Mount Logan

Douglas Glacier

June 10-12, 2012

PHOTOS AND STORY by Jason L. Hummel

DAY ONE - Easy Pass Trailhead to Douglas Glacier

After 100’s of trip reports, I sit here and wonder why I should write this one at all? To remember? For friends and family? The answer eludes me. I used to like writing them, but I was young and the cascades held their secrets. Now, I’ve learned most of those secrets.

But places familiar change with the season, the direction of approach as well as the people you bring along.

So I digress…I write.

Plus Mount Logan isn’t just another peak. It was an end of a project. With it’s completion, Kyle and I would ski and ride the ten Washington 9000ners. Not from the exact summits, however much we tried. Many just aren’t possible. Logan is doable from a few feet below the highest point. Goode from the SW summit, perhaps higher on other routes we didn’t try? Fernow we descended from the top of the north face just below the summit. Bonanza we skied all but a few feet. Jack, Seven Fingered Jack, Maude, Stuart, Shuksan and Buckner were all doable from the tippy top.

So when after a night spent on Highway 20, our concern was palpable when we arose on the first morning of our trip to rain. It was heavy on the trees, shrubs and stuck to our car in big, bulbous raindrops.

But we pack, we shuffle gear and we go. Why not? We drove all the way here and it would be anticlimactic to go home without suffering. That’s always a good standard. “I went, didn’t see and it sucked gloriously.” Better than saying, “I went to the parking lot, I looked out my window , (shivered and cranked up the heat) then turned around and drove home.” Even if we walk a mile, at least we tried.

It sounds easy, to try. With my pack on I feel like a beast of burden. I joke to myself that I am preparing my pack for it’s chariot ride, which becomes all the more appropriate of a description as I struggled to mount it on my shoulders. Rest asured when creaking commenced, I wondered was it pack straps creaking or my bones?

The first miles and vertical take you to Easy Pass. Funny how names like 'easy' work. In kayaking names that touted definitions that hinted at being so-called ‘easy’ were in fact the most diabolical, demon-embodied, soul crushing rapids you could imagine. Well, Easy Pass really is easy. We just managed to make it hard, which takes skill.

And we have ‘skillz’.

The descent from Easy Pass to the valley is best made by continuing to traverse high before dropping. Yet that’s not what we did. Kyle likes fall-line. He’s a snowboarder, so I can’t blame him (for his disability). Shredding that’s what he’s all about. And I’m a traverse God. I traverse like the wind on my two-planks. But this time I give in. I follow the pagan snowboarder and relish in this unexplainable thrill of fall-line. I was a changed man! Then that all comes to an abrupt end. Slushy snow over a frozen base brought me to the edge of cliffs. They ranged from 100-200+ feet. They lined the entire basin. Yummy. How did we not see this on the map?

Getting through the cliffs is like a dog sniffing out the best butt crack he can find. It’s all shit, but if you keep searching, eventually you can discover something good. That or you get a smack in the face? I reached a point where skis are retarded. I continue until I reached a place where I’m ski rock climbing. I continued then until I heard Kyle yell, “Jason! I fell.” Whoa, I took my skis off and rushed up. Turns out Kyle slipped out, hit a tree and his head. That’s not ideal, so to helped him get through the worst of it. I took his board and we downclimbed, eventually reaching a steep, icy chute that lead to freedom. “Yeah,” I screamed! I like to yell really loud when I’ve escaped idiocy.

It may be a poor memory, but I'm pretty sure I end up yelling a lot in the mountains.

Easy valley cruising was ahead of us now. We descended down gentle terrain for miles. None of which is steep enough to ski, but just steep enough to leave your skins off. At first there was open avalanche paths with slide alder to contend with. Then there comes the forest. Of course there’s only about 6 inches of snow, so what would be easy with more snow, was like a jungle gym without. We climbed up trees and go under trees. We crossed streams and hopped rocks far past the point where skis are utilitarian. But overall it wasn’t bad. After a few hours we reached a point where we resorted to walking, but it only lasted a mile.

At Cosho Camp we left the Fisher Creek trail by crossing a massive log onto the opposite bank. Up an unnamed tributary that leads to the Douglas Glacier, we find just enough snow to skin again. Further retardation continues in the name of keeping our skis on our feet instead of on our backs. This is known as ski-schwacking; alternatively it is a form of bushwhacking. It’s like dancing. Fact is, I certainly can’t dance well, but I can ski-schwack with the best ‘em.

The Douglas Glacier and the skiers-wet-dream called Ragged Ridge appear to the front and rear of us as we ascended from the forest. Not only that, the blood and sweat we had sacrificed to the forest appeared to have satisfied the weather Gods. They decreed blue skies. Color me blue and call me sky. While it doesn’t always pay off to go when conditions aren’t optimal, the fact is when it does, all other failures become stale.

