May 28-30, 2005
An embodiment of ice, seracs and crevasses, the Chikamin Glacier slumbers below the North Face of Sinister, our second day's destination.

Story by: Jason Hummel

We didn’t leave early enough to avoid the record heats that swamped the entire state. Instead we became convinced that the forecasters were crooks. So convinced, in fact, we planned 5-7 days when only two appeared nice enough for climbing and skiing. (As to who'll get the last laugh, we'll let you decide.)

We further planned to reach Dome Peak later that day which may have been possible had Troy, Josh and I not racked our brains for gear we could have forgotten and instead lingered at the cars like the others and pared it down. The miles ahead provided us plenty of time to mull that logic! over. Of course that's a standard Hummel practice: Carry the puddin', forget the rope.
Carl getting bushed just before crossing Bachelor Creek.


Lowell crossing Bachelor Creek just before 6-mile camp.

At the washed out Downey Creek Bridge we climbed a ladder that spanned the 10-ft gap left in the wake of the terrible floods that had wiped out so many bridges and trails in the area. I hadn't yet seen the damage for myself and was awestruck by what must have been a massive wall of water. The tiny brook winding below didn't appear capable of such destruction.

A left several hundred yards ahead led us along the shores and canyons that this same creek had so ferociously carved. The same pristine valley that Ben, Josh and I had explored on kayaks several years prior for much the same reasons we were journeying up to Sinister Peak now. We yearned to see beyond the range of roads and skyscrapers into hidden places that aren't so easily peeked into or marred by man's attention.

Six miles ahead comes Bachelor Creek which originates high up below the first Pass we must cross. For now its waters wetted parched mouths and washed the sweet down towards the Skoogs and Alan who we closer than we expected. When they arrived we continued to rest much longer than we should. It felt so good to eat and put off what we all knew would be our least favorite portion of the climb. Alan was the last to arrive and while his knees were giving him trouble, I know he could've continued, but he chose not too. My knees have since fallen into disrepair so I can understand his concern. Pushing through that kind of pain is not the best decision especially when it comes to enjoyment years beyond any immediate use.

As the most focused of our little band, now one less, Lowell sallied the troops forward. The winding hikers path rises steadily upward. The waterfalls on the right mark any and all gains. Between two of them we took our second break. By then, mother nature's thermostat was on max and we were beginning to realize its effects. To say it was hot was like saying that Troy didn't have enough gorp. There must've been 5lbs of it!

What the heat did provide was time to think. Questions and concerns found there much deserved answers. "Why do I do this?" "How much farther?" "Oh, man I'm only here!" "Damn, it's noon already!" "What the hell am I carrying?" "Leave the frickin' jello man!"

While the others leapt ahead, I lingered back with Carl for several reasons. For one my knee was pestering me, but secondly I realized that I wanted to get to know this guy better. He (nearly) talked as much as I did, was as passionate about the mountain as I was, and was willing to part with his tales. We traded stories and jokes while we parried with brush, Salmon Berries, and Devil's Club. All the while our chatter made the suffering tolerable.

After the last creek crossing, I leapt ahead. I knew 10-mile camp was just around the corner. When I arrived everyone could be seen sprawled in various positions. "About time," and "Let's go," where shouted by the hecklers between their shovels of food. By the time my pack and I parted ways no plans to meet were scheduled until Carl arrived. "You ready! Let's go, Carl."
Notice the log in the background. A fork of the trail even leads right to it. This must be the horse crossing?

A beautiful path used to lead up the alp slopes. Now only a wasted landscape remain. A few winters back an avalanche had broken loose and wrecked havoc on the slopes below. The swamp full of shattered trees, many hundreds of years old just goes to show the slumbering fury that rests in these mountains and the overwhelming destruction that it can levy.

Since the trail was impossible to follow, we climbed the forest just to the left. The going here was were our hurt began to show. The heat, the heavy packs, the brush and now steep, pine-needle matted forest laid the final blow. Reaching the snow was a blessing! I could only imagine the ski down the opposite side. How me knees would thank me.

Falling on my face as I attempted to skin the last 10-ft of trail over roots was only a precursor to what the other side had in store. As I stood on a last patch of snow on top of the pass, I heard Troy yell, "So, how's the ski look?" What was I supposed to tell him...that there wasn't a lick of snow, not even a patch until the lake. Instead a, "I can't tell yet," would have to suffice.

