact it was some of the worst snow I've had the pleasure to enjoy. Each of us employed our best survival skiing techniques. Looking back this was a beautiful route had the snow been better.

From the bottom, we again gained the col we had dropped from earlier in the morning. All the way giant, imposing thunder storms marched in with a fury and dosed our spirits even further by drenching our cloths and our hopes of staying longer. We were done with this place. I wanted to stay but the idea of a wet sleeping bag didn't sound appealing, but neither did hiking out the approach. I think I was more afraid of that.

At camp we didn't dilly dally long. Once our gear was together we skied as far as the snow would take us. Of course we were off route and had to traverse back to the ridge making me think that walking would've been quicker. We donned harnesses on the ridge thinking we would have to go through the cliffs again. It turns out after a few misfires that we found the correct way to the river. Forty degree snow slopes are one thing but dirt is another. It may have been preferable to were ski boots here or at least have boots.

Before long we were at the river where there was a nice log crossing. This saved us a cold douse unlike our climb up. Following the foot path from there was very opportunistic. Some of us did and some didn't. We met up one final time just before traversing over to the old road. From there everyone was on there own all the way out to the car. My only other misfire was crossing the creek we had earlier mistakenly gone up to where I saw Sky and Ross on the other side. I thought this was the correct place. Another dishing of brush was in store. After some quick reconnaissance I found the trail but had to go back and get my back. There was just enough light for me to reach the cars without having to pull one out.

All in all this trip was a lot of work and there was little fun as a reward with twenty-nine hours of hiking on five hours of rest. What we did learn some of us took to heart. Sky and Ross both returned a few days later and were able to follow the path making our thirteen hour approach a more reasonable seven hour approach. They then climbed up the Terror-Rake col, skied two grand down the other side, climbed the Degenhardt Glacier, skied it, climbed back up to the col, skied the back side and then cruised back out to the car the following day. Their Southern Pickett dreams were realized. In less that a week they skied four in dependant and worthy lines (link). My dreams will have to wait until next year. One thing is for certain, I'm not done with Degenhardt.

Sky and Ross finishing the job.

Dragonheart slayers

We are off to dance with thy lady
Is she all we dreamed of or a Warren Baity?
So glistens her bosom of pompas and glory
and trumphets blare her presence comith to us
and tales are told amid drinks so bold, a ballad to brutes
sitting upon thrones of wormed wood and living in dreams of the highest degree
We are off to our land of oz and upith the yellow brick road we depart
No demons or dragons, angels or ghosts will steer us - because!
There is not a wise man a dozen only a fool each of us at heart
dancing all the way to the land of dragonheart...

Alpine State OF Mind. Or CONTACT ME. If you enjoyed your visit, tell us about it, go to the GUESTBOOK.

>>>>Go to Chronological