We were stoked!

Set up camp. Rest. Eat. Set the alarm for way too early. And sleep.

On day two, I saw stars outside the tent. With crampons and lights we cruised up avalanche debris. Next to us was a roaring creek bursting in and out of the snow. We managed to get water before ascending to the lower basin. By then it was light out. Of course the sunrise was lost behind mountains. Disappointed in that, I found my skittles oddly satisfying. As a photographer, I love color and a mountain sunrise is always special whether or not there are good photos. You see mountain sunrises need to be earned. You have to be in the mountains, you have to endure the cold and worst of all is the lost beauty sleep.

There was a route through the lower cliffed-in cirque. It wasn’t super obvious at first. Once over this steep bulge, we see the sun's orb break over the glacier-horizon. Just a little bit further and we were under the syrup thick, soul piercing rays. They are spaz-tastic. Sleepiness vanishes and tired legs and muscles suddenly have energy you didn’t know they had kept in reserve.

The Douglas Glacier is shaped like an upside down ‘L’ that culminates at a pass below the final summit block. To the right was the Banded Glacier. In an attempt to await softening snow, we waited between the two glaciers, napping and eating beneath sunrays. You can't minimize the views either. Mt. Goode easily stole our attentions. No wonder, here’s a vertical mile of rock and ice jutting into the sky like a hatchet.

Ascending to the sub summit an hour later, we are at the highest skiable snow on Logan. There, Kyle and I spend a windy moment celebrating. This was it, the last line on the list. And you know what, in skiing lines off the 15 highest peaks in Washington, there has been many special moments. Finding the top of the N. Face of Fernow in fog and wind, celebrating Kyle’s birthday on Glacier Peak, spending an unplanned night below Goode, descending Bonanza’s wild summit pyramid, my car breaking down on highway 2, drinking my first summit brew ever on the top of Mt. Adams and so many more memories I’ll forever cherish and never forget. Even if I dislike goals and lists, in the end the journey is done and I can be happy with where it took me and I know Kyle would agree.

Skis and board on, we ride the Douglas Glacier. The first few hundred feet are a mix of side stepping and weaving through rocks. Since the snow had softened, beyond the saddle between the two glaciers, we blazed down. Taking a right, we swooped over the cornice and into thousands of feet of fall line. Yes, this time I was all for it and unlike Easy Pass, it wasn't coupled with cliff, but wide open snowfields. At one point I sent Kyle over to ski next to an area of the glacier that had seperated from the underlying bedrock (opening image). He could hardly see it from above, but in the distance, I directed him to the best spot. He very much enjoyed the views into the maw. I was jealous. I wanted a closer look.

Back at camp, Kyle was intent on staying where we were instead of making a big push back to the car and I was glad. We still had half a day remaining. My first few hours I spent casting about camp. Eventually I clamored up deep, manky snow over slide alder to get to a massive waterfall. With my camera in hand I spent another few hours photographing the falls. I couldn’t get enough of the chaotic crashing of water over rocks, especially when the light peeked through moss-strewn trees into the melee. Eventually I returned to camp, to dinner next to the creek and sleep underneath a star-scattered sky.

Pulling aside the rain fly, clouds could be seen hanging over the valley. It was time to race the weather, we knew. Soon camp was sorted and gear on our backs. First down Fisher Creek, then up and through the gentle valley leading to Easy Pass. Hours and hours of effort between passed in waves, at times fast and at times slow. Time is not linear in the mountains.

Perhaps seeing the back sides of trees, the mountains ahead or the track we had made on the way in allowed for an enjoyable slog back up-valley. On Easy Pass, with sweat dripping off our brows, we silently celebrated after hours of effort. The ease of the valley had lost is luster halfway up to the pass. Now we were exhausted. The heavy snow hadn’t made for smooth traveling, but eventually all that struggle was rewarded. Down from Easy Pass, gravity and skis would lead us all the way to the car.

Swirling in clouds and rain dripping down my face, I see Logan disappear. Turning down the sticky snow, Kyle and I arc turns in slow motion.

Moments later, we are lost in the forest, but not really lost. I patched together slopes and creek beds. Eventually I wondered if I'd in fact become lost, but out from the mist, a trail appeared. Perfect. Perfect like the one day of brilliantly nice weather we had stolen from this incredibly stormy spring. Yet that was all we needed. It was enough. And what a way to complete our goal to ski the highest lines we could on all the 9000ner's. Each had been earned the hard way from the very beginning. But – really – we wouldn’t want it any other way.

Thanks for the Adventure Kyle.

>>>Previous Adventure: Bowron Lakes Canoe Circuit


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Jason Hummel