Lowell and Dome Peak just before first light.

Darkness was nearing by the time I arrived at Itswoot Lake. I could see the others further up and thought about continuing, but I wanted to wait for Troy and Carl. A long time passed before I saw anyone. The wait was chilly so I put on a coat and walked around. When I looked back up I saw Carl making his way down. Every time I glanced back upward, I'd see him a little further down. By the time he arrived, I had hiked along the lake and met him to ask about Troy. He said that Troy had decided to camp at the pass. I couldn't blame him. He hadn't climbed in many months and this wasn't a great way to break in the muscles. I then asked how Carl was doing to which he pontificated, "I've never had to take so many breaks on the downhill."

We took a break and I asked Carl if he wanted to stop and camp, but like a steam engine he kept pressing on, this time with a flashlight. I respected his drive.

Once we stumbled upon the others, I joined my brother to dig out a camp and sip some broth before succumbing to sleep.

Itswoot Ridge and the valley below.

That night Lowell listened to the following days forecast on a small weather radio that he had carried up. It's prediction dashed our hopes of camping at Dome Col. Instead we decided that we would make a day climb to the summit of Sinister and return to camp. In order to pull that off, we needed an early start, which no one looked forward too.

That morning Itswoot Ridge lay ahead of us and so did the wonderful views we had all come up here to appreciate. I caught one looking off of the ridge and several others with my camera of Lowell before traversing toward Dome Glacier. Before getting there, a shoulder of rock forces us to drop. Along there, icy cold slivers of water were found, proving my theory that it would not be buried under snow.

The climb up the glacier was taken by several routes that from afar look impossible to skin. I found it most enjoyable to climb up right next to the glacier itself; although it may not be the safest of routes.

Lowell found a nice place to break on an island of rocks where over the next half an hour the most difficult act we initiated was to eat and take photos. John, who was waiting further up with Josh had different plans. They involved a pair of skis and some unused vertical. His turns raised us from our seats and hollers egged him on. My jealousy was significant; his turns swooped down on perfect corn. And yet I wasn’t inclined to join? Oh, we had to go, that's right!


Sinister boyz.


Josh on the Chickamin Glacier.



Lowell preparing to ski down Itswoot Ridge.


Glacier Peak from a rock highpoint west of the Dome Glacier.


Lowell looking the other way.


Lowell about to shed the skins for bootin'.

The effects of the day before were beginning to wear off, and the truly awesome feelings that I felt for this area were starting to take root, especially as we topped Dome Col whose aspect is crouched high above two glaciers: the Dome and Chickamin; where as if cast afloat on a sea, we are circled by sea creatures ranging in size and stature. Dome Peak becomes a shark for its SW Peaks resemblance of a Dorsal Fin; far off peaks become schools of fish; below us, Sinister Peak becomes the great White Whale in Moby Dick, and our skis like spears point towards him in fierce determination.

Anyhow, that is how I felt while I was there. Even now looking back on the photos, I am still caught up in the majesty of the place.

But, in reality, going down from the col was slid on sloppy and sticky snow that we were sure would be too deep to climb. Snow constantly sloughed down the mountain, grating by like a slow train. I didn't want to go down further than I had too and so decided to take a high route between crevasses, staying as high as possible while remaining below the cliff band that arched down Sinister's flank. This allowed me to save several hundred feet of climbing which Josh, Carl and I needed every bit of. Even at a disadvantage, Lowell and John soon caught up to us.

Sinister John making confessions.
Sinister John making more confessions.

With anticipation I began the climb up the North Face by sticking to the left side. Since there was a ridge there, any sluff would slide to the right. Surprisingly there was none during the entire climb up!

The heat was so wonderful and joy of reaching our destination so inspiring, we couldn't help but feel gladdened. I stood on the airy summit rock and hollered success. It was really a very satisfying summit.

Little did I know the ski would even be better.



Josh traversing to the bottom of the face.
On the summit.
Balls? John preparing to relax.
Dome Peak, Snowdome and the way we came shown between the two. Josh and my shadow.
Lowell enjoying his well-earned glory. The arete offered a good view to the right.
26 years after the first ascent, Carl makes the first descent.
Josh and Lowell near the summit.

Lowell was the first to leave the summit, followed by John. Once we joined, several traverses were made in order to judge the safety of the slope. Finding it safe, we decided that pictures, film and turns were in order. The snow was perfect! I would consider it some of the best spring snow I've ever skied steeps on.

A small schrund marked the end of the ski, and my high traverse required plenty of sidestepping. After which a few more turns brought us to the last big grind of the day. By then rest and reflection were in order and by then clouds were swooping down.

John taking all of the show again.
Lowell lusting the good love on the North Face.
Go for it Josh! Yeah, I'll get a pic of you John.
Need I say more?
Josh on crack?
Josh and the storm. Who will win?

A wall of dark clouds encompassed the east. They marched towards us. Thunder boomed. Lightening struck. Lowell and John decided to hang back in a crevasse while Josh and I, followed by Carl, raced ahead. We chose not to linger at the col or summit Dome. Our axes were buzzing from the electrified air and we were worried that we would overstay our welcome. It would have been wiser to stick back with the others, but it was too late for that. I regret not summiting Dome on this, my third attempt.

When we didn't see the others behind Josh and I chose to continue. We began by skiing straight down the Dome Glacier and where we could keep high, we would traverse. We crossed streams and rock, more snow and more rock before reaching Itswoot Ridge again.

Rest and food were just down the ridge. Both of which we happily indulged ourselves in until the others arrived. By then the fog had lowered and we learned that Lowell and John had managed to summit Dome after the worst of the storm passed.

In the morning, any decision to leave was already made. Our only worry was how much our packs would weigh. Carl had a plan, "I must eat my pack into weightlessness." None of us could argue with that logic and instead joined the gluttony.

Since our plans for a week of skiing were dashed, Josh and I decided to leave and not stick around. I told myself I would take it slow, but our booting down from Cub-Lake Pass was anything but takin' in easy.

We didn't change into shoes until 10-mile camp where a pair of clean socks and packed away boots eased the frustration of all the contortion that the vine maple forced. It wouldn't be a stretch of imagination to say it was even easy.

We caught John, master web and dew collector beyond the brush and followed him to the confluence of Bachelor and Downey Creeks where we took a short break. There wasn't much cause to keep our feet out of the river when we set off again. They were already as wet as they could get.

The last 6-miles felt like so much more than 6-miles. I'm not kidding either! John even hung back. Josh and I continued for no other reason than to see if Troy was at the car. I think we took 3 hours.

Josh and I waited for Troy (who we now figured we had passed somewhere along the line) while enjoying what was left of our food. The weather almost looked nice again as we wondered up and down the road enjoying the scenery and reflecting on times past and present, which brings me to Carl Skoog who passed away on October 17, 2005, on Cerro Mercedario (6777 m, 22210 ft) in the high Andes of Argentina, and while I only knew him from a few short experiences, he was someone that I looked up to and hoped to emulate one day. He was a photographer and explorer; a lover of nature and friend to many.

Dome Col. Dome Glacier.
Thanks for the good times on this trip CARL.
When I was a kid, I’d hear about these guys, “The Skoogs.” I’d hear about their exploits and about how they’ve “…been all around these parts.” When I was older I had the opportunity to ski with them. This summer we skied Sinister Peak in the Dome Peak region, an area that they had frequented. I felt like I was crawling over their fence into their backyard. Carl was behind and so I hung back. I found that here is a person like me; passionate about the mountains! We’d tell jokes to make the hike up Downey creek as painless as possible. For those of you who have climbed up there, you can only imagine. He made it enjoyable. Further up, I asked him if he wanted to bivy because it was getting late, but he pressed on. I respected his drive, his overwhelming joy to be in the mountains, and his love of family and friends who equally savored the crisp air, the spring snow, the misbegotten valleys, the summits, the streams, the challenges, and the friendships. There is so much! It pains me to know that these colors won't shine again. That we are losing someone that so many other people could have gotten to know - that I could've gotten to know better.

Keep crossing those creeks Carl. We'll meet again. Keep traveling up those valleys and climbing those mountains. You'll meet all your friends and family again.

Jason Hummel...

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